Barca 2, Maulaga 1, aka “Villarato?! Say what now?”

I did it again. Sweet!

This game, this beautiful game of ours that we play oh, so well, is about doing the right things with the ball. Seems simple, right?

It certainly should be, given that we have so many players with such incomparable skill on the ball.

But we spent much of our well-deserved win today doing the wrong things with the ball. And it was easy to tell when we did the right things, because the ball went into the net in a match in which Maulaga didn’t stop us from scoring, as much as we stopped ourselves from scoring. Despite all of the exquisite football that was so much fun to watch, too much of the time it was like noshing on one of the best meals of your life, only to break a tooth on the last bite.

Yes, I love the footy that we played today, make no mistake about it. But in that first half in which we should have, by rights, had at least two goals, we thwarted ourselves by holding the ball too long and being too easy to play because of it. Yes, everybody loves Messi’s runs, right? But with each step that he takes, we become easier to play because as he gets closer and closer to goal his options are reduced to the point where he has but two options: a shot with 3-4 men in front of him, or a bailout pass with 2-3 men cutting off angles behind him.

So nothing happens.

Iniesta does his lovely little ball controlling dance toward the end line, and you can see the defenders saying to themselves “Just keep going,” because not only is the end line now another defender, but where is he going to go with the ball, with two men in front of his only passing option?

Guardiola rolled out our “joga bonito” lineup of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro! and Ibrahimovic. It was obvious that passing, ball movement and overall match quality were going to be paramount against a Malaga side that, frankly, was hoping to steal a draw. And we started out rather tentatively, almost as if we were remembering how it was to pass the ball on a pitch that didn’t have chunks missing. We had all of the possession, all of the attacking and no shots on goal.

But again, you could see the wrong decisions piling up:

–Busquets holds the ball too long, dicking around with it in the midfield, then overhits a pass that goes out of bounds.
–Alves passes the ball to a clearly offside Ibrahimovic, because …. he wasn’t going to magically be on. So why pass?
–Ibrahimovic stopped a run that he should have continued, and Iniesta laid in a lovely rainbow pass, thinking that he would.
–Messi, on a breakaway, decided to shoot instead of passing to Ibrahimovic for the easy-peasy tap in.
–Ibrahimovic intercepted a pass that was for the streaking Messi, then scuffs a shot over the top of the net.

Viewed in aggregate, it was no wonder the first half played directly into the hands of a side who were just hoping for a result, wasting all the time that it could, and fouling when they couldn’t kill any more time. A simple yellow card for time-wasting would have fixed all of that, but the official chose not to give it, so Maulaga chose to keep wasting time. And why not? As long as they had the ball, we couldn’t kill them.

We were almost playing a waiting game, thinking to ourselves “They can’t keep chasing the ball the entire match, and at some point, we’re in.” But you know what? They could, and did keep chasing the ball the entire match, and almost salvaged a draw. It’s what happens when you give teams life by not making the correct decisions with the ball.

I know, I know: “Dammit Kxevin, we played so wonderfully today, why do you have to go and screw it all up by being negative and stuff?” 😀

Sorry, but it’s just what I see.

Yes, we were in full, absolute control of this match, with our defenders mostly in the roles of sweepers. Even the rare Malaga set pieces weren’t at all threatening, except for one early, monster free kick that Valdes made a killer save on. But when they had the ball, we closed down in the midfield at the point of the attack and, more importantly, also considered the options. This made regaining possession very easy, and we resumed our command/control picking at the lock.

So it was probably a surprise to everyone in the building that the goal came from a long-range rocket of a shot, right? I was stunned. Because Pedro! took the pass and began moving toward the goal. You could see the defenders begin to drift back, playing him to either continue the run or make a pass to someone, because Barca never shoots from outside, right? Never. The keeper was shading toward the middle, ready to play the pass to a player bombing into the box. Pedro! looked up, said what the hell, and let fly. His form was perfect, his body over the ball and it smoked past the keeper on the near side. It was one hell of a golazo, and was also an example of doing the right thing with the ball.

Shots from distance are only speculative if you are far from goal, and are facing a team playing sound defense. In the case of the run of Pedro!, that shot was the exact right thing to do with the ball, because nobody was expecting it.

But to their credit, Malaga played tough, waiting for the one moment, the opportunity that always, always comes during a match. And when it came, they took full advantage of it.

It all began with a stupid, stupid Busquets header (despite me telling him to never, ever head a ball again …. sheesh!) that went at pace directly to a Malaga player. His pass found four of us playing the ball, apparently with nobody thinking “Hey, a slick little one-touch to an open runner would gut us like a Chliean sea bass.”

Which was what happened. Valdes froze, rather than charging out to cut off the shooting angles, and voila, the match was tied. Unjustly yes, but it was sure as hell tied.

Now usually, I worry about that sort of thing, but this match felt very different to me, because it wasn’t that we weren’t creating chance after chance after chance, it was just those decisions with the ball that were screwing things up. And we were showing signs that we were doing the right thing, so the bit of magic that resulted in the winning goal was inevitable. But it didn’t make the sequence any less glorious:

–Messi smacked a loose pass to Ibrahimovic.
–Ibrahimovic controlled it and sent it right to Pedro!
–Pedro! one-touched it back to Ibrahimovic.
–who one-touched it right back to Pedro!

At this point, the ball is pinging around and the defense is getting lopsided to that side of the pitch. Then ….

–Pedro! pops it to Busquets, who actually dwelled on the ball longer than anyone else in this sequence.
–Busquets slid it to Xavi, who paused for a second ….
–Then slid a ball to Alves on a perfectly timed run that found him wide open, and loose in the box.
–He knocked off the easy-as-pie square ball to Messi, who slotted home for the winner.

We’ve scored many goals this season, but that was one of the goals that turned back the clock to last season, when ball movement was the key. People talk about what’s different this year, blame various players and say Eto’o would have done this, or that. But it all comes down to ball movement. We were banging in the goals because of ball movement and sound decisions with the ball. When we play our one-touch game, there is always somebody running around loose, waiting to receive the ball and raise hell.

Just as critically, every player made the right decision with the ball.

Now, what should have been our third goal was one more example of doing the right thing with the ball, as Pique spotted a fresh-legged Krkic in space and making the run. He popped a perfect pass to Cuddly Toy, who bamboozled his defender and scurried into the box. But rather than making the wrong decision, which would have been to cut toward goal and try some contested shot, he slid the ball to Ibrahimovic, who made the lung-busting run to present the option. Ibrahimovic tapped home from between two Malaga players and it was 3-1, right?

Wrong. He was ajudged to have fouled on the play, an absurd call in light of the chippy nonsense that Maulaga was getting away with, in living up to that side’s derisive nickname. And Weligton (who else?) sold the foul like a champion. The ESPN Deportes announcers were as stunned as the rest of us that the goal was taken away, and having watched it time and again, I still am. Generally, you don’t call a foul in the box unless it either impedes an offensive player’s right of play, or a defender’s right of play. Ibrahimovic can be forgiven for thinking that he appears to be playing under a different set of rules. Yes, there was contact, but the players were leaning into him, and it came just as he was striking the ball, rather than him having bowled over players to get to ball.

Whatever. We won, and maintained our 2-point lead over That Other Spanish Team. And we did so playing marvelously, with much of the grace and style that epitomizes how we approach the game. The biggest reason for that was width, in the form(s) of Pedro! and Alves, whose marauding play made it suddenly a very dangerous proposition to flood the center of the pitch, waiting for Xavi or Busquets to make an error. Width creates space, and playing space makes us unbeatable.


Team: 7. Even with the boneheaded decisions with the ball at key moments, an excellent match all around. Help was abundant, sometimes to bad effect, as with the goal. And they were all ready to play today.

Guardiola: 8. Right lineup, good substitution. People talking about using Busquets instead of The Yaya, but with our man mountain having just come back from injury, and been festering crap against Stuttgart, he was due a rest.

Valdes: 7. He was on a nice run of form, and that save off the free kick was a delight. But his usual alacrity in shutting down an attacker and relying on his reflexes, failed him on the goal as he stood there, waiting to die.

Alves: 8. Man, was it good to have our Brazilian Hummingbird back. Anyone wondering how important he is to the side need wonder no longer. Yes, he popped in some speculative balls, but sometimes, what he’s doing with those balls is saying “They’re coming in, so get in there.” Our attackers were lax in doing so.

Pique: 7. Didn’t have a ton to do, and nice hustle on the Malaga goal. If Valdes had charged the attacker, Pique had the back door closed. Marquez-quality pass to Krkic, late in the match.

Puyol: 6. His touch was rather funky on offense, and he seemed a little out of sorts today. He should have been the backstop covering the pass on that goal, too. You can forgive the other guys there getting taken in, but not him.

Maxwell: 7. Another very solid match for a player who is rapidly improving with reps, as we all suspected. He’s staying home more with Alves going crazy on the right, which ain’t a bad thing given that he doesn’t have Abidal’s pace.

Busquets: 7. Very good match in his destroyer/facilitator’s role. But he has to understand when he has time, and what to do with the ball. I know he was thinking, on that header, of sending it right back into the mixer. But he had time to play the ball down, and pass with his feet for more accuracy.

Xavi: 10. A transcendent effort from my Man of the Match. And I’m sorry, but that dribbling/ball control exhibition in the 23rd minute of the first half was staggering. The back-to-goal shot was another moment of brilliance, as well as that jaw-dropping pass to Alves for the assist on the second goal. Apparently he’s healthy again, because he was amazing. Yes, Deportes named Messi MOTM. They’re crazy.

Iniesta: 6. Uncertain play on the wing coupled with questionable control to make this not one of Ghostface’s best matches. And I see that the force field is back up, which has to be the only reason that he didn’t score the goal off that quickly taken set piece.

Messi: 6. He played to a higher score, but that non-pass to Ibrahimovic was criminal. He was also guilty of not passing when he should have too many times. Giving him credit for passing ignores that fact. Xavi knows exactly when to pass the ball. So does Messi. He just chooses not to, which too often makes us too easy to defend. And if a teammate has a clear shot, stay away from the ball in the box, dude.

Pedro!: 8. This was his best overall match for us in a long time, the first in which I can truly see him as a starter. I will note that he did a lot of things that Henry gets slagged for, but that’s a good thing. The runs, the crosses into the box, the cutbacks and the helping out on defense all contributed to a great run for him. And what a shot for that oh, so needed goal.

Ibrahimovic: 6. Dude worked like a dog today. I can’t believe the criticism that he takes. Even late in the match, when Malaga had possession, he was doing the pit bull thing in the midfield, helping win back possession. And the energy is also impressive, judging from the effort he expended on that unjustly overruled goal. He played a very solid match, but should have done better with a couple of headers. I also really liked how fast Messi came over to celebrate with him. Those two have to learn to play together.


Krkic: 7. Man, CT played his little heart out for the few minutes he was in. Guardiola clearly put him in to facilitate possession, and maybe take advantage of a tired Malaga defense. His control of that Pique pass was world-class, as was the move to get free in the box. His pass for Ibrahimovic was in the exact right spot, as well.

So. It’s still a 2-point lead in the Liga. But this match gives us all hope. Recall that we had our February funk last season and came out of it like a phoenix, rolling on to dispatch all that was in front of us. We got off to a good start today, and I hope that in the film session, Guardiola shows that second goal again and again and again, saying “See, this is what happens when we play our style. Move the ball! Always!”

–A giant, massive “Thank you” to Eduard, who did an excellent job of running the LiveBlog today. It’s an important feature on match days that everyone looks forward to, and it always makes me happy when one of the family runs it. It’s also much appreciated. Thanks again, Eduard, as well as to everyone who has run them in the past.

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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.


  1. February 27, 2010

    Oh, and for those wondering, Keirrison scored an equalizer for Fiorentina (as noted elsewhere in this space), and looked good doing it. I hope we do the right thing, and at least give him a shot.

    • majatt (Maximus)
      February 28, 2010

      Yeah, I really really want him to come. Even if he becomes the LW or just backs up Ibra til he goes. I think he is pure class.

  2. Blow-Grenade
    February 27, 2010

    Loved how you described the sequence of events that led to our second goal!!!

    • Blow-Grenade
      February 27, 2010

      And the mention of ball movement!!!!

  3. Blow-Grenade
    February 27, 2010

    For those who want to watch the match again!!!

  4. nobody
    February 27, 2010

    Messi 6??
    I dont think any forward would have passed that kinda ball when they r almost clear to goal??
    Yea, Xavi knows when to pass or where to pass, but do not score the goals Messi score. NOBODY IS PERFECT.

    • andrew M
      February 27, 2010

      you are saying (in some kind of metajoke) that you are perfect?

    • segun
      February 28, 2010

      u knw dat messi is d star of d team. he need 2 take some blame, at dat point he need 2 pas d ball 2 ibrahim 4 easy

  5. andrew M
    February 27, 2010

    Kxevin, i must agree with you. while i was watching the game i said to those around me “we need to capitalise on our chances because any minute malaga are going to put that ball in the back of the net, i can just feel it”. and then they did.

    how the H did we not walk out of this game with more goals? we played well, some of the tricks we spectacular. i often think that pep focuses more on possesion than goals. like i mean, he would rather win 1-0 with 1,000,000% possession, than win 5-0 with 50% possession. do you know what i mean?

    i was upset during this game because i felt like messi for one was screwing around too much. how many times we screamed PASS LEO PASS HE IS OPEN!! only to have that weligton intercept. I mean there was even that weird spanish guy to be overheard shouting Pasalo cono!

    geez, what an up and down game. that disallowed goal was supposedly for pushing, but i think Ibra deserved his goal. i would have felt much more secure with our lead then.

    and did you all see what happened to aaron ramsey today? he got his ankle broken in a ridiculous tackle. poor kid. imagine that happen to banjo…

  6. andrew M
    February 27, 2010

    oh, and wasnt alves actually offside with our second goal?

  7. Pyro
    February 27, 2010

    I was just disappointed poor Ibra got that goal take away

  8. Bill
    February 27, 2010

    Let me start off by apologising to Ibra. I got caught up in the Ibra vs Eto’o discussion(again! sigh) that I really didn’t fairly evaluate his performance in this game. Barcelona striker is a thankless job, no unlimited route 1 opportunities all designed to land directly on your feet. You have to hussle, ran and help in the midfield, defend, be a decoy, take opportunities, create some yourself, ride shotgun to Messi’s Juha kankkunnen impression, and of course, the most important is finish. That stuttgart goal must have done wonders to Ibra’s confidence because, for me he, he clocked in, checked all the above boxes and clocked out. A complete shift from Ibra. Of course, there were a few instances… but to comment on them right now is akin to putting a wider smile on the monalisa, so ill leave it alone. Great shift Ibra, more like this from you and a few goals would be great. There was nothing wrong with that goal, and like Kxevin, I loved Messi’s genuine celebration of Ibra’s goal.

    Speaking of which, I love everything about Messi, but truth be told, he should have made that pass to Ibra. Incidentally, it was against malaga last year when Messi did the exact same thing to a wide open Eto’o. But I love his runs because defenses always break down when he does it, and it’s holding on to dear life at that point.

    On Busquets, I still believe he is out of position a little bit too much, should never be in front of Xavi or Iniesta when the team is building up from the back. And despite losing the header, he was the one guy in the best position to stop the goal because he was running alongside the malaga player, but the dude just stopped!

    Iniesta needs to play in the midfield.

    Everyone else played a wonderful game. Xavi was simply outstanding and the two sombrero’s he gave malaga players was the best since Ronaldinho’s era.

    This is how the game should have ended though…..

  9. Bill
    February 28, 2010

    Let me start off by apologising to Ibra. I got caught up in the Ibra vs Eto’o discussion(again! sigh) that I really didn’t fairly evaluate his performance in this game. Barcelona striker is a thankless job, no unlimited route 1 opportunities all designed to land directly on your feet. You have to hussle, ran and help in the midfield, defend, be a decoy, take opportunities, create some yourself, ride shotgun to Messi’s Juha kankkunnen impression, and of course, the most important is finish. That stuttgart goal must have done wonders to Ibra’s confidence because, for me he, he clocked in, checked all the above boxes and clocked out. A complete shift from Ibra. Of course, there were a few instances… but to comment on them right now is akin to putting a wider smile on the monalisa, so ill leave it alone. Great shift Ibra, more like this from you and a few goals would be great. There was nothing wrong with that goal, and like Kxevin, I loved Messi’s genuine celebration of Ibra’s goal.

    Speaking of which, I love everything about Messi, but truth be told, he should have made that pass to Ibra. Incidentally, it was against malaga last year when Messi did the exact same thing to a wide open Eto’o. But I love his runs because defenses always break down when he does it, and it’s holding on to dear life at that point.

    On Busquets, I still believe he is out of position a little bit too much, should never be in front of Xavi or Iniesta when the team is building up from the back. And despite losing the header, he was the one guy in the best position to stop the goal because he was running alongside the malaga player, but the dude just stopped!

    Iniesta needs to play in the midfield.

    Everyone else played a wonderful game. Xavi was simply outstanding and the two sombrero’s he gave malaga players was the best since Ronaldinho’s era.

    This is how the game should have ended though…


  10. Spencer
    February 28, 2010

    Bless Pedro! Bless him for taking the shot that Barca lacks so very often. I can’t count how many times we are BARELY outside of 20 yards, and we try to pass around until we get a point-blank shot (which is difficult to set up) only to have it end with either a) a point-blank reflex save by the keeper, b) one-too-many dribbles into a defender, or c) having a pass cut off.

    We are SO GOOD at shooting, so why don’t we shoot it (I always say). A 25-yard shot isn’t as low-percentage as you might think, and is certainly higher percentage than trying to pass around for a tap-in that probably won’t come (and might not even go in).

    Sometimes we don’t realize that shooting from afar (with how many chances we get to do that) is the CLEAR, best option.

    So thank you, Pedro! for doing it. Hopefully people like Iniesta, Busquets, and yes, even Xavi now realize that if there isn’t a golden pass opportunity, why not shoot the damn ball?

    • GM
      February 28, 2010

      In the second half Xavi had the ball in the box, with nobody within 5 meters around him, all he had to do was look at the goal and shoot. Instead he opted for a chip to the other post

      • Sid
        March 1, 2010

        Maybe passing around is the way we want to play. If you compare our Front three from Riijkaards time to now (Riijkaard -> R10 – Eto’o – Giuly, Pep -> Henry – Ibra – Messi), the front line is now definitely more talented while in Riijkaards time it was more pacey and direct (Giuly used to shot at anything and everything).

        But our overall game has become more penetrating and direct than before. Our earlier midfield of Xavi deco Iniesta was more into Tiki taka

  11. Eduard
    February 28, 2010

    Great review! I was really really happy with the way the team played. But like Pep always says, there’s room for improvement.

  12. segun
    February 28, 2010

    i can now see dat barca players are now suffering from complecancy.

  13. cliveee
    February 28, 2010

    we played like champs today, definitely. i still wonder if the movement up front can improve. xavi had a perfect game, which leads me to think why more thru balls (like the one that found alves) didn’t come. to me i say the movement up front is not good enough.

    ibra had a great game just as how kxevin put it. but i noticed, several times, ibra kept on staying on an offside position while busi / xavi were on the ball, trying to find someone to pass to.

    what if ibra become more conscious of that? i agree an offside call is not solely the responsibility of the receiving player. but what i noticed today suggested that he hasn’t tried hard enough to get those killer thru ball from some best midfielders in the world.

    i hate to say it, but weligton had a hell of a game too.

    • Kecke
      March 1, 2010

      About Ibra and offside…to his defense…part of his job IS to push their back line and create space on the midfield. He’s got to be up there sneaking in behind them and stretch their team.

  14. cliveee
    February 28, 2010

    wanna hear what pep has to say about this game so much, so if you have it,please post. 😉

  15. Mher
    February 28, 2010




  16. Cesc Blanc
    February 28, 2010

    With Alves in the side, we cross around 4 times more than without him. Some crosses might be speculative but they are a constant threat and we have it easier getting the second ball.
    I really thought that we played our best game over the last 4 games. Second goal was a piece of beauty. The fact that Ibra’s goal was not allowed must have been the joke of the season.

  17. Helge
    February 28, 2010

    Anybody has a video of Xavi’s sombreros? That was amazing, as he was during the whole match.
    Xavi is also my man of the match, but I think he’s been so good because of Dani Alves. Xavi knows how to play the deadly passes, but you also need the players to make the runs for them. And in that regard, Dani Alves is simply the best in the world. With Iniesta in the midfield (I hope Pep will never play him as attacking winger again) and Dani Alves occupying the defenders with his endless runs, Xavi has more time and space do direct the game.

    And this f***ing ref, he cost us a goal and, which is even worse, a confident boost for both, Ibra and Banjo Crickets.

    • eklavya
      February 28, 2010

      Poor Banjo Crickets, he had a goal disallowed by Sevilla for the same reason (foul by Ibra…apparently).

    • Jnice
      February 28, 2010


  18. barca96
    February 28, 2010

    i thought ibra deserved better than that. IMO it was his best match in a barca shirt. yeah, earlier in the season he scored goals but other than scoring he disappeared while yesterday he was active for most part of the match. only in the latter stages he was quiet. before that he was a constant threat. this coming from a harsh ibra critic since ajax days 😛

    how did busi get such a high rating, i thought he was taken out during half time cause i did not see him touch the ball( due to our superiority i guess). but he didn’t contribute anything besides of course heading the ball to the opposition player 😛

    bojan seems to be getting his confidence back doesn’t he? i wish he was called up for the Spain U-19’s to get more playing time

  19. y2k156
    February 28, 2010

    I liked the way we played yesterday. We did not finish as well as we could have but in almost all the matches i have seen in last few years, i have had the feeling:) so maybe its just me.

    Messi did play very well. He could have maybe made couple of decisions better but otherwise, was involved and always dangerous. For me, he is at 8 or 9.

    Also like Bojan in game and Pedro, for first time, showed some presence that makes him a viable starter.

    Alves adds so much to our team.

    • Jnice
      February 28, 2010

      “Alves adds so much to our team.”

      You can say that again.

      • Hilal
        February 28, 2010

        There are so many key players that make our team tick, Alves is definitely one of them. He bring so much width and energy to the team.

        Xavi, Alves, Messi and Puyol, those for me are players that cannot be replaced, not just by any players on the bench but by any players in the world. I know a lot of people complain about the quality in depth in our team and I do agree to a certain point. However it has to be considered that some of our key players are so damn good, they are so far ahead of the pack that it just wouldnt be possible to have a bench that could compete. I cant think of 4 players in the world who could realistically step into the shoes of the men listed above and do the same job.

        We should consider ourselves lucky and blessed that we get to see this collection of incredible talent playing together. I look at all the big teams in the world and, regardless of whether or not we win anything this season, nobody comes close to the football we are capable of. Enjoy it.

        • Barca4Life
          March 1, 2010

          I think you forgot San Andres there Hilal! Don’t underestimate our little midfielder he belongs to one of the best in the world and xavi really isn’t that good when he’s not playing so iniesta also belongs in that list of players!

  20. Jnice
    February 28, 2010

    I knew Maxwell spoke Castellano well, but I didn’t know he understood Catalan so well. Props to him.


  21. dammessi
    February 28, 2010

    U did mistake with Messi.
    I think bout 9!

  22. Lou
    February 28, 2010

    From ESPN:

    Hleb has no intention of extending Stuttgart stay


    “Only Barcelona decide where my future lies and there have already been some positive talks. The chances of me staying with Stuttgart are 0%.”

    If he’s planning on returning to Barcelona, I hope he’s working on his Spanish. He’s a good player though, and some more midfield depth would be nice. Thiago and Jonathan are the future, but I’m not sure that they’ll be ready for full promotion next year.

    I guess my worry is that Hleb won’t accept being a squad player. One of the nice things about this season is that the squad though small seems really united. No complaining about lack of playing time (aside from a few words from Yaya’s agent), and those who aren’t playing as much as they would like (Henry, Chygrynski, Bojan, Yaya) are saying all the right things about working hard to earn a place in the line up. Hleb didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in this regard last time around.

  23. majatt (Maximus)
    February 28, 2010

    Was on the official site and come across some tidbits:

    We are @ 61 points after 24 games and after 24 games last season we were @ 60 points. So we are doing better than last season (on points) with EE just 2 points behind. We won last season with 87 points after not giving hoot for the last few matches…if we are pushed all the way this could be a record breaking season.

    Guardiola commented, with reference to Pedro:
    “I’ve maybe given him less game time than he deserves, like Bojan. They are both very good and decisive for us – they deserve to play more often”

    Could this be a hint that Henry is out and Pedro is in?

    Oh and the youth team maintains 2nd place (play off for promotion place) after 27games on 54 points behind leaders on 63 and ahead of chasers on 51, 48, 48, 48 and 46. This after a 1-1 draw with Soriano scoring the only goal to go to 16 goals for the season (tied for 3rd behind leader on 19 goals).

    • majatt (Maximus)
      February 28, 2010

      Well on the Henry out thing…he isn’t starting so that is a fairly clear indication of what is up but I’ve still been hoping he’d be resurgent in this half of the league.

  24. poipoi
    February 28, 2010

    What a lesson by mr pep again, that variation he did in the system worked so well!! I was really impressed…, p! on the right, iniesta left and messi 2nd striker with ibra so he can come down at times. And henry out!! It really worked even if we didn’t score in the 1st half. Plus Busi+Xavi in the middle a semi-doble-pivote” for god’s sake!!!! WOW … But one important thing guys… I want to found the “andres-is-not-a-winger” comitee. Yesterday he looked really uncomfortable in the left, when he popped in the midfield you could see the real iniesta. Other comitee that should be founded is the “xavi-is-not-human”, he deserves a rating of 20 or a 30 for how he played… it was pure heaven.

    AAAND btw… It’s such a good thing to see Ibra getting into the game! Even if he didn’t score I think I saw the first game of his that satisfied me, he was kinda hot and I loved his frustration when he didn’t score. Plus he had some quality chances too.

    • Hector
      February 28, 2010

      +100, my man 😀 . Great pick-up.

  25. poipoi
    February 28, 2010

    forgot about sir pedro! rodriguez ledesma’s goal. omg what a friggin’ shot, it looks impossible to do on purpose 😀

  26. Jim
    February 28, 2010

    I enjoyed the game and thought we did play well. This isn’t a big criticism but on rewatching this morning though I couldn’t help feeling that we still need to speed up the passing. On several occasions we played them to a standstill but it had the effect of playing us to a standstill as well. When the final ball is played it is to someone in position rather than running at pace onto a ball and that makes defence busting harder. Just a small quibble. Watching the EE they seem to have a style of play where players are running onto a ball at pace. The only one I thought we did that with was Alves ( as for the goal).

    A word on Maxwell. I didn’t think he put a foot wrong yesterday and gave us bags of width. However, he has the ability to take defenders on and i think he has goals in him if he starts believing on himself . . . and if we can get the ball quicker out to the wing. The LW is a little neglected as both Xavi and iniesta tend to turn and look to the right.

    As usual, an interesting and thoughtful review, Kxevin. Possibly a little hard on Messi. He worked his butt off and looked dangerous throughout. Talking of hard work I was going to quibble with the common consensus on Ibra. To me his first touch is still lacking confidence and I don’t think his movement is as effective as some are suggesting. However, I can’t find it in me – you have to love him for his work rate. He never came close to this with previous clubs and he did deserve that goal. He’ll find it easier if we can pull defences about a little quicker. I can see him getting in amongst the goals then.

    final point. I’ve been quite hard on Pedro’s overall contribution. Can’t deny that yesterday he looked like he is starting to grow up. He did exactly what I’d been wanting Henry to do more – cut inside and unleash the right foot shot.

  27. Hector
    February 28, 2010

    Poipoi is spot on. Pep came out with a new variation for the first half. I gotta admit that I thought it worked great too. We had SO many chances, controlled the tempo, and only gave them a single shot on goal (from the free kick). That’s dominance. I’d like to see that look again.

    The Spanish dailies are saying that it was everything from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-5-1. My view? Our formations are so dynamic that its hard as hell to pigeon hole them into a x-x-x-x format. The bottom-line as to what changed tactically IMHO:
    -Pedro was a pure right winger
    -both fullbacks advanced at will
    -Iniesta played like a wide midfielder with Maxwell’s support (similar to how he plays “winger” for Spain)
    -Messi had a free role through the middle that allowed him to triangulate with the midfielders, run at defenders, and associate more with Zlatan
    – Busi and Xavi played a pseudo hyper offensive double pivot.

    More ranting:

    – Pedro became a true right winger, filling in for Messi and going back to his Barca Athletic days. The guy seriously has the best feet I’ve seen in a LONG time. The only guy I can remember being as ambidextrous as Pedro is Wesley Sneijder (yeah, really… the guy can do amazing free kicks with both feet even). As of right now, this role is perfect for him. This not only allowed Messi to get more involved in our possession/transition game, touch the ball often (which he HAS to do to get in rhythm), wreck havoc in between the lines, and run at slower centerbacks but it also freed up Alves. In the past, Messi would cut in while Alves would keep the width and overlap him when needed. Pedro played this game perfectly with Alves but also allowed Dani to cut in himself more often (like he did with Sevilla). Meanwhile Messi was free to wreck havoc everywhere and help out in possession all over the field while popping up in good positions all over the place.

    – Maxwell and Iniesta did a similar game to the left although most of our attacks came in from the right. What I also saw is that when we came closer to the box, Zlatan at times would drag left and support Maxwell to keep width, allowing Iniesta to cut inside and playmake a bit more. The interesting thing is that during transition (moving the ball up field), Pedro would keep the width on the right while Alves acted as more of a midfielder (inverse roles between fullback/winger) whereas the inverse took place on the left with Iniesta cutting in to help out often while Maxwell kept the width.

    – Our width and wing play improved exponentially. How so? Pep said in his press conference that this was the game with the most “llegadas de fondo” that we’ve had. What’s that? It’s when a player bombs towards the end line inside the opposing box and get’s a clear shot to cross it across goal. The perfect pass because it’s never offside. We got a ton of chances by these llegadas and Pedro, Alves, Maxwell, and Iniesta with Messi and Bojan in the second half were the responsible ones. That’s the key to breaking down parked boxes. Wing play. Unbalance the defense by moving it from side to side. We did it awesomely well and were VERY unlucky not to score.

    – Busi and Xavi played a sort of double pivot. The difference between say, a Liverpool 4-2-3-1, and this was that Busi and Xavi were rarely level. They alternated their advances and covered each other’s butts. Rarely were they on the same line.

    – If American football is a game of inches then futbol is a game of milliseconds. That’s the difference between a goal and a save, clearance or turnover. You have to decide correctly and quickly. Milliseconds are the difference That’s down to individual quality. Why we did not score more or earlier today. If Messi had crossed to Zlatan, if Xavi or Ibra had shot instead of passed, if Ibra had bounced the ball off the ground on one of his headers instead of going high… All of these were decision taken in the space of milliseconds which just happened to be wrong. Nothing Pep can do there. We have the quality to get those right more often than not.

    – They got TWO bloody shots on goal and one went in. Lucky or efficient? Compare that to how we got our asses counterattacked against Stuttgart and Atleti.

    • jordi™
      February 28, 2010

      Forlan is pretty two footed as well, the guy scored equal goals with his right and left last year.Crazy.

  28. February 28, 2010

    Few thoughts:

    1. On the formation, while basically agreeing that it is too dynamic to be categorized as one or the other, I thought it was more a 4-2-1-3, with Iniesta the LW and Messi being the link-up man. He’s scary good in that role, in my opinion better than he is as an inside-right forward. But this is only true when his passing is up to par and unselfish, unlike yesterday.

    2. I was impressed with the performance but not THAT impressed. It seemed at times that we were more content with possession than meaningful possession. The pace of the passes was 90%, as were the runs off the ball. Again, this may sound nit-picky, but I don’t think it was a superb game, just a good one. Definitely a good trend though, after the Atleti, Racing and Stuttgart games which were quite bad.

    3. Ibra was awesome but I have a feeling that if anything bad happens this season — say a CL quarter-finals exit or finishing second in La Liga — he will get the blame. I’ve noticed quite a bit of antipathy toward him, not just on this blog but generally. I don’t understand it really because I think he is doing his best to fit in, but he definitely catches a lot of flak from people.

    4. I definitely echo a comment above about needing to shoot more from outside the box. Watching the Inter-Chelsea game this week, after watching the Chelsea and Cambiasso goals, I was just thinking that we would never score goals like that, even though our players are the most accurate in the world with both passing and shooting. This is why I really like Pedro — he adds that x-factor to the attacking side of things.

    • poipoi
      February 28, 2010

      there were some “whistles” to ibra in last game… I had never heard them before. he needs to enjoy himself more. cause that’s why he came to barça right?

  29. Kxevin
    February 28, 2010

    The problem with Hleb returning now is where would he play? He was here before the emergence of Pedro!. Now, he would just ride the lovely Camp Nou Recaros.

    He’s a squad player, who is now realizing how good he had it at Arsenal. He’s also continuing his history, by talking shit at Stuttgart, just like he talked shit when he was with us. I don’t think that’s the best way to convince teams that you’ve reformed, and are worth the risk of a roster spot. You come, you don’t impress, and you say that it’s the coach’s fault. Two coaches who have worked wonders with their clubs, it should be added. Don’t think so, dude.

    –Pedro! was so impressive, mostly because he played a lot like Henry on the wing. Not as good yet, but close enough where you were okay with him being out there. As I said, it was about his most impressive, and most complete match in the colors.

  30. Kxevin
    February 28, 2010

    By the by, did anyone see the Wayne Bridge snub of John Terry during the pre-match handshakes? Hilarious!

    • eklavya
      February 28, 2010

      Yeah I saw that! 😀

      The best part was of course that Chelski lost 4-2. ManU lost 3-1 last week too but they just won the League cup.

  31. Auld Super
    February 28, 2010

    I’ve been patient with him until now but I think it’s time to admit Ibra isn’t going to work out after all. If man city and Mancini want to pay 40m for him we should cut our losses grab the cheque sign the back and give it to Valencia for Villa who we should have signed in the first place.

    On Kerrison I think there’s something going on with that traffic group. When we get him back after this loan he will have a year left on his contract, whats that about ? He should have come to us after his loan to Benfica and we should have loaned Bojan out.

    Finally on Messi He’s getting a bit too much like that petulant prick Ronaldo for my liking. He’s getting selfish and threw a Ronaldo like tantrum last night when denied a penalty. Still God but needs to cop on.

    • Kxevin
      February 28, 2010

      Villa means that we still only have a plan A. You’re ready to write Ibrahimovic off after a half-season? Really? What if we’d done that with Henry, or Abidal?

      Villa has 5 more goals than Ibrahimovic, who many are considering a bust. And 5 fewer assists. Further, look at the goals that Ibrahimovic has scored this season, and ask yourself how many of them Villa could have scored. No way Villa scores that goal in El Clasic. Sorry, but he doesn’t.

      For me, Villa is more of the same. Ibrahimovic is a roll of the dice that deserves time to develop. How many teams in the Liga would consider a forward with 12 goals and 6 assists a failed experiment? That puts him on pace for 20+ goals and 10+ assists, his first year in a very difficult side to get accustomed to.

      Patience is what is necessary. Simple as that.

      Ronaldinho had 15 goals and 0 assists his first season with us, followed by 9 goals and 0 assists. We probably should have cut our losses with him too after two years, right? In Ronaldinho’s best year in the Liga for us, he had 21 goals and 8 assists. It was clear that he wasn’t going to amount to anything, right?

      Oh. Wait. Maybe he did.

      • DontPanicAM
        February 28, 2010

        Out of 12 goals Ibra scored, 7 of them were first goals. I find that quite important.

    • Charle
      February 28, 2010

      Ibra has to be traded to man city and we go for villa. I agree. He was never going to work out in barcelona.

      We gave away boatloads of money plus a striker who had 22 goals in 21games, at this point, no to mention a month long slump! Fairly or unfairly, people judge him on that.

      But the truth is, he has never been, or will never be a pure striker like David Villa. His decisions in the box aren’t predatory, he isn’t lightening quick (but calm) in the box to bamboozle one or two defenders to get his shot. His offside breaking skills for a one on one chance with the goalie are iffy.

      Barcelona placed a premium on a plan B to the point of forgetting the plan A that worked for the most part?

      Will it work? I don’t know, I was hoping it will but im still very unsettled about it as the season progresses to the moment of truth. If he does what he did against Malaga, we might just survive.

      • Kxevin
        February 28, 2010

        Which means that the guy who led us to 6 trophies is an idiot, as I read it. Yikes.

        Does anyone really think we would be any better with a different striker this season? You do realize that sides are playing us very differently, right?

        Yes, it’s easy to blame the new guy. Meanwhile, the old guy is setting Serie A afire with what, 8 goals? And what would Villa do? Put another way, what has Valencia done in Europe recently, with what many consider to be the striker who is the answer to our prayers?

        Villa was on the table. Guardiola chose Ibrahimovic, for reasons that became clear to me as I watched the goal that he scored against EE: strength, touch, power and virtuosity.

        Are we seeing that now? In spurts, yes. Would Villa be an iota better in place of Ibrahimovic, leading the line for us? It isn’t as if Valencia is talent-deprived, and where are they in the Liga? A distant third place. Where are we? More importantly, take away just two of the goals scored by Ibrahimovic, and we’re second in the Liga, and in trouble against Stuttgart in Champions League.

        And that’s playing in a system that has done precious little to accomodate his abilities, little more than halfway through his first season. I confess that I’m stunned at the “dump Ibrahimovic” stuff. Because at present, I rate him the best striker (yes, pure striker) in the world. No other striker combines strength, creativity, link-up play, ball control and passing ability the way that he does. Other strikers have some of those skills, but not all of them.

        He will integrate into our system, but it will take an effort not just on his part, but on the parts of the other players. Otherwise, we’ve wasted our money, indeed. But it won’t be Ibrahmovic’s fault.

        • February 28, 2010

          Barca have more points this season than at the same stage last season. We can say a lot of things, but “it’s not working” is not one of them.

        • vicsoc8
          February 28, 2010

          I’m not going to argue with your overall point. However, arguing that Villa wouldn’t have been better than Ibra because Valencia is behind us in the league or not performing in Europe doesn’t make sense. It’s not possible to compare Valencia’s squad with our squad.

          As for Ibra being the best “pure striker” in the world – I think we have different definitions of pure striker. I don’t expect a pure striker to contribute all that much to build up play, creativity, or passing range. If anything I consider Ibra a sort of Anti-pure striker.

        • poipoi
          February 28, 2010

          we need patience with ibra, I think if not this year the next one… but when he starts enjoying and sorta flowing more into the team it’ll be great. but in my opinion etoo was a beast that fitted our system worked a lot and talked a lot with his teammates in the field, which I like… but in pep we trust. when our confidence wears out he does what he did vs malaga 😉 or vs inter or many many more

          • barca96
            February 28, 2010

            Villa is my main main man!
            speaking of strikers, british magazine, four four two listed ban persie as the number 1 striker hottest striker in Europe. Ibra 3rd and Villa not even on the top 10!
            leading goalscorer in Spain not even in top 10. ridiculous and worst part, a guy who is injured and has been injured 80% of the time is 1st. can he score goals from his living room or what?

      • cliveee
        March 1, 2010

        ah, i can’t believe it… ibra is our second top scorer and you are still not satisfy. i think some of you are being a little too unrealistic and unreasonable. and i can understand because we are spoiled.

        he has scored 12 goals in the 21 league games he played already. what do you expect? 19 goals? 21 goals (1 goal per game)?

        we cannot directly compare last season to this. because things are so much different now, especially when we wrote an important page of history in the history of the world football. we are now the best in history (don’t argue coz we are!). so the whole team is undergoing a transformation. Pep is smart enough to have seen it coming. and it is proven to be right as many teams are now playing to draw us. what ibra can offer is something very important to us. not just goals, but an option of having so many more options. he also makes us unpredictable. just wait when the whole team play to the best.

  32. Hector
    February 28, 2010

    (via Dirty Tackle) Proof that Andrey Arshavin is the most entertaining player in the world this side of Mad Jens:


    Best Q&A EVER.

    • Hector
      February 28, 2010


      It keeps getting better 😀 .

      • y2k156
        February 28, 2010

        He is a character. Before he joined Arsenal, i really wanted him to join Barca.

  33. y2k156
    February 28, 2010

    Btw, Angel di Maria scored hattrick yesterday and good goals all of them. I had heard some place that when we lent Kerrison to Benfica, we got right of first refusal on Di Maria. I think he could be good addition but with emergence of Pedro and back up of Bojan, am not sure if we need him anymore.

  34. vicsoc8
    February 28, 2010

    I have a love hate relationship with our canteranos. I love that they are breaking into the first team and proving themselves with such regularity.

    I hate that they usurp the need for new transfers – Specifically players I’d like to see in the shirt.

  35. February 28, 2010

    Hector and Poipoi described the game scenario in a way that concure a lot with what I’ve seen.

    I’ll just point out that the triangle of Busquets-Xavi-Messi in the center added to Maxwell -Alves on the flanks were the keys for Barcelona superiority in this game. Xavi+Busquets performance delivered the possession rate we had (and both were monsters in the midfield), Messi presence there drived the ball forward better than it goes when we have Xavi+Iniesta. This time it wasnt a fruitless possession, but an unlucky one. Fruitless possession is when you dont generate scoring opportunities but only exchange passes in the midfield, while unlucky possession generates scoring opportunities without scoring. The second case is closer to reality in this game.

    Time will tell more, but at the moment I believe this is the best selection for Pep considering the current injuries. When Keita and Abidal come back, they will take Pedro and Maxwell places. Messi will move back to his normal role leaving the midfield position for Keita

  36. Bill
    February 28, 2010

    I can’t marvel at the first half formations because it left the team impotent. When you have 75% possession in the first half, and exactly zero goals, there is something seriously wrong. Without that second goal, we wouldve had 70+% and a 1-1 score by full-time.

    To move Iniesta to the left is to take away goal threats from that angle and improve assists. To move Pedro to the right also means his increasingly lethal right foot will now be used for passing. To move Messi to the midfield also means you are giving him more responsibilities at the possession game, and less focus at striking. And we all know how our big swede also likes passing… so, who is supposed to score for barcelona? Is possession now more of a premium than scoring goals? We have to do something with the possession otherwise it serves no purpose other than defending.

    It’s instructive that we only scored when Pedro moved back to the right, Messi to the left and Iniesta back to midfield.

    • Kxevin
      February 28, 2010

      What I’m noticing this season is a lack of attacking support. So often, when a player gets the ball in a dangerous position, he has to wait a bit for the help. Last season, if anyone got the in or near the box, Iniesta, Messi, Eto’o and Henry were running around like a jailbreak.

      This season, players are using the ball more, and holding it longer. As noted above, it makes us easier to defend. That second goal was so easy because it was our football, played like it was supposed to be played. Nobody made a run with the ball, or did some dribbling exhibition around a defender or two. We kept the ball moving, shifted the defense and took advantage of the open space. The rest was easy.

      Both goals came from movement, Pedro’s (from the traditional Henry position) in the first case, and the team in the second. For me, this is more exciting than watching Messi do some usually meaningless run, thus removing himself and his teammates from the offense. Yes, those runs can be effective when properly used, but note the caveat.

      I don’t underestimate the value of possession as defense, but as Bill notes, possession without goals leaves you vulnerable to that one crazy play, as we saw yesterday.

      As Hector correctly notes, our beautiful game is millimeters. Hitting the post instead of celebrating a goal. The extra length of a defender’s extended foot stopping a pass. But it’s also about decisions made under duress. We have shown what it’s like when we make the correct decisions. We aren’t making them as much this season.

      I think of Iniesta on the left side, dribbling the ball toward the end line. Last season, he takes the pass, assesses the situation and feeds it back to Xavi or cuts into the box. This season, more than once, he’s drifted toward the end line, where he loses possession or throws in a cross that is easily dealt with.

      We have to get back to ball movement, and utilizing our talented attacking players in a way that results in goals. Last season, there was Eto’o, Henry, Messi and Iniesta running at you, with Xavi controlling the strings. This season, Xavi is still controlling the strings, but Ibrahimovic is coming up the middle, Messi is dangling off to one side and Iniesta is often stationary. There’s no Henry, and Pedro! doesn’t have the pace to destabilize a defense in the same way that Henry does. So the result is very different.

    • Bill
      February 28, 2010

      Sorry, I meant Pedro moved back to the left and Messi to the right

    • cliveee
      March 1, 2010

      firstly, i disagree that iniesta is not a threat on the left. iniesta is a huge threat anywhere if he knows what he will do next. it comes back to the decision with the ball kxevin pointed out. when we say iniesta cannot provide the width henry could, that is another question. but iniesta is a huge threat whenever he has the ball. in fact he usually finds himself playing around 2-3 defenders speaks it all.

      but in this game, iniesta was disappointing to me. he does his usually ghostly dribbling on the left a lot, and produced “something”, but it is that “something” that are lacking quality, be it crosses, shots or pass (back pass).

      kxevin’s observation on our movement is what i could observe as well. we are lacking that dynamic movement off the ball.

      the second goal, which was sublime, is because we had plenty of movements (ball & players movements). it has the shadow of our last season’s triumphant display (not to say we aren’t now, but u know how dominant we were). we played an entire first half with great grand movement of the ball everywhere on the pitch except the vital last ball. why? we weren’t making the best decision with the ball! but why weren’t we? because in many occasion there wasn’t any “best decision” to make that can satisfy a simple end product called “goal”. xavi is the best player to make the best decision with the ball as we saw it in this game vs malaga. totally majestic. but why couldn’t he make a thru ball like he always does? cos there wasn’t anyone to pass that thru ball to.

      any player who are willing to make a run could benefit from xavi’s ball. but we weren’t creating that kind of stuff for him to make the decision. making a run leads to a goal, we did that so much last season. but again, given to the fact that we play a lot of buses in front of goal this season, the whole barca is playing a new system imo. but one thing i saw is that, we were so content with the possession we have, but we need someone to run to a place to score. alves did it, messi did it, bojan also did it in this game. i wouldn’t say ibra didn’t do it, but he did a lot without success. but we just have to keep making that kind of runs.

  37. messi_fan
    February 28, 2010

    I think we’re too quick to label people. Ibra = lazy. Messi = selfish (someone even compared him to Crynaldo). We’re getting ridiculous now. We overlook all the good things the players have done, only focusing on the bad, coming up with all sorts of crazy theories. Remember just a few weeks ago people were saying that Messi and Ibra didn’t like one another?

    I can’t understand how people are calling Ibra lazy. The guy is working his butt off! In fact, I think his problem is that he’s trying TOO hard.

    Just as bad is the whole “Messi is too selfish” criticism that has recently become in vogue. Sometimes Messi keep the ball too long, yes. But there are also times when he passes, when he would’ve been better off keeping the ball. (This is a problem that plagues the whole team btw). That is not the action of a selfish person. It’s more a case of poor decision making.

    Kevin said that the whole team is making bad decisions, and I agree with him. I think THAT is the main problem we have. There isn’t the same understanding between players. But when you look at it, it’s kind of understandable. Whenever we were getting in a groove, someone got injured. Ibra got off to a great start…injured. Bojan played his best match…injured. Jeffren was a revelation…injured. Abidal was playing out of his mind…injured. And that’s been the story of our season.

    But wait till everyone is healthy…

  38. Eduard
    February 28, 2010

    I have seen this article posted yet, Messi and Barca are one in another statistic.


  39. BlaugranaDOOM
    March 1, 2010

    One thing about Ibra is that in Italia, he would play up top and receive from deep in midfield. Then he would be 1 on 2 versus the defense, able to get a bit a space then launch a shot from far out.

    Look where he receives the ball now. He is usually in a tight space with 2 defenders behind him and midfielders in front of him. Plus I am sure the Pep told him not to take speculative shots so that we can keep possession.

    In this game he could have had three goals. The header off the corner was fantastic (good play by Welington, the fuck), Messi should have passed him the ball then he would have been 1 on 1, and the last one obviously.

    Xavi brilliant.

    Messi didn’t have his best game ever, but he looked very dangerous. Beat 4 then skied it. 2 passes to Iniesta. Great interplay at top of the box and the shot went right to the keeper. Also he flipped out for the penalty because he fought through 2-3 fouls then had Welington go through him to win the tackle. Not a penalty, but you can understand the frustration.

    The way Pedro looked off that shot was fantastic. He saw the corner in his peripheral vision, and executed perfectly. He has a true goal scorers mentality. I still like Henry for the big games and I feel that Pep is saving his legs. Similar to how MU use Giggs and Scoles.

    This was not a game for Yaya, because Malaga never looked like they wanted to get forward. We basically played with 2 defenders with Maxwell and Alves as extra midfielders.

    Today’s formation would not be possible with Eto’o, whose touch would often let him down and we lose possession without getting a shot off (like Messi does now). I feel we got Ibra so that we would retain more possession. If someone were to count shots on goal against us this year, it would probably be about 33% less. And I am not nervous everytime there is a corner kick. There is a plan.

  40. Helge
    March 1, 2010

    By the way, did you see Valencia vs Atlético de Madrid?
    I really hope that Valencia shows an equally poor performance against us… I know this won’t happen because once they play us, they are extra motivated (as it is with many other sides) to give the sextuple winners a real fight.
    So I dare to say, if we don’t win a title this season, it’s due to last season. On the contrary, claiming at least one title will make this season almost as special and valuable as the last one.

    • Nick (Barcamaniac)
      March 1, 2010

      Did you notice that they had Marchena sent off with an hour left to play? How about Miguel packing his bag in the 83rd minute when it was still only 2-1? Sure thing Atleti will kill you in their ground in that scenario.

      As for us, they’ll obviously play their hearts out, especially with both of those starters serving their suspensions.

  41. Nick (Barcamaniac)
    March 1, 2010

    I’m surprised that nobody mentioned Don Andres taking more shots on goal than probably in the last ten matches. I like the sight of that. The goals are bound to come once you start trying.

  42. Kxevin
    March 1, 2010

    To resume, actually, you can indeed draw inferences from a player’s performance and where his club is, irrespective of the personnel. People act as if Villa is Ibrahimovic, Eto’o and Messi combined. A player that great, particularly with the talent that Valencia have, drags his club that last bit of the way, as Ronaldinho did for us. Villa ain’t that kind of a player.

    Also realize that had that third goal not been disallowed, Ibrahimovic would have played an important part in all 3 goals.

    –Don’t underestimate the value if his clearing space for Pedro!, when he took that shot. Ibrahimovic changes the way teams defend us, to our benefit. The desire to not let the high-priced import score is almost pathological.

    –Watch that second goal again, and how he controls a bad pass to get things started. ‘Nuff said.

    –What would have been the third goal is evident, in that he busted his hump, so late in the match, to be there for ANY possible scoring chance.

    That some idiots at the Camp Nou were whistling him, just shows that a lot of folks don’t know football.

    • Hilal
      March 1, 2010

      Yeah its quite sad to see how some fans are reacting to Ibra. Like he is supposed to walk into the team and click into place overnight. It just goes to show how little some fans know about football! Such short memories as well, as if Eto’o was perfect. He didnt score 21 goals in 22 games in his first season….it took him 5 years to reach that level.

      A perfect example is when fans call Ibra lazy. He is far from Lazy. His touch might be a little off and he still has a lot to learn in terms of movement and understanding with his teamates but he is certainly not lazy. He has been working his ass off….especially the last game. He doesnt look as electric as Eto’o did because he doesnt have the pace that Eto’o did, doesnt mean he is lazy. You want to see what a lazy striker looks like go watch a Man Utd game with Berba playing. Now that is a lazy striker.

    • Helge
      March 1, 2010

      What?!? They really whistled him?

      I’m a big fan of the club, but I am quite often disappointed by the reactions of the spectators in the stadium. I feel they often do not support the team enough, they expect them to play wonderful football and score at least 3 goals in every match, or even in every first half of home matches. Compare it to the atmosphere in Sevilla or in many other stadiums (don’t want to talk about Osasuna or Bilbao, cuz’ that ain’t normal either), the fans usually give everything for their club, especially if things aren’t going too well. Maybe the TV broadcast doesn’t transmit the atmosphere properly, but for instance, in the last match, there were periods of absolute silence when it was 0-0 although Barca played well. The players deserve more encouragement from the stands, but I fear the atmosphere in Camp Nou will always be rather “opera-esque”. I can live with that, but whistling Ibra after such an full-of-effort-performance goes too far and is inacceptable!

      And Kxevin, since you’ve been to the Camp Nou quite a few times, what do you think about the atmosphere in Camp Nou in general? Does the TV broadcast convey a wrong image?

      • Kxevin
        March 1, 2010

        Having sat in different places now (Tribuna, with the stuffed shirts; Lateral, with the proletariat; behind goal, with the hardcores), I can tell you that the reaction depends upon where you sit.

        Seems that, in general, the least knowledgable fans are on the stuffed shirts side. This side is also where you see the highest percentage of tourists, who are just happy to be at a Barca match.

        Behind the goal, I found the highest percentage of knowledgeable fans, who I could overhear explaining facets of the game in a way that was really cool. And the “molt be” (very good) came at appropriate times, for things that lovers of the game understand.

        Fans everywhere are the same, no matter the sport. A player is supposed to come in and immediately transform the team. If they don’t, some fans start to rebel. The same thing happened with Henry. Guardiola will do his triage, and everything will be fine, because the fans who know, the players and the coaching staff understand how well Ibrahimovic played yesterday, and how hard he worked.

        • poipoi
          March 1, 2010

          fcb doesn’t have the best stadium crowd “aficion” for sure… but it has the best “massa social”. some times I take foreign friends to camp nou and feel a little ashamed not for the stadium but for the atmosphere 🙁

          about the whistes, our supporters may not shout much but they know something about football I think, we are not EE you know

        • Helge
          March 1, 2010

          Behind the goal, that’s always the place for the hardcore fans (at least in Germany). Are their only seats or also standing room in the Camp Nou? Did you notice a sort of animator climbing on a fence and intoning some fan chants?

          In Germany, you can generally say that the fans that shout and sing during matches are on the standing terraces (which are usually situated behind the goals). But they make so much noise, you can easily hear them in the whole stadium. The farther you go towards the midfield line, the less noisy and enthusiastic it gets.

          • poipoi
            March 2, 2010

            late comment… 🙁 … they are all sitting down. Eveywhere in Spain from I don’t know when. well, die hard gol (behind the goal) fans may stand up but it has to be in their own seats I think

    • vicsoc8
      March 1, 2010

      I haven’t seen anyone (implicitly of explicitly) argue that Villa is Ibra, Eto’o, and Messi combined. I have seen people claim Villa would be better than Ibra in our team.

      In fact, Villa is the type of striker who puts himself in good positions and relies on good service. He hasn’t been totally dominating the league by himself, but will you deny he would get better service at Barcelona?

      • Kxevin
        March 1, 2010

        I don’t know if Villa would get better service with us, because he wouldn’t be the focal point of the offense. That takes a lot of getting used to for a player used to being The Man. It’s one of the things that I like most about how Ibrahimovic has adapted to our club. He seems willing to do whatever it takes to help us succeed.

        But your point about how Villa is the kind of striker who puts himself in a good position and relies on good service is pretty much true of any striker, right? No doubt, Villa is a very good striker. Somebody noted that an English magazine rated the top 10 strikers in the world, and the list didn’t include Villa. I think that’s fair. Villa won’t change a game by himself. And I confess to not having watched all that much Valencia, but when I do watch them, I don’t see him doing any of the things that are demanded of attackers in our system, such as hustling, playing defense and battling for possession in the midfield.

        Would he if he came? Sure. He’d have to. But rather than coveting Villa, as many do, I’d take Silva off that club in a heartbeat. I’d be craving Mata ahead of Villa, because I don’t think that we need more strikers. We have Krkic, and if Guardiola has a brain in his head, he’ll get over his ego, and give Keirrison a good long look. A poacher type would thrive with all the chances that we create.

  43. Nick (Barcamaniac)
    March 1, 2010

    Guess the Camp Nou atmosphere can only be decent throughout a big game, and that is because genuine fans (read, socis) buy out all the tickets, so none are left for clueless tourists wishing to attend a match just for the sake of it. Since the attendance isn’t anywhere near full house for Malaga and the like, we hear an odd asshole whistling his head off or not supporting at all.

  44. vicsoc8
    March 1, 2010

    First of all, let me say that Ibra played very well against Malaga. Actually, I’d go as far as to say he played an order of magnitude better than he did against Stuttgart.

    That said, I’m worried about how easily people have started to label anyone that criticizes Ibra’s performance or discusses how his specific traits affect our tactics/gameplay as an Ibra hater (although there are without doubt some true Ibra haters around). As Kevin would attest to – criticizing a player’s performance or analyzing how they fit (or don’t fit) into the team has nothing to do with hating a player.

    With that off my chest, Ibra needs to stay onside. You can look at it as his teammates shouldn’t pass him the ball, but in reality they CAN’T pass him the ball. He removes himself as a passing option by standing offside, which is not good. As an anecdote – early in the first half against Malaga Alves played a through ball to Ibra, who was offside. A couple of minutes later Ibra (who was in a potentially offside position) raised his hand for a cross from Alves, and Alves chose not to cross it. Can you blame Alves? His teammates need to know that he is an option, and passing to him won’t kill the attack. He needs to work on staying onside.

  45. Hector
    March 1, 2010

    A few opinions on some of the topics being debated:

    – I don’t see how we could refer to any of our two halfs as “impotent”. We had 18 goal scoring chances and most of them were damn good. Compare that to the Racing game. To me, “impotent” possession is defined as keeping possession but not producing any good, clear goal scoring opportunities. We did during this game. The last pass and the finish is the responsibility of the players, not the coach or his tactics. That’s why I was impressed with Pep’s switch-ups on this game. Effective possession is about getting good chances to score goals. We got that. It was the final pass or touch that was missing but the scheme was very effective IMO. It certainly was more direct than the last few games including the 4-0 wing against Racing.

    The two poster children for impotent possession that immediately spring to mind are our two legs against Man U in 07-08.

    – The long time readers of the blog know me as being a paranoid psycho who covers his ears and goes “la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you” during the Silly Seasons (transfer season) while despairing about people despairing about transfer lies. True to this form, I really don’t want the Villa vs. Ibra thing going on at this stage of the season. Its not going to change anything. However, the readers are the ones that command around here so argue away if you wish.

    • Hector
      March 1, 2010

      Nothing wrong with objective, reasonable analysis of players’ performance.

      Just want to make sure that’s clear. I don’t like the x player would have/is better for x or y because it then becomes a hypothetical exercise which has zero chance of coming true for at least another 6 months if that. I like my hypothetical exercises to actually have a chance of coming to fruition. That’s just me though. It does not mean that its no interesting on occasion. 😀

    • vicsoc8
      March 1, 2010

      Actually, I think we should talk more about possible transfers.

      The reason is simple, every time we start to get all in a tizzy about who we want to sign, one of our young players has a fantastic game and makes us feel like we don’t need to sign anyone after all.

    • eklavya
      March 1, 2010

      Hector pills are essentially made of “la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you”! 🙂

  46. Jnice
    March 1, 2010

    My heart dropped because I lost my mind and thought Drogba was on our team for a split second. Thankfully that’s not true. 😀


  47. Keano
    March 1, 2010

    On the whole crowd atmosphere at the camp nou, while I dont doubt I would be in awe of the scale of the stadium, I would rather see barca play away at an English venue say a cl match against united, Liverpool or Chelsea(imagine being in the crowd 4 Iniestas strike). Also I think the likes of Bilbao and Sevilla have great atmospheres almost English like. Perhaps the fact the camp nou is roofless leads to the sound escaping.

    • Kxevin
      March 1, 2010

      Nope. The Camp just isn’t all that noisy. The noisiest that I have ever, EVER heard it was during El Clasic. But that match also has the highest percentages of cules and season ticket holders, so they get it. The hostility that rained down upon the EE warmed my heart.

      • Nick (Barcamaniac)
        March 1, 2010

        It was pretty noisy during the last home match of the last season against Osasuna. The crowd went mad because the ref was a total idiot. It also didn’t help that our subs (the usual eleven came out after the match just to get the trophy) lost.

  48. Kxevin
    March 1, 2010

    I’ll just say that it irritates the crap out of me when players aren’t treated with the respect that they should be. Yes, we live in a results-based world. Put up, or shut up. But there is less and less patience attendant to the process, and fans are whistling players at the drop of a hat. I don’t doubt that a Spaniard such as Villa would get a much longer rope than a Henry or Ibrahimovic. It doesn’t make it right.

    Obviously when a player is shit, he should be called on it. But dude is the No. 2 scorer on the squad, and on pace for more than 20 goals and double-digit assists. In what world does that deserve whistles?

    • Tyler
      March 1, 2010

      Agreed. Ibra is a monster, bottom line. He is the right striker for this club, because he is THE striker on our club. No hypotheticals, no theories, he is what we have right now. And I don’t know him personally but from what I know through interviews, videos, and watching games – he busts his ass to be the best he can be, and he is giving 100% every time he steps on the pitch with the colors on. And that’s all I ask of any player that plays for Barça.

      Like Kxevin stated earlier – Ronaldhino 15 goals in his first season with the club. Should we have whistled him or reconsidered his purchase after his first season??? And the whole thing about the money we paid for him. First of all, unless you’re a soci it ain’t “your money”, and secondly what do you care? What if we had spent a billion dollars on him. As long as the club is winning, playing well, and not sunk into debt, who cares how much money he costs? It’s not like you are being sent bills to your house every month to pay for his transfer. I said it before I said it again, the reason Ibra is great for our team is he is UNPREDICTABLE, you are never quite sure what he will do with the ball. Once he adapts and learns to be telepathic with xavi, iniesta, and messi, we will be unstoppable. In my book he’s doing just fine.

  49. Achraf
    March 1, 2010

    HAHA! This is the new pepsi advert with messi henry kaka lampard and other stars. The ending with Messi is hilarious He can sure take a joke 😀

    • March 2, 2010

      Awesome. Did Henry touch the ball once in that whole thing? More commercials should be like this.

  50. Jim
    March 1, 2010

    I’m squarely in the middle on Ibra at the moment. I’m certainly not in the camp of the Ibra is lazy (although to be fair I haven’t seen a lot of comments saying that. Those who are berating people for saying that, I’m happy to be proved wrong on this one). I’m in no doubt that he is working his socks off to fit in. However, I’m also not convinced by the Ibra is making a great contribution comments either. I want to see it work with Ibra – it has to, where do we go this season if it doesn’t? At the moment his first touch is definitely not as good as it should be imo – watch the first 16 minutes if in doubt – but I’m putting that down to him becoming anxious.

    I do see signs of him starting to make better runs and of him realising that in our team you have to work to get the ball to come to you – we have many options all the time. I’m also hopeful it’ll come good with a bit more confidence on his part. His “goal” might well have done the trick had it stood. It came at the end of exactly the sort of run I’d like to see him make where the timing is spot on.

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