Barça 3, Athletic 0, aka “An unlikely Saturday”

Cliches are so for a reason. One of the hoariest is, “That why you play the games.” Cliches are also apt, which is how they come to be.

Today, the Barça XI came out and it was, safe to say, greeted with a bit of apprehension. Lucho trolling the hell out of us, y’all.

Ter Stegen, Vidal, Pique, Umtiti, Mathieu, Gomes, Turan, Rafinha, Neymar, Messi, Alcacer

In the roiling cauldron of Barça Twitter, the match was already over. In this comparatively cuddly space, there was some sideeye. Mathieu at LB, that waste of money at forward, that other failure in midfield and the non-defending RB on the other side. Dude done gave up on Liga.

Then the match started, and a great many of those dire predictions came true as Athletic came out pressing and aggressive. The Barça midfield was kinda like an El Corte Ingles for Athletic, where they can go to get a football whenever they needed one. Go see that tall cashier. Him. With the beard. He’ll give you one.

Before long they had pranged a shot off the post, then Inaki Williams somehow missed a wide-open header. To say that Barça was having a difficult time playing its football would be an understatement. Common factors in the attacks were the right side being used like shampoo instructions: “Rinse once, then repeat.” It was like Pique turned 30 and suddenly was mortal, complicated by Gomes making like Busquets country cousin, just a beat behind the city slickers as his head spun around and echoes of “Whuuuut?” peppered the Camp Nou air.

Rafinha was that cool, handsome, but not-so-reliable neighbor who pops up from time to time, usually just after you want to see him. “Hey. I’m here to … oh. You’re finished. Okay. Ciao ciao.”

Many of the midfield problems came from ye olde lassitude as time after time Ter Stegen would have the ball, only to be confronted by a sea of immobility. Athletic on the other hand was stringing passes together and pressing. There was worry until another of those cliches, against the run of play, reared its head.

The Undesirables combined for a goal. Turan jacked possession in the midfield and fed Vidal who popped a pass over to Neymar. After some prancing and dancing, Neymar found Alcacer in a bit of space, and the new transfer spanked home a squeeeeee! of a one-time finish.

It was precisely the kind of goal Alcacer was signed for. He made his own space by darting around and between Athletic defenders who were distracted by Bilbao’s Most Wanted having the ball at his feet. Alcacer then used a precision finish to bang home. The first-time finish is a dying art in football, the absence of which dooms many a would-be assist to become a CB’s stat padding. The one-time finish doesn’t don’t give a defense or a keeper time to set. Bang. Done.

alcacer

Luis Enrique’s exultation on the sideline probably also had a tinge of relief. In the presser before this match, he said that he needs all of his players, that if he doesn’t rotate the team won’t have a chance in all competitions. He made good on this with his rotation XI today, buttressed by a diamond-encrusted bench.

Supporters want the best possible XI to be played at all times. Reality is that such a thing isn’t possible. The thing about big clubs is that they can buy quality players for every position, in depth. Players like Turan, Vidal, Alcacer and Gomes were starters for their former teams. They’re rotation players at Barça. That’s life at the big club.

What a coach has to do is roll out different lineups based not only on the match at hand but also upcoming matches, multiple competitions and who is in or out of form. Supporters can grumble about a lineup, but a coach isn’t supposed to care. He plays his players, and hopes they do what they are supposed to.

Supporters also ask why a club pays big money for a transfer who doesn’t play, then grumble when the transfer is played. Alcacer raised a lot of eyebrows, right up until that Suarez-like goal. Mathieu raised eyebrows at LB, until you suddenly realized that he was having a really good match. Had someone told you that Alcacer would score the winner, while Mathieu would be the most consistent defender, Messi was subbed at about the 60th minute as Suarez, Iniesta, Busquets and Alba were rested, against Athletic, the predicted final score would certainly not have been 3-0.

And in crazy, hazy game of supporter retrospect, where every chance goes in for the opponent, it shouldn’t have been. There was some providential “finishing” from Athletic, whose two best chances came before the Alcacer goal that put Barça in the driver’s seat and back in the match, and Athletic on the back foot.

The second goal was just crazy, one of those things where you don’t even say “What if,” because such possibilities don’t even occur to you. Barça had a free kick to the extreme right of the Athletic goal. Their exceptional keeper, Gorka Iraizoz, was figuring on some sort of capering sprite extravaganza. But the spriteliest of them all, the one with mischief in his heart, had other plans. He smoked a direct shot at goal that stunned Iraizoz, everybody watching and all of football. The keeper flailed at it as we do a bee flitting at our face, with about as much effectiveness.

messi

In the wake of that magnificence it was 2-0, and time for statistics of the types that said Athletic suck on the road, and don’t score. They played better than Barça with more industry. The tale of the tape said that Barça had almost 60 percent possession and a 2-0 lead. The tale of the match made you wonder why the scoreline wasn’t reversed.

And that’s why you play the games.

Athletic gave it a little bit of a go in the second but the outcome was never in doubt. What happened? Individual brilliance, that unwelcome visitor in a world where formations and systems are supposed to carry the day rather than some genius doing something crazy because he’s a genius. Unless that genius is Messi, then he’s supposed to be a genius, because that’s what geniuses do.

Barça scraped, fought, rode some luck, got a couple of brilliant goals then Luis Enrique made a few subs that stabilized the ship, one because he had to when Lord of the Scum, Raul Garcia, needlessly shoved Rafinha into Ter Stegen just as the keeper was coming out to make a play. A blood-gushing head wound was the result and Rakitic was the solution.

This forced substitution helped Barça regain match control as suddenly there was industry in the midfield. Then at halftime Mascherano was subbed on for Pique, who was feeling a bit of a knock, and alacrity was added. Suddenly those 50/50 balls that Athletic was scooping up so comfortably in the first half were being contested and won by Mascherano in the tide of a match that turned on genius but was consolidated through effort and overall quality.

The third sub was Sergi Roberto, who played … perhaps the most pertinent answer to that came in the form of a question, as on Twitter blitzen, one of the mods in this space, asked, “So what position IS Sergi Roberto playing?” It was apt as he was everywhere.

Someone else who was everywhere was Neymar, who was MOTM and a Godzilla-like presence on the pitch on offense, defense — hell, he probably even got the snacks at halftime. He reduced Mikel San Jose to a puddle of atoms as he strolled in for what would have been one of the goals of the season had the shot gone in. Then destroyed yet another would-be Athletic defender in what would have been one of the goals of the season had the shot gone in.

Neymar had a 10/10 match without scoring a single goal, demonstrating the futility of reducing him to goals scored. Goals are a weird metric. They matter to culers, except when Ronaldo scores them, the only time that goals aren’t everything. Neymar was dominant today. He stole balls, made interceptions, led breaks, created danger, assisted. In the same week where Ronaldinho returned to Barça as a club ambassador it was only fitting that its current star Brazilian would have a Ronaldinhoesque match.

The beauty of Ronaldinho wasn’t goals, but possibilities. Every time he got the ball, as with Messi, you pay attention because something could happen. And it didn’t even matter where he got the ball. A pass, a flick, a trick, something that embodied the joy of football could happen at any moment, so you watched him all the time. Now notice Neymar, who sombreroed an Athletic defender, controlled the ball and scampered off. It wasn’t a trick as much as the key to undo a lock, the only way out of a situation.

Neymar doesn’t do his flicks with that buck-toothed grin that Ronaldinho did, so there isn’t the same reaction. His mien is more an executioner’s smirk just as the sword falls, so the reception for his endeavors is different. And he gets kicked and fouled by vexed opponents who somehow think that he isn’t playing fair, that he is supposed to keep the ball on the ground and use traditional means to escape, stuff that the defenders can deal with. Not that black magic. Against Athletic Neymar was a catalyst and a constant source of danger, verging on the unplayable. He was even part of the third goal, spanked home by Aleix Vidal just after Messi went out of the match.

We got a glimpse of the fully formed Neymar that we can hope stays at Barça, we got a team that gutted out a win after riding some luck, and a win in a must-win situation. The team’s ongoing difficulties reared their heads again, solutions brought about by personnel shifts. But this was a weird one, another example of the coach getting an XI right even if the execution was wrong, being bailed out by bits of genius then correcting his errors with substitutes. And thus comes another cliche, all’s well that ends well.

"I'm going to Vegas after this stuff today."
“I’m going to Vegas after this stuff today.”
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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.

23 Comments

  1. Mishti
    February 4, 2017

    Kxevin, even by your lofty standards, this one is a gem 😀 “Go see that tall cashier. Him. With the beard. He’ll give you one” …I almost fell off my bed laughing. But of course I am laughing because, as you said, “all’s well that ends well”. This was a match of so many ‘could-have-beens’. Barca could have been down 0-2 within first 15 minutes. Neymar could have had a hattrick with only self-assists, Aleix Vidal could have had a brace!

    The midfielders are going to get a lot of flack, and deservedly so, for the troubles and tribulations in the first half. But I would like to add that control has to start at the backline, which wasn’t up to the mark today, non only Pique but also Umtiti. If your midfielders are not giving you good options, try to keep your cool and make better decisions than forcing passes. The onus is on you. The Inaki Williams open header was just a tale of boo-boos for all parties involved. Incidentally I have found Mathieu relatively better at FB on the occasions when he has been used there, than at CB. And today was no exception. He definitely brings more to the defensive side than the other options at LB. Plus he can roam forward which seems to make his life easier.

    Aleix Vidal comes across like a damn fine bloke. His embarrased and apologetic reaction after scoring that goal with the little comedy-of-error between him and Neymar was priceless. And the close-up of Neymar affectionately carrying him on the back and patting him on his head was a heartwarming moment. This is why Barca is so special. One is a guy routinely skewered for not scoring enough, another till recently was one of the Undesirables. But to each other, they are respected and valued team-mates and only the team matters. So who cares which one of them scored?

    • georgjorge
      February 5, 2017

      I’m partly with you on the defense. Of course it’s very difficult under pressure, but with Bilbao pressing with up to six men in our half some of our midfielders and forwards would have to be left unmarked. Yet even Ter Stegen most of the time couldn’t find them, so maybe they really should have done better at making themselves available?

      Neymar also MOTM for me, he can’t seem to score right now but another winger would probably not manage to even create the chance to score when he did. I think it’s easier re-learning to score than learning how to go past defenders at will. Magical set-up of the first goal, and tracking back so much…

  2. georgjorge
    February 5, 2017

    Great match description once again, Kxevin. The portrayals of our players are spot-on, I especially like Rafinha and Gomes.

    Games like these show us how much the many little things that Busquets does matter. He mostly has unspectacular matches, and you start to think any good midfielder could do this, but when he’s not there some things just fall apart.

  3. Davour
    February 5, 2017

    Great result (and review!). We were lucky in the first, but as we know, even Barca will not have a successful season without having some luck on their side. The deficiencies have been pointed out, though I feel the defence did pretty well most of the time. It seems to be a combo between lack of movement and lack of trust that makes it hard to play out from the back. Not when Piqué lost the ball before his yellow card; Gomes was available, but Gerard hesitated, and chaos happened. Had he acted similarly if it were Busi or Iniesta? Unlikely. Gomes had some moments, but does not manage his game overall. Hopefully, LE’s trust will pay off in the long run. Turan did rather well, I think – and while Neymar had an impressive match, he seems to be reluctant to pass Arda, perhaps blinded by the urge to score? There were a few obvious cases.

    Also – positives: Umtiti makes mistakes at times, but he is a magnificent CB; Vidal still has defensive focus to figure out but is also providing alternatives; ter Stegen is, to me, really growing into his role and he had his fingertips on that first chance that struck the post; Paco scored and looked more confident overall; Mathieu was solid; Masche did great, and so did Rakitic, as they were subbed on. Messi did some magic and did not sulk (though I wonder how we would have judged ter Stegen if he would have let that FK pass him).

    And poor Rafinha just can’t catch break.

  4. ooga aga
    February 5, 2017

    Rafinha with a broken nose.

    Balaidos with a broken roof. Real Mandril pressures Vigo mayor and RFEF for game to go on, but it will be postponed, leading to some nice fixture congestion for our rivals. Vigo has a chance vs Mandril esp if the latter doesnt have several days additional rest relative to the former.

    • Mishti
      February 6, 2017

      Thanks, Kevin. Interesting read indeed. I have been thinking a lot about Barca’s tactical evolution over the years. Barca’s best incarnations have combined some of the most tactically sophisticated football with players of exceptional creative ability. For me, one of the fascinating things about it has been the tactical adaptations to the characteristics of these particular players. In the last few years, one of the things to observe has been of course the co-evolution of Barca, Messi and Neymar. The next stage of this would be super intersting for the geek in me.

      One thing that I have been wondering about lately a lot, is the tactical instructions to Neymar while carrying the ball. As Muhammad points out in the article, this season he has been Barca’s primary ball carrier. And often times there are accusations of ‘overdribbling’. I bought that for a while, as I know he, like every Brazilian footballer, is the most comfortable with the ball at his feet. But things don’t quite add up. The more I watch Barca this season, the more I notice that his left wing runs are often, if not always, completely unaccompanied by anyone in a short passing distance. There has been virtually no right side to switch to, and Messi is usually central. That tells me that he is tasked with bringing it forward by himself if he can till he can link up with the oher two forwards, or at the minimum get the free kick/throw-in. It definitely creates imbalances for the opposition by drawing multiple players to cover his runs. So his occasional losing the ball has to be part of LE’s calculation. But to get full benefit of such imbalances, the midfielders would have to run into good positions. That part hasn’t quite clicked always. Davour I think had a nice comment on a previous thread pointing out that ‘individual brilliance’ is also a system, just a more difficult sytem where everything has to be precisely calibrated.

      With Iniesta in the picture that load is shared, and you’ll see many more interchanges between them. Very interestingly, in this particular match in the build-up phase, Arda and Neymar fared better together than Neymar has fared with either Gomes or Denis Suarez in the past. Their passing to each other around the box is still a bit off. Although I don’t quite buy the “should have assisted Arda” line on the occasions he chose to shoot, because the shots were on, and I’d rather forwards take first time shots when they are on. MSN are often guilty of trying to pass when they should really shoot, rather than the other way round.

      There is talk about this being some ‘better’ version of Neymar, even from LE. I’d point out two things: His LB partner Mathieu was defensively solid, and his midfielder partner Arda could be trusted to hold on to the ball under pressure, plus cover his back in defense. That gave him a lot of freedom, plus there was the space vacated by high pressing Athletic Club. So if I were LE, my takeaway would be, for the ‘better’ version of Neymar, give him a bigger realm of movement, and some defensive cover.

      • georgjorge
        February 6, 2017

        Interesting observations! In the treble season it was Rakitic who, with his tireless running and tackling ability, freed up Alves and Messi to create opportunities on the right side. It would be very nice if Arda would be the one to do it on the left for Neymar. I’m not sure Mathieu + Neymar is better than Alba + Neymar, because with Neymar drawing all defenders there is often a good opportunity for the left-back to run into empty space, and Alba just does it a lot better than Mathieu. Defensively, I might agree.

        However, with Messi turning 30 now and being slightly less explosive nowadays (how sad for football), the system might well change further. Provided the front three will stay at Barca, which I hope, something like a 4-3-1-2 with Messi behind Neymar and Suarez would look very interesting.

        • February 6, 2017

          Good thoughts, Mishti and GeorgJorge. And just on the heels of me musing about what a difference-maker Abidal was for attack and defense. Mathieu’s defensive stability did indeed help Neymar a lot. He didn’t have to scramble as much on defense as he does when Alba is in the side.

          And Turan is the left-sided Rakitic. It’s almost like we have a coach who has a plan and knows something of what he’s do … naaah!

          Now I will have to stop screaming at the TV, saying “Where IS everyone!” when Neymar ends up on the attacking end all by his lonesome. It has to be by design. The effect of defenders rushing over to him, allowing Messi and Suarez to run into space has to be calculated, even as it seems kinda chaotic.

  5. ChaoticReaper
    February 5, 2017

    Nothing to celebrate besides our luck. I saw a different game where against a better side we were down 0-2, Suarez has a poor first touch, and Messi’s shot goes wide from that distance. The difference between us and Penal de Madrid is that we know when I admit we are lucky and this is one of those times.

    • February 5, 2017

      Luck is part of the game. The question is, does it taint the result? Depends on who you ask. But the team scored quality goals. Even if Athletic has a 100% finishing rate, their two best chances were the post and the Williams header, so Barça still wins 3-2.

      As noted above, retrospect is that 100% of their chances go in and none of Barça’s does. Reality rarely works that way. It’s usually some mixture. On aggregate, Barça created the better chances. Some luck? For sure. But maybe the third goal had a bit of luck with a fortuitous bounce. The other two were quality.

      As for Athletic’s finishing, that is why they are so poor away from home. They score those in the San Mames, but not in the Camp Nou.

    • ooga aga
      February 5, 2017

      You’re commenting on the wrong game “chaoticreaper”…Suarez didnt play one minute against Bilbao. And your last sentence doesnt make sense. All that said, if you decide to diminish your team’s results and say that we got lucky, great! Have fun and have a nice day.

  6. luisthebeast
    February 5, 2017

    Luck is part of football.The best Barcelona ever,the 2008-2009 needed a lucky draw away to win CL.So?The team created enough chances to win the game.People believe that if Bilbao opened the score first thew we would concede more?How do they know that?Except the defeat from Alaves our last loss at Camp Nou was back in last March if i remember right……..Btw it s funny that an Italian coach,doing simple thinks,can win PL!Ranieri was not only luck!Conte seems to understand that you can win PL doing the basics,good defense and freedom to 3 upfront to create chances.Thats Chelsea.Nothing genius or whatever.Simple italian tactics.Klopp cant understand that in England there are nt winter break,thats why i dont want Tuchel to Barca,German managers cant adapt,Guardiola trying to teach new not so simple tactics to old dogs and i see that they dont like it.Sometimes managers dont understand how simple is the game.

  7. luisthebeast
    February 5, 2017

    And lets be honest.There were teams that won CL or their domesting championships doing 50% things that Barca is doing almost every year from 2005.I dont care if we dont play the most amazing football,we played that and we will play it in future.And yet there is not a team this season in Europe that play amazing all the games.Why not to win everything and not be the best?It s not bad.

  8. Messiah10
    February 6, 2017

    I’m not as convinced Mathieu had a great game. He was getting beat on his side quite often in the first half. I don’t think Alba gets beat by those runs to the box. His pace gives him the ability to fix mistakes when he over commits. Mathieu’s doesn’t and it resulted in quite a few balls into the box that were dangerous. His performance improved in the 2nd half after Rak came on. Probably because we did have more steel in midfield. Just a thought on his performance. Pique was definitely feeling something. He was beaten a few times. The Inaki waltz right past him springs to mind. Luckily he decided to shoot instead of square the ball. I’ve not seen Pique beat like that for a while, so something is troubling him. Hopefully, not a lingering niggle bc we need him more than any of our gala 11. He sets the tone from the back with his poise.

    • February 6, 2017

      Mathieu was quite good. Nobody was great except for Neymar. Alba isn’t good defensively. He is quite good in attack and at making the overlaps necessary at times to make that right side go. But on defense, Alba is a problem. Always has been.

      He also doesn’t have the pace that he used to, which is why he is getting beat more often. This is his last season as part of the XI. I wouldn’t mind seeing the club sign a CB then move Umtiti to LB. Alba is the best that we have right now, which doesn’t make him anything approaching ideal, but the best that we have right now.

      LB has been a problem ever since the departure of Abidal, and still is. I would rather have a lock-down defender who can go forward when required, than a glorified LW who can defend. Particularly with Neymar reaching some of his massive potential.

  9. Jim
    February 6, 2017

    Quite a lot here and a good few ideas about the game. I don’t know if we were lucky or not but nobody should be happy about the chances we conceded because on another day they could well be taken and many were just sloppy on our part. Doesn’t take away from the result which was a good ( and necessary) one. It’s one more chalked off with some rest managed. I’m happy that LE got it right given his limitations in midfield.

    First of all, Neymar. He had a great game on Saturday and, for me, an improvement on some of his recent games. I’m not sure any coach asks his forward to attack alone or get up there then wait for reinforcements and the right wing is usually empty as Messi has moved into the middle, not by design. Neymar also doesn’t attack alone. When Alba is there he constantly overlaps but is seldom used. Good reason for that is that if the ball is passed into Messi in the middle Alba ploughs on and is going full tilt by the time it comes back at a much better angle.

    For me, there were a couple of things that helped Neymar, although his energy levels at the moment are incredible. The first is that they were often slow at shifting their defence over to provide double cover and the other is that ( at last!) Neymar seems to have realised that stopping the ball is death to the attack. As an example, have a look at Alcacer’s goal. First thing to notice is that it isn’t a counter attack. They have loads of time to set themselves up but choose to close down the ball with about six players round it yet there is diddley pressure on the ball. Their poor FB has no chance of any help with Neymar. When the ball is played in to him there is no cover within 15/20 yards. That’s suicide. However, Neymar takes full advantage by not stopping the ball and letting he guy set himself up. He just uses his pace and blasts past him before cutting a great ball back. More of that please. Early take on of the one or two defenders and we’re good.

    The static mids were back. It actually looked to me that both Pique and TS have decided that they don’t fancy playing a hospital ball to Gomes and actively looked for ways to avoid it as he was open several times. In general terms, though, we should be working on drills for this. It’s not hard because the problem isn’t the first pass, it’s what that person does with it. That means you say to Rafinha or whoever that Gomes will have to play it first time so should have options back or to the side. That second ball kills most presses.

    The LB discussion perplexes me on a number of levels. First of all, however good Abidal was on defence he was certainly no use in attack. ( Nor was Maxwell.) so let’s not rewrite history.

    The next thing for me is Alba vs Mathieu in that position. I’ve supported both recently in the face of much unwarranted criticism and I was pleased to see Mathieu perform so well on Saturday ( a lot better than quite good I’d suggest – was anyone in defence better, although a lot of the CBs problems were caused by the mids – again? ) He is also still one of the quickest on the squad ( apparently he was THE quickest a couple of pre seasons ago so even allowing for age he’ll still be one of the quickest. ) However, it’s fairly obviously not a position he’s comfortable in because your passing angles are limited out there and that’s not his strongest suit. He also has Abidal’s tendency of turning his back on crosses from out there which isn’t clever. He wouldn’t be my choice for LB although I never worry when he plays CB ( with Pique). Btw, I think the reason Wiliams got past Pique so easily ( apart from the fact that the guy is lightning off the mark) might be if memory serves me right Pique had been booked and couldn’t afford a wrong tackle. I do worry that he’s playing through a few niggles this season.

    Alba, on the other hand is tailor made for bombing down the wing and getting on the end of stuff. Anyone who looked at the last couple of games he played in and observed his long sprints in both to recover position when he wasn’t even near the play could see that he has pace to burn. Fastest player on our squad. If you want to blame anything, blame the high positions we ask our FBs to adopt from early on in our moves. I haven’t seen any defensive frailty and if I were looking at both FB positions I know which one I’d be more worried about. That’s why Mathieu and Digne aren’t playing regularly in that position. He has been and is a great player for us. Yes, it will be easier for him now that he has Umtiti as his CB there and Neymar is going above and beyond in his defensive duties but that’s not a reason to downplay his ability. He has two small weaknesses: in the air for obvious reasons and he isn’t a strong tackler which is why he prefers to stay on his feet and goalside which is the preferred option for defenders anyway.

    It’s strange but at the moment. I feel like it’s kind of a phoney war. We’re better than most of the teams we play but can see weaknesses which are gonna get exploited later. The good thing is that we have possibly as good a Messi as I’ve ever seen in terms of being the glue in our side and that’ll take some beating. Plus he got some rest !!! I think LE told Suarez it was his job to keep Messi happy, once he came off , with lots of fun so he might allow LE to take him off again !

    • georgjorge
      February 6, 2017

      I had a little smile about your description of Suarez having to keep Messi happy on the bench. They were probably laughing to something along the lines of “If he ever dares to sub me off again, I’ll trash his bycicle” “Yeah, and if I’m not starting all of the remaining matches in the season he might find his house vandalized in the morning” and so on.

      No kidding – Messi being subbed off for a change was great, though I still wouldn’t bet on it happening more than twice in any given season.

    • February 6, 2017

      The team didn’t need Abidal to go forward. There was Henry and Iniesta most notably, both of whom didn’t need any help in attack. That’s going to be the interesting part about how Neymar develops — how the LB role will change.

      The Gomes issue is clear. Ray Hudson made a sound comment about that during the match commentary.

      • Jim
        February 6, 2017

        We’ll, I’m not sure Neymar and Iniesta need it any more than Henry did. However there’s no doubt Abidal didn’t keep quite as high a position as Alba which means Alba has more work to do to regain position if a ball is lost. I’d be a lot happier as I’ve said before , if both FBs didn’t go forward at the same time. Don’t see the need. Sometimes it’s better to leave a space and fill it randomly and late.

        I’m hopeful Neymar is still learning and part of that is realising the pace he has and how sometimes not letting opponents get set is more valuable than a trick from a standstill. Link anything, the FB overlap will be more effective if it’s not overused. Can’t understand the negativity round him though. Even if he didn’t get any better he’s worth every penny we paid for him and more . . . which is, eh, apparently what we also paid for him 🙂

        Didn’t hear Hudson. In fact on the few occasions I have he drives me demented with his dismantling of the language albeit you can usually see what he’s getting at. Right on this occasion, though. What I’m not sure about is how much Gomes can learn. I’m seeing more of his technical skills which are pretty decent but can you improve speed of thought, vision and pace ? LE is giving him a decent chance though.

    • Mishti
      February 6, 2017

      There was no suggestion that LE asks Neymar to go up alone and wait. Everyone else surely is asked to make their runs as well, at least to create the overload in the central attacking area. But often times those accompanying runs are not happening from the midfield, or those runs are behind Neymar’s pace. I am starting to suspect that Neymar’s natural pace could be an issue for others to match up with in the current squad. . And Jordi is the only one making the overlaps, then as you say, it is most useful when either Neymar has space to cut inside or there is someone else inside who can create the angle with a reverse pass. The patterns have been occuring so repeatedly over several months, it cannot be just one player doing what he fancies and the coach has nothing to say about it.

  10. TITO
    February 7, 2017

    As i said it several times, we will have problems in that side with SR as right back. Great offensively, bad bad defensively.

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