Betis 0, Barça 2, aka “A new standard”

To begin at the beginning and with the obvious, Barça is a dysfunctional team. That it is still winning matches is a testament to its extraordinary qualities as a unit, its professionalism and the high individual qualities of its key players.

These qualities were what got the team past a nasty, resolute Betis side in their house today, qualities that as tacticians sit down to dissect various things and find various aspects of this team wanting, resonate. Iniesta is overhitting passes, Pique looks damaged, Suarez is mining a deep trough of the craps, there’s mess everywhere you see.

This team is two matches away from winning La Liga, and three matches away from pulling off a double, the season after winning a treble. It’s individual quality subsumed to the necessities of the whole, and it’s brilliant. Anyone who looks, who wants to see, can notice flaws. But if you look a little deeper, it’s also easy to see a remarkable future taking shape, a potential next level.

The first matches that Messi started playing deeper, complaints roiled Barça Internet. He isn’t where he’s most effective, the system is broken when Messi has to go that deep to get the ball, etc, etc.

Today, both goals came from astonishing bits of football extravagance from a deep-lying Messi. One was, yes, assisted by some Keystone Kops action on the part of a Betis defender and keeper, actions that in no way diminished the pinpoint perfection of the ball that almost sang as it nestled at the feet of Rakitic. It was an audacious pass of the type that doesn’t occur to normal players, because their minds don’t work like that. Messi looked, and acted. And a goal resulted.

The second goal came from a Messi pass that removed five Betis defenders like a coach’s eraser on a white board. Suarez slotted home because it would have been criminal had he done anything else.

Watching football is a curious thing. Many people watch it with their preconceived notions in place, so a deep-lying Messi is wrong. Because he should be scoring goals. But Barça got a striker like Suarez so that Messi didn’t have to score all the goals, a reality borne out in the team statistics that find Suarez outscoring Messi. And as Messi goes from the greatest scorer in the game’s history to potentially the greatest 10 in the game’s history, this is as it should be.

Teams change, players change, systems change, everything changes. It’s up to the folks who are watching — that’s us, y’all — to keep up. It’s easy and hard to judge Barça. We know that they aren’t working properly because they were eliminated in Champions League. The best team in the world isn’t competing for the biggest prize in European football, and that’s wrong. That they came so close only matters to us, and as we watch the semi-finals play out, wondering about the grim bad luck that placed this team at the nexus of internationals and the most difficult opponent in the draw, all we can do is shrug, say that’s life and move on.

Because there’s a revolution happening, possibly. In a previous post, the notion was raised that we don’t know anything, so our reaction is to strive to fit new pieces into existing templates rather that looking to understand what isn’t there because well — it isn’t there. Arda Turan has to be a replacement for somebody, so who is it: Iniesta? Rakitic? What if it isn’t anyone? What if the team is being reconsidered in a new context that involves something other than what we know.

The weird part about that is the Betis match reminded us of the essential qualities of Messi. Barça has matured this season. Messidependencia has ended, which isn’t to say that the influence brought to bear by the best player in history isn’t an outsized thing. The passes that he made to beat Betis in a match that his team had to win, could have been made by no other player on the pitch. He made them, and his team won. His essential qualities are such that he almost seems to exist outside the game, like this benevolent, capricious being that looks down and decides to intervene, like Olympian gods of mythology.

For those with a sense of American basketball history, the Michael Jordan analogies are endless. Toward the end of his career, while still a brilliant player, Jordan decided that he would become a scoring playmaker, something of a basketball 10. He doled out assists via crazy passes that nobody else could conceive of. He also developed a fadeaway jumper, to protect him from the ravages of driving the lane and getting bashed about.

Now look at Messi, who reserves his forays into the box, who rarely runs at gaggles of defenders, who lets young’uns such as Neymar get kicked and stomped, who passes, defends and is becoming more active in the entire game instead of reserving his magic for when he gets the ball and makes one of those runs.

What if Barça is taking shape around this new Messi, if the future of the team is happening right before our eyes, this nascent thing that as with Guardiola and the changes he wrought, we didn’t really see until it was there.

The team isn’t firing on all cylinders because the players are in a state. Physical fatigue leads to mental fatigue, and we see it in passes not made or overhit, balls held too long and runs not made. Suarez was reading the match against Betis like a book written in Sanskrit that was turned upside down. Various players are on comebacks. Jordi Alba was very good today, and Neymar as well. Even as he wasn’t the electric force that led the team when Messi was out injured, he was again decisive and dynamic. And then there was Messi.

It’s impossible to ever know what is going on with the players that we support, what kinds of knocks big and small they are carrying that they try to play through. There was speculation that Messi was injured against this team or that team. Chalk that up to another thing that we don’t know, even as we know the truth of the adage that form is temporary, class is permanent.

Barça, though dysfunctional and going through tactical shifts that are necessary, has many players who define their position. That’s good enough to, on 95% of days, get them through even if the collective isn’t up to snuff. And then there is Messi. There is no player who is discussed more than Messi, and no player who should be as beyond discussion as Messi. From the hormone treatments he received to be able to play for Barça to the constant beatings he took, from coming back early from injuries and being his team’s talisman, Messi has reached the point where there are things that shouldn’t be questioned.

“Is he washed up,” “Is he reaching the end of his career,” “Is he this, is he that?” It’s immaterial. He’s an essential part of this Barça, this beacon that lights up the game like few players have before. He will have off matches, he will have magical matches, and we can certainly make observations about that. But Messi isn’t just beyond benefit of the doubt. His devotion and dedication to the cause make him beyond discussion. Like the capricious supermodel with a clunky Ferrari, you enjoy the beauty when it shows up, and look forward to its appearance when that beauty is absent. Because that’s how life is.

The Messi vs Ronaldo debate is, in some quarters, still raging. The complexity is that there isn’t a standard for Messi. Statistics don’t really make him make sense. How do you quantify the assists that he registered against Betis? On the stat sheets, they’re assists, with a lower-case “a.” There isn’t an annex for moments of genius. And he does things like that with a regularity that makes his exceptional qualities seem almost mundane, like a utility. “Hey, look. It’s Messi. What did he just do?”

He isn’t scoring bags of goals any longer, he’s playing deeper, and it isn’t a tactical flaw. It’s a shift in a team that is happening, necessary tinkering even in the heat of a La Liga title race that will almost certainly go down to the final matchday. It’s a team that is changing, even as the people who follow it, who love it often resist those changes. And it’s a team that wins because it has spectacular individual players, even as it is also a rock-hard collective that has the best player of them all, waiting.

Barça now has an unattainable standard. It must have all of the possession, all of the goals, must concede no goals and also be beautiful to watch. On the same matchday, Atleti didn’t look all that hot against a compliant Rayo Vallecano. The starting forwards were necessary to secure a 1-0 home win, and talk in football Twitter was of the genius of Diego Simeone and getting it done no matter what.

Barça went into what is a stronghold for Betis, won 0-2 and football Twitter talked about how Barça didn’t look good, how it was something of a garbage win. In this space it is a win that was described as “frustrating,” by a team that is below standard.

To be sure, the race goes to the swift, the smart, the strong and the brave. But sometimes it goes to the bedraggled and the limping, who built up a big enough lead to be able to claw home in front or can call upon a last burst to get the job done. And those wins are just as, if not more beautiful.

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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.

29 Comments

  1. Davour
    May 1, 2016

    Yes, I for one described it as frustrating – not the win, mind you, but the how the game was played. Alba was spinning with frustration when not getting the pass from Busi, who turned an turned and held on. Messi looked at Suarez with wonder: “how the hell can you be offside like that!” Etc… The game oozed with frustration from coach, players and fans since we all know this is a broken version of the team, despite some positives. That is why the win was good, but the play -apart from strokes of genius – was not.

    Still, interesting thoughts on a new formation. Perhaps LE & co are not just rolling their thumbs, after all…

  2. Jim
    May 1, 2016

    I think it’s hard to assess whether or not we are looking towards a new system because it’s obvious that very few of the team are playing up to their potential at the moment for reasons we’ve gone over. I thought Messi was outstanding again yesterday ( although I think he’d be embarrassed at receiving praise for the first assist. There was no way that was reaching Rakitic and needed two errors to accomplish it). The pass for the first was one of the best I’ve seen all season and he’s hit some doozies, although the defence did commit the cardinal sin of giving Messi time on the ball. ! However, equally as good was the run of Suarez. To have the belief out wide that if you make a diagonal run , taking care to stay onside, that Messi will find you is impressive. Related to that are the criticisms of him that he lives offside. First of all, when you look at his scoring record any criticism of him is,to me, way off beam. All good strikers do. Villa did. Going all the way back to Gerd Muller from my youth, he spent his life offside and only yards from the goal.

    Suarez has at least three problems in a game. The first is that any opposition will spend the whole week previously working on offside and defence in general. So they’ll be good. The second is that with so many players back defending its harder to get chances and you need any slight advantage you can grab and playing on the edge gives you that. If it pays off with a goal one in ten that’s probably worth it. The last is that I spend the whole time glued to the TV wondering when the side to side ( which is necessary btw) will translate into a sudden angular pass through a sea of bodies to Suarez and I can’t see them coming until they do.

    However, Suarez makes runs for all of them. That’s awesome. Even on our first goal he makes a great run which distracts the defender behind him so he is slow to react to the ball and ends up trying the overhead because he’s caught out. I spent seasons advocating Villa through the middle to no avail apart from one AC Milan game where it made the difference. You add Suarez’ work rate, intelligence and physical strength and we are so fortunate to have him. So he misses a few all strikers do . Remember Eto’o’s goal drought when he couldn’t buy one ? Our three front men offer something different, they get on and we won’t see this happening again in my lifetime so I’m gonna enjoy it.

    The Messi issue is another thing, though. Playing deeper he’s great, could as was said be the best no. 10. Ever. His vision is as good as Xavi’s and his passing even better – most here will know I don’t say that lightly ! And we are again so lucky that his vanity doesn’t insist he scores goals all the time, especially when he sees the Madrid gentleman caring about nothing else. First of all, though, I’m not sure that his dropping deep so often and so early is planned. I’m sure he has the license to do so from LE ( I don’t think anyone can really TELL him what to do anymore – you may see that as a problem but it’s not at the moment for me). However, I think part of it is our lack of creativity if he doesn’t and if Messi thinks he’s not gonna see enough of the ball he’ll drop pretty quickly. And that can leave us short of numbers in the box as well as removing our greatest threat. Who replaces him there ? Rakitic is trying I suppose. So credit to him for that but for me he is the root of the problem in the first place. In that position we need another creative passer who can also run with the ball. I had hopes it might be Rafinha but I’m still not sure about that. It has to be someone who can face goal then suddenly turn and run at defences creating instability like Iniesta and that’s not Rakitic.

    Also, can we really ever see a day when Messi will take on the workload of a Xavi type of midfield player, creative but also running the passing game ? Remember Xavi was also a workhorse who ran much more than he was ever given credit for. Does that mean moving to a sort of four four two to allow for the luxury of him staying advanced ( diamond shape) ? It is going to become a growing issue and I’m not sure how it is resolved. II am sure we’ll strengthen up front this summer but I wouldn’t like to be the one deciding who fits this particularly difficult bill.

    • Davour
      May 1, 2016

      I like Suarez, too, and think he brings a whole new dimension to our game, but yesterday he was sloppy. The situation I was referring to was a counter where he seemed not to bother dropping deep enough to avoid the offside, and still made a gesture that he was available and hence received the ball from Messi, who then was like “hey…” It just happened too often, combined with some blatant misses. But all credit for the run and the finish on the goal – all in all, he is an immense player.

      Not sure either that we are seeing a real shift, but it is obvious that Messi is more of a playmaker at the moment. But so he was early last season (before settling on RW). On this, I am all in agreement with your Rakitic comment, Jim; he puts in a shift, but is often in over his head when things are a bit tight. Yesterday he lost possession in a spot where CM at Barca must be in control (Messi dribbles unnecessarily in this space, too, admittedly, and sometimes loses the ball), and similarly on the edge of the box. The trouble is finding someone able to cover the same workload AND be genius on the ball. Arda is not him, Rafinha could be if we are lucky, Roberto is not commanding enough, etc. But it is hard even imagining who this player would be, even if you could take your pick – Verratti? He wouldn’t cover the flank; Pogba? He wouldn’t cover defence enough. Kanté? Maybe. Not sure he is good enough, but fits the profile ok. Thiago? Well, he ain’t returning anyway. Denis Suarez? Nope. Etc. For now, I think Rafinha is our best, realistic, hope, I think. It will be exciting to see what happens!

  3. Jim
    May 1, 2016

    Sorry, pass for the SECOND goal was …….

  4. TITO
    May 1, 2016

    Im sure you’ve watched Rakitic playing with Sevilla and he is exactly that type of a player you want to replace the Rakitic in Barcelona.
    Why he isnt playing the same role as there. You should ask LE about the role given to him in this formation.

    • Jim
      May 1, 2016

      I think that’s a fair point, Tito. As Kxevin keeps pointing out, none of us have that info. If it is an instruction it’s not doing the lad any favours – or, for me, the team.

      Davour, I’d worry more about Suarez’ misses if he went missing in big games but time and again he gets the vital ones. He scores ones we can’t imagine and misses what we consider sitters. We will meet a lot better teams than the last three we’ve played. That’s for sure. So the main thing is to win the league playing like this if we have yo then take stock in the summer.

      I don’t really have any thoughts about midfielders to come in because I don’t watch enough European football ( I’m aware my wife might not agree wholeheartedly with that assessment). I’d love to see Neymar playing there instead of Rakitic one game just to have a look. I liked him a lot when he was playing , in Messi’s absence, more centrally and able to carry the ball straight at defences rather than easily being forced across them and he’s young and fit enough atm. Mind you, if it were up to me I’d also try giving Samper Busi’s role and move him forward. Busi would still be a decent defender and can hold and pass the ball very well. I genuinely rate Samper that highly and we can’t just bring in big money buys all the time if we’re paying for the font three. Maybe what we need is just a little variety in our lineups to give teams a less settled look and prevent them knowing our team and how we’ll play from week to week.

  5. TITO
    May 1, 2016

    We must also consider about Iniesta’s playing time.
    He clearly is not the same as before, it is more than obvious and nobody is mentioning that.
    We have options – Arda, Rafinha, Rakitic, Busi, Denis Suarez and even Messu who could somehow replace him, and give him more rest, like Xavi’s last season.
    That means that we need someone else upfront.
    Our defensive problems are a different story though.

  6. Jim
    May 1, 2016

    For me, he’s had a great season and next won’t be his last. He is certainly working much harder defensively in LE’s system than he ever did before yet he’s still one of only two or three players in the side who keep the passing game glowing and where I think something could happen every time he gets the ball. Just like Messi, though, maybe he’s too often too far from the box to make best use of him. I think the reason he is coming off more is as you say to save him precisely because he is indispensable . However, we do need to be working on a younger team in the background.

  7. Jim
    May 1, 2016

    Really enjoying Leicester Man Utd game.

    • Davour
      May 1, 2016

      Yes, an exciting game. There’s your case study of Kanté!

      About Suarez, sure. I was more worried about his offsides – still, it was not a general criticism, just an observation on this particular game.

      On Neymar as mid: I can’t see that happen. Like Messi, his game is often risky, and he won’t add the defensive contribution. And if we’re talking about a player who’s able to fill in at the wing, Busi will not fit. All things considered, the midfield will probably remain as it is, perhaps with the addition of Samper and/or Denis (who’s AM) – other positions (LB, CB, A) are more in need (and I’m still hoping Rafinha will blossom). We must of course remember that this is the world’s best team; improvements are difficult to make…

  8. May 1, 2016

    Jim, you have named the best person too (for me at least) – Its Busi. He knows our system better than anyone and can play further up holding the ball and playing forwards. Hopefully, for that to happen, we might need Sergi Samper to be eligible to get into the first 11.

  9. PPos
    May 1, 2016

    Messi is a fantastic playmaker, but I do miss his insane runs, but he’s smarter now. Messi has shifted from a right forward to an “enganche.” “Enganchar” in Spanish means to hitch or to hook. Messi is hooking the attack in the final third. He’s feeding Suarez and Neymar. Messi’s diagonal balls to Neymar are my favorite attacking move this Barca has. Neymar was excellent yesterday. I knew he was going to finally break his mental lock. The through ball that he sent to Suarez was the Neymar of the first part of the season. One thing that was annoying to see was Messi lack of defensive running. He would lose the ball and just stand there. He’s probably just tired because of the immense season, but that’s how we were caught up the field by Betis early in the match. The defense of 4 games ago, gets scored on that counter. I think the player that would be the best purchase for next season would be Pogba. He’s an amazing shooter from midfield something that we could use. If Busquets evolves and become a long range shooter, we would be unstoppable. Suaréz was spotty yesterday. On another day he gets another poker. But what I liked is that he never stopped trying sometimes missing that many chances can run down your confidence, but the best strikers make every run that’s there.

  10. ciaran
    May 2, 2016

    The next three matches shouldn’t affect the summer’s planning anymore than the previous few and the whole season needs to be looked at. A failure over the next three matches shouldn’t mean that we need an overhaul anymore than success in the same period meaning that everything is dandy. A balanced look at things based somewhat in reality got me thinking about what we could, should, might or might not do over the transfer period.
    Firstly; finances.
    We’ve to consider the finances in two ways, fees and salaries. Transfer fees are the headline makers but equally important are the salaries that have to be paid and freed up. We start most summers with somewhere around €60m in the kitty. I see no reason that shouldn’t be the same this one. Salaries are a different issue, a few players are due for renewals but clearing away the wasted salaries with sales will be vital to our success this summer.
    Secondly; chemistry
    We’ve been the most successful team of the past decade by a country mile and a good chunk of the reason for this is due to the chemistry of the group. Even in our toughest seasons we’ve been within touching distance of success and keeping our core squad together will be important to this.
    Thirdly; improving perfection
    There are so little players in world football that are capable of coming in to our squad and improving it not to mention our first XI. Looking objectively it’s difficult to see how some of names being mentioned would be worth the outlay in fees and salaries over what we may be taking for granted.

    The goalkeeping situation is good. I watched espn go through their top 10 goalkeepers and unsurprisingly neither Bravo nor ter Stegen were in the list. Financially there’s no reason to go changing things and the chemistry that both have within the group is in no way an issue. Still, bar De Gea it’s arguable that none of the others would be much of an improvement over our options and at that I’d argue that both currently suit our game more than David does. I’d be happy with our cards here unless someone forces a move.

    The defensive line is the area in the biggest need for reinforcements. We have lots of options but not enough quality and not enough youth. Let’s start by stating the obvious, Pique is the player that the defense will continue to be built around. His partner in crime, Mascherano may/should find his position as undoubted starter under threat but shouldn’t be allowed to move on. Bartra also warrants his place in the squad in my opinion and whilst he doesn’t look like he’ll ever be an undisputed starter he certainly has the quality to compete. It’s further back in the pecking order in central defense that we have an issue.
    Vermaelen has been a failed experiment. He’s a good player and hasn’t failed per se but his inability to play two successive matches with us means he should find a new home ideally somewhere willing to pay a reasonable sum of money for. Jeremy Mathieu is another who could be on his way. Bought for a significant sum two seasons ago, he helped deliver the treble last term but due to his age and his form for the better part of this season he is a salary that we could do with moving on.
    All the talk has been of young central defenders to add to mix with Laporte and Marquinhos the two most popular names mentioned. I have a problem with Marquinhos for one simple reason, in three seasons with PSG he has been unable to dislodge, first Alex and second David Luiz. I don’t rate either of those two players yet Laurent Blanc who trains them every day and watches them in every match doesn’t see Marquinhos as up to their standard.
    As for Laporte, he looks like a great prospect but he’s not a top class defender as yet and would cost €50m and not a cent less knowing Athletic. He also has no experience at the highest level and we can’t afford a €50m gamble.
    For me, I would have loved us to move for Hummels but I know it won’t happen. People who don’t watch Dortmund say he’s slow but he’s remarkable at reading the game and is the best ball playing central defender on the planet.
    What I would actually do is throw the kitchen sink at Atletico for Jose Maria Gimenez. He may not be able to dribble the opposition or make defense splitting passes but let’s not pretend that our best ever defender, Carles Puyol, was either. Alongside Pique, Bartra or Masch he wouldn’t need to be fantastic offensively and with his age profile he could make improvements in all of the necessary areas anyway.

    As for the fullback positions, I have read a load of discontent towards Jordi Alba and while I understand recent frustration I find it highly unlikely that we would sign a starting quality back up. His chemistry within the group is food and looks like Lucho has faith in him. What I would love to see is a different profile option rather than the Wendell or Rodriguez attacking fullbacks that are written about.
    Marcos Rojo may not be good enough to play week in and week out for us but would give us a big, physical and fast fullback capable of supporting the forwards and capable of winning headers in both boxes. We were linked with a move for him and it wouldn’t break the bank.
    As for Dani’s side, there’s plenty of talk every summer of him leaving and if rumours of a big money China offer are true then you couldn’t blame him for moving. I would make Sergi Roberto the starting right back anyway and let Vidal be his backup. If Alves wants to stay then so be it but I wouldn’t replace him if he leaves unless Lucho has no faith in Vidal in which case why keep him.

    In midfield I’d expect Sergi Samper to be promoted, he looks more than capable as a rotation player for now and getting to train day in day out with Busi will do him the world of good. Obviously Rakitic and Iniesta either side of Busquets is going to continue to be Lucho’s go-to lineup so I don’t expect that to change. Rafinha with a proper preseason and a healthy amount of football under his belt should provide an alternative option in midfield.
    As for Arda, I didn’t think he’d fit when he joined and I’ve yet to be overly impressed. He should naturally improve in his second season but if rumours of a move came to fruition I’d have no problem in letting him move on for a similar fee to what we paid.
    If he does then we would need a midfielder. I think we are still a summer away from either a Pogba or Koke as Iniesta still has plenty to offer. The player that I’d love to see would be Miralem Pjanic. Goals, assists, tackling, energy, a long distance shot and every now and then some incredible passing is hard to find in one player and he would add it all. Two from four of Rakitic, Iniesta, Rafinha and Pjanic would give us great options in the middle of the park.

    There’s been loads of talk about the fourth forward. I reckon that we need a fourth and fifth. Sandro will definitely leave and Munir should be sold with a buy back option. Denis Suarez looks a dead cert to rejoin from Villarreal but I think Luis Suarez is the one who needs a back up more than anyone else. When Messi was missing wed survived as the creative burden was passed to Neymar but no one else in the squad does what Suarez does in terms of leading the line and occupying defenders. Knowing that the top tier of strikers will not want to ride the bench in the knowledge that Suarez will play the vast majority of the time the options are an up and coming striker willing to learn and try to make their mark for the future or a more experienced forward willing to play irregularly in the knowledge that they’ll surely add a few medals to their collection.
    Rumours of Alexandre Lacazette look the most promising, in his early twenties and with bags of potential and the ability to hit the back of the net regularly as well as fill in for any of the front three would be perfect. Either that or bring Larsson back.

    We would have quite a number of additional options to diversify our attack and defense.
    Messi as a 10 with Denis covering the right wing.
    Move Messi to the 10 and switch to 3-4-3 when chasing a match.
    And potentially have Rojo, Pique, Gimenez and Busi attacking a set piece.

    Outs: Douglas, Alves, Vermaelen, Mathieu, Adriano, Song, Arda, Tello, Munir and Sandro. Min approx €80m.
    Ins: Gimenez, Rojo, Pjanic, Denis and Lacazette. Min approx €130m.

    That would leave our squad looking like this:
    Ter Stegen | Bravo
    Roberto | Vidal
    Pique | Bartra
    Gimenez | Mascherano
    Alba | Rojo
    Busquets | Samper
    Rakitic | Rafinha
    Iniesta | Pjanic
    Messi
    Suarez | Lacazette
    Neymar | Denis

    • May 2, 2016

      Laporte gone to City for his clause. The summer will be complex. Jettisoning big salaries but not messing up the team will be crucial. Needs are a CB, LB and a backup 9. Everything else pretty well set. Denis Suarez will be a significant upgrade to the attack, and can play right, central and left.

      CBs are going to be expensive. Not sure that the club is going to splash for a big name, given the generally precarious state of the club’s finances, but we’ll see.

    • Davour
      May 2, 2016

      Thanks, nice overview & suggestions. You make a good case, trying to be realistic in the process. Not sure what we would need to pay for Gimenez, or even that he would want to leave, but he sounds like an interesting option to challenge Masch – it would leave us with two destroyers and two Barca-breds. Perfect. Hummels is quality, of course, but he seems set to join BM. With Denis returning, I would choose Pjanic over Arda any day of the week (from what I’ve seen) – Arda will surely improve and is quality, but I can’t see him fit perfectly anywhere. I saw Rojo with against Leicester the other day, and was not overly impressed – but won’t judge from one game (he had a good WC!). Lacazette I have never seen – what kind of striker is he? Seems to know where the goal is located, at least. Finally, I love Alves, but he is terribly expensive and is declining. All in all, your squad would be an improvement, on paper at least!

  11. Yaredinho
    May 2, 2016

    I would settle for a world class CB, Pjanic, proper preseason, not to miss Suarez for those 3-4 important games of the season (the games which require his qualities the most) and Lucho resting ALL players more in every opportunity. Then the outs you mentioned, except Dani and if the new CB can’t play as LB i would keep Mathieu instead of Bartra or both and Masche as DM.

  12. Davour
    May 3, 2016

    AM in the final. Well, of course with that easy draw! Think of poor RM, who must face mighty Ciiiiteyyy!

    I wonder, did RM wish for AM or BM? I was thinking who would have a better chance to beat them, but not sure.

    All credit to AM, though I cannot stand their time wasting. This is not, I hope, the “new way”.

    • georgjorge
      May 3, 2016

      Wow, that really puts us going out against them even more into context…

      Atleti defend very well, but what really amazes me is how they can actually score goals in those games. The whole team spends the game in their own half, fruitlessly chasing the ball, and suddenly one of them is one on one with the keeper, or some guy casually dribbles through their entire defense and slots it home in exactly the right spot. It’s as if they do nothing but intercept passes, slam into opponents and step in front of shots all game, but then morph into Messis for a few minutes each, and that’s enough to win.

  13. Tata2
    May 3, 2016

    Guys am just curious… has oblak been this good or its just the parked bus ripple effect?

  14. PPos
    May 3, 2016

    Oblak is a beast. Prior to this game he hadn’t conceded a goal in 650+ minutes of football

    • georgjorge
      May 3, 2016

      Atleti seems like a club which doesn’t ever buy superstar players but makes them. Courtois, Costa, Falcao, probably Oblak as well….incredible. And he was really good today, would have prevented the first goal if it weren’t for the deflection, double-defended a penalty, got all their long-range shots…

  15. Jim
    May 3, 2016

    I’m sitting here wondering if I dislike Atleti as much as, or more than, RM. it’s a close thing. They stand for most of what I dislike about football and are coached by a weasel of a man. Still, they are effective. You could see that goal coming as surely as the time wasting later on. CB ( Boateng – can only just have got over last year’s gif ) gets a rush of blood to the head and chases out of position to close down, misses it and all of a sudden there’s two on two at the back and Alaba makes another horrendous mistake by trying to hold an imaginary line with the forward steaming through. Goal.

    Feel sorry for Pep, hope Giminez has played his way out of a move to Barca after partially at least causing both goals and fervently hope someone will do something meaningful to Simeone for banjo-ing the fourth official. Find it interesting that Thiago missed out again after being upset at being taken off in the first leg, possibly for lack of effort at the AM goal ? Don’t shout too loudly at an old man but when I saw him on the touch line the thought went through my head as to whether there is a more Barca like midfielder in Europe . . .

    On the plus side, can I now cancel BT TV as the final holds no interest for me and the channels won’t be needed until about next September ?

  16. G6O
    May 3, 2016

    I am still skeptical about Atletico’s ability to beat RM in a final. Obviously, I’ll be rooting for them, but I fear they will collapse.. They would have in fact been better off in a two-game format, because the red card they will probably get would have had less of an impact.

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a Man City upset tomorrow.

  17. luisthebeast
    May 3, 2016

    It s ok to dislike a player.When Ibra or Henry were here i supported them but i never say the passion i want from every player who play for us.And now we have a player that gives everything,a player who fight and press and make movements that other strikers can only dream,a winner and i know that after every fucking game i will read the posts here and i will upset.The man have almost 80 goals and 30 assists in less than two seasons but here we read only that he missed a chance.Oh well whatever.

    • Davour
      May 4, 2016

      Man, that is simply not true. You must separate from a match discussion, and an overall assessment. Nobody denies Suarez’ contributions, but in the last game – apart from the goal – he ruined several plays by sloppy offsides. We need to be able to comment on this without discrediting his entire season. Just like with Neymar and his drop of form, or Messi not stepping up in CL – they are great, but not all games reflect this, and a discussion trying to understand a particular game must be able to criticise players as well as tactics. He gets plenty celebrations, too, I’d say!

  18. Tata2
    May 4, 2016

    If only we were in form, we would be the ones in the finals now not Ugleti but hey, today am routing for citeh and if they fail me, then am routing for Ugleti come 3weeks time. Am afraid this Ugleti won’t collapse against EE, if for anything, they would be more thrilled to play EE than Citeh in the finals. Meanwhile looking forward to Saturday as Espanyol remains the biggest threat to our title pursuit. One final bit, when in form, we are the only team thats capable of beating Ugleti.

  19. Davour
    May 4, 2016

    Apparently Lucho is staying next season with increased control over transfers, where he previously was only a part in deciding. I think this is good news, and he certainly deserves this considering the ban – one normal season, at least. Regardless if we win anything this year.

  20. May 4, 2016

    I just hope Atleti will avoid injuries and will be in full form to face EE. They deserves this title as they have beaten the best teams, us and Bayern, not EE.

  21. lala10
    May 4, 2016

    Enter Your Comment…Bayern were almost perfect yesterday. Shame about the lapse from Alaba. In the first half Atleti could barely breathe such was the suffocation.

    Costa as a 10 was a failure. Suprised Pep did not alter that after the first 20 minutes when it became obvious. Thiago?

    Credit to Atleti for holding on and being ruthless on the one true lapse. As Kevin noted in one blog sometimes you feel like a demon is guarding Atleti’s gate.

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