Logic, romance and stuff that goes bonkers

In the cauldron of culer insecurities, trouble bubbles. Barça CB Thomas Vermaelen hinted at it when he said that people shouldn’t count Arsenal out. But it’s a Premiership tale of romance that might provide the clearest depiction of why maybe, just maybe …

Leicester City won a match against Newcastle, to preserve a 5-point lead in the Premiership standings, with 8 matches to go. People who rely on logic and things making sense don’t trust Leicester. Why should they? As one very smart writer said after the match, against a better team than Newcastle, Leicester would have lost. They had one shot on target, a bicycle kick golazo, and won 1-0.

For Barça supporters, velos are icing on the cake, something done by Suarez, Pedro or most recently Arda Turan, bits of frippery that gild the lily of a beatdown. Leicester needed that moment of madness to grab the goal necessary to get the win. After the goal, the coach, Claudio Rainieri, gestured like a man thinking, “Just like I planned it,” which is obviously not the case, because who in the hell ever plans that your only shot on goal for your only goal that is sufficient to win a match that you absolutely HAVE TO WIN, will be a bicycle.

That doesn’t happen. And yet it is. It’s also the kind of thing that makes you wonder if there are in fact Footy Gods, and they’re slapping their knees as they have one over on the world for yet another week. Leicester City was supposed to be relegated this season, a passel of journeymen that Messi could buy with a single pay packet. And that was when magic started to happen, another improbable thing in an improbable game.

Another person compared Leicester City to the Montpellier side that won Ligue 1 in that fun-filled year, but PSG still wasn’t in full juggernaut mode yet, Lyon had fallen on somewhat clunky times, and Montpellier was, a lot of the time, flat-out lucky. Like Leicester. Romance doesn’t truck with logic. The statisticians and analytic minds struggle to explain how in the hell Leicester is happening, but romance doesn’t care. It’s snuggled up with a bunch of athletes and their dour, bespectacled coach, smiling for yet another week.

A better team would have beaten them, yet they have beaten better teams this season, week after week, time after time. The giants of the Prem have fallen, to be fair. Tottenham Hotspur finds itself in an uncharacteristic spot as well, second in the table in March, rather that rutting around with Arsenal for that last Champions League slot that the Gunners usually grab. And Wenger says, “We have made Champions League again, which is no small feat.” And so it goes.

Football doesn’t care about your logic. Leicester doesn’t care that Chelsea needed to implode, that United had to play drab, ineffective football while Liverpool resembled a hospital ward. Romance doesn’t care, either, as that team’s legitimately wacky story persists for yet another week that will actually be two because even if they go on a losing skid while Spurs take off like rockets, they will still have to lose two times to relinquish their lead atop the table. The odds on that are about the same as they have always been: heavily against Leicester, that batch whose name sounds like the kid who got pushed around in school. And they’re top, because who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?

Into that illogical world strolls Arsenal, a side just coming off an upset loss in the FA Cup to Watford that has ejected that team from “their” competition. They drew against Spurs, which was a perfect result for that kid named Lester, and had lost to Swansea before that, the only surcease coming via a 4-0 thrashing of Hull City in the FA Cup, a preening that set them up for failure.

They are 2 precious away goals down to the best football club in the land, FC Barcelona. This tie is all but done, says everyone except romantics and culers, for two very different sets of reasons. Romantics include fans of the team with scant hope, a starry-eyed worldview born of the pragmatism of the vanquished. They have to believe that their team can turn it around. Hell, look at Leicester.

Culers, of course, have a strong, unflappable history of paranoia that finds them worrying when up 6-0 and an opponent scores a goal. “What is wrong with our defense this season!? Gaaaah! There are six minutes left, and our guys look tired. This isn’t over.”

It wouldn’t take much for Arsenal to create squeaky bum time at the Camp Nou. And in a game where eternal vigilance is required lest a moment’s lapse result in Giroud suddenly having one of his moments of inexplicable excellence, a goal would change a lot.

Logically, you can look at the Arsenal defense that gave up a pair of goals to Swansea and say, “No way in hell that group, chasing the match, doesn’t concede to the vaunted Trident.” Particularly with the first-choice keeper out.

But there are times in football when nothing makes sense, when some unshakable force decides today is the day that the greats will be mortal and the peons will be able to strike magic from feet that were formerly ordinary. And two sets of fans worry for very different sets of reasons, one hoping for romance, the other logic. And that latter should rule. But hey, some kid named Lester isn’t supposed to be prom king, either.

By Kxevin

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.


  1. Apologies for the OT but want to thank Kxevin and KD. And enjoy your trip foto. Btw, I looked at match tickets online for the Valencia match and the seats above the tunnel (but not in the middle, either to the left and right) all costs upwards of 200Euros. Pretty ridiculous isn’t it? It wouldn’t be cheaper to get it closer to game time to get it at the ticket booth at Las Ramblas.

    I read from an old post Lev complaining about 60Euros! And the ones I see are mostly above 200Euros. Sigh.

  2. I don’t really follow EPL but how did a team from relegation battle go to a champion contender in one season? And a champion going to mid table at the same time. Really strange.

    Every season in a lot of the leagues there are always teams doing well at the start of the season and then when the crunch time comes in Feb-Mar, they will falter. I’ve seen it happening a lot in my 21 years of watching football. I thought the same fate would happen to Leicester. I would really love to see Leicester winning it. Hopefully the American FIFA guy didn’t jinx Leicester when he said CL prefers to have the likes of Man United.

    1. Smart signings that all worked out plus great coaching.

      That’s why they have been playing well all season.

      But that alone would not have been enough 5-10 years ago.

      How crap everyone else has been is what has made it possible.

    2. I dont see much of EPL. But from the little bits and pieces I saw, I think as much Leicester playing a bit above their level, the big teams played much poorer than they have ever played. At the end of the season, this would be shown as a a great success story and the competitiveness of EPL, but they would clearly try to hide the factor that the top teams in EPL played extremely poor football for a full season.

  3. Enter Your Comment… crackling interview of Dani Alves by Sid Lowe in the Guardian. The guy and Mascherano are pure box office in putting across their views.

    Could not help but muse about Mascherano using the same argument to present his case. Worth a read that interview.

    And would we be cules if we did not have fear in the pits of our stomachs? Every single game we go through the same motions irrspective of the opponent before our team.

    1. Thanks for sharing, that was a pure gem of an interview.
      Comments section in the guardian is a mixed bag. Sometimes it is a treasure of awesome views (and ways of expressing the views), even Sid Lowe came out and made some funny remarks. Some comments however are just Goal.com poor!

      I can’t understand why people don’t like Dani. He speaks his heart and doesn’t as much as hurt anyone as he annoys some stereotypes. We need people like him – who say it in your face (especially when you want him to shut up). And his antics are grossly exaggerated (so are the antics of Busquets) – he is a gentleman player when he meets a class opponent! But when you have people trying to hack your leg, he shows his street-smart skills, which is a necessity to neutralize the physical opposition!

  4. Damn. Just realised that I’m going to be in the air on my way to Honolulu during the Arsenal game. I know it’s a hard neck to moan about that given the destination but I’ll be a bag of nerves if I can’t get at least internet on the flight. In LA at the moment and it’s probably fair to say this has been the least interesting for me after Vegas and NY. Looking forward a some surfing next though !

    With regard to the match it wouldn’t be us if Arsenal didn’t score first and give us a bit of a fright but can’t see it being more than that. It’s difficult to see what they can do as their strengths are also ours and we’re way better than them in these areas. I suppose if I were looking at it from Wenger’s point of view I’d keep it tight, play Giroud and Welbeck up front and throw crosses into the box. Desperate I know but if you look at the last twenty minutes of the first leg they had a lot of success with that. They deliberately played up the left , drew Pique to the front post and played it to the back. Once they got Giroud or welbeck against Masche there was a chance and they created three good ones just in that time. I’m assuming Matthieu will be replacing Pique but on the left so Masche will be the right CB. I think Mathieu has been brilliant in the last few games and hopefully some commentators will be reconsidering their lazy assessment of him but even I’m not sure how well he can duplicate Pique’s amazing positional ability to be where the crosses are. Might be a night for TS to give Masche some support in that area.

  5. That was the best Simeone moment ever. He decides its enough, and evokes the crowd and thats it, PSV miss the next penalty.
    To score penalties like that in an away stadium, PSV also was excellent. They also played very very well.
    Almost all the pen kicks were excellent too.

  6. Suarez’ passing is atrocious on some days.

    Ter Stegen.

    When sMasch was signed, I thought he would be a card magnet but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Arda on the other hand….

    Players seemed to be on cruising mode Until Arsenal scored.

    1. Shout out to Rakitic too. He along with sMasch didn’t take the match lightly. They both worked their asses off.

    2. That must be the best game of Masch ever, I think. He saves his best for Arsenal.

      On the other hand, what was our problem today, complascency or just an off day or what. The thing is we let Arsenal have enough chances to make it a looooong affair, except that Arsenal cant finish. But then, we did wind it up well, but still. Anyways.

  7. They step it up and score if they need to and take their feet off the pedal if things are under control

  8. Hats off to the team; another solid performance. Despite a fine effort by Arsenal, there was never any doubt, really. A particular shout-out to Mathieu who stepped in for Piqué like a champion.

    What can you do when someone scores a goal like Suarez did? Demotivating to say the least.

    Will be an interesting draw tomorrow. Part of me want a difficult opponent now, since I think we would beat any team over two legs, while a final is more open. Barca are by far the strongest looking side, while BM has plenty of excellence; RM has quality to cause damage, and PSG might surprise. Rest of the teams are clear underdogs, and I wouldn’t mind Wolfsburg, if we’re looking for the least difficult opponent. Benfica and Man City should not cause too many problems, either.

  9. My road to the UCL repeat

    Quarters: PSG /Athletico
    Semis: BM (just because 180 minutes is much more fun between these sides)
    Finals: RM (so we show them how it’s done, again)

    That would be the way to make sure that history remembers this Barca as one of the best, ever.

    I don’t want to see Man City or any other push overs, they aren’t worthy opponents, no offense!

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