Malaga 2, Barça 0, aka “Never mind”

Hay, Liga!

Bye, Liga!

In another episode in the adventures of the Gang That Wouldn’t Shoot Straight, we find a cast of characters, a profligate bunch prone to hijinks with the football, good-natured louts with a flair for the dramatic. Just the other day, they found 5000 Euros on the street, ran straight into a casino and placed it on a single spin of the roulette wheel. And lost.

Spectators gasped. Our heroes shrugged, said “Easy come, easy go,” and strolled casually in the Catalan night, and the uncertain future of another day, another opportunity — one that might never come.

Real Madrid is more mentally equipped to win La Liga than Barça, something that makes for uncomfortable reading for culers. Week after week, they play poorly and win, managing to score key goals at key times. A draw against Atleti, wins in which they were outplayed, victories fashioned from coarse thread and moth-eaten remnants.

But that team has something, this season, that Barça doesn’t: killer instinct. The latest evidence of this came at the weekend. Barça had an opportunity to go top of the Liga after Real Madrid dropped points against Atleti, realistically the last chance they will see to realistically lose ground in the standings. They managed a draw, and the path for Barça was clear: beat Malaga.

The culerverse was ready. The team was coming off a dazzling display against Sevilla, a second gear throttling that should have left them daisy fresh for this suddenly crucial encounter. The difference? Cynics would say that nothing was on the line against Sevilla, that the Liga was considered lost, the team was at home, so why not? Then came Malaga, and something to play for.

Choke? That’s a harsh word for a team that has come through time and again. But something is missing from this season’s edition, in many ways reminiscent of the last season of Pep Guardiola, a time that slid by with a wink and a shrug. Like the grasshopper of fairy tale fame, Barça fiddles, fritters away chances because surely, another will come, until suddenly, it’s winter.

Messi put a ball into a perfect place for Suarez. He shot directly at the keeper. Suarez gets set up again. Nothing. Suarez dummies a ball that he should have controlled and scored. Messi set up Gomes, who was muscled off the ball by a shorter, presumably less strong defender. Gomes just walked away with a blank expression. Messi could be seen shaking his head, perhaps one of the few who understood how crucial that monent that was. At another time, in another place, Barça is up 2-0 at halftime, and the match is over. Malaga understands its place, and that’s that.

Instead the chances were squandered. A Sergo Roberto penalty shout denied? Whatever. It would have been 2-1, or 1-1. So what. But Malaga got a breakaway, and — who else — Sandro knocked in the winning goal past a helpless Ter Stegen. Given the way Barça half-assed around the pitch, that goal felt like it was enough, even as we kept watching because PSG made us believe. Then, suddenly, late, Malaga got another and it was over.

As usual, factions lined up. Gomes has been on the scene every time the team has dropped points, as if it was his fault. “Damn that defense,” others railed. But even if the defense does its job perfectly a draw is a good as a loss for Barça, essentially. No, as with the Tata Martino season, goals, or a lack thereof, were the problem. Recall that Barça went scoreless in seven matches in that misfortune-riddled season. Liga came down to one goal, one match.

Goals, always goals. And for a team with such a potent attack, goals don’t seem as though they would be the problem. But for a team that can create chances out of nothing, so what if they miss a few here or there? Then suddenly, it’s the 85th minute and it’s tucker and pucker time.

Mentality. Barça is in many ways like that star basketballer who can rain in threes, drive the lane and dunk with thunder. But give that player free throws, and watch out. Gulp! Lower-table teams are gimmes for the top clubs. Alaves, Depor have beaten Barça. Malaga, with a scoreless draw and a win has all but defined the Liga title for Barça. The Catalans drew Betis, being outplayed. Real Madrid beat them. The capitol city club also beat Alaves, who beat Barça early in the season, and dispatched Malaga.

Is it that Barça needs a jolt of adrenaline that can only come against significant opposition? Every time they have dropped points to a lower-table club with somthing on the line, it has been a half-assed display. The team looks leaderless, looks bereft of the fire that comes from a talismanic player such as Carles Puyol, a firebrand to get in faces and remind players of what in the hell the deal is, what it means to don those colors.

Leadership instead comes from the tacticurn Messi, a preternaturally calm player who leads by stratospheric example, via his play. Neymar should put his leadership CV in mothballs for a while, after that stupid, stupid red card. The first yellow was childish, the second silly. After the match, people talked about the ref having it in for Barça, talked of the garden-variety foul that resulted in a yellow. But as my Mom would say when we were caught with others doing naughty stuff, “Why were you there?” It doesn’t matter whether the crime was real or imagined, whether the punishment meted out is just or not. “Why were you there?”

Neymar definitely fouled the player, who definitely made a meal of it. Neymar also applauded the fourth official in the tunnel, something duly entered in the referee’s match report. In a league that takes abuse of officials quite seriously, the possbility that Neymar will be suspended for the Classic is very real. If he isn’t ashamed, he should be. It was a ridiculous display from an essential player. The hope is that one of the captains pulled him aside and gave him a stern talking to, because leaders don’t just lead with the ball at their feet. Leaders set an example for the rest of the team. Neymar reverted to a petulant punk kid wearing a Santos shirt, qualities that don’t befit the starting left wing for FC Barcelona.

There is something missing from the team this season. In the treble season (the second one) Malaga was again a bete noire for Barça, beating them once, getting a scoreless draw in the other. But Barça didn’t drop a single point to a lower-table side until the last match of the Liga season with a 2-2 draw to Depor, when there was nothing for the Catalans to play for. That team was brutal, and hungry, like death and taxes.

Some blame rotation, blame players who aren’t up to standard. Suarez squandered two chances, so try again, He wasn’t part of the rotation. Gomes is improving, but still not up to standard. Denis Suarez is playing like his testicles haven’t dropped yet. But he’s cheaper than Gomes, so he gets the benefit of the doubt when he struggles, passively and anonymously.

Yes, it was a rotation XI, with the Champions League match on Tuesday in mind. But key players were on the pitch, including Neymar, Messi, Busquets and Luis Suarez. It should have been enough, but they made defending easy for Malaga. Barça would switch the pitch, then dawdle on the ball, giving Malaga’s defense plenty of time to shift. Runs were predictable, passes even more so. Luis Enrique said that his team played well enough to win, even as they lost. Sometimes, that is true. Not against Malaga. The result was fair, and we are left to wonder who will claim the Liga That Nobody Wants.

A great many culers have given up on Barça, a team that has performed the impossible. Real Madrid, at this juncture, could lose the Classic, draw another match and still win the title by winning the rest. Their margin for error is immense. Barça needed, to, had the opportunity to apply huge pressure and let its eternal rival off the hook. Why? Good question. What’s missing from the club this season? That’s an even better question. Maybe it’s just hard to stay hungry, year after year, in a world where you get everyone’s best game. Maybe. Maybe the game is too easy for the team, and chances created and missed aren’t that big a worry because there are always more chances. Who knows.

What is clear is that all of the plaititudes, all of the “we will fight until the end,” of the trite sayings and neutral zone interviews don’t mean a damn thing if the team can’t do a very simple thing: beat teams that it should beat. All the rest is theory.

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Written by:

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

53 Comments

  1. luisthebeast
    April 9, 2017

    After the game i was mad with Neymar.But now i can see that it was just a mistake out of frustration.
    I prefer that,the reaction of a player who cares,than the laughing Mathieu when he looked the linesman.
    As i said yesterday,with Pique,we would never lost this game.Malaga did shit in first half but we are a generous team,we use to gift this joke goals.
    As Jim said we are a team that especially this season,we disrepect defending.It s stupid,it s against the laws of football,it s a mystery to me.
    We take risks when we dont have the ability to defend.Capello said it last week that Barca dont know how to defend.Many people said that he say BS.
    But i agree.
    Against Juve we must be smart and aggresive.I believe in the team but if we go with the same plan and attitude like vs PSG we will be stupid.
    We can all day blame Gomes,Suarez,Neymar e.t.c
    But for me the big problem is our backline.
    In summer we will need serious upgrade there.
    RB,RCB,LCB,LB.

    • Grindelwald
      April 10, 2017

      I think there’s a tradeoff with leadership qualities for artistry on the ball ; most famous leaders are usually gritty and play a style that isn’t pleasing to the eye but they are usually respected and revered amongst their peers. Puyol, Keane, Viera, Milner, Maldini and so on, unfortunately barca doesn’t currently have those kind of players in their squad.

      • georgjorge
        April 10, 2017

        When it comes to leadership qualities, Mascherano is pretty good. But he probably cannot make such good use of his authority due to a) not having come up through the Barca system b) not being a definite starter for the team.

  2. luisthebeast
    April 9, 2017

    And yep,i remember what Pep said some years ago,that we are poor to defend without the ball.But no i dont buy it,i dont believe that a Top team with top class players that earns million euros,cant be good without the ball.
    Yes you can have the ball a lot,you can press high,but as good you are,there will be moments in any game when the opponent will take the ball or when they will break ur press.
    Then what?We start to pray?We wait Jesus to stop the counterattack?
    Offcourse people will say “it s ok,they will score 2,we will score 3”
    Yeah like real football is Fifa or Pro.

  3. Mishti
    April 9, 2017

    Nice article, Kevin. It echoes some of my thoughts I put down in a comment earlier today in the previous thread, in particular regarding the lack of leadership and killer instinct. Couldn’t agree more.

    I’d argue though, our indifference towards the quality of defending (or lack thereof) is not a trivial matter. Coming from a family of professional footballers, I have spent almost my entire life around footballers that have played at top level. One thing that every footballer will tell you is that there are days when no matter how hard you try, or how much you will yourself to try harder, it just doesn’t happen. And those are the days when you need most of all to do your basics right. When luck or your body seem to be against you, what you want to make sure first and foremost is that you don’t give the opponent any easy inch. Because that will just swing the psychological momentum against you even further. Barcelona were struggling to impose themselves from the very beginning. The midfield battle was being lost, possesion was being turned over at a quick rate, everything looked out of sync and out of gear. That is exactly the kind of game where you don’t want to go behind with a silly goal. The difference between a game like this, and the game against Valencia, is that against Valencia we were playing well, so the goal they scored did nothing much to dent the confidence of the team. There is nothing more important than the psychological momentum of a football game, that’s what carried us against PSG, and that’s what fell flat yesterday. And even for a team with the quality of Barcelona, it will happen every now and then. So having the peace of mind that at least we won’t give away silly goals as gifts, is actually even more important for the players on the pitch, then the fans who cry or moan on the sidelines.

    This is one reason why, I would never understand a coach proudly claiming that his team is worthless without the ball. Just look at our squad. The so called best team in the world has only one world class defender, and an young, albeit very promising, apprentice on its payroll. The next best defender is a converted DM who still carries his DM instincts that sometimes trips him up. The rest are bit part defenders. ZERO defensive ability in any of our fullbacks. I mean,seriously, if we didn’t have the attacking players we do, this will be a ridiculous squad. And now I hear talks of buying Bellerin. For God’s sake. I am probably sounding like a broken record by now, but I think we need to really focus on upgrading our defensive quality. Unless someone comes with a convincing argument to the effect that getting better defensively will somehow hurt our offensive play in some direct trade-off, I am not buying that our defense is not a problem. Even then I might not buy it.

    • raj
      April 10, 2017

      Extremely good comment.
      And an unusually good article by Kxevin.

      Thanks for writing both of you.

      PS: Just kidding, Kxevin is ‘usually’ this good!

    • georgjorge
      April 10, 2017

      I don’t fully agree on the state of our defense. We do have quality, but not much depth.

      Unless Umtiti forgets a lot about football before next season, Piqúe – Umtiti is a centreback pairing as good as those of the other top clubs. It’s behind them that there is a drop-off – Mascherano has been doing pretty well this season, but he’s getting older, Mathieu as well, so a good back-up centreback is required.

      Fullbacks are a problem defensively, and here is indeed where there’s a trade-off between offense and defense. Both are good at creating chances and combining, but not world-class players when defending. The importance of that also comes down to whether we proceed with three at the back in most games, in which case we would need one more centre-back instead of more fullbacks. We can save money that way! ; )

      • Mishti
        April 10, 2017

        I am running the risk of sounding like a broken record (and an irritable, harsh one at that :P), so apologies in advance, but here are my two cents.

        I am probably more conservative than you are (and many others here), because as wonderful as Umtiti has been so far, I’d give him two more seasons to mature before declaring him a great CB. He has the potential no doubt, but even on that first Malaga goal, he is no less at fault for being up in the middle of no where, and completely out of position to help out his CB partner. Truth be told, being out of position is a common affliction of all our CBs, it seems to be the club culture, he’s in fact way better than either Mathieu or Pique. My worry is that Barca as a club at the moment seems to be devoid of coaching resources on the defensive side. So I don’t know who is going to drill out these kinds of things from his play. Barca have been very conducive to these bad habits, may be because of the hubris that we have around our attacking prowess.

        On our FBs, here is where my frustration boils over. I know in modern football converted wingers get away with being called FBs and posing like them. But that’s not the idea of an FB. Philip Lahm is an FB, as was Cafu, Jordi Alba is not. We don’t need to create an artificial trade-off between attack and defense by choosing wingers to pose as FBs. There are young, promising FBs out there who can actually both defend and attack. The question is, do we actually consider defending to be important enough to go find such a player? Given that I hear talk about Bellerin being bought, clearly not.

        When I say we need to upgrade our defensive quality, I don’t only mean personnel, I mean the quality of our defensive organization and defensive play. Why do we try to execute an off-side line in the opposition half? Why is it the case that no one seems to know what the plan is once that off-side line is breached, even if there is only a single opposition player running at the goal with the ball? Why are our CBs encouraged to wander all around the pitch without having proper cover? If I am harsh, I’d say that the coaching stuff either don’t know or don’t care (or both) how to set up a defense to deal with counter-attacks. If I am generous, I’d allow the possibility that the defenders are trying to cover deficiencies in midfield, anong other things. That cannot be ideal or even sutainable. Again, the artificial trade-off between attack and defense is being created by lack of quality in midfield.

        About formation, I don’t think we can really be so specific about a 3-4-3 or a 4-3-3 while building the squad for the future. We’ll need a squad that can handle playing both depending on the opponent or tactical needs.

  4. georgjorge
    April 10, 2017

    Due to a laggy stream and not paying full attention, I completely missed Barcelona playing the second half with ten men. Considering that, they weren’t too bad in that half, though not too great either.

    As I now realize that Neymar was sent off, and might well not even get to play the Clásico, it’s hard to believe. The first yellow for Neymar was pretty stupid on both ends, but when you are on a yellow you try to keep your cool, and definitely don’t go making it worse when you get sent off. Energy and emotion are an important part of Neymar’s game, but I thought he had acquired a bit more restraint in important situations.

    That was a game that I couldn’t enjoy at all, with pretty much everyone but Umtiti playing far below their standards in the first half. But I’ll try to enjoy the remaining games in the league even if their outcome might not matter that much. Similar to good scotch, isn’t there a special place in hell for people who watch but don’t appreciate a good Barcelona game? ; )

  5. omoh
    April 10, 2017

    I have always said it and will keep saying it, LE is the main problem of this team. Like mishti already pointed, in games like this you don’t want to give your opponent any advantage or concede any silly goals but what do we say when the coach already have the opponent the advantage even before the kick of with his team selection. If LE had introduced the right team selection from the beginning, then we can be talking about doing everything you can but the kick is just not there.

    Fans keep coming up with different reasons why we keep having poor games. My grievance with LE is this, If fans can clearly see this obvious problems, does it mean LE is not seeing them?

    If he see’s them, then what is he doing to correct them?

    Why Does the problem keep repeating itself?

    These and many more are the questions one needs to ask the coach.

    The last time on a previous article after the game against Granada, I was here talking about us having a Ferrari(team) but a driver(coach) that drives it like a Fiat. On that topic people refuse to understand what I meant by that. For Gods sake what was Iniesta doing on the bench against a Malaga side that has proven difficult over the years. Iniesta may be old and it is necessary to keep him refreshed for big games but is he too old to the point that he cannot start 4games in a roll.

    How can any coach allow 2 of your most important players get suspended for a tricky away game when you need to win every game to have a chance at winning the league.

    It didn’t stop there, you went ahead to bench another two important players, Iniesta & Roberto.

    It didn’t stop there, you now felt it necessary to rearrange the “winning defence” and throw in the weakest defender into the mix while playing the better one out of position.

    We can keep blaming players and their weakness from now till forever but whose job is it to recognise this weaknesses and prevent it from afecting the team’s play? Does it mean we don’t have the right combination of players that can win this tricky games against small teams? We actually do but the coach refuse to combine them at the right time. Every team and coach at any point in time, always have one or two weak players but it is left to the coach to know the kind of combinations that will cover up their weaknesses when using them. Barca has lost 4games this season and all 4 are against bottom half teams or struggling teams. Malag(bottom half and struggling presently) Deportivo(bottom half) Alaves(bottom half), Valencia(bottom half and really struggling at the time).

    With all this reoccuring blunders over the years I have come to a conclusion that LE is quite poor technically and doesn’t learn from past mistakes. Left to me he would not even be allowed near the reserve team(I have my strong reasons) of a club like Barca let alone the first team. Once, they say is a mistake but when it becomes a regular feature then there is a problem. I played football at an academy level and I have seen LE make over and over, mistakes an academy coach will never make. I have coached as an amateur, and I have seen LE make repeatedly, mistakes I made in my first week as an amateur coach.

    I am not saying coaches must be perfect at all times but when a coach repeatedly makes amateur mistakes, then his technical ability should be questioned. I’m not saying Barca is not allowed to loose but it should be against worthy opponents and we should be able to walk away with out heads held high not degected and feeling humiliated.

    • Grindelwald
      April 10, 2017

      To some extent, I’ll agree on your assessment of LE. I believe he knows what he’s doing, but at this point I’m not so sure.

  6. April 10, 2017

    Whatever qualities Gomes might have, there is a big fault in his game. When he receives a ball, at least for a few seconds, he reacts as if no opposition player is approaching him from his side or back. And in 2 seconds he lose that ball and end up making a foul. I was literally mad at him, when he completely squandered that beautiful ball from Messi in the first half. He did his routine and allowed enough time for a defender to do his job and gone was our best chance to go 1=0. To see a player making the same mistake in every game is very difficult.

    If we had scored from that or other chances, we would not be talking about our defensive frailities. Sure Mathieu made a mistake, but wasnt that his only mistake. All our defenders have screwed up some times. Our big plus is our attack and we were never great in defending. But when our midfiled start with Gomes and Denis and a rare chance is wasted, its not just a defensive issue.

    I dont know if we have any more chance in liga, as RM looks very effective. If not for Oblak and Savic, they would have got 3 points against Atleti.
    But if we can defeat them in Bernabeu, then I would be very very glad, even without the liga.

  7. squeen
    April 10, 2017

    There were three things that stood out for me from the game.
    1) Gomez or D. Suarez:—neither is fully confident on the pitch, and play very conservatively. I think its dangerous to have both of them in midfield at the same time. Look at how much more aggressively Sergi Roberto played after he came on. Luis Enrique, as much as I like him, had better options in the first half, and he should had been more careful with Malaga. I know Rafinha and Rakitic were not available, but neither is afraid to attack the goal and shoot. The less used subs (Gomez, D. Suarez, and Paco) hesitate and usually just give the ball back to Messi/Neymar/Iniesta, hoping they will do something with it. Their lack of confidence also translates into poor challenges to win balls. I want to have patience with them, and give them some time to build confidence, but too many of those players in the mix simultaneous causes the Barca clockwork to break down. A critical mass of talent on the field is needed for team goals to happen.
    2) Saurez is not Neymar—Luis Suarez is a monster in the box, but at time his footwork appears clumsy. As he staggers and pokes with the outside of his foot, I sometimes marvel that he manages to get the job done so effectively. However, when he moved out left, after the Neymar red-card, he disappeared from the game. He is not the guy you go to for quick one-touch passing, accurate long-range arcs, and space-making runs. He should have stayed central and tied up the CBs.
    3) The referee was massively biased—I know it sounds like a cop-out, and I’m not even taking about the Neymar red-card, there was systematic permissiveness on allowing the Malaga players to get overly physical with Barca whenever they entered the box. It was that implict permission that allowed the Malaga players to sandwich Messi whenever he had the ball, and essentially wrap Saurez in a CB blanket whenever he was targeted for a pass. If the ref had not allowed this (say for example by giving Roberto the penalty he deserved, or a 1st half one that Suarez deserved), then the teams ineffectiveness in the final third would not have been so obvious. This guy must be a RM fan. He’s been trouble for Barca every time they draw him. Touching back on point #1 — if other, more dangerous, midfielders had been on the field, this is exactly the kind of game in which Ivan or Rafinha might score, because the defense is so focused on fouling MSN.

    Thanks for a wonderful blog. Its a joy.

  8. Dar_vincy
    April 10, 2017

    This loss was, typically, down to a smorgasbord of factors which Kxevin brilliantly fleshed out. The ones I would focus on are three. From all evidence, we are seeing a team that is approaching this La Liga campaign with minimal motivation having won the last two. It’s tempting to make an allowance for their lackadaisical efforts on the basis of their previous success, but then again, consider that the likes of Juventus and PSG have won their country’s league titles for the past 5 and 4 seasons respectively and are on course to win it again this year. Granted the level of competition slightly differs in La Liga, the hunger for success can continually be maintained with the right approach and should never be seen as unachievable. Perhaps, the potential hurt of losing this current La Liga will serve as a fillip ahead of the next campaign. Secondly, like I’ve always maintained, the pathetic attention and disregard we give to the defending part of our game will continue to haunt us until we accord it with the right attention it deserves. Then again, we have shown that we hardly learn. New coach comes in and imitates his predecessors by obsessing himself with the attack.

    Further, it boggles the mind time and again why and how we end with players with dodgy quality. I hate to regurgitate this line in this space but the constant presence of Andre Gomes in the lineup is one that gravely mystifies me. For someone who is a proponent of giving new players time, from all indications, I can boldly affirm that this guy has nothing tangible to offer this team. His ineffectiveness has been evident all season and how he’s benevolently been allowed to ruin the fortune of this team is really beyond me. Against Malaga, Gomes didn’t recover a single ball! Not One! According to Sport, he only won 16 percent of his duels which he took part in during the game, the lowest percent of the 28 players who played.
    The article reads further, “As for building play, he hid and his numbers reflect that. With 24 passes, he was the Barcelona player with the least involvement — not including goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who made 20. Andres Iniesta and Sergi Roberto, who came on at half-time, made 38 and 26 respectively. That Gomes has fear of making a mistake also can be seen in the times he made contact with the ball: just 31 touches. Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi and Neymar, for example, were up around 80.” I need not bore you with the stat that shows how many matches we’ve lost when he plays as opposed to when he doesn’t. As Colin Kelly of Total Barca bluntly puts it “André Gomes should not be wearing a Barcelona shirt.”

    • Davour
      April 10, 2017

      Good overview – typical for a player whose confidence is all shot. Still, people say he is quality and give him a year of learning, look a Arda and Aleix… I’m sure he is a good player, but is he the type of player that will flourish at Barca? I was watching some highlights of his before he came here, and it struck me that most of them seemed to capture him on the break with acres of space – very little close control or intricate passing. What was the idea behind his part at Barca? Denis is not good enough either, at the moment, but his style suits the team – and the price tag matters, let us not fool ourselves. It indicates expectations.

      Arda, perhaps the player most similar to Gomes’ situation/position, had a tough first year, and a better second – but a far cry from great. He is an ok squad player, won’t be anything else. Perhaps Gomes will manage as much – perhaps more, given time, as he is younger. But can’t see it right now. The thing is, this idea of learning football all over again at Barca is true in a sense, for two reasons – first, Barca’s game is (was?) founded on control and movement in tiny spaces: in other words, doing a really difficult thing and being expected not to lose the ball; second, playing with Messi and Neymar is not easy. Rakitic has managed because he found his identity in a more defensive role. Attack-wise, he has not been fantastic. But he seems to have great self-confidence, while Gomes, so far, does not. And this is necessary to dare doing something beyond passing back. Alexis reverted to this after dropping in confidence; when he arrived he impressed. Then he started thinking…

      What worries me most is the lack of moments of inspiration – Gomes has shown a few moves and naturally he will be better, but this late in the season there should be a little more fire to his game. With some players, like Luis Suarez, or Thiago, you see there are flaws when they first join the first team, but you can see the potential; you can see how they could click and be something great once balance settles in. I don’t see that potential in Gomes (and lord I hope I am wrong!), not that spark. It would be crazy to rely on him as a starter for next year. Without a new CM, we would rely on an already fragile Iniesta, an injury-prone Rafinha, Kid-Denis and a defensive Rakitic to help Busi run the machine. As of today, Sergi Roberto is the best alternative, if we buy another RB (or stick to 343). A bit worrisome.

      • Dar_vincy
        April 11, 2017

        Very good points made, Davour. Casting a reflection on all the games he’s played for us this season, it makes one wonder if there was ever any game he stood out. Absolutely none comes to mind. Every time, I try my best to scour for that glimpse of potential in his game. And every time, I end up with nothing tangible.
        Believe me, it will gladden me more than anything to see him succeed in this team. Perhaps, I’m a little bit harsh in my judgement of him. But the facts are just too compelling to ignore. Maybe he’ll prove us wrong when a new guy takes over. Maybe.

  9. Hamid
    April 10, 2017

    Thank you Kxevin for a very sober account of the origins of the team’s struggles this season. Unlike you however, I don’t see a collective failure. The lack of killer instinct against weaker teams and in winnable games is a tactical and mental shortcoming that LE is fully responsible for. We started the game knowing exactly what we needed to do to move at the top of La Liga: be patient, tire the opponent then come back home with 3 points. Instead we chose to rush and to take unnecessary risks. The score was 0-0 and we were playing as if we were down by four. LE ignominiously failed to manage what should have been the easiest of games. Why the sense of urgency if all you have to do is win 1-0? Why not make the required tactical adjustments when Malaga’s plan became obvious early in the game? Why not stand up from the bench and ask the players to keep calm? LE has a strange interpretation of the rotation concept. Each time he tried it, he changed course midway when it’s too late. Gomes is not Iniesta and D. Suarez is not Rakitic. When you change players, you have to change the game plan. We are not the only team with a busy schedule, but for some reason, our million-dollar players can’t handle it!! Why not sub Messi, Suarez and/or Meymar once it becomes clear that the win is guaranteed? They will unhappy? Tough luck. Zidane is doing it to the big-ego Ronaldo. It’s called leadership.
    The upside is that now that la Liga is lost (let’s not kid our ourselves!), LE can rotate to his heart’s content. Will he?

  10. omoh
    April 10, 2017

    He appears to know know what he is doing but when you consider the fact that he calls the shots and decides who to play, where to play, how to play and pretty much everything about the team, then you start to ask does he really know what he’s doing given the poor statistics of Gomez and Mathieu.

    Does he really know what he is doing playing them against a well know tricky Malaga when we need to overtake realmadrid.

    Does he really know what he is doing starting the same midfield that lost to Deportivo against Malaga. This time around with a weaker defence.

    I definitely believe he doesn’t but if he claims he does, then i could conclude that he is intentionally trying to sabotage Barca’s chances of winning la liga(his team selection and ultimate performances after Madrid drops points, stands as evidence against him).

  11. ooga aga
    April 10, 2017

    Same comments every year, titles have arrived regardless. Every year there are games we should have won, where we instead tied or lost, followed by wringing of hands, casting of blame, negativity. Over and over, it’s like a script. And in the end that fan negativity was not justified, a CL loss to an immense Atleti notwithstanding. All the titles otherwise came and are in the bank. You’d think the coach and the players would have some credit at the cule store. Ha.

    Just make sure y’all come back after we school Juventus.

    • Rami
      April 11, 2017

      The malaga match itself, Followed a blueprint we’ve been witnessing for many, many years, And it still comes to a surprise to many.
      A mediocre la liga team, Setting up a deep block, On a small pitch, and a dry grass, Relying on long balls to a one or two strikers for a quick counter.
      The only way to ensure a 3 point in these type of matches is that, Most of the players should be a their sharpest, Move the ball quickly, And for the love of god, Don’t squander easy chances, And our teams failed at all three of those.
      There is really nothing more to it than that, I admit it was frustrating and sad as hell, But that’s football.

    • omoh
      April 11, 2017

      I am back after we’ve been “Schooled” by Juventus. Being a barca fan is not being blind to the truth. Sometimes we have to be realistic. The greatest problem anyone could have is not knowing they have a problem or refusing to acknowledge the source of the problem.

      Barcelona have had it coming since 2014 when LE was appointed. Winning trophies is not a criteria for determining a good coach it is how it is won. Di mateo won CL for chelsea doesnt make him a coach of chelsea’s standard let alone barca.

      LE like Di Mateo was a temporary solution to a permanent problem but like many fans here on this blog, the board was too blinded by the trophies of his first season. never minding the underlying problem that was been covered up by the successes.

      Presently, Barca has one of the Oldest teams in the world

      OLD: Iniesta 32, Mathieu 33, Pique 30, Messi 30, Suarez 30, Mascherano 32, Busquets 28, Alba 28, Rakitic 29, Turan 30.

      EFFECTIVE AND YOUNG: Umtiti 23, Ter Stegen 24, Neymar 25, Roberto 25, Cillesen 27

      YOUNG AND NOT BARCA QUALITY: Alcacer 23, Gomes 23, Rafinha 24, denis Suarez 23, L.Digne 23, Alex Vidal 27.

      We have a coach that cant even bring out the best in the players in the peak of their carriers let alone build young ones for the future.

  12. mr.undercover
    April 11, 2017

    what amuses me is that some folks only appears in this site to snarl and rant whenever the team loses a game or played badly, but when it is the other way round they shamelessly crawl back to their caves since seeing the team wins and gives good performance doesn’t suit their agenda’s. even if they praises the team, they will belittle the ones who they don’t fancy and won’t give them the credit they deserve. CYNICAL

    • raj
      April 11, 2017

      That sounds very offensive (to whom, I have no idea). But I can’t buy into the idea that some people intentionally show up to comment exclusively on negative things. Doesn’t sound right.

      Of course, it may seem that way, maybe a dude or two do that by incidence. Maybe people are biased against certain others in general, but still, you are implying motives that don’t exist in all seriousness.

    • squeen
      April 11, 2017

      When the teams wins, we just sit back and enjoy it.
      When they lose (especially against teams of less caliber), we scratch our heads and wonder why. Reaching out to the community just quiets the conversation in our own heads.

      • georgjorge
        April 11, 2017

        Very well said, but it’s actually the opposite for me.

        After a great game, I like to share the experience with similar-minded people (“Did you see that Iniesta pass?” “Umtiti was a wall today!”). When the team is playing badly, I am disappointed, but know I will feel even worse if I go to a place where everyone is in the same mood, and our players and coaches get blamed and occasionally insulted. I wouldn’t want to miss this space – and it seems it is a paradise compared to Barca twitter – but the mood is pretty sour after a bad game.

  13. *~ Dumangõli - Oüdyaar, Aisalangådi ~*
    April 11, 2017

    \\

    How we should lineup tonight, given Busi’s out.
    [ 3-1-3-3 ]

    ————— Ter Stegen ——————-
    —- Mascherano —- Pique —- Umtiti —–
    ————— Andre Gomes —————-
    —– Roberto —- Rakitic —- Iniesta ——-
    ——- Messi —- Suarez —- Neymar ——

  14. Rami
    April 11, 2017

    Mundo deportivo published an article after malaga’s loss, depicting andre gomes as a “jinx” and “bad omen”, something along these lines, Citing that in the 15 draws/losses of this season, He partake as a starter/Sub in 14 out of 15 of them, This stat kept being propagated thought the barca-vers.
    My skepticism o-meter shot up the roof, I choose to investigate this worrying stat, Does it represent a real correlation?, Or is it just a dishonest piece of journalism designed to ride and exploit an already rushing wave of hatred just to get more clicks.

    This season the team Lost 7 matches, And draw 7 also, Personally i won’t count sub stats, Because that’s pushing it in the ‘remain honest’ realm, So we’ll focus on being a starter.
    Andre gomes started in 5 out of 7 losses, And 4 out of 7 draws, 9 out of 14 matches in total!!, I mean WOW, That’s mind boggling, Absolutely shameful for a barca player………………………Until you look at the others.

    Busquets:
    7 out of 7 losses!! — 5 out of 7 draws —- 12 out of 14 matches
    Roberto:
    5 out of 7 Losses — 6 out of 7 draws — 11 out of 14 matches
    Pique:
    4 out of 7 losses —- 7 out of 7 draws! — 11 out of 14
    Alba:
    5 out of 7 losses — 4 out of 7 draws — 9 out of 14
    Neymar:
    6 out 7 losses —- 6 out of 7 draws —- 12 out of 14
    Luis suarez:
    6 out of 7 losses — 6 out of 7 draws — 12 out of 14
    Mascherano:
    4 out of 7 losses — 5 out of 7 draws — 9 out of 14
    Rakitic:
    3 out of 7 losses — 5 out of 7 draws —- 8 out of 14

    So what do we conclude from this?
    We can’t point our fingers to an individual and blame him for a result, Because doing that means all of those listed above are also complicit and are to blame, When we think about it for a second, The above stats makes sense, It’s a team sport after all, Everyone is responsible, Of course the draws and losses will be distributed to most of the players.

    Andre gomes has been underwhelming, And has disappointed me this season, But trying to associate him with our draws and losses is dishonest, As luis enrique said In yesterday press conference :
    “It’s pathetic and sad to blame one or two individual players for a defeat, This is a team sport and that seems unfair to me”
    He’s right.

    • ooga aga
      April 11, 2017

      But wait Rami, how do you explain my *strong feeling* that Gomes is to blame? That is worth more than any stat! 😉

    • georgjorge
      April 11, 2017

      Some of those presenting statistics in the media probably also think that a team of 11 Umtitis could never lose a single game ; )

  15. ooga aga
    April 11, 2017

    We did well except for leaving Dybala unmarked. We look like we can score a goal which would change everything. I think Messi will come out serious in the second half.

  16. Rami
    April 11, 2017

    Two shots attempts translated into two perfectly curved balls into the narrow corner, What a bunch of horses***t, What are the chances of that happening.

  17. lala10
    April 11, 2017

    Moments momemts. If Iniesta scores that one its game on. Alas they go on to score the next minute.

    The three at the back is struggling. The left side has been exposed again and again. LE should do something about it this half time

  18. Víctor
    April 11, 2017

    Another harsh defeat. Not as bad in the score as the one against PSG… but scoring 3 past Juventus is gonna be way more difficult.

    Do Barça have what it needs to be done? Absolutely. However, the team is gonna need, once again, to be fully prepared physically and mentally to do the task. Can they repeat a miracle? Yep. Let’s hope they are up to the task next week.

    • Rami
      April 11, 2017

      We didn’t deserve this harsh result, It feels very different from the PSG match, We were very intense through the match, But some school-level defending, Ruined everything.

      Football is cruel and unforgiving, A week from hell.

  19. Hamid
    April 11, 2017

    Let’s just not be ridiculous! So this is an improvement from the PSG debacle? We can’t rely on luck to see us through the big mess that the team is this season. We said goodbye to La Liga Saturday and to the CL today. And in the most humiliating of ways. We still have the glorious Copa del Rey though. UNSUFFERABLE!!

    • omoh
      April 11, 2017

      Thank you for this. I dont understand the mediocrity that barca fans are getting accustomed to under LE. To an average fan of world class barcelona like myself and millions around the globe this performance total BS like it has being much of the season. Imagine we even equaled the worst away record since 2000. We have consistently shipped 3-4 goals under LE something that was unheard of for a very long time.

      The most annoying is that the coach always takes responsibility after the losses only to repeat the same errors in the future and never seem to learn and make amendments.

      People needs to go through online articles and read the unpleasant words that are being used to describe this team each time they loose. It goes to show that this team is not pulling anything close to the weight that it is being accorded by the outside world yet the fans are here celebrating the mediocrity of a coach.

      I dont blame players not especially players of messi and neymar calibre this are players that knows what it means to play for a team like barca. Gomez and Matheiu may be poor but i still blame the coach that has refused to acknowledge that and make necessary adjustment.

      People keep saying Guardiola’s barca also dropped points in its last season and eventually lost the league. Need i remind them that Guardiolas barca lost the league to a 100point Madrid backed up by the referee decisions and never shipped 3-4goals on a consistent basis.

  20. Víctor
    April 11, 2017

    Totally agree, RAMI, Juventus defended very well, but they also got lucky to walk away with no goals received. Iniesta and Suarez had very good chances that were too close. Umtiti also had one by the end of the game.

    HAMID, nobody is gonna deny that, once again, it seems that the CL is already lost… but a month ago Barcelona showed us that it ain’t over until it’s over.

  21. Grindelwald
    April 11, 2017

    Maybe Enrique has to announce his resignation again, just to please the fans. Barca played horrible today, especially in the 1st half with schoolboy defending from literally all our defenders. I’m sorry, but Pique just ain’t the worldclass defender barca fans made him out to be, he’s pretty good though – just above average ; even if our attack and midfield aren’t playing well, atleast, we should be able to rely on the defenders keeping us in the game with well timed tackles, Juventus had about 6 chances the whole game (3 more than barca) and scored half of it despite not counting the goal mistakenly ruled out for offside. Barca are in some deep deep sh*t, unfortunately the Copa is our only hope this season. ANYONE WHO SAYS BARCA CAN ACHIEVE A COMEBACK IN THE 2ND LEAGUE MUST DEFINITELY BE SMOKING THE SAME WEED AS ENRIQUE’S!

    • omoh
      April 11, 2017

      We are not yet in the real deep shit. we will soon be if the board fails to appoint a coach that can build a team for the future. When you look at the core of the team you realize they are in the same age range and in their peak between 28-33.

      The most alarming is when you realise we only have 5 players of real barca quality below 28years: Umtiti 23, Ter Stegen 24, Neymar 25, Roberto 25, Cillesen 27. and i dont see any real plan to build for the future. The academy players cannot even get play time because the coach cant even beat alaves, depor, or malaga with the first team players let alone academy players.

      Zidane is stylishly fazing out Ronaldo and here we are struggling to win a game with the likes of MSN on the pitch.

  22. socrates
    April 11, 2017

    That terrible moment when you realise that your beloved team is not all that is was made out to be.
    At least we will always have La Remontada.

  23. dl
    April 11, 2017

    I have a hard time envisioning Juventus crumpling in the same way as psg — our champions league looks very likely to be finished for this year.
    Well, there was some fine playing that I enjoyed a lot, and I thank the team for that. Also, the season is not yet finished, though the league looks very likely to be out of reach. If we end with the copa, that is probably all we deserve (given how rm has played, they definitely deserve the league more than we do!)

  24. Mishti
    April 11, 2017

    I am going to put on the hat of a football fan for the moment, not just a Barca fan.

    Congratulations, Juve. I know it came as a surprise to many, and a shock to some. Not to me. Not because I didn’t or don’t believe in Barca. Because I knew how great Juve are right now. They can beat any team, any given day. I don’t know how many around here follow Italian football. I do. Juve right now has one of the best, most balanced squads in Europe. Yes, better than Bayern Munich, almost as good as Real Madrid, if we consider depth and balance. They might not have the biggest stars, but they have players who are in form, and are performing at their peak level. They are also probably the best run football club in Europe. And, last but not the least, one of the best managers in the world (he gets my vote for being the best at the moment, actually). I can accept a defeat by this team and this coach. We were second best. I didn’t think the scoreline was undeserved. There was not a single point in the game where Barca were on top. We were aggressive in phases, showed intensity, yes. But they had it under control. The two missed chances that are being talked about, ended in corners, if we may recall. Buffon got a fintertip to both, in his quiet way. The greatest goalkeeper who has ever lived. From whom, by the way, the excellent Ter Stegen may take some lessons in positioning, communicating with defenders, and just overall commanding the box.

    I hope we can turn this around. But I don’t expect it. It’s OK. May be it is Juve’s time. They deserve it. In case they go on and win this tie, I hope they go on and win it all. UCL needs a new champion. Football needs a dose of realism. Quiet excellence without hubris, what Allegri has brought to this team, is to be applauded wherever it is found.

    I love my team, win or lose. I am sentimental about the players. But I know we really are no longer the best team in the world. Not at the moment. Just look at our away record at UCL this season. How many of our starters today would get into Juve’s starting XI? Let’s not be sore losers. We have some of the best players, yes. But being the best team is a different matter. So many intangibles are missing. We are a team in transition. We can rebuild and try to get back to the top. My secret wish is that we hire a coach with absolutely no Barca ties, no Barca history. I really wish we get out of the deafening echo chamber of the club, the fans. Just get someone who has no reason to be sentimental about anything, anybody including our fabled ‘way of playing’. Who can assees what needs to change, where football is in 2017, and move on from there. I am ready to accept a couple of trophyless seasons in return. I doubt I will get my wish.

    But football needs a revitalised Barcelona. Only if Barcelona could look itself in the eyes and get down to the business of being the best again. We have blazed so many trails. Time to blaze some new ones. I will raise a glass to that. Not only as a Barca fan, but as a football fan.

    • Rami
      April 12, 2017

      “My secret wish is that we hire a coach with absolutely no Barca ties, no Barca history.”

      This is the type of knee-jerk reaction that won’t help with anything, Our ‘style of play’ and philosophy is essential because it’s the reason we’ve been this successful, And when we gauge the success of our philosophy, It is not by asking ourselves:
      “Was this season and the last one good”
      It’s gauged in the long term, The macro scale, It’s been nearly 29 years since johan cruyff revolutionized our club with his footballing ideas, And since then we’ve been the most successful club in Europe, By miles, No other club comes close, Even those that spent hundreds of millions more than we did.

      We had many tough and dry spells in the last 29 years, Yet we still over-came them, And succeeded, But throwing away our identity, Just because we were inconvenienced by a tough period, Will be detrimental, Cause let’s remember that we will be cheering for this club for rest of our lives, And the long term success is what always matters.

      • Mishti
        April 12, 2017

        Why do you presume that a coach with no Barca ties or Barca history would mean inevitably that we lose our ‘philosophy’, whatever that means? Are Cruijff’s basic footballing concepts so unique or so exclusive to Barca? No body else anywhere has practiced anything like it? They are a set of ideas that have had a long history in football. It might have meant a revolution at Barca, but they existed elsewhere before that. Have been adopted and applied by many coaches around the world in many different form. At different times Barca themselves have put forward great, but varied, takes on it. Pep Guardiola took as much from Sacchi as he did from Cruijff when he launched his version. Often the way “Cruijffism” is discussed by Barca fans leaves me wondering. But without getting into a discussion of what our ‘philosophy’ means, let me just say thay I don’t think having a Barca connection is either necessary or sufficient to forge the best version of Barca football going forward. You can argue that we need someone who understands and sympathises with it. The reason I wish it is precisely because I think a new set of eyes from outside might have a less sentimental view of things. It would be easier to make tough decisions. Not to let us stagnate in the long run. “I am ready to accept a couple of trophyless years” is hardly a call for short term success, don’t you think? There is nothing knee-jerk about it.

  25. *~ Dumangõli - Oüdyaar, Aisalangådi ~*
    April 12, 2017

    \\

    lets not kid ourselves.
    SEASON IS OVER.

    Even after PSG, i urged caution saying that we didnt play great during the 6-1.
    we got incredibly lucky.
    unfortunately it appears we cannot pull a chelsea this year.
    there is no coming back from this one.
    juve’s win – thoroughly deserved.
    hopefully they can win the whole thing.

    • Grindelwald
      April 12, 2017

      Excellent analysis, only the front three of barca can get in Juventus first Eleven (that shows their superiority). We need a different orientation, a new coach to bring about different ideas and variation in style of playing (especially the defence), someone who dont give a hoot bout the fans or playing the tiki-taka at our own detriment, somenone who knows that we are no longer the best team and average to big teams no longer fear us, someone who know that we’re in danger of being left behind and live in Madrid’s shadows (pre pep era). I can go on and on, but I’m not the one in charge of appointing the coach, well just have to make do with anyone the board deems fit.

  26. April 12, 2017

    Will remember this match for those two beautiful passes from Messi, especially the one for Iniesta. Even Juve players looked surprised..
    This was not a total let off like PSG as I felt, especially in second half, that we might get a goal or two. But….
    May be we should force Messi to be in the box area more, rather than ruing our finishing. If only our midfield could manage by itself, Messi wouldnt be roaming around deeper and he could have saved us.
    Its frustrating to watch Suarez sometimes, hes like a hit or miss.

  27. Davour
    April 12, 2017

    Well, this was disappointing but not surprising. Juve were not great, but they were better when it mattered, and were on point. Many keep blaming LE and I agree that it is hard to look away from his part in this – the team was obviously confused: Piqué was yelling at Roberto to find his position, Mathieu was stranded out left, Mascherano was completely lost as DM and screwed up for two of the goals, where the first was to the point that it might be called sheer negligence, bordering on professional misconduct. Gomes came on and made nobody happy, Iniesta looked slow and easily dispossessed, Ney was stuck, Suarez tried and failed… apart from Messi – who was running around trying and trying, setting up 2 or 3 beauties that were squandered – few did much good. SR was trying, Umtiti and Piqué were alright. Overall, there was no cohesion to the team, and it affects everyone.

    But LE is already out – was is the used kicking on his figurative corpse? He might not be a great coach, but he got the team working for two seasons, after some tough times, and has delivered plenty of trophies and there might be another. Many mistakes have been made this year, and LE takes responsibility by leaving. Few transfers have worked out – only two, really, Umtiti and Cillessen. Denis cost nothing, Arda was adapting to be a rotation player, Digne did ok at first but stagnated – still ok squad player. But was Alcacer an improvement over Munir? What was the idea with Gomes? The heart of it seems to be these two players – it is hard to imagine Samper being much worse than Gomes, for instance. It is understandable that many fans feel the 70 million euros (give or take a few) spent on this players could have been used much more wisely. Gambling on Mathieu for another season was also doubtful, as well – it turned out – was relying on Iniesta for another season (physically). Ter Stegen has been ok, but – to me – not yet good enough, though he has potential. Still too seldom provides that crucial saves and make too many mistakes. And no RB?

    But what do we know? Perhaps they tried to buy better players but they would not come. It is tough market and players want to play. Verratti will not come; Thiago will not come; Isco will not come. Who is available and good enough to dominate from day 1? Not Pogba…

    I hope the new coach, whoever he is, will have clear idea how to rebuild this cohesion, and that he will be given support and room to make changes. In this regard, Zidane is – partly – a good example. I would prefer it not to be Unzue, simply because I think the team needs to be shook up a little bit, and doubt he has magnificent ideas that he has kept well hidden from LE. But if it is him, he will have my full support.

    Anyway, sorry about the long post. Let’s enjoy the rest of the season, be pleased with the joy we are so often given – it is not only about trophies for a lover of the game. Hopefully the team will give RM a run for their money, and make Juve work hard next week. Who knows, there might be a third coming before the Messi-era is over and we, most likely, will be up for a few years of drought.

  28. PPos
    April 12, 2017

    I took the entire day after the game to just think about what happened.
    LE is a blockhead. A piss poor tactician. How are you gonna start Mathieu in the most important game of the season after how he played against Malaga? Does he have some new beef with Alba? Because it’s stupid. Mathieu was useless. We played right into Juve’s hands. Allegri probably watched countless hours of tape of our shambolic performances this year and said right! Extreme press and let’s a get one early and hit them in the counter after they pass the ball around with no purpose because that was the difference. Messi got outshone by Dybala and that was hard to see. It’s hard to come to grips with the fact that Messi isn’t going to dribble three defenders anymore and slot the keeper. We waste our best finisher but not letting him do the finishing. This wasn’t like the PSG game though. We pressed and fought but Buffon ain’t no Trapp. He was immaculate. He played with the alacrity of a 23 year old. The man is in his forties and still a boss. What a legend. What we needed was for our players to go hard into challenges. Someone should have slid into Dybala as soon as he got the ball so he got the message. We don’t do that. We don’t defend. We let one the most in-form forwards in Europe step into our box twice and have the profile to shoot. Did they even let Messi in their box? Hell no! He was chopped down faster than you can blink. Now we need an absolute miracle straight from a recharged Jesus after Easter Sunday because Juve has only let in 2 goals all CL long and we need to score 4 but if anyone can do it. It’s FC Barcelona. It might be a river to wide to berth this time around given Juve isn’t PSG but We gotta try. It’s not over until the full 90 minutes go. And 90 minutes at the Camp Nou can feel like an eternity for the opposition. But if we defend like today, it’s gonna be a long night. We need a real exodus from the club this summer. A tabula rasa to begin anew because this cycle is nearing dusk. There’s always a dawn though

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