Real Sociedad 1, Barça 0, aka “Choosing your path”

lrenr

The match between La Real and Barça today was one of the strangest I have seen in some time, for a number of reasons.

Most noteworthy for me is that this was the match that assembled every last dysfunction that this club has, and dumped it into a cauldron. We can talk about mitigating circumstances, chances created in the first vs second half, etc, etc, but the fact that Barça is a dysfunctional team linked to a dysfunctional club is, for me, beyond dispute.

But in a way, there is beauty in all of that failure in the same way that not being able to complete that last rep in the gym makes you stronger. Pain and misery, self-flagellation are party of any process that improves anything, because you have to fail before you can succeed. The problem, of course, is that you have the right clothes and all the instructions. It should be easy, and what if at the end of all of this failure is … more failure? Who wouldn’t opt for the ease of success and the comfort of the familiar?

You see it in the gym all the time, the people who do the same workouts with the same weights, always completing the sets and strutting to the locker room with a grin. “Another one rocked.” I always seek failure. Put another way, if I get to the last rep of a set in an unruffled state, THAT is when I have failed, because I didn’t push hard enough.

You build from failure, but you also have to do all the other work, the eating right, the sleeping right, the recovery days. Clubs are like gym rats, in that they sometimes don’t do everything they should and a plan goes awry. But there is as much danger in tossing that plan early as there is in seeing it out, only to have it be the wrong plan.

The challenge with Barça, and the struggle with how we look at the club in a broader sense as well as in the context of what happened today is that there are many paths to choose, some easy, some difficult.

Easy street

Fire Enrique. It’s his fault. He got the lineup wrong today, just as he all season, even as he has never played the same lineup twice. A more competent coach could do better with the gobs of talent that Barça has. And after the board fires Enrique, have early elections so that we can fire the board. Yes. Because otherwise, we are doomed.

There’s a lot to like there. My views on this board are well known, and I will crawl to Barcelona if I have to, for the chance to vote against them in the next election, whenever it is. I have written before about the ways in which I believe they have failed the club, from inaction to poor choices to gaffes that to me, affect the club’s global perception.

I want them out, even as I curse the objectivity that makes me look at them and what they do in a wholistic sense. Are they saving the club even as they are hurting the team? Are both possible? Is austerity real, and I’m just a distrustful crank?

You have to ask yourself these questions if you want to think objectively about this club, and you can ask them without defending the board, or even giving a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about your asking those questions. It’s only intellectual laziness that stifles a full vetting of an idea.

And firing Enrique is always viable, because firing a coach is the answer. He’s the leader, he makes the decisions, picks the lineups, decides on strategy. If the club isn’t performing, it’s his fault, so fire him. It worked with Rijkaard, and look what happened then. Off with his head.

The rocky road

In a post-match observation, I noted that Enrique is like Martino, in that he has been handed the keys to a car with a beautiful body, but the suspension is shot and the motor needs a tune-up. And he is expected to win races with that car, or it’s off with his head.

The temptation of looking at the last time a Barça coach was fired and his successor led the team to greatness is to ignore circumstances and objective reality. To the core of a team that was fit, angry and in its prime were added players such as Dani Alves and Seydou Keita, while Busquets and Pedro were promoted at the exact right time from Barça B. There was also a fully acclimated Thierry Henry ready to bust out and as balanced a lineup as you will see in a while — pretty and physical, silk and steel, death by a thousand passes or route one — and a group that was ready to explode.

Could ANY coach have won with that group? Absolutely not. Guardiola was the right coach at the right time, and garnered unprecedented success. But at the same time, the lure of the desire to fire Enrique would be to ignore the systematic decline of the team, particularly at the base: the midfield.

If you fired Enrique tomorrow and brought in a new coach, would that coach get better results, or face the same challenges that his predecessors faced? It’s a question worth asking, even as we can admit that it is still uncertain whether Enrique is in fact the right coach to lead this team. But in asking that question, it’s also safe to ask whether ANY coach is the right coach to lead this team.

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Dysfunction junction

Barça rolled into the Anoeta, a stadium in which success has been, to put it mildly, a challenge, with the news that Valencia did the team a solid in beating RM, mere hours earlier in the day. Win, and the team’s destiny returns to its own hands.

Enrique took a risk in rolling out what was in theory the correct lineup, based on what was known: Bravo, Montoya, Mascherano, Mathieu, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Munir, Pedro, Suarez. Because what was known was what in fact happened, as La Real set up deep and challenged Barça to break down 10 behind the ball.

That lineup would have possession and not be challenged by aggressive, physical mids, making the “old school” midfield a shot worth taking. And you can start that front line because even if it doesn’t nick a goal, because of how La Real is going to play you’re likely to get to the half at 0-0. You sub on Messi and Neymar in the second half, and take the points. Done.

But then, in what should have been a very manageable set piece, Alba headed the ball into his own goal, giving La Real a 1-0 lead and making that lineup suddenly all wrong even as it was the most logical thing to do, really. If Alba doesn’t confuse the meaning of “OG,” (Original gangsta? Huh? What?), Enrique’s risk would have paid off. Hell, if Pedro hadn’t skied that great chance he had, if Munir had been at all present, the team might still have been able to get to the half with a draw.

But it was everything all at once, as all of Barça’s flaws were laid bare. Part of La Real’s defensive scheme was an aggressive midfield pressure that severed passing lanes and stressed Iniesta. It also left Busquets moored. The players were familiar, but the result was very different.

Unit play was a hallmark of the successful Barça teams, a collective that worked like dogs at both ends of the pitch. The new Barça is forwards who attack, a midfield that tried to feed those forwards and a defense that defends, a more traditional structure that finds the club stuck between worlds. Xavi needs movement from the forwards to get passing angles. Iniesta needs a foil, or he is stranded. Busquets needs that ping-pong action that he used to find with Xavi, which created possibilities from new angles of attack.

But La Real was able to take advantage of that not at all suddenly flawed midfield by swarming the forwards whenever the ball got into the box, forcing the forwards to come out of the box to get service, then try moving into the box where they invariably found a path to goal or passing lane blocked. Throw-ins and corners. Yay.

Wait ’til my big brother comes

Everyone anticipated the addition of Messi and Neymar, and it came not long into the second half, but a curious thing happened: La Real didn’t care. Its system didn’t really care who was playing against it, because it had the same job. And whether that passing angle or foot stuck in came outside the box or in front of goal didn’t matter, as long as the opponent didn’t score.

So even though more chances were created, the same situational flaws existed, logic spurned for chaos, which can always be exploited by an opponent with a system. Their coach, David Moyes, prepared his side well, from the use of strategic fouls to breaking up the game by falling down a lot. It worked, and Barça didn’t have a system to overcome it, mostly because the team was a mess, a collection of brilliant individuals trying magic tricks. Individual brilliance is to be lauded when it is evinced as part of the team concept. When it IS the team concept, it’s an exploitable weakness.

In other words, Barça looked pretty much the same with Messi/Neymar/Suarez as with Pedro/Suarez/Munir, because of all the other unaddressed problems that reared their heads.

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Moyes said that he would have done exactly what Enrique did with the XI, even as culers clamored that Messi/Suarez/Neymar should have started the match. But this supposition ignores the fact that they would have been squaring off against a daisy-fresh defense. So it actually made more sense to roll them out in the second half, when legs were a little heavier, etc. But because the same problems were there, it didn’t really matter, and what could have been a win became a loss.

Enrique didn’t count on La Real keeping enough energy to sustain the necessary effort and even attack when opportunity presented itself. Enrique didn’t count on players not being able to complete passes, clunky first touches and a rootless midfield.

Did Moyes? No, but he took the same calculated risk in his approach that Enrique took in his, as salvation and failure came in a mistake. History says, because of the result, that Enrique got outcoached by Moyes, even as there are many layers to the story of this failure.

The blame game

But whose fault IS it, damn you! I have to know who to blame!

The long and short of it is in the micro sense of today’s match, everybody. There were poor passes, rootless play, a jumble of players who didn’t seem to know where to be and when they were in the right spot, they didn’t execute. You can blame the coach, who got the lineup wrong perhaps, even as the Alba error makes hindsight 20/20. But might Rakitic have been a better choice than Iniesta or Xavi? And why in the hell can’t Mathieu execute a simple clearing pass consistently well? Montoya made clear why he hasn’t been getting playing time, and Alba was all fire and fury as it became clearer that his error was becoming more and more expensive. And while you’re at it, shoot the damn ball, you idiots! About the only players to whom absolution beckons are Mascherano and Bravo.

In the macro sense, you can blame the men who made the decision that find this club with an aging midfield base that is capable of playing a Way that isn’t buttressed or validated by the forwards that it supports. So there is talent, but it isn’t exactly the right talent, so things look good on paper, a trap that many including I have fallen into, without diagramming the equation that the paper presents.

Is it a desire to believe? Sure. And this one loss doesn’t mean that you should stop believing, those who do believe in the ability of this team.

But there are problems, and those problems were exposed in a way that makes them impossible to ignore. Yet knowing what a problem is and being able to solve it are two very different things.

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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.

47 Comments

  1. IamXavi6
    January 4, 2015

    A worthy post with some accurate points. I’ll just repost what I did in the previous story though.

    Shots: 17
    Soc: 6

    On Goal:
    Soc 1
    Bar 4

    Tackles:
    Soc 22
    Bar 16

    Fouls
    Soc 21
    Bar 14

    Poss:
    Soc 27
    Bar 73

    Sometimes, in football, shit happens.

    RS have been a bogey team for a while now at their home. When a team parks a bus like RS have done, it’s never as easy as you may think, particularly if they score an early goal (through whatever means) – that alone really sets you back and just supports their tactics even more.

    Haters in 3….2….1..

    • January 4, 2015

      Absolutely. But when it happens as more or less regularly, you start to think that we haven’t addressed something.

      There won’t be any death to excuses we could find to justify these performances. But this was a glorious chance which our team squandered. That’s not a sign of a champion side.

      I don’t agree much with Kxevin’s analysis of leaving Messi and Neymar out from start so that they can terrorize once the oppositions legs are weary. Sorry if that was the plan, then Messi should have played instead of Saurez. Presence of Messi not only would have weakened them physically but also mentally.

    • Leo1978
      January 5, 2015

      Yes, shit happens. But shit happens to this team every second week. You can’t explain that just with chance and bad luck.

  2. FCB16
    January 4, 2015

    Getting harder and harder to defend LE and thank god for that. Man can’t even hold a real presser, running after five minutes, continually to believe we were simply “unlucky”. Can’t stand his attitude.

  3. ooga aga
    January 4, 2015

    good article kxevin.

    yes, some questions, but too many chicken littles in the press and everywhere. 4 pts behind a record breaking Ancellotis Madrid, not even halfway through the season. everyone wants to know more than the boss, everyone wants knowitall. for me, the team played pretty well today, not great but it really looked like a goal or two would come in the second half. didnt happen, but we’re gonna be fine. im enjoying my football. some people are never happy. maybe barca wont win with LE, maybe they will. nobody knows.

    • FCB16
      January 4, 2015

      Wow. No words for this. Your wishy washy ” eh whatever” accomplishes nothing. Of course you have to call all people raising legitimate criticisms as ” chicken littles” as most Barca fans who cant bear anything negative tend to do

    • ooga aga
      January 5, 2015

      …and your “i hate LE” attitude is accomplishing…so much. have fun with that.

    • ooga aga
      January 5, 2015

      Im gonna go back and see what you posted when the 3 previous managers also failed to win in Anoeta.

    • agar2515
      January 5, 2015

      I have no idea why this has become an excuse/talking point. So what if we have had poor results in the past? We are here in the present, the pieces are different, the coaches different

    • ooga aga
      January 5, 2015

      it doesnt absolve LE from everything, but it does put things in perspective.

      there really, really are many people on this board who only want to highlight the negative. they come out with the knives drawn when anything goes wrong, and they sit silent when things go well. not gonna name names. but it gets old.

    • January 4, 2015

      Like your positive attitude. But I have my worries. That’s because I have still not understood what is the identity of LE’s Barca. That worries me. Shows that still he is confused about it. And we are entering the worst period of our season. January is usually horrible with everyone misfiring apart from Messi.

  4. agar2515
    January 4, 2015

    I’m not saying “LUCHO OUT” because who would we replace him with? The board F’d us and we have to lie in it for the year. I’m firming tired of him though, he reeks of ego and being in over his head.

  5. Rami
    January 4, 2015

    Nothing short of a colossal failure from LE at man-management, And i don’t get consider myself to be trigger-happy when pointing fingers, Nor i’am easily riled up.

    You don’t agree give your TWO BEST players an extended vacation in spite of the rest of their teams mates, Fully knowing that they won’t be able to play 90 minutes in a stadium where we haven’t been able to get a single point in years.

    And yes, Logic dictates that they can’t play a full game, Cause they’re soaked in vacation hangover, And it was evident on both messi and neymar today, It wouldn’t have mattered that much if they had started from the get go, Because they’ll still have only had 2 training sessions, And rusty as hell, The screw up happened days ago, Not at the last hour before the match when he announced the line-up.

    In this particular case, He deserves all the back lash he’s getting.

  6. SFKL
    January 4, 2015

    I really like your analogy about the car but I disagree on the usage of the analogy. The way I see it lucho is given a fancy but solid Bugatti or a maserati. Every conceivable add on is there and top grade stuff although some may be second hand out near sell by date. And lucho gets into the car and discover to his horror it is manual and he only knows how ru drive auto. As he is learning how to drive the auto he refuses to check engine oil or change the old wiper or chase certain essential stuff whilst for dinner he used not stop good brand when a proven brand is there at his disposal. Don’t blame the car. Maybe blame the manufacturer for not fixing or improving or adding unnecessary stuff to the design but don’t blame the car. In the end the main problem is the driver and as any driver goes lucho is a bad one and he refuses to acknowledge that. That’s how I see it.

    • SFKL
      January 4, 2015

      My apologies at find typos. Phone auto correcting and not sure how dinner came into the picture. I am sure many here wants to have him for dinner!

  7. January 5, 2015

    /In a post-match observation, I noted that Enrique is like Martino, in that he has been handed the keys to a car with a beautiful body, but the suspension is shot and the motor needs a tune-up. And he is expected to win races with that car, or it’s off with his head./

    I think I disagree with author’s claim in this regard. We were much better under TATA Martino than under Luis Enrique at this juncture.Let’s not ignore the facts for the sake of defending the manager.

    1) Messi was waiting for TAXI. He was lot worse and he hardly covered any distance.
    2) Neymar was injured during this time. I’m pretty sure about that.
    3) People were bashing TATA for winning in not so beautiful fashion.
    4) Victor Valdes got injured and we had to rely on 38 year old Pinto.
    5) Pre-Season last year was totally worse and added fatigue to the already depleted team.
    6) Neymar had already joined us way before TATA had come.May be TATA didn’t have Neymar in his plan at all.

    On top of that, we were just one goal short of winning the league. Technically speaking, Messi’s goal was legit and due to human error we lost the league.

    This season under Luis Enrique.

    — We have got Couple of defenders in Mathieu and Vermaelen(Should we convince ourselves that he didn’t have anything to say in these transfers)
    –Got Suarez and Rakitic. Enrique’s choice totally.
    –Literally no pre-season at all.
    –Messi and Neymar combo is much better than last season.

    This year team is much, much better than the one we had last year. Accordingly, we should have been better this year, but we are not.

    Food for thought: AVB’s Chelsea got outclassed from almost every team. Under RDM, they were much better in CL, PL and FA Cup.

  8. Tata2
    January 5, 2015

    LE is not the man for the job and I say that without any plans of losing a sleep about it. Players came late so what? is there no other way of punishing them other than benching them then ironically subbing them all in in the second half, he should have made his point clearer if at least he left them out of the match squad. Am so done and frustrated with this Mr. Delusional who keeps on noting and correcting mistakes in the pressers. Even my granny would have known that this was one of the most important games as far as the curse of Anoeta and the EE slip up goes. Tata would have done far better with this team than what this ex celta Vigo manager is doing. You guys will soon run out of excuses to defend him when we get a major humiliation

  9. Tata2
    January 5, 2015

    For the record, I don’t hate LE, I just don’t trust in him.

  10. Leo1978
    January 5, 2015

    “And he is expected to win races with that car, or it’s off with his head.”

    This is where I think you’re wrong. He wasn’t expected to race that car. He was expected to fix it. He got new pieces to repair it. He still had many pieces that worked, that just needed a new shine. But (so far) he failed miserably. (Don’t let the league table and CL results fool you – this team is playing very, very bad.) And I didn’t expect the car to run immediatly. But after more than 5 months in the garage, you should get the sense that this car is able to win a race or two in the future. I don’t see that. The parts and pieces don’t fit at all and the master mechanic is sitting infront of this mess and seems clueless.

    Just look at him during the last 20 minutes yesterday. It was disgraceful.

    • agar2515
      January 5, 2015

      Totally agree

  11. agar2515
    January 5, 2015

    THIS :

    “I’m done with it. I’m done with Lucho.

    I’m not angry at him, because I recognize what he is. He’s an average manager. He’s a legendary club figure, no doubt, but he does not have Barca DNA. He was schooled at Gijon, not at Barca, and he is not Blaugrana through and through like Tito, for example. His previous managerial experience leaves much to be desired, and it’s obvious he’s out of his depth. I’m upset Lucho didn’t instill this side with a clear direction. I’m upset he’s used 23 different lineups in 23 matches.

    But getting angry at Lucho for not being a polished tactician is like getting angry at a fish for not being able to climb a tree. He is what he is and he can’t change it. There’s no doubt about his commitment to the club, about his desire to experiment, but he cannot handle big players, he cannot manage big egos, and he cannot win tough matches; not on a tactical or inspirational level.

    So yes, I want Lucho out. But I also want Zubi out. And I also want this pathetic board out. This season is the result of a festering wound being treated by an incompetent doctor brought in because he was a cheap and easy choice.

    Today, it’s funny, just talking about the lineup. From the moment it was released you could literally predict exactly how the match would go. What’s worse, there was no logic behind any of the decisions made!

    First off, it’s Sociedad away, and it’s been what, five years since we’ve won there? So the immediate thought is, hmmm, this is probably going to be difficult, I better have my best players and my best team available for this.

    But nah, for a pretty bullshit reason altogether, Neymar and Messi were on the bench. Two days of training? Oh piss off. These are professional footballers who happen to both be TOP TEN players in the world. Given they both got hefty rest they were more than ready to start the match. But, to entertain the idea, let’s say we really don’t want to start them.

    However, we will start Suarez, because really, it’s Luis Suarez and by now he HAS to be somewhat back to snuff in front of goal. Plus, he can play as a true striker today! Now, with Neymar and Messi on the bench and Suarez in the middle, and knowing it’s Sociedad away under David Moyes, there’s a good chance the team’s going to park the bus. If the team’s going to park the bus, it’s probably best to have good 1v1 players on the field. They’ll be able to cause danger on the outside and open up space in the middle for Suarez.

    So who are we going to pick…hmmm…how about Munir and Pedro, because that combo has just dominated in the past away from home and has never required early substitutions. Wait, what? Neither Pedro nor Munir can take players on 1v1 off the dribble?

    Well that’s okay, because we can compensate with a powerful midfield that can drive past opponents, shoot from outside the box, and be quite dangerous. Wait, Xavi and Iniesta? You mean the combo that’s absolutely failed recently? You mean the two guys whose combined age is almost 70?!

    Well hopefully you’ll play your most mobile DM behind them to compensate! Wait, nope, that’s not happening either. Alright well let’s forget about offense.

    We’re obviously going to put up a strong defense, right? It’s a David Moyes team, so that means lots of crosses and dependence on set pieces..

    So we’re playing our best aerial players, right? Oh. Mascherano. Yikes. Well Pique’s in good form so at least he’ll be there. Wait, Mathieu? He’s really dropped off in form the past month! Oh well. It’s all good. At least Montoya is in there to be solid defensively and provide good crosses. And at least Alba is in great form and would never, ever try to stretch his neck out to reach a cross at such an angle that any contact not perfect would send the ball careening into our own net.”

    • barca96
      January 5, 2015

      Was it Syre or JBeck who nailed this comment?

  12. January 5, 2015

    There’s no way we can compare what Lucho has been handed (preseason to train, massive transfer outlay, a supportive section of the media) to what Tata had been (none of those).

    The guy is just out of his depth. He’s never shown evidence of being a good manager, anywhere. This isn’t even about the lineups per se. I can see a reasonable argument for resting Neymar, Alves and Pique (but not Messi). It’s just that he hasn’t established a template of playing in which players can easily shuttle in and out. And it’s 2015 ffs, it’s not like he hasn’t had time.

    • barca96
      January 5, 2015

      Whoa. It’s been years.

  13. January 5, 2015

    I have always campaigned against Enrique because from my observations during his roma and betis spells he is a mid-table coach, who can spring up surprise tactics and occasionally win against the big boys and is astutely ok with a loss anyways because he points to all the other factors he can not control.

    His handling tact is good for teams ok with just surviving in the league or maybe nick a European spot and conjure a few surprises. That is the peak of his managerial know-how.

    He is not compatible with Barca or any other top top league battling side that excel at consistency. His intentions are amateur-at-first-sight.

    I have been echoing thesame phrases long before his appointment, but we are darned by a board that is eager to kiss a few nationalist asses and keep things super-cule.

    Every top top manager knows how to roll-up and still kick your ass with a known line-up, guardiola was guilty of this.

    Ofcourse teams grew up and defended extensively deep and with eleven sandwiched at the back, we were still ripping sides apart, and back then we didn’t have mathieu or ney ney or suarez or stegen either. but we could identify a match-made-in-heaven between guardiola and us.
    With enrique? Not so much.

    One question;
    does the transfer ban allow us to get a new coach???

    • barca96
      January 5, 2015

      It’s Celta. And I wanted to say this when it happened, when Celta beat Barca for the 1st time in ages, that Lucho did a Moye-seh (Everton vs Man United).

  14. Fabian4Barca
    January 5, 2015

    I was hoping you would write something that cheers me up. After the game, I felt so sad and physically ill. That was dreadful to watch.

    La Real refused to play football and in my opinion this way of playing is a disgrace. But what can you expect them to do against us? I know, I know.

    Kxevin mentions our “unaddressed problems”, which is exactly what made me so sad and angry. I try to be optimistic, but as hard as I try, I really don’t see us addressing our problems. It’s nothing new that we get to play against a really well-parked bus. It’s not a new issue that our corner kicks are a joke and no team feels really threatened by them. When I see the Evil Empire rush against a parked bus, I think “damn, sooner or later one of these shots is going to go in”. When they earn a corner, I think “that’s it, now they’ll equalize”. With Barça, I just don’t feel this. There is no comfort for me in the stats, when I get remembered that we do eventually score in such situations.

    Yeah… so… let’s see how that develops. Maybe we WILL find a way to pass and pass and pass the ball until someone can walk it into the goal.

  15. January 5, 2015

    For once, I can understand all the negativity. This could have been avoided.
    The last 20 minutes of Val/RM, I was nervous as if I was watching my own team. And I thought, now, its upto us, our best team comes out and they win it somehow, even at Anoeta, changing our recent tradition of not winning there.

    I was shocked by seeing Munir in the line up, than not seeing Messi and Neymar.

    I got more negative, by seeing Busq/Xav/Iniesta for our midfield. These maestros should not start together in a big match, only LE dont see that way!

    Didnt the club know that this match would be happening on this date, and it was a very important game. They could have asked Messi and Neymar to join a day earlier – why not?

    If even Moyes, expected Messi and Neymar to be on the bench, then it might be that, LE chose the routine path of managers. He should have shocked Moyes by starting the trio, instead he just did what Moyes wanted..

    LE seems like he want to show he is a special guy may be, that no one can predict his line up or something like that. Whatever it may be, as regards the lineup, I think we did very poor. Not until Messi came up, did it look like something was about to happen, but then any team with good will power can cause problems to Barca with a bus.

    We threw away a golden opportunity. Hope that train will stop by again.
    My only hope is there is a Sevilla match for RM, isnt it.

    • Jim
      January 5, 2015

      I would stake my pension on Moyes starting Messi and Neymar in such a game. He was either being nice to a manager he knew would be in trouble – and he’s been there or else it was tongue in cheek.

  16. January 5, 2015

    Couple of seasons before – I think the season when Malaga reached CL quarters, I mentioned here about trying to get Isco, and many thought we didnt need him. I feel so bad watching him for RM. What a miss.
    Our major prob looks like our midfield, not the defense. Inspite of having a midfield, if we still have to depend on one of our forwards to create, we do have an issue in the midfield, which clarifies the arguement of many that the team do not know about its plan.

    • Jim
      January 5, 2015

      See below, Fotobirajesh. The number of times a team commits five or six players forward other than at set pieces allowing us to catch them on a break is less than miniscule. Have a look if you have the match recorded. If we don’t have that we have to play our way through eight or nine defenders. That’s hard. For some inexplicable reason RM don’t seem to come up against that very often and they are now also playing through midfield.

      I have often wondered why we bring our forwards back for corners though. They are utterly useless ( maybe Suarez excluded) there and how many defenders do you think a team would have to keep back if Messi, Neymar and Suarez were standing on their halfway line ready for a hoof from the keeper?

  17. Jim
    January 5, 2015

    Wow! Not much I can agree with in this article. We’re back to the same old say something often enough and it will stick without really providing any evidence or alternative.

    In theory the correct lineup? Really ? What was your thinking after hearing the lineup? Because mine was that against a packed defence we don’t want Montoya. Even given his issues, Alves gets that vote every time on a no brainer. Mascherano back in the defence at the expense of Pique? First thoughts? We’re screwed in the air. Who is going to replace Pique at the front of the zonal at corners and Mathieu needs to be everywhere on cross balls. This is not new for goodness sake. And height was a problem all night including the goal, exactly where Pique would have been at the front of the zonal.

    And what happens to the plan to bring on Messi, Neymar or whoever in the second half if we get an injury – or maybe even two in the defence with only three subs? You’re throwing away your insurance against injury by doing this. Amateur.

    Aagh, the old dysfunctional midfield. Now I’m gonna start by saying that I didn’t think had a great game. That is a growing worry for me although he hasn’t had a run of games to find that form- and never will with this rotation. However, I’d be keen to know where Xavi should have done better. He didn’t misplace a pass in the first two thirds and completed 41/44 in the final third – against what you yourself call “aggressive midfield pressure”. Without having rewarded the game he was everywhere, picking up balls deep and getting into the box at every opportunity. Decent attempt at goal from the free kick, good disguised one to Pedro for our best first half chance, one twos at the edge of the box, loads of playing in Montoya, to little effect unfortunately. If you have a recording of the game follow Xavi and tell me he’s past it or if you’re from the we should play it forward at every opportunity let me know where those opportunities were. When there is one he takes it. Who was it played the best ball of the game to Suarez in the second half. Just have a look at the vision and weighting involved in that pass. He could easily have ended the game with two or three assists. In LE’s defence, a phrase to be little employed I suspect in the next while he has obviously encouraged Xavi to get forward into the position he can do damage but then nobody is taking up the linking play slack. I would also say that Xavi’s finishing could be better at times, however. The point remains that for anyone still harbouring the notion that there are oodles of space for our midfield to play forward passes into I have some shares in the tooth fairy you might be interested in so let’s not peddle that one. We are cursed by our previous success in that teams know a bus is a great leveller and that they can’t take us on at a passing midfield game. No, our style is going to have to be the passing about ( hopefully quickly) in front of their box to draw them out of position, allied to individual brilliance. There were lots of such moves only a whisker away from success but to do that you need superb first touch and great short passing ability. Either that or we shove on Rakitic and Rafinha and see where that gets us but I won’t be holding my breath. A question for those proposing those two along with Mascherano ( who I thought played well yesterday even as he’s not the answer in the back four). How would you see that midfield operating ? We get the ball on halfway and they have at least eight back. What does this new midfield do ?

    Up front, once Messi and Neymar came on it became a siege and they did very well to hold on but they had something to hold on to. I see Messi now has the flu. Probably means we can rest him again 🙂

    Sorry, this has turned into a rant but I have been hopeful up to now that LE would make mistakes and learn from them but I’m beginning to suspect he is, in fact, just a very average coach who is quickly going to aggravate our best players.

    • Jim
      January 5, 2015

      Sorry, missed out Iniesta from the not having a good game remark. There’s a joke there somewhere about him being invisible. ( Why do I always feel so bad criticising Ini?)

    • Jim
      January 5, 2015

      Yeah, just read it. Decent account of our situation.

      That’s what’s different for me about this situation. I’m not sensing hate of LE as much as utter frustration with the lack of an obvious direction and style. One week I think he has learned something and he proves the next week he hasn’t. We are going into the second half of the season without a clue what HE thinks is our best defence or midfield.

      As much as I hate to agree with Ballague he said a few weeks ago on Revista that the club were becoming concerned at the loss of the “automatismos” or automatic combinations, knowing what each other are going to do etc. because of the rotations. I absolutely agree with that. You don’t develop an understanding over one or two matches. You need a stretch of them and it will come. Important both at CB and at the edge of their box. You can see Suarez trying things that Liverpool would have been ready for but we aren’t and vice versa.

      Interesting times.

    • January 5, 2015

      Yes, thats my big worry too, none in the club seem to know which is our first choice elleven, even in Jan!

    • hansh
      January 5, 2015

      Really? I thought Iniesta had one of the few solid performances yesterday from our team. His movement was good, he pressed, he had his moments of creative brilliance, and he had some quality balls into the box that no one made anything of.

      I think that Iniesta doesn’t have the ability that Xavi has to exert his influence over his teammates play, so he suffered from a lack of finishing quality and also from the fact that Alba really had a bad game, on both ends of the pitch. Still, he created danger.

      (Why do you feel bad criticizing him? Well, who would feel good criticizing one of the most decent men in football? :D)

    • Jim
      January 5, 2015

      I take your point Hansh, I’m one of Ini’s biggest fans and he didn’t have a bad game. He is without doubt in my opinion our second best midfielder by a considerable margin. I suppose I was looking for him destabilising their defence a bit more in the second half with his dribbles and short passing. He seemed almost to be trying too hard at times such as with the flick over the defence which was never gonna work. Also, he turns to his left and plays the ball wide whereas Id like to see him drop the shoulder, go back inside and run right at them. If he gets in the box the defender has a decision to make. However, I don’t know what his instructions are and his season has been disjointed with injury then the break just as he’s coming back. I’m hoping for big things from him in the second half of the season and longer term I’m still in the camp that says he’s the only one I’ve seen who can take over the Xavi role.

  18. luisthebeast
    January 5, 2015

    It s 2015 and we play with busi xavi iniesta and no macherano rakitic rafhinia.Sorry lucho you are a legend but you have no vision(i took that from ramzi twitter:-))

  19. January 5, 2015

    So Zubi is out. Whose panicking now, fans or club ?

    • January 5, 2015

      Not a panic move. Barto fired him because Zubi named him directly in the transfer ban fiasco.

    • January 5, 2015

      Levon, may be Zubi named him directly (isnt this man saying something so hard at the club for first time), because he knew he was going to be sacked any time.

    • January 5, 2015

      Possibly… who knows?

  20. hansh
    January 5, 2015

    Puyol just resigned also?? There’s a farewell message on his facebook page. (It’s probably best for him, get out while you can Puyi.)

  21. lala10
    January 5, 2015

    what did Zubi say about Bartomeu?

  22. January 5, 2015

    New post is up.

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