Atletico ****** 2, Barca 1, aka “Can we have a do-over?”

Okay, maybe Jeffren wasn't the best idea....

It was bound to happen, say the pundits. Even Pedro! said “We had to lose sometime,” and you know what?

I just don’t buy it.

Most football matches come down to one or two moments, and this one did as well. When Guardiola decided to roll the dice, and pencil in “Jeffren” at right back, the damage was done.

No, I don’t mean to armchair quarterback, but Jeffren is an attacker who has played at right back before, against lower-level opposition, not a Liga side with something to prove at home.

Nonetheless, there it was, the lineup of Valdes, Jeffren, Puyol, Milito, Maxwell, Keita, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Messi and Ibrahimovic, a lineup that was plenty strong enough to take care of Patetico, until not even 5 minutes into the match, Keita pulled his hamstring. Pedro! came on for him, which did us a favor in that it moved Iniesta back to his traditional role of shadowing Xavi, rather than dicking around on left wing where he’s about as much of a threat as my mama.

And things were balanced, at Atleti did the usual “flood the midfield and don’t let Xavi kill you” thing, and they were having more success than usual, because of the absences of Marquez and Pique. Without that ball-handling center back to bring the ball up and deposit it to Xavi, it pinged around more than usual, and ATM was having their share of the play.

Then it all went pear-shaped. On what should have been a simple lay-off pass to Iniesta, Xavi over-hit the ball directly to an ATM player, who sent Reyes off to the races. He snookered Iniesta, then snookered Busquets. Jeffren, meanwhile, let Forlan run right across his bow as he was caught ball watching. Puyol looks over with an “Oh, shit” moment, then tries to cover. But by then, about the only thing that his movement did was make the passing angle that much easier for Reyes, who slotted an inch-perfect pass to Forlan, who ran past Puyol as if he was parked and beat Valdes who got a hand to it, but couldn’t stop the shot.

Just like that, it was 1-0, bad guys, and our defense was exposed for the patchwork thing that it was for this match.

At this moment, people are going to call me unfair and accuse me of hating Jeffren now, but as the guy on the back line with the most pace, certainly more than Forlan, you can’t just stand there and watch him run at your keeper. Run with him, vex him, foul him, do something other than standing there, watching the play develop. In his defense, he’s an attacker, so he’s used to watching his defenders control stuff, then get him the ball so that he can do his thing, right?

Their second goal was just as bad, in my estimation, and once again, Jeffren was a big part of the equation as he pinched in toward the center of the pitch, ball watching again, instead of controlling his area. So the ball was passed into the acres of space left by his absence. He scrambles back, but is out of position, a movement that again opens up a passing angle to Aguero who takes, and is fouled by a charging Puyol.

Should Captain Caveman have played him straight up and waited for help? Yes. Did he? No. Because that’s not how he rolls. The foul was dubious, but a defender is always going earn the foul on that one because even if he got ball, he also got a touch of ankle, and Aguero sold it.

Frankly, there wasn’t a damned thing Valdes could have done about that free kick, which was world class and beat him cleanly.

So now it was 2-0, and we seemed to wake up. The goal that we scored was one of those scrappers that we sometimes get, coming off a corner kick that was kept alive by Puyol and Milito. It fell directly to Ibrahimovic, who made no mistake and volleyed into the top of the net. It was 2-1, and we had life, but it just wasn’t to be, because we had absolutely no midfield control thanks to a collective case of the shits.

Keita coming off really hurt us, because suddenly Busquets didn’t have that buffer, and had to cover a lot more ground in the midfield. This allowed ATM to have more of the possession than we customarily yield, and they hurt us time and again, as Aguero constantly got the better of Puyol with pace, causing our Captain at one point to pound the sodden turf in frustration at yet another man, running full steam into our box.

We can analyze, and natter and armchair quarterback all we like, but this match came down to rotten luck with another injury at a very bad time, and a right back who should not have been on the pitch. Guardiola screwed up the selection. Yes, we took the play to them in the second half, but after a while, they were content to play defense and try to hit us on the counter when we allowed such a thing to happen.

I’d also like to say a very simple thing to our lads, who don’t read this blog and it’s a damned shame: Take the professional foul. Now! Maxwell laid on a couple of them, but he was the only one who understands that if you give up a free kick way out on the wing, or just past midfield, who cares? Put him on his ass. Both Busquets and Iniesta had a chance to foul Reyes, and Jeffren had the chance to nick Forlan.

I know, I know, we don’t play that way. But we should. Lord knows everyone else plays that way against us, and it can be very effective at disrupting a match and breaking up an attack. Because if Reyes is fouled, no way that goal gets scored. Could we have sprung the offside trap? Maybe, but the pace at which that play developed means that our defenders were in full on man the ramparts mode.

So it was a loss, and it sucked. What now?

Who knows. We have a perfect storm of injuries, with Alves (who practiced today), The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Abidal and Txigrinski all out for the next week, at a minimum. And something good came of this match, in that I don’t think we have to splash for a backup right back in the summer transfer window, as Marc Bartra came on and kicked out the jams, showing time and again what an actual defender can do at right back. One of my favorite moments was when Aguero came dancing at him during the second half, and he calmly watched the ball, then stood him up and took it, all man-style and stuff. I’d like to see more of him out there, and our next match, Racing, is the perfect time to do it.

Hell yeah, I'm ready .... well, almost.

And with that bit of joy, the points:

Team: 3. We played a lot of the time as if we didn’t really know each other. Passes were overhit, misguided or just plain wrong. There was no midfield pressure to speak of until late in the second half, when a sense of urgency finally reared its head.

Guardiola: 2. I know that you think you’re really smart, but sometimes you really aren’t. Jeffren was a poor choice, as was Pedro! instead of Henry. And what’s up with the physical training sessions that are most likely leading to this rash of injuries? Stop it.

Valdes: 5. Solid, despite letting two get past him, neither of which was really his fault, particularly that second goal. His tendency to play with the ball at his feet too much almost cost us in the second half, however.

Jeffren: 1. No defense, no attacking, and lots of ball watching means that you, my son, had a horrific match. You’re probably still feeling pretty bad right now and honestly, you should. Yes, Guardiola deserves some of the blame, but still.

Puyol: 6. He came back from his early funk and played a strong match, passing test after test, and keeping the ball alive for the winning goal. Again, however, he was on the scene for both goals, with a move that opened up a path for Forlan, and an ill-considered challenge.

Milito: 6. Very solid the times that he was called on, and he’s another dude who isn’t afraid to just put a player on his butt. Not as strong as his last match, but it was a fire drill in our box today.

Maxwell: 6: Might have to change his nickname from Neo Soul to PF (professional foul). I’m sure it’s that Serie A hardness, but Maxwell will say “screw that” and knock a guy down faster than you can say “si us plau.” He got forward on the attack, but with no left winger to speak of, since Pedro! was off running around somewhere, he was usually stranded with the ball and plenty of ambition.

Keita: incomplete. Injured very early.

Busquets: 4. He was doing the “colt unbound” thing, scrambling about willy-nilly. And what a stupid, stupid yellow card to pick up at a time when your club needs you. Desperately. Oh, and foul the dude, don’t just stick a leg out. Yes, you had some good plays, but not enough to counterbalance your inadequacies.

Xavi: 1. Wow. The pain. I never, ever thought that I would give our Maestro a rating this low, but he was terrible, overhitting every ball, evincing horrid touch in the box on a pass that usually, he controls and buries. That’s life. Some will say that he was injured, and that’s why he was so horrible. Whatever. 15 balls he gave away this match? That’s usually more than he gives up in an entire season!

Iniesta: 6. Slid very neatly into the command/control role, but seemed aimless at times. When he focussed, he was exceptional.

Messi: 4. Too many runs, and what’s with overhitting passes to Ibrahimovic, and not passing to him when you should have? Learn to play with that man, as he is making every effort to fit in. Play him the ball, and let him score goals. My notes say it all: “Messi kills another attack,” “Messi bad pass to Ibra,” “Messi kills attack by dribbling into defense with Maxwell wide open,” “Messi shoots, ignoring Ibra diagonal run.”

Ibrahimovic: 6. Love the effort, but you have to get back onside more quickly, dude. That’s killing us. Yes, you were called offside many times when you weren’t, but those are the breaks of the game. Lovely goal, and your interplay with your teammates is a thing of beauty. The diagonal runs are also nice. Keep it up, and the passes will find you.


Pedro! (for Keita): 3. This match, more than any other in recent memory, demonstrated his lack of tactical awareness. When he wasn’t giving balls away he was overhitting pass after pass after pass. I repeat, he isn’t ready to start, no matter how much people dislike Henry. There was no width, and there hardly ever is when he’s in the side.

Bartra (for Jeffren): 7. Wow, what a revelation. The guys on Deportes were going nuts about his play, and they should have. He came on against a real Liga side and more than held his own, turning in a performance that suddenly solidified our back line. He has very good pace, and isn’t shy about bombing forward on the attack. I like, I like!

Krkic (for Xavi): 2. It’s getting painful to watch his indecision and tentativeness on the pitch. It really is. Something has to be done, whether it’s a brain transplant, or a transfer.

I’m not sure what Henry has done, but boy could we have used him that match. His pace and width on the wing would have been just the thing to stretch out ATM’s suspect back line. But Pedro! is apparently the man, even if he isn’t ready to be the man.

No, he isn’t.

Next up is Racing, and our list of “withouts” is immense, with the biggest one of all being Xavi, who is (right now) scheduled to miss the next three matches. Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery. Meanwhile, we get Racing, while EE get Sevilla Villarreal. Here’s hoping that our two-point lead can be stretched back out to 5 by the end of next weekend.

Finally thanks for the patience, everyone. Blame ESPN Deportes, who had a picture blackout for almost the last half-hour of the match (not that I missed much). But this thing is finally up and as usual, I don’t mind at all being called a jackass, as long as you can provide the evidence of what a dummy I am. ๐Ÿ˜€

Run Dani, run!
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In my fantasy life, Iโ€™m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, Iโ€™m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. BA
    February 16, 2010

    the simple fact is with that lineup and our injury situation we were never really going to be in this match unless everyone played exceptionally well across the pitch. i don’t know what happened to Xavi, but there’s no predicting that lightning bolt and it was his presence more than any that we needed; his collection and control and distribution. instead we got the exact opposite, and as a result there was never going to be any other outcome.

    if Milito and Puyol each earned a 6, together they couldn’t have rated higher than a 3. that center-back pairing, for whatever reason, just doesn’t and has never really worked.

    all that said, however, EVEN THOUGH we played badly… we still only recorded our first loss of the season (in February!), away from home, by a single goal, riddled with injuries, to a problematic team. while by our standards and the standards of this incredible team we can look despairingly at this result and the way in which we played, i think that context is important.

  2. Reaper -> the artist formerly known as Reagan
    February 16, 2010

    Why didn’t henry come on instead of Bojan????? That was insane! solid rating overall Kxevin.

    • Roja-N
      February 16, 2010

      thats because pedro was thrown on for the injured keita and iniesta was moved back to his shadow-xavi role. i think it would be wise for pep to start training with thiago henceforth. The entire midfield apart from iniesta and busquets is shot….

    • stephen
      February 16, 2010

      you know i asked myself that question the entire time, at that time Atletico was not attacking anymore they were defending that damn goal, and we couldve used Henry.

  3. Spencer
    February 16, 2010

    This is definitely a testament to how much Pique truly means to this club. Get the hell back out there, man! No more reds!

  4. February 16, 2010

    My only thought is that Messi was actually quite good–I called him during the live portions of the match I was able to catch (thanks, ESPN) the best player on the field who wasn’t named De Gea)–and that his destabilizing runs would have meant something if Xavi and Jeffren had been on the field. Instead he was running against 2 or 3 opponents at every turn and with Ibra fading to the back post (surprise) instead of finding the alley for the throughball, he was faced with more defenders on the “second level” or, if he made it to the “third level” then there too.

    Ibra didn’t have much service, it’s true, but when he did get good service, he blew it each and every time. His goal was nice, in a sense, but didn’t have anything to do with his positioning and was, I thought, actually in spite of it because he drifts around in the box for no reason and loves the usually meaningless back post. Puyol created that goal with a lunging jump through their defense and Ibra benefited. I’m happy he was there, but everything else he did was rather slow and ineffective. Again, you’re right that he suffered from bad passes now and then, but more often than not he was offside anyway (I never saw any bad offside calls on him, actually, but I didn’t watch it twice so you’re probably right) so the bad pass was rendered moot.

    The main point, snuck in there at one point, is that Keita’s injury really threw a wrench in our plans–it’s one thing to plan to be without him, but when the whole midfield and defensive structure is set up and then one guy gets plucked from the ranks so early, you lose a lot of momentum and coordination. Blech.

    • Phil
      February 16, 2010

      The only thing I could say about that is that the through balls just weren’t happening. I lost track of the number of times I thought to myself “On any other day, in any other match, that balls slips through the defense and we would be in awe of the magic of barca’s middle passing”, but the passes just weren’t happening. They would find atleti legs and feet almost every single time. If field positioning had something to do with that I can’t recall. I would have to force myself to watch the game again and I don’t think I could deal with that.

      Huge props to you guys who re-watched it for the sake of review. Much stronger than I. Once was more than enough for me.

  5. lovelymofo
    February 16, 2010

    So, I watch most Barรงa matches and on the off chance I can’t, I always wear my Barรงa pin. Sunday I was out, couldn’t watch the match, and forgot to wear my Barรงa pin. Coincidence? Probably yes, but it didn’t stop me from feeling totally guilty.

    Anyway, spot on with the ratings. Lets not worry about EE, lets hope Pep makes the adjustments needed, whether it means doing away with that extra training or rethinking his line ups.

      • Kyle
        February 16, 2010

        Don’t hate on our “CL semi win from the heavens” shirts.

      • lovelymofo
        February 16, 2010

        I cry your pardon! Ha. I’m going to start wearing that pin 24/7.

    • Eklavya
      February 16, 2010

      I missed the match too. Forgot about it actually because of some personal trouble. And no Peanuts! Noooooo!

  6. Jnice
    February 16, 2010

    Nice review, Kxevin.

    Doesn’t Real play Villareal next week?

    • Helge
      February 16, 2010

      Yap, that’s true. And Villarreal will be without Rodriguez, Godin, Fuster and most-likely even without Cazorla ๐Ÿ™

  7. Elguerosinfe
    February 16, 2010

    ^ That’s what I though too JN [hi, by the way…].

    • Jnice
      February 16, 2010

      What’s up mannnn? How’s the San Fran weather?

  8. February 16, 2010

    I can understand the frustration. We are not used to lose anyway, so it gets a bit emotional. I admit I didn’t understand some of Pep decisions, but we need to judge based on what we know, not what we think.

    Regarding the goals, the first goal was the responsibility of 1) Xavi, 2) Iniesta 3)Busquets 4) Puyol/Milito-where was Milito, the CB duet failed to reposition in the right time. 5) Jeffren who kept an eye more on the player moving toward the flank than forlan, Forlan ran from the inside, and Jeff wouldnt have catch him anyway.

    The second goal was a Simao quality.

    – The goals we conceded were team mistakes, the same as Jeffren had responsibility there, everyone else take a share as well. Either they were all bad options to start or not. I think Jeffren did a decent work relatively. He was bad, but not worse than the rest on the pitch, which makes me praise him for playing out of position.

    – Its pure theoretical to imagine that putting just anyone else instead of Jeffren was a better idea. In fact Bartra in the short period he was in the game played more wrong passes than Jeffren did throughout the game. He moved forward more often exposing his position without putting any good offense wise. With the midfield we had, I think if Bartra started, the goals counter would have marked two digits. Couple of interceptions were good enough to show quality for future, but not the right to start. Not against Atletico at least. He need to be gradually introduced or else he will be Muniesa-tized.

    Thats why If there is a player I will praise in this game, its Jeffren. He was the only choice (Again, for what we really know, not based on wishful thinking)and he tried his best, and was better than I expected. He had three players to deal with sometimes: Lopez, Reyes, and Aguero/Forlan. The problem was that he didnt get any help from the midfielders. Neither Iniesta nor Xavi helped defensively on the flanks which forced Puyol to move to channels more often. Thats why we conceded.

    • February 16, 2010

      And guys…If we cant be understandable when we lose a game like this, taking in consideration all the game conditions, when will we?

      I think we are a bit too spoiled. We were not able to pull out a miracle and win this game, because that’s what a win required. I hate losing more than anyone, but again, we need to be reasonable and accept that we cant pull miracles all the time. Pep is not a god, and the players are not as well. They tried.

        • barca96
          February 17, 2010

          me too. i thought jeffren was a 5.
          if he could defend, he would be a back up for alves.
          he made some nice runs on the right but didn’t know what to do after he zoomed past a player.
          bartra was also solid. he gave the ball away a few times too and once he could make a run but instead he just whacked the ball english

  9. Boat Forever
    February 16, 2010

    I think Pep was given a second chance to rectify his mistake of playing jeffren at RB… When Keita got injured he should have brought on Bartra instead of Pedro. But he had to blow that too ๐Ÿ™

  10. Ciaran
    February 16, 2010

    The thing that annoyed me about right back is that Martin Caceres, who is considered good enough to start for Juventus, isn’t considered good enough to sit on our bench instead of Jeffren or Bartra.
    I’m sorry that Caceres isn’t good enough on the ball to be considered a centreback for us but he could do a great job of closing down the right wing against someone like Simao. He has pace, strength and dogged determination.
    I know Guardiola likes a small squad but surely a 22yr old Uruguayan international with 15/16 caps who we thought was worth โ‚ฌ16million should be good enough to keep in squad, just in case. I suppose an uncapped 22yr old left winger is gonna be a better right back.

    I like Jeffren, for the record. I think he done pretty much the best he could. As I said in the live blog, what would you expect Pedro or Messi to do at right back?

  11. Hector
    February 16, 2010

    What gets me about the Jeffren decision is this: he is a left footed. So, not only were we playing an out of position winger as a fullback but we were playing him wrong-footed. If you told me that he would make up for it with his offensive skills then I might consider it but he hardly advanced past center field. This had two effects that I saw:

    – Messi was isolated on the right. Being smart, he kept hugging the line to keep width but was unable to cut in as he usually does thus contributing to his “disappearance” and depriving Xavi and Iniesta of Messi’s usual help in the middle. When he did play in the middle (before Xavi’s injury) the field was horizontally compressed even more.

    – Xavi lacked one of his usual outlets. Our passing system is basef on triangles. I counted quite a few times when Xavi looked directly at his right to where Alves would usually be only to seem surprised when nobody was home and caught out with the ball.

    -Xavi was shit,yes. One of his and Busi’s big mistakes was providing piss poor diagonal cover on attackers coming through our right wing and leaving Jeffren on an island. However, a big reason why those attackers were getting through was that Jeffren was too far behind which left a big gap between him and Xavi for balls to get slipped into Simao or Forlan/Aguero dragging wide.

    Alright, so I anticipated that Messi would have to go solo and Xavi should have known that was gonna happen. However, if your right fullback is gonna stay back so much and not bomb forward then why on earth would you play a left-footed winger there? What’s the advantage? Why not put a natural defender however inexperienced if you are just gonna have him hold the line? I’ll give Jeffren a lot of credit because he did a very good job in helping to play the ball out given being played out of position but he SHOULD have had a red on that time he lost the ball while it was being played out. It could have been worse.

    What puzzled me was that as soon as Bartra came on, he started relentlessly bombing forward. Yeah, he lost balls but at least he gave width, provided an outlet and contributed offensively to the cause and helped shore up our midfield. Did Pep instruct him to do this or was this was Jeffren was supposed to do all along? Alves providing width in midfield and Messi helping out through the middle during our transition phase is a big reason why we are able to overcome the 4-3-3’s natural weakness of only three men in midfield. Atleti flooded the midfield and Messi could not do anything (he had to keep width), Pedro did a horrible job of cutting in and helping with possession (which he should have done because Maxwell was providing the width), and Xavi had a stinker. A big reason for the disadvantage was Jeffren staying back preventing Messi from helping out. I don’t blame the kid as he was played out of position and wrong sided but I do blame Pep for getting a little too smart for his own good this time around. It usually works for him but not this time.

    -Keita going out was huge but as a coach, you have to have contingency plans and your players have to know them.

    – Who do we have who is particularly good at breaking high defensive lines and offside traps? Its that French guy, isn’t it?

    • Cesc Blanc
      February 16, 2010

      Jeffren is right footed actually, not left. He plays on the left wing however for diagonal runs, but he is right footed.

      • Hector
        February 16, 2010

        No. He is left footed. He has decent ambidextrous control which lets him play well as a winger on both wings but he is naturally left footed.

        A winger, especially in our system, where the fullbacks provide plenty of width, can get by playing wrong footed and even use it to their advantage to get a better shooting angle when cutting in. However, for a fullback this is different as its not about controlling the ball but often about lateral quickness and movement. When this is the case, being wrong footed affects your balance, your lateral ability, and your reaction time to turn and run. You could tell how off balance he was at certain point. The tackle he made from behind which should have been a red was a result of this as he was moving laterally but got turned.

        Controlling the ball well with your off foot is one thing but something as seemingly simple as which foot you lead with in a slide tackle affects you at fullback. Jeffren got his yellow in large part because he led with his left foot (a natural reaction for him) on a guy coming at him from left to right. This left his studs exposed against the opponent. A right footed player leads the slide tackle with his right and doesn’t get him with the studs. Its seemingly simple, instinctive things like those that make playing a wrong footed fullback, let alone a converted wrong-footed fullback risky.

        • Cesc Blanc
          February 16, 2010

          my dude, do me a favor, google Jeffren Suarez, watch his videos and you will realize that he is naturally right footed and not left footed. If he is naturally left footed, he does a good job hiding it.

          I could post the link to the videos but since posts with links take ages to be moderated, I won’t.

          • Hector
            February 16, 2010


            Read the “Profile” part.

            My bad for the harsh response (am in a bit of a hurry with work and all) ๐Ÿ˜€ . He does a VERY good hiding it because he is damn near ambidextrous (not as much as Pedro who has one of the best ambidextrous control I’ve ever see but close) when it comes to dribbling and controlling the ball. That’s why he can get by playing on both wings as a winger. My point is that the lateral quickness, balance, and tackling technique is also affected by which side you are on and which side you are “footed”. Those aspects don’t affect a winger too much but are very important to a fullback.

          • Jnice
            February 16, 2010

            I can’t reply below Hector, but he is correct.

            Jeffren is naturally left footed, but is a bit ambidextrous, but not as much as Pedro. If you pay close attention, you can see he favors his left foot more. I though this was cool when they were both getting minutes in the Scotland preseason before last season. I was like “wait, we have two ambidextrous youngsters?!”

        • February 16, 2010

          Again Hector, We all agree Jeffren is not good as a right back. Pep agree with us as well. The point is: Was there any other player to consider as a better option?

          I can understand criticizing Pep selection when he chooses Busquets over Yaya, or Pedro over Henry, or Keita over Iniesta. I may not agree, but I can see a point. We followed all the mentioned players and we know what they are capable of doing. So we can (and have the right to) create opinions.

          As for Bartra and the rest of the youth, how often did we see them playing with the first team? I am an orthodox supporter for the youth academy as everyone knows, but I always note that we need to inject them to the starting line up just in the right timing. Before the game I said “I prefer to lose a game over losing a youth” and Still insist on that. The destructive snowball is a risk that’s always there when it comes to introducing a youth player to get a share on the biggest stage. He fails, he get more the anxiety of proving himself the second time he is selected (being under the pressure of expectations) he tries, but he try too much, which doesn’t help his case. He disappoint again. From there on, the only way is downhill. Jeffren would have either succeeded and his moral will hit the sky, or not and it wont be a problem because he played out of position. That guaranteed limiting the long term loss.

          I demand giving the boys a chance. Even in the very next game against Racing. Its a game at home. Racing are not Atletico, regardless of which team is better in the table or having better squad. Its the club name and image and fans that creates the environment of stress or calmness. The game against Atletico was not the right game to do the big gamble. Simply put.

          Judging Bartra based on few minutes is not possible. Comparing him during the minutes he played to Jeffren performance during the vital part of the game is not fair as well. Jeffren started the game and had to struggle against full of fuel Aguero, Forlan, Simao,Lopez, Reyes (depending on who played there at a time), Bartra entered to play against Atletico who were trying to finish the game the most secure way possible after putting a titanic effort in the first half.

          Jeffren contribution offense wise was not a possibility with Maxwell playing on the other flank and Keita being injured. Especially with the midfield and offense being unable to push Atletico lines to their own half. There were always four Atletico players in our half. The two fullbacks Maxwell and Jeffren didnt feel secure enough to move forward With Busquets, Iniesta, And Xavi keep moving forward (I can assume that giving Busquets the instruction to assist more in defense and less in offense could have helped our case).

          May be, as I noted in my article about the game, Pep could have changed the tactical structure after Keita’s injury. But did he have enough time to work on this one during the training sessions, Again I am not in the position to know.

          Jeffren by having a good left foot can actually help more defense wise against a team that open to the flank then cut inside into the center. The wrong footed fullback problem comes usually when he has to do his role in offense. Defense wise, he will struggle more against a wing who outrun then cross as his left foot will be the one that carry his weight while racing with the wing and his right foot is the one that must intercept the ball. Take Forlan goal as an example, if there was any hope that Jeffren could have intercepted the ball (and it wasnt a possibility after wrong initial positioning)was being left footed. A right footed fullback cant intercept a ball from a forward dribbling from the inside.

          So I cant see it as a naive mistake Pep made. Honestly, I don’t know if there was a better option than what he selected, and we will never know. So I will take the game as it is, and carry on.

          • Hector
            February 16, 2010

            Ramzi, I agree that we do not know what Pep saw in practice and it would be harsh to judge based on something that we did not see.

            I never said Bartra was a better choice. I just wondered aloud why Bartra went forward and provided more midfield support than Jeffren as soon as he came on. Was is a Pep adjustment or was Jeffren supposed to do that all along? A switch-footed fullback is excellent against switch-footed wingers who like to cut in. I can understand Juande putting Ramos on Messi or Benitez putting Arbeloa on him back in 07 because of this. However, this was not the case with Atleti’s wingers so I honestly can’t see the advantage of putting Jeffren there if we are not gonna use his offense and we are not facing a Messi type switch foot on his wing. However, like you very well said, we don’t know what Pep saw in practice.

            Atletico had four men on our side all day long because their wingers had no incentive to stay back and defend. A large reason for this was the passivity of our fullbacks. In today’s age of attacking fullbacks the most agressive fullback/singer tandem is the one that ends up negating the other. That is why Alves’ offense is part of his defense. He keeps the opposing fullbacks back. They won the battle of the wings because of this. I agree that a three centerback look may have been more reasonable given the resources available.

            Having Keita in the line-up would obviously have changed the whole picture and possibly the outcome of the game. However, injuries happen and situational awareness and contingencies are part of the game. Like Pep himself said, its no excuse. Our wings were pushed back and our midfield was undermanned. It was a hell of a breakdown in my view.

          • Jim
            February 16, 2010

            Agree with much of what you say, Ramzi, especially about Bartra’s contribution. One of my beefs about some of our comments has always been the tendency to over praise our youngsters who in the last three seasons have never really set the heather on fire ( Scottish expression ๐Ÿ™‚ )

            However, I have to take issue with your defense of Jeffren over the first goal. Agreed one of the reasons he was slow to react was the extra attacker on the flank but even if the ball had gone to him everyone is still between him and goal. Jeffren saw the play develop perfectly and simply made a wrong decision not to go with Forlan. No question he could have outrun him never mind worrying about which foot to tackle with. When Forlan starts his run Jeffren is within 3 feet of him.

            Is it a huge mistake to make – yes. Does it mean he won’t go on to make a decent forward – no. Also, it seemed to me that Jeffren did have plenty of opportunities to go forward but either he wasn’t secure enough in his own play or had been instructed to keep it tight. Where I do agree is that I can’t think of anyone I would be sure would have done a better job.

  12. Hilal
    February 16, 2010

    I would like to point out that even though we collectively played like crap and even though we had a plethora of injuries plaguing us we still managed to create enough chances to at least draw this one. The Athleti keeper made a few decent saves and Xavi and Messi both very uncharacterisitcally let poor touches take the ball away from them in very good goal scoring postions. I know we didnt score and at the end of the day that is all that counts, but in all the negativity i wanted to throw some positive light on it.

  13. Cesc Blanc
    February 16, 2010

    Not to claim that I know everything better and read Guardiola’s mind but the idea behind playing Jeffren as a rightback was to push the team up and put pressure on Simao and Reyes and keep them for most parts in their half, and leave Kun and Forlan kind of isolated in attack. Until Keita went out, the set-up was a clear 2-3-2-3 or 3-4-3 depending where you saw Busquets and that might have made sense and it would have been a more balanced team. Obviously he couldn’t have predicted Keita going out that early.
    So that was the reason Guardiola played Jeffren.

    Not to claim that you play armchair quarterback but let’s just say that maybe, just maybe, he had an idea about the game which obviously didn’t go that well.

  14. poipoi
    February 16, 2010

    I didn’t watch the game so I have no idea of what happenend, thank god for your reviews ๐Ÿ˜‰ … but…

    Don’t you think that now at the end of the season JDS/ Thiago/ Muniesa should have played much more games with the 1st team so they could come out and show themselves much more integrated in the team’s dynamic?

    To me keita should have played lb, poor jeffren must have had a really bad day

  15. Catalanblood
    February 16, 2010

    Could not watch the game as my school is giving me load after load after load. Anyway, I cannot give justified comments about the game so I’ll say something that’s been bothering me for quite some time.

    It’s simply the “Rate This” beside the thumbs up & thumbs down symbols. I think the blog could do without it since it’s pretty obvious what the symbols are for. Maybe it’s just me but it always fools me to thinking that the first thing that the commenter typed is “Rate This.” I’m not doing this just for myself and I’m not asking you to change it because “I just don’t like it.” It’s my observation and If people don’t agree with it I’m fine. I’d just like to point it out so we all can deliberate on it. Thanks!

    Btw, nice review.

    • Catalanblood
      February 16, 2010

      Of course the moment I pressed enter, the whole rating system is gone. What’s happening? Is it just my browser?

  16. Ciaran
    February 16, 2010

    Truth is, we currently have a small squad. Versatility should not be mistaken for depth.
    Sure, Iniesta can play in a number of positions. So can Pedro, Puyol, Busquets & Keita. Maxwell can fill in at right back. Puyol can play out of position successfully too. We still don’t have the numbers.
    For the last few seasons we had approximately 5 extra players in our squad. Players like Eidur Gudjohnsen, Guily, Edmilson & Larsson who could do a job for us.
    We are relying on kids to do the jobs that are for seasoned veterans.

    I’m probably Bojan’s biggest fan on the blog, but expecting him to come in and change a match at his age/experience is a lot to ask. Larsson had 10years of top class experience telling him what to do and where to move.
    Gudjohnsen had/still has one of the best football brains on the planet and while he did not have the physical attributes to kill it in our system he could certainly perform better tactically than someone like Pedro in his first real season.

    We have an excellent XI, and everyone hear could name at least 9 of the best XI without arguing. There may be arguments about Keita v Iniesta or Henry v Pedro but every single other position is not even a debate. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

      • BA
        February 16, 2010

        our squad needs 3 or 4 additional, established players. it’s the same thing we’ve been saying from the very beginning of the season. if we had had them this game, we would have been in far better shape. there hasn’t been much comment on it, but i’m still mystified as to why Laporta and Txiki didn’t pick up ANYONE in the winter window. it’s all well and good to say transfer prices are high, but with such a small squad when your injury luck runs out you WILL pay for it…

    • Eklavya
      February 16, 2010

      “Versatility should not be mistaken for depth.”

      Spot on.

  17. BA
    February 16, 2010

    incidentally, i have a site suggestion.

    a feature (perhaps in the sidebar?) that shows a little bar graph of what players we have injured, the type of injury and their projected time out. an updated stats page or feature would be great too, but that would take more time to compile and update, and you can find them pretty much anywhere (i use the Guardian stats pages), while injury lists are pretty difficult to find already compiled. since you guys give us news updates on anyone who’s injured anyway, all you’d have to do is just make a little bar out of it. might be helpful.

  18. Kyle
    February 16, 2010

    Let me preface this comment by saying I did not watch this match (stupid business trip, stupid Philly international’s crappy wifi). I did watch every highlight slash lowlight I could find, and I can’t believe no one is blaming Valdes for the second goal. I’ll be the first to admit that I think he’s played outstanding over the past year and a half. However, the second goal is on him. As a keeper during free kicks you choose a side to defend and set up the wall to defend the other side. If the player beats the wall, you tip your hat; you never get beat on your side. Valdes took TWO false steps to the wall’s side before the ball was even kicked completely abandoning his responsibility. You can tell Valdes feels responsible too by his reaction (head in ground for prolonged period of time). I don’t like to nit-pick the ratings but I feel this was overlooked.

    • Eklavya
      February 16, 2010

      Yeah I noticed that too. I think he was obviously thinking that the free kick taker would curl the ball over the wall. The ball was placed nicely (for them) in the right place to do so. That’s why he made 2 steps even before the actual shot.

  19. El Tel
    February 16, 2010

    “Si us plau.” Nice Catalan reference, Kxevin.

    • Kxevin
      February 16, 2010

      Thanks, El Tel. Still wrestling with the language, but I’m actually starting to think in it a little bit at times, which makes me really happy. Mixing it up with French sometimes, doesn’t. ๐Ÿ˜€

  20. Kxevin
    February 16, 2010

    I’ll have to watch again, Kyle, but I just saw a kick-ass free kick that I just don’t think Valdes could have stopped. I think that his reaction was because he had the best seat in the house, and probably knew that we didn’t have 3 goals in us. Every keeper gets bummed when he concedes, even when he couldn’t do a thing about it. But I’ll watch again, Kyle.

    On Jeffren: Hopefully, my comments are clearly match-specific. As far as Jeffren doing a good job being out of position, etc, I don’t buy that. Other players who play out of position and don’t set the world on fire, don’t get a lick of sympathy. You’re out there to do a job, so do it, or get off the pitch.

    Time and again, he allowed way too much space for people to play into. Yes, Bartra stormed forward, but it’s no coincidence that when he ran onto the pitch and we got some width on the right, we looked a lot more threatening. Until then, the match was all jammed up in the center of the pitch, which played right into ATM’s clutches.

    My presumption, along with everyone else’s, is that he was supposed to do his winger thing on offense, and just not let anyone get behind him on defense. Instead, he did neither. He looked good for about the first 5 minutes of the match, then seemed to lose focus for whatever reason.

    Henry: I don’t know what the deal is with Henry, but after two good performances in a row, he hasn’t seen the pitch since he got that bit of stomach flu. Muck-raking MARCA reports that he’s on the outs with Guardiola, and is pretty much done in Barcelona. I’ve said before that this is his last season in the colors, but at least give him a try. Krkic? Really?

    –Hector is absolutely right about the effect that our passive fullbacks had on facilitating ATM’s pressure in our end of the pitch. What also helped was that we couldn’t seem to complete a pass in the midfield for frustrating stretches of this match.

    –I don’t think that anyone here is spoiled. Last season was only last season. To expect the unprecedented is a fool’s errand. If we play well and lose, hats off to the opponent. If we play like crap and lose, the pain is doubled for me. But I don’t think that analysis is tantamount to expressing pique that “Dammit, our guys aren’t winning everything like they did last season.” We’re armchair quarterbacks. We’re supposed to over-analyze. ๐Ÿ˜€

  21. Kxevin
    February 16, 2010

    Oh, yeah …. we have a short squad, and it’s killing us. For all of our scoffing at the Icelandic Monument, Hleb or Caceres, think about the value those dudes could be providing now. Even Adriano (no, still not Henrique).

    We have 17 1/2 players (I’m counting Krkic as a half-player ๐Ÿ˜€ ). It’s the shortest squad among the remaining Champions League contenders, and might eventually come to bite us in the ass. Stuttgart couldn’t have come at a better time for our CL aspirations.

    • Eklavya
      February 16, 2010

      I don’t know about Guddy and Hleb but Caceres, Botia and Henrique (yes, Henrique! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) would do us good. But once everyone is healthy again we would have so many defenders someone would obviously leave.

      • Eklavya
        February 16, 2010

        But are we the worse?

        “Manuel Almunia, Andrey Arshavin, Eduardo, William Gallas and Alex Song will all be missing for the first leg of the Gunners’ match against Porto”.



    • Tyler
      February 16, 2010

      Imagine if next week we had actually had to play a REAL opponent in CL. I know Stuttgart have been playing well, but come on, they have Hleb. They’re just going to HLEB themselves.

  22. Bill
    February 16, 2010

    On Jeffren, I blame Pep- U can’t put a player that rarely breaks into the first team in and out of position! As a player, when you get in for the first time, you tend to be conservative and cautious, while trying to get a feel for the game, but out of position? It’s like holding water, especially when simao, aguerro and forlan are weaving patterns around you.

    On Ibra, I agree with Isaiah’s observation 100%

    On Xavi, that was a strange game. I think it was obvious he was fighting through an injury. I noticed simple passes were misjudged, he couldnt do his usual circles and change of direction with the ball, and everything was laborious. Clearly, he wasn’t trusting his feet in this game.

    On Henry, I’m not a big fan of his, but I thought this was the game we needed him.

    Overall, we gave ourselves a cushion going undefeated, so we can skunk up the joint once in a while. Relax people! La liga title race heats up in April, not February. There is a whole lot of games to go. I just hope Pep starts getting his line-ups right. We need Yaya at DM, Iniesta at midfield and Ibra to get going and we will be fine.

  23. Eduard
    February 16, 2010

    I couldn’t read the revied but how bout that Bartra?!!?!

  24. Miguel
    February 16, 2010

    i’m almost happy i had to be a giant pussy and go whale watching (not chubby chasing) on vd day and missed this game.

    dumbass pep.

    “do you want to delete this program?” yes.

  25. vicsoc8
    February 16, 2010

    My take on Jeffren – If he wants to stay he should be studying up on how to play wing back. Look at his physical qualities – tons of speed, can cross very well, not as technical – and he screams wing back to me. Obviously Pep sees him in that role as well. Directly after he played there against Cultural he should have been asking Pep to teach him how to play the position and studying up.

    Now I haven’t yet seen the game, but if he wasn’t bombing up and down the flank like I’m sure Pep wanted him to then he failed to play his role.

    • barca96
      February 17, 2010

      he did in the beginning.
      he is bloody fast and perfect for alves back up
      if only he can defend and position himself.
      he is good!

  26. February 16, 2010

    We agree regarding the importance of the fullbacks going forward, Hector.

    My argument is that we had a team problem in this game, nothing against individuals. The four players in defense played for the first time together (one of them played out of position, the other plays for the second time since a year and a half,the third is coming back from injury and the forth plays only every once and while). You played football and you know the importance of understanding and communication between defenders to achieve efficient performance. It wasnt possible to complicate the fullbacks roles back and forth on the flanks as they need to synchronize perfectly to be able to do it (Must not go forward both at the time). Its easy to put it in text but it was IMPOSSIBLE to be achieved in this short time before the game. Thats why after Keita injury (who was supposed to help covering the gaps, I can insure that Pep gave his instructions for Jeffren to stay in the back.

    Was Maxwell setting the world on fire on the other flank along the 90 minutes? No. And he is a left footed offense oriented fullback. Lets say that Maxwell and Jeffren were able to pull Reyes and Simao back, anyone really think that Milito and Puyol could have handled Aguero and Forlan alone? Hell no!

    Alves can run forward without hesitation because he has an Abidal on the other flank. For Brazil he was behind Maicon since ever even though he is better offense wise, why? Emotionally because Dunga is a fool, logically because Brazil had no Abidal cover available.

    Add to that, the unnoticed Antonio Lopez. Jeffren role on the right was much more difficult than Maxwell role on the left. Neither Messi nor Xavi tracked back efficiently when Lopez did his runs forward. Even if its Alves, you can expect him to pull one player back at a time (Lopez/Simao) but you cant demand him to pull them both to their area. If we can demand that from Alves, we at least cant expect it with Jeffren or Bartra. Now add either Forlan or Aguero to the mix when they moved to the right channel.

    It was suicidal for the fullbacks to move forward in a game like this. Good that they didn’t do it, or else we would have had more material to feed our critical inspirations.

    The problem was in the midfield and the offense. If Messi was not able to keep Lopez in his base then its no use to ask Jeffren or Bartra to pull both Lopez and Simao. If None of Xavi, Iniesta, or Busquets was able to dominate Thiago, then lets give the defense a break. The first goal summarize the game, Midfield unacceptable performance (the three midfielders).

    As for your question:

    “I just wondered aloud why Bartra went forward and provided more midfield support than Jeffren as soon as he came on.”

    Atletico aggression in putting pressure declined as the game moved to the last phase. They played hell of a match in the first 45 minutes, I actually though we will at least get a draw in the second as they couldn’t keep the same momentum.

    We didn’t play our game, because everything went against us. We need to understand that our supernatural powers have a limit. The game conditions were beyond the limits of our powers to overcome.Injuries before the game, Injury during the game,conceded early, failed to score when we got clear scoring opportunities…As I mentioned above, we needed a miracle to win a game like this. Its easy to be overcritical sometimes, but taking the conditions of the game in consideration, we need to be more realistic and take this the way it came. It may not suit the taste of our ego, but it matches the demands of our team. Pep tried his best, the players tried their best, it didn’t meant to be. We can over-analyze for the fun of it, but lets not overreact for the sake of it.

    • vicsoc8
      February 16, 2010

      The reason the midfield had an unacceptable performance is because they were outnumbered – when you don’t have your fullbacks or a ball playing centerback moving forward to get into the midfield, then the three midfielders are easily outnumbered.

      • February 16, 2010

        True, but taking our defense condition in consideration, It was more easy for the forwards to fix that. Besides, they were not outnumbered in the first goal, nor the second. Aside of that, we had more than 60 % possession.

    • Hector
      February 16, 2010

      Props to everybody since this is shaping up to be a great discussion. Arggghhhh! I’ve got a lot to say on this but I’m gonna have to wait until after work ๐Ÿ˜€ .

      Let me just say that I agree with a lot of what you said Ramzi, especially the being overcritical part and the main defect in this game being a team rather than an individual problem. I can see what Pep was thinking with Keita and Busi in midfield and it makes sense to me given the circumstance. However, his injury obviously threw a wrench into things. Hindsight is 20/20 and its easy to pile on Pep after the fact but I still think think its a fun exercise to ponder what could have been done differently once Keita went out. I agree with Vicsoc that our midfield was undermanned in large part because we lost control of the wings. A ball playing centerback was not an option in this case because ATM were using two forwards (the libero applies when the opponent plays a single forward). I’ll write a more in depth post later but…I’ll leave you guys with a few questions.

      We are always proud of sticking to our style but can there ever come a time when injuries force us to change that style or system? Would/should we do it? What COULD we have done in this scenario after Keita went out? Three centerbacks? Move Messi to the left to work with Maxwell and shift Pedro right? It was a very tough situation to get out of and suffice to say that I would have felt we had stolen the points if we got out with a draw/win but its still a fun thing to ponder ๐Ÿ˜€ ?

      • Hector
        February 16, 2010

        This one’s too good to cut off. Lets keep going in the next post.


      • February 16, 2010

        Hector, Click on my name, and in my post about the game you may have some interesting answers ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Eklavya
    February 16, 2010

    Whoever is gonna watch the CL, keep an eye on Lloris.
    I’m pretty sure he’s gonna be the world’s best keeper very soon.

    • Hector
      February 16, 2010

      Licha Lopez is my homeboy ๐Ÿ˜€

      That’s one BAD man right there. RM better keep a close eye on him.

    • jordiโ„ข
      February 16, 2010

      Mandanda and the Zurich keeper gifted Thongboy goals to have him on 6, I like Lloris but if 1 more keeper does that it will piss me off to no ends. Heres hoping he has a great game !

  28. jnelson
    February 16, 2010

    I think Dani is more productive at home on his treadmill with his dozen TVs.

    I don’t think that it is completely Pep’s fault about Jeffren starting or P! coming in. I strongly believe that someone else is influencing and nudging him to make uncomfortable decisions. Nobody in their right mind really thinks that Pep believes P! is better than Henry or even a starter, do they? As for Jeffren, once again he is trying to get him playing time and that is why he tried him at RB in the Copa, for this and future games. Finally, I think the Bojan sub was his chance to win the game. He obviously had some important instructions to him because the cameras saw Pep grabbing Bojan and running back to Tito before he sent him on.

    My problem is what the heck happened in the last 20 minutes. Control? What?! Everytime one of our players touched the ball in the back or midfield, they just launched it into the ATM. How the hell are a bunch of midgets and one tall guy double-manned going to win those!!!!? They NEVER will! And with Bojan in, passing, particularly through passing and crossing are important. Did NO ONE see that? I am 100% I was watching the right match, but damn…

  29. Kari
    February 16, 2010

    YEAH! Lyon beat EE! Not only did they dominate the first half, but they put a defensive masterclass in the second and Lloris’ one hand, reflex save on Higuian was ABSURD.

    Btw, I know that Lisandro Lopez, Govou, etc. are the danger guys but how good was Delgado? I was like, ‘Yes!’ every time he got the ball. This makes the loss against The Other Madrid feel less painful ๐Ÿ˜€

    Don’t get me started on Milan v Man Utd. Ugh.

    • Helge
      February 16, 2010

      Incredible match in Milan, somehow Milan gave it all away…

      but yeah, it was sooo miuch fun to watch Lyon vs Real, a hell of a match from Lloris, Delgado and kind a the whole Lyon. Definitely made up for some of the pain from last weekend!

  30. barca96
    February 17, 2010

    i didn’t think that ibra deserved a 6.
    maybe a 5.
    he did not do anything to inspire our team. i expected more from him.
    he seems scared to take on defenders like how he used to in inter.

    • Kxevin
      February 17, 2010

      Inspiration, I would suggest, is the job of the captains in the actual and figurative senses. That’s Messi, Puyol and Xavi. He made the runs, including a great many diagonal runs that deserved better service. Get him the ball, and he will score. It’s as simple as that. We don’t, or we get him the ball in an area where he can’t do anything with it.

      People are beginning to blame Ibrahimovic for the crappy service that he often gets, which I think is unfair. There’s this provicialism that a player has to “learn to play in our system.” We went out a bought the best striker in the world, for a shitload of money. It’s about high time that the system did some compensating, as well.

      • barca96
        February 17, 2010

        we should play his game or he play our game?
        we are a well gelled team so i don’t think that because of one player we need to change

        • Kxevin
          February 18, 2010

          Both, actually. I think that not to take advantage of a player’s skill set is as much in error as a player refusing to adapt to his new club’s system.

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