Barça 5, Levante 0, aka “An academic exercise.”

"Wheeeeee!"
“Wheeeeee!”

This was such a beautiful match today.

The things that made it beautiful are the same things that make long-time spouses or lovers beautiful to us: everyday beauty, day in and day out, when they aren’t at their best — flaws, unshaven, hair messy — true beauty that comes across in the simplest of ways.

You don’t worry at all that the beauty will abate. You worry more about your ability to appreciate it as time passes and excitement becomes expectation becomes expectoration. “Pah! Nothing to see here!”

The arc of this season’s Barça has been an odd one, from excitement and anticipation to disillusionment and disgruntlement, to mutiny and muttering and now to an odd sort of discomfort rooted in the very simple fact of a basic reality: ain’t no room for wrong. The team still has critics, still has people who aren’t happy with the way that it’s playing, even as it is increasingly difficult for them to articulate the precise root of that unhappiness.

Others begrudgingly admit that something cool might be going on, but will reserve judgment until the end of the season to see what trophies are won, a fascinating complexity that flies in the face of the “Results aren’t the only metric, but how the team plays.” Got it.

How the team played today made a believer out of me. Not a full-on, get me a seat at the victory parade believer, but one who is beginning to think that the silverless prediction uttered at the start of the season was hasty. A lot has happened that was difficult for even the most optimistic culer to expect:

— Neymar has exploded into vibrant life.
— Suarez is coming good more quickly than anticipated
— Messi on the right works.
— Mascherano has become even more of a boss.
— Pique isn’t washed up. Far, far from it.
— Alba has found a new level.
— There is a manageable press that isn’t the hyper-fast press of Treble Barça, but an effective one.
— Malleability has made this team more, rather than less formidable.

This brings us to Levante, a team that placed a very different set of demands on this Barça, one of expectation. Levante was supposed to get the crap kicked out of it today, the only question would be how. And that sort of pressure manifests itself on the kicker and the kickee. Levante decided to deal with it by applying a hybrid of semi-intelligent defense and attacking when possible, a “Damn the torpedoes” approach that displayed an understanding of its role at the Camp Nou today.

Barça had the challenge … no, pressure of having to stomp an opponent, but in a way that didn’t require full energy as there is a date with Villarreal for a spot in the Copa final looming. But there is also the entorno, silent and waiting for any sliver of daylight to leap at a Barça that still isn’t fully trusted, and probably won’t be this season.

The team didn’t have to go all out to beat Levante, and knew it. Lapses of concentration were apparent in runs not made, players standing offside, passes not quite linking up in the box. Messi was giving away balls early like he was Santa Claus. But superior quality is a luxury that allows the better team to indulge its quest for the perfect goal. Because even as Levante started brightly, the outcome of this match was never, ever in doubt. So when Messi laced a pass for Neymar that he one-timed for a stupefying goal, it was more than meeting expectation. It was almost as if two stellar players said “Okay, time to do this,” and turned up the wick just a little brighter.

Neymar’s happy accident was intended to be a pass to a wide-open Pedro, sitting on the doorstep. And this makes perfect sense because nobody has the audacity to hit a swinging drop volley of a shot that delicately landed just over the goal line, more rebuke than pillaging of the kind that occurred on the second goal, when Levante tried to play football. The press worked the ball loose and Bartra did his best Busquets impersonation, lacing a flawless pass to Messi who is suddenly a right-footed finisher.

That second goal effectively ended the match, turning this affair into something more academic, real-time pondering of questions worth asking.

ney

Does Barça have a system?

Some say no, that it’s still “Let the geniuses do their thing.” But a more pertinent question is does any team have a system, or is it a set of athletes who react to a stimulus in the form of an opponent. Barça has returned to a past that it never really left in a pressing back line and midfield, controlling players with excellent technical skills who can pass their way out of a hurricane and a genius player or two up front. Think of the last time that this hasn’t been true.

That the team was proficient enough in that system to calmly and with muted energy dispatch Levante, even though expected, was wonderful to see. That it could do so with its best player scoring a hat trick but not having all that good a match was also pretty wonderful.

What of Messidependencia?

Messi wants to play all the time is a very different statement than Messi has to play all the time. Recent editions of Barça have gone as Messi goes. If he’s brilliant, so is the team. If he’s on that sort of walkabout that he employs to save energy, the team usually struggles. Messidependencia was a psychological as it was physical. But even as Messi wasn’t good today, the team was. Messi scored a hat trick, two gimmes and a penalty, but Neymar was far and away the best attacker today, dripping stardust from almost every touch of the ball, slashing, attacking, distributing and doing that “disrespect” thing he does.

And Barça rolled. Only a fool would say that Barça shouldn’t revel in the presence of the best player in the game, and one of the best players of all time. But a bigger fool wouldn’t be thrilled at the fact that in the here and now, Barça doesn’t need its genius to light up the field for the team to shine.

mess

What if the trident is fragmented?

Messi wasn’t sterling, and Suarez started the match on the bench. Suarez later came in for Neymar, and scored one hell of a golazo before turning down the wick a bit and helping the team cruise home. It’s easy to say that Barça’s system is give it to Messi/Neymar/Suarez and let them have at it. Harder still is to replace Suarez with Pedro and still have the attack work.

“Yeah, but Messi scored a hat trick, so your theory is stupid.” Okay. But Pedro or Munir could have finished any of those goals that Messi did, which is the beauty of the thing. There are goals that only Messi can score. None of the three that he tallied today were those sorts of goals. Rather they were team goals that found Messi at the terminus of the move.

That is exciting.

In a moment of mirth, it’s easy to notice an inverse correlation between what’s going on with the board and the team’s play. As things slide downhill in the carpeted, paneled boardroom as Bartomeu said “Rosell did it, and what’s more, I signed those things, but didn’t read them,” the team is being increasingly wonderful. Here’s hoping that trend continues.

The team has won 11 matches in a row since the failure at Anoeta. It won today with the motor on idle and a rotation lineup. It has won with an old-school beat, it was won with a modern, non-linear flair that verges on digital. It just keeps winning. The gloom in all the rays of sunlight streaming down is that this club is only a single negative result away from the return of all the crisis talk and the doubt. And that, for me, just ain’t right.

team

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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.

56 Comments

  1. agar2515
    February 15, 2015

    I can only smile at how Suarez is shutting up all the people who have been trashing him. There are still isolated individuals who will never give him credit because they think he’s the devil incarnate, what a pity.
    I only worry if one of our front three gets injured, because no one on the bench can offerwhat any of them do, not against the highest class of competition at least.
    We are spoiled because we’re looking at three of the best players in the world upfront for us, there is a big drop off when you look at our reserves.
    All the dependence on Leo came from the fact that teams would collapse on him because they realized we had no other real goal score threats, if you put Pedro or Munir in there the same thing would begin to happen, defenses would let them roam free and ask them to beat them,and I’m’s fairly certain that they would not.
    Take Leo out of the equation altogether and you lose so much creativity, Space creation, killer instinct, etc.the team would look massively different

    • IamXavi6
      February 15, 2015

      “I only worry if one of our front three gets injured, because no one on the bench can offerwhat any of them do, not against the highest class of competition at least.”

      “We are spoiled because we’re looking at three of the best players in the world upfront for us, there is a big drop off when you look at our reserves”

      – Yes, we ARE spoilt. But lets be clear here, No team, EVER, anywhere, could cover or replace those 3 and match the same level of output. – so I don’t buy into your concern. This is what makes the trident so special, even moreso than the REM days 🙂

      Get on board and be cheerful with what you are witnessing.

    • ooga aga
      February 15, 2015

      Right. If you have irreplaceable players, by the very nature of their being irreplaceable, there’s not much you can do if one gets hurt. But what, do you NOT want to have irreplaceable players simply so you can avoid having this to worry about? No. So enjoy while you can. And if we remember last season, one of the brighter parts of our season, frankly, was when Messi was hurt. Sanchez and Cesc stepped in and did great. If it happened now, same thing. We have to have confidence that people will step up. Nothing else you can do but be positive.

      And honestly I think we can do just great even with poor Pedrito out there, who by the way gave a FILTHY one-touch volleyed assist to Messi today.

    • barca96
      February 16, 2015

      O

    • barca96
      February 16, 2015

      What? Ooga aaga uses capital letters to start a sentence??!! What’s going on?

    • agar2515
      February 16, 2015

      Well that was an unnecessarily disgruntled response. I am very much on board and happy with what I’ve seen, gosh.

    • IamXavi6
      February 16, 2015

      Agar, sorry, it wasn’t meant to read hash (problem with reading text via the internet and guessing tone, eh?)

    • agar2515
      February 16, 2015

      K, that works both ways… one should specify tone on the internet ex/ (a emoji, a “jk”), and the selection of the phrase ” Get on board” is very easily taken in a negative way. No Reason for it imo, Im a fellow fan like you as Kevin says.

  2. Jamal103
    February 15, 2015

    Brilliant article Kevin. The last sentence is particularly poignant because once we lose a game, headlines would begin to question the team’s harmony, Messi’s physical state, Enrique’s coaching capacity, Pique’s off field antics with Shakira, Neymar’s transfer fee(relevancy?!)Lusito’s goal proficiency, etc. ad nauseum. All this in spite of our current form.

  3. Jafri
    February 15, 2015

    Hope the team can keep this up in the crunch matches. Loved Ray Hudson’s shoutout to BFB (and Kxevin) during the match.

    • IamXavi6
      February 15, 2015

      Don’t get enough of a feed regularly in my locale to see games with Ray, often I get either BeIN or sky sports.

      Anyone go a link for todays game to grab in HD? would love the Hudson stream 🙂

    • raj
      February 16, 2015

      I would love to hear Ray mention BFB and Kxevin. Anyone with the links? Please?

    • barca96
      February 16, 2015

      It’s not the first tome Ray Hudson gave a shout out to BFB mind you. Kxevin is a superstar blogger.

    • raj
      February 16, 2015

      Awesome. Makes following this blog more satisfactory (although the content itself is not comparable to anywhere else on web)

    • Ryan
      February 16, 2015

      I remember watching the game live on GolTV when Ray made that mention. Seemed very surreal and a mixing of two worlds! We even had a user whose name was Ray Hudson and for a while we all wondered if it really could be him. 🙂

  4. luis
    February 15, 2015

    That was a nice article, and well-written. Thanks, Kevin. One question: there seems to be an agreement that the culé nation go overboard as soon as barça has a bad day. But is this so? I remember some painful losses in years past that didn’t trigger any undue anxiety – anybody recall the loss against Espanyol in Camp Nou with Guardiola in the bench? The Anoeta loss made everybody talk (and cry, and scream in premature grief) because barça’s game had not been very good since the beginning of the season and because nobody could understand the initial line-up. It looked like hubris on the part of Luis Enrique. Moreover, the continuous changes in line-up made everybody think that the coach was shooting blind. A coach that is both arrogant and clueless is something to worry about indeed. Fortunately, LE seems to have learned from experience. I think there has to be an aggregate of factors for criticisms to flair the way they did.

    • ooga aga
      February 15, 2015

      “barça’s game had not been very good since the beginning of the season”

      then, how do you explain the fact that we didnt get a goal past us in the league in what, the first 9 or 10 matches? that we outplayed a fantastic PSG side in their house, but just lost? that we outplayed or were equal to a juggernaut RM in their house for large stretches, but also lost? is that not being very good? or is it putting too much stake into a couple results?

      no team is perfect or even “very good” throughout a season. especially a team with a new coach and several key new players. in my mind, we have had a couple rough outings, that people made into mountains. but still, in my mind we have been very good nearly all season. yes, sometimes we have sparkled more than others. TO BE EXPECTED.

      did LE really learn? did he finally see the way? or do fans put too much into individual results, and jump to judge too quickly? is it LE’s fault that things “looked like” this, or “made everybody think” that? He didnt make anyone do anything. maybe some fans were just wrong about what they thought they saw, or what they thought they knew.

    • February 15, 2015

      Yep, and maybe LE knew what he was doing all along, and it just takes a bit of time for a team with a bunch of new players, a new coach and a new system to take root. If you ask me what we are seeing now are the fruits of those efforts and every credit should go to LE. He didnt take shit from the press/fans when things weren’t going well and he didn’t cave like Martino did. He held firm, told everyone to basically just shut the F up because he is the boss. Good on him.

    • Inamess
      February 15, 2015

      I think Luis has made some fair points. Unfortunate to see him crucified for “thought crimes” by the Comintern. Not all Barca fans are going to view things the same way. I, for one, agree that the team played poorly on the road in the first half of the season. Others can disagree.

      Now with Messi on the right and Suarez in better form we are much more dangerous. Was the loss against “Sociedad” a turning point and a wake up call for Enrique and the rest of the team? I know some don’t think so, but the evidence is compelling. Fans who see things differently should not necessarily be viewed as the enemy.

    • agar2515
      February 16, 2015

      Amen. People with “negative” opinions shouldn’t be so taken to task, this board has been better at that for some time now. I hope it continues.

    • February 16, 2015

      luis, I think that this fan base is fragile and mistrusting, and has been since the Bayern tie. It becomes difficult to trust when something good is happening because the lingering damage from that tie is still affecting culers.

      You are right in the observation that Barça hadn’t been playing well, though I am not sure it is for the reasons you suggest. I think that the Guardiola Treble side getting off to a fast run after that initial stumble has also skewed expectation.

      This leads to a lack of patience in watching a team come together, a lack of patience that is, frankly, exacerbated by blogs and social media. It seems so long ago that I was getting screamed at for suggesting that Barça needed time, and it was too early to know whether Enrique was in fact clueless, etc. But there is that lingering fragility, it seems to me. We want something good quite desperately, and want to see signs of that goodness right now. Makes for an odd whiplash when that goodness doesn’t come, a sort of “See? Told you so.” It isn’t a surprise, though, given what a mess the club has been of late on the pitch as well as in the boardroom. But look, for example, at the RM “crisis.” It is about as real as ours was.

      Even now there are reports that the “Messi and Enrique row” seems to be forgotten. But you wonder how often coaches and players exchange words in the super-heated environment of training. Did Guardiola? Did Martino? Did Vilanova? It’s a question worth asking.

      What is forgotten is that the Anoeta rotation was quite logical. Post vacation, resting the top players would have made sense had it not been undone by the Alba own goal. And the big boys came in and still didn’t get it done, something that people also lose sight of.

      That match was a mess, in other words, that in the very fragile Barça ecosystem, became a full-blown crisis rather than what it was: a vacation-sotted team not winning at a ground it traditionally doesn’t win at.

      Not sure if that fully answers your question, but I hope it does a bit.

  5. Inamess
    February 15, 2015

    Great win in what is shaping up to be an exciting season!
    Some thoughts:

    1) As much as we can be proud of how our team is playing it is only fair to be thankful for the great job that Atleti has done against RM to help in our prospects this season. To me, Simeone is a hero, fully deserving of last year’s coach of the year, and I can only tip my hat to that team in taking on the giants on a fraction of their budgets. I know they lost today and their league hopes are now almost over but they will be a very tough out in the CL.

    2) I don’t get all the hate against critical Barca fans as there are many ways to be a fan of a team . To me, a lot of “over reaction” is a symptom of the lopsidedness of the league. A loss against Sociedad or a draw at Getafe is always going to be a huge downer because of the huge disparity in La Liga.

    If the league was in better financial shape, then these loses wouldn’t be so upsetting. But as things now stand they can easily decide the league. I fear that all the new wealth being poured into the EPL will only make La Liga even less competitive as more top players will make their way over to England including even some from La Masia.

    3) It is great to finally have Liverpool Suarez integrated into the team. If we are going to have a chance at a treble MSN have to continue to be injury free and on fire. Also, let’s not count out Iniesta. If he is able to raise his game, he could also end up a huge difference maker in some of the important matches still to be played this season: a victory at Man City would be a great start!

  6. BarcaSon
    February 16, 2015

    Is there a link to get Ray comment in youtube? I couldn’t get it… like to know how Ray comment on our blog and our writer. Thanks!

    • dallen
      February 16, 2015

      …that’s where I heard about this blog. Ray said it was a “fantastic blog” and especially liked Kxevin’s analogy of Barca’s 2015 style to rock music, rather than jazz or classical.

      …Reading Kxevin’s old stuff now I can see why Ray would like it – similar imagery & smart, feeling-rich analysis. 🙂

    • BarcaSon
      February 16, 2015

      I’ve heard this blog from a friend of mine about a year ago. Ever since then iveI’ve checked out on a daily basis to see new stuff and brilliant discussions. Being a silent spectator for quite sometime couldn’t resist my hand from doing something….

      BTW what a great block. Keep it up.

      Apparently Ray was reading this blog. GREAT.

      VISCA VISCA BARCA!!!!

  7. February 16, 2015

    I think that we should we wary of hyperbole. I see phrases such as “hate against critical Barça fans,” and “thought police.” And I don’t see anyone being “taken to task” or “crucified.”

    ooga aga and Hilal made counter-assessments that have every bit as much right to be uttered as the question that luis had, which I attempted to answer. Everyone needs to, simply put, stop being so defensive. I have said it before and will say it again: we are not our ideas. If someone says something that doesn’t agree with what someone else says, that isn’t at attack, and hackles don’t need to go up.

    Opinions and assessments positive and negative can and should exist in this space. We don’t all think alike. That is the beauty of this space. If Inamess wants to think one way, that’s fine. If Hilal wants to think another way, that’s fine, too. The complexity comes when discussion gets misconstrued as an attack. When I read the “attack” I struggle to see something other than a counterpoint being offered. The exchange above between agar and IamXavi is a perfect illustration of this. A slight was presumed when note was intended.

    The enemy is the teams that are trying to beat Barça, not each other.

    • Inamess
      February 16, 2015

      To be fair I thought my comments were a call for inclusion and a multiplicity of views. The Orwellian remark reference of “thought crimes” while obviously hyperbolic and an attempt at humor had at this end at its intention. However, I realize that remarks can be misconstrued and interpreted differently.

      My point remains: not everyone has to have the same view. Fans should feel free to praise or criticize coaches, players, board members as I believe it is part and parcel of being a fan. The caveat is that they do this in a way that furthers debate and intelligent discussion. They should not be mocked or condescendingly dismissed if their views of the team differ from one particular narrative or view. This only stifles intelligent and productive discussion as those with different views will feel reluctant to comment or participate.

    • ooga aga
      February 16, 2015

      well, to be truly fair, i didnt crucify him, and i think it was a calculated overstatement on your part to suggest so. i very clearly responded to his ideas, without attacking him, and made my own “fair points,” yet you call me the “comintern”. so who’s being unfair here? you didnt actually respond to my ideas. you just attacked me. you would do well to practice what you preach with regard to your last paragraph.

    • ooga aga
      February 16, 2015

      But not to beat a dead horse, I see Kxevin has also responded above. I’ll drop it. Still loving this space.

  8. dallen
    February 16, 2015

    Kxevin wrote in June 2012: “And as glorious as [Messi’s] season was…there is also a part of me that would rather see him with 40 goals and 30 assists than 70+ goals, flanked by a couple of players with 20+ goals, as I think that makes us a more dangerous and diverse team. But that’s another story, as I think that as Messi ages, he has the potential to develop into a Ronaldinhoesque player in his “second career,” if you will. ”

    SPOT ON!! …Cue Messi, Neymar, & Suarez circa 2014-15. 🙂

  9. lala10
    February 16, 2015

    What has changed in my opinion is the supporting cast. Before we did not have complementary strikers with good ratios.

    37 goals and 18 assists is huge for Messi. He is on course to achieve another 60 goal season. The major difference is we also have a Neymar who can achieve 40 himself.

    We have always created chances for Villa, Pedro and Alexis. Even now a fit Suarez would have been in double figures already.

    • Inamess
      February 16, 2015

      I think this is exactly right. It has been a long time since Messi has played with strikers that not only were clinical finishers but also could create their own chances. Many of our victories really were down to Neymar burying his chances when he needed to. Perfect example was his first goal away at Atleti. Had he missed that there is a good chance we may not have gone through in the Copa.

      As much as many liked Villa, I never thought he was a good strike partner for Messi. With Neymar the connection almost seems telepathic.

  10. Jim
    February 16, 2015

    I think the thing some forget is that we have never been what you could call a bad team. Certainly in the time I’ve been following through R10 till now. Even post Pep we have always been one of the top two or three teams in Europe, imo. If we’ve been beaten in the CL it’s usually by the team of that year that goes on to win the trophy, if we lose La Liga it’s to a team that is sweeping Europe.

    We have never had a bad defence, either. We have at times had a defence which offered up joke goals through individual errors and we have also at times had no defence ( I still remember Pep’s three at the back !) Pique has never been a poor defender: he has just, post Puyol, been looking for a partner who knows how to play CB and a RB who doesn’t think he’s playing LB for the opposition. We now have such a CB in Mathieu – but that’s another story that doesn’t look like it’ll end well. While I’m at it, Alba has also always been a great defender despite the misgivings of some. We have always had the best midfield in Europe. Souness in a CL broadcast towards the end of last year’s CL reckoned he’d still pick it as the one he’d most hate to play against and he knows his midfields. We’ve always had great forwards but, after Eto’o, lost sight of how our front three can gel. We’ve now got it back with Suarez and it was never gonna end any other way but with opposition defences suffering.

    So, what we’re talking about is that last step which makes US the team of the year. Are we there yet? Not imo. But we are so close. The main reason by a long way is the freeing up of space for Messi – and forwards on the same wavelength. We now have a short window to the end of the season before they sort out a tactic to combat it but at the moment they haven’t a clue. And even if they do, we’re just as happy playing the ball around waiting for our moment – because we’re not gifting goals. So it’s win win for a while. Is the” ba’ oan the slates” ( as we used to say in a scotland) if Messi gets injured? Probably, but not a given as Neymar can pick up some slack and Suarez could resort more to his LFC role.

    I said at the start we’d win one of the big two and I still see that as highly possible. What caused the change round about the RS game ? Don’t know and I’m starting to think it’s a waste to revisit it. I know for me, LE made a number of mistakes in the first half culminating in that debacle but he had the backup of knowing it was only a matter of time before the front three juggernaut revved up. Bottom line for him is that, if he doesn’t win a trophy he’ll be gone, if he does, even if the board changes I reckon he’ll be kept. ( btw, I love how the board were to blame for everything up to that game – but are still getting the blame whereas LE deserves credit ??? ) they went out on a limb to get both Neymar and Suarez and without both I reckon Messi would now be seriously thinking of his future.

    With regard to last night’s game I’m with Kxevin in that it was a beautiful game to watch as, despite the poverty of the opposition, we moved beautifully and those little automatismos ( is that even right?) are starting to come back and my good lady is being forced on a much more regular basis to come through and watch a rewind of a beautiful move 🙂 Im not sure if he meant it this way but I’ve been saying all along we haven’t ditched our previous system at all. Because of the personnel we have now we have the ability to get the ball to our destroyers much more quickly as they are coming a little deeper. Together with the occasional longer ball we stretch their defence and keep them uneasy but if we can keep our control and keep the pressing we’ll be hard to beat.

    The bookies know their stuff and have us as third favourites behind Bayern, who have been led than stellar recently but will be tough to beat, and Madrid who we outplayed for a half and a bit last time on their ground when they were in pretty good form and we weren’t. Not a reason for pessimism in my book.

    • ciaran
      February 16, 2015

      I think Jim, that people in general are far too spoiled with the current incarnations of Barca teams. Football is very cyclical; teams and leagues go through highs and lows which normally last for 2-3 seasons and on a rare occasion may last a little longer. We are currently after two cycles that happened within such a short frame of time (Rijkaard’s & Guardiola’s) that people think it will last forever.

      The expectations from the entorno is that we will win every match 5-0 with 80% possession, no shots conceded and with constant squad rotation for all of the players. The problem is that there are 11-14 other players in every game with another manager trying to out play and out think us who also happen to be professional athletes.

      I have seen others mention a disparity in the quality of the league stating why it is such a shock when we don’t win every match but we don’t have a divine right to win every match.
      In the past three seasons we’ve had 3 different champions, 7 different teams finishing in champions league positions, 9 different teams relegated (meaning no bouncing straight back down), 3 UEFA Europa League semi finalists in 2012 & 2 more in 2014 along with the winners on both occasions, and dominated the final stages of UEFA Champions League in most recent seasons.
      I can’t see any disparity other than the fact that along with probably the best team in history being matched by the most expensive team in history the two teams have maintained a consistency rarely seen in football.

      It’s true for you Jim, we’ve had a great team for a long time and currently we’re really competitive in all lines even if we are very light after the big three up front. I think that I’d fancy our chances versus any team in Europe with a fit squad and I’d back your prediction of picking up at least one of the big two this year.

    • Inamess
      February 16, 2015

      Ciaran, I am not as optimistic about the prospects for the league as you. There is good news to be sure such as a remergent Atleti and a rich backer for Valencia. Most clubs, I fear, will lose their better players to richer teams like Barca, Madrid or the EPL. With the new mega deals for EPL clubs, the last team in the EPL will make more money than the third team in La Liga.

      It’s no accident that the best players in the EPL are now largely ex-La Liga players. Man United alone have Di Maria, De Gea, Falcao, Mata, Herrera and Valdes. This trend will only continue as many La Liga clubs are still heavily in debt and run on a shoe string budget.

      In terms of competition, you are right that any team on a given day can get lucky and beat the giants. However, most teams in La Liga are currently threatened with relegation and many even have to rely on players on loan since they can’t even afford to buy a competitive squad.

      Here’s one article that talks about these concerns:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2015/02/13/massive-new-english-premier-league-tv-deal-has-the-rest-of-european-soccer-worried/

  11. BarcaSon
    February 16, 2015

    Am I the only one who thinks that Neymar is a very lucky guy, who enjoys the magic touch by Messi time and again that sometimes doesn’t even need much effort to hit the back of the net? Yes I know Neymar is brilliant, but still lucky enough to play alongside the GOAT (?) and bagged most of the credits…

    Messi always cut inside from the flank and give a Messi esque flip to the left side for Ney or Alba where they were mostly free all the time after making their runs…

    Most of our goals came from that side….

    • ciaran
      February 16, 2015

      It takes a brilliant player to get into those positions and finish. If Neymar doesn’t make those runs then Messi most likely has to play the ball backwards or try to run through the defense single-handedly. Both players are making the other better. Both players are pushing each other to new heights but in many matches this season Neymar has out performed Messi; he is a few years away from being the best on the planet but is well on his way to it. Lucky? I’m not sure.

    • kosby
      February 16, 2015

      yes I do think Neymar is very lucky to be on the receiving end of all those passes from Messi – in the sense that anybody would be extremely lucky to have the best player on the planet in their team and creating those chances. However that just addresses the number of goals aspect of Neymar’s game. I atleast, have been very impressed with his overall game play. There have been several games where he has been running the show – dribbling, probing, attracting defenders and making space for Messi/Suarez to run into. At the same time he has definitely been improving his finishing as compared to last season. He’s “looking” for goals instead of looking for Messi all the time (as he was during last season). A couple of aspects of his game need improving (but that just giving a diamond the final cuts) – namely mirroring what Messi does from the right, on the left as well. And yesterday’s game you could see he made a couple of attempts to make that lobbed pass from left to right, although they weren’t very well executed. At the same rate, he could be a phenomenon creatively in the next few years.

    • lala10
      February 16, 2015

      This has re awakened a question i have been wanting to ask for some time. What makes the pass? The run of the receiver or the passer?

      Would Neymar, Alba or Xavi make the run if Iniesta had the ball? Would Messi make the run if Alba had the ball? Or would they wait until the player with ball had it in such a state they thought would facilitate the greatest pass? Three/ four years ago Alves said that Xavi plays to the future. What does that mean?

    • BarcaSon
      February 16, 2015

      I appreciate and agree with all of the ideas shared here…
      Yes! Its difficult to tell whether Mr.X would pass the ball to Mr.Y? Or would Mr.Y make the run if Mr.Z has the ball? And so on…

      We also noticed that those pass from Messi landed to Alba too…because he was ready to position himself to perfectly receive the ball…

      My point here is…. will Neymar enjoy the same passes from any other club? Or with any other player?( I doubt). Or is it that those chemistry is because they were probably the two best player right now who can read the game as quick as their feet…?

      Here’s another point that I usually notice. .. Messi has the ball in the middle, Suarez and Neymar ran both flank to receive the ball from Leo, and yes I think that Leo mostly give the final ball to Neymar if possible…than Suarez. That’s what I saw… Suarez was also given I know… but I feel that Leo want to develop Ney as a complete player or the best player to take his throne because maybe Suarez is already a developed player or maybe he considered that way.

      these were all purely my perspective. .. and I welcome all ideas agree or against with it.

    • kosby
      February 16, 2015

      Somehow I think its the fact that Messi is left footed, which means when he passes the ball with the inside of his foot to Neymar (on the left) more often than not, the ball curves towards the goal. If he passes to the right side, the ball moves away from the goal with the natural curve. Also I think it just might be his playing style. If only we had even an iota of understanding of how Messi’s brain works 🙂

    • kosby
      February 16, 2015

      Several amazing questions – I won’t be pretending to have answers to all of them. For me, there are two kinds of passes
      1. straight to the feet/head of the receiver
      2. through pass

      For the first kind, almost all of the genius behind the pass comes from the one who passes the ball. The receiver just needs to be present at the spot. The person passing the ball “spots” the player and using whatever guile required passes him the ball.

      For the second kind however, both the passer and the receiver need to be perfectly synchronized. This is genius at work, some consider it to be even more wondrous than dribbling ! For this, the receiver and the passer need a special connection, both need to be able to
      – process the existence of a passing lane and
      – the ball needs to arrive at the same point in space at the same time as the receiver does
      Finding a passing lane in the midst of ten players looking to block the ball any which way, itself is a big deal. On top of that sending the ball in the right channel with the right speed at the right time takes genius. Which is why only a handful of players in any team will attempt through balls (another point why I think Barca’s squad is so awesome – Bartra who hardly gets to play these days, stole the ball from Levante and then played a delicious ball to Messi for our second goal the other night. Not a lot of teams can claim to have such talented players) And when you have 2 geniuses collaborate, they can instantly process a situation and a passing lane, a split second before the others. Mind you that’s only half the job done, after identifying the lane, you still need to be able to execute the pass. And that’s why we talk about allowing time for a player to settle into a team. That’s why when national teams play, the quality sometimes suffers – since the players haven’t played with each other as much. Possibly another reason why Spain did as well as they did, for as long, having borrowed most of its core from a single club who know each other.

      “Xavi plays to the future” – one of my favorite quotes in football. When most mortals talk about passing, they talk about the next possible pass. Geniuses like Xavi/Busquets think about the pass that would lead to the next pass that would create a goal scoring chance. Its all about how you manipulate space. If you pass to someone such that they attract a defender to them, the defender just vacated an area of space that could be exploited by someone on your team. I cant explain this better since I myself am in awe of how its done.

      Being some one who plays football with a lot of passion, this question really brought out the nerd in me 🙂 And these are just my thoughts..there will be other who can answer these better..

    • G6O
      February 17, 2015

      Just to note – if you play to the future, you can end up looking very silly if your teammates are not on the same wavelength. So it’s potentially devastating, but you must have very well synchronized team to make it work. Less of an issue on the professional level, but try to “play to the future” in an amateur game and see what happens…

    • PrinceYuvi
      February 17, 2015

      ^Beautiful

    • G6O
      February 17, 2015

      I have hard time understanding the talk about lack of a system.

      We very systematically did the same thing all game – more often Messi on the right but sometimes Neymar on the left too would pick the ball on the wing, the defense would shift towards them, and then they would send it behind the defense into the vacated space where there would be a player.

      And it worked very well.

      I am not sure what you do in that situation – we spent a lot of time talking about width in previous seasons, but this is the definition of width – you have to have multiple defenders on the player with the ball because the player with the ball is Messi or Neymar, but that leaves the other wing completely exposed with a player in space there, and if you send players there, then the center is exposed, where Suarez is. 🙂

    • February 17, 2015

      In many ways Neymar is lucky. Like Vilanova said, other players give assists, Messi give ‘put me in’ balls. So well placed and weighted, all what is needed is just the right touch.
      Neymar does have the speed of thought to make those excellent runs to receive those balls and he is an excellent finisher, may be in the best 5 in the world at present. So it definitely helps us. But we can see that Alba also makes those excellent runs, if only his finishing was anywhere near Neymar’s we would have seen more goals. The thing is Neymar nor Alba can consistently send those kinds of Messi balls, while running and being pressed.
      But for sure, Messi must be happy too, with Neymar and Suarez, there is more probability of his balls to find the net now. No wonder he has already reached 20 assists this season.

      For me, Neymars first goal against Levante, was very lucky. He almost made it look so difficult with his ‘what am I doing’ touch.

  12. ooga aga
    February 16, 2015

    apparently Messi set the Liga record for assists last night.

    This statistic hasn’t been tracked for as long as that of goals scored, but still, holy s**t.

    • ooga aga
      February 16, 2015

      by the way, interesting, here are the top 4. im thinking this must be a pretty recent stat.

      Lionel Messi 107; Luis Figo 105; Xavi 95; Brazil Dani Alves 92

    • Davour
      February 17, 2015

      I for one am very pleased that football is taking the assist stats more seriously (as created chances – I read Messi has about 545 of those…), as it often shows much greater vision that the actual goals scored (yes, I know, being in the right place matters immensely). I watched a compilation of all Messi’s assists, and the overall quality is impressive. Rarely does he simply pass to the side for someone to do something about it; the majority of assists are either precise through balls or lay-ups following some difficult moves (that is, he creates the chance). It is a joy to watch!

    • BarcaSon
      February 17, 2015

      Exactly!
      So these days, I enjoy another dimension of our football.

      As much as I love the goals, I love those chances created by Messi now.

      I can scream out so loud alone everytime I saw those chances…like the goals.

      Just goosebumps!!!

  13. ooga aga
    February 16, 2015

    if you look at the second picture in this Marcotti article (scroll down), it looks like Adriano and Suarez are playing the “let’s bite!” game. Adriano’s turn!

  14. IamXavi6
    February 16, 2015

    Don’t know about you guys but I’m very bullish for our chances against Citeh. On current form and quality of team, I don’t see City matching us at all, and I think playing them right now is the best possible time.

    The only concern I have, is the form of Iniesta (flu aside) – his last 160minutes or so have been significantly better than his first half of the year, so I hope he peaks at the right time for our CL campaign as well. Shame to see him stuggle a lot this season.

    Here’s a future q for you: will Xavi hang about after the season is done? or do you think he is off to the US or an Arabic nation to play for a season or two?

    • agar2515
      February 17, 2015

      On this form City is getting destroyed

  15. luisthebeast
    February 16, 2015

    I am so happy that our team is in such a good form and i enjoy every game.My family and barca are the only reasons last years that i can feel happy.Today my country is in a great danger to be the Argentina of Europe.They can sacrifice us so they can give a lesson.But as a great Britich leader said in World War II:Heroes are fighting like Greeks.We will survive.:-)

  16. February 17, 2015

    There has been some moderation, in keeping with the general rules in this space regarding respect and personal attacks.

    datcapitan, new voices are welcome, but this space has standards. I and this blog don’t need defending from any sorts of social media attacks. That kind of stuff doesn’t matter, and people are free to do as they like in that world.

    But in this one, please keep the discussion respectful. Thanks.

  17. February 17, 2015

    New post up, inspired by kosby and the excellent comments above. Thank you for those.

Comments are closed.