Faith, belief and notions of truth

“We must here make a clear distinction between belief and faith because in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind that is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the is the insistence that the truth is what one would “lief” or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions. It is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.”

That astonishing quote is from philosopher Alan Watts, who has perfectly explained — and obviated — the need for debate in many ways, as this quote explains pretty much everything about football. It explains how we look at the game, how our views of the game and players differ, how reactions to the same result and the same play can be diametrically opposing.

One of the favorite sayings in evaluative discussions is always, “I don’t know what you were looking at, but from my view … ” Music reviewers get it, sports writers get it, anyone who applies a filter to an event or something that is created gets it. The clear implication by the person who says it, is that they have the clearer view, therefore any opposing one is incorrect. There are preconceived ideas and wishes attendant to that as well, which makes all such debates minefields for the intellectual agnostic.

A favorite phrase of the intellectual agnostic can be presumed to be, “I don’t know yet.” It’s a phrase that is kinda always true, yet isn’t a hedge as much as an acceptance of the malleability of “truth.”

A player comes in. The supporter who has faith is ready to look at the player and accept that someone has made the right decision, so let’s see how it plays out. The supporter who has belief asserts that the transfer doesn’t make sense, the player sucks and the money was wasted. If only the club had bought x or y player, everything would be ducky.

At this point, the two sides debate without realizing that no resolution is possible because of their very different systems of reckoning. Someone asked me on Twitter, which head coaching rumor or candidate was my favorite. The response was, “Don’t really have one. Suppose Pochettino would be nice, but I’m agnostic when it comes to players and coaches.”

Champions League without Barça is a struggle for me, because it seems an aberration due to my absolute faith that it is the best football team in the world. This is true even as we accept the truth of what is. I don’t understand what happened even as I watched it, and how this series of events has come to pass. Someone else will say, because of their belief systems and what they need to be true, that the club is doomed, it is wasting the best player in history, the coach and his tactics are terrible and the board doesn’t care. Everything sucks. Barça not being in the running for yet another treble is the ultimate “See? Told you so.” for such people, even as it doesn’t really tell us anything at all except what we want it to.

We have favorite players and coaching candidates, etc, because they meet a psychological need that we have. It isn’t logical. Being a successful coach isn’t about any magic, nor is it entirely about tactical nous and all those things that people debate as they discard one candidate over another. Look at Zidane, who has coached Real Madrid to being strong favorites to do the double this season.

When he was named, everybody questioned his coaching credentials. What had he done before that? Not much. What were his tactical views, his preferred formations? No idea. People have laid things such as luck at his feet, saying that he isn’t a coach as much as a dude who keeps finding money on the street, gets rich doing it and becomes viewed as a financial genius. But what is coaching? When the match starts, tactics and formations go out the window. Notions become like a wave hitting a breakwater. That perfectly formed thing disintegrates, just as a formation when the match starts becomes marbles in a bowl at the whistle.

Why do teams win? Coaching devotees like to think it’s superior tactics, etc, but it is almost always better players. Real Madrid wrecked Atletico in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie. Simeone is a “better” coach than Zidane. He has forged his team into this collection of players who believe in his system, in each other, in their coach.

On the opposite sideline, Zidane has created a group that has faith. Sometimes it just looks like they are running around like crazy people toward the opposing box, like ants at a picnic. And why not? They know where they want to be. Does it really matter how they get there? People scoff at them putting in crosses, scoff at the resultant goal, scoff at yet another result that came even though Real Madrid didn’t “play well.” There is a belief that football should be a certain way at the root of these ideas, something we saw from the “results aren’t the only thing” people when they discussed Barça. Yes, there was success, but the team wasn’t playing properly, something borne out by the present lack of success. Had the team been playing properly all along …

But it isn’t that simple. You won’t find a team more schooled, more set in its belief in its way of playing than Atleti. Real Madrid has faith, instilled by its coach, that they are going to win. They don’t bang in late goals because of luck. They bang in late goals because they’re agnostic about results and playing. 47 passes then a goal? Okay. Marcelo doing something crazy and Ronaldo pushing it home? Sure. Whatever. Truth is a malleable concept and them winning becomes the proof. It isn’t even, “Told you so.” It’s that any other notion doesn’t enter the picture.

Zidane’s coaching is, in many ways, psychological, similar to what Luis Enrique did with Barça when he arrived. Both teams acquired a psychological edge, a faith that they had the best players, the best approach to the game so of course results would come. Why wouldn’t they? Tactics are the most overrated part of coaching in some ways, because if a team doesn’t have faith, it doesn’t matter how well-schooled it is. Knowledge isn’t a bulwark against reality, flawless “juego de posicion” doesn’t matter if you ain’t got the horses. A tactical genius can school, train and line up Barça B against the Barça first team and it won’t matter.

Belief leads to circular arguments or shifting positions. So one coach doesn’t win because he isn’t a good coach, while the other one, in almost the same situation, doesn’t win because his players suck. It depends. But the ability to look at a result in an agnostic way, with roots in the notion “I don’t know” can be interesting.

Transfer rumor season has begun, and suppoters generally approach it with, “The team needs x or y player to make the difference.” That player comes, maybe doesn’t work out, then the search for a truth that matches a belief system begins. “Well, if only the coach had … ”

Names are flung about hither and yon, players that are the answer. If you ask someone why Barça isn’t in the Champions League, isn’t leading the Liga, the answer that you get will depend entirely upon belief vs faith. “Lucho sucks.” “The team isn’t playing right,” are a couple of favorites. The real answer, such as it is, is we don’t know. We know that the ball didn’t go into the net at the right times, or at all in come cases. We know that reliable players kicked the ball where they should not have, and unfortunate things happened. That is objective reality. What we don’t know is the “Why?”

Do tactics explain why Suarez hits a ball directly at the keeper, rather than to either side of him? Does “because Lucho sucks” explain why a usually unerring Messi missed goals he so often scores, against Juventus, or why folks stood around and watched Dybala shoot? No, unless a supporter needs them to. “I don’t know, but let’s try to find out,” is one of my favorite things to say, and hear because it brings an open-mindedness to the world and looking at the world, a natural curiosity. It’s fun. It’s also part of faith that the answer is available and out there somewhere.

Some supporters have faith in Barça. Whatever coach is going to be fine, because “I don’t know. Why wouldn’t this person do well? People who know a lot more than me believe that he will, and I have faith in my team.” Other supporters believe, are secure in their knowledge and truth. A candidate becomes bad because he runs counter to what a supporter needs the truth to be. Neither supporter is right or wrong. They just look at the world differently. And that’s okay.

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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.

41 Comments

  1. Davour
    May 3, 2017

    Thanks for the article, and the quote – very interesting. I must say your text shows that you have great faith (?) in that a different approach to “fandom” is possible. But, as you know, people perhaps do not engage in lengthy discussion because they are after an intellectual, balanced discussion, but because they want to celebrate success or process failure,, or perhaps live some kind of real-life football manager game… whatever it is, it is all about emotions!

    I work as a teacher of literature and train my students to be open minded, curious, critical and to embrace ambiguity, to always supporting statements and to avoid loose speculation. But still, my Barca-persona has struggled with being comfortable with, say, having faith in Messi’s superiority to Cristiano without needing everybody (stats-fundamentalists Man U fans?) to confirm this, and that each time CR was successful (like yesterday) it was a challenge – not to my own faith, but to the need that others too understand what I see so clearly. And still I have no problem accepting that some people will not see the greatness of, say J M Coetzee, preferring Dan Brown, because it’s enough for me that I see it and enjoy the bleak language of the South African. Perhaps I use sports, Barca, to get a break from rational thinking?

    A strange beast, sports.

      • Davour
        May 4, 2017

        Glad to be able to give something back!

    • RT
      May 6, 2017

      I’m reading these comments belatedly, and I just wanted to say that I relate to your second paragraph so much. It describes how I feel exactly.
      “Perhaps I use sports, Barca, to get a break from rational thinking?” I think this is exactly it for me too.
      It helps that you used JM Coetzee as an example, one of my favourite authors. 🙂

  2. PPos
    May 3, 2017

    Funny you mentioned JM Coetzee’s language as bleak. When I first read Disgrace I thought the entire story took on a rainy day. Did you guys see how Dani Alves played today? He was brilliant. This season has been tough for me. I hate how badly run the club has been lately. It just makes me angry, because I know that as a footballing entity Barca belongs in the Champions League semifinals. Now, I’m ruing the times I took CL semifinals as a given, a granted for our team every year. I hope Juventus win the Treble and Dybala gets the Ballon D’or because I don’t want CR7 to get 5. No way. That can’t happen, but I can totally see it happen, which sucks.

    • Davour
      May 4, 2017

      Well, perhaps tone rather than language, but I wouldn’t want to reduce Coetzee to this notion! Not the forum to elaborate on that, perhaps… I agree, Dani was great – but I haven’t watched him much during the season. Has he been consistent? He should have been treated better, no doubt, but there seemed to be a consensus about him leaving amongst many culers – he generally showed up for the big games, but was not consistent. Don’t get me wrong, as the season turned out, I would have loved to see him still in the squad, but it was not uncomplicated.

      • Looking at Dani’s recent comments, Davour, may be if the club had treated him with the respect he deserved, he would have been more consistent. We are now realising even an inconsistent Dani would have been better for our present RB issues.

        • Davour
          May 4, 2017

          Well, if he played badly on purpose to spite the board, it seems rather contra-productive, inconsiderate towards his teammates. I do agree, as I stated above, that we have not been able to manage his absence.

          • May 4, 2017

            Alves raised his game in Champions League, which is why Juve got him. He wasn’t that good regular season. Had he played the same way for us, folks would have been screaming. He wanted a guaranteed deal, the board didn’t want to give it. As usual in football it was about money. Had he gotten his deal it wouldn’t have mattered what the board said. The situation was a mess in his wake because Vidal took too long to become himself, and Sergi Roberto found his limits. People forget how well SR played at RB. That spot will need a solution.

  3. Davour
    May 4, 2017

    Speaking of the game, I haven’t watched much of Mbapp’e, I admit, but he looked the real deal to me. Fantastic skills on the ball, and quick in body and thought. Already on major level, quality-wise. Let’s get a pre-deal with the young lad, and he will arrive after next season (which he needs in Monaco), ready to take over from a fading Suarez, combining with peak-Neymar and midfield-Messi. What’s not to like? I shudder at the thought of RM snatching him; he looked like a potential era-defining player.

    • He will be an era defining player Davour.. What amazed me is his decision making speed.. I would hate to see him in RM.

    • Davour
      May 5, 2017

      Certainly not, no. We could just raid the current Ajax-team instead! Seems packed with talent. Kluivert jr. seems to be very promising (though way too young)!

      • TITO
        May 5, 2017

        I know market has gone to hell, but we must be smart this summer, define our targets and get them as soon as possible. But no, not for that price, not a single player is worth that much who can or will be a subject of negotiations.

  4. Davour
    May 6, 2017

    Yup, good display overall, not exhausting despite to tight Villareal defending. I’m just saying, if Messi brings his current game to next season, and Neymar takes a final step with his decision-making to add to that amazing magic, it is going to be a fun season.

  5. Messiah10
    May 7, 2017

    I cannot understand why LE has lost faith in Alba. He only has 25 appearances this season! Some of those as a sub in the dying mins of a game. Surely, Digne is not seen as the answer. Why not try Rafina at Left back if LE doesn’t trust Alba? Does anyone closer to the situation in Barca have any insight to what is being said about the situation. If Alba leaves that means there’s 2 positions in defence we will need to shore up. We’ve seen what happened by letting Dani go. I just don’t understand it.

    • georgjorge
      May 7, 2017

      I don’t have the stats ready, but for me there’s no sign of such a thing. Alba has played almost all the tougher matches unless he was injured (which he was during the season), Digne made appearances only for rotation purposes. But a number of recent games were played with three at the back, and in those Lucho opted to play centrebacks in defense (and Sergi Roberto in midfield).

  6. Messiah10
    May 7, 2017

    i don’t believe LE would’ve switched to 3 at back if he thought he Had to get Alba on the field. I’ve criticised him myself on BFB, but he brings way to much to the game to leave him on bench. These are must win games. You roll out your gala eleven no matter what. Alba for me is in that eleven. Digne doesn’t fill his void.

    • I agree with you Messiah10. Was surprised to see Alba on the bench against Villareal, when there is no need for rotation at this stage. Its not that Digne was poor, he was ok, but if we play with a left back, then yes, Alba is our best.

      • May 8, 2017

        Alba is positionally suspect and prone to being bullied. Recall the second Deportivo goal. You can see Digne making sense to a coach who looks at what a player such as Bakambu can do, and opts for a more positionally stable player who is also more physical.

        There is no gala XI when it comes to certain positions. Nor should there be.

        • We are far away from that team of Pep era which concentrated on positional game and hence am afraid accusing Alba of that is not fair.
          His body is not best fit to be a defender. Even Marcelo look much bigger than him. Still how many times have we seen him make that last minute clearance or challenge saving us a goal, or how many times have we seen him sprint back to stop the marauding right winger of the opposition. His advantages in attack almost negates his deficiencies at the back. There are others in the team who get bullied much easily than him.
          Its ok to not have a galan XI. But.. when you look at the virtues of Alba running up at the flanks making precision passes to the box like he did in el classico, he is our best bet there.

  7. PPos
    May 8, 2017

    Yeah Kxevin is rignt. There shouldn’t be a set in stone gala XI. It’s detrimental to a team to know that certain people will always start when the going gets tougher.

    I love Alba. He’s a fantastic player but he is suspeft in defense at times. I still think he would have been better against cuadrado in the match at the Juventus Stadium. I don’t think he’d have gotten skinned like Mathieu did.

    Sevilla are going to have to do us a big favor again because at this rate it looks like we are gonna lose the league championship. Ahhh now we are paying the price of bad referring against Villarreal and Betis and also our poor performances against Alaves, Celta and Malaga but that is football

    I really hope Dybala and Buffon put Madrid to the sword.

  8. Jim
    May 8, 2017

    Never really took to philosophy I’m afraid. They were forever defining things as they wanted them to be and I had to go along ! Being brought up Catholic and since having “lapsed” I have REAL trouble with these definitions of beliefs and faith . . .

    However, in the interests of trying to improve my mind would your opinion of Alba’s positional deficiencies be ” belief” or ” faith” , Kxevin ? 🙂

    FWIW, he’s way better than any other FB we have at the moment. He adds more to the attack than SR ( although I do like the way SR breaks the lines at times – if he could defend he’d be dangerous as he’s very easy to warm to with the obvious effort ). Alba’s also the only one who could play so high and still be able to sprint back in time. So, no , don’t agree.

  9. Davour
    May 8, 2017

    Problem with Alba might be same as it has been in a while – first Alves, now Sergi. Playing two attacking-minded FBs is not ideal and has been, to my mind, a weakness for some time. Therefore, it would make sense to buy a solid RB to let Alba go on his runs. He is a very good player, but must not be complacent. Still, if we keep on with 433 and having Messi roaming, it might make more sense to have an attacking RB (to challenge Vidal!) and instead a defending LB for balance. All this talk of Theo Hernandez could come from an idea like this. Apparently he can also play CB in a three man defence. Haven’t seen him enough to have an opinion, though.

    And we have to stop giving players away for free. Dani is lighting up CL, and clubs are fighting for Sandro!

    • Messiah10
      May 9, 2017

      To me it’s a simple question. In must win games remaining in the season, who would you rather have starting? Alba or Digne? I wouldn’t give it a 2nd thought. Digne may develop, but I haven’t been impressed with any of his performances this season. I see panic in him anytime an attacking opposition player is closing him down in our own half. Que, biting nails feverishly

    • Jim
      May 9, 2017

      Agreed, Davour, on the silliness of both FBs attacked my at same time. Been saying for seasons now that we don’t lose many goals to good play with a full defence, we lose most of them to completely avoidable situations such as this or indeed trying to play offside on the halfway line which is worse than crazy ! We solve the first by telling the FBs that they can’t both be absent from defence at the same time so they shuttle back and forward thus becoming less predictable as well. That allows the three left at the back to shuffle over towards the ball and force them to play the long slow cross field ball during which we just shuffle back to the other side. Wouldn’t pin too many hopes on Vidal when he returns either. He played maybe a couple of decent games and is certainly worth a further look when he returns but it’s by no means a given.

      Small point but because we’re still saying it, can someone tell me when Mathieu was “skinned ” against Juventus ? There were only two occasions in that half when Mathieu was directly up against him and he still hasn’t gone past Mathieu. For their first goal he did nothing wrong. Don’t take my word – look at the link around 1.07.

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gjGPQF4KNmY

      Doesn’t matter now, just gets my goat now and then when someone takes a bashing without any supporting evidence. If we’re talking about errors we’d be better looking at Masche’s efforts on their second and third goals.

      The second defensive issue mentioned above we solve as every other defence in the world does by pushing out then if there is no pressure on the ball dropping back goalside and actually defending. It really isn’t hard and both Pique and Mathieu have been guilty of losing goals to this just in the last few weeks. It’s no better than Russian roulette !

      • May 9, 2017

        For me, not a question of Alba being better or not than Digne, nor an overall quality issue. I don’t give a crap who plays LB, frankly. But against Villarreal my point was you could see how a coach would opt for Digne instead of Alba. The rest I leave to you all.

      • PPos
        May 9, 2017

        Jim, he let Cuadrado into the box and let him pass. Abidal would have fouled the crap out of him outside the box. Mathieu was also very poor against Malaga. Sandro roasted him for pace. There’s some Conte rumors that are probably just that but man it would be nice for Barca to defend like we used to with Abidal, Pique, Puyol and Alves. Phew what a defense. I agree with the whole LB and RB flying up all the time. Back in the day if Dani went up (which he always did) Abidal would stay back and viceversa, and if they messed up Dani and Abi had the pace to recover.

        • Jim
          May 9, 2017

          Thanks for the reply , PPOS. I’d agree it would have been useful if Mathieu could have got across earlier to keep him outside the box but that wasn’t possible because he was already having to mark Dybala as well while the move built up because Umtiti had left the back line. Have a look at 2:00 here

          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tYbuWnHKVeA

          You can clearly see Dybala moving into the space left by Umtiti and is clean through on our goal if he gets it so Mathieu has to cover that as the priority. You can’t see him at 2:00 but if you move onto the replay at 2:30 you can see Mathieu’s problem. He has to cover that so when the ball is played wide it is once more Mathieu who has to come across to close him down. At that point we have 9 yes 9 players inside our box. Mathieu’s only job is to make sure Cuadrado doesn’t go past him and this he does. He even covers Cuadrado’s run after he passes it.

          So are we now saying that as well as covering for Umiti’s disappearance and dashing wide to close down, stopping Cuadrado from going past him, going with him when he goes for the return he is also responsible for stopping a pass to someone our nine players have left unmarked ?

          With regard to Abidal we can agree to differ. The last thing the last defender does in that situation is lunge into a ball player. It’s what they want, especially head on. Dead easy to avoid that as you can see it coming. It takes time to lunge. You do your job to close down and stall and hope the seven or eight others aren’t leaving their top forward unmarked. Is that what now constitutes a skinning ? If I were splitting hairs I’d say he should have tried to avoid taking a step backwards but you can see he needs to do that to get his body shape right after Cuadrado’s feint. A job well done for me and Im looking at the rest for leaving him in that position, especially Neymar and Iniesta who should have been all over Dybala.

          With regard to Sandro, yes, that for me was a mistake but it’s a Barca mistake that is replicated six or seven times a season. As I said above I hate that we still do this. You’re jumping away from your goal at the exact time they are accelerating towards it. They can start running in their own half so when they go past you they have a head start and you’ve had it. Stupid but it’s what our defence are told to do. For what it’s worth Mathieu was catching him hand over fist. Had he taken another touch he’d have got him but that’s not the point. Stupid defending policy for me. Sorry, but can’t remember the Malaga game.

          We do agree on the FBs though. I can’t think why they don’t do that but then apparently we have pretty precise positions were meant to hold where possible which I don’t really understand.

          Btw, does anyone know if there’s anything to the argument on the training ground between Neymar and Unzue ? Gist is that Unzue has been unhappy with the effort he was putting into the training and remarked that he’d end up like R10 ( maybe not the worst thing in the world talent wise but I’m guessing it wasn’t a complement). Neymar took the huff and it was debated hotly afterwards in the dressing room. I suspect mischief making from Madrid but if it is true that will be interesting to watch play out, especially if Unzue is appointed ( they must have their man by now or the board ARE incompetent ! )

  10. georgjorge
    May 9, 2017

    Speaking of signing wingbacks, I think we should take a look at that Alves guy. Looks promising.

    Three assists and one goal in the Champions League semifinals…can you remember when we all were complaining how bad his crosses were? Sigh.

  11. Jim
    May 9, 2017

    Wow! Dani Alves having a party. Freed from defending he looks a great midfielder. Good lesson for Monaco as well. No open game like against City or BD. They’re having to work hard for anything and struggling big time although they are needing to switch the ball much quicker. We may just have a team to frustrate Madrid here .

    • georgjorge
      May 9, 2017

      I haven’t seen many games from Juventus this season, so my question is: how good are they when they are behind and have to score?

      They seem exceptionally good at defending and counterattacks, they are of course not helpless with open play, but it doesn’t seem to be their preferred style. Then again, defending isn’t RM’s preferred style either, so it might just work out.

      • Jim
        May 9, 2017

        It should be an interesting if not very exciting game I reckon. At least RM won’t get cheap headed goals or tap ins due to awol defenders. Can’t see CR getting a look at goal if they make it.

        Pity I’ve just cancelled my BT subscription. . .

  12. luisthebeast
    May 9, 2017

    I am always trying to be optimist but i see things that make me think that next season could be a very difficult one.
    I only hope for a new coach that he will come and ALL the players will have to fight to be starters.
    It s obvious that Lucho never had full power and many desicions made by some board members that dont have any idea about the game and also i am sure there are 3-4 players that had a big say to who will play e.t.c

  13. PPos
    May 9, 2017

    Going to Jim’s comment on a incompetent board. Maybe that’s where our problem is. Bartomeu doesn’t give off that sense of security that Laporte did. Robert is kind of sleeping on the job lately it seems. Gabriel Jesus should have come this winter instead of man city. Paco has been way better lately but let’s be real. He’s not Gabriel Jesus. We just can’t seem to hang on to La Masia’s products. Thiago, Sandro, Pedro, Deulofeu, Traore. It’s like back in the day we would have sold Xavi and Iniesta when they were having growing pains. It’s nuts! Hopefully Thiago gets inspired to come back, after the RM debacle this season. If I was Rafinha, I’d be texting him every day haha.
    Coutinho is some good news but 90 million is insane! Man Utd really wrecked the market. It’s just crazy

    • georgjorge
      May 10, 2017

      I don’t think Gabriel Jesus would have come to Barcelona to spend most of the games watching MSN from the bench for any price. And I don’t think any of MSN would have taken very well to sharing a lot of minutes with him. A “squad forward” is the most we could get under those circumstances.

      I agree somewhat on La Masia, and just hope Samper won’t be added to this list. But it’s not as easy as just incompetence. Some of those players wanted to leave and some were made to leave, but all suffered from a distinct lack of playing time, which is the price we paid for having such enormously succesful and skilled players at almost every position.

      With an ageing Suarez and Iniesta, there will be opportunities for others to get into the first team. But we just saw that even some of the best youth players – Rafinha and Denis Suarez, who was very good at Villareal – have a hard time contributing to the team, and Sergi Roberto would have been sent away three seasons ago if it were up to me (luckily it isn’t). I think a big problem here is that coaches don’t last long at Barcelona (for whatever reason) so they don’t have much time to develop youth players who are not extremely good from the start. A La Masia player might become a great player over the next year, but he will screw up and cost us points before then, and who can afford that?

  14. Jim
    May 10, 2017

    Good points, GeorgeJorge. Just to be clear, I don’t think the board are incompetent. I was making the observation that if they didn’t already have their man they would be. Becoming a fascinating choice and one which I’m not really up on. Gut instinct is to say Unzue. I’ve been impressed by the passion he has shown this year and also the relationship he seems to have with the players, especially in the cel brations after big wins. I’d also be impressed with him if the report I mention above is true. Luis is right that the manager needs to come in with authority over the whole team. The next guy is going to have to start rotating Leo out at times to save him, maybe not next season but certainly after that . He also needs to get the best out of Neymar.

    My own feelings regarding Neymar’s potential to be world number one, appreciation of his unbelievable ball skills but slight concerns regarding his ongoing weaker decision making are well enough known not to bear repitition. What I feel he may need is a hard taskmaster who will give him the chance to improve and become number one or else decide he really just wants to do what he does and maybe leaves us which I would hate to see happen.

    What I don’t know about Unzue is his feelings about younger players and what he rates in a player. Samper is a good example. He’s at least worth bringing home and giving a chance, he will doubtless make some defensive errors while settling in so reaction to that will be interesting. Busi was pretty careless when he arrived in the firsts and it is to Guardiola’s credit that he stuck with him. LE has stuck by Gomes and we’ll see if that was wise or not next year. Will Samper get the backing either of those has had ? He may get a slightly easier time from fans because he’s La Masia and hasn’t cost us but not much.

  15. May 10, 2017

    So to clarify: Abidal was overrated, the first Dybala goal wasn’t Mathieu’s fault but Umtiti’s, the club management sucks and nobody has confidence. In a team that in three years, won a treble and a double, and was a few stank performances away from having yet another shot at a treble. Yikes. Where to start?

    — That first Juventus goal was a team failure. Folks have their individual culprits based on worldviews. But I would bet my house the first question coaches asked was why the hell did they stand around and watch him shoot?

    The team shows signs of mental laxity. It happens as part of the sine wave of constantly being at the top of the food chain. Is any of us perfect at work? If your boss held you to the standard supporters hold players, every day we woukd rail at how unreasonable they are. Players are human, subject to the same lapses as we are. Hard to watch the game without accepting that humanity.

    — Barça B won its league. Three other championships came at youth division levels. I dislike this board with a passion, but the football project looks sharp. Their job is to generate the money so that when the technical staff decides to move for a player, the club can. Then they move the money.

    — A team of 22 starting quality players is unsustainable. Especially in light of the quality of our XI. Who do you sign that doesn’t have a dropoff from Neymar, Suarez or Iniesta? If he is that good, he wants to start somewhere, not sit and watch others play. So you get quality squad players and go from there. Pedro left because he wasn’t playing and wasn’t going to play that much. Transfer rumors are silly, and people who fall for them gullible. Verratti? Right. PSG is going to sell their best player.

    — The team is where it is necause of execution at key moments in matches. Two goals, one against Alaves and one against Depor make the league table look quite different. Didn’t happen. Now we move on. People will blame what and who they want — Luis Enrique and tactics id always popular — but the team came up short at key times. The entire team. It happens.

    — Key injuries also hurt. Vidal and Rafinha went down right as both were finding their spots and being effective. Again, it happens.

    — Dani Alves is good at Juventus for the same reason aging defenders can have extended life in that league: different systems and ways of defending. Alves wasn’t this good for Juve all season. Had we gotten the Alves they had until right before his injury, folks would have been screaming about keeping him too long, and why won’t Lucho give Sergi Roberto a shot, who has shown well at RB.

    Putting Alves on an island as Barça does with its fullbacks would have had much the same result as it did.

    Money. Alves wanted a guarantee, the club was unwilling to provide it. So he left. Simple. Was the situation mishandled? Nope. Board insults or whatever, Alves wasn’t going to stay without a guarantee even had the board lined up and kissed his ass on La Rambla.

    Should the club have renewed him? What do you think?

    — Barça will have ups and downs. The performance of this group since Rijkaard took over has been remarkable. Never lose sight of that.

    • Jim
      May 10, 2017

      if you don’t mind me clarifying your clarification Kxevin, I made no comment on whether Umtiti should have left the back line or not. I was merely trying to explain why Mathieu had to stay central too long to cover Dybala rather than his own man.

      Also, I wasn’t commenting on Abidal’s quality but the suggestion that a meaty lunging tackle was what was required.

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