Depor 0, Barça 8, aka “This is why you can’t have football”

The narrative will say that Barça has righted its ship, that all is well again, that a tired team is no longer so after an 0-8 beatdown of a compliant Depor, that Barça is back again.

Barça never went anywhere.

At any time in the second half you could find Neymar capering about, dribbling, running free with the ball and making passes. Messi had time to pick his spots, Suarez didn’t have a back line kicking, niggling him and running offside traps. Compare that to Neymar against Atleti or Valencia, where they probably had a guy designated to follow Neymar to the toilet, and kick him there, also. Atleti never, ever let Neymar have a hint of space, never let Suarez make the same difference that he did, never let Messi have the daylight in which he thrived against Depor.

This is because had they done so, the same scoreline would have resulted. No idea why Depor marched so willingly to the scaffold but march they did. Depor committed 11 fouls and had only one yellow card. That wouldn’t even be a half if Barça was playing Atleti, who would spread the cards around, foul like crazy and turn the match into a series of chunks. 0-8 is exactly why. For the first time in the series of encounters with Barça, Simeone and Atleti didn’t bother playing Barça as equals. They got a goal then cowered on the rocks.

You can’t play Barça as equals. If you give that team playing space, you will lose. It’s the biggest reason many craved anyone except Atleti in the CL quarterfinals, because Wolfsburg wasn’t of sufficient quality and everyone else would have tried to play football against Barça — except Atleti. Valencia then came along and duplicated the Atleti formula of nicking a goal or two, then defending like crazy. Even then, in both matches, Barça had to finish like crap for that strategy to work, as both teams understood that a tired team can muster enough energy for football, but it can’t muster enough energy for shithousery. Knock a fatigued player down and he has a litltle less energy each and every time he gets up.

Suarez nabbed four goals and a pair of assists, playing like a man who was unbound because he was. It was the kind of match where Dani Alves could lay on assist that Suarez stumbled into and over, pushing the ball wide, and Alves had a laugh as he ran back on defense. No pressure, just fun. The whole team was unbound, able to remember what it felt like to play football, to be able to pass and run without violence. They’re still tired, still fatigued but that breath of footballing fresh air provided by Depor was just what the scoreline ordered. Hitting the shots where the keeper isn’t is often a lot more effective than hitting them where the keeper is. Particularly if you want to score goals. Eight goals from 19 shots (10 on goal) is rather an effective finishing rate that was enhanced by a lack of pressure. Worriers will note that Depor had 15 shots, 5 on goal, even as this match was looking like a win from the moment Depor came out and didn’t kick the crap out of anyone.

So what is there to be excited about, in the wake of a hammering of a willing victim? Mojo. Many words are bandied about football, form, slumps, dips, troughs but mojo is one that you hear less often. It isn’t to be confused with swagger, that state a team that is playing like Barça was over the winter had. Mojo is that feeling, that cognizance that “Yes, we can do this and no, we aren’t as bad as so many say that we are.” And when a team has mojo, it sometimes has that little bit of defense against the elements, against the little quirks during a football match that conspire to erode confidence and damage mojo. If one of those early chances against Valencia had gone in, during a match where Barça didn’t play all that worse than against Depor, a strolled win would have been in the cards there, also. But snakebit is another word that is often heard in the sports vernacular and after that second Valencia goal, Barça looked snakebit.

Narratives are easy, lovely and convenient. They can be used to buttress a contention or put the lie to one. Today’s match was, simply enough, the best team in the world playing against the 14th-placed side in the league standings. Three of the remaining four opponents for Barça are lower than Depor in the table and the one who isn’t, Betis, is 11th, with nothing to play for. Espanyol is also safe, but they will fight because the world loves a derby. When a team is in control of its own fate, and needs to win out to capture the championship, they don’t mind that 11th is the highest table spot for any of the remaining opponents.

Meanwhile, enjoy the 0-8 for the anomaly that it was, and read nothing more into it. Win and Barça is in. It’s as simple as that, with no margin for error.

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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.

7 Comments

  1. dl
    April 20, 2016

    That was fun to see, I’ll admit. I’m not sure Bartra intended such a smooth finish or if he scuffed it, but that’s a minor point, eh? Still think we have it in us for a double, but of course fate will have it’s say, too.

  2. ciaran
    April 20, 2016

    It was always likely to happen, we were going to explode and some poor team were going to get a hammering. It was unlucky for Deportivo that they were the ones.
    The relief when the first goal went in was palpable but until the quick goal at the start of the second half from Rakitic there were still nerves. That goal ended any hope for a comeback and allowed the team to play with real freedom.
    Defensively we were all over the place at times but once we settled it wasn’t too bad. Depor could and should have scored a couple of goals and much more important than his goal was Bartra’s goal saving block when Bravo was beat in the first half. A clean sheet was vital to all and at 8-0 it was nice to see Neymar recovering his defensive position to lend a hand.
    Great that Busi, Iniesta and Alba got some rest for the second half too.

    What can you say about Suarez? Being directly involved in 7 goals in 1 match is incredible. To put it in a little perspective, Munir has scored 3 and assisted 3 between his 19 matches and nearly 1100 minutes between league and CL and Suarez beat that in 90.

    Messi was better than recently and Neymar, whilst not at the other two’s level was clearly improved and took his goal masterfully.

  3. PPos
    April 21, 2016

    Suarez was full on today. I noticed that Messi was playing mostly through the middle today as well. It worked out. He set up Suarez countless times. Neymar is finally playing out of his funk. There was a moment in the match that he had a gigantic wiff because he poked the ball away from himself with his other foot. It seems that Neymar is suffering from striker’s indecision. When you play football, you have to go with the most natural movement, but that natural feeling can be lost if you second guess yourself too much. It eventually goes away when you play more and more games. Maybe Barca’s formation is switching from a 4-3-3 to a 4-3-1-2? Messi seems to be taking an advanced Xavi role. His trademark pacey runs are being replaced with precision passing that’s opening up defenses. The team has regained their confidence. Bartra was massive today. He proved his worth, and I think he should stay in the team. He saved us from a 1-1 score that could have complicated things dramatically. It was crucial that Bravo kept a clean sheet today to boost his confidence as well. The only way to break bad form is to keep playing.

  4. Kd
    April 21, 2016

    I was waiting till we turn it around and turn it around it definitely seems. April was dreadful for us with the exhaustion catching up, movement not as quick or coordinated as it would be when we are in our peak form and fitness. But thank God for last night. Although after 7-0 I was like “Let it be”, plz dont score anymore.
    I read all you guys, more comments than post I suppose. I think our team has earned the right to have an off day/weak/month. So much joy, so much happiness in the last 10 years or so. Neymar seems to be coming back into his groove and Suarez is scoring again. But then thats what happens if a team affords us space. Depor did, God knows why, and were brutally punished. I still think we will wrap up la liga on the second last match day against Espnaol I think at home. But lets wait and see how it pans out.
    Kxevin is correct in pointing out that this win doesn’t mean much. But as a healthy dose of confidence and arresting the slump this should take us to the title. Very happy bout Bartra, what a guy. How do u bench him again now??

  5. lala10
    April 21, 2016

    Enter Your Comment… good win to calm the nerves. Neymar was sensible in his play but still below his average. The goal was a huge relief and should do his confidence good. Busi was muted and easily bypassed in most instances. Gijon at home is eminently winnable. Hope the engine keeps thrumming along.

    La Liga should be ours. Madrid sides would need to win the remaining games. For EE that means going on a 12 game winning streak which is unlikely. Not too of the numbers for Atleti but the numbers are high too.

  6. FinallyCrushingBuses
    April 23, 2016

    My deepest respect to the men of Deportivo, who played a very sporting game by not parking the bus,

    I couldn’t see either game in my area, but from the highlights it was pretty clear that Barca played just fine vs Valencia. And I only saw 3-4 people in the box from Depor for all of Barca’s goals. There were 9 in the box when Messi got his 500th.

    Violence and mucking do not make you a genius, they make you a thug. Or a bus parking lot attendant. Hope Griesman can find a better club situation, like Ozil.

    Btw, “mojo” actually means “black magic”, not libido or what most white people think it means, thanks to popular media misuse and movies such as Austin Powers.

    • FinallyCrushingBuses
      April 23, 2016

      More specifically it’s an amulet or “mojo bag” supposed to have magic properties in voodoo or “hoodoo” (black magic).

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