Barça 0, Malaga 0, aka “Ideas without effort”

Perhaps Messi is also, in addition to his many other talents, clairvoyant and the anticipation of how his teammates were going to play precipitated the pre-match pukes that kept him off the pitch.

There will be talk about missing players, and referee decisions, because those kinds of things have to go on. But Barça dropped points today for a number of reasons, including that it’s easier to destroy than create.

But the simple fact of the matter is that the team wasn’t sharp enough, particularly in the first half. The offense was stagnant as people seemed content to stand around, waiting for Neymar to do something and then react. Of course, with the Brazilian facing the Messi rules, with stacks of defenders on his side, that “something” wasn’t going to happen. If a team wants to win a championship, it wins matches such as today’s outing against a stalwart Malaga. The team finds a way to get the job done.

To work at maximum effectiveness, the Barça system requires movement. The run dictates the pass is a way of thinking as old as Methuselah. Whenever a great such as Xavi was said to have held the ball too long, you could usually look at the offense in front of him and suss exactly why.

Far too many attempted passes today were of the hit and hope variety, pranged toward the box in the vague intimation that something might happen. It did. A yellow-shirted defender cleared the ball. There was insufficient quickness of thought or action, which plays right into the hands of a team with everyone behind the ball, as Juande Ramos made no secret early on of what his intention was going to be as even the most vigorous Malaga attacking efforts were always from the back foot. The key was always going to be to get back the safety of their own box, and hoof it away.

The run dictates the pass because it is incisive movement that creates gaps in a defense, and pressure from ball movement. If one man has the ball for too long, the defense has an easier job, time and again. And this happened, time and again, because Barça players were sashaying about, not making the right kinds of runs or inviting the kinds of passes necessary to break down Malaga.

Only a blind person would say that the team wasn’t hard done by, but Liga officiating is always going to be shit. That Barça team was good enough to beat that Malaga team. Would the proper Barça XI have beaten Malaga? Not with that same effort level. No way, no how. There is pretty much nothing good to say about this match from the Barça perspective. Things were so dire that Pique as CB and a Prem-style lump-in attack became the option. If the players in that XI blame a ref instead of doing a mirror check, not sure there are words to define how wrong that is.

It is trendy to blame Luis Enrique for many things, and this draw will be no exception. But the coach today made moves that should have resulted in results, if the players were interested in execution. If people want to accord fault to him for the decisions that brought in Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer, a Valencia duo whose price approaches 60m but who haven’t really played like being worth a plugged nickel, okay. We shouldn’t assess a player in full until after a season, but so far, both transfers have been poor.

Yet previously, Alcacer was doing the right things. Today, he was worthless. Gomes provided some effort but again, neither transfer has supplied the quality necessary to have a spot on what should be the best team in football, a team that plays the game a certain way, with passing, movement and constant attack. Much will be made of possession stats, corners and shots toward goal. All of those will obsxure the basic reality that the team wasn’t good enough.

Complicating matters for Barça is the reality that the team played without a striker today, as Alcacer was last seen on a milk carton. The level of his inactivity was such that it was the equivalent of reducing Barça to ten players, as the Alcacer roster of moves consisted of the following:

— Lining up offside and not working to get back on.
— Hovering off the shoulder of the same defender.
— Walking around, looking back at the midfield.
— Standing there while the match went on around him.

In the first half, he went a half-hour without touching the ball. A striker performs a key role for the Barça attack. He can be a foil, he can make runs to feed other players from a wall pass, he can also create angles for other attackers. But all of those possibilities involve movement. Without movement, nothing is going to happen. There were Barça players who were moving, but weren’t getting the ball in the right places, but for the most part what a prospective Blaugrana passer had to do was survey the dandelion field in front of him and look for a viable possibility from among the stationary teammates vying for his attention. It was bad in general, but Alcacer was far and away the worst offender.

Turan tried a number of things today, but most of them were predicated on having a foil in the box. Alcacer was standing around, watching. Neymar made moves into the box, dribbles that usually find Suarez or Messi making runs inviting that pass. Alcacer was standing around, watching.

This isn’t about Messi or absences. Barça should have been more than good enough. Malaga was a bunch of kids, standing in their box and kicking everything away that came near them. Shame on Barça for allowing that group, that patched-together crew, to get a point in their house. Familiar readers will expect something positive from this post, a bright side, but there are none on this day, not from this keyboard. The team sucked. Hard done by for sure, but sucked nonetheless.

Blame the international break for a lack of sharpness? Sure, if you want. But players know what they are supposed to do, and aren’t doing it. There will be the usual talk about positional play and no midfield, but the simple fact of things is that today’s effort level wasn’t sufficient to get the job done. And that’s on the players. In a better world, do refs get the wrong offside calls right, or award the penalty to Turan or Pique? Sure. But the next week that Liga officials aren’t boneheads will be the first. It isn’t about conspiracies, but rather about simply being crap. And that is something that Barça, as a team, should know about today.

We know that at least one player has done the mirror check, and found things wanting. Pique summed up by saying:

“We are Barcelona, absences are no excuse. Barcelona’s budget compared to Malaga’s is outrageous, so there can be no excuses.”

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

9 Comments

  1. Tata2
    November 19, 2016

    So the players know what to do but for whatever reasons refuse to do it? what are they being paid for?

    IMO we lost for two glaring reasons:
    a. We don’t have a midfield( see the fringe real Madrid midfield vs atletico). For what ever reason we wasted money to sign midfielders that don’t fit the Barca profile and we are paying dearly for it. I don’t really know who to blame for this, should it be Enrique or the sporting director?
    b. The obvious one, Messi our saviour (the one who also rescues Argentina) didn’t get to play.

  2. TITO
    November 19, 2016

    In 12 rounds we already have 2 losses and 3 draws. But what is more concerning is our form, very inconsistent for my liking.
    Im positive though, this group of players will come good again, and.it’s not.possible not to have a good run of matches. And it seems that they are saving that for the second half of the season. We’ll see. But in the meantime we have to be more clinical in front of.the goal. That Neymar header is a must goal.

  3. TITO
    November 19, 2016

    And for the god’s sake, can you guys please stop moaning about everything around the club and it is not even half of the season. Especially for the newcomers to be judged so harshly.
    Have faith and learn that sometimes you’ ll get disappointed in life.

  4. Tata2
    November 20, 2016

    Rakitic has been with us for over 2 seasons now but he hasn’t improved: always making those simple safe passes and still unable to dribble in tight corners, control the midfield and consistently make those typical through passes that Barca CMs make. I am not saying we should look for another Xavi or Iniesta, but atleast we should sign players who have atleast the core skill set that fit a barca mid. The only new barca mids I have faith in and know they may come good with time are Dennis Suarez and Gomes. And this isn’t about the Malaga result cos when I saw the match squad without Messi, I always knew we weren’t going to win.

    It has become easy for good teams to beat us using a particular template (the one Pep used). They know we have mids who can’t handle the ball under a press and so its easy to stifle our building from the back. Coaches like Pep have figured out the give-it-to MSN tactic. All you need do is flood the midfield and press high to stop the ball from coming to MSN. Then Messi has to drop to midfield to try to make things work (cos our CMs aren’t doing it) and also has to get into good positions to score (why won’t he have injuries every now and then).
    For Godsake if they can’t perform basic CM duties then they should atleast be able to defend and not leave our defense exposed.

    Sorry for the nature of my post, it’s just that I have been harbouring this frustration with our midfield for long and just had to let it out.

    • Rivaldo
      November 20, 2016

      Which is it that we want? Our guys play for 2 seasons giving the ball to Messi and Co. who demand it with the blessings of the coaching staff and the world at large and then yiu want them to suddenly grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
      Xavi and Iniesta at times arr the only midfielders who refused to give rhe ball to Messi everytime he asks because it wasn’t the best play. These new guys don’t have that in them yet. Heck, even Dani Alves was guilty of this-forcing to Messi because he wanted it-granted for the most part it worked.
      We have to go back to being a entire team. Everybody runs/moves; everybody defends; EVERYBODY!

    • Rivaldo
      November 20, 2016

      Look at the same Rakitic when he played for Sevilla… he was the guy. Or for Croatia. Man, that Rakitic is awesome and not ask to do donkey work to set the table for others to shine.
      Btw…. this is doing him a disservice. He has been great in some games for us and shown that skill we long for. Right and lefted through balls; dribbling skills; set piece delivery; goals. You name it

  5. luisthebeast
    November 20, 2016

    Nah we played a good game.If we had Suarez instead of poor Paco we could won easily.He needs time to adapt.I dont worry.Great players like Henry needet time.My main worry is Busi.Gomes is our best mid after Iniesta and must start every game.It s a joke to see Denis or Rafhinia and not him.

  6. luisthebeast
    November 20, 2016

    After Valencia game i remember they said the ref helped Barca.And it was half truth.But against Malaga we dropped two points and we had a legal goal cancelled.Same day madrid get a joke penalty.Non existent.Against Alaves they had also a non existent.I dont like to talk about Refs,yes we dont play that good,but lets not pretend to not see a 2012 again.

  7. luisthebeast
    November 21, 2016

    For me tommorow game is meaningless.Messi and Neymar must rested.Busi also.We are to the 16 already and i dont give a shit if we finish 1 or 2.La Liga is the priority now.Celtik are tough at home but we can win with rotation.Sociedad is a must win game.We lost stupidly 8 points and we are make our lives difficult.

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