History, Barça and you, aka “Respect the past, but don’t let it hobble”

My wife says that I am like a dog. Not in the Messi sense, but in the almost complete lack of history. It’s like when you go out the check the mail, come back and your dog does a happy dance: “You’re HOME! I didn’t think you were EVER coming back! This is the best day ever!”

That lack of history in many ways makes life happy, and complex. Its obvious roots are in the “be here now” worldview that shapes my life path, the lack of a desire to carry the burdens of the past around. But in a more practical sense a lack of history is, in theory, liberating. It also makes me rather ill-equipped to properly assess many aspects of FC Barcelona, in a way.

Does history provide context, or does it hamstring? Can a respect for history veer into a reverence that blinds? This question is in many ways at the core of the debate that culers are having about the direction of the team right now.

When I evaluate things, it is in their own context. So Pep Guardiola is the best coach the team has ever had. Tito Vilanova had an extraordinary season at the helm, given everything that transpired. Tata Martino did a better job than I could have expected, given what he had to wrestle with. Luis Enrique is still a work in progress, but steps are being made in a promising direction.

Those with a stronger sense of history suggest that things aren’t right, that there used to be a better way of doing things. So the lack of a sense of history made me go back in time to watch Barça goal compilations and frankly, I am appalled. There were long balls, set piece goals, goal-mouth scrambles, Marquez bombs from (shudder!) the back line, even counterattacking goals.

And I didn’t know what to think, because I expected to see flawless goals at the terminus of 437 flawless little passes. So the search continued, into the perfect years. The first 3 Barça goals scored in the Treble season? A penalty and two set piece headers. My earth shook on its axis. Of course, that Treble season also featured some exquisite goals that came at the terminus of beautiful, linked team play. There were many different goals.

Then I went to this season, the one that history says is wrong, that has divided culers in a way not seen since the Yaya/Busquets debate, and I saw pretty much the same thing: set piece goals, beautiful team goals, counterattacking goals and the like. And this led to consideration of exactly what the complexity is about this team, this season and this coach that so riles culers. Of course it’s many things: there isn’t the sense of absolute control of a game that existed in the heyday of recent Barça sides; the midfield wizards aren’t working their magic in the same way (even as they are working magic of a different sort); this Barça is more RM-like in that it is evincing fight, coming back, battling for goals and counterattacking.

And it is worth considering, as people wrestle with their complexities about this Barça, just what tradition means for this football club.

Barça has its roots in attacking, possession-based football. Everything else is a tactic. The manner of play that came to be called “tika-taka” was a tactic born of the players that were at Pep Guardiola’s disposal, in part players that he requested. The sale of Toure Yaya solidified that commitment to that style of football. Had Guardiola inherited a team of strong, physical players who could run like the wind, it would have been very interesting to see what kind of style would have developed. That he was an innovative coach is without question, even as for me, it’s worth asking about how things might have developed with a different set of personnel.

At its fullest flower, the style that the Guardiola teams played was exquisite. But the team didn’t play that way all the time, just as the current or past teams didn’t play in a single way all the time. This team does at times seem “broken,” never more so than the two matches after the international break, La Real and Celta. It didn’t surprise me, and an excellent post-match by Rob Brown here made it clear exactly what the complexities were.

There were trends that manifested themselves in that match, just as there have been in previous matches this season, most of them rooted in a lack of team cohesion. But think about how Barça might have looked had Eto’o, Henry and Messi decided to not track back and help defend. It would probably look pretty much like the team did against Celta. Scrambling mids and a defense doing more work than it should. And without knowing what Enrique’s orders were, given the maddening stretch of matches coming up, it’s a bit difficult to draw any inferences from this match (or La Real, for that matter) except that the team found a way to get it done.

History is an extraordinary thing. It can hobble or elevate. It shouldn’t be ignored, and should be respected rather than revered. It is the reverence that makes things messy, and can often lead to a misinterpretation. To my view, based on what I have seen over the years of following this football club, Enrique is playing Barça football. He isn’t playing Barça football like Guardiola played it, or like Rijkaard played it, even as many of the characters are the same.

We can only wonder what Barça Twitter, had such a thing existed back in the day, would have thought as Ronaldinho joga bonitoed his way to golazo after golazo, or Rafa Marquez dropping those bombs from the back line (Pique tried to emulate him, with Guardiola’s blessing). It’s one of the complexities of history. A football club has legends, great players and coaches who helped shape its legacy. But because a club is a living, breathing organism, it has to adapt or die. Sometimes if you take the stifling view of history, it becomes difficult to adapt. It also becomes difficult to see things as they are, rather than how they are defined by history.

There are so many analogs between this Barça and the best Barça of recent memory, right down to the well-worked set piece goals. Instead of Henry/Eto’o/Messi it’s Neymar/Suarez/Messi. But things are also different. History doesn’t just include victory parades, speeches and joy. History also includes ineffective triangles just outside an opponent’s box, a 7-0 Champions League beatdown and Jose Mourinho dancing with joy on the Camp Nou pitch. History includes opponents who figured out the pretty triangles, a failed Ibrahimovic experiment and efforts to solve the challenges presented by the modern game as rivals adapt. Players are faster, the game is faster, defenders are faster. A whole system of play has been born to combat the beast mislabeled tika-taka, and a team has to move faster in response.

It must be said that Enrique’s Barça as it stands isn’t anyone’s ideal, not even his, if you were to catch him at an honest moment. But it’s what we have. History also includes culers clamoring for a Plan B as triangles washed away ineffectually against the sides of a bus. History includes culers wishing that the team could score from set pieces, and didn’t concede so damned many goals from them. History contains a lot. If we learn anything from history, it is that the mistakes of the past shouldn’t be repeated. We should listen to history.

In the bones of this Barça would seem to reside a Plan B and C, set pieces and freelancing as the team can create goals against the run of play, or against an opponent who has parked it in front of goal. History will ultimately define whether this is a good thing, based on a retrospective look at this team’s trophies, because that is also what history does.

What I wish that history didn’t do was hobble. As I said in the Celta match post, the past doesn’t interest me. The present does. I hate band reunions, keeping sentimental things and looking backward, even as history also defines us. My ancestors were part of the Great Migration. So I know about this history, its roots in the Civil Rights struggle and those battles. I understand the history even as I know that black folks these days exist in a different time. That’s history and how it informs the present.

But there are black folks who are still defining themselves by the ghosts of the past. In that sense, history hobbles. In a less-weighty sense, history is hobbling the worldview of culers. Barça is festooned with greats and legends. I often wonder why a coach like Rijkaard doesn’t inspire devotion. He came in with Laporta, struggled at first then won two Ligas and one Champions League. His record is of course sullied by two silverless seasons and losing the locker room, a situation exacerbated when he lost the services of Henk Ten Cate, but Rijkaard was one hell of a coach. History and legends galore. Cruijff, Koeman, Rivaldo, Henry, Eto’o, Guardiola, Samitier … I’d even include Helenio Herrera in that list not to mention many others, who culers should respect. Each and every one of them had their influence on the club and its team. What’s also interesting is how many of them changed things, innovated in ways that came to redefine expectations.

Cruijff of course is the linchpin of the thinking about current Barça. Henry was a truly unique winger, just as there will only the one Eto’o. Samitier got the club’s second Liga crown and snagged Kubala. Rijkaard ushered in joga bonito, and Herrera was the first consumptive, high-energy, fast burnout coach. Guardiola adapted what Cruilff did and elevated it, emphasizing the midfield because with an in-prime Xavi, Iniesta and an exploding Busquets, you’d be a fool not to. So he sold Toure Yaya and hitched his wagon to brilliance, coupled with Messi, who took off like a rocket.

Just as the Rijkaard joga bonito adaptation fizzled, so did the short passing triangles, leading the team to need another innovation. Vilanova tried it and his season was derailed by sadness and tragedy. Martino tried it but ultimately he lost his backbone as his verticalidad revolution fizzled. Enrique is next, with the opportunity to adapt how the team plays. With a front three of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, he would be as crazy to discard their gifts as Guardiola would have been not to lean on Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. So he is trying that, even as there are flaws.

The question is, how should history tell us to treat what Enrique is trying to do? That is also the challenge, because history is related to its evil twin, nostalgia. We remember crappy relationships in a rose-tinted way, thanks to nostalgia. That same secret sauce helps that aging rocker not seem as past it as he is. Nostalgia also helps us remember only the good things, and find anything else wanting in that context. That is a danger. So when we see that “Enrique is changing everything,” it runs into the ocular evidence of that second half against RM, when Barça controlled play with triangular precision, or seeing out the victory against Atleti in that same way. Nostalgia can make versatility seem an aberration, as well.

A lack of history can be a good thing sometimes. When you shut down your computer, the short-term memory is dumped. In a way, that’s how Enrique coming in was for many culers. Irrespective of the way that you judge that notion, it’s easy to wonder whether that capability is what divides the camps. Some folks look at Barca and see a team that is trying to adapt to the shifting demands of crafty opponents. Others look at this Barca and see a team that has lost its way and strayed from the base. Time will tell, of course, and what is history, if not the passage of time and events?

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Written by:

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

85 Comments

  1. bcdr
    April 8, 2015

    Kevin, You nailed it again.

  2. bcdr
    April 8, 2015

    Repeating the comment of last post:

    We must remember the history. As history shows what we did in the past. Did we ever play counter attacking football? If not, then what’s the definition of some Sergi Barjuan goals?

    Look his first goal. It was season 1993-94. Who was in charge back then? Johan Cruyff. How did Cruyff let us play counter attacking? I’ve not watched much of Cruyff time. I’d ask experienced people to share their thought on that Cruyff period. How did he form the ‘dream team’. How and why did they get so many success? And why in later years, the team didn’t get the expected results.

  3. georgjorge
    April 8, 2015

    Very interesting narratives in this article! Thank you. Something beautiful to read while waiting for tonight’s match against mighty Almeria…

  4. jsefutbol
    April 8, 2015

    This is exactly right. It feels like a lot of people are, unfortunately, caught up in the past and unable to let go. I sometimes look back to the Pep era with a lot of fondness, (who doesn’t) but it’s good to keep yourself aware of the fact that time sweetens memories and just because stars lined up perfectly under his commands, doesn’t mean he is the only person capable of leading a Barcelona team, or that there weren’t faults back then, too. “History is related to its evil twin, nostalgia”, as you so brilliantly put it.

    I look back to the trophies but when the Barcelona of the present doesn’t shine, I make sure to remind myself of how frustrated I was when Pep’s Barca couldn’t score if their life depended on it or when their defense had larger holes than my 4-year-old underpants. Things like that happen in a football team, and although time tends to erase them from our minds, we shouldn’t look at the present team and judge it by the standards our selective memories try to feed us.

    In short, the past probably wasn’t as great as many of us like to think it was, and the present isn’t as bad as we’re tempted to think it is. And we should try to judge the present more or less independent from the past. If that makes sense.

    Anyway, brilliant post Kevin, your writing never fails to inspire the reader to think.

  5. georgjorge
    April 8, 2015

    Bartra gets to play…and Sergi Roberto gets to learn from the great X. And Neymar gets time to relax (though I doubt he will).

    Bravo

    Alves Bartra Mascherano Adriano

    Rakitic SergiRoberto Xavi

    Messi Suarez Pedro

  6. agar2515
    April 8, 2015

    Well that sure escalated on Twitter… I do love Lucas, I appreciate his passion, but I remember those Pep comments at the time and get what you were going for. A lot comes down to how we perceive tone. I come throw furniture because a pet peeve of mine is someone reacting to my opinion or thought with ” Well, actually…”
    I never try and make someone feel like they are WRONG in what they are saying, I try and make them see where I am coming from. Sometimes people would rather be right than listen. I’ve recognized that I’m one part of that potential negative spiral in convo, but when still lose my cool when I am on the receiving end of the “Well, actually” attitude from people.

    I’m not even pessimistic, I’m not forecasting doom and gloom, I just don’t like how we tend to be playing, even as I acknowledge that Pep era wasn’t beautiful triangles 24/7.

    Let’s all try and remember that we are all on the same side, unless theres a MARCA insurgent, sleeper cell member in here..

    • April 8, 2015

      Thanks, agar2515. I genuinely appreciate that. It’s really nice to hear. I got a great many “We know you and what you meant” comments on Twitter, which was also really nice.

      All I can do in situations like that is what I usually do, which is be respectful, nice and keep on rolling.

      Thanks again for the kind words.

    • georgjorge
      April 8, 2015

      Regardless of who is “right” or “wrong” on here – I don’t have much of a stake in the matter anyway – it’s not often you see someone take a conciliatory tone on the internet, and for that I salute you.

    • April 8, 2015

      Now I see more clearly.

      agar2515, I never forget that we are all Barça fans. I just think that in this case too many people have created a vision of Pep that is larger than life and unachievable. It’s like the joke that Jesus would be thrown from the church today. 😀

      I see Pep not as a myth and a legend. I see a brilliant man, a great coach. But not this mythical creation. Pep made mistakes because he is human, because he cannot control destiny. Pep Guardiola’s time in Barcelona is an example to follow for every footballer, and his love of the club is enviable.

      But still, he is human. He lost games, he won with ugly play and waiting out the opponent, he burned and shone and then left when he had nothing more to give. He showed that he is human, with flaws – and this is what makes him for me even more remarkable and a greater example to follow – because despite his flaws, despite his mistakes, he did what no other coach has done so far, he achieved greatness unsurpassed and brought Barcelona eternal glory. He should not be idealized, on the contrary – we should look at what he did, see it clearly, all of it, because this is for me the way to really comprehend his achievements.

      And now he is the coach of a team which could be an opponent and if he is, he will do his utmost to eliminate Barcelona from the tournament. We need to accept it and separate the two. This is not hypocrisy, but pragmatism and realism.

      Personally I love debate and discussion. I enjoy looking for the holes in the other side’s position and I almost as much enjoy shooting holes in mine, which is why I ask for debate and not opinions cast in stone. Feel free to attack my theory, do it with proofs, interpretations of stats and data, and then we can argue whose interpretation is correct. 😀

      Thank you for explaining your views and for doing it with such cool candor. It’s much appreciated and sorely needed.

  7. ciaran
    April 8, 2015

    Neymar must be watching this from the bench praying that he gets on in the second half with the amount of space being created so far

  8. ciaran
    April 8, 2015

    A bad first touch from Pedro wasted a glorious through ball from Rakitic. A very nice match so far

  9. kosby
    April 8, 2015

    Kxevin, excuse the language, but dude – that was one hell of an article. Humans generally don’t like change and different fans like different flavors of the way Barca play, thats the truth.

    Also what a mind numbing goal from Messi.

  10. Palmquist
    April 8, 2015

    Hello!

    Im sorry to bother everyone with a non topic question. Im not sure you want these kind of matters in the comments. But if someone could point me at the right directions I would be really grateful!

    I happen to be in Paris the 15 of april and it would be so nice to see the game. It´s sold out obviously so my question is if anyone know the best way for me to get my hands on a pair of tickets?

    Once again I am sorry to bother you if you want this section clear from these kind of inquiries but any kind of help would be very much be appreciated!

    Thank you for a great blog!

    / Tobias

    • ciaran
      April 8, 2015

      Not sure when it’s the leg in Paris. I would urge caution anyway as fake tickets are a huge problem. Best of luck

    • April 8, 2015

      Start with the PSG official site. Tickets through the Barça site are already long gone to the socis.

      I echo what ciaran says on the counterfeiting thing.

      Another option is to stay at a fancy hotel and sic the concierge on your problem. The George V concierge is world-class.

      Plan C would be if you have a fancy credit card that comes with a concierge, like an AMEX Platinum or Centurion card. Might have luck that way, but it won’t be cheap.

      Finally, there is the stadium day of the match route. If you buy from a person outside the gate, have them accompany you to the kiosks, where the person can swipe the ticket to see if it is legit. I have seen people doing that at Classics.

      Good luck.

  11. April 8, 2015

    Well, that was easy. 5 headed goals in 5 straight games. Yikes! 4-0 is better than 9-1. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    • ciaran
      April 8, 2015

      Very good game, always in the bag though. Very well balanced performance and another clean sheet.
      Also good to see Suarez amongst the goals

  12. ciaran
    April 8, 2015

    I wonder if Ancelotti ever heard of rotation? They are always starting with the same team. It’s a marathon not a sprint after all

  13. April 8, 2015

    17-5

    Set piece goals scored vs conceded for Barça this season. Unzue gets a raise.

  14. Davour
    April 8, 2015

    Very nice day on the job. Like what I see from S Roberto as pivote, though he has only been playing easier opponents; seems like he’s reading the game nicely and benefits from increased time to make decisions on the ball. Hard worker, too. I would guess this is his future position – might even make him more useful if he remains on the team.

    Really need Suarez on the prowl up ahead, good he gets some taste of blood.

    • agar2515
      April 8, 2015

      Would be nice to see him out on loan with the intent that he play that position… It’s just that he’s not displacing Busi and he’s not better than Samper ( he’d only impede his progress imo) , best for all if he moves on

    • ciaran
      April 8, 2015

      Samper needs to continue improving too minds you. He was dropped at the weekend for the B team

    • Davour
      April 8, 2015

      Good point – still, Samper might need another season to be ready, no? I have not seen him play much, though. Perhaps he could take the step this summer already, especially if Vermealen (or someone else) can function as a back-up CB to free Masch up for DM-rotation.

  15. Son
    April 8, 2015

    Anyone watching Rayo vs RM? Good match really. Rayo plays well. They might easily concede too.

    • Davour
      April 8, 2015

      Yeah, half-watching. They are such a likable team, a brave, crazy bunch, no doubt. Don’t see them last the full game, though.

    • Son
      April 8, 2015

      I kinda like them. Really brave play. Look like it won’t take Rayo to concede though. Casillas save RM ass many times too.

  16. April 8, 2015

    Rayo bossing RM. Almost 67% possession, Casillas keeping them in it.

    • Davour
      April 8, 2015

      Lucky for RM they are not Barca; as long as they win, nobody cares about possession… (but here’s to Rayo’s second half – may they remain insistent and strong!)

  17. April 8, 2015

    0-0 at the half, Rayo all over RM. If they could somehow drop points, it would be a HUGE pressure relief. Barça will still have to slip up twice to give up the 4-point gap. Celta was one big hurdle, Sevilla will be the next one.

    I hate this feeling, the nervousness and tension of being in it and things being close. Last season was a mess with the ups and downs. This team inspires more confidence in me, it must be said. It seems much less fragile than last year’s side.

    But … sighhhh …

  18. Son
    April 8, 2015

    And here goes the interesting part. YELLOW to cr. Hahaha. Don’t think its yellow atleast this time.

  19. bhed
    April 8, 2015

    Writing this from a 1€ pintxos joint in Poble Sec. Seats were bought on La Ramblas, 12th row, center of the pitch. Life is good. God, I love this town!

    • April 8, 2015

      I’m positively envious. 🙂 Enjoy it!!!

    • deerwithwings
      April 8, 2015

      go to quimet i quimet! best pintxos in poble sec!

    • bhed
      April 9, 2015

      They were closed when we went by. Maybe tomorrow (Friday). It will be our last chance this trip!

  20. Davour
    April 8, 2015

    And the fun is def over. An easy assist for CR, and a quality finish from James. Buenas noches.

  21. 42
    April 8, 2015

    Really glad we have a game mid-week. Imagine the debate going on all week if we don’t…:)

  22. Gogah
    April 8, 2015

    Guys!

    hello. I havent commented here in a very long time, but have been popping in here from time to time.

    First, let me say Kxevin, what a prolific mod you have been here. The quantity and quality of posts have been astounding – messi like.

    Second, and this givves me great joy to share with you all.
    I am writing this from Barcelona. Just realised a dream to (not just visit) be living in this city for atleast a year to begin with.

    Folks in Barcelona, BFBers, please hit me up. It would be surreal to catch up in person. Took a long walk today and still recovering from the overwhelming beauty of this city.

    Later.

    • April 9, 2015

      I’m pretty busy this week but hit me up on my Gmail, levonschuller@….

  23. April 8, 2015

    bhed and Gogah, I hate you both. For the record.

    And I will be coming to vote this summer, so we will defo have to make our paths cross.

    • bhed
      April 9, 2015

      Unfortunately, tragically, I have to come home Saturday morning. Damn, this is a hard town to leave. If I was 20 years younger and didn’t have a house/wife/dog/career, I’d probably try to teach English or something and stay for a few years. One of the reasons I became a Barca supporter in the first place was because it was/is such a special city. Anyway, I’ll be envious of you this summer!

      BTW, is there any way to post a pic of the view from our seats at Camp Nou? We got SO lucky this time around with the tickets. I was next to an old Socio, who once he realized I was really into the game and reacting appropriately, kept talking to me in Spanish/Catalan, and all I could do was agree enthusiastically and politely with whatever he was saying! He also believed Bartra would work out as a starting CB, and that Montoya’s future was not promising.

    • Gogah
      April 9, 2015

      kxevin, for sure we must meet.
      I am dying to speak football / Barca / things in good english with someone here. Haha!

  24. luisthebeast
    April 8, 2015

    Good game,on to Sevilla now!Sergi Roberto was very good,it s obvious that he is a good player but he needs more games and it s difficult in this part of the season!And a big Thank You to the people of the coaching stuff for the fact that we dont have injuries!Amazing job guys!

  25. April 8, 2015

    Dani Alves’ agent confirms that the club has offered him a contract. She won’t say if they are happy or unhappy with it, however.

    It’s an interesting quandary that the club finds itself in. Alves is still, though diminished, one of the best RBs in the world and not at all easy to replace. I suspect that the club is trying to offer as short a renewal as possible, while he probably wants his last big, secure payday in a 3-year deal.

    Have to wait and see.

    • ciaran
      April 9, 2015

      I fully understand that Dani would want a long contract because it is probably his last opportunity to get one. I also understand that the club only really want him for another year so that they can sort themselves out in the next transfer window.
      It’s still difficult to see who is best placed to replace him. There’s so little talent out there at right back that I understand why Danilo was being linked and why Madrid paid stupid money for him.
      Bar probably Zabaleta there’s no one who I would prefer to have in my team.

    • bhed
      April 9, 2015

      I’ve been quite critical of him in this space, but funny enough, both times I’ve gotten to see him live, he’s been really impressive, particularly defensively. His crossing, however, was still atrocious!

    • April 9, 2015

      Yeah, Lev was talking earlier in the season about how seeing them live is completely different, especially the off-the-ball movement. Much more impressive.

    • April 9, 2015

      I’ll tell you whose off the ball movement impressed me and my ex-segunda A football playing buddy a hell of a lot yesterday in the Camp Nou.

      Suarez’s.

    • April 9, 2015

      Show off 😛

  26. bcdr
    April 8, 2015

    Dani Alves and next RB issue. Few days ago, during international break, I dig up some stat to find some interesting info. All stat were upto round 29 Villarreal – Valencia match and from whoscored.com. Only La Liga RB’s.

    As like Kevin, back in 2006-07-08, whenever I watched Sevilla, I wished if Alves played for barca! But in 2015, when I watch other teams, I don’t feel like that for any of RBs. Though I’ve personal choices, that different issue.

    I compared among – Dani Alves(Barca), Juanfran(Atletico), Daniel Carvajal(Real Madrid), Mario Gaspar(Villarreal), Coke(Sevilla), Nyom(Granada).

    Reason to choose them: Dani Alves – Parameter for any RB in barca, Carvajal – Arguably most promising RB right of La Liga right now, Juanfran – One of the pillar of Simione’s system, Mario – One of the most consistent RB for two seasons, Coke – Barca usually buys a lot of Sevilla players(Same goes for Valencia too, but they’ve a new owner now), Nyom – Was rumored in summer.

    Their overall rating: http://i.imgur.com/Mv395io.png
    Defensive Comparison: http://i.imgur.com/1fli6tJ.png
    Source: http://imgur.com/HkwrsNV,QplMjyn,xLMUklA,YPZO6LD,D11Ih4o,0PdgVax,2kvDLcS

    Offensive Comparison: http://i.imgur.com/mxPdGdP.png
    Source: http://imgur.com/a/9QuDR

    Possession Comparison: http://i.imgur.com/HFTPx3F.png
    Source: http://imgur.com/a/eP07v

    Possession is where Dani Alves is still GOD. And that’s probably the reason we still need him. Notable that, those teams forwards are better, their RBs key passes are better. Alves’s long ball are better than any one. Nyom and Mario has 9 and 10 less accurate long balls respectively. Where Carvajal and Coke have more than 30 less long balls than Alves.

    Offensively, Nyom is a beast on Aerial. His control is also better among all. Alves’s bad control cost us 3 point against Malaga. Carvajal has least number of dispossessed, Mario and Nyom are second and third least respectively and Alves has most(which is what shows his decline). In term of dribbles(which should not be a measurement for a defender), Nyom has most dribbles.

    Defensively, Mario posses better than any other. He is perfect as a neutralizer of an offensive LB. He has most clearances, most passes and crosses blocked, most interception, least dribbled past, third most tackles(12 less than first – Alves).

    Stat shows Dani Alves still one of the best in his job.

  27. bcdr
    April 8, 2015

    Dani Alves and next RB issue. Few days ago, during international break, I dig up some stat to find some interesting info. All stat were upto round 29 Villarreal – Valencia match and from whoscored.com. Only La Liga RB’s.

    As like Kevin, back in 2006-07-08, whenever I watched Sevilla, I wished if Alves played for barca! But in 2015, when I watch other teams, I don’t feel like that for any of RBs. Though I’ve personal choices, that different issue.

    I compared among – Dani Alves(Barca), Juanfran(Atletico), Daniel Carvajal(Real Madrid), Mario Gaspar(Villarreal), Coke(Sevilla), Nyom(Granada).

    Reason to choose them: Dani Alves – Parameter for any RB in barca, Carvajal – Arguably most promising RB right of La Liga right now, Juanfran – One of the pillar of Simione’s system, Mario – One of the most consistent RB for two seasons, Coke – Barca usually buys a lot of Sevilla players(Same goes for Valencia too, but they’ve a new owner now), Nyom – Was rumored in summer.

    Their overall rating: http://i.imgur.com/Mv395io.png
    Defensive Comparison: http://i.imgur.com/1fli6tJ.png
    Source: http://imgur.com/HkwrsNV,QplMjyn,xLMUklA,YPZO6LD,D11Ih4o,0PdgVax,2kvDLcS

    Offensive Comparison: http://i.imgur.com/mxPdGdP.png
    Source: http://imgur.com/a/9QuDR

    Possession Comparison: http://i.imgur.com/HFTPx3F.png
    Source: http://imgur.com/a/eP07v

    Possession is where Dani Alves is still GOD. And that’s probably the reason we still need him. Notable that, those teams forwards are better, their RBs key passes are better. Alves’s long ball are better than any one. Nyom and Mario has 9 and 10 less accurate long balls respectively. Where Carvajal and Coke have more than 30 less long balls than Alves.

    Offensively, Nyom is a beast on Aerial. His control is also better among all. Alves’s bad control cost us 3 point against Malaga. Carvajal has least number of dispossessed, Mario and Nyom are second and third least respectively and Alves has most(which is what shows his decline). In term of dribbles(which should not be a measurement for a defender), Nyom has most dribbles.

    Defensively, Mario posses better than any other. He is perfect as a neutralizer of an offensive LB. He has most clearances, most passes and crosses blocked, most interception, least dribbled past, third most tackles(12 less than first – Alves).

    Stat shows Dani Alves still one of the best in his job.

  28. luisthebeast
    April 9, 2015

    I have a stupid question:There is another country in the world where the biggest sport papers have the second team on front and not the leaders after a match day??To be clear my point is:Do really Spain love Barca??

    • April 9, 2015

      MARCA is Madrid-based. Greatest percentage of readers are in Madrid, best advertising is in Madrid. Madrid has always been considered “the team of the Government”.

      MARCA and AS are even a bit more pro-Madrid than Mundo Deportivo and SPORT are pro-Barcelona. There was a now ex editor-in-chief of MARCA who shouted from the pages that Messi has to be dealt with – either civilly or criminally(and in the context it meant Messi suffering a regrettable accident off the pitch). There’s AS’ Tomas Roncero, who with the result 3-0 for Barcelona last night and Almeria getting a goal ruled out due to a foul, he tweeted:
      “Almeria’s cancelled goal is lack of respect to ethics and real football in general. It’s sickening how these people win their games.” (El gol anulado al Almería es una falta de respeto a la ética y al fútbol de verdad. Da pena cómo ganan los partidos esta gente.)

      Just to illustrate my point: MARCA still persist in removing one Messi goal from his official count, while giving to Ronaldo one of Pepe’s goals – contrary to UEFA and FIFA official count.

  29. oddsbodiSkins
    April 9, 2015

    Wonderful article as always, Kevin! Reading your articles after a Barca game has become a good habit

  30. AngelCul1
    April 9, 2015

    Excellent article Kevin, as always.

  31. Biophestyne
    April 9, 2015

    Just wanted to commend Kxevin on his witty articles…..I really enjoy them………are u guys all Spanish?

    • Benj
      April 10, 2015

      Kxev is a top writer, him and the team are why I keep reading this blog, despite being a Liverpool supporter first and foremost.
      On the question of nationality, I think you’ve stumbled into an extremely multicultural space. From memory Kxev lives in the US, but has african ancestry and possibly some french? Pretty sure there are some spanish, some continental europeans, quite a few americans, asians from all over the continent, and even a couple of us Australians and Kiwis.
      All are welcome… All are welcome…

    • April 10, 2015

      I’m Bulgarian, but I live in the Canary Islands.

  32. turtletrader
    April 9, 2015

    Excellent as always! Everytime i read a great article here, I wonder why is’nt there a simple link to share that article on facebook and twitter!
    Somebody should look into it.

  33. Davour
    April 9, 2015

    Seems Alves will leave – rejects Barca’s 1+1+1-offer (understandably). Will stay for 2+1. To my mind, this seems a fair position on Avels’ side. He is only 31-ish, after all.

    • April 9, 2015

      Hopefully this is just preliminary talking, just like bargaining opening moves

      “This is my best offer.”
      “Surely you can’t be serious, this is a worthy offer if you’re Elche, this is Barça!”
      “Don’t call me Shirley, that’s first, and second, we will be bankrupt and our children will go hungry. No, what you´re asking is impossible, but I could give you a bit more, even though it will be financial ruin..”

      Alves’ agent is trying to twist the hands of Barcelona, and there will be some leaked info about Messi´s fascination with Dani’s clothes and how it inspires him, counter-leaks about Montoya getting much better, articles about some supermegaawesome future legendary RB who would absolutely love to stay put until January 2016 and then come and win for Barça, etc.

      😀

    • georgjorge
      April 9, 2015

      I think the preliminary talking has already been done over the last couple of months. I really like your future news outlook though. What I’m really waiting for is some info on how Messi isn’t all THAT close to Alves anyway, possibly with a twist that he’s liking the younger players (like Montoya) a lot. Or some pseudo-strategic articles detailing how the right back position isn’t all that important nowadays anyway. Or on the other side, something about the tragedy of having to choose between one’s love (Barca) and a secure financial life…endless possibilities.

    • G6O
      April 9, 2015

      The bit about the right back position not being that important is actually correct. The attacking full-back is on the left nowadays. One way to look at that situation is that even a past-his-prime Dani Alves could do an OK job on the right

  34. Cyclops
    April 9, 2015

    Nice win- atleast to me… wasnt expecting much, and we as expected werent that much brilliant- but hey, you wouldnt wanna risk legs being broke by some coupla small boys, right ?- no offence to almeria tho'(i’m a big fan of you guys!! really, duh! ) so i’ll just accept the win with all gratitude..
    kinda like how we’re scoring from set-pieces recently with reckless abandon… it’s great, it’s called being dangerous… i mean, when you’ve got plethora of means to put the ball into the back of the net, whats it called ?? the opposition thinks its called being dangerous- kinda agree with them too… guess folks around should understand the meaning of being capable of dispatching set-pieces and actually depending on them… now, there’s a huge difference between them, i mean, the difference basically defines what a chasm is… so i’m cool with it(provided the team dosnt turn into stoke city overnight- or their cousins athletico)
    meanwhile, sevillia’s next to take the fall… and really i basically, dont get whats all the hulaballoo about that game about.. heck, i’m going for a rout, 5-0 to FCB (Disclaimer: lol, y’all should pretend you didnt read that last part- suffering from a minor form of over-confidence lately)

    • April 10, 2015

      Thanks Cyclops for the paragraphs. Can enjoy your comments much better now. 🙂

    • Cyclops
      April 10, 2015

      uh-oh, fotobirajesh, guess i’m supposed to blush at that, right… damn!! Always forget that!!

  35. Lord Eddard Stark a.k.a. Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one!
    April 9, 2015

    When we talk of history, legends and respect, we must talk of how this club is treating Dani Alves, who in my mind is a legend and one who has been (and still is) an integral part of a historical team.

    If Henry is a legend, I can’t even begin to overstate what that makes Dani.

    It is soo unfortunate and disgusting how he is being treated. The guy is still one of the best RBs in the game and at Barca I have never seen him slack. Effort is always there. So what if there are some misplaced crosses, when it is evident that there is always effort.

    Sporting points aside, What about his value to the locker room.

    I think his playful and mischievous demeanor is what has made the club and supporters included NOT RESPECT him enough.

    • georgjorge
      April 9, 2015

      How is he being mistreated?

      If what the club states is true, they have offered him a contract for 2 + 1 seasons, which is not at all bad for a 31-year old player. He wants either more money or a longer contract – we don’t know. Without being involved in the contract negotiations, it’s impossible to know if Barca’s monetary offer is so low (in relative terms) or his demands are so high. He has stated that he has higher offers from other clubs, and Barca apparently isn’t willing to match their offers – again, we don’t know how high they are. But with the transfer ban and no other great right back in the team, it may be that is trying to take advantage of that fact. Again, we don’t know.

      It’s true that Alves always has brought a lot of effort to every game he has played in. It’s also true that he’s one of the best-paid players on the team, which makes me believe he’s quite good at driving a hard bargain. I also don’t necessarily think that players like Mascherano or Jordi Alba – who get paid less – really bring that less effort to their game.

    • georgjorge
      April 9, 2015

      To summarize: I have a hard time believing that with no other great right back in the team and the transfer ban, Barca is deliberately taking a risk by offering a relatively low salary (and 2 + 1 seasons seems quite fair). It seems more likely that Dani Alves is trying to get more money than he would get without the ban, which is of course his right – but it doesn’t mean he’ll be mistreated if it doesn’t work out for him.

    • bhed
      April 10, 2015

      When he was top of his game, regularly connecting sublime one-twos with Messi, with the speed to get back on defense and cut out danger, even scoring, I remember him being very highly rated. He’s still a good right back, just not a great one anymore. It was inevitable with a box to box fullback like him. Alba won’t have a very long-shelf life for the same reasons.

      This is the very highest level of world football though. Effort is the least of it. Everyone at this level works hard. Also, there’s no room for nostalgia when you can only field 11 players at a time. Sentiment is for the fans, not for the clubs or the players.

  36. Cyclops
    April 9, 2015

    And btw, jim what’d you mean ?? that i dont make sentences ?? hahaha, why do i think thats funny… maybe because i think you spent far too much time in taiwan last summer, lol.. looks like too much exposure to mandarin is colouring your ‘english vision’… not a good development for we english proponent… anyway sorry bro, this is how i write on the net, i’m like used to it- maybe you right on the paragraph point, but sentences, come on bro… hey, you could use your magnifying glasses.. good suggestion, no ? duh!!

    • Inamess
      April 9, 2015

      C’mon Cyclops. No need for the fisticuffs. Jim is a legend on this site. There is room for his Scottish Enlightenment crisp prose and your e.e. cummings/Joycean inspired posts as well. It all just makes the site better. If Neymar, Messi, and Suarez can share the same pitch, then I don’t know why we all can’t thrive here as well, no matter our linguistic and syntactical preferences.

      Peace

    • Jim
      April 10, 2015

      Now you’re just trying to get on my good side with the literary allusions and hyperbole, Inamess ! 🙂

      Cyclops, no chastisement was intended. I was actually agreeing with your comments in the last post, just found it harder to follow without the paragraphs. Apologies if any offence was caused.

      On a slightly different note, I’d like to take this chance to say that in general, the grasp of English of the non native English speakers here is staggeringly good. Puts our Language teaching to shame. Our school (well, my EX- school )) teaches French,Spanish and English as well as Mandarin and none of it seems to stick with the kids because of the prevalence of English on the Internet. I was still regularly called into Spanish classes to converse in my rotten Spanish as an example to them which should tell us all we need to know about our linguistic capabilities.

    • April 10, 2015

      Don’t feel bad, Jim. As a language teacher I can tell you that getting a group of people to a conversational level in a foreign language is virtually impossible in a classroom environment.

      Linguistic capabilities have little do with it. It’s simply not the way language acquisition works.

  37. luisthebeast
    April 9, 2015

    It will be very difficult but 2015 maybe will be a special year for our club.Football,Basketball and Handball teams have a great opportunity to win the domestic leagues and the European Champions League the same season.No other sport club did something like that in the past.

    • barca96
      April 10, 2015

      Just a few years back there were trophies across other sports too besides football.

  38. luisthebeast
    April 9, 2015

    I hope Dani will stay for another season and we will buy Matteo Darmian.I watched both players in some games and for me Matteo>Danilo.

  39. Inamess
    April 9, 2015

    With Valenica’s draw in Bilboa there is going to be a tough competition for that fourth spot and like it or not that will be part of the equation in our games against Sevilla and Valencia this week. If we can win them both it puts us in the drivers seat in La Liga in a number of ways:

    1) We win two of our three hardest fixtures remaining while keeping our four point lead.

    2) Sevilla and Valencia will still probably be in a dogfight for the last CL spot when they take on RM later and each may even be more desperate then.

    3) It could give Atletico a cushion so it locks up 3rd place by the time we have to play them in our second to last match.

    I’m not saying we must win against Sevilla AND Valencia, but it would make the rest of our season much easier.

  40. Cyclops
    April 10, 2015

    Uh…inamess looks like you skewed the context of thats post… lolz jim, no hard feelings either eh, i was just only taking a lil dig, didnt realize i’ve veered off withing the sacred confines this sites
    Been wondering why there’s so little jibe here, sarky comments and all- but Ooops, looks like y’all frowns at it…. Er jim, don’t be all that serious eh, try looking for the humor-ish side of someone’s post, yes ?… A little dig here and there, would make the sites just better(courtesy inamess) lolz i think

  41. Davour
    April 10, 2015

    Off topic, but I just caught a short clip shot from the stands, showing the play leading up to Suarez’ second goal. To me, this shows nicely how Messi makes things happen out of very little. When he receives the ball, he is on his own half, back against opponents’ goal, circled by defending players… still, a quick turn & dribble, a burst past another and then a chip to Pedro who comes running, perfectly. Imagine having that kind of service; mistake your runs seem more worthwhile…

    • April 10, 2015

      I was thinking about that too Davour. All the Almeria players between him and the goal was concentrated on Leo, it was quite easy for someone like Leo to find Pedro. Still excellent play, reminding of the similar play in which he found DeMaria with the Wcups best pass, against Belgium, I think, after a bit of quick turn.

    • Davour
      April 10, 2015

      Oh, that pass to Di Maria… that was a stroke genius (though Di Maria was injured in the same move, I think…); in this case, I hardly gave a thought until I saw the view from the stands and the achievement becomes evident.

  42. April 10, 2015

    As Bartomeu clarified, the club’s offer was always 2+1 to Alves. Apparently his agent misunderstood. Not sure where the money is, but it still strikes me that the club wants to keep him and he wants to stay. This should be easy to resolve.

    • April 10, 2015

      I always thought it was nice that Dani Alves lets his ex wife handle the business side of things, but that press conference was not exactly the epitome of professionalism, and if she indeed misunderstood the deal that was offered, well….

  43. adil
    April 16, 2015

    This is going to be a long one, but bare with me. I’m new here and originally intended to have this posted as an article of my own, but since that doesn’t seem possible, I’ll just write it as a comment on this article since I’m in disagreement with the author.

    Personally, I have a hard time agreeing with LE being the right man. Supporting a football team should be a means for enjoyment and living in the moment with the joy of the game. Being a Barca fan the last couple of years have been rather stressful. Naturally, experiencing the pain of a defeat and things not playing out well is of course also a part of being a supporter. Eric Abidal’s cancer gave us a great amount of grief and was later weighted up by immense joy when he beat the sickness and lifted the CH L trophy, but thats not really what I’m talking about. The management of the club by the board has been a very heavy burden on the soul of every true culé. Now, I’m not going to start ranting about how the board has mistreat the club, as its hardly news for anyone by this stage.

    I just want a good game of football really, but watching Barca today something in me is being filled of discontent. Result wise, things are going good, but still there’s something missing. It’s something about the distribution of the passes, the patterns and the positioning’s of the players. It’s just not Barca, because it lacks that beauty and order. I was drawn to Barca by beauty ten years ago, and I won’t lie and say that I’m not a conservative and tradionalistic idealist. For me, result based pragmatism is just an empty shell. Results for what? Without any moral high ground, values and ideals – such as the ones defining the core element of Barca and its history – for what greater good is it to adapt into “modern” football without any regards to what really matters?

    Back in 2012 when we got kicked out by Chelsea, it was the most excruciating pain leaving the tournament like that, but I felt one with the team throughout the whole game, and Camp Nou did too, cheering the team after the defeat as never before. Because we fought for something higher. We were eliminated staying true to ourselves.

    Instead of trying to adjust into the decadence of modern football, why don’t we try to adjust ourselves instead, being true to our philosophy? Did Barca work decades to establish their famous football model just to let the club slip into the hands of egoistic opportunists in times of turbulence, just after a couple of years of success? Those of you saying “tiki-taka” is dead, did we even try to save it from the beginning?

    Sure, our opponents might have catched up on us, but then shouldn’t we strive to improve our model even more and come back stronger, even if it means a couple of dry years? Falling down and rising is just the natural order of football.

    Why don’t we dive deeper and look at what it even means to be a supporter of Barcelona, shall we?

    With globalization and our increasingly intertwined world our beloved game of football is inevitably affected – and has always been a reliable societal-barometer.

    The club-loyalties of supporters today stretches beyond nation borders, and the players are nationless commodity who live everywhere and nowhere. Players don’t have any standards to live after, and their careers are their life and well-being.
    There’s rarely a place for emancipatory values of romantic feelings, but does that mean there shouldn’t be a struggle? There are still rare gems such as Xavi, Totti and recently retired Zanetti and Puyol – people who make the game worth loving.

    Football is a working-class game in its roots and has always first and foremost been associated with its supporters. Football clubs as nonprofit associations have had social and cultural responsibilities – such as altruism and solidarity – towards the old popular movements who were created during the entry of the market economy. Today football isa world-phenomena and has built its own empire. For me, football is an art-form, and like music it’s a border-crossing symphony which can’t be interpreted in words, but rather resonates at a higher frequency and united people all over the world through a common passion. It’s a language which don’t need to be spoken to be understood; a passion without definable borders; an opportunity to let go of social and mental constructions to be unified in something bigger, unattached to language, race, religion or gender – to let go and be immersed into the beauty of the game.

    Football can be a great spiritual exercise, but as a traditionalist I still believe one needs to pay respect to the history and identity of clubs and preserve those; not merely letting them vanish into the hands of greedy investors and economic interests. And that’s where I see the responsibility as a culé comes into the equation. Notions such as “El Seny” and “Barcelonismo” are there for a reason – we stand for something.

    To manage an elite football club is a delicate balancing act between the expectations on the pitch and the economic effort. To be a supporter is a balancing between idealism and commercialism. We live in a consumption society which is characterized by us as society members first and foremost being consumerists – but football has a utility value which cannot be measured in monetary ambitions. If you come to this insight the day in which Barca might no longer be a top flight team will matter less, if we stand by our ideals.

    So, does Enrique stand by our ideals? Personally, I highly doubt it.
    As for this season, watching Barca reminds me more of Real Madrid or wathing a PL-game. Flipper-football with bad passing, no build-up nor structure. Titles or not, it’s pretty evident Luis Enrique is not a manager worthy of FC Barcelona. It’s one thing to infuse a more direct approach, but then you should incorporate it with our possession-game. But our dominance is gone and our opponents can dominate us and create chances. LE uses Masch as Zidane, Mathieu as Maldini, Iniesta like a Gattuso who should cover space and the best player in history Messi is used by the cornerflag. It’s a waste of talent. Our current style might even have benefited us in the Champions League because we no longer have to play against the buss, but maintaining an art-form is never easy, nor shouldn’t be.

    I don’t like that we don’t seem to seek to control the game anymore, and I don’t see how thats healthy in the longer perspective.

    I’m not asking you to agree, but I encourage you to contemplate this. Thanks for reading.

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