Eibar: Greatness or Tragedy

There’s just one match left and it’s a home match against Eibar. The team looks like they’ve clicked and are running away with the whole thing, except, of course, that even if they win on Sunday, it won’t be enough on its own. That other team, whatever their name is, controls Barça’s destiny. In a way, that’s kind of okay. It’s too bad, but you do what you can do and if you lose because someone else does even better, that’s okay.

Way back in March, which honestly feels like several lifetimes ago, the Kansas Jayhawks were playing in the NCAA tournament. Then they played Oregon, who played extremely well, and were eliminated. Sure, Kansas shot just 20% from 3 point range and 35% from the field overall, but Oregon hit their shots and came up with an impressive number of offensive rebounds. It wasn’t like KU’s shot selection was that poor, it was that they missed some shots and Oregon was able to make them at the other end. I’m usually fairly distraught by Kansas losses in March (despite their regularity), but this year just felt like it was a fair result given the game.

This is how I feel about the Barça season. Of course it could turn out to be a double, but what if it turns out to be trophy-less? We’d still have been in with a shout for a Triplete, but then Buffon tipped away a few shots in the Champions League match in Turin and there went that possibility (honestly, the 4-0 with PSG didn’t feel as insurmountable as 3-0 with Juve) while it was Sergio Ramos scoring late in the Camp Nou that put us in this position in the league. Had he not scored that goal, Barça would be in control of their own destiny. Obviously we can’t know how other things would have gone, but if you’re a single goal away from winning the league and you’re in a cup final, you can’t havehad a disastrous year, right?

And so you play Eibar, a team that sits in 8th, and you play for all you’re worth because what if? What if you don’t go after that loose ball and it turns out that Eibar grabs a draw and Malaga actually pulls it off? What if you do go after that loose ball and it turns the season into a magnificent, fairytale ending?

Which is kind of the point. How can you be so tantalizingly close to glory, fall short, and have a bad season? How can Barcelona be in deep crisis, sporting-wise at least, if they’re still performing on the field to a rather high degree? Does anyone seriously think this exact Barcelona team wouldn’t walk all the other leagues in Europe? I guess maybe not Serie A cause we can’t seem to be Juve, but other than that…

So how is it that this team has failed? If the barometer is “did we win a Triplete? If yes, success, if no, trash” then, yeah, I guess so, but that’s an unreasonable expectation. You want the team to show desire and you always like to see wins, but what about just enjoying the team as it is? Everyone and their mother is a tactical expert and knows whether or not Lucho should be wearing a suit or just jeans and a jacket. I love discussing tactics, thinking about them, and even critiquing various coaches, but there’s a breaking point at which it isn’t even fun anymore because it just becomes a search for faults instead of the opiate of the masses it was meant to be. And I want my fix, dammit.

Eibar, then: let’s beat them by using the [insert tactical system] and I hope that [player people hate] does [thing that player is accused of never doing] and that Malaga also wins and it is a glorious day.

I’ll be driving back from seeing my newborn nephew, so I’ll miss it. So it goes. I don’t expect much anyway since I think if fortunes were reversed, it would make sense for madridistas to be resigned to not winning the league. It’s just that that doesn’t make it a bad year. It makes it a damned fine year. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.

Here’s a picture of something awesome to remind you:

messi

Oh, and I really hope Malaga wins!

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

28 Comments

  1. georgjorge
    May 19, 2017

    Malaga beating RM, who are on fire right now, would already be improbable. But add those well-known statements below and there’s no chance for it at all.

    Asked to compare the situation between Tenerife beating RM back then and denying them the title, and Malaga being in the same spot now, Malaga coach Michel stated some weeks ago “There is a big difference. I’m much more of a Madridista [then the Tenerife coach back then]”.

    While of course the Malaga president said that “the scum of Catalonia will not smell the Championship”.

    So no chance at all. But I agree with Isaiah’s point a lot. Trebles and championships are harder to achieve than the last decade made us believe.

    Was it a perfect season? No, and some things needed to change. Was it an enjoyable season? Definitely. Barca stayed in the running for the league until the last day. And those games with 4-0 or 7-1 scorelines. And that Clásico. And that beating they delivered on a very good European side at the Camp Nou, 6-1, there wasn’t enough time but Sergi Roberto being the only one at the right spot doing the right thing how can that happen I don’t even…It was a good season.

  2. Davour
    May 19, 2017

    I guess we have reached a point where expectations are severely unrealistic, due to recent success. We have a sense of entitlement regarding the liga – it is rightly our’s, anything else is a deviation, and as such: wrong, failure. When RM are successful, as they have in the CL and, this year, in the liga, I think it makes us feel worse about our season – had they crashed and burned in CL and AM had won the liga, it would be less painful. Isn’t our happiness based on comparison with our neighbours and/or rivals?

    So, winning either liga or CL is a basic requirement; only Copa a failure; nothing equals catastrophe… While this is of course arrogant, we are rightly asking for results from a team with such talent, acquired for massive amounts of money. But this should not obscure they joy brought; result is everything. Except it is not. Let’s instead marvel at our team keeping such a mighty foe at bay for so long! And there i s a good chance next year will bring better fortune.

  3. Neel
    May 19, 2017

    OT – Since the league is going to the final day, would La Liga have two trophies – one each at Camp Nou and at Malaga?

    • ooga aga
      May 20, 2017

      Well, they always keep at least one spare on hand in case Sergio Ramos drops another one under the bus.

  4. Tata2
    May 21, 2017

    Read an infuriating article on marca talking about how EE are set for dominance and are more deserving of the la Liga title. For Godsake Neymar scores that open net or Arda doesn’t give away that foul in the home el classico and marca are not even writing that article.

  5. Jim
    May 21, 2017

    Couple of things on a Sunday that aren’t just about us.

    Really love Souness as a pundit.

    On Coutinho : The real deal. Does the second hardest thing in football, finding a forward in a congested area, brilliantly. Hmm, sound like suitability for anyone ?

    On Sturridge: For me,he’s wasting his time in the warmup. He’s not working hard enough there and that’s why he runs into injuries.

    On Sanchez : when he came to Arsenal he was everywhere and encouraging others all the time. Now if he doesn’t get a ball he thinks he should have, its arms in the air and the worlds against him!

    Could listen to him all day. Also on Coutinho, I was surprised by the consensus among some football writers I respect on Sunday Supplement this morning that Coutinho to Barca looks likely. Ouch ! That won’t be cheap.

    They were also slagging Pep along the didn’t know what he was getting into line. Reckon they’ll be singing a different tune next season if Pep is allowed a night of the long knives at the club. Loved his comment that they hadn’t done better this season because they haven’t scored enough ! You’ve got to love that attitude, even if you’ve watched their defence this season. Big question for me is whether he thinks he’s seen enough in Stones to make him first choice or if he’s wavering.

    Caught up on YouTube this morning with Deulofeu’s recent exploits. Just as a few of us have said all along, with the ball at his feet he is one of the more dangerous forwards you’ll see. Pace, dribble, touch and finishing. However, you don’t see much on YouTube of defensive work so it’s a case of what we need. Selling England’s goalie and benching their golden boy wouldn’t endear him to their press.

    One of my (few) Barca supporting friends over here was telling me last night that he was surprised by the lack of Barca players in Spain’s under age squads and is wondering whether our scouting of young Spanish players is all it could be. I know nothing of the youth coming through so is this right to any degree ? A quick look on Wikkipedia would suggest it might be but that’s not a complete picture.

    Finally, as I settle down to watch Liverpool did I catch a long shot of Klopp actually singing YNWA ???? He’s loveably bonkers, the sort of manager players would die for I reckon . . .

    • Davour
      May 21, 2017

      Coutinho looks skilful indeed, but has just recently been switched to CM – ready for Barca? It is interesting to reflect on the PL players who have come to La Liga, and the other way around, just to consider what it takes to make it at Madrid or Barca. Sanchez had trouble making it, and he is setting PL on fire (despite turning into a diva!). Özil does not always do the work, but is lining up those assists. Like Cesc (who is Spanish, after all!). Many half-stars at Liga do pretty well at PL.

      But the other way? Suarez was arguably PL’s best player. As were Ronaldo and Bale. Modric surely a top 3 mid. at the time. Mascherano found his way as a CB. In other words. only the very cream of the crop would be good enough to make it at the top clubs. We should be careful wishing for hyped stars from PL. Seems other leagues, like the Dutch or the French, are more focused on players with good technical skills, like first touch and short passing. Coutinho might be a huge star in the making, but is he the kind of player who would be fit to run our midfield? 80 million for a winger seems steep, considering our attacking fire power… We shall see!

      • Jim
        May 21, 2017

        Haven’t watched him enough to be sure, Davour, and he didn’t have a stellar game today but watching him closely for the first time I was struck first of all by his technical ability and range of passing. He is Brazilian after all and they don’t come much more technically adept than that. He was let down a few times by the lack of imagination of his fellow team mates.

        I’ve never regarded him as having the traits of a winger. To me he’s a central midfielder all day. He’s not nearly good enough to play up front for us but there is an Iniesta like quality to the way he ghosts past opponents for midfield. He would certainly be a notch up for me from all of our current midfielders bar Ini and Busi although he would have to be the main purchase of the summer so I’ll sit on the fence and defer to others who have seen more of him.

        I was very impressed by Verratti but looks like he’s not moving, no word of any contact with Thiago ( although the way this board goes about its business we’ll not know till we know) so I’m left with he’s one of less than a handful I think would have a chance of succeeding and he’s one of them.

        • Davour
          May 21, 2017

          I haven’t seen enough either. But I agree he would be an exciting addition, though Liverpool making it to the CL might be a factor against him moving, considering his comments of late, wanting to become a ‘pool legend. I think both Verratti and Thiago are ruled out, and I guess Coutinho is among the more promising of the names I have heard mentioned, like Eriksen and Seri.

    • ooga aga
      May 21, 2017

      Jim in you original post I think one of your sentences ended up at the end of the wrong paragraph. 🙂

      • ooga aga
        May 21, 2017

        Nevermind, you saw it. I shoulda kept reading…

    • Mishti
      May 21, 2017

      As someone who watch him play for Brazil, I’d say that at the moment Coutinho is Brazil’s second best player after Neymar. His passing and vision in particular are top-notch, and he is a good dribbler and finisher too. I agree with Jim, his best position is ACM, in fact the hope is that Tite will give him a runout in midfield in the upcoming friendly games in June. As far as technical ability goes, he’d definitely be an upgrade on any of our younger midfielders, like Jim says. Moreover, his chemistry with Neymar is great. On the negative side, he is rather slightly built, seems to struggle with his fitness, and sometimes fades in games, leading to a degree of inconsistency. The less physical nature of La Liga might actually suit him better than PL does.

      • Mishti
        May 21, 2017

        But of course, with Liverpool now in the CL, I am afraid they might ask for a price we would be unable/unwilling to pay.

  6. Jim
    May 21, 2017

    Sorry, comment about Pep and England’s goalie crept into Deulofeu paragraph somehow.

  7. Davour
    May 21, 2017

    Tragedy, then, I guess. We can’t score to save out lives. Suarez is way off; even Messi’s horrible miss I feel Suarez should have put away instead of passing. And now 0-2. Not that it matters, as RM has the same result in their favour. But it is a real shame that the team couldn’t find it in them to finish the liga with grace. Did they hear about CR’s 1-0?

    It is typical for this season, this game. Lack of concentration, being static, unable to manage the press. and missing sitters. Losing when Messi is not on song. Many of the others not good enough, often enough. Suarez perhaps most disappointingly, Rakitic often, too. At least Iniesta looks like he has another season in him, bar injuries.

    And 1-2 own goal… that’s what it took, I guess.

  8. G6O
    May 21, 2017

    That last goal was deeply symbolic — Suarez misses a clear 1-on-1 chance, then Messi takes the ball, dribbles through the whole defense and scores.

    What are we going to do 5 years from now…

  9. Davour
    May 21, 2017

    What a goal from Messi, pure rage and frustration (as evident from how he celebrated a goal that will change nothing). Hattrick for Suarez – in missing one on ones!

    But good fight from the boys in the end. Let’s just get the Copa and remember the season for some great moments (PSG, Clasico, Messi in most games, Neymar in many), but an overall inability to be consistent enough against a RM with grit, luck, solid displays and a game that got better as the season progressed – and winning mentality late in games that won them several.

    There is a lot to look forward to however. Messi shows no signs of dropping off; Neymar is really coming into his own; we have a new exciting CB pairing (!); the new signings ought to be better next season – as will Ter Stegen, who was often good, but not consistent enough. Worries are Iniesta’s fitness, and – for me – Suarez inconsistency, as well as Rakitic’s dito. Still, a few key signings, players adapting, and a little luck, next season should be fun!

    Thanks for this liga season; you can’t win them all.

    • georgjorge
      May 21, 2017

      If I saw it correctly, Messi was hit hard by an opposing player during the build-up to the missed Suarez one-on-one, and that made him angry. So he scored.

      Agree a lot on your outlook for next season. Marlon looks more promising than Bartra did, great third centreback. Piqué – Umtiti should be VERY solid. I actually thought Ter Stegen had a great season, both by establishing himself in the Xavi role ; ) as well as by making a lot of great saves. After the 3-4 debacle against Celta where he conceded a ridiculous goal, he didn’t have many matches where he didn’t shine.

      • Davour
        May 21, 2017

        Ter Stegen was good, certainly, and got better, but still I feel there were not enough unexpected saves, life savers, for me to consider him absolute top class just yet. The Celta mistake was silly, but it’s rather a few shot-stopping moments and dominating his box. Of course, I am asking a lot – for very good to be great – and I think he should be our stopper indefinitely, but still room for improvement.

  10. ooga aga
    May 21, 2017

    Remember that it took RM a record-breaking unbeaten streak, and tons of last ditch goals, and arguable ref assistance, to take this league from a Barca that is often described as underperforming. And only by three points, at that.

    Great goal by Messi to end the match and the Liga season on a positive note.

    Win in the Copa and a Juve win in the UCL will make this pill less bitter.

    • G6O
      May 21, 2017

      That’s what happened in 2011-12 too — record breaking point tally for RM, plus blatant push towards the title by the referees.

      The latter is forgotten by now though, as will this year.

      Did we screw up by on multiple dropping points against teams we should have steamrolled with ease? Sure we did.

      But it is also true that we lost at least 7 points because of blatantly wrong referee decisions (the kind of decisions that are very difficult to excuse with honest mistakes because they were so obvious, such as the handball against Villareal or the goal not given against Betis), while Madrid got a few points out of blatantly wrong favorable calls. But the latter is a constant throughout the years so we can ignore that..

      As I said, this will be forgotten In the coming years (it already is, in fact), and what will remain in history is that they won…

  11. TITO
    May 21, 2017

    A lot of ups and downs during the season so we can feel bad about not taking La liga. It just had to be them the champions this season. Too many things went their way with a lot of dubious calls but surely we can build for the upcoming season on some very solid ground. We have to buy smart, not overpay and if we can get some money from few sales them i will be happy.
    I dont know wether is was Lucho or the players, some games against smaller clubs and some show ups in the CL left me with a lot of questions on my mind. Especially why are we playing like this when i know, they know, everybody knows that we can play much better.
    Let’s see what will the new season bring. I’m surprisingly optimist about it.

  12. omoh
    May 21, 2017

    A great player playing well under a coach is like working under a boss with a great dream and a clear vision. If you believe in the boss’ dream and vision, you will be motivated to do almost anything to help achieve it and every other things falls in place.

    Whereas a great set of players playing poorly and sometimes without motivation is a sign that the boss has not been able to communicate his dreams and vision to the players.

    Players get motivated by what they believe in. If they lost faith and believe in a coach, then they become less motivated to carry out the coach’s instruction.

  13. omoh
    May 21, 2017

    The dubious referee decisions can be blamed for the loss of the league but poor summer transfers and woeful team selections gave the already corrupt league management a hand in deciding our faith.

    I’m just glad the nightmare is over. Let the dubious pirates enjoy their loots while we hope the management gets their acts together and make good buys this summer.

    They talk about Madrid domination and I laugh in French. Madrid can only dominate (even plus their corrupt referees) when and if barca give them a helping hand like we did this season but talk about pure undiluted(uncorrupted) football, not when messi is still active.

    Gone are the dark days of general Franco. The Francoists can only do so much with a helping hand from barca but with a well oiled barca machine, I doubt even Franco can stop us in this 21st century.

  14. Víctor
    May 21, 2017

    Lots of complaining about refs… but in general the reffing in La Liga is bad. We can’t blame refs for losing La Liga when the team took care of that in the first place.
    Regardless if Barca wins CDR or not… it was still a good season… let’s hope management make the proper adjustments.
    Finally, lets hope Juve snatch the CL away from RM, but I don’t see that happening. 🙁

  15. Rami
    May 21, 2017

    Here is a question to ask oneself, At an attempt to self reflect:
    If given the choice, Do you at this current moment, Want to be the one who’s celebrating the league, Having won it for the 2nd time in 9 years, Or do you want to be the one who sad and depressed because you failed to win it for the 7th time in 9 years…

    It’s always a good idea to take a step back, And see things from a more broader perspective, And from where i’m standing now, It’s been one hell of a ride these past 9 years.
    RM should and will celebrate and savoir this title, As they won’t experience it very often.

    • G6O
      May 21, 2017

      I am not so sure (about them not experiencing it often).

      Right now their squad has better long term potential than ours

      And we saw today how much of a difference Messi makes.

      Neymar is the best player in the world not named Messi or Cristiano, Suarez is the best number 9 in the game, yet the difference in efficiency between them and Messi is striking. So when Messi retires it will be back to who has more money to throw at transfers that decides who is on top.

      • Rami
        May 22, 2017

        If success was tied down how much “Star players” you can cram into one squad (The ‘galacticos’ policy), Then RM should’ve dominated the world during the past 16 years, Yet their yield of trophies is nothing short of pathetic, Both in quantity and spread over years, When compared to how much money they had to spend, The way RM operate is no different than constantly throwing s**t at the wall, Until one of it eventually sticks, Like in this season, Or in 2011-2012, Which is why i’m certain they’ll never achieve any sort of long term success.

        If there is a ‘proven’ strategy for long term success then it’s ours, Our type of football, “philosophy”, “Style”, Whatever you want to call it, There is an invalid perception and hindsight that we somehow follow it because of ‘pride’ or ‘beauty’, But in reality we follow it because it works!, And works really well, And it’s been proven to work way before messi was ever in FCB, HINT: We won more la liga titles in the 90s than RM did, 7 titles to 2, To be exact.

        Yes, Our club will somehow need to transition and wean itself from the impact of the greatest player in history, The good news, Is that messi won’t disappear over night, I’m certain in the coming years we’ll be able to form a very strong side, That can to some extent alleviate the gap he’ll leave.

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