Barca 2, Getafe 1, aka “Mighty Mites save the day”

It's you, baby! It's you, all day and all night!

How excellent it was that this glorious moment, captured after the goal that, in effect, put this match away for good, features two of our best players, on a day in which everybody who took to the pitch was very good, and in some cases magnificent.

This was right after the second try that Messi had at feeding Xavi, the successful one, for a butter-smooth goal that came off a counterattack that was kick-started by the man people love to hate these days, Rafa Marquez, who was having one hell of a match. But more about that later. For now ….

I want to start with some choice Guardiola quotes, that echo how I felt about this wonderful victory.

“I am very proud,” Guardiola said. “Getafe are the worst team to play against with 10 men, but we took a step forward and my players behaved marvellously.

“It is one of the best days we have had, one of the games with most merit.”

I fully and completely agree. Guardiola rolled out with Valdes, Maxwell, Pique, Milito, Abidal, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and Ibrahimovic. The interesting thing about this lineup is that there wasn’t a left winger, per se, as Guardiola was banking on more of a command and control presence in midfield. Recall that the tactic of late has been to flood the midfield and pressure Xavi, who would often be left on an island.

Not today, baby, as we rolled out with a midfield of wrecking balls, some big and some tiny, but all loaded for bear. And we knew this was going to be a great match when right from the opening kickoff, Ibrahimovic went crazy, applying pressure and chasing the ball right into the Getafe box, being only an astute clearance away from maybe shaking something loose. We were flowing to the ball, chasing it like crazy people, and for a change we were the ones applying high pressure, and locking down the midfield. The difference that it made in the match was seen very early, as Ibrahimovic and Keita pressured a ball loose, and the resultant cross by Abidal for Ibrahimovic, who hauled ass from the right sideline into the box, forced a corner.

Pique’s header fell to The Yaya, who spanked a ball to Messi who, without even breaking stride, smoked a curler (should you call it a curler when the ball makes a right turn in mid-air?) into the net for our first goal, a mere 7 minutes into the match. And it was one of those head-shakers, a moment of individual brilliance that makes a coach say “Yo, what about this shit here??!!”

But there’s no real answer for it. Messi’s shot was absurd, and we were off to the races, led by the attackers, including a spectacular Ibrahimovic. Yes, I said spectacular. And so did Guardiola, who said: “He was scandalously good tonight.”

And it’s true. Look at the almost unerring passes that he made, the defense (including on set pieces), the running, the conspiring with Keita to win balls in the midfield …. he had one of those stat-stuffer games that, had he scored the goal that he really should have scored, everyone would be saying that Ibrahimovic is back. He was involved, and amazing. Yes, he was subbed for Busquets, mostly because playing a man down and with Getafe trying to apply even more pressure to equalize, Guardiola knew that the midfield would be where it was at, and that Busquets was just the man for the job. And boy, was he ever. But more about that later, as well.

Yes, Ibrahimovic’s job is to put the ball in the net, and he hasn’t done that for a while now. But when a player is as involved, dynamic and energetic as he was, the goals will come, and they will come in bunches. But he was part of almost everything good in the first half, and deserves some credit for that.

And now, for MOTM, Messi. Now, I’ve been called a Messi-hating jackass because of the ratings that I have given him, but this match is my argument. This is how Messi is capable of playing all the time, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with holding him to that standard. Because when he plays as he does today: midfield pressure, constantly chasing the ball, control, playing off fouls and continuing on and having the sense for when to pass and when to shoot, he makes everyone around him better. Note that there wasn’t a single instance of Messi Quixote, tilting at windmills of a packed back line.

That second goal came because Messi was jerking four defenders around like marionettes, and they were all playing him for the shot, because well …. that’s what he does, right? His first attempt to stab a ball to Xavi was blocked by a defender’s feet, and Messi drifted a little more as everyone, including the keeper, had eyes only for him. So when he slid that ball over to Xavi the only defense that Getafe had was to raise their arms and plead for an offside call that wasn’t going to come, because referees might be fallible, but they aren’t churls. Nobody wanted to see that goal get messed up. And it was all a consequence of Messi’s brilliance.

It was also a goal that started from the back, as Abidal’s perfectly timed sliding tackle knocked the ball loose. It fell to Marquez, who popped a perfect little ball for Messi, who did the rest. But that wasn’t all that our little wizard did, as he was everywhere today, earning MOTM in a hotly contested battle. He played the match that I expect of him, and that we all should expect of him. He can control the match every time he strides onto the pitch. As he realizes that power, we will see his true excellence more often.

Oh, yes …. that red card for Pique. That was a weird play that came about because of a foul that should have been called when Boateng rugby blocked Messi away from the ball. Yes, The Yaya bodied a Getafe attacker off the ball earlier in the half, but not like that. When it wasn’t called, the resultant hesitation (because everybody in the stadium expected the whistle) meant that Maxwell wound up on the wrong side of his man, and gave the professional foul.

The resultant free kick was dealt with, then the ball started banging around. Ibrahimovic made a one-touch back pass to The Yaya, thinking that our Colossus was going to do one thing, but he did another before having the “Uh, oh” moment as he saw the ball sliding into the space that he probably was thinking of occupying. Even then, he arrived with the Getafe attacker, and the ball pinged loose. Pique has the next shot at it, battling for possession with two Getafe players. He worked it loose, but it bounced off a leg, coming out with too much pace. His tackle attempt found his studs high, even though they were coming in from the side, rather than straight on. Frankly, the tackle looked far worse in real time than it did in slow motion, and probably would have gotten a yellow, had the Getafe player not done what any good footballer does: Act like he’d been hit by a nuclear warhead.

The subsequent red card meant that we were down to 10 men, and began the accusations of sucky refereeing. Yes, at around the 76th minute, a Getafe player came sliding at Xavi with studs up and bared, and nothing was called because Xavi just played around the contact, no doubt thinking “Nice try, jackass.” And others thought that all of the favoritism accusations meant that the ref wasn’t going to call some things, and would be biased against us. But almost any ref in the world calls at least a yellow on the Pique challenge and most call a red, because of the real-time violence of the collision and the exposed studs.

And here’s Guardiola on the ref situation: “We shouldn’t always doubt the referees — we need to enjoy this wonderful league and spend less time talking about referees. It’s not worth talking about it — they make mistakes and get things right like everybody else.”

It also ushered in the Era of Valdes, as our keeper came to the fore to save an unsettled side that was still reeling at the seeming injustice of the red card. His brilliant diving save set the tone for his match, as he didn’t put a foot wrong, safely getting us to halftime when Guardiola could make the speech that he clearly must have made. Because in the second half, we had the midfield on lockdown.

Yes, Getafe got a few shots at goal, but Valdes successfully parried them all without a hint of drama, as the Mighty Mites just controlled everything led by The Amazing Iniesta, who had the best match that he has had all season, and one of his best in the colors. When teams pressure Xavi, as Getafe did, for the second match in a row, Iniesta assumed the Xavi role, and just killed it. But it wasn’t just offense, as he was intercepting balls, and reminding us that in addition to his left back excellence, Abidal’s value is in the pressure relief valve for Iniesta. And once Busquets was added to the mix, Getafe didn’t know what hit them.

Then came the bit of nastiness, the fly in our ointment of perfection, when Abidal spanked a clearance that missed Keita, and Getafe banged the ball right back into the box. When Abidal made the clearance, that looked it would get to Keita, our defenders were all moving up the pitch, ready to resume the advanced line that we play. When the ball came back at them, some scrambling took place, and Marquez got caught out. There were a couple of blunders here:

–In the “garbage in, garbage out” mode, Abidal should have controlled the ball and made the safe pass to Keita, rather than an airborne, side-footed thing.
–Marquez should have just played position defense, keeping his hands off the attacker and allowing Valdes to cut off the angles. With the match he was having, our keeper would almost certainly have made the stop.

But none of those things happened, the penalty was called and as Marquez was the last man, it was a straight red. Bummer, because history will reflect a 2-1 scoreline in a match that wasn’t at all close.

Now, some ratings (Warning! Lots of high scores in this one, folks, as it should be.):

Team: 10. I’m with Guardiola on this one, it was a magnificent display from the best club in the world, that played 2/3rds of the match with 10 men, but never looked like it. The defense and attack in layers were dazzling.

Guardiola: 10. Perfect substitutions that were, for a change, well-timed. And how did he know that Maxwell is the second-best right back on the team?

Valdes: 9. Caused a bit of worry with his penchant for playing too much with the ball at his feet, but what a match from our keeper. His reflex saves are exceptional, and there isn’t a better keeper/sweeper in the world at controlling the entire area in front of their goal, not just the net space.

Maxwell: 8. Holy crap, what a match. With the late Alves scratch (who even warmed up with the starting XI), we were all a little worried. But Maxwell kicked out the jams with a gilded boot, coming up short only when beaten for pace and positioning. He was dangerous going forward, and resolute at the back. He also kick-started what would have been Liga Goal of the Year had it come off, an amazing bit of interplay with Messi and Ibrahimovic that included a backheel.

Pique: 6. This is a complex rating, because he had been playing well until he was ejected. And you can’t really take points off for that, because when a player is making a sliding tackle, there isn’t as much body control as we might think, and he didn’t go straight at the attacker with studs up. So a 6 it is.

Milito: 8. Let a player into the middle a bit easily on a couple of occasions, but what a match from our strongman, who was playing like Captain Caveman, but without the tendency to go running around all willy-nilly, trying to put out fires. His positional sense is exceptional, and he understands how to be physical in the box without doing any damage. What a match from a guy who, let’s not forget, has only recently returned from a long, long injury layoff. He’s turning out to be quite the key winter “signing.” Imagine if we didn’t have him for the next match.

Abidal: 8. Another all-man, all the time match from our French Greyhound, who is displaying the kind of telepathy that great defenders who are fully involved in every match have. Many a time, he was at a point before the ball got there, to make interceptions and knock balls away. My wonderful Abidal moment came when he intercepted a Getafe pass in mid-air and spanked a perfectly weighted pass to Ibrahimovic, who anticipated it and was off to the races. Unfortunately, his help didn’t show up until the Getafe defenders did.

The Yaya: 7. Showed some early signs of rust, but played into the match brilliantly, with those one-touch balls of his that just keep the offense flowing. It was good to have him back, and unfortunate that he’s out for two weeks with a groin injury. He is physical without (usually) being overbearing, and his rumbles up the pitch are always a joy to watch. He erred, however, by rumbling a bridge too far, and losing the ball.

Keita: 7. Really could have had two goals, and what a dynamic match, as he donned whatever mask was needed: midfielder, left winger, CB, you name it.

Xavi: 8. Amazing. Once we got the goal, and his command/control game came into effect, he was almost faultless, right up to his well-taken goal. He was more offense-minded today, as Iniesta was holding down the playmaker role in the middle of the pitch. The effect was to flummox the defenders, who didn’t seem to have a Ghostface Plan B.

Iniesta: 10. It is impossible for me to imagine him having a better match in his role. If he ever learns how to score goals, we are going to be unplayable. Teams are going to say, “We spot you two goals, just don’t play him and Messi.” For me, his best moment of the match came when he had the ball just outside of our box, and was faced with a pair of ball-hawking Getafe midfielders. Danger was everywhere, but he just flicked the ball backwards, snagged it and slid between the two before proceeding up the pitch as if nothing jaw-dropping had just happened.

Messi: 9. He wasn’t quite perfect. The one pass that he tried, he actually should have taken the shot, and he had another goal on his foot that only required a better placement. But still, what an amazing, amazing match from Argy Bargy. If he keeps playing like that, I have full confidence in the Liga and Champions League. Note that Messi is also pichichi again, with a 1-goal lead over Villa.

Ibrahimovic: 7. He loses points for trying to make his goal too perfect (a more confident Ibrahimovic just chips the keeper), and evincing poor judgment at the beginning of the sequence that led to Pique’s red. He should have just banged it up the pitch, but that isn’t his wont. He was everywhere today, stealing balls, defending on set pieces, setting up Messi, crashing the box, harassing the keeper, etc, etc, etc. No, he didn’t score. That will come.

Substitutes

Busquets (for Ibrahimovic): 10. If he’s the future, it’s a very bright one. He has been much more composed and mature his last couple of outings. My Busquets Moment was when he harassed Boateng for about 20 seconds, finally forcing the Getafe midfielder into a negative pass, that became a turnover. He was everywhere, using his immense energy for good and playing in a controlled, commanding fashion.

Marquez (for The Yaya): 6. Excellent play, sullied by his dim-witted penalty. Had a number of excellent passes and key interceptions that broke up Getafe attacks before they could develop into anything dangerous.

Pedro! (for Iniesta): incomplete. Action Jackson as time-wasting momentum killer? Sure, why not?

This was an expensive match. We lost Alves in the warm-ups, Pique and Marquez to reds for the next match, The Yaya to injury and Busquets to an accumulation of yellows. So it’s looking like Maxwell will have more chances to show off at right back, which ain’t a bad thing, right?

I’ll wrap this up with two more things, take them for what they are:

–Sometimes, some pessimism creeps in during matches. I’ve run the last few LiveBlogs, and it sometimes surprises me, particularly when we have the match under control. I know that a fan’s lot in life is to be paranoid and expect the Gods to come along and piss on your club, right? It’s seemed particularly noticeable the last couple of matches, I think mostly because we have been in far more control than we can ever know from those stuttering, grainy Web feeds. No, it isn’t a criticism, but it is an observation, take it for what it’s worth.

We are in an extraordinary period with this club right now, one that might not be repeated in many of our lifetimes. The club that we love is the best club in the world, and plays the game in a way that many of us have never, ever seen. It hasn’t taken me as much time to watch a match in some time as today’s did because of all the moments worth watching again and again. I know that we worry, and sometimes fear the worst, but this really is a glorious time right now, sort of like a jazz group comprised of all stars. Each solo, each delicious lick pushes the collective higher and higher, until it is performing at an unheard-of level.

Let’s celebrate that.

–If you have any issues with the ratings here, or anything that I have said, weigh in with the reason that you think I am incorrect, and the group can debate it. Charging in with “You just hate XX player,” or “You say you aren’t biased, but you hate so-and-so,” doesn’t advance any argument or help debate. I’m okay with being called wrong, and even proved wrong. It’s the nature of debate. I’m not okay with being labelled things that I am not, as a way of arguing a point that is never made. None of us should be. Every numerical rating that I make is supported by its rationale. If you want to call bullshit on it, rock on. Just support it, and let’s discuss it among the collective.

As the space grows and new readers visit, it’s something that is worth noting.

And now, as Ol’ Dirty Bastard sang (picking up on a LiveBlog tangent), “Introducing the Ghost Face Killaaahhhh,” who has now played 200 matches in the colors, quite a feat for one so young.

Time out! The one who cut my hair is getting away! Stop them!
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recent Posts

Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

140 Comments

  1. vicsoc8
    February 7, 2010

    Man, I was sure Henry was going to be MOTM today since we all know how much you love him. Besides, he didn’t put a foot wrong all night and provided more width than I’ve ever seen him provide.

  2. Tim
    February 7, 2010

    Only 103 minutes of game time for Milito before this match, 3 different backfield partners during the game, I was just blown away by how well he performed.

    • Tim
      February 7, 2010

      also, the groundskeepers should just put up “ROAD CLOSED” signs on the left side of our defense. Seeing Abidal eat up the ground as he chases down attackers is a great joy.

      • auld super
        February 7, 2010

        Ya we’re blessed with Milito. He’s an animal.

    • Jnice
      February 7, 2010

      Yeah, he was excellent.

      Props to Maxwell too, for looking like a boss in a position he has rarely played in.

      Dare I say Maxwell at RB > Maxwell at LB?

      • Alexinho
        February 7, 2010

        I was thinking about that too. Is he right-footed or left-footed?

        I didn’t think he was quite as good as this review lets on, but what I criticized him for in this game was his leaving too much space, rather than getting caught upfield, which in my experience was usually his problem. Maybe he was helped by Messi’s tracking-back, which was dramatically better than it usually is (not that it’s usually bad). Also he was attacking with a bit more confidence and with the flare that, if you ask me, we bought him in for…which just might also be explained by the Messi partnership.

        • Jnice
          February 7, 2010

          Maxwell is left-footed, but he showed he’s not afraid to use his right when he has to.

  3. jnelson
    February 7, 2010

    Excellent review. Marquez did actually play well up until the red. Why does he have to give up so many cheap goals though? It would be extremely bad luck if he was just the scapegoat every time. Coincidences or not?

    • Necro Spaaw
      February 7, 2010

      yep, i feel the same way.. i dunno.. :S

  4. Jnice
    February 7, 2010

    Excellent review, Kxev.

    Pretty much agree with the ratings/everything you said.

    Hopefully we deliver next week as well. Will be a tough match if the good Atletico shows up considering all of our absences.

  5. vicsoc8
    February 7, 2010

    On a more serious note I just rewatched the first half and I was disappointed with Ibra. His work effort is there and he’s doing some things right: he held up the ball very well and gave time for the rest of our attack to join, he worked decently hard on defense, he set up Messi very well, and more.

    Despite all that, I think he was somewhat poor. The reason for this is he gave the ball away way too often. Several times he had an obviously open man but chose to turn and play it into danger, and we lost the ball. Other times he chose to pass to the right man but played a poor ball. He wasn’t overly involved in the attack, but I thought that many times when he was he killed our attack by losing the ball.

    I completely buy the idea that he brings us more than goals, and that goals will come. But if we want our “9” to be involved in the build up play as Pep obviously does, he can’t be losing the ball that frequently.

    Ibra will come good, I have no doubt. I just think he is trying to make the difficult flashy plays right now when he needs focus on doing the simple things right to play his way out of his “slump”.

    • Blow-Granite
      February 7, 2010

      Totally agree with you on that. He gave the ball away quite a few times when he passed. In my mind, he gets a 3 because of all the reasons you mention. Ibra has that hesitation in his game that I do not like. He has to be more fluid. He has to move better with the ball. I think his positioning is getting better, because Pep is teaching him to play without the ball. His training on what to do with the ball is yet to commence. Pep – can you please do the honors.

      • Alexinho
        February 7, 2010

        I also agree. Frankly, Kxev, I can’t believe how much praise you gave Ibra, and I’m even more surprised by Pep’s comments. I guess I’ll have to rewatch the game with an eye on him, but when I was watching I thought he was “scandalously” bad.

        All I saw were multiple giveaways, a terrible backpass into the box that led to a scramble that led to Pique’s red card, a glorious chance that he hesitated on and flubbed, and only three moments–two passes and one hold-up–that were well-done, but much closer to “adequate” than “scandalously good.” I thought his substitution was a message because, frankly, I thought he was quite the black hole for most of the attacks.

        But again, I guess I’ll have to watch again.

        • Alexinho
          February 7, 2010

          I will concede the possibility that I don’t have a great eye for the “intangibles” of movement and opening up space for teammates yet, but still.

          • barca96
            February 7, 2010

            and let’s not forget the dangerous back pass to yaya while half the getafe team was there. and many more bad passes. but his work rate was top notch!

          • barca96
            February 7, 2010

            sorry. the point was already said.

  6. PepIsGod
    February 7, 2010

    One heck of a review Kxevin! I have been a long time reader but never posted. One observation about BANGS, he has not been playing that well of late (though I agree with your rating in this match and has been quite good), I wonder how much it has to do with him adjusting to the new system and how much he just not been playing well. From what I have seen, I think think he has just not played well and don’t think it is the case where he is yet to adjust to the new system, because he seems to understand the tiki taka pretty well, and his movement creates chances for others aswell, but just has made a lot of mistakes like his passing has not been accurate and not finishing the chances in front of goal that he has had.

    Regarding Messi, I think you do hold him to quite a high standard and rightly so, because he is the best player in the world and can be held to that standard. But if he plays like he did in this match, then lord help the opposing teams. So Kxevin, don’t take others’ comments that you dont like a certain player or are biased towards a certain player comments to heart.

    I do feel bad for Marquez, until the red card incident he was quite good and the red card incident itself was a bit harsh I felt though cant complaint against it. Gaby Milito was one bad ass today.

    • jnelson
      February 7, 2010

      Nice post. You should comment more often!

    • cliveee
      February 7, 2010

      “only messi can be held to that standard” its so true! because he is up there. but i think kxevin’s standard is a remarkable one too. having the MOTM rated 9 and 2 other players rated 10. one hell of a standard, baby.

  7. February 7, 2010

    Any way I can get a recording of this game or at least extended (20min) highlights? I feel like I really missed out! 🙁 Couldn’t help it, I was at work! Anyone? any help?

    • Blow-Granite
      February 7, 2010

      Hey Nabeel, enjoy.. there are a couple of segments are not correct but the others work.
      *http://www.mysoccerplace.net/video/barcelona-vs-getafe-21-full

  8. BA
    February 7, 2010

    Ibra gave away a few too balls today for me to consider his performance that good despite his excellent link-up play. i think the fact that Pep took him off at 52 minutes says alot about what he thought about his overall contribution as well.

    however, Xavi/Iniesta/Messi showed something to the world today (particularly to an exceptionally disappointing round of fixtures in the Premier League): hard work, exquisite passing and vision are still vastly superior to strength and speed in this game. the first and last were nearly immaculate, and Iniesta WAS immaculate. we went down a man and went on unphased, which speaks volumes about not just our attitude and outlook but our quality. we had all that today and those 3 in particular (with a special mention to Abidal, who somehow keeps getting BETTER; with that ice-cool, commanding trap away from Valdes with 3 Getafe players on him in his own box and just turning around and carrying it out) were sublime. those 3, not our star striker (whomever that may be) or wingers or defensive line, are the heart and soul of this team.

    • Jnice
      February 7, 2010

      I don’t think Pep taking Ibra out says anything other than, we needed to sacrifice an attacker, Messi is faster, puts more pressure on defenders, and was playing better up until that time. Ibra had to be sacrificed.

      • stephen
        February 7, 2010

        i agree with Jnice, had we been winning by more than 1 goal with 10 men, he wouldve left him in and taken messi out to save him.

  9. BA
    February 7, 2010

    Nabeel:

    \\http://forum.rojadirecta.com/viewtopic.php?t=87458

  10. cliveee
    February 7, 2010

    phewwwww… feeling great after reading this. this is one hell of a match to me. it gave me so many emotions. on one hand i feel extremely good seeing our boys played in such a high level, on the other i feel intense for the mistakes we made and the unfairness we faced. one hell of a match, really.

    abidal made quite a number of mistakes today actually. he got skipped pass twice, several giveaways including the airborne side-footed thing. but he was still the boss from corner flag to corner flag. i say 7 for greyhound.

    keita was rather average to me. but 7 is fair considering the way he shifted his positions.

    iniesta is having his best form of his career right now. i think he has been like today’s performance in the last couple of matches, but today he stood out like a ballon dior winner. about his shooting, i dont need him to be as good as messi or alves or ibra or henry, just shoot as good as xavi if not better.

    i guess i should listen to pep regarding the refs, thanks for quoting.

    • Alexinho
      February 7, 2010

      Abidal made quite a few mistakes toward the end that seem to have gone unnoticed. He played a typically bad ass game until that point, but when he got there, he started getting beat by his man more than once. Also, he gave away some pretty cheap short passes–not passing right to opposing players, but telegraphing his passes to players that were more than well-covered.

      I thought Keita was great. What a useful player that guy is. As if Abidal needs someone to make his job easier, this guy’s physicality and curious capability close to the wing make him so unique in this team. And for me, he only missed that SITTER! (I’ve never seen a chance missed quite like that), and not that second one that, really, Iniesta should have taken. Iniesta was going for it, and Keita knew it, then when the former noticed the latter, he backed off, and forced Keita to rush it.

  11. Bundy
    February 7, 2010

    The Ibra substitution was a strictly tactical move, it had nothing to do with Ibra’s performance but rather the situation created from the red card.

    Ibra was great he worked hard and again was unlucky, plus I like the massive support he gets aswell from the crowd.

    • Jim
      February 7, 2010

      But he could have taken off Messi or Iniesta. Bottom line, of those on the park he was contributing least to the chasing, attack threat etc.

      • Jnice
        February 7, 2010

        Why take off the players that can hold possession best?

  12. simple_barcafan
    February 7, 2010

    btw i am new here and i have noticed ppl referring to those guys in white as EE..wat does EE exactly mean??

    • Vj
      February 7, 2010

      *Cue the music* The Evil Empire *gasp**shock**horror*

      • simple_barcafan
        February 8, 2010

        Thank u.. :)..This sure is a great website..

  13. Helge
    February 7, 2010

    Wow, AS.com is audacious enough to continue their Villarato campaign. They claim that Messi’s goal should have been disallowed due to Ibra being offside and that Abidal fouled Rios in the box… pathetic!

    • poipoi
      February 7, 2010

      pathetic!!

      kxevin, I think it would be really nice to count how many points we have won/lost “because of the bad refs” and how many has EE won/lost this season. I’m SO sick of this villarato stuff… I wanna play EE with valdano as the ref 😉

  14. Helge
    February 7, 2010

    Damn, is Busquets seriously suspended for the Atleti match???

    Then, our line-up will be:
    Valdes
    Maxwell-Puyol-Milito-Abidal
    Keita
    Xavi-Iniesta
    Messi-Ibra-Pedro/Henry

    That’s not the most secure line-up with regards to defensive duties. This defence against the likes of Aguero, Simao, Forlan and Reyes? Sorry Kxevin, but (once again) pessimism creeps in :/

  15. Bebop
    February 7, 2010

    been a long time reader since the offside days, and posted a few times with another name (jazzy) and change my name to this because its fun to hear and i like listening to different kinds of music, just almost about anything.
    btw simple-barcafan, let me do the honors to answer that. EE= Evil Empire!
    and Kxev, Rockin’ Review!

  16. Kirsten-SA
    February 7, 2010

    Did everyone see that Xavi run on the second goal??Ibra and Henry should take lessons on how to make a run into the box and NOT get offside when the pass is delayed or blocked. I wouldnt mind if we play Xavi as striker alongside Messi on a 4-4-2.:-)

      • BlaugranaDOOM
        February 7, 2010

        Xavi would have been one hell of a second striker. Imagine if he played with a hard working runner like Rooney. He would have 25 assists a season and about 15 goals. He has a great shot and does something that many strikers don’t do…pass the ball into the net.

  17. auld super
    February 7, 2010

    I agree with almost everything you wrote there Kxevin,great review. But I just can’t accept that a player of Marquez’s limited ability plays for my club. On Ibra lads look at it this way it’s about time we dropped to our knee’s and thanked god that our club can spend 60m odd on a striker,not bat an eyelid and still win every week with some fantastic football.

  18. andrew M
    February 7, 2010

    i think milito deserves a 10 for that performance. he just came back from injury and IMO was our best defender.

    pique deserves less that a 6 because by getting red carded, he took the risk of losing the game for us which is potentially worse than marquez’s blunder.

    i agree with auld super, marquez must get tossed out on his ear. he just doesnt have what it takes anymore.

    with the second goal i seem to remember it being started by either a keita or abidal sliding tackle on the edge of our box, passed to xavi who released messi. not marquez.

    • Kirsten-SA
      February 7, 2010

      also though Xavi made the pass to Messi then continued with his run like he always does,but this time more like a striker.that run should make a lot of strikers hang their heads in shame.

      • M
        February 7, 2010

        Xavi missed the easiest chance of the match though, after a leaser beam pass from Ibrahimovic that should make a lot of midfielders hang up their boots. and he had Messi clear at his left too, maybe that is what distorted him.
        I remember a similar pass from Ibrahimovic to Xavi against Almeria, a cross from the goal line that created an easy chance for Xavi to score with his head, he missed it though.
        Those type of passes is what a 60m purchase gives you, many different options that we didn’t have before, Ibrahimovic takes the ball to the line surrounded by a couple of defenders which opens the space for Xavi’s great run, Ibrahimovic waits and waits, aided by his physical power to hold on to the ball inside the area, until Xavi reaches the perfect position, and makes the perfect pass.
        That’s what Crujff meant by Ibrahimovic’s other contribution to the team aside from scoring.

        • M
          February 7, 2010

          laser beam*
          sorry, studying for an accounting exam..

        • Kirsten-SA
          February 7, 2010

          yeah Ibra bring much more to the team no doubt. but that run..Messi was cutting inside from the right, Xavi makes his run to the right pulling along defender and thus creating space for Messi to run into, knows when to stop his run to stay onside. It was his run that created confusion among the defenders.If Ibra could do a bit of that we sure gonna have more goals.

          • M
            February 7, 2010

            true, Ibrahimovic has been rusty for quite some time now, but he doesn’t lack the ability nor the creativity to do such runs, for example check the way he timed the starting of his run in the goal against Sevilla (from a pass by the much hated Marquez by the way), and the coolness with which he waited until Palop ran into him just to take the ball wide with his chest and score from an awkward angel, he tried something similar last night, perfectly timed run and taking the ball wider, losing the keeper in the way, but he is just not that sharp right now to put the ball into the net.
            it’s just a dip in form.
            and remember, we had Eto’o who was a specialist in these runs, and we replaced him with Ibra for about 20m more than the available David Villa, another striker who can make those diagonal runs like no other.
            Ibrahimovic is what Guardiola wants right now, for the different options he brings to the team, yes of course when he is sharper he is better, but you have to be patient with him a little bit more. you are criticizing him for something Guardiola doesn’t see as a priority for the team right now.
            You have the absolute right to ask wonders from a 60m signing, and with little time I’m sure he will deliver more than what you ask.

        • cliveee
          February 7, 2010

          I think Xavi was meant to head the ball to messi, his head was tilted up, but i think his footing disallowed him to execute it. I can assure you Xavi is the least selfish player. His mind is only thinking of passing the ball.

          • barca96
            February 7, 2010

            yeah. he lost his footing.
            iniesta along with xavi are the most unselfish people around which makes me mad sometimes. just shoooot!!

  19. February 7, 2010

    Very balanced Review, Kxevin.I think Keita was doing his multi functional role really well, though.

    As for Yaya, his injury came in the worst time. I was demanding more games for Henry and Iniesta when they were not in their normal form, as its the only way to winning them back (This game announced iniesta come back to his form). I was also hoping to see more Yaya for the following few games for the same reasons. In this game he delivered an average performance -Sorry Yaya fans. Offense wise he didnt make himself available for the passing flow as needed, defense wise he wasnt alert enough most of the time. He needs some more games to get back to his reliable self.

    – Thats the Maxwell I knew. But on the right flank? Thats new…

    • M
      February 7, 2010

      That’s the Maxwell that I’ve never even dreamed of seeing.

    • Alexinho
      February 7, 2010

      I thought Yaya was as good as he usually is, in his “I don’t see you pop up so much because you’re so good” kind of way. So calm under pressure with the ball at his feet.

    • ané
      February 8, 2010

      The Yaya was great and he performed well in defense. Ask busquets to play defense cuz someone got sent off. Let’s see how that turns out 😀

  20. BlaugranaDOOM
    February 7, 2010

    A few additional points added to a great review:

    I started watching from the second half and I was very confused about what kind a formation we were playing. We were controlling quite a bit of possession but, I couldn’t figure out our formation. Then I realized we only had ten men. I would never had guessed by the way we were playing.

    Iniesta hardly put a foot wrong, but the nutmeg he pulled running right at the player was unreal.

    When Messi got the ball leading to the goal, I thought, shit they are in trouble. It is a 2 on 4. That is sick. Three defenders for one player and it still doesn’t seem enough…

    Marquez was unlucky. Deflection and ball lands to their player, then he dives like a swan. Could have easily been a yellow for them.

    This year we have Ibra on our team and we are conceding fewer goals. Our possession is regularly at 70%. Yes, he should be scoring more, but I read a comment somewhere else that mentioned Pep has instructed him to pass, not shoot. He would have 4-5 more goals from distance, but we keep possession instead. Like Hector has pointed out, we are crap without the ball. He is sacrificing his game to be a part of the team. Doesn’t get enough credit for that. Next year, he will be unreal.

    Not worried about next week. Defense and DM are our deepest positions these days.

  21. Eklavya
    February 7, 2010

    Man, who else saw the Eto’oesque diagonal run that Xavi made in the 2nd goal. Now if Ibra could also do that….*drool*.

    I am the only one who thinks that actually Xavi is better further up than Iniesta? If Iniesta can control better and better the mid (like he’s been doing in the last few matches) then Xavi going further up is an interesting idea… 🙂

  22. Jim
    February 7, 2010

    Yeah, another good review, Kxevin, and I agree about the efforts of the team as a whole. Very hard to be too critical of anyone. However, if we just sat back and praised everything our discussion wouldn’t keep us going till next week – it is a long time between games – so I offer a couple of opinions.

    First, Andrew M it was Marquez who played the ball out for the second goal and in my opinion he was having a good match until the red card. If Milito had come out at any speed we have an offside decision. Good point about the Liveblog as well, Kxevin. After reading the reactions to the lost goal I couldn’t believe the venom. Mind you, I’m sitting watching it on Sky with the benefit of instant replay so maybe that’s a bit harsh.

    Ramzi, I think Inieata has been playing out of his skin for a few matches now. It is what has brought back our midfield dominance. I was less impressed than most seem to be with Keita, Abidal and Ibra. Keita’s energy levels are great but he has to put one of those chances away. Abidal is still offering us nothing in attack and although he does the safe things very well he needs to have the courage to run at defences a bit more when he gets the space. I’m geting fed up of us working a situation where he has room to use his speed down the wing and he keeps turning back to play the safe ball.

    I felt Messi’s improvement came from whoever’s decision it was to ask him to stay wide right more often. That is where he does the most damage.

    finally, Ibra. I feel heart sorry for him. He is not a lazy player which I confess i thought originally. He is busting a gut to make this work at Barca. . With the ball at his feet and head up he is dangerous but he is very slow off the mark and we need regular goals from whoever plays 9 or it will cost us eventually. Not advocating dropping him but I don’t think we can keep saying its alright that he just provides assists. I’m starting to think that maybe his one limitation (speed off the mark) is the one limitation that our style of football can’t support.

  23. Jim
    February 7, 2010

    Btw, is Maxwell two footed? Watching the game again he seems very comfortable using his right foot.

    • Jnice
      February 7, 2010

      No, I don’t think so, but he is not afraid to use his right foot.

    • cliveee
      February 8, 2010

      i believe all professional footballers can kick with both foots. dani’s left foot is not bad either. plus, he is a brazilian too.

  24. vogy
    February 7, 2010

    I think 6 for pique is way to high after he got a red card in the 25th minute or something around there. it was a clear red card and complicated the match for us and leading to the most defensive approach i’ve seen form my barca in a long time.
    feel a little bad for ibra because with elleven man on the field I think he might have been given the goal he needs.

  25. segun
    February 7, 2010

    gud game 4 barca most especialy g.milito

  26. Keano
    February 7, 2010

    Anyone have a link for Chelsea vs arsenal????

    • yogi
      February 7, 2010

      myp2p has bunch of links and most of them work.

      Am watching the match right now and Arsenal are Barca lite version. Pretty but just lacking that edge. Like we were few years back.

      • Alexinho
        February 7, 2010

        Yogi, I so appreciate that compliment. I told my Chelsea friend, the pendulum will swing our way one day…

  27. Helge
    February 7, 2010

    Arsenal is right now saying “bye, bye” to the last title hope of the season. As always, play great attacking football, but don’t score the goals and get completely fooled in counter-attacks. It looks again like boys against men, just like the match against ManUtd last week or in the last CL semis…
    I doubt that Wenger will win any more titles with the Gunners, sadly.

  28. February 7, 2010

    Poor Arsenal is so naive that its not even funny. This is like watching early 2000’s Roma with a 4-6-0 except not good. Nasri, Walcott, and Arshavin up front? Boy that’s really gonna scare big bad Chelsea…

  29. Jim
    February 7, 2010

    It’s all very well slagging Arsenal but I hope Pep is watching carefully as we’ll have to beat Chelsea at some point and they are awesome physically and very well organised. Arsenal are dominating the game but can’t get through.

    • yogi
      February 7, 2010

      I think our Chelsea semi last year had a lot to do with getting Ibra in. I think Chelsea are good but i also think that we are more effective then last year.

      • Alexinho
        February 7, 2010

        My Lord, don’t get me started about the Chelski match.

        I’m making two blogs, one for Barca and for Arsenal, so I don’t need to make such long comments on such blogs as these. Once I have them up, I’ll link it to my name.

      • Jim
        February 7, 2010

        Not sure at the moment how we’re more effective. Eto’o scored 36 last year. This year in more than half the season Ibra is on about 13. We can’t afford a number 9 who doesn’t score a barrowload of goals. It may be that it will come but if it doesn’t, he’s not the answer. We didn’t spend that money for someone to provide more assists when we have Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Henry, Alves etc. doing that already. We bought him to rectify what Pep saw as our likely shortcomings this season. Just not sure what he does rectify. Just watched Chelsea and don’t see him measuring up to the physicality of those defenders.

        Don’t mean to hit on hit on him and he will get better as he gets used to our play but he’s not quick enough to make runs to the near post ahead of defenders, he doesn’t seem to like bundling balls over the line, he’s not scoring with headers ( maybe our fault with the balls we put in but i’m not sure) and every time he pulls the trigger he takes such a backswing it gets blocked. Doesn’t seem to be able to beat one on one either.

        Sorry, am i being too harsh here? Its a bit like Bojan but on a different talent scale obviously. It’s not that i can’t see him getting better; it’s that i can’t at the moment see which of his skills is going to lead to the big increase in goals and if we’re losing 10-15 goals a season that’s potentially important.

        • Hilal
          February 7, 2010

          Its not just about scoring a boat load of goals, its about being more solid in possession, having different options tactically and being able to play off a striker that has strength, height and amazing ability on the ball.

          Also you cannot possibly compare Ibra’s goal tally in his first season to Eto lasy year (which was his best goal return). Eto played for years with Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, etc and the understanding was almost telepathic. Ibra is just starting to get it. I’m still not sure how there are people out there who still expect to see the same things from Ibra that they saw from Eto…. Never gona happen, they are completely different strikers. You will never get an Ibra who makes runs off of defenders like Eto’o did. Thats not what Pep got him for, if thats what he wanted he would have just kept Eto. Pep wants something different, we have plenty of pace up front, between Messi, Henry and Pedro. What we needed was size, strength and a striker who can play as a midfielder if and when it is necessary.

          “We can’t afford a number 9 who doesn’t score a barrowload of goals” – Not sure i understand the logic in that statement when we have wingers who score 20+ goals a season. In fact, if anything, we are one of the few top teams in football who CAN afford to have a no 9 who doesnt get a barrowload of goals. As amazing as i was to score all the goals we did last season, we could have won the league with probably half the goals we did score.

          Last season we had scored more goals at this point, but we have conceded more too. This year we are conceding less and we are still undefeated in the league. So, yeah, we are definitely more effective.

          • Jim
            February 7, 2010

            Our possession was solid enough last year. That didn’t cause us any problems and he doesn’t add significantly to it. I’d like to think that what you say about playing off a big striker would happen but I haven’t been seeing it so far. I’m not really sure i ever want to see us doing that either.

            My point about Ibra ( and i agree the telepathy will improve ) is that even if it does, he may not be quick enough to take advantage of it in many situations. He is a slow player in a football team that relies on quick movement. Fair point about Eto’os last season, but that was the season we DID win the championship. Before that Eto’os total wasn’t enough. We still have to go to the EE. Last year we just plain outscored them. i reckon we’ll need to score two or three again to win. Just not sure we have the goals in us to do that.

            Who are the wingers this season who will score more than 20? Messi – okay. Henry? Pedro? If Pep thought that Pedro’s goal plusses were worth it he’d be playing every week. The fact he isn’t to me speaks volumes about what he feels he takes away from the overall possession game. We aren’t exactly putting others to the sword goal wise at the moment and we haven’t hit the hard times of the season yet. When we have 70% of the possession, I’m sorry but we should be putting teams away quicker than we are and more decisively. It’s not about putting away the Getafes of this world. It’s about the last couple of months and the RM, CL semis and finals.

            Not saying Ibra can’t come good, just that increasingly I’m not sure what he is offering us. He was the obvious person to take off yesterday as he wasn’t as mobile as the rest and couldn’t do anything on his own. As I said elsewhere i’m not slagging him for work rate but at the moment he’s not a vital part of our setup. He wasn’t part of either of the goals and I’m not buying the “he takes two defenders wherever he goes” line. Messi, iniesta, Xavi do that and are still a big part of the game.

            Can we really see him winning headers against Vidic, Ferdinand, Terry etc. in the vital games? Can we see him muscling them off the ball ? He’s not doing it against poorer defenders at the moment.

            This sounds like I’ve got it in for him. I love his better moments but I’m not sure – in our team – they’re going to ever be more than cameos. However, I’ll be happy if i’m wrong and I’m happy to be persuaded 🙂

          • Phil
            February 7, 2010

            Hmm can’t reply to Jim’s post (probably a thread cap) so I’ll put this here.

            “Henry? Pedro? If Pep thought that Pedro’s goal plusses were worth it he’d be playing every week.”

            Henry may not be performing as well as we’d like him to in terms of goals, but he is so far ahead of Pedro in terms of experience and football smarts that he is still going to start over Pedro. Pedro has been on great goalscoring form, but he’s coming on against tiring defenders and has a ton of confidence at the moment. Henry has lost a step no doubt, and that hurts on the wing, but he has definitely proven that he brings more as a starter from the showings that Pedro has had starting on the wing. Goals is the easiest and most obvious metric, but we can’t use it exclusively because goals do not exist in a vacuum.

          • Phil
            February 7, 2010

            Actually now that I re-read it I think that we’re in complete agreement anyways and I shouldn’t jump into the middle of a discussion without my coffee. Maybe I should go hit the snooze button a few more times 😡

          • Kirsten-SA
            February 8, 2010

            My biggest fear is that we have been winning on thin margins compared to last year. how many 1-0’s, 2-1’s did we get this season? My fear is that if we come agaist a team that knows how to shut down Messi like EE or Chelsea,we are in trouble. Even worse, if we come against a good team(Valencia, Villareal??) and go a goal behind or two,it will be really hard to come back if the other team just shut Messi down. We dont have many goal scoring options like we did last year with Messi, Henry and Eto’o(at least Petro knows how to get us a goal when we need one). But having said that, we should never underestimate the ability of this team even without a goal scoring machine 9 because it is suprises me at times (the victories over Inter and Seville)

        • Areign
          February 7, 2010

          not sure how we’re more effective? are you fcuking kidding me? one word: undefeated.

          it doesnt matter how, or how close the games were, the point is weve gotten the job done pretty much every single game.

  30. stephen
    February 7, 2010

    Good review Kxevin as always, I agree about Ibrah, really if he continues to play this way the team will score more, maybe he wont score but its the unselfish, creativeness that will produce good plays for the TEAM !

    Glad we could put this one away, and glad we can have messi on this team, he really is the best player in the world and anyone that argues that can suck it.

    • Areign
      February 7, 2010

      messi hasn’t impressed me of late (when judged against messi standards of course), his finishing has been shitty (once again relative to before). He scored more goals with less chances last year, only difference is now all of eto’s chances are going to messi. My Ballon d’or frontrunner right now is Iniesta.

      • stephen
        February 7, 2010

        Not to take anything away from iniesta, but the man has no goal, he can put a ball through a keyhole, he can take on 9 players and slip through, but with an empty net the man couldnt put it away, its so depresssing but its true.
        i agree with messi being different than last season, but a lot of things in the team are a bit different, we lost etoo and with that we lost some of messi’s speedy runs where he had someone to join him. but NOW with what hes got, hes still the best.

  31. Phil
    February 7, 2010

    Great review. I think Keita’s might be a touch generous. He did most everything well, but those chances that he missed would’ve really put the match away and are the kind you absolutely cannot miss when you’re down to 10.

    To those who are saying Xavi up front – you have to remember that he gets those looks because he’s Xavi and Barca has Messi, Ibra, Henry etc who are much bigger threats (and can make space for him). Xavi will get a cleaner look than the others because his first instinct in front of goal is to pass. How many times has he found a run at the near post and he has a beautiful chance in front of him but he crosses through traffic to the far post? This is what teams expect. The fact that Messi and Xavi both reversed their normal tendencies is what makes that goal happen. The defense expects Messi to shoot; to try and run through all 5 of them and score. They expect Xavi to give it back to Messi if he does get it. They reverse and a beautiful goal occurs.

    I love Xavi to death, but I love him playing right where he is.

    • Phil
      February 7, 2010

      Oh, but I can’t really see Keita at a 6 either considering everything he did as well so on second thought 7 seems pretty accurate.

      • Jim
        February 7, 2010

        Sorry, Phil. Same replying problem. Absolutely no argument re Henry. I’d play him every time over Pedro but he’s not sticking them away either. As I’ve said before though, I know he can. I feel we need to keep playing him despite everything.

        However, if we’re playing Henry and Ibra we need SOMEONE to stick away the goals. Nobody can survive with a forward line where we admit two are not going to score a barrowload combined with poor wee Iniesta who can’t buy a goal and Xavi who is good for maybe 10?

        It’s not an issue at the moment but I feel it could be in the later stages. Don’t have an answer though. If we dropped Ibra and/or Henry who do we play?

  32. Ciaran
    February 7, 2010

    Keirrison could make his debut for Fiorentina v Roma tonight… he’s on the bench for the Viola.
    I hope he turns out to be freakin Batistuta or something. I always have love for Fiorentina.

    • Eklavya
      February 7, 2010

      “I hope he turns out to be freakin Batistuta or something.” hahaha 😀
      Who wouldn’t mind that? Thinking about it, I would have liked to see him in the team once…

  33. Ciaran
    February 7, 2010

    In other loanee news, Alberto Botia’s Sporting Gijon lost 3-1 tonight in a crazy match. Botia was unavailable so their defense went to shit and they conceded 3 goals. 3 players sent off in the match too.

  34. Tajh
    February 7, 2010

    Yay for Keirrison!!!…hes on as a sub…

      • Kxevin
        February 7, 2010

        He didn’t really do much, but Fiorentina were such shit in their attack. Do they have the slowest wingers on the planet, or what?

  35. Kari
    February 7, 2010

    How about that Zaragosa-Sevilla match. 3 reds, Negredo scores an o.g.-the game winner for Zaragoza- and then gets sent off. All without their president Del Nido, who hit his head in the bathroom, subsequently knocking himself unconscious and currently in the hospital.

    Meanwhile, Atleti is currently stuck in a 1-1 stalemate with Racing, who they hammered 4-0 last time they played.

    Ah, La Liga 😛

    P.S. Arsenal loses to Chelsea unsurprisingly, while Liverpool is back in the top 4….um, and this is the so called ‘Best League in the world?’

    • Kxevin
      February 7, 2010

      I bet that Del Nido was trying to walk on his fins again. He should have handlers that keep him from those kinds of mishaps.

  36. Kxevin
    February 7, 2010

    I think that Keita’s nickname might go from “Huh? What?” to Swiss Army Knife.

    Great discussions, everyone.

    Arsenal were spanked like the children that they are. Wenger is out of his mind playing boys against men. No wonder Fabregas is looking at the exit, if the rumors are true. As long as Wenger is there, with his youth-centric philosophy, I just can’t see Arsenal getting silver. Recall that the best Arsenal squads had that spine, and fire that this one just doesn’t have.

    Gunners fans will say “Well, if we had Van Persie,” they’d still have lost. I also spent some time watching Fabregas, and I know that he’s 22, but watching him move without the ball, then watching Xavi move without the ball is like night and day. I still can’t fathom anyone in their right mind paying 50m for that dude. Not right now.

    • February 7, 2010

      Word, Kevin.

      The great 02-06 Gunners squads were more dependent on sheer physicality and speed than a lot of EPL fans gave them credit for. It had its fair share of hard men like Viera, Campbell, Silva, and Toure who could go toe to toe with anybody coupled with the speed, ruthlessness, and saavy of an in his prime Henry, the still saavy Bergkamp, Pires, and Ljungberg. Their line-up this year is like watching munchkins against thugs. When William Gallas and Alex Song are your “enforcers” then something is seriously wrong. Its not about size either its about respect and leadership. To me there is no difference between Viera getting in Keane’s face and Xavi getting in Thong Boy’s face or Iniesta telling him to shut up. That’s swagger, that’s leadership… Xavi and Messi are still relative midgets but they are not afraid of making the occasional bone crushing tackle to send a message and taking a few yellows now and then. Not to mention that they make other players crap their pants when they play against them and they have a composure which commands respect. When things go wrong, they keep their cool and keep playing. We’ve got leaders all over the pitch. This Arsenal’s “leaders” are Gallas and Cesc. That’s scary. Maybe that’s why Wenger brought the now 80 year old Campbell back. To see if some of that leadership and steel will rub off somehow.

    • stephen
      February 7, 2010

      I completely agree, I really hope that new president and guardiola can realize this about 50m for Cesc, he seems like a leader under certain conditions, and hes good no doubt, but the fact that we would have 4 people battleing midfield, that doesnt seem reasonable for THAT PRICE, if we get him for some 30-35m, then yeah bring it on.

    • Alexinho
      February 7, 2010

      I agree with Hector about the lack of leadership probably being a factor in Arsenal’s performance right now, but I can’t agree with anything Kev just said (sorry Kev).

      I’m starting to agree with not buying Fabregas, but only for the situation: at the moment, he would probably be on the bench way too much for 50m. That isn’t to say he isn’t worth 50m: I think he’s quite worth that amount. His off-the-ball movement isn’t the same as Xavi’s, in that, I gather, he runs forward into the box sooner than Xavi does. But for me, that’s the EPL. Not to say the EPL is the best league in the world (it isn’t), but it’s faster-paced. Fabregas is different than Xavi or Iniesta because he gets forward to threaten in the final third; he’s more of a second-striker than any of the three. I will buy that he has a thing or two to learn but I do think that in a few years he will be the best midfielder in the world.

      I also think that if van Persie were playing, we would have the striker we needed. Arshavin would have been out on the left where he is a totally different player (and let me also say that he played one of his best games as a lone striker today, so active until, well, he got frustrated, which is one of his critical flaws), and van Persie would have done something like what Drogba did to Arsenal twice: made a difference. I don’t know if they would have won with him on the field, but RvP is like the Bob Sanders of soccer (GO COLTS!!): a few games in a year is worth every penny. Granted, we need a full-time guy for the job.

      Finally, Arsenal was not “spanked like the little children they are.” I resent that, to be frank. I more agree with a reader who commented above that we are Barcelona-lite, like the Barcleona of a few years ago with all the possession in the world and none of the goals. After seeing the Chelsea match, I might just be ready to say that we have the best midfield in England. The problem is that our defense and strikeforce are not nearly as good. Without RvP, we are probably in the bottom-half in terms of frontmen, and that is a real problem. But Chelsea did not destroy Arsenal, they did what they always do, and take advantage of mistakes, and by Arsenal’s standards it was a pretty clean game with few defensive mistakes. If you don’t see those goals, do you even see Chelsea taking any shots? How many passes does Chelsea string together? Song, Diaby, and Fabregas completely owned that midfield. No they didn’t win, but it was a damn respectable loss and a spirited fight for a team that most people said never had a chance. In time, the Arsenal will rise again.

      Do we need to buy players? I wish we would, in some cases. A striker that is not so injury-prone would be nice, or a more reliable backup CB…or any player that doesn’t get injured so much. Or a new physio (actually, this is Colin Lewin’s first year). On the other hand, if you look at this generation of Arsenal players, count how many of them have gone from rags to riches. Not to mention Adebayor, but you have RvP, Song, Diaby, Clichy. Who will turn world-class next year? It doesn’t mean we’ll win next year, but it’s evidence enough for me, along with our relatively good financial condition (next to debt-ridden Man U and one-man-funded Chelsea), to trust that this team is on the up. The Arsenal will rise again.

      • Kxevin
        February 7, 2010

        Sorry you take offense, but for two weeks in a row, Arsenal had the chance to define their season. In both cases, they were manhandled. Period. Most of us Barca fans probably have Arsenal as the other club we like to watch.

        That said, Hector said it better than I could have. Arsenal needs men. And it isn’t about size, it’s about mentality. Theo Walcott? Really? Wenger’s personnel choices were laid bare in these last two matches. In both, they didn’t have a chance. Sorry, but in the context of the opponents, they were children, in the figurative sense.

        With spine to go with their young talent, they would be world-beaters. But the personnel decisions were made, and they came to roost in these last two matches.

        That was a man’s goal that Drogba scored. And I am most emphatically not a Chelsea fan. In the EPL, you need that. We owned the midfield and possession against United in Champions League year before last, but we weren’t men. We were last year.

        • Jnice
          February 7, 2010

          Agreed.

          And honestly, I see Arsenal as less than Barça-lite. I really don’t like them being compared to us, period.

          • barca96
            February 7, 2010

            and last time they had henry banging in goals and bossing around

        • Alexinho
          February 7, 2010

          I suppose I could go on about this all night, so after typing quite a bit and deleting, I’ll just have to say that there is much that I could say about all this, some of it agreement, which in this case is something of a variation of lament, some of it spirited disagreement =)

          But the Colts lost, so I’m just too sick to my stomach to keep on.

          As for Jnice not wanting Barca compared to Arsenal, well…that stings, especially when you’re talking about two of the elite teams in world soccer.

          • Alexinho
            February 7, 2010

            I can’t resist. One thing, not the most important, but somewhat. If you want spine, look at Theo again. Alright, he was utterly useless on offense. But he was deceptively good on defense. One tackle defined it, in the box, sliding, like a fullback, when Ashley Cole was clear on goal. That’s English spine for you.

            Again, there’s much more I could say, and none of it is anywhere near a complete exoneration. It’s just, saying they weren’t men, that they were manhandled…just a tad misleading.

  37. February 7, 2010

    Jim- Props on the whole being open minded and reasonably stating points rather than going the OMFG Ibra Sucks Eto’o is Better! route. That said, DUDE, take a chill pill 😀 . A few quick points:

    “He was the obvious person to take off yesterday as he wasn’t as mobile as the rest and couldn’t do anything on his own. He was the obvious person to take off yesterday as he wasn’t as mobile as the rest and couldn’t do anything on his own.”

    – Not really. It was not obvious at all. He was just as slow as he has always been if not slower since he was recovering from injury against Real Madrid and once could argue that it was his insertion into the line-up which turned the game and his hold up play which in large part let us hold possession and eat up enough time to survive being a man down for almost a whole half against four times the attacking power Getafe has. Pep took him off because unlike Pellegrini, Michel was spreading us out and using width and Pep wanted to respond by re-enforcing the wings. The 4-3-2 we used to such good effect while down a man against RM was not cutting it so he put in Busi and switched to a 4-4-1 with a diamond midfield to better destroy Getafe’s attacks. It actually reminded me a bit of Chelsea’s pressure absorbing scheme. We came out in the second half with the 4-4-1 with Keita as the D-Mid, Iniesta on the left, Xavi on the right, and Ibra slightly up top in a diamond while Messi was the striker. Pep just thought that Busi was better for the diamond tip role than Ibra which was no surrpise considering who the midfielder is. Again, it was a tactical decision dictated by the situation, not Ibra’s mobility. If the game had been 0-0 or 0-1 at that point, I would bet money that Ibra stays on.

    – We are averaging 2.5 goals per game and conceding 0.5. That’s called being BAD ASS. Its not always about plain out scoring people. Remember how many set piece goals we gave away last season? Know how many have given away this season, in ALL competitions? Two. Even with all our midgets. Who’s been a big difference in that respect? Yeah. Ok, he’s a #9, if we had wanted to get better in defending corners we should have gotten a CB but hey, its something and its significant.

    -If you want to feel better, read Ramzi’s take (which I agree with albeit with a few small caveats): http://www.footballmood.com/2010/01/ibra-messi-henry-to-valdes.html

    The bottom-line is that the offense is still not 100% fine tuned which happens when you get a new kid on the block. Its not so much forcing Ibra to fit into a certain peg but adjusting everything at once. That takes time, especially when the likes of Henry, Iniesta, and Messi have not been able to co-incide with Ibra in the lineup too often due to a myriad of factors (injuries or NT callups to one or the other mostly). Pep had a vision when he got him and that’s why he got him. How many parked buses have we seen this season compared to last season? Have you noticed how teams are suddenly taking bigger risks in pressing us or at least trying to focus on the midfield? Why not more parked buses like last year? Hmm… Are they suicidal, do they sense weakness or is there a new variant on our team this season that has convinced them that parking the bus no longer gives them the best chance to win. What oh what could that variant be?

    Our offense is based on moving the ball quickly, not necessarily quick players. Our guys aren’t THAT fast relative to a lot of other big teams. Even Messi despite all his acceleration and speed with the ball at his feet is not Kaka, Rooney or Thong Boy when it comes to hitting the jets. The ball always moves faster than the man. Our guys think faster and pass faster more than running faster. Ibra has decent speed in the open field once he picks up speed. Its his acceleration over medium distances that’s not super explosive. This is why he plays the offside trap or withdraws a bit before beginning some of his runs. With all his experience, he knows how to make up for his shortcomings. To me its more about speed of thought than speed of feet. Once everybody is on the same wavelength then it will come. Will they get there? We’ll see. However giving the present circumstances, I think its a bit rash to start anticipating and lamenting our UCL elimination because of Ibra when we haven’t even played the first elimination round yet. Chill out, kimosabe. 😀

    • Jim
      February 7, 2010

      I’m not at all pessimistic about our CL chances, Hector. Just as I’m not saying Ibra won’t click eventually. Happy to take chill pills though 🙂

      To me, it was an obvious choice to take him off. Tactically, we’d have had to move Messi back or off if we’d left Ibra on. With only one up front if he was able to hold it up that well why not leave him on and take Messi off? I feel we needed the running power throughout the whole team. No dishonour there though. I think Pep would have left him on if he felt he could.

      I concede the point about his height although losing goals at set pieces is as much about your organisation as height 🙂

      I think you’re right about the fact that our preparations aren’t as far on because of numerous injuries etc but we’re still doing well on the injury front. It could be worse. With regard to the parked buses its just a case of people thinking they’ve worked us out. The parked buses didn’t work – this season they tried something different which worked until young Iniesta came back and then, well it just didn’t. Don’t think that has anything at all to do with Ibra. It’s not that Ibra is killing them by scoring headed goals or knocking them down which forces them to give up the parked bus.

      I have no issues with Ibra’s speed of thought. He’s up there. However, we have fast feet aligned to great movement. That means speed over a few yards and, to me, he has yet to show it.

      Good discussion though. Is it still only Sunday? What are we going to talk about for the rest of the week?

  38. Keano
    February 7, 2010

    Arsenal have no englsh spine, local boys proud to wear the jersey. Adams keown etc would frighten the bejesus out of these kids ps i am not english

  39. majatt
    February 7, 2010

    There are like 10 blog posts in the comments sections, love it.

    My quick sprinkle:

    Maxwell – Pleasantly surprised, wasn’t sure if you’d step up
    Iniesta – Buy a shot…please
    Keita – Good game, woeful finishing.
    Messi – Roberto Carlos much?
    Ibra – GREAT passing, great hold up…now score some goals
    Milito – dude…you just came back from an injury…stop crushing people before you hurt yourself.

    I’m worried about ATM next week but if I were an ATM fan…I’d be even more worried.

  40. Alexinho
    February 7, 2010

    HOW DO THE COLTS LOSE THE SUPER BOWL, WHEN THEY’RE FAVORED, THE SAME DAY ARSENAL DROPS OUT OF THE TITLE RACE!!! THIS HAS BEEN THE WORST DAY EVERRRR!!!

    Stunned.

    • Kxevin
      February 8, 2010

      Crazy. I hate the Aints. Two plays: The drop by the French-named dude, and Reggie Wayne’s awful route on the interception play. Ick.

  41. barca96
    February 7, 2010

    i have to agree with Jim. he is right.
    we might average 2.5 goals a game but look at the amount of chances we have. we have to be more critical. in CL, we won’t even that many chances to begin with. and we can’t forever rely on messi for goals.
    ibra did almost everything right last match except bad passing and no goals. we really need more goals from ibra, our no.9.
    at this rate, i don’t see how ibra is supposed to be the solution for breaking a bus..

  42. Alexinho
    February 7, 2010

    Alves is out for three weeks, Yaya for 10-15 days.

    This leaves some interesting possibilities, especially since we come to play Stuttgart by the time Alves comes back. Do we keep playing Maxwell on the right and show what he’s really made of, or play Puyol there and give Marquez more time in the middle to build on (what the consensus says is) a strong performance?

    Atletico is certainly going to show us our depth on defense. How is Milito going to do with two games in a row? Does Chygrynskiy feature? Will Keita play at DM–and probably own that part of the field?

    The last few games, the team has been playing as well as ever so I must say, I’m not worried. Not in the least–especially on defense. I’ve never seen a ten-man team track back so quickly and so effectively. Bring on good Atletico or bad Atletico, I think the boys will keep a clean sheet.

  43. Helge
    February 8, 2010

    Sport.es reports that Pep’s favourite back line for Atleti will be:
    Maxwell-Puyol-Txigrinski(!)-Abidal

    Txigrinski against a pacy forward like Kun Aguero? Looks like a match with lots of goals for both sides, once again^^

    • yogi
      February 8, 2010

      We do have to remember that Atletico have a mid week semi against Racing for Copa Del Rey. They have played a lot many games in recent weeks compared to us. So they are likely to be quite tired. Also knowing is cup final on line, i expect them to prioritize mid week match as compared to weekend fixture. Though their 4-0 lead puts them in a very comfortable position. So i am not sure if they will put their heart and soul on coming weekend.

      • Helge
        February 8, 2010

        Yap, that’s the problem. I know Atleti is a crazy team, but even they won’t lose 0-4 with a sort of B team in Santander. I expect Aguero and Reyes to be rested for the match against us.
        But the possibility of a slightly tired defense is great for us, since even a fit Atleti defense got plenty of problems with Messi and Co. in the last games 😀

    • Eklavya
      February 8, 2010

      Heck noooo, last year we played Caceres and he got OWNED! Not because of his speed though, he’s fast.

  44. February 8, 2010

    Phil Ball on the weekend game *http://myespn.go.com/s/conversations/show/story/snet-738484

    • February 8, 2010

      *http://soccernet.espn.go.com/columns/story?id=738484&sec=europe&root=europe&cc=4716

  45. Sid
    February 8, 2010

    So much Praise and a 10 for Iniesta . Me likey 🙂

    Sad that I missed the match

  46. Kxevin
    February 8, 2010

    Oh, crap. It’s starting again: Fabregas has apparently rejected a bumper contract offer from Arsenal, which was intended to ward off the attentions of those pesky Spanish sides. Apparently he’s just sitting tight, having already made up his mind, and it waiting for the two clubs to hash it out.

    Word is we’re willing to offer 50m, and not a penny more, dammit. 😀

    Baby Kxevin does NOT approve.

    • Hilal
      February 8, 2010

      Damn….cant say im surprised though. It think he has had enough of not winning and i cant blame him really. Why wouldnt he want to come play for the best club in the world, alongside the best players in the world? if we could get him for 30m then i might be more open to the idea, but at 50m its insanity. We already have the two best midfielders on the planet, one is peaking now and the other is just getting better and better. Where is Fabs gona play? Its worrying.

    • cliveee
      February 8, 2010

      our club is rich now… and i have a feeling that we will be proved wrong when fabregas finally came and thrive for us, and then we will say 50m is worth it… no reason at all here, just a feeling.

  47. BL
    February 8, 2010

    ibra gets a 7? i thought he was terrible save a couple touches. more bad passes, more bad decisions and now hes showing a lack of confidence in front of goal combined with all this shitty approach play.

    can’t understand much praise for him in this game, he did a couple things right but many many things wrong.

    this team continues to march on despite zlatan ibrahimovic who they’ve been dragging along like the 6’5″ dead-weight hes been for nearly 10 matches in a row.

    • BL
      February 8, 2010

      in addition… how many times was he offside in the less-than-a-half of football he played? hes the epic fail in our front line when it comes to being onside, its just pathetic. even if hes juuuuust on and hes pissed that the linesman called it wrong… why does he have to cut it so fine EVERY time.

      watch him during any of his games, he stands completely still after a move dissolves and as the opposing defenders walk their line up he’ll be motionless and then… he starts to walk back to get onside. thats why hes offside so goddamned much, its pure laziness and it pisses me off.

      unacceptable in every way.

  48. Jim
    February 8, 2010

    I find myself in the unusual position of having posted my nagging doubts about Ibra’s progress but now kinda defending him !

    BL, I wouldn’t agree that he is lazy. I expected him to be when he arrived but I feel he is trying to fit in with our philosophy of pressing hard. I used the words above “Ibra’s progress” and I think that’s how we have to look at it. He won’t be at his most effective until probably the last month or two of the season but if we don’t play him we won’t reap any benefits of it. I don’t agree with some of the glowing assessments of his part in recent games but the guy is super talented and we owe it to ourselves to give him every chance. As long as we’re still winning we can afford to carry him and I’m sure at least his goal touch will come back. I’m sure he doesn’t believe Pep’s glowing comments about his play and is frustrated by his performances so I’m cutting him slack on the attitude front. My longer term concern is that we are going to have to find Ibra with the ball rather than vice versa.

    However, I also have a sneaking suspicion that there may be a special moment in this season with Ibra’s name on it.

    • BL
      February 8, 2010

      i said he’s lazy when getting back into onside positions, hes shown willingness to track back and work hard, though you can tell its alien to him because he doesn’t use his energy effectively in that regard just yet. he’ll often chase back when that player could be easily covered by someone else and then not chase when a player is free.

      but he’ll get it… just like i hope he learns to change his offside habits because for me, its so annoying to have a player do this consistently and i believe it should be a punishable offense.

      if a player accumulates more than a 3 offsides in a game i’m all for them getting yellow cards or a kick in the balls, either one.

      also let me say that i’m not hating ibra because it would be extremely naive to think that a player will just fit in to barça’s game so easily. but i’m also not going to stick my head in the sand and say that hes awesome when hes playing like crap.

      • barca96
        February 9, 2010

        exactly. he just stands still. he thinks he is still at Inter where they play slow. we attack and attack. he needs to move more!
        if you noticed, a few times the players were reluctant to pass to him cause he was offside.

  49. Jim
    February 8, 2010

    On Fabregas, if it happens it happens. Wouldn’t spend the money on him atm but can’t say it will weaken our team, can we?

    However, no way should it result in Iniesta moving to LW. Strikes me that Fabregas could play there quite successfully, not by getting to the byeline but by cutting in and playing one twos (Messi like) with Ibra. He has more of an eye for a goal than Andres as well. He is a very good passer and has quick feet. He also strikes me as a very hard worker. He runs his tail off at Arsenal tackling back.

    • barca96
      February 9, 2010

      exactly.all this while there was talk iniesta being moved to LW but why not cesc? iniesta is our man!
      but i find it very stupid to start negotiating at 50mil. why not start lower? and his contract is 1 year older now.s should be cheaper. or just buy VILLA already!

  50. AleInSeychelles
    February 9, 2010

    My two-penny worth contribution to the discussion, and sorry for my English, which is not my first language.

    In Kxevin’s review, we read about Messi:

    “The one pass that he tried, he actually should have taken the shot,…” Actually, I saw several passes…most notably, nobody mentioned about the pass to Ibra towards the end of the first half. That ball was recovered by Messi at the middle of the field, he just turned around and sent a Xavi-esque pass to an Ibra who, at the peak of his confidence, would have resolved the situation with his first touch.

    Also, during the live-blog, some mentioned that he did not care about Messi being pichichi, that he would raher have him with the most assists. Well, he is the player with the most assists (7 or 8, depending on the media) in the League. Alas! what he will never be is a majestic, towering, wide-receiver-like presence, like Ibra…

    Messi was originally an ‘enganche’, like we call them in Argentina, a playmaker, at times in a central position, usually playing slightly ahead and to the left of the midfield. But he developed more into a ‘media punta’, a forward just behind the frontline. This is probably the best position for him, he is an OK player an an ‘enganche’ but a special player in the last 20 mt. But above all, he likes to have space, as it was shown again on Saturday’s match.

    Given the circumstances, Pep has asked him to play closer to Ibra in the middle, leaving less traffic in the wing for Alves, and recognizing that Ibra does not have the mobility and the understanding that Eto’o had with Messi. At times, Pep has asked him to move even further back to liaise more closely with Xavi and Iniesta but, being the stubborn guy that he is, he does not enjoy much that position.

    Enough of Messi. Saturday much was already an unusual proposal from Pep, who shook the tree(right, Thierry?), and inisisted with his Iniesta-as-winger configuration. After Pique’s debacle he went even more adventurous experiments, for moments oscillating between a 3-5-1 to a 3-4-2, with brought frowned looks from the loyalists, who smelled the fumes of a parked bus. Above all, the move allowed the recovery of the ball further back than usual (Milito was doing his Puyol impersonation anyway), while leaving more room for Xavi-Iniesta-Messi, with good support from Keita and Maxwell.

    Strikers should have enough vitamin C (confidence) in their bloodstreams to block neural pathways, so that thoughts do not blur their visions when they face the goal. Ibra and Keita forgot to take their pills before the match, otherwise Barcelona would have up 3-0 at the end of the first half. In other words, the team was absorbing well the pressure of having lost some of the usual insane possession.

    More on this later….

Leave a Reply