Celta 0, Barça 1, aka “Sprites troll the world”

mathieu

FC Barcelona kept a clean sheet, and its lone goal came from a set piece.

We should pause a moment to let that sink in …

FC Barcelona kept a clean sheet, and its lone goal came from a set piece.

No matter how many times you repeat that, the absurdity of the statement won’t be in any way ameliorated. And it must be said that in some quarters, that statement is wrong. Barça doesn’t win matches like that. Excellent defending, a few last-ditch challenges and a set piece? Ugh. Can we give the win back?

Thankfully, no. And on a day that RM dropped 9 goals on an exceptionally compliant and distracted Granada, people kept talking about that match, and would it affect Barça, and was it on the players’ minds, blabla, etcetc. My guess is no. Because unlike Granada, Celta Vigo was a real team and they were at home. It was also the first match after the international break, a match in which Barça usually play like twice-filtered dung.

So what happened? Essentially, the same as La Real, the crisis inducer. Messi didn’t play the first half, and a defender headed in a goal. Only it was into the opponent’s net rather than our own, so instead of losing 1-0, Barça won 0-1. Everything else was the same: rampant opponent, poor play, a team that couldn’t string two passes together, an elevated game in the second half. But the difference between a win and a loss is just a few bounces of the ball sometimes.

After the match of course, Barça Twitter lit up with all the ways in which the team could have lost today. Here, various things were discussed, reasons why the team didn’t play up to its usual standard. Fact of the matter is that the team did play up (or down) to its usual post-internationals standard, so the reason for surprise is difficult to fathom. Anybody who wasn’t expecting a mess of a match just hasn’t been paying very much attention. And that’s okay, because this has been a season of shifting expectations and desires.

In the aftermatch picking over the carcass, a memory of an early bicycle race comes to mind, and a crazy situation that prompted me to say, “I almost crashed!” A more seasoned racer said, “You either crash or you don’t. There’s no such thing as an almost crash.” Same with dropped points. It either happens or it doesn’t, and we can breathe a sign of relief or not. Easy when you think about it, particularly in light of the reality that all three of the Liga podium are going to drop points this season. It’s unavoidable, given the fixture congestion.

What’s more interesting to me is how the team won this match. Essentially, Celta came out playing like a house afire, and Barça was awful. Social media would point to various culprits but really, except for Pique, Mathieu and Bravo, everybody was poor. Messi set up shop in the middle of the field, which left Rafinha wondering exactly what his job was. Alves was … if anyone has any ideas, please send them my way. Iniesta was giving away balls like Caga Tio, only nobody was hitting him upside the head.

But when the first half ended 0-0 after that Celta onslaught, smart money said that Barça was going to win because they couldn’t play any worse, and Celta couldn’t play any better. That’s what happened: Barça raised its game, and Celta came down to earth a bit. More interestingly, Barça was again the fitter team, finding its collective legs as Celta’s players were flagging, amid growing frustration that manifested itself in a red card for a Celta player for throwing something or other at Busquets.

This wasn’t only the second time that Barça have driven an opponent to throwing something. It was a symbol of what this team has become: a massive pain in the ass.

Earlier this season I said, even as people giggled at me and questioned my sanity or whether it was even a good thing, that Barça was taking on the character of its coach. It was becoming a tough, hard-edged, pugnacious bunch that would take a blow, stick its chin out and fight back. Today’s match, just like the Classic, was an example of a tough, fit, resilient team that can not only outplay, but outwait its opponent, taking advantage of a moment of weakness to gain an advantage.

The Suarez goal in the classic can be scoffed at as the old, evil individual brilliance. But the Mathieu goal in the Classic and today for the match winner, is just another example of what Enrique has been doing with this football team, because set piece goals happen on the training pitch. Last season, culers bemoaned the fact that opponents were scoring set piece goals, but Barça had not a chance. This season, Barça is scoring set piece goals, and not conceding them. This is a good thing. So is the fight in the team.

There is still talk of Enrique not being close to the players, etc, whatever in the hell that means. But they don’t have to gather around the campfire and have milk and cookies. They have to work together and respect each other enough to give of their best. That is this Barça. No sane culer should really give two craps that the team isn’t blasting Coldplay in the locker room, watching “Gladiator” videos and getting hugs from a weeping coach. That was the past. In the present, this team is a nasty bunch. It fights, tactical fouls and gets under the opponent’s skin. Arda Turan didn’t try out for the boot throwing Olympic team because he was a happy lad, just as Orellana didn’t sidearm a bit of fauna at Busquets out of barely controlled delight. Both players were pissed, and Barça was the reason. Again, this is good.

Change has been coming for a while, the kind of change that used to spark wistful sighs and talk of a tougher team, as some opponent bullied our wee ones. Well, they’re tough. And that’s cool. Celta had chances, and those chances were dealt with. Barça had chances, that were mostly screwed up until Mathieu’s most excellent use of his noggin that was, by the by, a very difficult goal. And the team won. It sounds simple, and it kinda was simple even as the match seemed fraught to many, because that’s what matches do.

But whatever you feel about the win and the way that it was obtained, assessments that will line up culers on either side of a divide, the hope is that we can all agree on one thing: Barça is badass, and that’s good.

"I'm so bad, I don't even have to close my fly!"
“I’m so bad, I don’t even have to close my fly!”
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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.

133 Comments

  1. April 5, 2015

    Pain in the ass, Ol’ dirty Inglorious basterds. 😀

    Not to blow my own horn, but here’s something I wrote even before last season was over, when talking about things that should change:

    “What makes the task of Barcelona’s defense easier, apart from the strikers and midfield pressing, is height. I cannot stress this enough. It is beyond vital. It controls the whole scenario in a very simple way. All stats of conceded goals, stats of practically every aerial duel of any given game show the same thing – Barcelona don’t fare well in the air. This is what gives confidence to the opposing team, this is what makes them surrender the wide approaches towards their box, defend narrowly and pour forward for every corner and set piece. They know that they can score from those; they know that when they send a high forward ball towards the waiting strikers the odds are that the player will be able to claim it and either bring it down to a teammate, follow it forward or just drill it towards the goal. They know that they can deal with corners and could create opportunities out of those – because Barcelona sucks in the air. This is why Barcelona often registers more than ten corners, all without any real threat to the opposing keeper. This state brings confidence in the opponent, because during the most difficult moments, when Barcelona’s magicians are finding seemingly impossible routes to send the ball and combine and control it in the space of a handkerchief, back in the mind of the opponents is “wait till we get a corner/set piece in your box!” This is what goads them not to surrender the defense and to pour forward for each set piece. The fact that Barcelona can’t threaten in the air makes it the easiest thing to concede a corner. A corner means a stopped ball, precious seconds in which to relax, rearrange the defense, motivate the fellow defenders and refocus, and hopefully have a chance to send a ball forward.

    On the other hand for Barcelona a corner means that a there are a few seconds less in which to win the game. Can that be changed? Well, it must be changed, because with that single change the whole field of play is changed. If Barcelona does not suck in the air in its own box – and by this I mean not just 1v1 aerial duels, but actual collective defense during set pieces and corners, then opposing teams would have to find another way to win. The confidence is brought down, because if Barcelona manage to even the odds in corners, this not only means less opportunities for scoring goals against Barcelona, this also means that conceding corners against Barcelona is a threat. The mental push to stay focused not just when the ball is in play, but when it is out of play, that mental exhaustion is the fertile ground in which mistakes are made. Furthermore, when corners become a threat and a tool for Barcelona to win the tie, teams would have to honor that threat. It would not be possible to play narrow and crowd the center. The opponents would have to stretch, stop the wide strikers before they launch a cross, before they start a run which would have to be stopped at the price of a corner. From there it’s a short but logical step that a defense that is stretched cannot maintain a solid front in which to stop the incursions of Messi and Friends towards the box. This regains the initiative, boosts the confidence of Barcelona’s Own and shifts the mental balance.

    The opponent would have to react, because Barcelona would have another venue of approach. Then it won’t be a question of “Stay together and we’ll kill them on the break” but “Can we hold on for the whole 90 minutes?” If the opponents come on the pitch knowing, just knowing that Barcelona will score and will probably not concede, then those opponents would be half-defeated already.

    Another of Sun Tzu’s quotes: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. It’s a question of winning and then fighting, a fight that would then have to be repeated over 60 games.”

    There will be some, who would say this is not Barcelona’s beautiful football. First of all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and second, what do you mean it’s not awesome?

    Celta came out to play, but not to attack, but to contest the midfield, because Barcelona has become a team which scores goals and keeps set pieces. There is no control, because the opponents have recognized that Lucho’s Barça is a tough customer, a team that stops the usual attacks over the top with a pair of awesome CBs, deals collectively with set pieces, and then scores.

    Teams NEED to attack through the midfield – Celta came out today without a rea pivote, but instead with one striker and five creative mids behind him. Think about that fact. Let it sink in.

    • April 5, 2015

      P.S. Great and captivating post, as usual! Splendid job!

  2. 42
    April 5, 2015

    Just registered here, hello everybody! Really like the atmosphere for discussion in this blog.

  3. 42
    April 5, 2015

    Not sure if today’s bad play was due to tiredness of players after international break, or because we got our midfield formation wrong. Don’t see why Rakitic was dropped and was only brought on after 89 minutes. Messi-Rafinha-Alves’s right hand side was awkward and Alves has left huge defensive gaps in his area, forcing Messi to pull back and fill in the hole, which was usually done by Rakitic in the past.
    I felt today our midfield couldn’t cope with the pressure constantly exerted by Celta (who did wonderfully in this game), we couldn’t really string 3 passes together. Again, I don’t know if it’s the issue of the international break, or the lack of understanding from the midfield players, but I hope Lucho could stop experimenting in the midfield and stick with a stable formation.
    Other than that, the team has done a great job and I’m really happy to see the team taking on Lucho’s characteristics – tough, fighting through the end, whatever it takes. I’m very proud of this team.

    • Inamess
      April 5, 2015

      Great comments 42! Our midfield problems continue but its hard to know what the best solution is. I would imagine that Enrique still favors an Iniesta-Rakitic-Busquets midfield so imagine we will see this combination in our most important fixtures this month including away at Sevilla and PSG. Why Xavi hasn’t played more is still a mystery to me, but Lucho may not want to start him in big matches anymore because of stamina/fitness issues.

      • 42
        April 5, 2015

        Thanks Inamess! I fully expected an Iniesta-Rakitic-Busquets midfield today as I imagined that’s still the best midfield formation in Lucho’s mind, didn’t understand why he decided to tinker with Rafinha. Also Xavi is great to be brought on in the 2nd halves to control the tempo of the match, but as you said I don’t think his fitness allows him to go full 90, especially against a constantly pressuring team like Celta. Xavi is still a great asset to have in the team, and I genuinely hope he doesn’t leave this summer.

      • Davour
        April 6, 2015

        Well, for me I expected Xavi instead of Ini, due to Xavi being rested during the int. break. But the thing about Rafinha, to my mind, is that he simply needs to be given time and responsibility to develop properly – and LE knows we will need him to step up next season. Perhaps he won’t, but if he does not play, he won’t for sure. He has shown signs of great potential, but yesterday he was poor. Was it due to Messi “setting up shop in the middle”, as Kxevin put it (great review, thanks!), or sloppiness and inability to read the game well enough to adapt? Or something else?

        I kind of understand Messi’s decision, as the team failed to make much play happen on the right (due to Celta more or less dominating the latter part of the first half) – but it does make it difficult for Rafinha; he cannot simply take up Messi’s spot on the right, because he still has the defensive duties of a CM (Messi will not pick those up). Still, he must learn to deal with this. Seems Xavi did not have a problem doing it…

      • G6O
        April 6, 2015

        Messi only started dropping back very deep after some time into the first half. It was a reaction to the situation.

        When you see Messi surrounded by three opposition players around the center line, you know something is very wrong with the team

    • April 6, 2015

      I caught a tweet in the weekend in the aftermath of Bayern’s ugly victory against BVB(currently 10th place), when a significant part of culerverse exploded in jubilation over Pep’s vital and difficult victory and his genius and resolution and whatev.

      This tweet was along the lines of “I wish Barcelona would win in the same way, just so that I can see those praising Guardiola now blast Luis Enrique for not having a clue.”

      Wish granted and lo and behold! 🙁

      Make no mistake, Celta Vigo is a tough and capable team. They work their asses off, they have talent but more importantly, they still show vestiges of being trained by Luis Enrique.

      Celta this season drew at Vicente Calderon. To put it into a perspective, only three teams have managed to grind out points at Vicente Calderon so far this season:
      1. Valencia, who drew 1-1
      2. Celta, who drew 2-2
      3. Villarreal, who won 0-1 with a goal in the 84th minute by Vietto – breaking Atletico’s home unbeaten record that stretched back to May 2013, home loss to Barça.

      Oh, and also Celta defeated Atletico at Balaidos, 2-0, controlling the game and the possession in a very Barça-like manner. Last season Real lost their La Liga hopes after being defeated 2-0 at Balaidos.

      It wasn´t going to be easy, not after international breaks, Messi recovering from a knock, at that pitch and with the whole squad having trained for about two days instead of a week – it was actually two weeks of preparation for Celta.

      • stefan2k
        April 6, 2015

        That really puts things into perspective! Thank you Peter your posts are highly appreciated.

        Great article Kx, I’d like to emphasize that Pique went from “bench him immediately” to carrying this team on his shoulders. Outstanding performance which even lead to appreciation from Puyi himself!

  4. IamXavi6
    April 6, 2015

    You know what? Ronaldo can score 100000 goals a game, I don’t care…as long as we have that buffer and after 38 games ahead of Madrid and take the trophy…I’m as happy as Larry.

    This game was a game we would’ve lost or drawn the last few seasons, thanks to the fifa virus. So impressed with our boys right now

  5. April 6, 2015

    At half time, I was thinking we deserved to lose points. But then as often happens, our opposition was more tired and we got back a bit.

    Bravo Mathieu. That was incredibly perfect header. Even a mm of difference in the angle and we would not have got that goal.

    Adriano, Rafinha and Neymar all were really poor. Suarez, is more like a Ronaldo in our time. His first touch, control and passing is really terrible and there is no consistency at all. We are lucky that some of the things he try is coming through at times. And his diving yesterday was really in bad taste, he could have taken the shot, instead went down..very embarassing.

    The commentators in the Indian broadcoast, especially one of them, went on wondering why Bravo was not red carded. I thought he got the ball and even if you wanted to look it negatively, it was not such a crystal clear red card moment. These British commentators are very annoying.

    We need Xavi for one more season. Even if it is only 20 or 30 minutes every second match, he is important.

    • April 6, 2015

      sorry meant Ronaldo in our team. Without lot of space around, he is just wasting every ball.

    • Valdemar II
      April 6, 2015

      Neymar is not playing better than Pedro at the moment. A night and day season for him, he looked like a top 5 player in the fall. The strange thing is, he can’t even beat his defender by pace right now. Low confidence doesn’t explain that.

      • April 6, 2015

        You can see that he is trying and there is the quality. But it must be the decision making phase in which he is getting it wrong. Holding the ball a second more or less or where to pass or to shoot or to dribble. It was very difficult.

      • April 6, 2015

        I can only imagine the crap that Neymar is dealing with via this transfer business. Don’t forget that he is named as a witness, since he signed 9 of the pile of contracts in this morass. He has had to deal with a lot of crap, but never being named in a criminal action. Bound to affect his game.

    • Son
      April 6, 2015

      About the commentators, yes its embarrassing to hear over and over again. I was talking about the same thing with my friend and he mentioned that they might be some epl commentator showing hatred toward us or not clear with the rule of the game.lol.

      You know what, in the latest clasico, one of the commentators keep saying Sanchez, Sanchez instead of Suarez. Not only once, but many times.

      • raj
        April 7, 2015

        Agreed regarding the British commentators. They somehow always try to give the benefit of doubts to the underdog even when they know better.
        Many times they call the opposing team ‘brave’ and ‘hard working’ when all they are doing is park the bus. Especially, when we can’t go through them for an hour or so – the commentators start cheering the bus and say they deserve a result! Happens in many league games against the minnows. It was better when TenSports used to broadcast, they had a dedicated pre- and post-match presentation team which made the experience very entertaining. They only have the CL rights now.

        These days, I try to find a Ray Hudson stream online for the audio, mute the TV and watch the games to get some decent perspectives.

  6. Mix19
    April 6, 2015

    Hi Folks, new registrant here, but one who’s been reading Kxevin’s thought-provoking posts for awhile.

    I’d like to make an argument that we’ve accepted an unfair “Manichean” view of this team: we either play Tiki-taka or we play the counter. One is good; one is bad – you choose which.

    My feeling is that there’s a third way and dare I say, that third way is predicated on the great Xavi. Consider the attributes of each: under Pep, we controlled the ball so much that it was very hard for us to *lose* since the other team had so little of the ball. But we had no “Plan B.” If we were off for a day, we would lose 1-0 again Rubin Kazan – or heaven forbid Chelsea.

    Now we play more direct, score from headers, counter-attack, frighten other teams with our explosiveness, and win games, too! The issue for me is that we are far too often perched on a precipice under this approach, frequently exposed at the back, and overly reliant on Pique, Mathieu, and Bravo – and thank goodness they’ve been great this year.

    But every time the great Xavi – heretofore known at “TGX” – enters the game, we manage to control the game so much more effectively than Rakitic or Thiago or even Iniesta or Busquets does. What does that result in? Many more chances created – think on the Clasico (and I acknowledge that we scored *before* Xavi entered) and yesterday.

    I actually think TGX is the perfect complement to the style that we are using now: we can play direct AND have TGX in the game. We retain the grit and the danger that we play with now and the organization that TGX provides.

    Honestly, I would keep him for another year. He can still play effectively in this approach and would give us the pleasure of watching this master in action some more.

  7. luisthebeast
    April 6, 2015

    I feel sory for Lucho,the coaching stuff and the team in general.Someone said that if we play like that against Sevilla they will destroy us.Thats the spirit of our fanbase around the world.I am glad that there are people like Kxevin,Peter,Ramzi on twitter because the majority there make me mad and sad at the same time…Barca found in 1899 not 2009..We celebrated the Iniestazo in 2009 after a very bad perfomance but now we must not celebrate anything..

  8. luisthebeast
    April 6, 2015

    Oh in Wednesday a legend will be back at Camp Nou!Sergi barjuan,one of the best fullback in our history:-)

  9. April 6, 2015

    A hearty welcome to new voices 42 and Mix19. And because I am curious about screen names, if you both could take a sec to explain yours, that would be fun.

    I fully agree with you, Mix19. I well and truly believe that Barça can and will play in any way necessary to win a match. What will surprise the high priests is … so would Guardiola’s Barça, which is presently being held up as a footballing avatar.

    People should, but won’t relax. The grousing over Danilo is one example. Barça was NEVER going to pay 39m for an RB from Porto. Ever. The club didn’t even pay that much for Alves.

    “No midfield.” Yeah. Right. Everything about this team is so consistently underrated by too many of its own supporters that the mind boggles. Yesterday’s win wasn’t pretty. Nope. But it was effective. As Peter notes above, so was Bayern’s win, and folks were sliding off their chairs in delight at that one.

    I still think this team can with nothing, or a Treble. It’s an odd mix of things that will require luck, and key players staying injury free in this crucial time of the season. Vermaelen would be useful right now, frankly. I expect to see some Montoya also.

    The rest of this season is going to be fun, whatever happens. I hope that people just embrace it, support the team and let that fun happen.

    • Jim
      April 6, 2015

      You see, I’m not seeing everything about the team being underrated. And I’m not hearing the complaints about the win. It was a massive three points earned the hard way. Maybe it’s that way on Twitter but I don’t go there.

      What I hear in this space is that people value the defence – Pique and Alba certainly with more mixed sentiments on Alves and I think, hope, Mathieu is now starting to convince the many critics that he can form a great CB partnership with pique. We have completely stopped worrying about lack of height, I’m hearing people starting to grasp how great this front three can be and saying so. The consistent thorn in the side praise wise is the midfield and I think rightly so. Whether you want to play a more direct style or possession, and it has never been an either or – despite some presenting it as such, you need a midfield and one that can keep possession and still create is priceless.

      We have that and have steadfastly ignored it in favour of legs although again that is to misunderstand what goes on when the opposition has to chase for so long. That’s why they became so frustrated. In one substitution they went from having us on the rack to not getting a look in and their goal in jeopardy. It’s worth saying again – nobody ran past our midfield last season and if they passed sideways it was because of the lack of threat or movement from our forwards. If you’re looking for someone to get it to the forwards quickly nobody will do that better than the best passers in your team. We came within inches of a treble last year and lost it because of individual errors and an inadequate forward line. It’s not an either or.

      For me, LE has added something in that we are now obviously working on set pieces and his rotation, despite my concern about it, seems to be paying dividends in terms of fitness. However, his knee jerk reaction to the RS defeat which anointed a gala eleven and consigned Xavi to the bench was as silly as his earlier picking at Pique, his playing of Mathieu at LB without warning and subsequent demotion because of his comment and his determination to play Masche at CB. We have come a long way. We have our CB partnership, Masche is playing better at DM for me, although he’ll have to share time with Busi, Messi has given in to the right wing berth idea although if possession is as scarce as last night of course he won’t stay there, we have a central goal scorer occupying the CBs. We can win the treble this season but for that we need to use Xavi a lot more. For me, he plays the first 60 and then we have a look at it unless we are playing on a sodden or very bumpy pitch when there is no point in playing through the middle.

      On a side note is also take issue with the thought that Iniesta gave the ball away willy hilly. What I saw was him struggling because Busi was being marked very tightly and Rafinha, well, I’m not sure what he was trying to do but don’t want to be too critical because he has the technical skills to do well in our midfield and it’s still just his first season. However, he’s just like a lost little boy at the moment. I also have to say I found the subbing on of Pedro for Ini a little strange. For the first time in the game really he looked comfortable having Xavi alongside him. Xavi will probably go at the end of the season but when you see the effect on the games of Iniesta, Messi and even Neymar and those triangles carrying threat every time we went near the box you have to think Barto, if not LE, will be having a little think to himself about the sense in letting him go when nobody is coming in.

      • Jim
        April 6, 2015

        I’m not actually sure anyone suggested Iniesta gave it away “willy hilly” ! My bad.

      • Jim
        April 6, 2015

        And very rude of me. Yes, welcome to 42 and Mix19 ! Nice to hear new voices.

      • FCB16
        April 6, 2015

        This is far to nuanced a POV Jim, step in line or be lumped in with ” negative culers”

      • Inamess
        April 6, 2015

        Thanks Jim. Always enjoy reading your comments. We have improved in many areas this season but the midfield is still a problem. Hopefully Iniesta, Rakitic, and Rafinha will all improve their play as we come down to the decisive games in the next two weeks.

    • 42
      April 6, 2015

      Thanks for the welcome Kevin! 42 simply represents the answer to life, the universe, and everything, if you understand my reference 🙂

  10. Mix19
    April 6, 2015

    Thanks for the welcome, Kxevin and the affirmation about my post. Ahhh, “Mix19.” Nice story for me. I named my consulting business “Mix Analytics” over the wonderful triumvirate of (M)essi (I)niesta and (X)avi. In the heyday of Pep’s Barca, I would play this little parlor game of which player I enjoyed watching the most: Messi for his indescribable genius, Iniesta for his remarkable ability to keep the ball in the tightest of spaces or Xavi for his lovely metronomic control of games. I ultimately never could decide, but I always think of them whenever I write the name of my business.

    The ’19’ came from the suffix to my normal email address where there were apparently 18 other “plev” usernames.

  11. Barcathegreatestever
    April 6, 2015

    Fabulous win!! For me this is the most complete Barca we’ve seen in several years. Such a dangerous game away to Celta especially after the international break. Rotations for Rakatic and Masch and the Busi against Almeria are great too. I really liked Neymars early long crosses in to Messi, unlucky they didn’t bear fruit this game. They opened up the defense like butter.
    Finally a defense worthy of our great Messi!! Such great signings this past year! never would have expected that.
    When this team finally gels and the players are all on color they’ll outshine Pep.

  12. luisthebeast
    April 6, 2015

    I have a statistic to share just for fun:Pep Guardiola record in CL semifinals:2W 4D 4L GOALS 8-13.With teams that they had a midfield and not with this bad Lucho team with no midfield.Funny heh;-)

  13. kosby
    April 6, 2015

    Its great to see us getting points out of that game – especially in the crucial part of the season.

    There are questions for which I don’t have the answer to
    – why did we not create more chances yesterday ?
    – what are we doing to prevent this from happening again ?

    Till now Ive read things like – not having a break due to international fixtures, opponent played at a high standard (kudos to Celta btw, very good 1st half).

    – How much of an effect did the team we put out have on the proceedings ?
    – If we cant play the usual midfield since they need to rest, do we have enough back up players to take the baton when required ? eg: I’dve thought it would be a perfect game for someone like Sergi Roberto. If he doesn’t play these games, does it mean he should be replaced with someone who will ?
    – Who else takes up the creative role when Messi isn’t at his usual stratospheric level ?

    As Peter pointed out, I think we have a huge advantage over the last couple years when we couldn’t score via set pieces..but I was wondering how many “creators” do we have apart from Messi from open play. Surely we can’t expect MSN to play each and every game at their highest level…

    • April 6, 2015

      That is the danger of world-class players, kosby. The huge dropoff from Messi/Suarez/Neymar to ???. Pedro is Pedro, but even as his best, he wasn’t equivalent to any of those players. It’s the weakness of an attack built around specific abilities, and the risk/reward process of club football.

      I think we created chances. Recall the early Messi run, and Neymar shanking the putback. If Messi hits a better shot or Neymar finishes like he can, it’s 0-1 early and Barça almost certainly strolls to a win, as usual after an early goal.

      Our backups are more than adequate in defense, lag a bit in midfield are aren’t up to snuff in attack. Suarez is more like Eto’o with his link-up play and movement, rather than creation. But Messi and Neymar can create from open play, and so can Iniesta, when he moves up.

      But Messidependencia is just as acute as ever, isn’t it? Whether that speaks to his quality or something else is interesting.

      • April 7, 2015

        Nice thoughts, Kosby. Like Kevin say, we can manage the defence and attack even without one or two from the first choice. It is in the midfield we suffer. Messidependencia before was mostly in scoring goals. Now, others can score, even Mathieu is consisten :)-. We are now suffering from Messidependencia in the creative side.

      • Son
        April 7, 2015

        Kxevin, what according to you is our lack of penetration in some games when our forwards are helpless? Is it because of our midfield or our lack of movement in forqard or not the wrong tactics? We witness this often when we play teams with great discipline in the backline.

    • ciaran
      April 6, 2015

      I think it’s fairly bad to be honest.
      Blaming the fact that Iniesta is underperforming at every aspect of midfield play on Lucho’s tactical approach is verging on comical.
      He’s beating less players ooff the dribble because he is further from goal??? Nonsense
      He’s making less long passes because he’s further from goal too?

      He is playing further left than in previous seasons but Alba is having a great season and is a much more important attacker than Alves at present so it’s only natural that the midfielder at his side has to cover slightly.

      People act like we have changed into Stoke City or something. I would like to see the same stats for Xavi and compare because for an older slower midfielder I reckon that he is doing a better job.

    • FCB16
      April 6, 2015

      Lucas isn’t very popular here, even as he’s helping take steps to ameliorate Barca’s future (grup14.com) while everyone on here just acts like everything is ok, like their analysis is THE analysis, howls at twitter or social media for not being overjoyed at a tepid win, defends board ineptitude ( We were NEVER going to pay that for Danio! Douglas may still pan out!” On and on. The posts in here are oh so redundant at times.

      • April 6, 2015

        The question isn’t popularity, or lack thereof. The question is simply ideas. More correctly, the question should be ideas, FCB16.

        Just as you complain about posts here being “oh, so redundant,” they are no less so than your attitude and comments in this space. Redundancy vs consistency is all a matter of worldview, isn’t it?

        If you don’t like what a restaurant serves, don’t eat there, right? If this place is so abhorrent to you and your views, don’t visit, and save your energy for places that are more in keeping with what you like. It’s how I conduct my online activities. If I think that a place isn’t meeting my needs, I don’t visit it. It’s that simple. We can all do what we like.

        I have defended Lucas Resende and his right to have whatever views he likes in this space, and in general when articles are linked here, and will do so again. The person who posted the article raised a very simple question: What did people think about the idea in the Iniesta piece. There wasn’t any bashing, slagging or negativity. None of that occurred until you came stomping into the room, attempting to right nonexistent wrongs.

        Lucas isn’t the only one taking part in Grup14. I and Barça Chief are also part of that project, myself as editor-in-chief, in case you haven’t delved that deeply into the masthead. It’s a worthwhile project that I was, and am excited about. When Rafa Hernandez approached me to take part, I did so gladly. Because again, it’s about ideas. Culers should be able to put aside whatever personal differences in worldview they might have in pursuit of ideas.

        ciaran disagreed with the piece and the ideas therein. The ideas. He didn’t say “I don’t like the author, so the piece isn’t good.” The notion was the idea. Again, the only person who has prima facie attacked someone is you, FCB16, in the tone of this space (even though it doesn’t have one) and the people who comment therein.

        The only person who seems to believe that any analysis is THE analysis is the cloak that you put over it. The posts and comments in this space are ideas. They exist here, just as other ideas exist in other spaces. They are commented on, or not, be they by Sid Lowe, Graham Hunter, Jen Evelyn, Lucas Resende or anyone else. I have said before and will say again: If we can’t simply deal with ideas, discarding all other extraneous personal stuff that gets in the way of a free exchange of ideas, what’s the point?

        If you want to attack me, do so directly. The view isn’t that “Douglas may still pan out.” It is that we don’t know what is going to happen, so why not sit tight until we do? And it is MY assertion that FC Barcelona is not going to pay 39M for Danilo. You know my views on the board, unless you wish to ignore them for the purposes of your hostility. In case you haven’t been paying attention, I detest them, and will be flying to Barcelona in July for the express purpose of voting them the hell out of office.

        But that dislike doesn’t make me ignore a simple reality, which is that Danilo cost RM EUR39m, AND was a third-party transaction. If the club was going to pay almost 40m for a defender, there were other candidates. Cuadrado was 35m, and we didn’t pay for him either, even though he was a more proven and tested player. So yes, logic dictates that we weren’t going to pay 39m for Danilo. Not any defense of the board.

        You have good things to say when you aren’t crapping on me or other people in this space. It’s why I always struggle to keep things related to ideas. Instead of discussing the idea of paying 39m for Danilo, you attack me. Why? Instead of rebutting what ciaran had to say about Lucas Resende’s piece, you attack his ideas and this space. Why?

        Again, I have said this before and will say it again. We can, and should be better than that.

  14. luisthebeast
    April 6, 2015

    Yep we have a bad system.I hope we will not go to segunda.And if Iniesta is a world class player why to struggle in any system?He is 31 and it s logical to have a little drop in form.

  15. dl
    April 6, 2015

    42: I think the article makes some worthwhile points, but it is a little reductive. Iniesta has been ‘off’ for some time now — last season there was the incident around his contract renewal; apparently he was upset when the management let go a physio or something; while I haven’t heard/read anything I wouldn’t be surprised if he is annoyed also at the treatment of Zubi and Puyol’s decision to leave as well. Just a sense, but I get the feeling he is kind of depressed, but really who can say?

    But times certainly change, and the team cannot be what it was in the past, which is both a good and a bad thing. Good because we get to see a new version of barca, bad if you think the past version was the only one that can succeed or bring you joy. As hard as it must be for us fans to accept change, think how it must be for the principals involved?

    And on the topic of Rafinha (not directed at you, 42), I think we all need to chill just a little bit. He has great tools, lots of people to learn from, in short a bright future — he has to be every bit as promising as Xavi was at his age. It is cruel to compare him to Xavi, and throw him overboard because he isn’t in the same league. Xavi wasn’t in his (Xavi’s) league when he was 10 years younger.

    • 42
      April 6, 2015

      You made some great points, I completely agree that we are seeing a new version of Barca and honestly it excites me. Also I have the same feeling as you that Iniesta may be a little depressed–losing his potential 2nd child certainly also contributed to that, I imagine. 🙁 He admitted in an interview that 2014 was a really bad year for him. We shouldn’t ignore how psychological aspects affect players because they are real people who are affected by the ups and downs in life as all of us. And Don Andres looks like a sensitive person compared to the likes of Pique Neymar and Alves. Anyway I really hope we win some trophies this season to cheer him up!

      About Rafinha, he is definitely a talented kid and I think he has a lot of potentials. He performed wonderfully in the Eibar game (correct me if I’m wrong) when people were doubting Lucho’s decision to start him. He brings a lot of mobility to the game and isn’t afraid to go forward. But I thought Rakitic would be more suited to play in this game than him. And comparing anyone to Xavi is criminal. Honestly I think we should abandon the mindset of “finding the next Xavi” once and for all, because there is never going to be another Xavi. Instead, we should be thinking “how should we improve our midfield based on our current system of play?”

      • bcdr
        April 6, 2015

        IIRC, becoming manager, what Lucho did, signed a midfielder. He didn’t search next Xavi, he searched the possible best candidate for his system. And he got it in Rakitic.

      • 42
        April 6, 2015

        Excuse my ignorance but what does IIRC mean? 😛

      • bcdr
        April 6, 2015

        If I Recall Correctly 🙂

      • April 6, 2015

        Iniesta has been struggling with form for some time, and not just this season. Is he “past it?” No. But he is aging, and with that, skills change.

        And as systems change, players need to adapt to those changes, and Iniesta is wrestling with adaptation to the Enrique system. That will happen, and will happen to a player who, as the article notes, has been playing in a certain style his entire career.

        What’s more interesting for me is what the team additions mean to the traditional role of Iniesta. Neymar and Alba working the left channel means that the usual playground for Iniesta, who would roam from center channel to left touchline, has changed. Neymar also has the duty of prising open the defense with his dribbles, a task that Iniesta used to perform so well.

        The midfield and its emphasis have changed under Enrique. That’s definitely true. What’s unfortunate is that we don’t know how Vilanova was going to adapt the team. We only have hints in the more vertical style that was being played before he had his relapse.

        Without question, this Barça isn’t as consistently pretty as other editions of this team. Where I differ from others is that I don’t view that as wrong or undesirable. Everything isn’t in the results, but if a team is adapting to face opponents who have figured out the past style of play, what’s the harm in that? Iniesta is a consequence of that adaptation as he works into a new role.

        Xavi isn’t a real comparison, because usually Xavi will be brought into a match to be Xavi. No more, no less. Iniesta, in his starting role, is working into a new XI with a different mindset.

        Is the ultimate question effectiveness? Well, that’s a good question. Martino was dismissed because he didn’t win enough matches, so that would seem to argue for “Yes.” And yet Barça is being effective, but the debate is also about style, and always will be because we demand pretty football with out victories. That is only natural.

        The team is still changing, and still adapting. Iniesta, for me, will find his ultimate role as a modified Xavi. There have been matches where he has played that role more than in other matches. Against Celta, Barça was on the back foot more than any of us would have liked.

        But in the linked article, Iniesta’s statistics are pretty consistent, year-to-year, with only a few variations. He has a role to play, and will have even more of a role to play as the team adapts fully to what Enrique wants, assuming a new president doesn’t come in and give him the boot.

        The Resende piece is correct in that the new system has changed Iniesta’s role, taking him away from what we know that he does best. But that change began a bit under Vilanova, and continued under Martino. It’s a natural consequence of the arrival of Neymar.

      • Jim
        April 7, 2015

        Iniesta is a perplexing one for me. There’s no doubt he has been ( a little) less effective this season although not as much as some have suggested.

        I think you have to start with the person. Iniesta seems to me to be a sensitive little soul, in a lot of ways not really suited to be a football superstar. I think he doubts his own ability, is happier playing second fiddle to others with a bigger ego or more confidence. I think he is prone to swings in confidence and takes responsibility pretty seriously. He also I would reckon doesn’t deal with friction very well.

        Okay, I know a lot of the above is me reading into the little I know about the man. My favourite picture of him is still him on the floor of his house playing with her and her doll’s house. How is all this relevant ?

        Iniesta had a bad year last year for all the reasons stated – and his was worse than most, remember, on a personal level. I don’t know that you ever fully get over a loss of a child. Into this season Iniesta is coming off a poor WC where it seemed like many after the first game were blaming their style of play and both Pique and Xavi are deemed past it and dropped. Xavi his pal, and crucially the one with whom he controls a game instinctively, seems like he’s leaving and Iniesta is now the mister, not only in controlling the midfield but also as club captain. In comes LE and immediately friction. By everyone’s account he came in trying to impose himself and made, imp, some wrong decisions. Not important in itself but Iniesta is now considered the main captain so it’s on his shoulders to do the smoothing. Pique out of the reckoning and Xavi staying but obviously not a starter in LE’s eyes.

        That’s enough on its own but then LE’s new system almost completely bypasses the midfield and Iniesta is played far too wide to have any control over the game, especially as the two brought in don’t seem able to contribute a whole lot to the passing game. He’s having to run much more to much less effect. Then you have the crisis at Christmas and no doubt he and Xavi had a lot of work to do with Messi, despite having probably a lot of sympathy with his beefs about LE.

        Since then better results but he still sees Xavi able to offer a lot sitting on the bench while they toil in the midfield and his strength seemingly no longer valued as it once was. He could play the Xavi role but he is stuck wide on the left making it impossible. You have to be free to support on both sides of the pitch and go where you have to. Rakitic seems to be getting a pass from some for having to cover Alves yet Alba is much more of an attacking force this year yet nobody is saying hang on Iniesta is having to cover more than him. It’s no wonder to me that his mind is confused.

        To me, LE’s system at the moment is wrong. It is unbalanced and the midfield system won’t make up for a bad day from the forwards. Ironically, LE has decided on this much more physical, defensive, limited role midfield at the very time our defence is much more able to handle its duties than it has been since Pique/ Puyol played together. To me, Iniesta needs the arm round him, freedom to roam more, however you achieve it and an acknowledgement from LE that the midfield has more to contribute than hoofing the ball up the park and running all day rather than making the opposition do the running.

        Never better shown than in the last game. Some have tried to suggest that Xavi’s entrance was great but only in the “limited” sense that it meant they saw a lot less of the ball and became frustrated and maybe they were also getting tired. Really? After ten minutes of the second half? Without us doing anything to tire them out? Wrong ! They were loving it till then. However, it also coincided with our most creative period in the game by far. The triangles around their area were a joy to watch and provided chance after chance.

        We may well win a trophy or two this season because our front three are usually awesome but nobody will persuade me that it wouldn’t be much easier with a better, football playing midfield backing them up if they struggle. This either or business has me baffled. Nobody can get a ball quickly or otherwise, to Messi and co. Better than Xavi and Iniesta.

      • georgjorge
        April 7, 2015

        I know it’s becoming redundant, but please write an article on here. You make a lot of strong and interesting points, even better that they’re about my favorite player.

      • April 7, 2015

        Jim, after the first Clasico rondoblaugrana posted a commentary and I think the author pinpointed what’s going on:

        Defeating the lesser teams(by definition practically everybody but the very top teams) requires a more direct play and by that I mean “more mistakes”, because most teams don’t know how to possess the ball and because most teams, even in La Liga, would rather attack. Attacking makes them stretch, makes them leave space behind and between the lines, where Messi and Neymar can operate better, while at the same time allowing Barça’s midfield and defence become more involved in the game and coincidently be more protected*.
        It becomes a game in which individual brilliance is used to overcome lesser team play – and Barça has that individual brilliance.

        * It’s funny to think about that, but when you don’t have the ball, when you fight to recover it, you are less likely to get injured. When you are the one doing the tackling you go prepared. When you are the one doing the tackling and the fouling you’re more likely to injure than get injured, and that has long-term benefits. Barça’s midfield used to get hacked left and right, bodychecked off the ball, bruised and knocked, but nowadays since the play is more direct and more rapid the opponents don’t have the time to do as many interventions – and I would argue this helps the team.

        Against top teams, the rondoblaugrana piece argued, possession is key and it’s defending with the ball, because the gap in individual brilliance is either small or non-existent. In that case Barcelona needs to defend collectively and with the ball, which means Xavi. The positional play lets the whole team go forward as one block, maintaining the distance and the passing lanes, probing and waiting for an opening.

        I would argue that this is precisely what Luis Enrique does. He is playing directly against teams that he thinks he can handle, reserving Xavi for the later stages of the game/season when Barcelona has shown to be fitter and more alert and Xavi’s control can be used to greater extent.

        See, if Barcelona wants to win trophies, it needs to win matches. This is the essence.
        If Barcelona wants to win La Liga, it needs to get the most points out of 38 games, only six of which are in fact against top teams. The rest are against teams that are sometimes bad, sometimes good, sometimes ordinary, and sometimes relying on schedules in the calendar. To use a nice quote from the original Fast and Furious motion picture, “Ask any racer. Any real racer. It don’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning’s winning.” It rings true especially after this weekend.

        To win Copa del Rey, Barcelona had to eliminate four teams in two-leg eliminations and has to defeat Athletic in the final. Of these nine games Barcelona had to face a team from Segunda B, the current Nr. 16 and 6 in the table, as well as Atletico and there will be Athletic in the final. So two, call them three matches against top teams, out of nine.

        It’s only in the Champions that Barcelona faces top teams and it’s only in the later stages.
        By this I mean what we all know – Barcelona needs to win against top opposition in the later part of the season, which we have reached. But to be able to play and win against those, Barça’s players need to get to that part of the season fresh and rested, and injury-free.

        Remember when last season Barcelona had to fight against Real in the CdR final without Puyol, without Pique, Neymar and Valdes, without Alba(injured after 13 minutes), with Bartra not having recovered from his injury completely?
        Remember Atletico in the Lisbon final when they were spent after 70 minutes and started cramping and limping?
        Remember Barcelona against Bayern, when Messi was walking injured, when Busquets was playing injured, when Puyol and Mascherano were injured and were unavailable so that there was a point when Pique and Montoya were the CBs?

        These are all cautionary tales. Heed them. Beautiful football is awesome, but when your guys are unable to run and are kicked until they fall, it’s not beautiful at all. So yes, even if it means that Iniesta is not contributing that much, if it means that Iniesta is reaching the vital stage of the season with the capability to contribute, I will take it.

        Yes, the team relies more on individual brilliance to win, especially the individual brilliance of the striker trio, and when they have an off day the team struggles – but there will be days like these all throughout the season, and for such moments Luis Enrique and JC Unzué have used set pieces to glean vital goals. This, in a way, is also a manner to limit the “Messidependencia”.

        And I will gladly take that too, without complaint. There´s a long road ahead.

      • kosby
        April 7, 2015

        brilliant comment.

      • Jim
        April 7, 2015

        If I thought LE was intending to use Xavi and Iniesta in the way you describe, Peter, I it would be a persuasive argument. I’m not sure he does. I thought Balague summed it up well on Revista. People in Barcelona, he said, aren’t happy because it turned into an Enrique vs Enrique game. I thought that summed it up pretty well and we didn’t come out well doing that. Playing direct and diminishing ( deliberately) the influence of your best players doesn’t seem like a sensible tactic to me.

        Bottom line for me, right or wrong, is that we’re going to great lengths to solve a problem which we had last season but we’re never going to have this season. Last season we made far too many individual errors in vital games in defence (yes, largely due to one of our CBs) and our forwards couldn’t break down packed defences on some occasions. We’ve tightened the defence considerably, imo, added height, improved the one on one ability of our forwards, gained a penalty box striker ( and more) and given Messi more space.

        Given that with all those flaws last year we still came very close in the big ones, why do we still need to weaken our midfield ?

      • April 7, 2015

        The essential complexity for me is when it boils down to something being “wrong” because one player isn’t doing what he used to, or a component of the team isn’t functioning in a manner to which people have become accustomed.

        Frankly, if Iniesta has to subsume his runs to nowhere for the sake of overall team excellence, that is fine by me. Because Iniesta isn’t the point, nor is the midfield. The point for me is how does a team such as Barça function in a modern game, a game that had its system figured out, hence the diminishing results.

        Enrique’s system is producing the kind of football that, prima facie, is equipped to manage against teams who set up to play Barça a certain way. And with the set piece improvement, there are other ways to score, as well.

        As pretty as lovely triangles are, watching the team, match after match, make curlicues outside an opponent’s 18-yard box got old. Adaptation was required, and it happened. So far, the results are arguing in favor of that adaptation.

        Football loves things to be as they were. For me, I am much more interested in how a team shifts its approach to manage a shifting competitive landscape. Enrique seems to have figured that out. So is his system “wrong,” or is is the perception of what he is doing that needs a rethink?

      • April 7, 2015

        Hi, 42, welcome to the Blog.

        Iniesta plays further back, which is understandable – Neymar is in the same area, Alba has to be covered somewhat when he makes his runs, and Barcelona as a whole tend to stay a bit to the back.

        Let’s be honest, like completely honest, guys: With Messi, Neymar and Suarez playing Barcelona won’t have the possession stats it had earlier. But I have to say, we forget that for quite a while Barcelona’s midfield has had to be reinforced in order to perform.

        Look at Manchester City away last season, both Liga Clasicos last season and hell, previous seasons as well. What you will see is that Barcelona often had a midfielder in the wing.

        There’s no wonder why Barcelona had the possession – Messi playing in center or on the right, but with Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets occupying the midfield and one of the wings. This meant lots of triangles, lots of passes and key passes. But it didn’t necessarily mean penetration. And there came a moment when opposing teams, especially smaller ones, got to thinking “Why the hell should we try and contest the midfield? Why don’t we just join the lines and cluster Messi, it’s not like the others are scoring machines.”

        So yeah, it worked. And Barcelona had to find another way. Barcelona has found that way, but it comes at a price, and that price is less possession. That price is less activity from the midfield, because when you have really good strikers(and let’s face it, Barcelona’s is the best striker trio in the world) you want to give them the ball as soon as possible.

        This also means that sometimes particularly confident opponents, who play in general with lots of possession, will try and do the unthinkable and contest the midfield. And like Barcelona used to do when Xavi couldn’t play two times per week 100%, they add midfielders, creative midfielders.

        Celta came out with what are basically five creative midfielders. One of them was a big strong guy, so he was the designated pivote, but the reality was that from the front six only Larrivey was a striker. Nolito, Orellana, these are guys in the mold of attacking midfielders, not “outside striker” that are Neymar, Bale and Ronaldo.
        Five midfielders and you wonder why Barcelona couldn’t contol while they were fresh?

        Anyway, for me Lucas’ article fails in its purpose, because it looks more about kvetching than writing and more interested in finding excuses and blaming.

      • 42
        April 7, 2015

        I agree. When you have three world-class strikers like MSN, what you want is to maximize their attacking potential, and having a possession-based midfield that pushes the opponent’s whole team into packed spaces is not very effective. So LE’s Barca is taking a more direct, vertical approach, which made MSN score a lot of goals, but leave the back more exposed. Luckily Pique, Mathieu and Masche and Bravo have been absolutely world class, and although we still average ~1 goal allowed/game since this year, we were always able to outscore our opponents.

        What’s interesting is we’ve started to see a pattern during this season: we can beat top-class teams and many times even with a stunning footballing display (e.g. vs Atletico and City) but often struggle to get past relatively “weaker” teams that are more organized, more defense-minded and apply great amount of pressure in the midfield (e.g. vs Malaga and Celta). This is fine because every team has a type of play that they’re most afraid of; even the most perfect team in the world isn’t unbeatable. But if Lucho doesn’t learn each time we face these teams it can become frustrating. PS. Here’s a piece from a while ago analyzing how exactly Malaga contained Barca twice. http://www.espnfc.us/spanish-primera-division/15/blog/post/2313915/how-malaga-beat-barcelona-and-what-manchester-city-can-learn-from-it

      • 42
        April 7, 2015

        For the Iniesta issue, what I summarized from our opinions here is:
        1. There is no denying that Iniesta’s form has dipped this season;
        2. At least part of it has to do with personal, psychological issues from him that is outside the team’s playing style/system;
        3. He is forced to take on a more defensive role this season which limited his attacking brilliance; part of it has to do with Alba/Neymar being very offensive during the game, another part of it is due to LE’s change of the team’s approach this season, i.e. less control and possession in the midfield.
        Lucas’s article only pointed out the issue of Iniesta’s decline but failed to provide a solution in the current situation, so I don’t know how constructive his piece might be. It seems that in the current Barca system, Iniesta’s attacking talent has to be partly sacrificed unfortunately for the best of the team, because of the reality that we don’t have a controlling midfielder like prime Xavi anymore.

      • April 7, 2015

        1. There’s no denying that Iniesta’s form has dipped – if you are comparing it to his previous performance without considering the changed context.

        That’s the whole point. People in general and Lucas in his article look and see the “diminishing form” in raw numbers. They also see the context, as in “he has to cover for roving Alba” and “he has to defend more”, but they aren’t really connecting the two.

        My point is that it’s logical that due to his changed role and requirements, his performance is not what it used to be, but we don’t really discuss that his role is not what it used to be.

        What we should be talking about is whether Iniesta is managing to do his new job and we will not see that unless we define what his new job is and what skills and stats we should be looking at.

        Just an example: When a creative midfielder is tasked with defensive midfield duties, do you still look at his key passes and dribbles, or do you look at the interceptions, tackles and recovered balls?

  16. Cyclops
    April 6, 2015

    well, we won, and i guess i’m supposed to be happy that ATLEAST we won, right..thing is i cant help feeling quite frustrated- which has been a regular occurence since the past couple of games now..the second half wasnt particularly the best in the world, but was far better than the performance in the first half, which was to be honest, quite useless..i just dont think enough meaningfull effort was put in the first half by the team in GENERAL..some of y’all might want to indict the forwards as being guilty in that regards, but i think thats where the arguments comes up- thats LE is not just getting it right with the mids..i’d think with a solid mids, even in games like this were the forwards dont come to the party, at least the mids wont be hard put to string three passes together, they would be able to exert some level of control in the game, so that at the worst they’d put out a much more decent performance, so much that at the end we’d all say, ‘the mids weren’t particularly brilliant today but had the forwards been on their game, it w’d have been better’..take the clasico for instance, much has been said about the absence of busquet and how it cost the team, but i ask if LE has been working with right ideas particularly on the mids, wouldn’t even a mascherano- while not exactly giving out a busquet-ish performance, have performed better and in effect the team in general, in terms of ball retention ball distribution etc, atleast something better than the eye-painfull first-half performance we got..when pep was around, basically any team he put out there- even if it was an XI of neophides from the team B, dosnt matter, they’d all still find a way put out the same sterling, match-controlling performance a xavi and friends would have given..why’s that?..certainly guardiola didnt clone xavi and co, and simply change their faces, putting them out there and decieving us all that there were form the team B, right?..dont think so, its called a SYSTEM the RIGHT SYSTEM..so basically its dosnt matter who you put out there, just pass them through the system, and BAM, they’d give you same thing time and time again..i really cant count how many times it’s been said, that LE employing a direct a style- maybe not necassary a system but probably a tactics, dosnt mean he should make his mids less important..even a direct tactics works better with great passers and a sound mids..especially considering that it wont be preffered always, at some point the team woud always have to switch to a more possesion- oriented approach..so why depriotized your mids then? just beat my imagination..you really dont have to stick with tiki- taka neither do you have to stick with verticalidad either, but me think you can have both, i think you can combine both to devastating effects..its called EVOLUTION the RIGHT EVOLUTION..point is anywhich way the mids matter a lot..btw,i manage to stay away from sports shows today, thereby escaping pro-ronaldo rants, YAY!

  17. Cyclops
    April 6, 2015

    And yeah, kxevin yo make great point, depening on one’s point of view tho’..from your perspective, i’d tend to agree with ya wholeheartedly, since you always nail everything down..football’s quite a complex stuff, the team was way better in the second half, which leave me wondering why there didnt put out such performance in the first half..its quite baffling, expecially when you’d been banking on them to win and win well..its just seems like footballers just decide not to play well at some certain point..and considering that i’d hope they’d got the memo from madrid, oh well, didnt look they got it… btw i’m starting to hear sergi roberto while a lot these days, and thats suprising..i thought yall had passed the jury on him and consigned him to the marshes of the rejected…well, just means that no matter what, never lose hope, l o l…for neymar, i’d once posted here that messi off-form last season can be attributed to the tax saga he had..i also said the motive of the guys who brought ressurected that case up against neymar was just simply to stall his momentum..anyway, i’d prayed it didnt happen..but when you look back to when neymar started giving out not-so good performances, you’d notice it’s in close proximity with when the whole tranfer talk came up…can only pray, he gets his mojo back soon and like some one said dont pull a cesc…(heaven forbid- cant say that more solemnly)

  18. Cyclops
    April 7, 2015

    Martino ?? i have a problem with using martino as basis for comparison..where do you place him ?? as a proponent of tiki-taka ?? come on now…thats a no no for me…that’d be like seeking an easy way to drive your point home.. martino himself didnt really had the opportunity to shape the team as he wanted..his ideas in the first half of the season came close to how he wanted his team to look like…his turn-around in the secondhalf of the season was more of a knee-jerk reaction to me..and even then he didnt had the right personel and the right environment to pull it off..tha case against LE is quite simple, yeah we agree that the team needs to evovle, but the path he has chosen for that evolution, leave much to be desired..a case of not going about it the right way..even pep evovle his team, the version of tiki-taka barca played during the 2009/2010 season was quite different from what the team were playing by the time pep left..he made lil adjustments here and there, while maintaining the identity and core of the team..and all adjustements was to improve the system not to alter it, basically as a response to oppositions reaction against them..wonder why someone cant take a cue from that..yeah i said it, tiki-taka can evovle to suit whats obtainable today, and its will still be succesfull..i cant help feeling that the path LE has chosen is just a mediocre one(nothing i detest like mediocrity)..there’s room for better, really..after all said and done, SYSTEM is the principal thing, and thats the case against LE..Is his style sustainable ?? or would it just be a matter of time before opponent adjust to the team again ?? system is permanent but players are not..there comes a time when you’ll get pit against teams that can match you players for players, then its who’s got the superior system that wins the battle..and such teams aint far off, bayern munich for starters..say we get to face bayern in the CL, and if we do indeed beat them, would it be cause of a superior system or simply down to players brilliance..if its the latter, well we just wait till get better players..if its the former, then comes the question of sustainability, if we face them next season again, would we beat them, or would they have easily adapted to our system and ‘whisper it’ beat us..herein lies the grudge against LE..and oh, is the system attractive, forgot to add that…

  19. Cyclops
    April 7, 2015

    and talking about being dependent on systems, Barca is a team who’s beaten their opponent more as a result of superior system that players brilliance..and thats where identity comes in, all the talk about lose of identity..so folks who are screaming about lose of identity has got massive points, that atleast should be acknowledge..

  20. luisthebeast
    April 7, 2015

    With that logic(We have an indentity and we must stay focused in it)we must never make transfers because the players from others teams will need long time to adapt.So if we want to have that identity for ever why not depend only to La Masia??Do you want that??Do you have the patience to wait to build a new team??If Iniesta cant adapt to a new system,how we ask from Ibra,Suarez,Neymar e.t.c to adapt in our system??Can we make use of all their skills??We saw with Ibra,Sanchez,Cesc and now with Neymar that there are problems.So there two options for me:We keep our identity with academy players and wait for trophies or we change and try to use a new system so the new players can adapt faster.But people want trophies now thats why Samper Adama Grimaldo Sandro Munir dont have any minutes with the first team.I wish against Almeria we had a line up with Samper Munir and Sandro.And i am sure that they would do great.But Lucho cant take the risk.

  21. luisthebeast
    April 7, 2015

    And because i watched some games Barca B is not a bad team.They are very young,they had a coach who was not very good and they play in a very difficult league.But they are very talented players and some of them i am sure that will be in first team.But we are in 2015 and there is no patience.Montoya was better than Carvajal but look now,one is starter and the other play a game every 2 months.Thats not the way to go for a young player.They need games with the first team and not loans to teams that they dont use our system.

  22. lala10
    April 7, 2015

    Then what happens when the wins stop coming. When the trio can’t keep on producing? There has to be more to it.

    • April 7, 2015

      Agree. That is where set pieces, adaptability and a solid defense enter the frame. This team has gone route 1, used its talented forwards and made pretty triangles. The complexity I think is that for some reason many are believing that all three can’t coexist. All three should coexist.

      • kosby
        April 7, 2015

        I think a part of the evolution of this team for next season (provided LE stays – I really wish he does), is going to be to find another avenue for creating goals. Maybe Neymar can take more responsibility – possibly try and mirror Messi by dribbling in from the left to the centre. We’ve already seen him try and do that a couple times in recent games.

        Also I watched the match again last night – Iniesta was brilliant in the 2nd half. From 45th min to 62nd minute we had our best spell of football. Thereon it was still better than our first half performance. Iniesta played several through balls, ghosted past players like he usually does…it was brilliant to watch. I think the question is, why did we not play like that from that start – and IMO the answer, like LE has been saying, is that there are two teams on the pitch. Celta gave their all in the first half – maybe the plan was to absorb the pressure and then once they get tired, give it back in the 2nd half.

      • Jim
        April 7, 2015

        No team gets tired in the first fifteen minutes of the second half, though. Just doesn’t happen.

      • Jim
        April 7, 2015

        Agreed, but who provides the pretty triangles ?

    • bcdr
      April 7, 2015

      This rises essentially another question. What happened in the past, when our midfielder trio failed to create “proper midfield”? Did we score then? Won matches? If scored, who provided the creativity?

  23. 42
    April 7, 2015

    This is what I wrote in twitter yesterday:
    There are basically 2 different ways to think about the Celta game:
    1) Barca played below expectations in terms of how it “should” have played against a team like Celta;
    Or: 2) Barca can still win a game through set pieces when it’s having a bad day!
    So, the game can be viewed as either positive or negative, the difference lies in the perspective.
    P.S. Thanks everyone for your welcome!

    • April 7, 2015

      We have played poorly (based on our standards/expectations) and still won in few of the matches this season. Many are talking about how twitter is exploding, about which I dont know as I dont go there, but one reason for this could be the 9-1 win of Real. To see your enemy win so easily and then to see us struggle against a mid table team, might have been quite difficult for many.
      Right now, especially for this terrible April, what matters is the 3 points.

      • April 7, 2015

        As Sid Lowe correctly surmised in his weekend Liga recap, last season Barça would have dropped points in Sunday’s match. Things are different now.

        The RM result has no bearing because Granada was appalling. Any of the top 3 would have put 8 or 9 past them, the way they played. At least 5 egregious errors directly leading to goals, sloppy play and no seeming interest in doing anything except conserving strength for the matches they have a chance of winning. Celta is a much, much better team than Granada.

        For me, playing poorly and winning is a sign of a good team, not a symptom of a flawed one. Matches don’t occur in a vacuum, which too many culers forget. The opponent has just a wee bit to do with how things progress. Celta played their butts off in the first half, and caught Barça flat, counting on that international break doldrums. Then Barça woke up, and that was that.

        People also forget the poor finishing from both Messi and then Neymar on the follow, the incorrectly ajudged Neymar goal that was ruled off and Alves’ inexplicable scuffing of that shot. Obviously retrospect is a dangerous game to play, but we had more clear-cut chances than Celta, who only had the Larrivey chance (that he really should have scored).

  24. G6O
    April 7, 2015

    I’m reading that Xavi will stay until January, I hope that’s true

  25. April 7, 2015

    Since we’re talking about Iniesta…

    This is by no means perfect, but you should check out Iniesta’s stats. I’m lazy so I just looked at squawka’s comparison matrix and looked at Iniesta’s seasons in La Liga and Champions League.

    What you would find is that his overall form has slightly dipped in La Liga, but that his form in the Champions(sadly the only comparison is available for this and the previous seasons) is consistent and so far actually better – and this season Barcelona has had a comparatively more difficult group stage – last season Milan and Celtic, this season PSG and Apoel.

    Anyway, here are the comparisons between Iniesta’s last three La Liga seasons, all values are per 90 minutes:
    http://bit.ly/1aGuGAl

    Iniesta creates less chances overall, has not created any assists, shoots less and mostly outside the box, his passing is just as good but he does not pass backwards as much, his passes are longer, he tackles a bit more, he does not dribble as much – but when he does, he’s as successful as he has been. He attempts to win aerial duels and does so more often.

    And here you have the Champions League comparison:
    *http://bit.ly/1GI52GV
    In brief, Iniesta has been performing better in the Champions League so far. Sure, the data from last season includes the two legs against Atletico, but it also includes the games against Milan and Celtic, whereas this year those were against PSG and Apoel.

    Compared to last season’s Champions League, Iniesta’s new job description is evident in that his passing distance is larger, he tackles more than twice as much, he attempts to win aerial duels much more often(1.2 attempts vs 0.8) and wins them almost twice as often. What is a real eye-opener is the fouling: Iniesta has been fouled five times less than last season(two fouls suffered this season vs. SEVENTEEN last) and he fouls almost three times as often as he used to.
    As a result, Iniesta has suffered two fouls, but has handed out eight. Yes, Iniesta is become a doll-faced pint-sized thug. 😀

    Of course, this is to be expected – Neymar has been featuring much more this season, and he’s the most fouled player on the team.

  26. dl
    April 7, 2015

    On the topic of Iniesta, and Jim’s longer post up above. I agree completely with your reading of him, particularly that he seems to be sensitive, and would prefer to be a great cog and enabler, rather than the man. I had also forgotten about his loss of the baby — that must have been devastating.

  27. Cyclops
    April 7, 2015

    The performamnce against celta isnt really the problem- atleast to me…yeah, to some extent it might’ve got something to do with style and all..but really, the match against celta was to a larger extent the underperforming of the players, as regards to whats required by LE…i’m looking at the general scope of things, one thats transcend beyond the celta game, basically what we’ve been BANTERING about all season long: LE system….neymar to prised open defences with dribbles in order to create chances ?? so what happens when he’s nullified ?? we start the farmiliar running around like headless chickens again ??..while not priotized your mids and put more work into them so that when your forwards are taken outta the game, the mids can bail them out ??..this is just the problem, whenever the forwards underperformed, the whole team is in disarray…nobody likes that…my point is for the fact that the forwards are unerperforming, dosnt mean the whole team should be in shambles, its as simple as that, But NEWSFLASH: LE style dosnt promote that..so whenever the forwards are off we all start praying with venom for a 31 year old mathieu to come bail us out, brilliant tactics!!…whats wrong if neymar prised open defences with dribbles and if Rakitic also does the same..but no Rakitic shouldnt do the same, just he gives the ball to neymar and lets neymar do it all..then when neymar’s nullified, we curse zubi and hope Rosell rots in hell..oh boy!!!

    • agar2515
      April 7, 2015

      Prepare a vehement defense of Enrique culminating in a take down of Pep and ” how quickly we forget”. Frankly I am shocked at how, recently, some have decided to go back and nitpick Guardiolas reign in defense of Enrique. They are miles apart, what an insult to Pep even comparing the two.

      • agar2515
        April 7, 2015

        People in here moan about how negative everyone is in the present while showing such a disrespect for the past (imo). Why people seem to take umbrage with those not liking our style of play, as it’s seemingly no big deal at all watching decades of a system give way to long balls and set pieces , ” at least we’re winning”. Be happy with every win but gosh have some different shades to your thoughts besides being so utterly dismissive to those who would DARE say ” no midfield”. We’re supposed to be about more than just the ‘W’, but maybe that’s just me.

    • Jim
      April 7, 2015

      I think I agree with these sentiments, Cyclops, but sentences and paragraphs might help me decide. No offence 🙂

      • dl
        April 7, 2015

        +1
        But then again, you’re an ex-English teacher, no?
        But +1 nonetheless.
        I have a hard time reading stream of consciousness posts.

      • Inamess
        April 7, 2015

        For the record, I am a huge fan of Cyclops’ posts!

  28. ciaran
    April 7, 2015

    So many interesting comments…

    Iniesta is performing a different role to previous seasons but until recent weeks he was certainly underperforming. Saying that his role is different but not acknowledging that playing further from goal should mean that he would be under less pressure for dribbles and passes is ignoring one side of statistics just to prove a point. To me this is where the article from grup14 fails.

    For years people attacked Cesc and defended Iniesta saying that assists and goals were almost irrelevant to the latter’s game but now are complaining that one of the most important part of Iniesta’s game was opening up defenses and now Lucho has taken the opportunity away from Ini… something doesn’t add up.

    Iniesta has never performed up to his abilities in terms of sheer statistics. NEVER.

    Lucho taking an extremely talented midfielder a few yards further back in order to push an extremely talented forward a few yards further forward makes sense to me. Who would you rather have the ball in or around the box, Neymar or Iniesta? If you are thinking of answering Iniesta you should really rethink your answer even if Neymar has had a bad match or two. The finish for the disallowed goal alone should show the quality he has.

    The goal (pardon the pun) of any team is to outscore your opponent. With Neymar, Suarez & Messi up front we have the best opportunity to do so. If the defense can keep clean sheets you would back the front three to come out on top of most defenses most of the time meaning that the midfield should be there to support both the defense and attack in the most effective way. For me, Lucho is trying to make us the most effective he can and a really slow build up (as tiki taka had become) is certainly not effective anymore or not to the same degree.
    Allowing defenses reorganize and get numbers back is foolish if at least 2 of your front 3 thrive in space.

    People remember the Pep days as if every team submitted to the overwhelming waves of pressure in every single match forgetting all of the matches where there was no Plan B. Players came and went, as did coahes, and every coach since Pep has tried to make us more direct to cope with the flaws of our old system in overcoming organized defenses.
    Now we have a system where, at its best, we can cut straight through defenses in a few touches and get the ball to 3 of the 4 most dangerous footballers on the planet and, at its worst, leaves us extremely difficult to beat with physical defenders, midfielders who still maintain 60-70% possession and forwards all individually capable of winning matches on their own in a flash of a second.

    And my brother supports Aston Villa. Boy we’ve got problems…

    • agar2515
      April 7, 2015

      And right on cue it’s the ” rose tinted glasses/nostalgic romanticizing” jab at Pep to set up extolling of Enrique for being a tactical master with his gameplans of “Get it to 3 of the best players in the world ASAP”

      • ciaran
        April 7, 2015

        How dare I remember that there were occasions where we didn’t win important matches.
        It is blasphemy to acknowledge that there were flaws in the system. If there weren’t then Pep would have won 4 CLs. We got found out in some big matches and it’s ok to acknowledge it.

        Pep tried to get the team to evolve (3 at the back, false 9s, no strikers, 8 midfielders etc etc etc.). Tito tried to get the team to evolve. Tata tried to get the team to evolve. Lucho is now trying to get the team to evolve. And guess what… the next manager will try to do the same.

      • agar2515
        April 7, 2015

        I’m simply not one to throw out decades of success so easily. If it’s a lack of proper personnel that’s forcing us to play in such a way than whose fault is that? Lack of sporting project

      • dl
        April 7, 2015

        Hi agar. With all due respect, I don’t see the value of re-phrasing a lengthy post that was obviously put together with care, into a cynical (to my ear) one sentence summary. The whole point of this discussion blog is to give space to really talk and think in a respectful way. It looked to me like you were taking offense where none was given.

      • agar2515
        April 7, 2015

        I have been reading a tone of disrespect, gratefulness in here for some time now. He’s the most successful coach in our history, a sporting and cultural legend. Yet all I’ve seen lately is a gradual tearing down of the most succeaaful period in our history. For what? To defend Enrique? As if it’s Pep’s fault that we floundered so many years trying to recreate his ” tiki taka” ? That those of us clamoring for a better style of play are under some kind of spell.

      • ciaran
        April 7, 2015

        There is no tearing down of Pep’s Barca but there was Barca before him and there will be Barca after him. Let’s not forget that Cruyff won the CL, as did Rijkaard and hopefully Lucho will too.

        A lot of fans compare everything to Pep’s Barca because they don’t know any better and have no other successful Barca to compare to but expecting a different set of players under a different manager to have the same success as, in your own words, “the most successful coach in our history” is absurd.

        Blaming the board for neglecting the sporting project is oe thing but who exactly is supposed to be the 30 year old Xavi or the 28 year old Iniesta to run rings around opponents? What players in world football are capable of playing how those two did in their prime?
        Blaming anyone for not being able to replace some once in a lifetime players is ridiculous. What they have done is collected some of the best footballers available and put a die hard cule in charge so forgive me for giving them the benefit of a doubt.

      • April 7, 2015

        Hi agar, just a quick question:

        Did you watch Bayern win against BVB on Saturday?
        In case you haven’t, here are some stats:

        1. Bayern committed 19 fouls, BVB 16.
        2. Bayern had 49.5% of possession
        3. Bayern had a total of 6 shots, BVB 15.
        4. Bayern had a total of 101 passes in the attacking third, out of 425 (23.7%) BVB had a total of 179 passes in the attacking third, out of 396 (45.2%)
        5. Bayern registered 31 interceptions and 46 clearances
        6. Most frequent combinations in the game:
        Benatia – Neuer 19

        So… thoughts?

      • agar2515
        April 7, 2015

        You’re going to use this one game to try and prove, idk what? I’m not saying Pep was this infallible diety, just that hes earned a lot more respect than he seems to be getting these days. LE hasnt even finished the season and we’re already trying to draw parallels between him and Pep.

      • bcdr
        April 7, 2015

        Peter is correct he has nothing to prove as Guadriola already did it.

        Now the question comes, why Guardiola had to do it? To find the answer, I guess we have to re-watch some of Bayern’s match earlier of the season. In august or September, Bayern drew 0-0 against Monchengladbach. It wasn’t due to bus park, they out-smart Bayern. In January and March, Bayern lost against 2nd and 3rd placed team. Especially the way Wulfsberg won, is remarkable. The last three match Bayern lost, none was against bus parking team but because they were outplayed.

        So Guardiola has to adapt. And that’s what he is doing. It’s not about having the system, it’s about evolving the system.

      • agar2515
        April 7, 2015

        And we all know darned well how Pep wishes he could play, look at how gutted Bayern are by injuries. It’s like how some are saying ” See benatia isn’t all that is he?” When he’s been injured, playing with different personnel, playing in new positions, a new system ,etc

      • ooga aga
        April 7, 2015

        seems like there’s a bit of “talking past one another” going on here.

        agar, FWIW, as someone who’s been cominghere since the beginning of the offsides days, what 8+ years?, the people that you are interacting with in this discussion all fully respect and appreciate and esteem highly, what pep did for Barca. nobody is trying to tear him down or diss him. people, correct me if i’m wrong. but that’s not what i see happening, i dont see people just flagrantly and gratuitously being anti-pep, at all. i think it’s best if we take people’s comments at face value and if one disagrees with the statements people are making, give your reasons in a respectful manner. Forgive me if it’s not my place to point out, but it seems things started when, after Ciaran made several good points, you respond and dont even address them, you just come in, saying “and right on cue…” which frankly is belittling and disrespectful to Ciaran. It insinuates that Ciaran is simply reacting impulsively and not actually giving his measured, reasoned thoughts on the various topics being discussed. when ciaran said “people remember the pep days as if…” it was because that is actually what is implied in some people’s comments, and the point ciaran is making is simply that no era is perfect and each needs to be judged in its own context. and that we’ve got a fantastic football team, hallelujah.

        And if you have criticisms of what LE is doing, cite them, give reasons for what you think, and propose solutions. People arent being shouted down for doing that. I think your comments will be treated with respect.

        Finally I want to remember some of the amazing football we have seen played by our squad this year. We have seen glimpses of how good this team can be, and those have often come in some of the biggest matches, especially now that Suarez is integrated. I think even if you asked the players they would say, “we have a margin for improvement” both in terms of consistency and overall quality. And I think most people here would agree. but i think we’re doing pretty good, not just results-wise, but football wise, considering new coach, lots of rotation, new players, and especially considering Xavi is playing very few minutes this year. he is the essence of the beauty of the Pep years. Without Xavi, no Pep. 🙂

      • April 7, 2015

        *I* don’t have to prove anything. Pep just did it for me.

      • April 7, 2015

        The idea that Guardiola doesn’t get respect just doesn’t wash for me. To my view, Guardiola doesn’t just get respect. He is deified. We know he is deified because even the most recent example of his pragmatism is instead treated as some aberration, a glitch based on injuries.

        Bayern has had serious injury problems pretty much since Guardiola settled in, so that doesn’t wash with me. Nor does hyperbole. Mr. Honigstein is as neutral and complete an observer of that league as I have seen, and I thought his assessment was spot on. The question is, did Guardiola decide that was the best way to beat Dortmund. Apparently so, and it worked.

        agar2515, when you decide to contribute something other than sarcasm and contrariness to the conversation, your comments are very interesting. This isn’t about Guardiola, or an insult, or building anyone up or tearing anyone down. It’s about discussing a game, tactics and the application thereof. Your dismissive jab at ciaran above was completely uncalled for. It insults ciaran, and the spirit of discussion in this space.

        Further, it turns what could and should be an effective and useful comments thread into a bicker fest. I have been very light on moderation, because I think that this space needs to grow out of whatever is going on. But if this continues, I will be firmer in my moderation.

        Attack the ideas, not the person. If you disagree, offer something other than:

        And right on cue it’s the ” rose tinted glasses/nostalgic romanticizing” jab at Pep to set up extolling of Enrique for being a tactical master with his gameplans of “Get it to 3 of the best players in the world ASAP”

        Because that isn’t what ciaran was trying to do. I said it above and will say it again: we can be better than that.

    • BA
      April 7, 2015

      i’d completely agree re: Iniesta. and i say that as somebody who loves Don Andres and has always respected what he’s brought to the team, even when he was “underperforming”. he’s a true class act, and there aren’t many of those left in this sport.

      all that said, tactically it makes complete sense pushing him into a midfield support role to allow Neymar greater freedom and access to the ball around the box; Neymar is exponentially the more dangerous player. Lucho’s “stretching” of the play i think actually suits Iniesta, who was described by Rijkaard as a player who could play anywhere, and do anything, with the utmost competence; to that end i wonder if anyone remembers Iniesta actually played as a defensive midfielder for a few games in the early 2000’s. allowing him to use his full game is the best way to let him be his best for the team, which is what makes him happy. this contemporary midfield of Busquets/Rakitic/Iniesta, while not as utterly dominant as previous midfield iterations, works better in the total system and we should support that.

      i’ve never been an a priori Lucho detractor, and i respect his desire to shift the system into what best fits the players we have…. and right now a more elastic system through midfield, while perhaps “riskier” than previous systems, is what is needed and what is (sort of) getting results.

      • April 7, 2015

        Thanks, BA, and thanks for popping in. Your “voice” is missed.

  29. luisthebeast
    April 7, 2015

    Come on nobody here is a Pep hater.He is a very good coach.But not the god that some want to believe.He had a great generation of La Masia players in his hand and he made a great team.Now Puyol is out Xavi 35 Iniesta 31 Messi 28 e.t.c.How we ask Lucho to play the same way with different players?Past is past.After the elections Laporta will be here and a new coach will come and Cruyff will be back and we all will be happy and we will have 85 posession again and we will struggle against top counterattacking teams….

  30. luisthebeast
    April 7, 2015

    The big picture for me is that Barca is a huge club,the biggest and i hate when the fans see a coach or a player like the God that will save us from the doom.We lost players like Maradona Romario Rivaldo Ronaldo Ronaldinho but we found always the way to the top.And after Pep i see the fans act like we will never again be so great.Messi one day will retire and i am sure that after him we will be great again.Why??Two words.La Masia.

  31. FCB16
    April 7, 2015

    I swear some people here wouldn’t mind having Mou as a coach. Why not if it’s all about results and screw loyalty to the foundation we were built on ?

    • ciaran
      April 7, 2015

      Having 80% possession without having a shot on target isn’t beautiful football either fcb16. I’ve watched countless different versions of Barca teams over the past 3 decades and I’m yet to see a Barca that doesn’t want to dominate teams. Lucho’s Barca are the same.

      Your comment is amusing I have to say. Football is all about results and almost nothing else. We played great football under Bobby Robson but weren’t successful enough so he got ‘moved upstairs’. Rijkaard’s Barca played good football which was successful until it wasn’t and he got sacked. Tata Martino was almost successful but wasn’t and he got sacked.

      If one is a so called purist with no regard for results then you turn into Arsenal. As with everything in life you need balance.

      Pep Guardiola is a pragmatist. Maybe not to the same degree as Lucho but he certainly is one. He figured that the best way to win was to have relentless pressing, constant possession and opportunities would present themselves to win matches. He had some of the best midfielders in history to help him with that. Now, we have probably the best forwards in the world so pragmatism dictates that we should try to have them as our most important players.

      • Jim
        April 7, 2015

        I’m not thurled to the comparison between the two and I’m not sure it helps the discussion.m I look at what I see on the pitch and I’m talking about the players as they are now. And I reckon that you give Tata the same midfield but add Mathieu instead of Masche at the back, a second season Neymar plus Suarez with Messi moving to right wing and you have a triple winning team last year as well. I’m just not seeing what Rafinha and Rakitic are adding to the side at the moment which requires the change in personnel. By all means bring them on at the hour mark and give them time to bed in for their second season but throwing away Xavi’s influence when he is as fit, rested and keen as he has been for years strikes me as a needless waste and one which could cost us at the end.

      • April 7, 2015

        And I reckon that you give Tata the same midfield but add Mathieu instead of Masche at the back, a second season Neymar plus Suarez with Messi moving to right wing and you have a triple winning team last year as well.

        This, exactly.

      • ooga aga
        April 7, 2015

        I agree with you on tata, jim. tata and the team werent bad last year at all, despite some of the things said after it ended.

        I’m as big a fan of Xavi as you Jim. Watched almost every club match he’s played in his career, no lie. I think we dont know what Xavi is really capable of, physically, at the present time. I think at the beginning of a big match against a top team, or even against the young bucks of a good la liga side, there is a chance they could run past him at the beginning of a match. we just dont know and i think it is clear that Rakitic has a lot more miles left in his legs than does Xavi. Rakitic does not have the quality of X but what can you do. i think LE is probably being as smart as he can be about when to use Xavi and a large part of that decision is about X’s limitations over the course of a long season given that he is 35. And if you hear Xavi interviewed he says he is happy with the decision to stay and he also says he is featuring even more than he had expetced. but again there is speculation in every thing and we dont always know. but, hey, i hope too we get to see more xavi towards the end of the season. 🙂

      • Jim
        April 8, 2015

        You’re right, Ooga. I’ve no idea how Xavi is physically but he looks pretty good. I’ve never been into the writing off of players by their age. Giggs played forever at a top level as does Pirlo. Hell, even I remember enjoying the years after thirty in football at my low level because you knew it was coming to an end.

        Remember, we overplayed him for years and he had the added burden of carrying the NT. Neither of these applies now and he knows he is towards the end of his career so motivation isn’t a problem. I’ve also not seen any running past him apart from maybe a team which comes out full of fire for the first fifteen or so till he quietly puts them back in their box. The exception to this are bad pitches. I know with my ankles I can’t afford to play on bumpy or too heavy pitches any more so I stick to artificial ones. With his Achilles problems I’m guessing bumpy pitches are difficult for him ( even leaving aside the difficulty of playing any football on them ) and he really shouldn’t be playing there. However, You look at the first Clasico. He ran the show first half and even in the second when RM were starting to take over our defence could have and should have been able to handle that. We were again guilty of individual errors. With the defence we now have and the FBs being more sparing with their forward runs we’ve never been in a better position to handle any counters, even if they ran past him.

      • April 8, 2015

        Jim, I think Luis Enrique has seen that Xavi struggles when he has to face younger opponents and fitter ones. It’s understandable, in some cases he has more than a decade on the opposition and he has many more miles in his legs. Against teams that will not likely try to contest the midfield and wrestle with the midfielders, Xavi may start, but since Anoeta I haven’t seen him start a single high-voltage match. Because he is not young anymore.

        However, sub him in with half an hour to go, and the young colts are at his level of stamina and steadily tiring, whereas he is as fresh as a daisy and can dance away from their clumsy challenges, while their exhausted minds cannot keep with his fresh one – and this is very important on pure anatomical level – a tired player has a tired mind, due glucose starvation.

        Even so, Xavi has played quite a bit: he has a total of 1555 minutes between Liga and Champions; Iniesta has 1693; Rakitic 2148 – and Rakitic is the youngest of the three, AND the most athletic.

        Xavi’s addition for me is both quantative and qualitive, both on and off the pitch – but he needs the right conditions. He is not young anymore.
        It’s been four and a half years since he scored that ballet goal on Manita Day. Players rise to stardom and fall into obscurity in shorter periods.

        I don’t want to sound sentimental, but Xavi needs to rest and train and help train the younger guys, because there will probably come a moment in the season when he will have to be young and fit and aggressive again for as long as it takes – and the later that moment comes, the better.

      • agar2515
        April 7, 2015

        As usual Jim youre one of the few people I tend to agree with here, and you NEVER come off as smug or “know it all” in any of your assertions. Cheers.

    • April 7, 2015

      I swear that for some people here the alternative to “Pep’s tiki-taka” is “Mou’s parking the bus and playing on the counter”. No other options, no room for maneuver or any middle ground.

      Now, do you want to discuss or shall we continue with the false dichotomies and reductio ad absurdum?

      • FCB16
        April 7, 2015

        Sometimes I wonder what it would ever take for you to levy a criticism at the team or respect someones opinion that they dont appreciate our current style of play. You’re so hell bent on being right all the time.

      • April 8, 2015

        Peter has criticized the team. We all have. And the difficulty is not respecting someone’s idea that they don’t like our style of play. The complexity is that the people who don’t like that style, as they insist that people don’t respect or listen to their views, also refuse to listen to, or accept the view of anyone contrary to their own.

        So it becomes “supporting the board,” etc, rather than engaging in a respectful discussion of ideas.

    • Inamess
      April 7, 2015

      Enrique’s job is to get the best results given the talents of the players we have. Am I happy with the way the midfield is underperforming? No, but that is an issue with personnel. Sure we probably should have gotten Kroos in hindsight but overall our transfers this summer have been good.

      People are free to glamorize the cult of personality under Pep but an objective assessment is far less rosy than some would like to believe or recall. In the end, however, Pep is judged by the trophies he has won, so I don’t know why we shouldn’t use the same standard for Enrique. People are free to admire a Utopia they think is developing in Bavaria. I see an evil machine that must be destroyed and I am sure that the rest of the Bundesliga would agree.

      I am not personally enamored with Enrique, but this team has the opportunity to do something historic this season. If we are able to be successful while at the same time helping to bring down RM and Bayern then Enrique deserves the gratitude of every cule. If he is a secret admirer of Jose Mourinho and has a Toni Pulis poster in his closet, then I have no problem with that either.

      • April 7, 2015

        Good points, Inamess. The other fascinating thing to me is that Guardiola didn’t play the way he played out of romance, or adherence to a philosophy. He played the way he played because of the players that he had to call upon.

        The Ibrahimovic gamble was an attempt to adapt the system in a way that would give the team a different dimension. I do wonder what Guardiola would have done with a Barça team that had more physical specimens, what kind of football we might have seen.

        For me, one of the things I respect most about Guardiola is his pragmatism. I recall his saying that he played a double pivot at Barça because he wanted to win. I loved that quote, even as many tried to forget it as quickly as they could.

        I prefer my romance on the movie screen, or at home. On the football pitch, I want a coach/team that is going to figure out the best way to get in somebody’s ass, and then work to implement that strategy.

  32. luisthebeast
    April 7, 2015

    Great point Ciaran.I am 40y old and thats the truth we had great teams in the past.Bobby Robson had an assistant and that year we played great attacking football.Guess who was that assistant!Mou!But at least we never hired Capello just to win trophies with pragmatic football;-)But who remember that…

  33. 42
    April 7, 2015

    Here’s an excerpt from Lucho’s presser today:
    “You don’t know the atmosphere inside the dressing room. There is no team more united than we are in achieving the goal we have set out for ourselves. I can’t control what happens outside of the dressing room and I don’t care about it.”
    So basically while the fans are here fighting about Barca’s style and whether it has disobeyed the “Pep style”, our players and coach are united more than ever to walk through the April minefield, taking as much points they can take out of this tough fixture, disregarding anything from the media or the outside world that may disrupt their spirit…

    • April 7, 2015

      Exactly right. It’s all theory. Enrique has every bit as much right as any coach to decide how he wants to run his team. Supporters can either accept it, or rail against the heavens until things change.

      But I don’t see things changing, and I am not entirely sure that they should. Is the Enrique system “working?” Depends. If trophies is the ultimate arbiter, then we don’t know yet.

      But I think it is very clear that he does indeed have a system. Several of them, in fact. For all the clamor as our sprites were passing the ball around and being stymied by parked buses, and “I wish we had a plan B,” now we do. And a plan C, as well. This team can use a midfield-based passing game as it did most recently in the second half of the Classic.

      It can also go route 1, as it did for the Suarez goal.

      Or it can score from a set piece.

      I wish to heavens that we could have everything, beauty, excellence and perpetual manitas. But I tell you, in the years that I have been watching Barça, this is as close as I have seen to a team that approaches having it all:

      Top-class keeper
      Defensive solidity in open play and set pieces
      A flexible midfield that can play many ways
      Three of the best attackers in the game, who can go long, short or anywhere in between
      The left side of the attack is in business, for those of us who remember when that was only a fond wish

      I don’t think it is overinflating Enrique to say that he and his staff have, so far, done an excellent job. But so did Martino and his staff, until it fell apart in the second half of the season. This also happens.

      One thing is for sure, though, this has been one of the most fascinating seasons for Barça, on and off the pitch. That Pique and Mascherano video demonstrates more about the Enrique statement that you reference, 42, than anything I have seen in some time. That respect, humor and closeness can’t be faked. And as much as anything on the pitch, seeing that makes me happy.

      • 42
        April 7, 2015

        Thank you for your unfailing lengthy and considerate reply, Kevin. You are a treasure to this place. And I do believe we can win great things this season, just from a feeling because I see hunger in every one of our players’ eyes. Our dressing room atmosphere is cohesive, intimate; individuality gets thrown out of the window when everyone wants the same goal so badly. I mean, Masche saying he’d rather Busi is healthy enough to start in the Clasico even if it means he is benched; Neymar apologizes to Suarez for not passing to him and Suarez saying he has every right to shoot himself; and on and on.

        If our players do not have this crazy amount of hunger to win, how do you explain the fact that our players out-ran Madrid players in the 2nd half of the Clasico in spite of us having a mid-week fixture and they didn’t? How do you explain a 93′ winning goal by Busi, or numerous turn-arounds when we were initially down a goal this season? I don’t have any clue what will happen next but I feel like the players have the right mentality that could be the making of a historical season.

    • imranraad
      April 7, 2015

      He was asked about this in press. His reply was interesting: “I asked exactly the opposite: To avoid the cards”. 😀

  34. imranraad
    April 7, 2015

    Luis Enrique’s words on Xavi and dressing room unity from the presser reminds me something, I wrote just after January incident.

    “You don’t know the atmosphere inside the dressing room. There is no team more united than we are in achieving the goal we have set out for ourselves.”

    “Xavi will be important this month? Xavi is important in any month of the year. It’d be great news if he stayed, he decides.”

    Luis Enrique’s days are much similar to Rijkaard days. I’m not talking about coaching style or system – how Rijkaard won the dressing room.

    Rijkaard’s first season, Luis Enrique was the captain. As a young coach, he needed dressing room support. Enrique gave his hundred percent support to Rijkaard so that Rijkaard could have the control of the dressing room. Eventually by the end of the season, Rijkaard won the dressing room & Enrique retired by end of the season.

    From Graham Hunter writing ( http://www.espnfc.com/blogs/69/post/1828108/time-will-tell-if-luis-enrique-is-right-for-barcelona ) –

    At the beginning of Frank Rijkaard’s first season he put Luis in the team every game. We’d say to the coach: ‘Why are you doing this? Luis is getting close to retirement and probably he’s not the right guy in technical terms.’ Frank said: ‘I have to give the first opportunity to the ‘owners’ of the dressing room so that they are treated fairly. Then, if I have to change them and give space to the new guys or the young guys, they’ve been given their opportunity.’ Eventually Luis Enrique began playing less but because how he had been treated he became absolutely fundamental in helping create unity and progress.

    This season Xavi played the similar role what Luis Enrique played 11 years ago. Xavi helps him to get proper support from dressing room.

    • 42
      April 7, 2015

      Great insights, imranraad. Actually there are more striking similarities between this season and the 03-04 season. RM sold Markelele to accommodate new Galaticos star–Beckham; this season they sold Alonso to accomodate James. RM was having a great run and was leading the league in the first half of that season, but fell apart during the second half of the season; this season they had 22 straight wins but fell apart in January. Barca that season had a new coach, Rijkaard, and things were going badly during the first half of that season, so bad that Barca slipped to mid league table and people were asking for Rijkaard to be sacked in winter break, but then they had a number of straight wins that saw them making a great return and almost won the league champion (unfortunately Valencia won that year).What a great number of coincidence, if you ask me.

  35. agar2515
    April 7, 2015

    I cleeeeearly don’t see eye to eye with some people on certain things in here and that’s just fine. Im glad I have twitter to share my opinions with without having to be given a “talking to” or a history lesson. It’s only the internet after all.

    • agar2515
      April 7, 2015

      And Im only sarcastic or snide when people speak in the tone that I and a fair amount of others have complained about in the past.
      That some people here constantly get so defensive or finger wagging baffles me.

      So I dont appreciate the style of play? So what? Doesn’t mean Im not cheering just as loudly as anyone else.
      I don’t need a barrage of your own narratives or statistics to try and convince me that Im wrong.

      I am a FELLOW FAN. Why are you acting like Professors of Football to me? Would you adopt such a dismissive, looking down your nose attitude at me face to face? To what end? To be “right” about Enrique, to defend Enrique? Ok I suppose.

      • agar2515
        April 7, 2015

        And this extends to many other things. People who feel the need to rub it in the faces of others that Bravo and Mathieu have panned out, that all the “crisis” talk was ignorant and amateur, that not liking Pedro means we “arent getting” some sort of deep, footballing, nuance, and on and on.

        I just dont get it. Hey if some of you guys turn out to be ” right” and Enrique becomes an all conquering Barca legend then by all means pat yourselves on the back.

        I never want to be right at the expense of this team’s success, I get no satisfaction from poor performances and loses. Being able to gleefully say ” SEE! Told you so!” does not move me. SO in the end, remember that Im a fan too, you dont need to “convince” me to be on side or something, because I ALWAYS AM, even if I dont like the surroundings at all times.

      • April 8, 2015

        The fundamental issue clearly laid out above, agar2515, is your tone, and the way you personalize and hurl accusations instead of discussing an idea. You attacked and belittled ciaran’s comment above, without a thought for anything except spreading bile. And clearly I wasn’t alone in my view.

        Liking or disliking the surroundings isn’t the point. Stomping into.the room and throwing furniture is.

        Nobody is saying that Enrique is an “all conquering Barça legend.” What some are saying is that, style points aside, maybe, just maybe, the man has a clue.

        It isn’t about lecturing or being a know-it-all. It’s about respect. Jim and I disagree on almost everything, yet we can discuss our ideas without aggression, sarcasm or getting personal. THAT is the issue that I and other have with the way you went after ciaran, above.

  36. April 8, 2015

    I really do not understand what all the fuss is about. It is not like we have suddenly turned into Stoke or something. We are becoming more versatile and adding more weapons to our arsenal, how can that possibly be a bad thing?!?!

    When we can, we win in style, playing the “Barca way” that everyone loves, but we simply cannot win that way all that often anymore. Partly because of the personnel we have but also because opponents have figured out how to play against that style. We needed to adapt and we have. There is a lot of talk about Pep and lack of respect, which is absolutely ludicrous. He did what he did, it was amazing, he will always be loved and respected for it, but how is evolving and becoming better disrespecting him or his legacy?

    Kxevin is spot on when he says Pep is a pragmatist, just like LE. When Pep took over the strength of Barca was the midfield. Between Xavi/Iniesta in their prime, Yaya and an up and coming SB is it really any surprise that the focus was on the midfield? Now the strength is in the front 3, we have 3 of the best attackers on the planet, get them the ball quickly. What is the problem with that? You want pretty midfield triangles then by the time Neymar, Messi or Suarez get the ball they are going to be surrounded by defenders. That system worked fine when most teams had no clue how to play against it, but I think if the last 3-4 years have proved anything it is that opponents have figured it out. I think this is an important point to stress because it seems like sometimes Barca fans forget that there even is an opponent and that if Barca plays a certain way they will win no matter what and if they are not winning that way it is because the sporting project failed to provide the players to sustain that system. That doesn’t fly with me, not one bit. Even in its prime, the all conquering treble winning Barca struggled against teams that knew how to counter their style, the only difference back then is that there weren’t that many of them and now there are a lot more. Opponents will always learn, adapt and evolve to try and beat us and so should we. If we can win a game from a corner or from a long ball then why the hell not? We do not set out to win every game like that, we set out to win playing the way Barca want to play, but if we can’t win that way I would much rather win another way than not win at all. There is a balance to be had between style/philosophy and pragmatism and right now I think that balance is spot on.

    • dl
      April 8, 2015

      +1
      Hilal, haven’t seen you around for a while. Welcome back.

  37. April 8, 2015

    I have to say I am SHOCKED! Shocked, I tell you, to find such abhorrent Nuñez lovers and Guardiola haters ru(i)nning the place!!! They way they casually call the greatest compilation of football jubilation as “that Gladiator video” is so disgusting I’m almost left speechless.

    Well, there’s no other way to put it…

    FUCK BFB and all their writers!!!1!112″”!

    Just joking, I love you all. 😀

    P.S. Yes, agar2515, bhed, BA, FCB16, that means you too 😛

  38. lala10
    April 8, 2015

    Intersting discussions all around. I had like to add a few observations.

    Ciaran has touched on Iniesta’s role and performance succinctly. The problem is not the system per se its Iniesta’s form. He has been below par for quite some time whatever the causes. Put him in any variant of recent Barca teams and he had still come up short. He never had pace so i can’t say he has lost a yard of pace. His game has been based on intangibles and its those same intangible qualities that seem to have deserted him. His wand seem to have vanished. Until he rediscovers his mojo its not fair to criticize his failings on Enrique’s system.

    As regards Agar’s frustration and occassional spilling over of passion i can only say its a matter of perspective. Basically we seem to be split into two camps; on one hand we have the glass is half full camp which had include Kevin, Peter, and other inclined cules. On the other hand we have the glass is half empty camp which Agar and others fall into. Both basically right but straining to comprehend/ accept the other side of the coin but no less concerned. Now that Kevin is the most prolific blogger here, and one damn excellent one, his tone is in general half full, positive and consciously/ unconsciously shape the discussions along that path. That in my opinion sometimes leads to the chafing frustrated opinions that now and again grate this paradise of a blog.

    As regards Pep i would like to say that as much as there is likely to be a deifying of Pep because of the past there is also a danger of gradually chirping away of his legacy. Small, incremental ways because his legacy is huge its hard to crash in one swoop. Like people using the Dortmund game to assert Pep’s pragmatism whilst largely ignoring that Pep basically took a counter attacking team and turned it into a possesion outfit that defends on the centre. Kevin wonders how Pep would have fared with a team of physical specimens yet there he is in Bavaria with a team of specimens as physical as you had get largely playing pass and move. The other thing that grates (personally) is the implication that we somehow forget the old fallible ways of the Pep regime, that we airbrush the failures. The ardour comes from the fact that win or lose the template almost always was the same minor alterations not withstanding.

    Lastly i had like to say bravo to the blog.

    • April 8, 2015

      This is a damn wonderful comment. Thank you.

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