Atletico de Madrid 2, Barça 0, aka “Gracies, equip. Gracies per tot.”

When someone you love lets you down, what’s the reaction?

For a Barça supporter, there is still no more pertinent question in the wake of the Champions League elimination at the hands of Atleti. What do you do? Berate, with recriminations and told-you-sos that explain more about your petulance than anything else? Or a hug and a “Thanks for the effort, I’m sure you did your best?”

Or maybe you find someone else to blame because you don’t really want to be that kind of a person, so it’s the butcher’s fault for providing a poor cut of meat that cooked up so poorly, turning the big anniversary dinner into a puddle of broken dishes and an argument.

Barça came up short against Atleti in the pivotal away leg in this year’s Champions League, but it’s difficult to muster anything except gratitude for a team that fought so hard, did everything that it could but was ultimately let down by its own legs, its own energy. And Atleti and its demonic coach, Diego Simeone, came up with the perfect strategy to counteract a weakened, damaged Barça, a team that for once, didn’t have magic.

And it’s weird.

Supporters of other clubs are used to this feeling, but it’s an odd one for this current edition of Barça. Our supporters are usually the ones dancing on a grave while celebrating a win. It feels strange to be on the wrong side of a scoreline, of an elimination tie. Rootless? Kinda. You don’t know what to do now with a tournament that feels like it should end now that Barça has been eliminated. And no matter how bad or weird you might feel, imagine how much worse the team feels. It’s why berating someone who disappoints you never, ever works. They already feel bad, and know that they screwed up. Nothing that you say can make them feel any worse, even as it makes you feel better, in a perverse way, to purge your disappointment.

How must the flight back to Barcelona have been? What are the players doing as they deal with the aftermath of such a pivotal loss? Those who are athletes at a level where winning or losing matters, understand. Not the weekend kickabouts, but an event with something substantial at stake, be it a local championship, regional or national one. A loss sticks with you for a long time, especially one that came after you worked long and hard, week after week, month after month, preparing for a key moment. That time came, and you failed. I remember losing such a race, and my coach just gave me a hug. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. You can be fast enough, good enough and ready and sometimes, stuff just doesn’t happen right. And you feel unmoored.

At the nexus of a lot of weird feelings for athletes and supporters is wrestling with hope and belief. Hope is wishing something will happen, where belief is believing that it will. They’re different, even as they are emotional relatives. It was hard not to watch that Atleti match and wait for the inevitable goal, the crazy Suarez thing, the Messi move, the Neymar run to set up something incredible until finally there was only the hope for that most remarkable of occurrences, another Iniestazo. You could see the players trying to make that magic as much as supporters hoped for it. When magic didn’t happen and kept not happening the belief was undiminished, almost like the match should have continued until the proper result ensued. It felt wrong to see someone else celebrating.

The link between players and supporters was real during that maelstrom of a second half. “We’ve always done it.” “They’ve always done it.” So much belief.

Barça is out of the Champions League, so now what? As a supporter of the club from back when it was winning pretty much feck all, winning has always felt weird to me, versus supporters for whom winning is all that they have known. The reaction is, from this chair, the same as it would be any time a loved one disappoints. First, you examine the nature of the disappointment, and what it means to you. In the overall state of things, Barça being eliminated from Champions League doesn’t really damage our lives all that much. It takes away the joy of victory, the thrill of watching this team on yet another stage as it competes for the greatest prize in football. But the sun rises the next day and life goes on, for the players and coaches as well as the supporters. There are still two other championships in play, after all.

So what happened? Some are saying things such as “betrayal of principles” as Barça stroked the ball around in that first half, seemingly not interested in doing much except making sure Atleti didn’t have the ball, the precise kind of sterile possession that many claimed the Guardiola sides devolved to. But was it really that? The first Atleti goal, the one that defined the match, came when Jordi Alba hoofed a clearance away, in the worst way to the worst possible spot on the field. What happened? On another day at another moment, he takes the ball, controls it and strokes it over to a teammate, or just pushes it over the touchline. When you learn something, it is at the moments of greatest pressure and fatigue that you forget what you know. It’s worth asking whether that moment most clearly raised the idea that this team is a bigger physical and psychological mess than we can fathom. As a collective, Barça didn’t play as well as it could have in that first half, but what if that was all that they had and were mustering energy for the surge, the bombardment of the Atleti box that came in the second half?

In articles and on social madia, people pointed to things tactical, about bench depth, principles, this, that and the other. It’s all stuff that attempts to explain the simple reality that the best team in the world was brought down by a variety of factors and defeated by what is probably the second-best team in the world. In the first leg, Luis Suarez made the difference. In the second leg, he didn’t. Is it as simple as that, chances taken or not? At one level, sure. If he doesn’t hit those shots where Oblak could easily save them, the mood is different and the double treble is still on, right?

Football aestheticians point to various things and suggest those spaces are where failure lives. Theory. Others say that the bench was uninspiring and incapable of making a difference, and that was what it was, even as one substitute elevated play on the right wing and another, Arda Turan, laced in a brilliant cross that on another day would have left Luis Suarez doing his usual celebration.

Stats devotees look at things such as the fact that Atleti ran 12km more than Barça, as if that explains anything except in a symbolic sense. Every team runs more than the team that camps in their half with ball possession, more than 70 percent on this night. It’s easy to say that Atleti was more committed to its style and approach than Barça, in the abstract, always-perfect world of theory. “See, you run around, pass the ball and then score a goal. You go do that.” Messi had zero touches in the Atleti box. Fatigue, some sort of injury, which one media outlet alleged in the wake of the proceedings, or something else? Objectivity is craved in the aftermath of a familiar equation whose numbers reached a different solution.

But it just ain’t that easy. An athlete never really understands what happened in a moment of failure, even as they know what happened: they failed. Suarez might hit those same shots at different times, and they would fly to the left or right of the keeper because he hit the ball exactly right. He will relive those moments in his mind for many moments more, because that’s what athletes do. The ones who say they move on, don’t look back, are kidding themselves. It’s human to remember failure and wonder what you might have done differently. It’s also human to fail, it’s human to be frail at moments when you should be strong, it’s human to strive, just as it’s human to fail.

“You can’t win them all” is one the most rueful of sports cliches, even as it is also the most accurate. It puts pain into words. As an athlete, when you lose, there is pain. And sadness. Not physical pain. That can be managed. Your soul aches. You did so much, yet you didn’t do enough. It’s an indescribable feeling that every athlete at any level is intimately familiar with even if you never, ever come to terms with it.

The idea of paying it forward is an old one that is always valid. In many ways, this loss is an example of that for all of us who love this club. How we react to this failure will be quite different for each supporter, and always personal. I remember that one race day, my failure and that silent hug, which shapes these words and everything around them. And so, simply enough, the reaction is “Thank you,” or “Gracies, equip,” in keeping with the correct tone and language. Thank you for doing all that you could, thank you for bringing the people who follow your exploits so much joy. Thank you for making the phrase “double treble” part of the vernacular. Thank you for playing so well that a thing such as “double treble,” a fundamental absurdity, could even be a possibility.

Thank you for turning yourselves inside out for so many months, for being the best footballers extant, thank you for performing at a level so stratospheric that it rendered so many of you irreplaceable. Thank you for everything.

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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.

50 Comments

  1. PPos
    April 14, 2016

    Great post, it’s what I and the other supporters needed to hear. It hurts to lose, but it is part of the game. That’s why it’s a competition. The latter half of the season has shown the lack of depth Barcelona has. MSN is unbelievable when they’re fresh, fit, and rested. LE hasn’t really rotated them this year, at all, and it showed. Well what’s done is done. I wish Atletico or Citeh go on to win it because I rather take a first time winner any day than Madrid or Bayern. Well, Bayern, wouldn’t be so bad as I still have a soft spot for Pep. I think Luis Enrique should have started Alba. He’s been very poor recently. Zidane saw how poor Danilo had been playing and benched him. LE should have done the same. This concept of the Gala XI is stale. When players know that they’re starting every time, they tend to relax and not try as hard as they should. It’s a privilege to start for barça. Not a sure fire right.

    • MSN
      April 14, 2016

      But if Lucho benches Alba, who plays? Adriano? They need to bring a good lb to compete with him. Right now, there’s none.

    • PPos
      April 14, 2016

      Yeah honesty I think Adriano would have had a better game than Alba. Alba is in a funk and I think it’s because he thinks he’s gonna start 100% of the time. I agree with you on bringing a new LB to create some competition.

  2. MSN
    April 14, 2016

    It’s good to read a lucid view. I’ve seen so much crap, from “sell everyone, rebuild”, to “player X is shit”, it’s insane. Losing is part of this sport. We don’t have a god given right to win it all. There are problems, as every single team in the world have problems. There isn’t a perfect setup, and these players have been dominating for the past decade. And luck influences this game, and the CL. We got the worst possible opponent in Atlético. Had we draw Wolfsburg or Benfica, I’m sure we’d have qualified. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.

  3. Davour
    April 14, 2016

    And thank you for providing eloquent and thought-through articles which functions as catharsis to some extent. I guess all the winning has made it more difficult for culés to imagine somebody else as the protagonist; it creates a sense of discrepancy, or something misplaced.

    To quote Mason Jennings: When they let my last breath free, turn your eyes but don’t fail to see, the love you feel inside your skin” – we care because we love; let’s not forget that. We have the right to expect that they try, but not that they win.

  4. ChaoticReaper
    April 14, 2016

    Turns out Lucho is clueless. His “master rotation” is nowhere to be found this season. The only reason it was present last season was because it took him 20 games to figure out the best 11. Lucho is not a deciding factor in whether we win or lose. It’s all whether the players turn up or not. Whether Messi wants to dribble on the right or not. Lucho looks too tired for the job as well. Just standing there with a grim look on his face while Simeone jumps up and down.

    • Víctor
      April 14, 2016

      He is a deciding factor. Barcelona won the treble last season, you think that coaches have no influence in any of that? No, my friend, having excellent players is just not enough to win 3 tournaments at the same time. Luis Enrique has done a great job as a coach. Does he make mistakes? Absolutely, just like any other coach. However, he has made many right decisions as well… in fact, lots of them.

    • ChaoticReaper
      April 14, 2016

      We won the treble because MSN played well. This season they play bad and we don’t win anything.

  5. Víctor
    April 14, 2016

    What did Luis Enrique say after the match? “We need to improve, me first. Congrats to Atletico. Can’t say anything about the penalty at the end of the match”
    What did Mascherano say? “We can’t blame the ref”
    And that is just class. It was a penalty that could have been the 2-1 and extra time. Changing everything to Barcelona’s favor. Did Barcelona moan about the ref? No. They just admitted the defeat and go on. That’s the mark of best team in the world.

    Had it been any other team, they would be complaing about rigged refs and conspiracies.

    And make no mistake, Barcelona is still the team to defeat. And will be the team to defeat next CL.

  6. dl
    April 14, 2016

    Pretty clear that the team, as a whole, is running on fumes. As much as I hate to say it, a couple of the players are really showing their age (Iniesta, Alves, Mascherano…..). Great group of kids, and it will be painful to see it break up in the next year or so, but I suspect that next year will feature a very different team.

    And of course a great shout out to Simeone and his team. Year after year he cobbles together a Team — one that really functions as a unit, and always seems to give 110%. I hope they draw City (and beat them), and I hope Bayern rip through rm (payback for a couple of years ago). And in the final, of course Atm! They’ve really earned it.

    • Davour
      April 14, 2016

      Indeed. The price of a small squad and no superstar subs. I’m note sure I agree with Iniesta and Mascherano showing age much (though this is of course due to much rest for Andrés). Masch, to me, was the only solid defender now Piqué lost his focus (injured, perhaps).

      But sure, something needs to be altered, though hardly the entire group. Alves should perhaps not be a given starter and Masch should be challenged by a new CB. But what else?

  7. April 14, 2016

    There is a video of Iniesta weeping on the team bus that is heart-wrenching. There are people who are questioning the commitment of these players. I will never understand that notion.

    • MSN
      April 14, 2016

      I saw that video. Also disgusted me some supporters insulting Pique and Alba.

    • Davour
      April 14, 2016

      Tears of frustration no doubt; he knows they can do better, are the better team, but were simply not able this time. Hurts.

  8. Manita2010
    April 14, 2016

    People tend to say things when they are hurt but us as supporters should know that, dare I say apart from bragging rights the players have a more vested interest in winning. Yesterday at the blow of the final whistle I went straight to bed the pain was unbearable. I couldn’t sleep i tossed and turned then woke up around 3am GMT. I made the terrible mistake of going to open espnfc the pain only increased from reading the comments . at 5am i got ready to go to work I knew what was waiting for me, imagine working in a company full of Man U, Chelsea and Real madrid fans. I would have exchange the previous 7 wins for just a win yesterday, football can be cruel.

    Thank you kxevin for this article it’s just what i needed. I thought of taking a 1 year sabbatical from watching barca just like in 2011-2012 (suffered a depression).

    Next year we will still be THE team to beat

  9. ciaran
    April 14, 2016

    Now isn’t the time to make decisions for next season, it’s time to ensure that this season is a success by wrapping up the league and preparing the team for a tough Copa final against fellow cup specialists Sevilla.
    I don’t think that any genuine fan doubts the players’ commitment to the cause but certainly questions can be asked about the application.
    The Clasico was the perfect opportunity to show the squad that fitness and form were the most important things at this point of the season. Had Lucho rolled out a team designed to keep it close and shield his players then a 2-1 loss would have meant practically nothing to Madrid and even less to us, say resting Messi for Sergi Roberto lining up the same as in the first Clasico.

    Now we once again have the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past few weeks by bouncing back v Valencia and I believe that this will happen in a big way at the weekend.

    I also understand the concern in the culeverse in the strength, or lack there of, in the squad. What is the point in having players that Lucho doesn’t trust one bit when we can apparently barely afford to pay the forwards? Would our position be much different this season if we didn’t have Adriano? Douglas? Vermaelen? Sandro? Masip? If we didn’t have those but had Nolito would our bank balance be all that different?
    Looking at Bayern Munich in their match v Benfica, they could afford to bench Lewa and still start top notch players; not only that they can also look to their bench and have the likes Coman and Costa waiting in the wings so to speak.
    Now I would take our forward line over theirs every day of the week but on occasions where an opponent has figured MSN out, having an alternative on the bench who you can realistically count on to change the course of a match is vital to maintaining our position as the best team in Europe.
    Likewise, Busquets is irreplaceable in our system and due to being amongst the best midfielders in the world it’s obviously difficult to find someone willing to sit and wait their chances that are likely to never come. Allowing him to rest is necessary however and surely Samper is capable in the earlier parts of next season.
    A call has to be made on how to best allow Iniesta to continue working his magic. Rakitic absolutely disappeared when he was needed on the ball last night. Without someone else willing to take creative responsibilities from the front three and Iniesta we were toothless in the first half. Arda was an improvement, especially with Sergi Roberto covering more defensive duties but he too will need more consistent gametime to be a starter, at least more consistent in terms of position.
    Further back we need to have the option of fielding defenders who can, you know, defend. Three of our back four cannot win a header and are not natural defenders. Resting Pique is also not an option as he is the only one who controls the lines and we’ve looked terrible without him this season.

    On the whole, we still have the framework to continue our dominance in La Liga and in Europe but clever moves are needed and the support of Lucho. Firstly, let’s get the championship wrapped up and then we can look forward to an interesting and crucial summer

  10. TITO
    April 14, 2016

    Interesting stat i came around.
    Last season Suarez was subbed 15 times, Ney 12 times and Messi 1 time.
    This season you have Suarez subbed 0 times, Ney 1 and Messi 2 times.

    • Davour
      April 15, 2016

      This looks like the answer to an important question…

  11. TITO
    April 14, 2016

    Anybody watching Liverpool – Dortmund? Incredible game.

    • ciaran
      April 14, 2016

      What a game. Whoever was going out was going to give everything. Poor Hummels had no one else defending with him in the second half. End to end with. Two teams incredibly closely matched. Fantastic spectacle and two amazing sets of fans led to a great night. I’d love to be in Liverpool tonight.

  12. luisthebeast
    April 14, 2016

    Fans of LFC are getting crazy for an amazing comeback and a EL SF.Barca fans with a double maybe in next month and possible 7 trophies in one year whining so much….with smart signings next seasom we will be ok.I am also ok with a big sale.Brazilians after 3 seasons at the same club start to lose their focus and commitment.

    • Davour
      April 15, 2016

      Well, compare that to a man who has not eaten for days and is presented with a juicy burger, and one who has just gone through an excellent five-course meal and now feels the cognac and cigar are not quite up to the same standard… of course, he is disappointed, on the verge of outraged!

    • Davour
      April 15, 2016

      Also… are you suggesting Barca should sell Neymar?

  13. G6O
    April 15, 2016

    CL Semis:

    City – RM
    Bayern – AM

    So basically Madrid are in the final and could well face Atletico again, where we know what will happen.

    This season was looking so good just a couple weeks ago…

  14. Davour
    April 15, 2016

    Ah, what a sweet ride for EE… City has basically no defence, but on a good day their attack could unsettle EE’s. Their journey so far looks the absolute opposite from Barca’s last year (facing all the big champs on their way).

    Not so sure RM would beat AM (or BM), though in a one-off anything can happen…

    • April 15, 2016

      How the hell is this always working in favour of RM. Incredible it is.
      CR7 will touch goal no. 20 now, easily.

    • G6O
      April 15, 2016

      I think Bayern will beat Madrid this time in a two-legged tie. Pep must have learned his lessons. They would be favorites in an eventual final too.

      What I am afraid of is them losing to Atletico.

      And then Atletico falling apart against the EE once again.

    • April 15, 2016

      Exactly friend. Thats what make me worried too. Things are looking like exactly how it was in 2014. Atletico will have an eye on liga too and hereafter would use their best players for all matches and am afraid, by the time of finals, might miss one or two of their best players., like they didnt have Turan for the last final.

  15. TITO
    April 15, 2016

    No conspiracy theories, but this is simply ridiculous.
    Roma Rm, Wolfsburg Rm, City Rm .
    How lucky you have to be to get this order of teams.

    • Davour
      April 15, 2016

      … and each time the return leg is at home, too. But what can you do? Just laugh it off.

    • Víctor
      April 15, 2016

      I’d rather not play with these silly arguments… apparently everyone believes in some kind of conspiracy… many talk about UEFAlona… and others talk about UEFA favoring Real Madrid… I think that both notions are ridicoulous… Madrid is also a top quality team (yes, even with their idiotic board) so yes, most rivals would be easy for them…

    • Davour
      April 15, 2016

      You misunderstand – I, for one, did not insinuate a conspiracy, I don’t believe in these things; I only point to the sense that everything suddenly turns against our wishes, as Barca fans. It is almost humorous. But as Masch said, let’s not be opportunists.

      Of course RM is a top quality team, but their draws have been ridiculously favourable even so.

  16. Manish
    April 15, 2016

    What a season it has been.. from the glorious plays to the absolute bottomless pit.. The international break with the front three having to play hard across the continent certainly took its toll..

    Never in my wildest dreams did i think that the treble repeat would be easy..as the season wore on the players looked tired and the run of high octane matches was a potential haymaker on the team.

    Post match analysis seems easy, but i still believe the tipping point was the classico and maybe the Panama papers is playing into Messi’s mind.

    Enrique would have been better off resting players during the classico and made Madrid feel unimportant. The panama papers i believe is strongly weighing on Messi. (why does he have to get into all this mess).

    At the end of all this, i still believe this is the best team Barca ever had, the football i have seen through the season has nothing been short of spell binding. Just hope the clouds clear up and the team can see the blue skies again..

    • G6O
      April 15, 2016

      Also, it’s probably just a coincidence, but ever since Cruyff died we have been playing like complete crap. As if the spirit deserted the club…

  17. Jim
    April 15, 2016

    First of all, I’m a sore loser. There, I’ve said it. Never have been, probably never will be good at accepting defeat. And it’s never the level you’re playing at, its what you have invested in the result, either physically or emotionally but usually both.

    So, yes, I know the team were tired and as some have said when we were scraping past weaker teams not even close to the level of RM or Atleti the signs were there. Some ignored them, some, possibly including me, made more of them than was necessary while still secretly hoping we were wrong. I see the sell posts have started and there will be a time for that but it’s surely after we seal the league. I sense trouble this summer. Top players don’t take defeat well, nor the criticism which has and will come their way. Add to that the NEED for rest this summer – has anyone worked out the dates for the Euros, Copa and Olympics ? Maybe I’m worrying unnecessarily but a lot of scope for arguments / injuries / fatigue there.

    As far as the game was concerned I’ve now calmed down and am left with disappointments rather than anger. You can’t be angry when you know that our players gave all they had on the day. And I’ll leave the buying / selling till another time.

    Disappointment 1 – the flaying of Jordi Alba yet again. Honestly? I thought he had as good a game as anyone in the defence, although that’s not saying a lot. However, the goal. If you have never played football or attempted the kick he did, buy yourself a ball and go out into your local park . Roll the ball down the touch line, right down the line mind you, then run after it and try to swivel round and kick it back the way it has come. See how straight and how far it goes. Why ? Because to kick a ball far and straight it has to be outside your kicking foot and you need to be able to step hard into the ball. In that situation the ball was bound to hook. There was a fifty fifty chance of it going to us or them and it went to them. Deal with it. His only other option was to play it out of play. In hindsight maybe the better choice but why ? It then gives them. A throw in right at our corner flag and we were in enough trouble. I’m sure his thought was that there was a decent chance of their player deflecting it ou t in which case the aforementioned throw in would be to one of our players whose only option would be to hoof it with possibly the same result. No, if you want to slag him find another instance and don’t ignore the times in the game he bailed out other defenders.

    2. The defence ? They all had a poor night but their task was almost impossible. They all had a part in the goal. Pique and Masche mucked up their two on one to start the problem and it was Alba who had to recover it. After that Masche was in the wrong position, Pique came forward to cover which Rio called a mistake. In hindsight, yes but you can’t leave that area empty for a pass. (Despite that, he didn’t have a great game and I’m his biggest fan. ) Alves was left between a rock and a hard place etc. Etc. Do we ever stop to consider how hard it is to constantly accept the ball and pass our way out of defence against a hiigh press ? The wonder is that we don’t make more mistakes. I’m sorry but after the first ten minutes I was screaming at TS just to hoof it in the very tight situations we’re having to make dangerous passes across our area and going nowhere . If Iniesta ends up shouting at them and waving his arms ( did anyone else see that on the edge of their screen as TS passed to Pique who was on his own byeline and surrounded by two or three opponents) then that tells me something.

    3. What was our plan for this match after last week? I’d really like to know because I didn’t see one. Our midfield, despite Iniesta’s sterling efforts, was nowhere to be seen. Did I think it would be any different? No, did LE? If so, what was his plan? I’m not a coach but even I can see the trend. We create nothing, Messi leaves his position and comes to deep, either saving the day or not, but dependant on him alone. Here’s a thought. If you think you’re going to struggle in midfield away from home with a lead and want to amuse them trouble put four in the midfield and give the fourth man instructions to run with the ball at them. You could see Simeone had thought about it right from the start with the assault on the Masche/ Alba wing. Either float the ball that way for a flick on or put it over the top. You could see them deciding as a unit that now was the time to press. Were ours told to press in midfield or not or were and couldn’t ? Any way you look at it LE did nothing new and relied again on MSN get us out of a hole. Not saying it would have made any difference but I’d have liked to have seen something. Not good enough for me. The sad silent figure he cut on the touch line said it all.

    Disappointment 4.

    MSN. I know they’re dog tired. They have borne the brunt of our successes for two seasons now. But whereas last season they were new and Messi’s diagonal balls were irresistible for some time now teams have shut that off and there just isn’t enough movement from Mesi or Neymar. They need to come short at times or our play becomes predictable . At least when Xavi was here we knew that if there had been runs he or Ini would have found them. Now Messi has to do that. Yes, Rakitic, I’m looking at you. I know the guy ran all night until the hook but are we still holding the Sanchez line that he is a sensational player because he runs about ? A great backup for tired legs late in a game but probably not a starter at Barca.

    So yeah, it didn’t make for good viewing and it was a sad way for our double treble to end but when you look at how much more they ran and pressed than us , as soon as they got ahead I’m sure most of us were slumped in front of the TV hoping rather than believing. Good on you, if you weren’t .

    Last point. Did anyone else refuse to look at the pictures of Ini wiping tears away on the bus ? Some things are too much . . .

    • ciaran
      April 15, 2016

      In the first half in particular, Rakitic looked like he didn’t want the ball. If you look at the average positioning of our team Rakitic was a good 10-15yards ahead of Iniesta and we couldn’t afford it. There was constant pressure on our back line and ter Stegen but Rakitic didn’t show for the ball at any stage until after the break.
      Iniesta was our best player but at his age can’t do this for much longer. Lucho has made a commitment to reduce his minutes in order to have him in top shape but another summer tournament and and season full of matches means that we need a plan B.

      In terms of the defense, most of the important goals we’ve conceded recently have been balls that were in the air; the Mathieu own goal v Villarreal, the two v Madrid, the header v Soceidad and the first goal from Griezmann.
      Having Alves, Masch and Alba in defense certainly doesn’t help.

      On your first point, Alba made the clearance that happened to be straight to an Atletico player. Ideally he could have put it out of play but that isn’t normally how we play. The problem with that, for me, it’s that a defender’s first job should be to defend and had that been Puyol he would have put the ball into the stand and reset the defense. Having defenders who can play ball has helped us win countless trophies but at times some sensible defending in matches like that wouldn’t go astray

    • PPos
      April 15, 2016

      Yeah very well said, Puyol would have just cleared it to the stands. Mathieu’s height would have definitely helped, his pace as well. What worries me is this tendency of messi to drop to the middle. There’s a video online of Thierry Henry explaining the three Ps of the guardiola system. Position, play, possession, he recounts a match where Henry drifted to the right wing and even scored that game, but guardiola subbed him at half time, because he wasn’t holding his position. When messi drops to the middle it frees the opponents left back. It happened with Marcelo against Madrid and it happened again with Felipe Luis at the Calderon. Luis Enrique just burnt MSN into the ground. Those three need to be forced to rest. In many games when it was 3 -0 or more up. He should have rotated. But you live and learn. I hate losing. I’m still feeling salty and it won’t go away unless De Bruyne and city destroy the RM defense

    • Jim
      April 16, 2016

      Absolutely Ciaran. We have been playing for years now with three of our back four not natural defenders.

  18. luisthebeast
    April 15, 2016

    I am not saying we must sell Ney.I just believe LE this summer must decide what Barca wants.He made an amazing team last year but last months he decided to have more control.That,for me,was a mistake.Football changes so fast and u have to adapt.Again and again and again counterattacks killing us in the past and now?Why?Because we must have more players up the pitch to help build the attacks.Last season and this,to a point,we made fast attacks with our forwards and the team could stop counterattacks.Now Busi seems lost,Raki run and run and run.What i would want?A power midfield with young players.Barca needs a Thiago kind player.A top quality mid who can control the game,can dribble,can pass perfecktly can score and can defend.They must bring him back.Two young forwards who can sit on bench and learn from the bests.Samper and DSuarez.And a young CB,fast,strong,tall.And maybe a young LB.No more Mathieu Vermaelen Nolito e.t.c.

  19. Rami
    April 15, 2016

    Here are some absurd stats that will shed light on the physical state of our team (Trigger warning, The following numbers may be seen as disturbing to some readers)

    -Our team participated in 55 matches this season and counting, 7 more than atletico, 10 more than bayern and 12 more than EE,
    -Our gala XI accumulated 42000 minutes, Compared to 36000 for atleti and 32000 for EE
    – 11 of our players accumulated more than 3000 minutes, Compared to 8 in atletico, and 4 for EE!
    -Munir had more minutes than 16 atletico players and 12 EE players

    And if anyone is thinking of blaming LE for the lack of rotation, Then i respectfully ask to rethink and try looking at a mirror, Because when you demand your team to win you a sextuple after winning a treble, Then subsequently demanding them to win a double treble, Then you’re clearly not asking for rotation.
    Thank god we didn’t rotate, Otherwise we most likely wouldn’t be at the top of liga right now, Or not even in the copa final, And enrique head would’ve been on a wooden spike now, Not joking.
    After learning these stats and seeing how iniesta cried, I fee ashamed of myself and guilty for even doubting them for a second or even becoming angry at them.
    I love this team, And this club, Visa barca!

    • Rami
      April 15, 2016

      And we should remember this is a competitive sport, Where every minute detail matter, An extra inch, Or a fraction of a second too early or late can make the difference between winning and losing, And with this thought in mind, These numbers look even more staggering.

    • Davour
      April 16, 2016

      Thanks, this is part of the context that is so easy to overlook. Still, for me the other stat about subbing MSN (well, not really Messi) is an indication of what could have been done differently. This idea that three players can never be subbed off unless injured is detrimental to any squad. It leaves them too tired (those final 15-20 minutes are valuable rest), and it prevents the possibility of granting minutes to other players, like Munir, Arda or whoever is first in line. Let’s forget a quality forth attacker if this system remains intact (Kevin Gameiro, I hear, is the talk of the day, but I agree – let’s leave transfers for later).

      If I were LE, I would demand this absurd privilege must stop; it is stifling to tactics, as well as fitness. It was one thing when it was only Messi (who is a master of resting on-pitch) – it wasn’t always smart, but it worked since the rest ran a little more and subbed more often. But Suarez runs, and Neymar (often) defends. Three players can’t rest on-pitch.

  20. senyera7
    April 15, 2016

    One thing I’ve wondered for a while is why Messi is playing through the middle. Easy to crowd him and Suarez out then, while also giving more space to the opposite team’s left back (see recent Marcelo and Filipe Luis powered goals). Neither Lucho nor messi are idiots. Only possible reason that they’ve changed the working system to another one is that maybe Messi is struggling with some kind of slight injury that isn’t allowing him to be as effective one on one?

    • Davour
      April 16, 2016

      Yes, an interesting discussion. But it still seems like an emergency tactic, rather than a clever plan. Perhaps the team needs to consider a system with Messi as AM, as has been tried a few times. It would give either a 4-3-1-2, or a 4-2-1-3 with two holding mids and someone like Arda or Rafinha on RW with more defensive duties, while LBs are more conservative.

    • Davour
      April 16, 2016

      Yes, an interesting discussion. But it still seems like an emergency tactic, rather than a clever plan. Perhaps the team needs to consider a system with Messi as AM, as has been tried a few times. It would give either a 4-3-1-2, or a 4-2-1-3 with two holding mids and someone like Arda or Rafinha on RW with more defensive duties, while FBs are more conservative.

  21. barca96
    April 16, 2016

    I refrained myself from reading any football news online and now UEFAlona Twitter account is suspended. Anybody who follows that account know what happened?

  22. luisthebeast
    April 16, 2016

    I follow @UEFAIona and it s ok.

  23. ian_percival
    April 17, 2016

    Fuck iniesta, can’t he ever shoot

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