Manchester City 1, Barça 2, aka “Finding the divine in the everyday”

miss

The ending was perfect.

In many ways seeing Messi laying there on the Etihad pitch raging at his penalty miss, prone in the aftermath of a putback attempt, was a perfect ending to this wonderful match. Because art shouldn’t be perfect. Art, like life, should contain flaws, and Barça is life. Messy, violent, sublime life that treats us to highs and lows, spits in our faces at inopportune times and presents us with joy sufficient to almost make our hearts burst.

And like art, its artisans paint with brightly colored boots for brushes, making the most delicate hatching marks across a green canvas as they seek to create simultaneous beauty as they sow destruction.

In the wake of a loss to Malaga, a casino visit and speculation about the state of a relationship between a coach and his star player, Barça set up to face Manchester City, a team that culers suspected might not be good enough but like that thing you know you want and will probably get, but don’t want to count on it because you might jinx it, few culers really wanted to confess to being flush with confidence at the outset of this repeat matchup of last season’s Champions League.

Some of the uncertainty was because of the Malaga tie, a loss in which the team’s coach discussed his tactics after the match as if they were some sort of formula rather than one of those footballing bolts out of the blue. “But Malaga isn’t even a Champions League side,” some said as those slivers of doubt crept in.

And then, for 45 magnificent minutes, Barça delivered a display of footballing divinity that had neutrals shaking their heads in wonderment. It was a delightful team performance that was helped by some naivete on the part of City and its coach, just as Malaga was helped on the weekend by a lot of flatness from Barça. These things happen. Busquets could sip tea as he decided what perfect pass to play. Alba was everywhere. Suarez scored a pair of goals, classic striker’s goals, and should have had a third. Rakitic was every bit the player he was at Sevilla, unleashed in a system that played to his strengths and an opponent who allowed such a thing to transpire.

Pique was magnificent, Ter Stegen coolly professional, But even in the face of all that beauty, only a fool wouldn’t admit that this was Messi’s match. His fingerprints were over both goals, and he had defensive stats that would put a defender to shame. He pranced and capered, nutmegged and passed, controlled and dominated. It was a night where he seemed unfettered by mortal constraints as City players tried everything to contain him only to find Messi, somehow, almost magically, on the other side of a tackle attempt as even efforts to foul him failed.

The first goal came from a lobbed pass into the box that found Kompany unprepared, perhaps thinking that the attempt would be absurd. The ball bounced around and fell onto a patch of open pitch, seeming to stop there as if to ask the question, “Who wants this?” Suarez stopped, pounced and it was 0-1. Lucky bounce, sure. Excellent movement, absolutely. But the perfection of that pass smacked of divinity. You don’t have to be a fan of Messi to be able to appreciate how extraordinary the things are that he does, things that make his ordinary days make liars out of those who defend him no matter what.

For the second goal, Rakitic took a pass and was instantly confronted by a couple of City defenders. With discretion being the better part of valor he passed the ball to Messi, who doesn’t seem to have notions of what can or can’t be done. Five defenders confronted him as he moved through them almost like a video game, as some kid with a joystick said “Cool! The cheat code!” Then he slid a pass to Alba, who assisted Suarez.

sua

Say that Messi didn’t have a good match because he was bottled up by defenders, then put the Vine of today’s moment on repeat and tell me again how a defense can stop Messi when he doesn’t want to be stopped. His nutmeg of David Silva was pure evil, this display coming in the wake of a written piece by Paul Scholes in which he describes how impossible it is to play against Lionel Messi, who essentially brought that piece to life.

After the match people rushed to the defense and praise of Messi as they always do almost no matter how he plays, like the obligatory standing ovation that greets a symphony orchestra by a crowd that doesn’t really know how to parse what they saw so it’s easier to leap to their feet and scream “Bravo!”

But Messi doesn’t need defending. Messi doesn’t need praise. Especially not after this match. If you can watch that player have that match, then sit and suggest that he isn’t extraordinary, it doesn’t matter how much anyone says, what kind of case is made for him. You either see it, or you don’t. And if you don’t see it, how can anyone really explain it to you?

Yet even after all that, the mistake would be to reduce this match to Messi, for other Barça players were also immense, even if not otherworldly. Suarez, seemingly revved up by the English air, was everywhere, from scoring to donkey work, tracking back and winning balls. Pique made a case for his return to the defensive elite, making those times when he was being dismissed as a poker-playing playboy with a pop star wife seem such a distant memory.

And Enrique got his tactics right as much as Pellegrini got his wrong as his attackers came running at Barça as if they believed that “defensive frailty” business. That Barça will make an error or two is a given, and a sharp opponent will need to capitalize on every one of them. But those brain lapses are different from the kind of frailty that too many supporters and pundits seem to take for granted. But City didn’t just leave space. Barça took it with a display of pretty passing and movement that called to mind another era, the kind of football that Enrique detractors snarled about this team not being able to play, forgetting that Enrique has struggled and rotated and coached to build a team that can play in many different ways to beat an opponent.

enrique

Yes, history will ask whether Barça was guilty of hubris as they came out for the second half a diminished side that seemed almost surprised that City would evince the quality and effort that makes them a Premiership contender. They slowly worked their way back into the match, eventually pulling a goal back thanks to a comedy of errors as it seemed that every Barça defender had a chance to clear a ball that eventually fell to Aguero, who made no mistake as he slotted home. People gasped and suddenly paranoid culers began to mutter that perhaps, just perhaps, a 2-2 seemed more likely than a 1-3 as doubt reminded us of his residency, like that obnoxious relative who just won’t leave your guest room.

But to fret and worry and suddenly bay at the heavens would be to ignore the reality that City wasn’t in this match. The first could have ended 0-4 or 5, and only Joe Hart kept his team in the match with three excellent moments: two against Messi and one against Suarez. And yes, this tie could have, and probably should have been over, but the reality is that whether 0-2 or 1-2, away goals mean that City will still have to score twice at the Camp Nou while not conceding. I’m no oddsmaker but the possibility of that, given the necessity of the all-out kind of attack such a feat will require, strains credulity.

It’s easy to understand the doubt that creeps in. This team just lost to Malaga. Yes, it’s the same team that won 11 straight, beat Atleti three times and was on a roll, but disaster is just around the corner. We lost to Malaga! The beauty of football is that each and every match is a new beginning. A relegation candidate has a chance to beat the immense, talent-packed, monied colossus, just as an extraordinary footballing side has the potential to be, for a match or two, a week or two, a magical run of matches or few, better than its supporters expect it to be, better than the culer-described mess that it demands to be.

We are graced with one of the best football teams in the world. You need look no farther than the disappointment in a 1-2 result that wasn’t as close as the score indicated to understand that. Malaga returned home, hailed as conquering heroes. That win made their season. The win for Barça today somehow wasn’t enough. They got a goal, we should have scored more.

And yet for me, the result was almost beside the point. For a half, Barça achieved footballing divinity, making the game look easy against an opponent — a powerful, monied opponent boasting gobs of talent — who was doing everything in its power to make that game as difficult as possible. We seek beauty and elegance, seek those moments that lift us up and promise something extraordinary. It is often said that culers would rather lose with beauty than win ugly. Yet winning with moments of breathtaking beauty somehow leaves a supporter base wanting more, demanding more, somehow feeling cheated.

Ask me how I know Barça is better than even its supporters are willing to admit, and I will point to that feeling. It should have been more. That it wasn’t more isn’t the point. It’s the expectation that defines the feeling, and the beauty that makes it all so wonderful.

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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.

59 Comments

  1. agar2515
    February 24, 2015

    Ooo boy we were thiiis close to fulfilling my ” annihilate” prophecy. We eased off the gas in the second half, though heck if Leo’s PK goes in it’s 3-1…

    City was completely outmatched as you wrote, it could have easily been 3+ goals to zero before the half.

    Hats off to Pique, immense, constantly mopping up for Dani (so sad that even this Alves is better than any other RB alternative we have) and kamikaze Masche ( serious;y what in the world is it with his dribbling up field constantly???)

    The only thin that gives me pause is this game coming so close to the Clasico, but otherwise we should handle them again no problem.

  2. lala10
    February 25, 2015

    I just want to register an irritation as regards Messi. After the Malaga game the team was lambasted for having Messi drop deep to pick the ball. As if he does not do that when we win. I know results change narratives but some consistency would be nice.

    And although the score line is not decisive it is still good. Physcologically City have been whacked. Also the team know that if they really step it up openings should come up.

    • Davour
      February 26, 2015

      I don’t know who you refer to, precisely. I for one mentioned something along those lines. The difference, to my mind, is not that he can’t drop deep, but that he does it when the time is right. Against Malaga he dropped deep and tried to do things by himself; agains City he dropped deep and got things going together with the team, who was moving effectively. So, yes, it’s not the dropping deep itself but the timing and purpose.

  3. Inamess
    February 25, 2015

    Another great piece which like the previous one raises some great questions. To me the interesting issue the is what is the appropriate reaction for the fan-base to a reasonable good result?

    There is probably an “objective” answer: the match was successful because it changed the probability of qualifying for the next CL round from about 70% to about 90%. It also will cost the team a bit of preparation and energy in the week of the Classico to make sure we get the right result.

    So why did Messi’s penalty miss really matter?

    Our team was on the World Stage tonight and had the penalty been buried it would have been a great win for the team and maybe one of Messi’s best performances in a big game in a while. For the casual fan, Messi’s last match was his World Cup loss and this game would have been a triumph for him and the team on enemy soil. Moreover, a 3-1 result seems like about the right outcome given the play of each team, so we were deprived of a great victory that should have also highlighted the other great performances by players such as Pique and Suarez.

    It hard to translate artistic standards to sports but I would say this game failed as art because the team did not get the type of victory that it could have had (settling the tie in the first leg, removing all reasonable doubt as to the result, and leaving a decimated Man City in its path). It also failed as art because no one will be talking about Messi’s or the team’s performance in this match in a year or two’s time which may have happened had the result been 3-0 or 3-1.
    Instead it was a game of two halves. The first in which the team sparkled and the second in which it chose to play a more conservative game to preserve its lead as if it were trying to kill the game by not actively trying to score. The problem is that this is not a style that suits this team. In hindsight, it was a poor decision and may have really backfired had not the red card been given.

    If Barca fans are looking for art in football then I would suggest a re-watching of the Manita against Madrid or the tragedy against Chelsea. Instead, we were treated to a good performance and a result any reasonable fan would have taken before the match . The regret is that we get have that memorable win with a dominant performance by the best player ever and I think most Barca fans are sorry that we were a penalty conversion away from getting that chance.

    • ooga aga
      February 25, 2015

      the point i think is that art doesnt have to depend on a result.

      as for the rest, i guess it’s a matter of what you choose to focus on… like so many other things in life. i enjoyed the heck out of myself and am grateful to have seen this match, messi’s miss notwithstanding. thank heavens for this team.

      and im not sorry at all.

    • Davour
      February 25, 2015

      Well, isn’t the best art raising conflicting emotions? I was deeply upset at the pk miss, but only because I wished that perfect ending for Messi, he deserved it. As a narrative, however, the perfect ending would be the equivalent of a feel-good Hollywood film, while, to my mind, the best narratives will leave you troubled and full of questions and doubt.

      So, yes, for the casual fan who believes only scoring is the scale to measure greatness (thus believing CR can actually challenge Messi), the ending is unfortunate. But who cares about the casual response? If that miss obscures the excellence of his performance, which had me raving with joy, screaming to my friends “did you see that! Do you understand what you just witnessed?”, well, then I think it is the perspective that is at fault.

      This game left me upset and happy at the same time, feeling to much with the little-man, that I was almost unsettled. But as feel-good art, then, see it as an opportunity for Messi’s “revenge” (on himself); you always need the conflict to make the narrative work well…

    • Inamess
      February 25, 2015

      Great points in response to those who responded to my post! There are, of course, two separate questions here. The first is whether Messi as an athlete can be considered an artist and sport itself can be considered art. As Barca fans, I would assume that most of us would say yes on both accounts. Sport is a performance art and a performance artist achieves greatness by great performances. In sport, the bigger the occasion, the more likely that a performance will be remembered . Had Messi buried the penalty or the rebound, his performance tonight would probably rank as one of the better overall performances on a big stage in his career and certainly his best in a while.

      The other separate question is whether this match was satisfying as a “narrative” in that it had a satisfying plot or raised questions or conflicting emotions as a great film would I already acknowledged that the Chelsea tie and Messi’s penalty miss there would qualify as this if one were looking for elements of tragedy or even the message that “even the great ones sometimes fail and remind us that they are human”. Messi loss in the World Cup Final would also qualify as in this sense as would be the “Sports Picture of the Year” below if one were looking for this theme again. The only way Messi’s miss becomes artistically meaningful in this sense will be if we lose 2-0 at the Nou Camp. Otherwise, his miss is insignificant other than worrying Barca fans whether he or the team have a “penalty problem”.

      So what I get from this game is that the team got a good result that will probably put us through but regret that we didn’t get a chance to witness a great athlete and team at the top of their powers in a game that would be remembered and talked about for some time as great sporting feat. As it is, It is the equivalent of Jordon scoring 32 points in game 2 of a playoff game win. A good result to be sure, but not one that would significantly add to his legacy or one that a fan who witnessed it would talk about years later. In contrast, Messi’s wins in the home match against Arsenal 2010, RM CL Semi-final away in 2011, or the Spanish Supercup home in 2012 definitely qualify as memorable games. This year’s Atletico 4-0 victory and others over RM would also qualify in this sense since their fans will remember these games for decades and they significantly add to Simeone’s and his team’s legacy.

      Messi Photo: http://www.inquisitr.com/1844052/lionel-messi-world-cup-photo-voted-sports-picture-of-the-year/

  4. BarcaSon
    February 25, 2015

    Wow! Well written.

    At first I struggled to understand the line ” the perfect ending”. Coming to the article, you have pointed out that life is not perfect, there can be a good and bad time. Until I read this article, for me, its a great game with a sad ending.

    And yes! Really like the way you described about Leo.
    It was his game, maybe someone might have taken the credits but its Messi’s game and I was expecting the credits you gave to him, well deserved.

    We can see him really wanted to score. He want to remain the top scorer in Europe and thats evident from the last 15 minutes.
    He mostly play as a provider and playmaker for sometime but in the last quarter, he keeps running to the box to score everytime after giving the ball out near the box. He was hungry, he was motivated and its really hurt to see him without goal today and lay down after he missed and that’s the reason I have pointed out at first I struggled to understand the perfect ending.

    On the other hand, if this if for good, for hungrier Messi in the second leg, thats not bad either.

    Moreover about the penalty, some people around said Messi should give Suarez the pk to complete his hattrick. That’s plain ridiculous. Why shouldn’t you take a goal scoring opportunity when you are the best player on the planet, top scorer in the competition and consistently competing with someone at the highest level and the other can snatch as many penalty goal as his open goal.

    Imagine if Leo gave pk to Suarez and he missed it (not very likely but we can’t be very sure either), the whole world will blame him again.

    After all, everyone deserved credits. From Alves to Alba to Rakitić to Pedro to everyone who played, and to Neymar too, Atleast he tried.

  5. lala10
    February 25, 2015

    Inamess i would have to disagree there. The result should not obscure the art put on show. If we do not talk of this performance it would because of the amnesia that engulf us. In the same manner we do not really talk of the Arsenal evisceration in 2010.

    If we will not remember this Messi performance it would be because he has given us so many of these we take them to par for the course.

    We played at an exceptionally high level that one would be forgiven to mistake City for Levante.

  6. February 25, 2015

    I think we won, without even having to go above the 3rd gear. That itself is too much to show the difference in quality between both the sides and without any arrogance, I am sure we will qulify. If this is what MC can do at their home, and if we can hit the 4th gear at Nou Camp, with an angry Messi, we should not worry.

    Messi and Pique especially had excellent game. We would all remember Messi’s slalom for the second goal. But for me, it was his pass for the first goal which was really Messi. No chance of any danger around and in a second City is scared.. May I say, Messi is the most underrated player.

    However, I wish we had played to score for 1 more goal in the second half. That would have kept MC at bay. Anyways, great win.

  7. dallen
    February 25, 2015

    beautiful article! …complex and beautiful, just like the game

  8. IamXavi6
    February 25, 2015

    Just want to make a mention on Pique and his form. Yes, we all know about Messi and co, but Barca is a well oiled machine – its no surprise that as Piques form increases this year Barca has looked so mich better for it compared to last year. I almost wrote him off; but now I see that those thoughts were wrong.

    Couldnt be happier that we have Pique circa 2010ish back.

  9. Kd
    February 25, 2015

    Gorgeous article Kxewin!! So well written..
    I must say that last night first half was like a dream. It was poetic. At one point I even woke up my girl and just told her to watch the symphony unfolding. It was why I started watching football and it is why I have loved Barcelona all these years. The football is like art or music like a Hemingway or a Chopin. But like all Hemigway books especially “For Whom the Bell Tolls” it ended tragically. I couldn’t sleep for the next hour after that (The match finished at 3:00 am in India). But ill always remember the game. For all its beauty and tragedy. I a nutshell I agree with quite a few of u here who think the style transcended sport and made it art.
    I do have a few thoughts here i’d like to share:
    1. Iniesta?? Seems that he just couldn’t be all that decisive, like the game was passing him by. Was that bcause Neymar was struggling and they weren’t able to link up as well as they’d like to?
    2. That “one touch” by Rakitic where two legs became perpendicular to each other, the body bends and he touches the ball like magic, like how sometimes Xavi would do a couple of years back. wooo
    3. Why is Mascherano our Central defender? As pointed out here and in many other places, he’s prone to a few blinding challenges and a few bad decisions.
    4. Even a 3-1 wont have made much of a difference cos we would have still played our best team for the return leg(unless there was a 5-1 or something) and our players would still be a bit tired going into the Classico.
    5. I don’t suppose Alexis would have scored either of those goals which Suarez did, and in big matches now we have another big player!!
    Enjoy all of u, Forca Barca!!
    PS: So glad I’m able to watch Messi week in week out cos this is simply gold dust. History shall prove us right. 🙂

    • georgjorge
      February 25, 2015

      Regarding Iniesta – it is true that under Enrique the offensive efforts many times seem to pass by him, though I don’t know whether this is because of his positioning, his skill set, or just because he is playing in a midfield which is meant to be bypassed via long balls or passes to the flanks rather often. He did, however, do very well both in controlling possession and in providing an outlet to be passed to in dangerous situations yesterday (“the Xavi role”).

      Regarding Alexis – I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Alexis’ (as well as Ibrahimovic’) “tragedy” at Barca was that their coaches insisted on Messi in the middle most of the time. They just didn’t get many chances to show their potential in their preferred place. Whenever Sanchez was able to show up in the middle, he did beautiful things like the goal in the 2-1 victory against EE last year. He might have given Suarez a run for his money in that position.

      On the whole, I agree that the first half yesterday was a close to perfect as I have seen from the team for a long time. Beautiful stuff. Too bad some players lost concentration/asumed arrogance in the second half, but I think there just can be no such thing as a “perfect game” against a good opponent.

    • Jim
      February 25, 2015

      Great performance by the team – both halves for me- as City made it much more difficult in the second. About time too as their pressing after the first twenty minutes was shocking. Not sure it’ll be much better with Yaya back in the side second leg.

      If I were to be hypercritical it would be of LE who chose to shut the door rather than go for City as they tired and especially when they went down to ten. To me, you bring Xavi on at half time for either Rakitic or Iniesta because you just know they are going to come out all guns blazing after a poor first half. However, it’s one way of doing it to play the two DMs – it just scuppers your passing game and invites pressure.

      Great performances for me from Pique, Messi and Suarez with an honourable mention for the way Iniesta continually broke their hearts by keeping possession under ridiculous pressure, especially second half. Without quite achieving the Xavi control, which, btw, we should have had he controlled our possession game in a top match which is encouraging. Almost 100 passes and a 94% completion rate in that environment is crazy. Slightly worried about Messi coming so deep as he is having to make regular thirty yard sprints to catch up with play as well as having a much harder angle for his curlers to the far post. From deep those need to be great as they are curling right into the keeper’s hands. Good displays for me from Alba, Busi and Rakitic ( started to see, as someone said, what he can offer us but it needs to happen consistently) while not so sure about Dani, Masche or Neymar ( maybe his injury hindered him but not sure he’s been on top form for a few games).

      Btw, nobody to blame for their goal for me, especially not Masche ( I know . . .) When you see the quality of Silva’s layoff to Aguero we need to have the class to say well done. If I need to replay it to see what happened, what chance does Masche have in real time?

      Loved the ball movement in the first half. It took me back to the first twenty of the Arsenal game. Once our team realise how good a poacher Suarez is we’ll see more like the second goal. Bit disappointed we weren’t ready for the storm that came our way in the second as it was predictable but you have to say this was being touted ( by Nasri among others – you’d think he’d shut up and concentrate on what’s left of his game) as the year City break through. Well, nobody is saying that now and that’s an achievement on its own. Scholes on Sky was shaking his head at halftime and you knew why. You just don’t do this to a top team away from home.

      We’ve made the Clasico a little more difficult than it needed to be but at the moment that’s not important and we have some pretty fresh players on our hands.

      All in all, a good night.

      Btw, no, I don’t see Sanchez in the same class as Suarez for what we need. He was never great back to goal and not a natural finisher, for me. Even Suarez’s first touch needs to improve but he’s getting there. If we had chosen to play Sanchez in a withdrawn role maybe he’d have worked but we know who plays that role …

    • bhed
      February 25, 2015

      I think the reason I don’t comment so much here is that you usually say exactly what I was thinking, but more eloquently/diplomatically. As usual, couldn’t agree more.

      Where are you on Masch as center back at the moment? He was doing really well for a while, but he’s starting to make me just a wee bit nervous again.

    • Jim
      February 25, 2015

      Thanks for the compliment, Bhed. Without resorting to names I think there are a number of people here who all add to what has become for me a really comfortable and thoughtful space to visit. I don’t share the views that there is some kind of decline in standards occurring. Long may it continue.

      With regard to Masche, come on, you’re just trying to get me into trouble 🙂 Im gonna start by saying a lot of folks don’t see it this way and think I’m exaggerating which is fair enough but you’ve asked for my take at the moment.

      Honestly, there is a dilemma. I’m in no doubt he’s not a great CB just as I know he’s a great DM. The things that make him great there – aggression, biting at ankles, hounding all over the pitch, closing quickly and tackling are some of the reasons I wouldn’t let him near the backline.

      Take Pique last night. I know we were struggling a little last night in the second half because I saw Pique have to go to ground three or four times and like any good CB he knows you only do that in dire emergency because either way it takes you out of the game. Masche is drawn like a moth to the ball with disregard for position or likelihood of winning it. He’s a crowd pleaser in that everybody likes to see one of ours crunch one of theirs but my preference is for a CB pairing where they keep position and cover for each other. They make a mistake it’s usually not vital. When Masche makes mistakes, and this my personal view, it tends to cost us a goal because he has a disregard for the amount of danger his impulses can cost us.

      I thought a few games ago when he partnered Pique we were finally seeing a change. Forget the game – was it one of the Atleti ones ? – but he held his position for the whole game, played a much quieter but much more effective CB role. There were in fact two games in a row and I commented on it at the time. However, since then we’ve gone back, again in my view, to the errors. There were quite a few as others have pointed out last night but even going back to the Levante game, for Barral’s chance which he cut back and was skied over, Masche followed him out and got too tight allowing him to poke it past him rather than wait till our other defender had a go and he could mop up. Their other great chance came from a headed knockdown at the front post which was fired just past the post. It was Masche marking the header. Not his fault he’s smaller but at CB that’s important. However, he didn’t even lean into him to put him off.

      I don’t see why we can’t have win win. My preference would be for Mathieu to partner Pique over a number of games although I confess Mathieu is taking longer to settle there (maybe not played enough but thinks like a CB ) with Masche and Busi sharing duties at DM. If either of the CBs get injured he could move back for a game or so with orders to have a quiet game and stick to his position. If he did that I’m sure he’d be a decent temporary CB ( although I’m being unfair to Bartra by not mentioning him here. )

      However that won’t happen as LE has obviously decided he wants Masche’s presence and that’s fair enough as its his neck on the line but I don’t see the mistakes stopping anytime soon.

      Anyway, you’ve lured me into bother so I’ll stop there !

    • bhed
      February 25, 2015

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply!

      I agree on all points, except I think he was developing better CB instincts beyond just those couple of games, but he does seem to be slipping into old bad (rash) habits. I also agree it’s hard to criticize him because of his exemplary all around attitude, work ethic, commitment, and general bad assedness. It seems a shame not to take advantage of his obvious talents, and for a while, I thought he was looking better than Busi at DM, but lately Busi has been owning the position again. He was particularly good last night. It’s a real dilemma (in my own mind), and that’s why I wanted your thoughts. If only Masch could play right back…

      I would also lean more towards Bartra as a first choice over Mathieu. While he might be a bit of a riskier choice at the moment, I think the later payoff of having a young, but bloodied, home-grown starting CB vs. one more year of a fairly effective veteran would be worth the risk. Bartra has also been pretty flawless this season (and much of the last), despite not having the opportunity to test himself against top talent.

      Hope the school year is going well, and keep up the insightful commenting!

    • georgjorge
      February 26, 2015

      Your comments NEED to appear as separate articles in this space – the comments you’ve made on Masch over the last months by themselves would provide a lengthy article!

    • Jim
      February 27, 2015

      Thanks, Georgjorge, but what I need to do is learn the art of brevity ! Bhed, the case of Bartra baffles me. I don’t think he’s ready ( just yet) for a regular starting spot as CB as I’m reluctant to pass up on chance of trophies this year and I think we’ll be in them all till the end.

      However, he could be getting first team experience subbing for Dani at RB which might also keep him a little happier. Not sure if I imagined it since it hasn’t happened again but I thought he did pretty well when he played there and watching Pique’s positioning and line holding at close quarters has to be good for any aspiring CB. Although I reckon he’s been pretty good so far with lack of whining, Ii it goes on this way way he’ll be off at the end of the season, especially if we’re bringing in another CB. While I’m not yet sure if he’ll make it at the very top he is a good player and worth the investment. Looks like Dani is going so we’re gonna need two who can play RB. I’ve a feeling Adriano will also decide for pastures new so we could be skooshed unless Douglas rises, Phoenix- like, next season. For me, it’d be Bartra over him at the moment.

  10. February 25, 2015

    As for the opinion that messi is an athlete and football is an art, I’d like to see how a role reversal works.
    messi is an art and football is an athlete, art as we know it has to do with finesse, immortality and craft, i have never seen messi be otherwise, while football as an athlete depicts the fact that speed, dribbles, techniques and finesse are all very present and that fact takes it away from artistry and craftmanship.

    Just as barcelona is the truest example of how football should be played, it doesnt mean other teams can not play differently.

    And as everybody can play football, messi is the highest standard of playing football. And that is art because art does not conform to norms, it stands apart in guile and guise.

    • raj
      February 25, 2015

      This brings vague memories of ‘Howard Roark, Architect’

  11. bcdr
    February 25, 2015

    Just watched this stat:

    Last night, Barça won an away CL game with Messi playing and not scoring or assisting. The last time this happened was Vs Liverpool in 2007

    Two points from the stat:
    1. Messi didn’t score or assist “statistics” will remember the match the way though he created both goals.
    2. People easily forget things. Barca have been depending on Messi (i.e. individual brilliance) even before Pep era. It’s normal. There’s no shame or no wrong in it. He is the best player the world ever seen. The team naturally will depend on him. It’s an honor to have him in the team.

    • kosby
      February 25, 2015

      That is absolutely mind boggling !

    • February 26, 2015

      Just from the top of my head, I think it was two years ago that Alexis Sanchez chipped in the cross that Cesc headed in away at at Celtic.

    • bcdr
      February 26, 2015

      Messi didn’t play the match due to injury. The stat counts only the matches Messi played.

    • February 26, 2015

      Ah, that’s right!

  12. February 25, 2015

    What a freaking game. I watched it with 5 or 6 premiership team fans, something i dont normally like to do because they are generally haters, but they were truly in awe of Barca in the first half. The tempo dropped in the second but I think that is in part due to just how dominant we were in the first. It almost seemed like a training exercise at certain points, I think it is only natural for the players to drop their intensity a bit in such circumstances. I definitely would have liked a 3rd goal given the one they scored, but honestly, who really thinks they are going to come to the nou camp and outscore us?

  13. Jim
    February 25, 2015

    Arsenal with a masterclass in defending pulled from the old Barca library of what not to do when attacked and how to avoid having sufficient numbers back.

  14. Inamess
    February 25, 2015

    For those looking for Great Art in football, I must recommend a viewing of Arsenal v. Monaco 2015 staring the wise King Arsene, his Crown Prince Ozil, and Head Defense Minister Per Mertesacker. Works great as both comedy and tragedy depending on your worldview.

  15. bcdr
    February 26, 2015

    Regarding to the Malaga loss, I just remembered – Few weeks ago Sevilla won against them. Goals are scored by Bacca & D. Suarez. First goal came from superb Deulofeu lob. A long ball from Beto came to Bacca in final third, Bacca passed to Deulofeu. As Deulofeu dibbled & 3 defenders tried to take ball from him, it caused space for Bacca in d-box. In second goal, Malaga tried to attack. At half-way line, dispossessed & Suarez got the ball. He had a great one-to-one with Bacca and Suarez got space in d-box. In both goals, Malaga conceded due to they left space in defense completely opposite to barca match. Ironically, two barca boys bought three point for Sevilla while barca managed only one point out of six!

    • G6O
      February 26, 2015

      It’s only a valid comparison if we Malaga parked the same bus as they did against us. I haven’t watched the game, but I strongly suspect they didn’t

    • bcdr
      February 26, 2015

      Yeah. Malaga took Sevilla similar to thier level & tried to attack & exposed. Against barca, everything went thier way. Barca conceded early & they didn’t try to attack anymore, able to park the bus. So there’s never a chance to get exposed.

  16. bcdr
    February 26, 2015

    It’s been two months since last time Denis Suarez started!! Unay Emeri recently using him only as sub. Besides, Deulofeu even isn’t in the squad today.

  17. February 26, 2015

    If there is ever a time to rest messi, this is the right time, i just dont see messi whole-heartedly picking granada apart because if you can’t convert from Manchester, what is the use to versus granada.

    Enrique should give him the week to beat himself up and cleanse himself from all Manchester demons.

    I know i wouldn’t want to turn up versus granada after that miss.

    • Inamess
      February 26, 2015

      The problem is that we are still reasonable contenders for the League and this week represents a decent opportunity to gain ground on RM. If we drop any more points on RM then I would secretly concede the league and make a lot of changes including starting Ter Stegen, Bartra, Rafinha, and Montoya more in La Liga matches

  18. Inamess
    February 26, 2015

    Some random notes on some football items of the day:

    1)The EPL showed again this week why it is the top league in the world and we should now fully acknowledge the superiority of the English game. All jokes aside, why doesn’t EPL money translate into success in Europe? Is it something about “English football”?

    2) There is an easy solution to our penalty crisis. Enrique should have Suarez start taking penalties because he is a good penalty taker and Messi is in a temporary slump. Seems like an easy, mature, adult solution. If Suarez doesn’t work out then we go from there. If we are worried about Marca’s and the English media’s reaction, then we can make up a story that Enrique and Messi got into another fight, and Enrique punished Messi by taking away his penalty privileges.

    3) Our players have recently made it into two new 4-4-2 cartoons. Both parodies are pretty good. No offense to Suarez or Real Madrid’s players, but the Adidas commercials are embarrassingly stupid. I am starting to really like Suarez, so I am just looking out for his best interests and if I were his agent I would just advise him to refuse to do further Adidas commercials until they change their advertising campaign.

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4SUUloEcrgjsxbmy_rQQXA

    • BarcaSon
      February 26, 2015

      I’m not sure whether point no.2 is sarcasm or not. But if its for real, from the bottom of my heart, I disagree.

    • Inamess
      February 27, 2015

      Not sure why it would be so bad? Messi has admitted that he doesn’t like to take penalties and his confidence in them right now seems to be pretty low. Isn’t it better for him and the team to have someone who wants to and is in better form take them as we hit the business end of the season.

    • BarcaSon
      February 27, 2015

      No one is perfect as far as penalty is concern, and great player missed it too. The number of missed pk by Leo is a more this season and yes I understand your point.
      Lets see why penaldo(oh sorry) is so perfect in taking pk…. at first, his penalty missed is a against Chelsea in ucl final 2008 is a nightmare eventhough JT saved his ass.
      Against Bayern, thats terrible and cost his team Not to mention other missed. But now if no madrista won’t be nervous and scared if he is about to talk a pk. Thats because maybe he worked out his weakness and perfected it. The same thing can be applied to Leo. He’s not even terrible imo but at his level, everyone expect perfection.

      If you’re the top scorer in ucl and competing all highest level individual achievements where people love stats and forget about how well you play, penalty is a gift from heaven.

      What all I can say is he’ll work on it and will improve.

    • IamXavi6
      February 26, 2015

      1 – I think you’ll be surprised how many EPL fans know that it isn’t the superior league. Best marketed, No question, Most competitive, probably. As far as superiority goes, it’s been Spain for quite some time as the top dog, followed by Germany.

      EPL Money doesn’t translate into success – mainly due to imo their dilution of home grown product. As the league is treated by owners who typically don’t care about putting back to the league or establishing a true culture at the club, it dilutes their product. See their WC performances as an example. The brand of football they play also isn’t technical enough to match the quality of football produced by Spain and Germany and France etc.

  19. February 27, 2015

    While this may be true, it is hard to imagine a future where the EPL will not dominate Europe. If I understand their new TV deal correctly, even the bottom clubs will net the same revenue as Liga top dogs M*drid and Barça.

    • Jim
      February 27, 2015

      Yeah, I think this new deal represents a new step in that they will now start targeting bigger name players from the Spanish leagues with packages they can’t refuse.

    • February 27, 2015

      in other words, this could turn even disastrous for the English national team, as most of the EPL teams will be filled with the better players from outside England.

      I am hoping Spanish sides will keep unearthing young talents and will manage.

    • February 27, 2015

      Definitely, and not just the Spanish league but all others as well. Some players might start preferring to play for Burnsley than for Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Valencia or even AC Milan.

      It kinda sucks (and with “kinda” I mean “very much so”).

    • Jim
      February 27, 2015

      I think the telling thing for me is that even if they did fill their league with foreign players, would many of theirs be picked up by the Spanish or German leagues ? I doubt it and that tells its own story in terms of where they are technically.

    • bhed
      February 27, 2015

      As far as where they are technically, that reminds me of an article I read a while back (2 years ago?), I forget where exactly, from a journalist whose son played football in both the Spanish and English youth leagues, and how shocked he was by the lack of quality youth coaching and the overall lack of a system in England to develop basic skills with the kids.

      Very interesting read, but I would imagine fairly depressing if you’re the English parent of a budding footballer or hope to see a resurgence of the national team.

  20. February 27, 2015

    How did this happen? Villareal and Sevilla to play in EL quarters. So disappointed. Both had excellent chances against all others.

    In other news, the UEFA round 16 team has Ronaldo who ‘just’ scored after a poor display, but not Messi after one of his season best.

    • BarcaSon
      February 27, 2015

      Sad to see that. Really.
      Sometimes I wonder the selection criteria.

    • BarcaSon
      February 27, 2015

      Believe me any team who outplay Mancity other than barca will have atleast 3/4 players among the list.

    • February 27, 2015

      The thing I liked most about that game was that sometimes you could hear a collective “Woaaaaaaaahhh” from the City supporters when Messi had the ball!

    • BarcaSon
      February 27, 2015

      Positive point is that Leo has made some more fans in England. Thanks to all mother of rumours.

  21. Storm
    March 2, 2015

    oh well..that was a great match, for a start..a display of class, finesse, and swagger… for long stretches of the match, i caught myself staring in open-mouthed wonderment at pure football magic..i mean, city were being literally scythed, it was simply amazing..it was truly one of those magical moments..the type of moments that etche themselves in footballing history- save that creepy buisness of a missed penalty- that oddly, after long moments of being treated to football exhibition literally dripping with myrh, we were left to close the game with.. for it, was absolutely heart-wrenching, i was just unable to think..i mean, it seemed like a cruel way, to end such an exhibition-expecially taking into consideration, what a third goal would have meant both for the team and messi.. i couldn’t do anthing after that- i’d pine and fret for that third goal, cause it was deserving of such a magnificient performance, and also i was totally convince city a mauling or something close to that.. the mere thoughts that this results flattered city, always got me back to the highest echelon of being pissed..told myself to sleep it off then, but for long moments i find myslef wracking my brain, trynna get myself outta the cruel nightmare i find myself in
    quite ironic, that such a magnificient game will just be the one to leave you with such feelings..but then i searched and disected all the gray clouds for a silver lining(yeah i’m particularly good at getting myself outtta depression)..i realized that ironically, i was moving on a direction of not wanting to be reminded of the game..but then being the smart alec i am, i told myself that was silly..this’s the type of game that often get carve a niche for its self in th gallery of history.. so move on- yeah thats its.. just move on..heck, come the scond leg, we’d have th chance to perfect
    art at its finest..so as of now, just focus and glory in all the positives of delivering a magical masterclass drubbing on a (ahem, quality) opposition.. viva el barca

  22. Storm
    March 2, 2015

    For the records guys..it CYCLOPS..some very bizzare buisness necessitated the need for a change name
    oh well..that was a great match, for a start..a display of class, finesse, and swagger… for long stretches of the match, i caught myself staring in open-mouthed wonderment at pure football magic..i mean, city were being literally scythed, it was simply amazing..it was truly one of those magical moments..the type of moments that etche themselves in footballing history- save that creepy buisness of a missed penalty- that oddly, after long moments of being treated to football exhibition literally dripping

  23. Storm
    March 2, 2015

    For the records guys..it CYCLOPS..some very bizzare buisness necessitated the need for a change name
    oh well..that was a great match, for a start..a display of class, finesse, and swagger… for long stretches of the match, i caught myself staring in open-mouthed wonderment at pure football magic..i mean, city were being literally scythed, it was simply amazing..it was truly one of those magical moments..the type of moments that etche themselves in footballing history- save that creepy buisness of a missed penalty, that oddly we were left to close a magnificient game with…i couldn’t really think up somthing after the game- was just too cruel the way its all ended..being pining and fretting for that third goal all second-half long, cause i thought such magnificient, prformance that literally dripped with mryh deserves at least a third goal..and a i thought deserved a good routing or atleast something close to that- will do our name some in the international sphere.. and above, a third goal, would have ben handy for both team and player..couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to do anything after the game…was left sulking with this feeling of, ‘it could have been more, we deserved more’..told myself to go sleep it off, but i realize i was doing more of staring at the ceiling that sleeping, while having a brain-wrenching debate on why a such beautifull events will end up getting me in some really weird nightmare…but then, such is life, the sooner you realized that life is lazed with such events, you really aint ready to take up the challenge(could write a whole book on that..lol)…had to search for the silver lining hidden in the gray clouds(yep..pretty good at lifting myself from depression)…so it was, move
    on..yeah, just move on…heck, we’d get plenty of chance and then some, to perfect this this art, to levels that wasn’t quite achieved today…kxevin, i really don’t know if you actually implied that life and in effect FCB aint supposed to be perfect..funny, i have contary view…i sure do believe in perfction…its a worthy cause that keeps you from being lazy and mediocre…its basically a race..running along the path of perfection and getting to attain it sure are two different things..but then thats how its supposed to be, don’t give two hoots about whether you will attain it or nor, just lace your boots and run the race..the improvements attain along the way, will definately get you to being the next best thing to perfection- worth it..”aim for the moon and if you miss, you you will land on the stars”..pep guardiola understood this, and the records speaks for him..and thats why no matter what, no matter whatever grudge i might- yeah , i’ve got lots of them lol, i will always respect and admire him ..can’t remember waxing this philosophical of recents..lool, heaven knows, its high time someone look at things from that angle…vival el barca

  24. Storm
    March 2, 2015

    sorry guys for the BiZzAR-ish way, the comments were posted..my gadget sucks, big time..ended up scuttling the whole thing

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