Barça dominoes: Everything, all at once

Following a football team is challenging, particularly a successful one where victories, parades and championships have become almost routine.

Barça is a team that, over the past dozen years, “modern Barça,” if you will, has had four rather distinct phases:

— Rijkaard’s Brazilian romp
— Guardiola’s tactical innovation
— Vilanova’s verticality
— Luis Enrique’s adaptation efforts

The challenge of following that team is understanding what the game is doing, what the team is doing and what the players are doing.

Rijkaard had success by unleashing the creativity and individuality of Ronaldinho, backstopped by the calmness and flair of Deco. This was buttressed by a strong defense that included Carles Puyol and Rafa Marquez. The success of that team catapulted Barça into a great many hearts and minds, behind the flair of the famed R10. There is a degree of irony in the reality that many would, today, consider that team a tactical mess.

Guardiola had success by creating a system of playing based in positional play, possession and Cruijffian doctrine. It was brilliant and successful, featuing prime Xavi and Iniesta plus an emerging Busquets, a Messi who was becoming the colossus that he now is, along with a pair of the best fullbacks in history in Dani Alves and Eric Abidal, as well as exceptional role players. This period, minus the first, treble season, has become the avatar.

Vilanova, though his time with the club was, sadly, cut short, started a new way of playing, a more vertical method of attack. Whether this was because opponents had figured out the control/positional attack of the Guardiola years or because, as many said, Vilanova wasn’t the right coach with the right ideas, is open to debate even to this day. But the team won Liga with a record-setting points haul. People didn’t like how that team played, either.

Luis Enrique came in, added Luis Suarez to Messi and Neymar, and won a treble in his first season by taking an open, dynamic approach that eschewed the traditional midfield-dominant style for one that relied on the talent and goalscoring capabilities of the best front three in football. That first season also featured Xavi to come off the bench, in effect stradding the gap between Barça periods.

Tuesday, Barça lost 4-0 to Paris St.-Germain, a team that ruthlessly stripped Barça bare. What happened exactly will depend on who you asked:

— Tactics
— No midfield
— No positional play
— Andre Gomes
— Coach didn’t prepare

What in fact happened? Can the thrashing be traced to a long line of building trouble, an arc that started somewhere years ago, decision that built and built until we have what we have now, a team of great players that looked clueless as they were played off the pitch.

The fundamental flaw of ninety percent of the reams of outrage in the wake of that beatdown is that it is mired in the past as an ideal, a longing for a return to the way things were. It is great to have a footballing ideal. Football isn’t interested in that. Like pop music, it is temporal, creating then shunning its heroes. That style of play that was effective today is a relic tomorrow as smart coaches make tactical shifts.

In the case of Barça, it not only condemns the man who created that magic, Pep Guardiola, to the status of a museum piece. It also makes all subsequent adaptations to the way the game is being played by any and all subsequent coaches the unwanted spawn. “There is a way of playing. Why isn’t he doing it?”

Luis Enrique would have been a fool had he not put his eggs in the MSN basket. What the hell would you buy a Ferrari for, if not to drive it? His mistakes, in and of themselves, are manageable. But there are structural things that happened at the macro level that are also affecting what a coach can and can’t do.

Where did it all start?

The biggest problem with the faux austerity of Sandro Rosell is that it wasted time. He compouned that error by selling Dmytro Txigrinsky before we knew what the big Ukranian CB was fully capable of, to send a message to an already iconic coach. Thus began the CB search that has only just ended with Samuel Umtiti.

The day after PSG hammered Barça, Bayern dismantled Arsenal 5-1. Immediately everyone was talking about Thiago Alcantara, how Barça was so stupid to let him go, how that kickstarted everything. But even if we ignore the fact that he wanted to leave, what would have happened had he stayed? Let’s say the team sold Fabregas to make room for Thiago. There was still Xavi and Iniesta, Then what? In looking at his options, he chose to go and start for Bayern and play for a great coach. Who can blame him?

He went to Bayern for the same reason Neymar came to Barça: There was a hole just waiting for him.

The larger issue represented by Thiago is that as Barça moved away from a particular model, it still had players schooled in that model. Without overhauling a team, subsequent coaches would have the dilemma of trying to teach old dogs new tricks, players raised in Masia and schooled in a path. Vilanova tried it. Martino tried it. Luis Enrique didn’t even bother. Should he have? Could he have?

This might have been possible had the Rosell austerity program not mitigated against the kinds of signings that the club needed. It let key players age, so that the spine of the team is now at or past 30 years old.

Transfer decisions made were augmentative rather than supplantive. Luis Enrique, the first post-Guardiola coach with transfer carte blanche, bought players who could play with Iniesta and Busquets, rather than players who could threaten their positions, or players who fit the style of play that the coach wanted. So the team made additions to replace key players short-term, such as Ter Stegen and Bravo for Victor Valdes, but allowed nothing to happen at equally crucial positions.

Alves’ leaving was immense. Barça acquired Aleix Vidal, who turned out to be a slow starter. Meanwhile, there was Sergi Roberto, a stopgap-turned-solution, a player waiting to be found out. Alves worked with Pique because of his pace and boundless energy. Sergi Roberto is slower and less positionally sound than Alves, so Pique also gets caught out as opponents attack Sergi Roberto. Should the club have prioritized an RB instead of players such as Alcacer and Gomes?

Not so fast. Barça was eliminated in Champions League by Atleti due to crap finishing at home, and being too pooped after a poorly timed international break. Alcacer was, in theory, a rotation player for Luis Suarez, while Gomes was important to bring creativity, size and physicality to the midfield. These two were hardly luxury players, even as you can safely ask what Luis Enrique was thinking with Gomes, given that he also had Rakitic and new addition Denis Suarez as well as Rafinha.

But Busquets has no rotation analog, and Luis Enrique quickly began trying to work Gomes into the midfield, with that eventual role in mind. He is at his best for Barça when playing that position. It’s also fair to ask whether the purchase of a proper RB would have freed up Sergi Roberto to be that Busquets sub?

Some suggest that the club should have bought an RB instead of Alcacer and Gomes. For me, it should have been an RB as well as Alcacer and Gomes.

There were other players on the market who are being cited as missed transfer options, such as Gabriel Jesus, Marco Verratti or Toni Kroos. No. Verratti wasn’t going to leave PSG last summer. Gabriel Jesus went to City because he could start. Why would he come to Barça to watch Suarez play? The team needed what Rakitic could do, which is different than what Kroos could do.

The new transfers all took too long to adapt. Arda Turan took a season, Vidal more than that. Alcacer is functionally worthless, and Gomes is steps below the Barça standard. Now what?

La Masia and Barça B stopped pumping out players, not that it ever pumped them out in numbers and quality that legend has it. There is the once in a lifetime generation that we are lauding now, a fluke of a gift that brought Pique, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Valdes, Busquets. Most academies don’t turn out that many world-class players in their entire histories, never mind in the same team at the same team.

There have been more Cuencas and Deulofeus, players not good enough. Thiago wanted to leave. Rafinha returned, but he wasn’t going to pressure any current midfield member of the XI. Sergi Samper isn’t yet good enough, which is why he is in Granada instead of on the bench at Barcelona, no matter what myths people craft about Masia Magic. Munir is at Valencia, and some are saying that he should be at Barça even though he isn’t setting the world alight at Valencia, a team that gets a lot space to play than Barça, and opponent B games rather than A games.

Grimaldo is at Benfica, a curious case that dissolved into acrimony. But what problem would Grimaldo have solved?

Luis Enrique made transfer decisions that made sense on paper, but didn’t work out immediately, or too late. A subsitute 9 was needed last year. Munir wasn’t enough, nor was Sandro. That’s why Suarez was dragged out for match after match. Turan hadn’t adapted yet, but even at his best he isn’t Neymar. Messi plays all the time because he’s Messi. Can’t rotate him, can’t sub him.

At the terminus of that conga line of decisions came PSG, who saw hope and was ready to destroy it. Emery knew what Luis Enrique was hoping for with his XI, and he had the exact instrument to destroy it. Verrati’s skills combined with the industry of Matuidi and Rabiot to wreak the kind of havoc that Barça used to wreak. We can talk about hypothetical XIs all we like without taking a wholistic view. A Raktic/Busquets/Mascherano would have solved a short-termm dilemma vs PSG. But many other things are in play.

It’s easy to forget that what made Guardiola’s teams so successful was that they defended and attacked with eleven. As that changed, so did the results. Against PSG, Iniesta has to do more work because Messi isn’t moving. This drags Busquets out of position to cover for Iniesta, but there is already an imbalance because Sergi Roberto has his hands full with Draxler. Suarez didn’t bother contributing anything to a defensive effort, beyond some perfunctory plays at pressing near the PSG box.

So yeah, Barça got shredded. We can pick at this or that, throw pet rocks at the glass house of blame, but so many decisions led to what happened. People said Messi didn’t track back, and were called fools who didn’t understand that he needed to conserve his genius to be great at the right time. Iniesta is 33, and has had two lengthy injury spells this season, when Busquets has been erratic. Messi? RB? DM? CM? 9? Questions are everywhere.

Some say that Denis Suarez should have started. Over who? His defensive contributions are vestigal at best, so he has the same problems as Iniesta with a Suarez not working defensively and an immobile Messi as well as the right side dilemma. Rakitic? It’s who I would have played over Gomes, but Luis Enrique was going for control and creativity. Can’t knock him for that, even as you can knock him for not knowing better.

Longer-term, what kinds of decisions could have been made when it comes to the best players in the game? In looking at the Barça XI, who are you going to shove aside for a transfer? If Verratti comes, does he sit Iniesta? Busquets? Rakitic? Who platoons Messi, and how much do people scream if he is left out of an XI? What of Neymar, who wants to play as much as the other starters. Same for Suarez.

And Luis Enrique can’t NOT play them, because the subs aren’t up to the standard of the best players in the game. And people scream because Gomes isn’t Xavi or Busquets or Iniesta. Who is? Should Barça have ponied up for Pogba, Dybala and Verratti? In what universe is there that kind of money, and imagine a 100m Pogba doing in the Barça midfield what he is doing at Manchester United. Culers would have set the Camp Nou on fire by now.

What would Grimaldo or Samper or any other the other “should have kepts” have done against PSG? Nothing. If they even made the squad.

The PSG drubbing was coming, just as the Bayern one was, at the end of months and months of decisions, from Masia level on up. Pick out any one thing, but in the game of Barça Dominoes, at some point everybody falls down. The question now is what’s next?

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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.

67 Comments

  1. Víctor
    February 16, 2017

    Everything you said is true. Guardiola’s plan and tactical approach is very good, but let’s not forget that he also had Xavi, Iniesta and Messi at their best at his disposal. Not to mention the quality of Puyol, Valdes and the rise of world class players like Busquets, Pique and Pedro. Albes, Abidal and Villa, also world class players, completed that team.

    He went to Bayern and Manchester City, maintaining the same philosophy and, while he has been good, his results aren’t what many expected. On Bayern he managed to maintain their top quality, but failed to win the CL. Being knocked out by Real Madrid, Barcelona and, finally, Atletico. And now at Manchester City he’s struggling to qualify that team for the next CL. Does that make him a bad coach? No, of course not, but it means that his plan needs some characteristics of his players, that the MC squad doesn’t not entirely qualify for.

    The issue I have with the article, Kxevin, is that it kinda implies that Iniesta, Busquets, Suarez or Neymar can’t or shouldn’t be seated. Thing is: I think that the time for that to happen is near. Sure, Neymar is still young and, obviously, is the one that should remain in the stating XI. However, for players like Iniesta and Messi, there should be something on the works for replacing them and what they bring to the team.

    • February 16, 2017

      Sorry that was unclear, Victor. That view was more from a coach’s/supporter view. I would love to see more rotation. Everywhere.

      • Víctor
        February 17, 2017

        Gotcha, thanks for the clarification.

        Sure thing, some “die-hard” fans (or supporters) do hate to see Messi, Iniesta, Neymar, Suarez, etc. benched and subbed on some games… but I still go for the idea that the coach and the staff should understand and prioritize the players’ fitness and the team’s success over any of that.

        And, obviously, have patience with the new players… not even Xavi, Messi or Iniesta became what they are in a matter of few days…

  2. Jim
    February 16, 2017

    Sorry for reposting this, The thoughts below were in reply to Luis in the last post. While I was scribbling this was going up.

    There is a school of thought that says this is the end of an era and we need to move on the over 30s. Forgive me for pointing out that the same school of thought has been telling us that :

    1. The answer is to bypass the midfield and get it to the front three.
    2. We are building something great this year. LE needs time.
    3. We all need to calm down when we’re rubbish in the first half because this team will always come back.
    4. We are more excited than we have been for years at the new extended squad which will mean when we get to Feb/ March our team will be rested and raring to go.
    5. SR is a revelation at FB and it was a master stroke by LE.
    6. Folks snarling and ranting that we have no midfield are living in a time warp.

    I would suggest you could also look at it that

    1. The new signings who were LE’s were poor choices.
    2. Messi has saved us from an even worse season.
    3. Iniesta has been asked to cover too much and tied down.
    4. Neymar for all his skills and being the heir to Mesi ( which I believe) is still a bit of a show pony with not enough end product. I did like the slightly deeper position on Tuesday and would like to see him tried more centrally.
    5. The downgrading of the midfield was a mistake and has led to our current issues. ( and you’ll all know this isn’t a Johnny come lately view of mine. )

    Thoughts on where I’d go in the repost below.

    Yeah, Luis, I’ve been saying for some time there needs to be some pruning. However, it needs to be sensible and selling Pique, Busi or Iniesta isn’t on my list because of one game. Pique has been our best defender this year by a country mile and CBs can easily go on till 34/35 . Busi is still in his prime and Iniesta’s is only 32. Robben is 33, has been injured half his life and was skipping about last night. The problem isn’t age, the problem is as it has been since Xavi left that LE wanted a more physical presence and bought accordingly. He also set up his team to feed the front three which doesn’t work as we saw last night but all season really. It is short sighted and one of the reasons I’ve never taken to him.

    Tuesday night wasn’t about speed, it was about space. We gave them oceans of it between our lines and then on top of that gave them far too much time on the ball. In attack we gave the ball away far too often. You can’t win games like that, even against ordinary opponents.

    We were all sitting back thinking Messi will sort it soon and that’s a big issue for us. He does it most weeks for us, against top sides or not, but he has one poor game where we can’t even get him the ball and suddenly he’s too old and he’ll never be the same again. We can’t operate on that knee jerk reaction. Iniesta’s passing was great but I don’t remember him going past anyone. That comes once you’re back three or four games, same with Busi. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t build our new midfield around Ini, at least for the next couple of years. In fact I don’t really remember anyone going past anyone apart from Neymar and on a rewatch of the match he seemed to be the biggest culprit at giving it away. Not slagging him here, In fact I’m thought he was one of the few to show some spirit and our best player but it is what it is.

    For me, as I’ve said we give Ini a freer role than he has at present. LE has nailed Ini down to that position which isn’t using his skills to the fullest.

    If that means 4-4-2 , fine.

    We need to know who will run our midfield when he is gone and we need Samper back for a season at least to see how he plays in Busi’s position ( maybe with Busi pushed up occasionally? ) because like Xavi, Ini and Busi he is the oiler of your passing game. If he can’t hack it defensively, fine but you give him the chance with great players not second stringers or anybody at Granada, for goodness’ sake. He’s there because he wasn’t LE’s man and we can see how well his choices have worked out. ( just added that bit!)

    Oh yes, I nearly forgot. We need to get back to the passing game and control . Get that and you won’t have to worry about the front three scoring. For anyone of the opinion that the game has past that approach by just have a look at PSG against us or Bayern last night. They have watched us and hurtled past us. . . But they still don’t have better players than us. That’s the sad bit about all this. Where I would agree with those looking for change is that we could do with more pace in our side generally.

    Btw, can we let Chiggy rest in peace ? I’d gently suggest he was possibly the worst CB I’ve ever seen play for a top side and his record since doesn’t lead me to believe that was a mistaken assessment.

  3. Davour
    February 16, 2017

    Very nice overview of the predicament the team is facing! Of course there is no one reason for failure, as there is no one solution, and you capture this brilliantly. I still think that Cesc was a key mistake in this scheme; he was, at the time, described as the heir to Xavi, but he was never that kind of player. It was La Masia-blindness, fuelled by the likes of Puyol and Piqué, which in itself blinded the need to use and groom Thiago (who still got about 40 games, if I’m not mistaken, even WTH Cesc in the squad; imagine without him…).

    But that is history. It will be very exciting, and potentially painful, to follow what will happen. A couple of difficult decisions must be considered, and some of them include Messi. I’m not suggesting a sale (though from an unsentimental perspective it might make sense), but at the moment he is TOO important for the team’s success (this year’s Messi-less team did much worse than last season’s). We’ll see!

  4. lovell
    February 16, 2017

    Kxevin , you are wrong on a number of issues .
    1. It’s the coaches job to make his “strategy” or plans work. He’s to blame , and him alone . If a player is not giving his best pull him off the field!.
    We’d rather have a coach with the balls to rest big stars for the good of the team , than overplay them because he’s afraid to lose his job.
    2.Of course buying all three of verratti , pogba and dybala would have been impossible , but we could have got one .
    3. We have Arda turan ! we didn’t need Gomez . He’s useless .
    4. At the moment a midfield of busquets Arda and rafinha is our best combination.

    Enrique will certainly be sacked season end, and I’ll surely be glad 🙂

    • Víctor
      February 16, 2017

      Oh sure, you’ll be glad when he’s gone… but, who should replace him? Especially considering that many will demand that coach to win another treble (or a double at least) on his first season…

    • February 16, 2017

      Well, Lovell, not sure how I can be wrong about something that I haven’t suggested..

      A coach should be able to pull an underperforming player. But in reality that isn’t always possible. I would have subbed Rafinha fof Messi and Rakitic for Gomes. So we agree.

      Pogba was 105m. Barça was never going to pay that. Ever. Verratti wasn’t for sale. Dybala close to Pogba money so again, not possible.

      Turan and Gomes are quite different. They can and should coexist.

      Not sure if that is our best midfield, but it is one that I would love to see.

  5. Jim
    February 16, 2017

    Fair point about Thiago and Fabregas, Davour. Happy to admit I was wrong about Cesc. We should have been more aware of the upside of Thiago, particularly as he is a lot more mobile than Cesc. Problem was at that time Thiago was still a little careless on the ball so I can see why Pep wasn’t completely convinced. Spoke volumes that he was insistent that was the one player he wanted at Bayern. Btw, how long was Thiago at Barcelona ? I’ve not really followed that aspect. Was he not a part of La Masia ?

    • February 16, 2017

      Four years at La Masia, Jim. The thing about Thiago is that when he was played in place of Xavi (he was more successful in the Iniesta role) you could see the lack of control. Bayern’s system was much more suited to his skill set, which helped him fit in better.

      Bayern was also more vertical and wing-focused, with Robben and Douglas Costa, so the role of a mid was different. That also helped Thiago a lot. His playmaking was as much augmentative as foundational.

      I’d love to have him back. Now would be the perfect time. But that ship has sailed. Bayern would never sell him, even if we offered enough money, which we couldn’t.

  6. Rami
    February 16, 2017

    This isn’t a personnel issue, Absolutely not, Pick any of our glamours previous seasons, Pep’s and enrique’s treble, The 2010-2011 season, And i guarantee you, We can tear holes left and right with the squad we had back then, In my belief, This season we have the most ‘complete’ and ‘all rounded’ group of players i’ve seen on our bench, A great blend of the veterans, The best in the sport, And young talents, It isn’t perfect, But none of the previous ones were, It had many stars on their prime, But the gap between them and the ones on the bench was even much greater, Yet It didn’t stop us from playing great football, No squad is perfect, No such thing can ever be,

    Even if we set all of the above aside, Logic speaking here, How can any of those supposed ‘deficiencies’ in the squad manage to cause such a diffuse systemic breakdown and havoc to the team, Emphasizing on the word SYSTEMIC and DIFFUSE, Whatever flaws in personnel there might be, It’s still filled with talent, It wouldn’t add up to losing 4-0 to PSG, 3-1 to MC, 4-3 to celta, Or an equally embarrassing albeit not with the same crushing score against real sociedad.

    The PSG match was one of many matches this season where the entire team looked segregated, Unprepared, Disoriented and out of their depth, And this is unacceptable when you’re leading such a group of talented players, Enrique had 6 months now to figure things out and pull himself together, Yet all that was accomplished was the team hitting yet another bottom.

  7. RT
    February 16, 2017

    So what you are saying Kxevin, is that there isn’t one major problem right? That there are many factors at play. And of course, we have incomplete information so there may be factors we don’t know about. I was wondering earlier today, what can be done? Everyone’s answer will depend on which one of the factors you’d consider the most important – just a matter of buying the right players, or maybe it’s a matter of motivation and tactics, in which case the answer might be getting a new manager. Anyway, all this to say that there obviously isn’t one easy solution.
    It’s hard not to feel depressed, to be honest. Seems like the Barca world is always in some kind of a storm, often it is an overreaction to events. Yet this time, it really feels like something big. A lot of people I rely on for perspective (writers and commenters here, for instance), seem to think so too. Many of you here know more about football than me and have been Barca fans for longer, so I have a question. Can anyone see anything positive in this situation, any reason for hope? I don’t mean spin this into some positive thing somehow, if no one sees anything positive any time soon that is something we have to live with!
    Also, thanks for continuing writing Kxevin and it’s nice to have a community here (that’s my something positive I guess haha).

    • Davour
      February 16, 2017

      I don’t know if I’m more knowledgable than you, but my “hope” is that this could have the effect of a wake-up call to deal with the issues Kxevin outlines. It is not the first blow in Barca’s history, and the tide has always turned again, even if it is painful every time. The danger, of course, is overreacting (which Jim notes above) and acting rash. Complex problems demand a proper response, and I hope both LE, the players and the board are mature and level-headed enough to be constructive, though I’m not too optimistic right now… in the best of worlds the team could use the rest of the season to find its feet and prepare for next year, but the continuous pressure to chase RM will not allow this, I’m afraid.

    • February 16, 2017

      It is truly my pleasure, RT. And yes, you have it exactly right. It started years ago, and could have been solved at any number of occasions. I think it also outlines the danger that a board can present to a sporting program. Keep in mind that we still haven’t begun to see the effects that the new stadium will have on transfers and sporting budgets.

      What motivated this piece was, really, the people who want Luis Enrique fired. I began to wonder what firing him would improve, and started to take a look at things, backfilling from the PSG loss. Then I started typing.

      As you note, there isn’t an easy answer, even firing the coach. As I said to someone on Twitter, unless the new coach comes with a vial of vampire blood. The team has gobs of talent. Does it have the RIGHT talent?

      When you lose two of the best FBs in history and don’t replace them, for example, problems will always result. Look at the problems Guardiola is having at City because he has crap FBs.

      There is lots of talk about possesion football, yet PSG gutted us without bothering with it. It was slash-and-burn, as Barça did in its treble season. We as culers hate the idea of defending first, but that midfield was just begging to get skinned, particularly as neither side has a lockdown defender at FB.

      It’s everything. Many of the pieces are in place, but many hard decisions will have to be made. Iniesta, even though he is one of the top 5 mids in the world still, fit and in form, isn’t an everyday player any longer. There is also the Messi rotation question, and the next coach will have to deal with that. Do you play him every match, or do you rest him against lower-table teams? Turan for Neymar more often? Maybe. And if Alcacer isn’t going to get with the program, get someone who can, because Suarez plays too many matches and his erratic form is one indicator of that.

      But for me, it all starts with FBs. The team needs two of them, players who can hold their own so that the mids don’t have to worry as much about them getting beat. Neymar tracking back helps to solve the Alba dilemma. Rakitic helps Sergi Roberto. But when Neymar is needed for attack and Rakitic isn’t in the XI, chaos reigns. We saw it against RM, Atleti and PSG.

      I don’t think it’s as gloomy as I probably make it sound.

  8. Hamid
    February 16, 2017

    Speaking of preparing for tomorrow as suggested by Devour, here is my naïve answer to the What’s Next question:
    – Forget about this season (Copa del Rey is enough a consolation). 2017-2018 SEASON STARTS NOW.
    – Denis Suarez, Arda, Gomes, Rafinha and Alcacer should be given more (I mean a lot of) play time.
    – Pave the way for Roberto to take over from Busquets, who can use the rest.
    – Acquire a quality dedicated RB. Looks like it can be done before the transfer window (subject to restrictions).
    – Negotiate a reasonable extension with Messi. Not the end of the world if things don’t work out.
    – The new coach (LE won’t stay even if asked to) should be given the time and leeway not accorded to LE.

  9. February 16, 2017

    On a completely different note, rumors going ’round that we have activated our right to purchase Yerry Mina from Palmeiras. Exciting thing if true. He’s a strong, powerful 6-foot-5, comfortable with the ball at his feet, has pace and closing speed.

    Have to wait and see, but if it’s true, yow! Would be more great business by Robert and his crew, particularly as regards adding CBs and young ones. Umtiti, him and Marlon. And I’m still keen on the idea of using Umtiti at FB.

  10. Rami
    February 16, 2017

    In the many articles and the thousands of words kevin wrote this season, Which we all enjoy of course, Many involved his advocacy and defense of luis enrique regarding his involvement to what the team was and is going through, It became more and more frustrating trying to have a discussion about this with him, Because while he sometimes went into great detail on why LE shouldn’t be held accountable for X or Y, He never gave any insight what so ever on what he thinks enrique SHOULD be accountable for.
    And that is a problem when you think about it for a second, If kevin doesn’t provide a clear outline, Or criteria on what he expect from a coach, His responsibilities, His accountability,, What is exempt from him, And what is penalized, It’ll be easy for kevin to change goal-posts or provide vague answers when ever he is faced with a discussion about our coach, It’s like getting in a fist fight with a hologram, Or a fog,

    Even with my very scarce contribution to this blog, I remember previously talking about where the responsibilities of a player ends and a coach’s begin, Something i don’t remember kevin doing, He needs to provide a clear common ground and real transparency, Otherwise we can’t have an honest discussion.

    • February 16, 2017

      Disagree. This blog has a comments space for a reason. If you want something done, want to start a discussion about something, then do it.

      The previous post as well as others have been quite clear on my view of a coach’s role. People disagreed. And it was discussed. Or not. But the whole point of this comments space is precisely SO that we can do what you suggest we can’t. If you want to have an honest discussion, do something besides harping on what you need to see from me. I’m not the point. An article begins a discusdion process.

      Now it’s up to you.

    • ciaran
      February 16, 2017

      I hold Lucho accountable for a lot of what has gone wrong but when stupid individual errors and lack of effort cost us it’s hard to constantly point the finger at him. Lovell suggested hauling off underperforming players but that would have required 9 substitutions the other day. It’s not always possible to correct the issues.
      What was Lucho to do to change the fact that Suarez ducked under Di Maria’s freekick? What could he have done to stop Messi giving the ball away and not chasing it back?
      People shout about Rakitic over Gomes but 1 player couldn’t have changed the course of the match, the river corrects itself.
      For that matter, Gomes was blamed for global warming and the economic downturn but he didn’t really have a part to play in any of the goals conceded.

      Lucho is due his fair share of blame but individually every single PSG player out fought his counterpart and that is definitely not coming from Lucho

  11. ciaran
    February 16, 2017

    I didn’t comment after the PSG match but I read every one. There’s so much to discuss after such a comprehensive failure of players, tactics and effort.
    The match ratings could have been written in binary such was the disaster from everyone bar Ney and ter Stegen.

    The current lack of identity has stemmed from so many decisions that haven’t worked out. Cesc/Thiago. Alves. Abidal/Alba. The list goes on.
    I think that a great run in the league could be enough to pip EE at the end but it shouldn’t hide the issues we have.

    From a squad perspective I think that we have depth but not the right pieces in the right places. With the lack of effort, pressing and running from too many of our Gala XI it is impossible to be at the pinnacle of the sport. Messi & Suarez barely moved during the match and Busi and Iniesta don’t the pace and energy to cover the amount of space between the lines.
    Umtiti and Pique were too deep and got no support from the fullbacks.
    Umtiti actually had a terrible match even though he’ll be a fantastic player… Silly foul for the first, tucked in to double cover Cavani for the second instead of covering his man.

    People are shouting for a new right back when we are in equal need to upgrade our left back. Busquets has been varying from bad to average all season and Iniesta needs two players who are going to cover his age alongside him but we already have Messi not running ahead of him.

    All in all I struggle to see where Iniesta, Busquets and Messi all coexist with the lack of KMs being covered. We can’t afford that many passengers when it comes to the biggest matches. Convince Messi to run more? I doubt it.

    I’d love to start with some serious acquisitions. Thiago, I’ve always thought, it’s destined to run our midfield and with the market as it is he is really the most important piece.
    As for fullbacks, regardless of his personality, Serge Aurier is the only one that should be signed to truly dominate that side, offensively and defensively. As for left back? I’m not sure but Grimaldo probably isn’t it yet.
    A centre back capable of rotating with Pique and Umtiti without a drop in quality is a necessity (Ramos, Varane and Pepe). Manolas or Coulibaly would be ideal.
    A defensive midfielder who can get around the pitch would be preferred to Samper who is currently a downgrade in every sense to Busquets, think N’Zonzi.

    Does anyone have a spare €200million?

    Yeah and we’ll just sign Sampaoli and everything will be ok.

    • February 16, 2017

      Spot on, Ciaran. Was just having a Twitter chat about how the losses of the likes of Abidal and Alves have created a situation just like Guardiola is going through at City. Hard to play a system when your fullbacks aren’t up to the task.

      Abidal was a lock down defender that helped so much. Now we can sorta solve the left side with Neymar tracking back, and the right with Rakitic babysitting. So neither player is doing the job they are best at. And on it goes.

      I get a lot of “why you defending Lucho?!” when I point stuff like that out. But it’s real. FBs are huge, especially with the game having migrated from midfield to wings, even if many still insist on the midfield primacy notion. Midfield is important. But so much play develops from the wings, even at Barça. Draxler roasted Sergi Roberto, Robben jacked up Arsenal.

      I like the CB action with youngsters such as mentioned above, but the team needs a pair of proper FBs to start. Umtiti at LB? Maybe. Just a proper defender over there.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Jim
      February 16, 2017

      Agree with some of this, Ciaran, although to be fair Suarez didn’t duck, he jumped but tried to get some power on the header and ended up missing it which wasn’t great. I agree with Messi’s lack of running even as I can’t understand it. Suarez will have been told not to track back too far I’m sure but it was the sort of game we needed all hands to the pump. Bottom line is we couldn’t join the dots anywhere on the field.

      Not sure what faults you’re seeing with Alba. For me, he had a decent game, created one of our only chances by getting on the end of one of Messi’s few balls and cutting it back for Neymar’s shot and made two great blocks. If you’re referring to Di Maria’s goal it was Gomes who should have covered and Alba had his runner to cover and chose that. You could argue he should have stayed with Di Maria but he was the only one with a chance of covering the runner. Not saying he was brilliant but I’m not seeing what he’s doing so wrong.

      With regard to Busi and Iniesta, how many teams these days play 4-3-3 ? How many teams only play with three in the middle ? For that to work your defence has to be right up behind them and your FBs have to have license to come in from the touchline to help. It may be that we’ll need to look at a different system with four in the middle or a more mobile partner in midfield ( N’zonzi as you say, Cante etc would be better at that although possibly not in improving our passing game ) but Im not for casting them aside after a game where neither was match fit, the defence left huge gaps in front and balls were being lost all over the place. I’ve played in midfield in games like that and it’s like the Alamo ! Yes, Messi should have chased the lost ball and it wasn’t just one. So should Neymar who was shelled comprehensively by a RB ! Had forty yards to catch up but didn’t even try. We do need to sort that.

      My main disappointment is that we’re now back to losing goals due to lack of cover and bodies back when we looked to be on the way to sorting that last season.

      With regard to City it’s the whole defence which isn’t up to scratch. For me the FBs are no worse than the CBs. Kompany is a huge loss. You can bet your bottom dollar Guardiola will be in the market in the summer to rectify the problems he sees in this first season and they’ll be flying next year. Could be done big names moving on there.

      Good discussion, though, guys, and one we should have been having a long time ago.

  12. PPos
    February 16, 2017

    Yeah we definitely downgraded when Alba took over for Abidal and Sergi took over for Dani Alves. What pissed me off the most about the PSG game was the lack of heart. the lack of wanting to get into tackles 100%. We barely pressed. Watching Gomes “press” gives me indigestion, that big, slow, log of a man couldn’t tackle if it was right in front of him. Gone are the days of Yaya and Keita destroying attacks. Do you think Yaya Toure would have let Verrati run like that at our back four? HELL NO! He would have chopped him down, and that’s what I want. I want my team to play with “garra” with bite like we used to. And what has Luis Enrique done to our possession based game. It was 51% to 49% possession for most of the game. Let’s face it guys. We suck without the ball. Barcelona can’t defend for our lives that’s not how our team is built. We defend ourselves by not giving up the ball. Guardiola knew it, Tito knew it, Tata knew it, but not LE. I always knew LE wasn’t the best coach, coasting on the brilliance of MSN or whatever, because look at his track record at Roma. Not impressive. And let’s face it. Gomes sucks. He can’t even finish a simple one on one. all it took was a simple dink to the far post and it was 1-1, Denis Suarez would have scored that. I know it, because he’s not a coward. Gomes doesn’t care about this team. He’s just looking for a paycheck. I believe it would have been a different game with Vidal on the right back and Sergi instead of Gomes. Roberto moves with alacrity in the midfield. He runs things like he did against Madrid at the 4-0 at the Bernabeu. But we still have 90 minutes to go. It’s not over until the final whistle is blown, and we need a miracle, but those can happen. I read today in Sport that one of the “cracks” of the team said that he had not enjoyed playing football for a long time. It showed on Tuesday. It really did.

  13. luisthebeast
    February 16, 2017

    Abidal was never a top class LB.As i said about the system that make Busquets look like a world class DM the same happened with a lot of players.
    Alba is an upgrade to Abidal but we are not anymore in 2009.
    Even Pedro when the system worked perfect was like an amazing player.In reality he was just a good one.
    I believe that a new era must come with a mix of young talents and la masia players.
    We have to build a new younger team with a ambitious and smart manager and young players with hunger.
    I dont mind if Pique Busquets Iniesta dont be starters next season.
    There are talented young players we can buy and we have some good talents.
    Fast players with great technique is what we need.A new start.

    • barca96
      February 16, 2017

      Abidal is not world class at LB? Download one of the matches vs Sevilla again where he assisted and scored.

      • Jim
        February 17, 2017

        The problem with Abidal for me is that I continually get drawn into pointing out his limitations when he was a great LB ( and maybe for us an even better CB spookily enough) . He was a great player but not, in my opinion world class.

        Just as folk loved the fact that Mascherano crashes into tackles, back in the day folk revelled in Abidal’s speed and he did sort out a lot of problems largely through that. But so does Alba and folk never really noticed ( as with Masche) the quiet things he got wrong that sometimes killed us . He played beside Puyol who could offer cover in a way Alba has never had with our footering about with a partner for Pique. He played behind the best midfield in history who controlled whole games with ease. Opponents were knackered and had limited taste for extra attacking work. He was awful in attack ( as was Maxwell our other option ) but tbh that didn’t bother me much as Alves was continually up the park and folk here will know my dislike of the both FBs disappearing up the park at the same time. In the same timespan as Alba he scored two goals to Alba’s nine ( I haven’t bothered checking for the NT.)

        So yeah, I loved the way Abidal beat his illness to come back and lift the cup and I was weeping along with everyone else but a cold headed look at it doesn’t come up with a world class FB for me. And it doesn’t come up with someone any better ( or maybe any worse) than Alba.

        I don’t dislike Abidal. My problem is the constant downplaying of what Alba does in a fraught team structure and with a heavier press on the defence than it ever had way back. If folks have a problem with Alba it’d be good if they explained in a game why. I remember posting a compilation of Alba’s play at the end of last season and things went silent for a while but it seems that he’s being added to our faults again with limited justification in my view.

  14. barca96
    February 16, 2017

    Problem was at that time Thiago was still a little careless on the ball so I can see why Pep wasn’t completely convinced.

    It was Tito who hardly played him and then the combination of Tito and Roura in the 2nd half of the season. As always I blame the managers for this. The board made the contract but if the manager(s) don’t show any faith in Thiago, he was gonna go no matter what the contract says unless there is a very high buy out clause. Remember, his Dad had an itchy mouth back then.

  15. omoh
    February 17, 2017

    I could have sworn this was a perfect summary of what is the problem with barca as a whole until I saw and noticed the silent and subtle attempt of KXEVIN to exonorate the Coach.

    KXEVIN wrote: “It’s easy to forget that what made Guardiola’s teams so successful was that they defended and attacked with eleven. As that changed, so did the results. Against PSG, Iniesta has to do more work because Messi isn’t moving. This drags Busquets out of position to cover for Iniesta, but there is already an imbalance because Sergi Roberto has his hands full with Draxler. Suarez didn’t bother contributing anything to a defensive effort, beyond some perfunctory plays at pressing near the PSG box.”

    Please who’s job is it to ensure that the team plays the way they should? If the team is built and taught by the coach to pressure opposition, except there’s a personal problem with the coach, why won’t messi press the opponent. The perfect example of this that I will never forget was the 1st leg of barca vs ATM

    1. The coach removed busquets and inserted Gomez into busquets position.

    2. ATM had a free kick, it was played to Torres who was supposed to be marked by Gomes, being the closest to him, but didnt.

    3. Pique had to rush down to close Torres down, was too late, torres released pass to Griezman, piques original man.

    4. Mascherano tried to cover for pique but fell and Griezman made no mistake. Final score 1-1. we dropped 2 important points at home.

    Now people will ask what’s wrong with Gomes replacing Busquets? I say everything was wrong. Even an amateur coach in the third division shouldn’t make this mistake. so I will out out what’s wrong with it.

    A DM role is the engine room of a any team. It is this department that takes care of breaking off opposition attack, recycling and restarting the play. It is so important that most coaches sometimes goes for two DMs in a game.

    1. Gomes is not a great marker
    2. Gomes is not a hardworker
    3. He was still adapting to the team and has still not adapted.
    4. He is not a great recycler of the ball (has a very poor first touch).
    5. He is inexperienced.

    You may want to argue that the coach was testing him out but which coach tests out a player against ATM and in a very important position especially when you have natural talents like Mascherano & sergi Roberto and experienced players like Rakitic.

    Back to my point. This is exactly the same thing that happened against PSG. He has been using Messi as the main creative CM and an attacker. The fact is that messi might have the skill set of a midfielder but he does not have the mentality of a CM which is to always track back and mark when you lose the ball.

    A coach is supposed to be aware of the strength and limitations of his players. He is supposed to know the skill set of each players and the relevance of such to the team, then use it to the maximum effectiveness.

    Irrespective of whatever has been going on at the board level, it naturally should not affect the team except when the board refuses to buy players demanded by the coach or give the coach the freedom to do his job. Guardiola started having problem with the board since Rosell took over but that didnt stop his team from playing good football and winning a CL. Tito Vilanova was sick and has to take time off for treatment for almost a month. That didnt stop his team from winning the League with record points.

    No team is perfect it is the responsibility of the coach to make it look perfect by using the players where they are most effective and bringing out the best in them. Guardiola had a great team put together by him but he still won champion’s league games (5-0) with third string Barcelona team comprising the likes of Rafinha, SR, Cuenca, Bojan, Tello and the likes back then.

    LE had a great team in his first season but played poorly up until the Anoeta debacle in January. Ever since the departure of Xavi, he has not being able to put together a decent synergised team inspite of the funds available to him.

    LE has been presented with a Ferrari team but he is using it like a Fiat.

    These has always been my questions since Enrique took over. What if barca didnt have atleast two of Messi, Neymar or Suarez. What if we only had one of them like Liverpool had only Suarez back then. What will the team under Enrique look like on the the pitch? What will be barca’s position on the table?

    What if we didnt have all those players but we have the money and LE is to build a strong team to fight for titles?

  16. Old_Messi
    February 17, 2017

    Barca were taught a lesson by PSG because they completely took for granted PSG. For Barca and in the player’s and coach’s mind, it was “it’s PSG, it’s a small European team, we are used to beating them “. As a result, they failed to prepare for this high-level game, or at best they prepared for the match like they prepare a game against Eibar. At the pre-match press conference, the pathetic Gomez was even talking about “we want to get to the final”, as if PSG would be a stroll in the park.
    I do follow french sports channels and I can tell you that PSG prepared for that game since the draw was announced in December 2016 (contrary to Barca because it looks like they only knew they were playing PSG 3 days before the game). PSG’s main focus was on that game since December. Seeing PSG’s Qatari president talk after the draw, he said their main ambition is the CL, that they have to get at all cost to at least to the semi-finals. They had to keep the important but injury-prone players like Verrati in perfect shape for 14th Feb 2017. And they bought a top (but underrated) player in Draxler, who is the perfect type of player to cause nightmares to defensively weak full backs like Alba, Roberto and Vidal.
    But Barca simply did not pay attention to all these PSG’s activities. They did not pay attention to Di Maria who fits perfectly in Emery’s system, they did not pay attention that Cavani is now at his best since Zlatan left, they did not pay attention to the ever improving Rabiot who is now a top class Midfielder. In fact they did not pay attention to every signs and facts which clearly suggested that PSG were a dangerous team and a genuine CL contender, and their mission is to destroy Barca en route to their CL objective.
    Barca, instead of preparing for the best club football competition, focused too much on the almost insignificant Copa Del rey and as a result wasted too much energy in 2 legs games, especially against Athletico, and fielding important players.

  17. Tata2
    February 17, 2017

    when players lose confidence in a coach, you don’t expect them to play with heart. imagine been forced to do something you don’t enjoy doing. do you guys feel Iniesta, busquets, Messi, pique do enjoy playing this Enrique’s “system”? (that’s if there’s one). busquets and ini all complained about the same things. Ini said, we couldn’t do basics(and we haven’t been doing basics all season). the only thing lucho ‘defenders’ hold on to is the treble and double. but seriously, Tata who wasn’t considered a good coach came within touching distance of winning a double or treble with much weaker team. there’s no evidence to suggest whatsoever that lucho is a brilliant coach. he failed at Roma, did nothing at Celta. each season, the team deviates from the basics that gives Barcelona their identity. if you want to blame the personnel, he still takes a chunk of the blame for making wrong signings. some of these signings were even glaring to us fans that they couldn’t cut it at Barca. we kept on complaining about a lack of midfield since his first season, and a defender of his said we should give him time it’s his first season, 3 seasons in and we ar still having same issues. our lack of control over games has hurt us more than anything. you can’t blame it on the players for not having a structure suited for controlling games. I saw the Vimeo video and the guy was spot on. our problems where structural and tactical. at one point it was just suarez sandwiched between 4 psg defenders and midfielders. all the top players that ‘flopped’ on that night would have done so much better with a better structure and plan. the goals that were conceded wouldn’t have been. what happened to the blend of possession and counter attack? now we aren’t even good at any.lucho shouldn’t take all the blame but he should take a chunk of it

  18. Tata2
    February 17, 2017

    on another note, I just have this belief that we can hit 5 pass PSG and qualify. it’s a strong gut feeling. this will be another Messi masterclass, we just need to get 2 in the first half. we have the best players in world who can put 5 pass any team on their good day

  19. February 17, 2017

    What this post, comments thread and life in Barça social media have taught me is that it doesn’t matter what you write or how you phrase it. People will take what you have written, discard the stuff that doesn’t suit their needs and run with the stuff that does, twisting meaning if necessary.

    I could have written “Luis Enrique screws goats, he is so bad,” and someone in this space would type, “See, Kxevin is defending Lucho again. He KILLS goats and is the worst coach in creation. We all see that, except that biased fool Kxevin.”

    So every discussion gets hijacked. Someone above searched carefully to find contention for a pre-existing belief that I was somehow, some way, seeking to exonerate Luis Enrique. There was a time I would have thought that clarity would make such things impossible. Alas, no.

    People will choose to ignore the equally excoriating comments of Ciaran, a veteran commenter here, who has said many of the same things that I have. But he isn’t on record as being a suspected “Lucho defender,” so …

    What makes discussion in this space so often strained and incomplete is that there are people who will drive too fast, crash a car and find a way to blame their driver’s ed teacher from decades previous.

    If we can’t look at and discuss this team without personal biases and intramural bullshit, what is the point of discussing it at all? These discussions and posts are just wanking anyhow but at least they should be honest, and with a clear view. I try hard to provide that when I write. I am not always as clear as I should be, but there is usually precious little ambiguity in my words.

    This space has to be fair and reasonable, not only to mods but to each other. No matter how it starts out, it devolves. And that sucks. Well and truly. We can and should be better.

    • February 17, 2017

      Well said Kxevin. There is no excuse for personal attacks. Even if you were defending Lucho, which you clearly aren’t, it would be your prerogative to do so, just as it is others’ to criticise him. I used to comment a lot more, but tend to stay away from commenting these days simply because things devolve very quickly. Ahhh for the good ol “offside” days!

    • Rami
      February 17, 2017

      If you see someone misrepresenting, twisting your words or shoving words in your mouth or labeling you of something that isn’t true, Call them out, Show them exactly where they are wrong, Compare what they said to what you really wrote, Clarify your position more if it was unclear..Etc,Etc
      But what you wrote now seems more like a generalized “dissent memo”, Rather than a comment that clarifies and solidifies your personal views concerning the team against past and incoming scrutiny,

      The accusations of bias toward Luis enrique, Is something you seem to make it easier for others to do, Rather than making it harder, And it relates to what i spoke yesterday about, Your unclear stance or lack of stable criteria, principles and views when it comes not only to enrique, But any coach, Bear with me for a second.

      Here is a small list of what i consider some stable viewpoints and principles i have in football in general:
      1) No coach should be fired on his first season, Unless under very extreme circumstances.
      2) Transfers should be judged at the end of the season, Not any second before.
      3)The coach is absolved from responsibility, If in a match there is difficulty in scoring, But the team is still able to build attacks, Reach the opponents goal and shoot
      4) In every season there are tough periods for the team as a whole, And the players individually, They shouldn’t be extrapolated or exaggerated.
      5)The coach has the responsibility of meeting the expectations that correlates with the quality of the squad he leads, No more no less.

      While these are just a small sample and random guidelines from me, They still are very clear, to the point and universal, Anyone debating me has clear understating of where i stand on certain issues There isn’t any room for lean-way or attempts from my part to mold it to suit me prejudices when ever i feel like it,
      For example it really makes it hard for anyone to accuse me of bias or being a fanboy of certain player if i refused to to call his transfer a failure while the season hasn’t ended yet, Since i have a strong universal stance on such issues, Or to accuse me of being biased toward a coach because i rejected the notion he should be fired after his first season (This happened with tata martino actually).

      So i again emphasize how important for you to lay-out such ground bases and structure for your views, If you can’t give a clear answer, On when should ANY coach be held responsible and when he shouldn’t, When should he be let go, And when should he be kept, It’ll make all of the discussion filled with “personal biases and intramural bullshit” as you called it.

  20. ciaran
    February 17, 2017

    I find it disappointing that people will consistently just use whatever recent match to prove their own theory.
    After the PSG match people have been attributing the highest portion of blame to the least culpable players. Gomes is the worst player in history but surrounded by all time greats like Messi, Busquets and Iniesta we shouldn’t be relying on him to be a difference maker. In fact, if Messi had a great game none of the rest would have been talked about.
    Messi is normally great at finding pockets of space but the only pocket he found was Veratti’s.
    People mention the quote from Iniesta saying that they couldn’t do the basics right and that is Lucho’s fault, well maybe. Lucho can’t make Busquets stop chasing the ball like a headless chicken. They didn’t have a plan, well maybe again. I doubt that the team didn’t meet beforehand and analyse the opponents. Were mistakes made in the preparation? Absolutely. Were mistakes made in the execution? Absolutely also.

    For me, as a player I loved Lucho. As a manager it seems like his stint is coming to an end and change is often positive.

    • Rami
      February 17, 2017

      I also find these witch hunts unfathomable , Specially for gomez, If a legendary midfielder like ineista, The supposedly the best DM in the world, And our GOAT Looked completely clueless, How can i with a straight face point my finger to gomez, Or any other one.as a matter of a fact, The whole team as a unit failed.

      • Víctor
        February 17, 2017

        You see, RAMI, that’s the point of the article… many people just point their finger to Luis Enrique when, in reality, he is not the only one being at fault for this result.

        Almost the entire team failed, just Neymar and Ter Stegen cared to do something… Neymar was trying out there in the field and if Ter Stegen hadn’t showed up, the scoreline would be 7-0 or 8-0.

        Strangely enough, maybe I’m being naive or delussional, but I think that Barça just might overcome the result at Camp Nou… still a long shot, but not impossible.

  21. Rivaldo
    February 17, 2017

    Wow…

    Hopefully when some of the players leave so will some of these “fans”. I just don’t get it.

    I salute the Mods and Especially Kxevin for finding the strength and maintaining the passion despite these “TUNELLED VISONED lot”. And yes I am calling you out personally.

    Calls for Rakitic all of a sudden. Before he wasn’t Barca’s level; not creative enough; blah, blah blah.

    Man, FC Barca has some of the worst and most fickle fans ever. Quick to criticise, slow to celebrate. Always skeptical.

    A team performs like this and it’s down to the Manager… ONLY???
    And using the players’ comments as our only barometer? The same ones who used grass legnth and superior possesion to allay every loss?
    The fuckers didn’t “fight”.

    Visca Barca. Mes Que Un Club. For Life.

    I guess you lot would embrace Wegner now… Plenty “attractive” football.

  22. lovell
    February 17, 2017

    Enrique is responsible for the players !
    Otherwise why have a coach ??
    Couldn’t we just purchase the best players in the world and have them do as they wish ??
    Barca can hardly string three passed together anymore!
    It’s the coaches job to a make the best use of available players .
    The coach should be blamed for the teams failures , unless of course he hasn’t control over his squad.
    Otherwise why have a coach

  23. Víctor
    February 17, 2017

    So, if he is to be blamed for the team’s failures, he should be praised for the team’s success as well? I find it ironic that people are eager to just point the finger at him for the result at Paris, yet fail to give him credit for the treble and the double.

  24. lovell
    February 17, 2017

    He does deserve credit for the treble and double , infact he received credit for our defensive solidity in his first year , as he deserved.

  25. AlOc
    February 17, 2017

    I agree with pretty much everything said by Kxevin – except Gomez. Why, why, why we bought him???? I understand players need time to adapt, but even in this transitional period, if you want to succeed, you’ll need to show hustle, desire even if your skills at this period are not good enough. But this guy……slow, clumsy….needs acres of spaces and plenty of time to make decision….I can see him in any other team, including Real Madrid (but not in Societad’s bunch of thugs), just not in Barcelona…..He is totally unable to win any type of duel cleanly…..and I’m not even mentioning goals and/or assists….all of this…for 50mil???? Just leave him for Portugal….

  26. luisthebeast
    February 17, 2017

    Portugal is champions of Europe and one of the best NT in world and Gomes is a part of this team.And maybe because in Portugal team there is a clear system and he have a role he is a part of it.
    He came here as a B2B MF and he plays as a pivot,as a LCM as a RCM,or whatever Lucho thinks.
    Thats not the way to help a player adapt to a new team and big as Barca.
    And whats all your problem with the 50m?In a world where Pogba costs 100m,where James Rodriguez warm the bench for 80m,where Martial costs 80m,yes that was a fair and good price.
    In 2007 madrid bought that scumbag Ramos for 30m.People said then what a crazy money for a CB.Now how cheap it seems.
    Or Alves in 2008 for 36m?
    If Gomes with a new coach be a starter and serves the team for years,who would be sad for the 50m?

  27. luisthebeast
    February 17, 2017

    Can we build a new team?Can we forget the past,all that talk about Alves Abidal Puyol e.t.c?Why Barca when they are ready to run in future must go back?
    No,we dont need a new Alves or Xavi or whatever.
    We need a new coach with fresh ideas.
    But if the new coach comes and his new ideas start to be again compared with Pep and again we have the same talks then no hope.
    The future must be clear from that obsession.

  28. luisthebeast
    February 17, 2017

    AC Milan in 90s they had a genius coach,Ariggo Sacci.Brillant manager,great team.Sacci left them,but they move on.
    They had other managers,they won trophies.
    Big clubs are bigger than a coach or a player.
    But they must always look to the future.
    Here i have a feeling that it would be 2547 and cules would say :yeah great we won the treble but Pep was better.

  29. luisthebeast
    February 17, 2017

    As you understand i fear the idea of Xavi as our coach in some years to say after the games:Yep we lost but we had 97% posession!That is what matters!!

  30. Mishti
    February 18, 2017

    Thanks, Kevin, for giving us a perspective. Perspective is the word I’d emphasize, because a lot of our seeming anger or at least frustration with each other might be stemming from our failure to allow each other that freedom of perspective.

    I have been reading the discussion here for the past few days. Lots of great analysis of the objective footballing realities that we face. But there is the emotional aspect too. For whatever it’s worth, I will say a bit about my perspective on the situation.

    I should begin by admitting that I am not overly traumatized. There are many reasons for this. First, I guess personally I have outgrown the age of hero worship. That makes being let down a bit easier to handle no doubt. But most importantly, it is just my experiences as a life long football fan, as a long time follower of a couple of clubs and an NT that have all been rather successful over the long run, while having hit what fans would consider rock bottom at different points of time. I just take it as a part of life of a football fan. 3-4 years, that’s how long the success cycle of a particular team I expect to run at most, with a particular cohort of players and a particular system (in my mind these two are never separate, there is no system outside of it being executed on the pitch by a set of players, and 3-4 years is the average time players spend at their peak) . There is a quote by famous Hungarian coach Bela Guttman -“The third year is the killer”. Indeed. We are in that killer year 3 of the Luis Enrique era. Another rather unfortunate empirical regularity is that preplanning for a new cycle rarely happens at even very successful clubs, till reality simply forces them to face itself.

    When Barca lost to Man City in a strange second-half turn around, I lost a couple of nights of sleep and then braced myself for the killer third year, the birth pangs of the new cycle that will hopefully arrive in a year or two.

    This is not at all to understate the sadness I felt while watching the few minutes of the PSG game that I managed to catch. Yes, few minutes. I missed the first half due to work. When I caught up with the game, just like Hamid did (as mentioned in one of his comments), I realized within a few minutes that I needn’t watch the rest of it. And that was that. I was sad for the rest of the day. I am still sad whenever I think of the way the entire team failed itself. The entire team. On the pitch and in the dugout. But the thing is, it happens. People, human beings, fail themselves. And in the process let down other human beings who love them. But what is humanity worth if we don’t allow humans to fail every now and then? I love my team, they are my family. I criticize them all the time for small things when they are winning, or when they are losing despite trying. I point out what I think are their mistakes. But I realize that there are moments, such as this one, when I need not to judge, not to hate. Because I know they are hating themselves more than I ever would. These are elite athletes, past and present, who make up the players and the coach of this team. They live to compete and win. If I am losing sleep over losing out on the vicarious pleasure of watching them play and win, how are they feeling? What do they owe me? Nothing. These are human beings, and what is more human than failure?

    I fully expect the pride of these elite athletes to come to the fore. They will fight to their best ability come next game. We may or may not have silverware at the end of the season. That’s fine. I will grant a group of human beings that I consider family the very human right to fail at something.

    Apologies for the long and rambling comment.

  31. February 18, 2017

    I haven’t commented in quite a while now and I wish I didn’t have to comment just on this topic.

    Most of you apparently failed to hear what Luis Enrique said in his pre-match presser a couple of weeks back. He was asked whether the team, in their preparation for the upcoming match (I believe it was the Atletico return leg) had prepared specific plays for the match. Luis Enrique responded that the team was doing basic work because they hadn’t been able to train for any of the matches for more than two days in a row due to the congested schedule.

    See, after a match the first training session is a recovery one. for the starters. Throw in the injured and this season it’s been likely two thirds doing recovery work again, whereas the reserves would probably not be able to do any meaningful tactical exercises due to lack of numbers. So this is one training session gone. Playing two games per week, how many training sessions can be dedicated to upcoming matches? What about rest? Well, recovery training sessions aren’t really rest. That’s not Pilates with incense sticks and gentle lounge music in the background.

    So, please tell me, if the players are allowed one day of rest per week, how many days can be dedicated to purposeful training for upcoming matches? A week has seven days. Two days for matches and travel; two days for recovery; one day of rest… Yeah, that´s one day of preparation for each match.

    Of course, not all matches are created equally. A visit to San Mames or Anoeta is different than Betis at Camp Nou, which is different than Betis away. Now look at the Barcelona schedule, if you please, and check the matches of the season so far. More specifically, check the matches since New year and check the position of each of the opponents Barça had.

    Bilbao away
    Villarreal away
    Bilbao home
    Las Palmas home
    Real Sociedad away (Iniesta injured)
    Eibar away (Busquets injured)
    Real Sociedad home
    Betis away
    Atletico Madrid away
    Bilbao home (Rafinha injured)
    Atletico Madrid home (Mascherano injured)
    Alaves away (Aleix Vidal injured)
    PSG away

    This comes after the first half of the season, in which Barcelona finished first in the CL group of death and had to visit every tough team except for Atletico and Real M*drid.

    Messi was injured twice before even September was over, spending a total of five weeks on the sidelines.
    Iniesta was injured three times, for a total of nine weeks.
    Busquets was injured once – two weeks
    Pique was injured once – four weeks
    Alba was injured twice, six weeks.
    Mathieu was injured twice, for a total of more than three months.
    Mascherano was injured twice, for a total of four weeks.
    Aleix Vidal was injured once, will return in 5 MONTHS (Burn in hell, Theo Hernandez!!! And you too, Clos Gomez!!!)
    Neymar wasn’t injured, but only he and the physios know how many lumps have been kicked out of him.

    You really think a team can prepare for such a long hard campaign and endure with its strength, stamina, mentality and spirit intact?
    You really think you can DEMAND that the team performs the way that fresh team did two years ago? Back then Xavi was still capable of playing at least 30 minutes every match. Back then Dani Alves was around to make everybody smile. Back then EVERYBODY was two years younger, two years fresher. Legs, lungs, minds were fresher.

    I will not stoop to blame Lucho for not being able to prepare the matches because to make a cake, you need all the ingredients, added at the right time. and in the right proportions – and you need time.
    I refuse to blame the players, because I don´t think any team would´ve been able to handle that much pressure, that much playing, without buckling and cracking.

    Last but not least: How is it that the team that beat Copa del Rey finalists Alaves 0-6 at their hostile stadium could not do the same to PSG three days later? Precisely because it was LESS than three days later, and it involved two travels by plane and one training session.
    Why did the team run rings around Alaves, who managed to beat Barça at Camp Nou?
    Precisely because Alaves had become a finalist in the Copa del Rey. Their players had to play and endure an end-to-end struggle with Celta on Wednesday – Barça players had under these circumstances a terrific advantage – one more day of rest. Alaves had prepared for the match against Celta, and didn´t have time to prepare for the match against Barcelona.

    Which is what happened in Paris as well.
    Now we go forward.

    • Rami
      February 18, 2017

      It was good from you to illustrate the hard schedule they’re going through, Which is absolutely true, But then you hyper-bloated and stretched your argument way more than it can carry.
      First things first, Tight schedules is a trademark of barca, Specially in and around January, The last time we failed to reach the finals of copa-del ray was in 2009, Luis enrique himself has two seasons worth of experience about it, Including our players, No club is known to handle tough schedules like we do, Nothing has changed with this season.
      In terms of injuries this season, I can characterize it as quite average and within the expected range for any top competitive team, And i can’t recall any time within the season that i felt our team with a significant impact was being dragged down by injuries, The reinforcements we had this season made sure not to, Not to mention the entire team has been almost completely healthy for the past weeks, If you want to see a real injury-crisis look at RM, They are catastrophic, But they still managed to hold their own.

      Now secondly, The impact of tight scheduling doesn’t correlate with what we saw on the pitch, Tired legs and not enough prep can take the EDGE off, It can turn a possible close victory into a draw, Or a draw into a loss, Something we’re accustomed to seeing every season, It can’t possibly explain a 6-0 victory turned into a 4-0 loss, It doesn’t add up.
      Also your explanation doesn’t seem to address why this was one of many instances this THROUGH OUT the season where the team as a whole looked unprepared, lost and the exact opposite of consistent.

      For me personally, I never ask from my team more than they can handle, Certainly never expected from them to finish January with consecutive wins, Or thrash PSG, I didn’t even expect them to win, But just as there are upper limits of what to expect, There is also a lower limit, And the team for too many times dipped below that.

      • Rami
        February 18, 2017

        Correction: I meant-semi finals of CDR

      • February 18, 2017

        Nothing has changed this season, you say… Let’s see:

        This season’s CdR season opponents:
        Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Atletico
        Last season:
        Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao, Valencia(The Valencia of Gary Neville)
        Treble season CdR (With Liga games shown):
        Elche, (Atletico), Elche, (Deportivo), Atletico, (Elche), Atletico, (Villarreal.(home)), (Bilbao), Villarrreal, – the second leg vs Villarreal would be played in March,

        Notice the slight difference? La Liga has been becoming more and more competitive domestically, and it shows; but even so. In your view this season has not been out of the ordinary.

        In my view, I do not remember seeing such a brutal schedule – and I said it back in August, before the CdR ties were announced. After them… I don’t remember seeing a more brutal schedule. Guardiola’s years were before the rise of the Cholo gangs.

  32. lovell
    February 18, 2017

    The team , most of it, is two years more experienced also .
    Also the team wasn’t playing great football before the wicked schedule either, from the very first league match.

    But had the team a week’s rest, the scoreline would have been very different.

  33. Tata2
    February 18, 2017

    the problems we are having aren’t recent ones. they were there right from the begining of the season or even beyond. they are systematic problems. the system that allowed us flourish is broken. this isn’t about lack of time for preparation. we have been struggling with high pressing teams now for a long time (anyone remember the man city game? it was similar tactic and up till now our coaching staff hasn’t found a solution ) and that’s just cos the system which allowed us to break the press has been abandoned. we use to tire our opponents by passing them to death, but now we can’t even string 3 passes together. this isn’t down to lack of time for preparation. our identity has been lost and we are an unrecognizable mess now. we can’t counter and we can’t keep possession. fix the system and things will return to normal.

  34. TITO
    February 18, 2017

    Another point which i like to mention in this discussion.
    Iniesta, Messi, Busi and some other seniors in our team that night had a lot of mileage in their legs to figure it out for themselves that something is wrong, that things are going bad minute by minute.
    I wonder, do they follow blindely LE’s instructions or they have a say in tactics during the game or in the halftime. After all, they are not rookies, they know a thing or two.
    It”s just another point of view.

  35. Jim
    February 18, 2017

    Just like the old days this post and comments. Good to see the place so busy. Good article from Sid Lowe whose writing I always admire but whose sitting on the fence gets to me sometimes. I could have written the bit below myself, if I could write . . .

    “Busquets, the guardian of Barcelona’s style, has never looked worse. That might be down to him; it might be systemic; it might be both. It is forgotten that Xavi, perhaps the best player in Spanish football history, didn’t really play to the right of midfield but in the middle of it; with Busquets, not away from him.”

    This is what’s wrong with tying Iniesta down to a defensive role. Not sure how we do it but we need to start a movement to free Iniesta !

    • ciaran
      February 18, 2017

      The problem with a free Iniesta is that we currently have a free Messi, a free Suarez and a (currently) tactically ill-disciplined Busquets. At present I can’t see us succeeding with both Iniesta and Messi playing centally without dropping Suarez and that isn’t going to happen.
      In the current climate we can’t afford to carry passengers defensively and at the present time we have quite a few.
      Messi is obviously the best in the world and our chief goal threat but more and more I’m concerned that his positioning and work rate are detrimental to our play.

      • Jim
        February 18, 2017

        Not sure I would agree with the free Suarez, Ciaran, but I take the point about Messi. I think Suarez is the best in our front line at pressing by a long way but he gives up because neither Messi nor Neymar keep it up.

        A suggestion as I’m beginning to feel like a moaning Minnie with nothing positive to offer . . . Could we not push Messi up beside Suarez, drop Neymar into the 10, play with a double DM and give Iniesta a free role of being the glue for the passing game ? ( kinda 4-2-1-1-2) . He goes where the passing is. That way we should have cover for our marauding FBs as the overlap although I still fail to see why one doesn’t sink back a little when the other is overlapping. I wouldn’t be averse to Masche being alongside Busi at DM to add a little feistiness as long as he stayed disciplined.

        I’m not sure we’ve ever explicitly given Iniesta the same role as Xavi had. Ive heard folk say he can’t do it but I’m not sure which of Xavi’s skills he lacks other than the arrogance ( not the right word but you get the drift) to believe he’s the team’s playmaker. Pirlo did it in a more limited way till he was about forty seven ! I’ve mentioned more than once I saw Iniesta at Hampden play that role for Spain and he was perfection. We couldn’t lay a glove on him as he moved side to side and up and down as he saw fit and he never got out of first gear. He had the footballing intelligence to know when he was needed for defence and when to break our midfield line to get into attack. I reckon we could get a couple more years of him at the top if he didn’t have the current exhausting defensive and supporting the attack role.

        We’re surely gonna make a decent attempt to lure Thiago back, though, in the summer. Like others, I don’t know if it would succeed but Bayern have an ageing team as well with Lahm, Hummels, Robben, Ribbery, etc. He’s ambitious so I’m guessing it would depend on who he thinks is the next top team.

        Just a thought. I think part of our problem is just the sheer number of times we’ve been turning the ball over for the last couple of seasons. Messi is losing it deeper than he did and Neymar by his very nature loses it a lot. We can’t keep on being caught that easily.

      • G6O
        February 18, 2017

        In the second treble season we only started getting results when Messi went back to the wing and stayed there.

        But more recently he has been playing centrally again and we are again sterile. Why was this allowed to happen?

        • lovell
          February 19, 2017

          This is the root cause of all our problems !
          I’ve said it here a number of times .

      • ciaran
        February 19, 2017

        Sometimes it feels like a free Suarez because he presses but never tracks back. Pressing without 11 players is a pointless excerise most of the time unless you can catch a player in possession as he sometimes does but he rarely tracks back. I see him run down the goalkeeper more than harass the defensive midfielders when we are defending.

        I think the issue with a narrow formation is that our fullbacks aren’t strong enough defensively as that isn’t their nature. With Neymar, Messi, Suarez and Iniesta all playing centally then our flanks would be totally exposed and Busquets certainly doesn’t have the legs to fill in for his fullback, unless of course the centre back would and he would drop in.

        I think this won’t be a problem that gets solved with the current personnel

  36. Jim
    February 19, 2017

    I wouldn’t want my CF back in his own half chasing the opposition, though, Ciaran. If we are pressing it’s not his job to chase the players in front of their defence. The rest of the team should be right up behind him doing that. I can’t think of any top team that asks their CF to do that and there’s a reason for that as they are your out ball if you have to send it long.

    Yeah, I was assuming that the CB could move wide if they had to but with half their current area to cover I’d hope the DMs would be smile to do it the vast majority of the time. I’d also be assuming that if the CB did have to go wide the rest of the back line would shuffle across ( we don’t seem to do that much and it’s standard practice), especially as the FBs would be under severe orders to keep an eye on the other side to see where their fellow CB is. I’d be hoping Neymar’s mobility and willingness to chase plus Iniesta hopefully being around where the ball was lost would help.

    Still it’s only a thought. I’m not a great expert on structures. Tbh, I’m also struggling with why things have changed so much. Xavi and Iniesta were never quick and there’s nobody in their mid thirties who has seriously lost their legs.

    Tonight should be really interesting. Of course, we’ll see a huge improvement, hopefully against a big press but I’m also looking to see what LE does in the way of setting up the team. Particularly, Rakitic. There can’t be anyone left now who thinks he’s being held back for the important games so what’s his future ?

  37. Jim
    February 19, 2017

    Ugh! Sky starts with a list of the latest betting for replacing LE. Not his greatest fan but that’s stupid.

    Just occurred to me. Is there any hint of payback from LE for the comments from Busi and iniesta midweek in the fact that both are on the bench ?

    Anyway, looks like I’ll have plenty time to think about it. This lot are here for the slaughter. Lying deep and not really pressing the ball ? Where have they been ? They’ll need to change that.

  38. TITO
    February 19, 2017

    I wonder who’s fault is this performance tonight against mighty Leganes, at home.

  39. Jim
    February 19, 2017

    I would love to be a fly on the dressing room wall judging by Messi’s look after the penalty. No, scratch that . . . I’d quickly be an ex- fly ! There are gonna be some words said. It’ll be impressive if nobody breaks ranks. My abiding memory, though, will be the pain on SR’s face. Can’t feel anything but sympathy for him.

    • G6O
      February 19, 2017

      SR wasn’t even really that guilty for the goal. Yes, it was his immediate mistake, but he was set up for it by the general malaise in our game.

      It was a classic manifestation of the same issue that has occurred over and over all season. — the other team is pressing, the ball is being played between the GK and the defenders, it ends up with the FB, he has no passing outlets, the ball is lost, we get scored on. It has happened a few times to Alba too.

  40. TITO
    February 19, 2017

    You can call it how you want, but we have serious problems in the locker room.
    It reminds me a lot on the period when we lost to Sociedad couple of years ago. Everything was/is a mess.

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