We have a few things to discuss, as per some of the very interesting points raised in the aftermath of our rather lackluster victory against Racing, including the qualities of one Sergi Busquets.
But first, some news:
–Aleksandr Hleb says that a resurgent Stuttgart have a “10 percent” shot against us in our upcoming Champions League match. The good thing for us is that we start the tie at their house, which means that if we can steal an away goal or two, we’re sitting pretty for the home leg.
There is, of course, bad news ….
–Though Xavi and Alves traveled to Stuttgart with the team, neither are expected to play, joining Abidal and Keiteeee! on the sidelines. Almost certain to join them is Ibrahmovic, who is still recovering from a possibly infected cut on his ankle that he took in the Atletico loss. Some of the kids such as Dos Santos and Bartra are playing with the first team, but I wouldn’t expect the hyper-conservative Guardiola to risk young’uns on the big stage. Arthur Boka will be out for Stuttgart, which robs us of seeing some of the worst hair in professional football in the person of the Cote d’Ivoirean defender. 😀
–In the “hope Fabregas goes this way,” Benik Afobe has been signed to a long-term deal by Arsenal. We were buzzing around this talented kid like flies around honey, but Arsenal locked him up. Let’s hope that they do us the same favor with Fabregas.
–Robinho says that he rejected us, rather than the other way ’round. The pouty Brazilian, now playing for Santos, says that there was an offer on the table from us, but that it was ultimately for a loan, and he didn’t want to have to move his family, blah, blah, blah, for 6 months only to possibly have to move them again. Whatever, dude. Have fun in Brazil.
–BritPress are speculating that The Yaya’s bags are all but packed for a summer departure from us. Citeh is looking to be the most likely suitor, as they can offer him a pigpile of cash and the locker next to his brother, Kolo. But Chelsea and Aresnal are also said to be watching the situation, which brings me to my first talking point.
Sergi Busquets should chain himself to The Yaya’s leg, like those Greenpeace folks do to giant redwoods, and never, ever let him leave the side. When The Yaya is in the side, Busquets usually has a storming match, because he can focus his attentions fully frontward, without having to worry about what might happen if one of his bits of ambition goes awry.
For my money, Busquets is not an defensive midfielder, but rather an advanced playmaking midfielder. The more that I watch him, the more I am convinced that we don’t have a player like him on the roster. Keita is close, but he isn’t as much a playmaker as a hell-raiser and facilitator, in that he just keeps the ball moving.
Busquets, on the other hand, can help our possession game, crash the box, battle for possession in the midfield, break up attacks and pass with the best of them, as long as he remembers to keep it simple, stupid. He’s been in a rich vein of form of late, and it’s no coincidence that such form has come as he has advanced up the pitch. Against Racing he was, in effect, playing the Iniesta role while the latter played the Xavi role. And it was a success, as Busquets attacked, crashed the box and made a series of lovely link-up passes that made us look about as dangerous as we ever did.
But, we already have a Xavi and Iniesta, right, so what is his ideal role, and does his emergence have any implications for Keita and/or The Yaya?
In my opinion, it shouldn’t. All three are very different. Yes, all three and play DM, and The Yaya can play as an advanced playmaker, like Busquets. But if you look at their skill sets, you could almost make a case for all three of them being on the pitch, particularly in the case of an Iniesta absence. The lineup would look something like:
Obviously, Messi and Ibrahimovic would drift around as they usually do, leaving Busquets in that Iniestaesque playmaker/hellraiser role. Obviously if Ghostface is fit, he’s the man. But as an experiment, in the woeful event that some defender commits Iniestacide, that might be a fun possibility.
Most importantly, I think that Busquets makes Fabregas irrelevant, allowing us to spend our 50 million on something a lot more fun, like a new team jet and a defender or two. Because what Fabregas does, Iniesta and Busquets can already do. Yes, the beauty of Fabregas is that he embodies some of Xavi and some of Iniesta. But so do Thiago and Dos Santos, who won’t cost us 50m. And if we are to see Fabregas on the pitch with Xavi and Iniesta, his role would most likely very similar to that of Busquets. Now, for my money, I want Busquets, just because I just don’t see Fabregas playing a lot of defense, or covering ground the way that our Colt Unbound does.
Of Bojan Krkic, Pep Guardiola said, “The thing is that he came up too quickly and he is still learning.”
This is a very interesting quote, because it’s one of the first times that Guardiola has directly addressed the CT Complexity. When Rijkaard brought him up, it was to address a great many complexities, not least of which was to stave off the vultures that were hovering around him in the form of other teams. Bringing him up means that he is ours and happy. But it also means that once he’s up, it’s difficult for him to go back.
Now, when you’re a new coach coming in, you have this issue of this Wunderkind who really isn’t ready yet, but he’s in the team. So you have to play him. Whether he’s ready or not. And play him you do, every now and again, in the hope that he will return the investment of time and a roster position. And he does, just often enough to make people say “See, he is ready.” Even though you know that he isn’t.
I think that the above quote was the first real admission from Guardiola that Krkic isn’t ready. And I’m sure that in his heart of hearts, he wishes that he could send him back to the B team, for more seasoning and learning how to play the game.
And so do I.
Finally, there has been a chorus after Saturday’s match of “Boy, we sure did move better without that lazy-ass Zlatan Ibrahimovic out there,” a sentiment that I think is misguided for a number of reasons:
–At times, we were striker-less, as Henry drifted to the left and Krkic to the right, leaving a desultory Messi as our false 9. This is one reason for the dearth of good chances that presented themselves in the match. Ibrahimovic, with his movement in and out of the box, size, control and strength, acts as another advanced playmaker. Sometimes, playing a pass to him and having him pillow it back to Xavi or Iniesta, opens up a lane for another attacker. The effects are beneficial.
–His runs are improving. He was threatening as hell against ATM, making the kinds of diagonal runs that need to happen in our offense. He is still learning to play as a part of our system, and deserves the time to get the hang of it before people start to write him off as a waste of a lot of money. In my estimation, he’s the best striker in the world, and one of the few who can also function as a playmaker from that advanced role. But just as he has to learn to adapt to us, we have to learn to adapt to him. And no, this doesn’t mean bombing a long ball in the hopes that he will run under it, control it and work some magic. It also means understanding the kind of player that he is, and learning to work within those boundaries.
–He’s isn’t lazy. He is a different kind of player than Eto’o, and doesn’t move about as much or with as much alacrity, but he is also possessed of the kind of skill set that makes him not have to move around as much. When was the last time we had a player who can bomb into the box and take root, controlling the pass with a defender or two on his back, and who is still able to make a play. Eto’o created space with movement and pace, while Ibrahimovic creates space sometimes with movement, sometimes with control/passing, other times with strength and power. It’s an important difference.
Yes, he needs to get back onside faster, but we also need to start getting him the ball in situations where he can do something with it with more regularity. Inter got to be very good at that, and might have reached their zenith with that particular quality last season, when Ibrahimovic led the league and scored some remarkable goals. We will never, ever play the kind of offense that Inter played, where he is the lone point man and focal point of our offense. But when he in integrated into the offense in a meaningful way, he will not only score goals, but create them.
Interestingly, he kicked off his tenure with us doing precisely that, not only popping in goals but assisting others. He and Messi were well on the way to learning how to make beautiful music together. Then for whatever reason, they went off the boil, and are playing like strangers again. The possibilities of an attacking trident of Henry/Ibrahimovic/Messi should be sufficient to drive opposing defenses mad, but we have to learn how to utilize it. This doesn’t mean playing the way that we always have, and wondering why in the hell that big Swede won’t get with the program.
But that’s enough from me, what say ye?