Celta de Vigo 4, Barça 3, aka “A wild evening in Balaidos”

Character is something that is often talked about in athletics, but rarely seen. Supporters don’t often have it, and they view their team having it as this consolation prize, this thing that consoles in the wake of a negative result.

But character is an essential component for a championshp team, and was on display most notably after the match, from four different participants in the dazzler of a 90 minutes.

Luis Enrique said that the loss was all on him, that it was easy to second-guess an XI in hindsight. This obviously played into the hands of the people who, before the match, took issue with his XI of Ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Pique, Mathieu, Alba, Busquets, Rafinha, Turan, Neymar, Suarez and Gomes. Those people were wrong.

Pique said that the way that Ter Stegen plays helps the team vastly more than it hurts, and he will keep on playing the same way, as he should.

Busquets acknowledged that the way he played against Celta, continuing a stretch of poor, poor form, cost the team many goals.

Ter Stegen said that his error cost the team the victory (note the confidence — not draw, but victory), and apologized to his teammates and supporters.

Negative results for big teams are often blizzards of recrimination. Coaches say their players made errors. Superstars say that the supporting cast didn’t live up to their end of the bargain. Supporters take after this player or that player as pounds of flesh are tacked to walls of shame with rusty spikes.

Barça displayed character by owning the result, admitting culpability and moving on, because that’s what champions do. If the players don’t take ownership of their performance, don’t accept what happened, give the opponent credit and focus on the next match, it’s difficult to believe that such athletes will have the necessary mettle to do what it takes to become champions.

Barça also displayed character and fighting spirit in staring a 3-0 halftime deficing in the eye and coming out like lions. They had two goals and were spoiling for a third when the Ter Stegen error came. Then they got a third goal and were spoiling for a fourth. Neymar headed just wide, then Pique headed just wide as Celta was forced to most cower in their end, hoofing balls away and rolling about on the pitch to kill time.

Last season, Barça lost 4-1 to Celta in pretty much the same way, as a quick opponent capitalized on errors of possession and banged home goals. This most recent outing almost seemed like a rerun, except for the fightback, the majestic effort in which a champion finally, at long last, decided to play like one.

The match started brilliantly for Barça, with engaging passages of quicksilver play that put the Celta defenders in danger time and again, until the first goal that was against the run of play, born of two players who should be better, who usually are better, combining to damage their team.

— This goal was shared between Ter Stegen and Busquets. The initial pass from the keeper was off, but the midfielder wasn’t fully focused, so the ball took him by surprise. Rather than sliding over as he usually does, to deftly control and dish, he had to make a desperate attempt to control it. The ball fell to a Celta player who wasted no time. There was still one last chance to stop that goal, but Jordi Alba was badly done for pace for the second time in a week. Alba without pace is essentially short Adriano, and you wonder how long it will take Digne to assume that slot.

— The second goal had its genesis in more Suarez ineptitude, losing the ball and not really giving much of a damn after he did. The long pass was lofted, and Busquets’ header brought to mind his early days, back when his favorite poem was “I shot a header into the air / Where it fell / I knew not where.” He might as well have been trying to assist Aspas, so perfect was his effort.

— On the third goal, one that once again started with lost possession and a springboard Celta attack, Busquets was lazy about covering the man with the ball, who was in his area. Compounding the matter is that Ter Stegen picked a hell of a time to get Bravoitis, choosing to stay rooted to his line when, at a different time he is sweeping the pass away. The other error he makes is not calling off Mathieu, who is forced to make a lunge rather than Ter Stegen, who was already moving forward, making the play.

— The fourth goal was just the pride that goeth before a fall, a horrific display that was the goal that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

After starting so brightly, then giving up three goals in about eleven minutes, Barça seemed stunned and on their heels, and a host of reasons started peppering the Barçaverse, from bad lineup, to missing Messi, to blaming various players. But as with Alaves, not everybody came to play. Neymar was razor-sharp, as knife-edged as Suarez was dull. Last season when Messi was out, these two players stepped up their games to lead the team on a scoring binge. This season, Suarez has been poor, a lumbering shadow of himself, making bad decisions on the ball, trying to do too much as struggling players often do. He had Barça in effect playing with ten.

But that wonderful second half, the insertion of Iniesta for Rafinha brought about wonderful changes. It’s easy to lay the comeback at the feet of, as Ray Hudson has dubbed him, the Pale Assassin. One pass sparked a penalty that Neymar converted. Another assisted Pique in a lovely headed goal. Still another almost created danger. What’s easy to overlook is that Barça was once again playing like the best team in the world, with movement dictating passes, creating space and more importantly, creating danger. Character is what a champion displays as egg is wiped from face and an opponent made to understand how things truly are, that errors can be overcome.

The big two used to have margin for error, but the quality of play has improved on La Liga. Eibar took advantage of RM to grab a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu. Alaves took points from Atleti and Barça, Las Palmas held RM, Celta Vigo beat Barça. Perfection is something unattainable, but the cost of an error is high as lesser teams can pounce, with the quality to make goals from blunders. Every Celta goal came from a Barça error, which is something that the players all understand. Even when you can’t be perfect, you can at least not screw up. They failed at that mission, and Celta took full advantage. Yet the beauty of today’s match was in the character of the team.

Luis Enrique’s current method of letting ball movement work with space came up short for a while as the Barça players stagnated, creating islands easily isolated and attacked as players were too fond of the ball, dribbling and losing it time and again instead of batting it to a teammate. Balls were played directly to Barça feet, feet that didn’t move to receive the pass, preferring to stand there and make it easy for a pressing Celta defender. Everything that the team could do wrong, it did, and still almost grabbed a result because of something that has been instilled in this group.

It has been said before that this is Luis Enrique’s team, that they have been infused with the character and fighting spirit that embodied their coach during his playing days. The wins don’t require anything except quality. But this loss, even as it triggered a meltdown in the world of Barça social media, was something to admire. The team came up short but man, was it savage, using immense quality to convert Celta from giddy lion tamers to worried defenders, suddenly unable to control or track passes, where once they were picking them off at will. Luis Enrique didn’t just make the subs that turned the match. We can only imagine his halftime talk.

Character isn’t a consolation price, like an attendance award that you get when you didn’t win. Character is something that defines a team, a trait that we saw in the wake of the Anoeta loss of Luis Enrique’s first season. Barça came out of that match angry and raring to go.

The team is lucky, really, coming out of the gate stumbling a bit due to injuries and a group working to wrap its heads around a new system. Barça is, remarkably, only two points off top of the table even after such a clunky start.

Teams win and teams lose. As four different members of the team stepped up to take blame for the defeat, supporters were melting down and blaiming everyone. It wasn’t rotation, it wasn’t the absence of Messi or any one thing. It was, rather, a bunch of things, a castell of mistakes conspiring to undo a team against an opponent fully equipped to take advantage of those errors.

But that opponent also forced a great team to display fighting spirit and character. Whether Celta has awakened a beast remains to be seen, but there is one thing to say: character becomes an athlete, so much so that you don’t really mind the loss. You as a supporter can move on as the players do and have, finding joy in the thriling comeback and a diaplay of the hearts of lions.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Team was playing well, until Busquets first mistake. Then, 11 horror minutes followed. And when a comeback seemed possible, Stegen sadly had that awful brainfart. It was painful because rm dripped points and we should had capitalized and got the leadership back. It didn’t happen, and Barça is fourth.

  2. It says a lot about our shortcomings that we were beaten by a team which had played on Thursday night.

  3. Let’s just say Bravo never has and never will ship off 4 goals like Ter Stegen who does it so frequently. Every goal can be blamed on Ter Stegen just like last year. I said it last year and I’ll say it this year, Ter Stegens can’t save shit!

    1. Every goal? So, no responsibility on his teammates who failed to stop attacks and made mistakes to allow these chances? Perhaps ter Stegen could have done better – apart from the obvious fourth goal – but let’s not simplify too much. I agree that Bravo is currently, at 33 years old, a more experienced and solid shot-stopper, but Piqué’s comment was elucidating in terms of other things ter Stegen brings to the table. He is young; he will learn.

      In terms of spotting what went wrong, since that is our game – many have noted that it all came down to individual mistakes, not a team break-down, but I don’t think it is either or. The team had a good start, but not had already lost initiative when Busi’s invitation was accepted by Aspas. I might be wrong, but my impression was not that the goal went “against the run of play” but instead materialised a shift in the overall game, where Celta was growing stronger. Of course, had there been no such mistake, we might have endured the storm and turned the tide earlier, but the writing was on the wall that we were at grave risk – and then lack of focus allowed 0-1.

      Many have also criticised LE for leaving Iniesta out. Well, in hindsight he should have played, perhaps, considering last year’s blow against Celta. But we must accept that Andrés will not last the entire season if he is played too much. We need rotation to keep him fresh enough to be at his best in the business-end of the season. If the squad can’t make it that far… well, then we wouldn’t have come that far either way.

      We’ll see what happens. Everything is still in play – but since we have established a new habit of losing away to Celta, let’s break the Anoeta tradition! Will cancel out a few mistakes…

      Just hope they do not overplay Iniesta, Busi and Piqué during the break – it is absurd that we struggle with rotation, and the the NTs just do whatever they feel like. They have a responsibility, too, to return the players in reasonable condition.

    2. The first goal Bravo would never attempt that pass. The 2nd one Brave saves. The 3rd one Bravo smothers before it gets to Matthieu. The 4th one never happens.

  4. The Luis Enrique quote from the Sid Lowe weekend wrapup is illustrative:

    “The first goal came from us losing it, the second came from us losing it a long way from goal, the third was an own goal, and the fourth I don’t even want to talk about.”

    The bold is for emphasis, in case the coach’s view isn’t clear. L.E. is clearly a “garbage in, garbage out” proponent.

  5. Yesterday was Barça’s Festival of Giveaways & Screw-ups. The team’s naïve and amateurish defending is just indefensible. Showing character «after the match» is insulting to fans and to their intelligence.
    I would put the bulk of blame on LE. He made the same tactical mistakes as last year. His insistence on slowly building from the back without making sure that spaces are quickly closed when the ball is lost seems deficient and vision-less. Celta’s players and coach could not believe that it took them a couple of passes to create danger in our box.
    Since the start of the season, Busquets looked tired, distracted and physically inept. Ter Stegen needs to be reminded that he is a goalkeeper first and that he is in the risk-management (not risk-taking) business. Nobody would blame him if he just «gets rid» of the ball. Alba should know that getting repeatedly caught chasing the player you are supposed to guard is not how it is done.
    It looks like the players need to re-learn the basics of defending, of quickly positioning themselves when they lose the ball and of the need to sacrifice the ball if danger is imminent. Keeping the ball for the sake of keeping it is the worst of tactics. LE can learn a couple of things from Simeone in this regard.
    I agree with Kxevin that La Liga is getting more and more competitive. But RM and AM, in their recent draws (not losses) against lesser teams did not show the level of screw-up and meltdown Barça displayed against Alaves and Celta and even Borussia.
    First-half performance was worth of a third-division team. And if the last 2 games are any indication, the team has a lot of work to do. Expecting a central defender to come to the rescue (against Borussia and Celta) should not be Plan A.

  6. In case anyone is thinking of watching it again, don’t. It doesn’t get much better.

    After losing the Ryder Cup I’m cranky anyway but hearing LE’s assessment of the game doesn’t give me much faith that we were watching the same game. Yes, an unexpected turnover is serious for us because of where we expect the FBs and CBs to be ( which is why it’s not really accurate to say the FBs have a marking job until we lose the ball at which point they’re inevitably twenty yards out of position. ). Can’t argue with the facts of what he said but you can’t seriously argue that you shouldn’t be able to handle a ball hoofed out of the opposition area ? Does he really not think his formation and selection was a major element ?

    I actually found myself getting annoyed watching the first half ( doesn’t happen as often as my posts would lead you to believe). and, largely, with LE. We are away to a team which gubbed us last year, without Messi, with Neymar and Suarez not in top form and he leaves Iniesta out. Not hindsight, That was my first thought when I saw the lineup. Where is the creativity and passing control coming from ? Iniesta has hardly been overplayed so far and we’ve still just started the season so he’s not crying out for rest. It wasn’t hard to see what was going to happen against a side which was bound to be up for it. The only thing that surprised me about them is that they were even quicker up front than I thought they’d be.

    Didn’t we just have a similar occasion a few weeks ago when most sane people realised that there was too much rotation at once ? I thought, despite his bullish remarks at the time that we wouldn’t see that again. I was wrong. He meant what he said and the definition of insanity came into play, again. I also didn’t see a lot of pressing or intensity from us . Not sure if that was down to LE or the players.

    The goals for me were pretty much as had been said and I don’t have a lot to add – although that probably won’t stop me writing a lot !

    1. Bad, easy pass to Busi in oceans of space. Only slight defence of TS might be that he could have been trying to play it to Busi’s right to give him time from the man behind and as Kxevin says a more fit/ alert Busi might have been quicker to it but wouldn’t have happened if TS had played it straight. Bit hard on Alba to say he was beaten in a straight race. He was nearly on the sideline when it broke down and was more a victim of the width we ask them to keep although I thought he was slightly slow to realise the trouble that was brewing. Two CBs were screwed and couldn’t do anything.

    2. Unexpected loss of ball again but it was inside their area for goodness’ sake. Mathieu was up the park – actually one of the decent attempts to break their line, Busi was covering for him. All was well until we realised that Busi wasn’t actually covering him and the old backward header came into play.. Gomes was beyond slow in going with his man and I’m not sure what happened with the shot. Suspect it was hit into the one spot where it didn’t hit Pique’s leg and TS couldn’t reach.

    3. Down 2-0 and we lose the ball within a minute of the restart so quick TV missed it ? Pique makes a great tackle but it runs to them, Turan strolls along behind, great ball in ,you have to say , but Mathieu looked to me to be in the right position just outside our box when the pass is hit. Then he has a ten yard sprint to where he connects, TS would only have four paces to collect so it’s keeper ball for me ( especially as the unwritten rule is that the person facing forward takes it) but he dithers. Now, he may have called to Mathieu in which case it’s a more difficult decision for Mathieu but I don’t think so judging by Mathieu’s arm flailing afterwards.

    4. Well, enough said. Crazy goalkeeping in anyone’s book and as most of us have been saying for a long time, it has been coming. No point in saying Pique gave him his support in his presser. I’m sure Pique does actually like playing life in the fast lane coming out from the back but what else could he have said ? At times like this TS needs the support of his team and a good kicking from the manager, not for playing out from the back but for doing it VERY poorly. His words about carrying on doing the same can only instill fear into the hearts of anyone who cares about not losing goals. He could start with what we all learn at school which is that it is a hell of a lot easier to play it the way you are facing, especially if you have easy options. He is our keeper now that Bravo has gone so needs some time to grow into the role. My worry is that he may only be a couple of similar errors away from a crisis already. Just looking for a bit of balance in his play. It’s not asking too much to keep safety in mind.

    We all saw the difference Iniesta made when he came on. The worry has to be where the quality comes from when he is gone. Are any of our host of midfielders going to be long term keepers ? Still just settling in but they’ll need to improve a lot. I thought the two CBs actually played quite well – when we weren’t losing goals !!! I thought Neymar bust a gut trying to make things happen but he is still overdoing it. He should look at Ini’s contribution. Sharp in moving with the ball to break a line but then smart enough to know you don’t just keep on dribbling. He dribbles for a reason. Neymar sometimes just does it without questioning why, although he didn’t have a lot of creative support from Suarez who looked lost until the fight back and a more normal formation.

    Finally, honourable mention to Denis Suarez for his aggression in getting to the byeline for one of our goals. I’ve given him flack so far but that impressed me.

    (On a side note, has anyone watched Granada this year ? I have. Who on earth made the decision to send Samper to a club in crisis where about 20 of the squad are loanees, who have no positional discipline and who are going down ? You could parachute Xavi in and he’d be suicidal within weeks. )

    1. I would still argue that this line-up should do better, Iniesta or not. After watching Arda and Rafinha against Borussia, I can see them getting the nod. My main issue with the game is what you wrote, Jim: “I also didn’t see a lot of pressing or intensity from us”. Nope. Gomes slow and not aggressive enough; Turan interested in attacking (forgot that he was CM, not AM?), and while he did an ok job attacking, he must also defend or it’s all for nothing.

      All in all, this rotation was not brutal, and I don’t think Rakitic did a great job as main man before, without Iniesta. Back line was intact, as was the attack (in Messi’s absence). Only Gomes is questionable, and should our game really come down to one player?

      There are some worrying signs that go beyond individual mistakes, for sure, but let’s not execute anybody just yet.

  7. The only positive thing the past few weeks is that these ups and downs are happening now, in the beginning of the season.
    This kind of form is bond to happen to the big teams sooner or later.
    So i hope that LE and the players learn a thing or two and seriously think about the manner in which we are managing the games.
    We have absolutely the best squad in the world, they just need to start acting like that.

  8. Always easier to blame one than eleven. Perhaps Iniesta had the effect that he had beCAUSE the Celta players had lost that bit of verve? Same with Denis Suarez.

    There is only one Iniesta, and he requires care and feeding. Busquets is just a mess. Not sure what he needs.

    The value of Umtiti can’t be overstated right now. He’s positionally smart in a way that neither Mathieu nor, to a lesser extent, Pique are. He’s also an effective bridge between Ter Stegen and the attack. There were a few times the team struggled to bring it out. Umtiti just makes a run, drops it off at midfield and returns to position.

    There also hasn’t been a lot of focus on Alba, and there should be. It’s the second match he’s been done for pace. Last season he would also start from positions of less advantage, and still flit in to hoof a ball away. He isn’t making that happen this year, and it’s an issue, because pace is most of his game.

    If we judge the first 15 minutes and right up to the first Celta goal, the lineup was correct. Created lots of danger through ball and player movement, but no end product. When the error came, Celta seemed to get wind in their sails as Barça flagged. As the team’s coach intimates, possession is crucial. Shame on Suarez for losing that blal there then not giving a shit. Even Messi will occasionally chase down balls that he lost. Neymar does so regularly.

    The other thing that team needs to do is learn to commit a tactical foul. Does anyone think that Atleti lets a goal build from box to box like that without someone clipping at attacker? You take a foul, maybe take a yellow, but you don’t take a goal.

    Ter Stegen is not a “safe” keeper. He wasn’t acquired to be a safe keeper. I’d rather he give up a goal by hosling it off like he did than hoof it up the pitch. That isn’t safe, that’s chickenshit, and you can’t jettison a system because of an error. Man, the smug bollocks flying around Barça Twitter after that error was absurd. All the doubt, all the slagging, all of the “just hoof it.” He miscalculated. He will learn. Hoofing it is like when an American football team punts.

    The appeal of Bravo was that he was a safe keeper. Ter Stegen had a funky match yesterday. That’s part of the process. His coach will make sure he doesn’t have any sort of a crisis. His owning his errors was huge yesterday. That shows a strong mind. He’ll be fine, but anyone expecting him to hoof it probably shouldn’t hold their breath. We often view play through a prism of our own needs and expectations. Ter Stegen is an anomaly. The only truly analogous keeper is Neuer.

    Right now, too many players on the aren’t pulling their weight. Suarez had Barça playing with ten yesterday. He was left on the pitch because there is always that moment of magic. But if it never comes, you’ve just burdened the team with a passenger. Gomes looked a beat or two slow the whole match, and never really got into the flow.

    Turan, Pique, Mathieu and Neymar came to play. The rest of the team was off, and easily succumbed to the excellent pressure being applied by Celta, even as the first and fourth goals were unforced errors, while the second and third were forced. Celta deserve some credit, as well.

    The team fought back. Between the uncalled penalty on Neymar, then he and Pique pushing headers just wide, the full comeback was right there. It was such a fun, energizing match to watch.

    The lineup was right about about 15 minutes, then it was wrong. A comedy of individual and collective errors made it so. Easy to blame Luis Enrique, but he wasn’t the one booting the ball away. His focus was on possession becuase if the opponent doesn’t have the ball, or if you don’t lose it in a crucial spot, they can’t hurt you. Celta scored no goals from their own offensive creation. All four came from Barça errors, as did the one from Leverkusen. The players know what they have to do.

    Right now, the team isn’t sharp. Whether it isn’t sharp because of the demands of training that is putting them into a lull or not, no idea. But the lineup was rolled out against a mid-table team that hadn’t been playing particularly well. Culers are acting like Celta was Atleti, or RM. It was Celta. Don’t screw up, and it’s a win and Barça is sitting top of the table. But they did. Luis Enrique didn’t, the players did. Luckily it’s something of a dogfight at the top and the team is only two points off top. Should be a fun season.

  9. It’s just not fair to blame all eleven, though. There were some who didn’t really play badly. I would rather say it’s far too easy to just say it’s a collective failure. Iniesta’s arrival meant the meaningful possession of the ball, holding it under pressure, breaking their lines, choosing the correct pass at the correct time. They didn’t suddenly become bad or, indeed, suddenly decide they were going to play defensively. We became more dangerous, largely due to Ini., although the change in formation probably helped as it was closer to what we know. I was a great advocate in moving Neymar central but it didn’t seem to work yesterday and maybe by moving him wide again it gave them a problem wide which loosened their grip on the middle. Dunno.

    Booting the ball away ? I wish ! If we had booted the ball away more often we wouldn’t have been four down. I agree Bravo was a safe keeper. That’s because he didn’t put us behind and have to chase a game at a difficult away ground. Sorry, call me old fashioned but I prefer a “safe” keeper.

    However, I’m not calling for extremes in that either. I get that we are better playing out from the back but if Busi is below par and the midfield unwilling to show early enough for the ball then we accept the hoof and get on with it. We won’t lose games that way. We lose goals and games through what happened yesterday. Our CBs and FBs are deliberately NOT in a position where they can do much if we lose possession so early. I’d also agree that the team as a whole aren’t as sharp as we would like atm. Can’t agree that this isn’t down to LE, however.

    The problems in creativity were surely fairly predictable , although I suppose Neymar could have got us out of it. The point is that LE didn’t learn from last time. If Messi is missing, you don’t rest your next most creative player.

    I do agree that Busi is a mystery at the moment, and a worry. He is so vital to us. Nobody can do what he does against the press. Suarez wasn’t good although I’ll never blame a forward for attempting a dribble inside the opposition box. That shouldn’t lead to a goal at the other end.

    Of course, it’s silly to jettison our way of playing just because of an error. But this isn’t just one error. Unless he changes his mindset TS will cost us loads of goals this season and I’ve yet to see one where his short passes from the back have directly led to one although quick distribution undoubtedly helps. The crisis will come from fan pressure I suspect. He’s been under the microscope with fans because of the way he forced Bravo out and if he continues to play as he did yesterday the pressure will grow speedily.

    Look, I’m not against playing out from the back. We’ve always tried to do that but all of a sudden Pep and LE have taken this to a new and, imo, ridiculous level. When your keeper has the ball number one concern is not gifting them an easy opportunity. I’d have been happier had he said ” look, it was a mistake. There was an easier pass on to Pique. You can be sure I’ll not try that again.” Had he done that, episode over and put down to experience.

    I’m certainly not watching that match again but my gut instinct is that they had a few unconverted chances as well second half.

    Not sure why hoofing it up the park is ” chickenshit” . To me, chickenshit is giving up a goal when there’s no danger. If you look at the hoofing up the park from us, as many of them end up with us in possession as don’t. Typically it goes up to their back line who can’t direct their header and we have as much chance from there as they do.

    You know things aren’t sitting right when you find yourself agreeing with Balague’s assessment of the match. I used to dislike him. How come he’s now talking sense ?

  10. A few thoughts regarding Ter Stegen.

    1. He doesn’t need to hoof it. Both errors occurred in situations where he had plenty of time to play he right pass.
    2. I’m starting to lose count, but this is at least the fifth time this season that he misplaces a ground pass through the middle of the pitch. It’s the first time an opponent punishes us for it, but Ter Stegen had it coming.
    3. For some unphantomable reason he gets credit for admitting he made a mistake. We’ve seen him blame others for his blunders before, but hat do you expect, this gaffe didn’t leave him anywhere to hide. And why on earth do people praise him for owning up to the fourth goal, when IN THE SAME GAME he misplaced the pass that led to the first goal? He didn’t own his errors. He shirked them by saying the mistake happened only once.
    4. I don’t think the problem is his style of play. For some reason those who criticize Ter Stegen constantly get told that we don’t understand what he brings to the team. So far what he brings more than anything else are mistakes that either lead to goals or goal scoring opportunities. Against Man City, Villareal, Bilbao, Juventus, Bilbao, Sevilla, Leverkussen, Arsenal, Bilbao, Leganes, Celta de Vigo, and that’s just off the top of my head. His style of play is not the issue. His execution is. And if he doesn’t improve, the issue might very well be his lack of ability to execute his style of play well enough.
    5. Valdes was criticized for being error prone but he made half the errors MATS makes, was an excellent shot stopper and generally stepped up in big games. I’m only making the comparison because people often say, Valdes made a lot of errors too, Exxon Valdes, etc.
    6. Everybody is allowed a stinker (it’s the pattern of these last two and a half seasons that worry me), but can anyone name a worse performance by a Barcelona keeper ever? Please help me out because I don’t remember one.

  11. If by worse you mean a Barca keeper having a direct hand on two goals conceded then off the top of my head then we will have to trawl through the archives. If you mean the 4 goals conceded then they are plenty. If you mean conceding a silly goal like the fourth then Valdes comes to mind at least twice and doing it in the Clasicos for that matter. One time it was in the last minute at home and he danced with the ball if you dont remember.

    I understand TS is not everyone’s cup of tea but cut the guy some leeway. Its like some folks wait for every error he commits to bring it up. By chance how many errors has/did Bravo commit that you totted up? How many failed attempts at crosses?

    Goalkeepers make errors. Its fun we are laying into Ter Stegan and pining for Bravo when he has had his struggles. Maybe LE is not as demanding as Pep on playing from the back but if anyone wants a reminder of a horror show they need to rewatch Bravos debut at OT

  12. Well, I think I’ll also take the stand with Levon and Jim above (convinced by their arguments). Its simple from my view. If you want to play out from the back, you need to be 100% sure that you are not going to lose the ball in your half (at least your third).
    I recently lost a football tourney because of a goalie mistake like Ter Stegens and let me tell you, it hurts every time I think of it. Even as I know he was not a pro, neither were we playing a proper competition. So imagine how the team feels at the biggest level.

    He can have a thousand passes in a match, but letting one half-chance for that is not worth it. Because as much as a it looks pretty and builds play, a single goal decides the game.

    This is not cricket or tennis where regular errors are ok!

    For some perspective, we need to remember that it is really hard scoring a goal in a competitive football match, there are at least 8 players trying to stop Barca from doing that at any point in any match. You need all the Messi’s and Neymars to create one against tight teams, and even then, its not guaranteed.
    In return, you give them a gift at the edge of the box? That is not acceptable

    The hard work of ten outfield players to create on goal (imagine Iniesta sweating blood running around, looking for a half-chance, taking kicks and still running) is wasted because your goal keeper fancies a cute pass?

    From another perspective, without the 2 gifted goals we wouldn’t even be talking about this loss being a team loss. Instead it would have been a win even when things are not going right!

  13. To be fair, Valdes has been doing this for ages too. But he was generally ranging one or two big mistakes a season (maybe 3-4). I too remember him giving one away in a Classico but he was given a pass because it was actually a one-off, and you count on him making astonishing saves regularly.

    Ter Stegen on the other hand has been averaging at least one big mistake every alternative match this season. Actually, all he needs to do is draw a line on the kind of passes he needs to make, thats all.

  14. We had Bravo, who is good but getting a bit old; we had ter Stegen, who is not yet as solid, and maybe a bit young – but good with his feet. Going with ter Stegen was always a risk, and I am pretty sure LE did not expect his keeper to be without fault. ter Stegen has not played regular, week-in-week-out liga-football for two seasons and is struggling to find his proper balance – play it simple when things are off; try things when you’re on a roll and the team is on.

    But to curb his play overall would be wrong – this is part of the deal, and the play with his feet is his defining feature. Maybe, as Levon asks, it will turn out he is not good, or consistent, enough. Still, let’s not try to turn him into Bravo – I would go for him as he is, and sell him – rather than ask him to be someone else – if he does not manage that game on the (in)famous Barca-level.

  15. To be honest, I find it unfair to blame Suarez for the second goal… yes, he lost that ball, but he was on the opposition’s box… is quite normal, to put it somehow, for an attacking team to lose the ball at the other end of the field. Sure, he not giving a crap after he lost the ball is something to criticize, but holy smokes… that was a fast counter, it’s not like he could do anything.

    There’s a sure thing: had it been Neymar, Iniesta or Messi the one who lost that ball, they wouldn’t be getting blamed for it.

    1. As for that second goal.
      Look where one of our CB stands in that moment.
      Mathieu is only few meters away from Suarez, standing in front of their box.
      What a hell is he doing there????

  16. @Lala
    1. I meant two big errors that cost us the game plus another two goals conceded with very little in good saves to offset his mistakes (I think there was a one on one which Celta absolutely scuffed near the end of the game, not ready to give MATS a huge amount of credit for that).
    2. When was the last time a goalkeeper not named Ter Stegen conceded four goals? I believe it was Valdes against Bayern and I don’t think he was at fault for any of them (maybe the first one he could have done better? Don’t remember). I think the time before that Valdes conceded four was under Rijkaard.
    It is interesting you bring this up. In two and a quarter season in which he played roughly half the matches, Ter Stegen has conceded four goals on at least four occasions I can think of. While needless to say he didn’t cover himself in glory in any of these matches, he committed big errors that cost important goals in two of these matches.
    3. I dont need to trot up errors of a goalkeeper who we sold this summer, but one of his endearing traits was that he hardly made any. Off the top of my head, he made a huge gaffe in the away Clasico last season (a match in which he also saved 8 shots among which two close range headers and a CR one on one), he had a pretty bad game against Malaga away and he could have done better to stop a deflection against Valencia. Just like with MATS, I’m sure I forgot a couple of errors, but really, there’s no comparison. Even at high balls he’s made less clunkers (in more matches) than Ter Stegen (Juve, Leverkussen, Levante).

    1. Right on about Valdes. Less mistakes, more astonishing (and game-saving saves). His last couple of seasons weren’t his best, though.
    2. Your point about players being completely pissed off over losing a match because he tries to get cute is a good one, too. Hadn’t looked at it that way. My feeling is that he’s probably not the most popular guy anyway. Blaming teammates for goals in which he was at fault (Leverkussen, Levante), hinting in the media that he won’t stay unless he gets Bravo’s playing time, pressuring the board into a decision this summer. All of this might backfire on him. Or not.

    Completely agree that we shouldn’t overhaul Ter Stegen’s style (although the allusion by many that Bravo is a static goalkeeper who hoofed every other ball upfield is seriously misguided). It’s not Ter Stegen’s style that’s the problem. It’s the execution and the decision making within this style.

    At least right now he can only improve, but with leagues decided by one point or less it only takes one more game like yesterday’s and you can kiss the league goodbye because of the decision made to trust Ter Stegen this summer. I hate to say I told you so and I shudder when I think CL knockout ties can be decided by one single error…

  17. Also, let’s recognize that Celta also did their job and played well… sure, Barcelona’s mistakes played a big role in this defeat, but they deserve some credit as well. Because, let’s say it: more often that not, Barcelona can make a mistake or two and still win the match, even against the “big teams”…

  18. Jim put it wisely and simply: MEANINGFUL possession of the ball. If I am a goalkeeper and my coach says – even jokingly – that I am good enough to be a midfielder, I might get the wrong idea. The outrage of some fans stems from the full awareness of the huge potential and unlimited talent of the team. We don’t even need luck! With little focus, the games against Alaves, AM and Celta could have been easy wins. Imagine the difference that 8 points more would have made at this stage. What seems to be lacking is the determination, resolve and consistency that the team showed at the end of last season allowing us to win la Liga and la Copa.

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