Zaragoza 2 – 4 Barcelona: “The Little Engine That Does”

Kevin is away doing whatever awesomeness Kevin does when not writing reviews for this site. I imagine it’s like Bear Grylls combined with Magnum PI combined with Don Juan. Or maybe Don Juan DeMarco. Anyway, here’s your review:

It’s stunning, isn’t it? Think about what is happening right now: 3 games, 8 goals, millions of eyeballs popping from their sockets. Little Lionel Messi has taken what was arguably the best set of skills on the planet and pushed them several steps further. Sure, there are others that look more graceful, but are any more effective, more sublime, more talented? He’s got something I’ve never seen before except in old YouTube videos of the greats: guile to match his ego. Call it Messidependicia, if you’d like, but I’ll echo the cheery sentiments of SoccerMom all day: “Hey hey hey come out and play is what I say.”

Cause playing is what we did against Zaragoza and despite the gentle knocks of reality from Adrian Colunga, we kept up our attacking pace and really let the world know what it can look like if you give us space in the midfield. Sure, sure, we had some bad misses from in close that could have and should have buried the game early and easily, but I still have to admit that I loved the game. 0-3 ahead and maybe it should have been 0-4 or even 0-5, but the most important part of it was that after giving up 2 silly goals that shouldn’t have been, we didn’t get tight and we didn’t pull back. We surged forward and could have had a couple more and ended up with Ibra’s 13th goal of the season thanks to a penalty earned by, well, obviously, Messi.

Watch the highlights quickly:

I’m hardly going to talk about the match itself, I don’t think, because it was a pretty simple affair. We pressured them early and kept it up for most of the match, only falling off slightly when Pique and Milito were subbed off due to injury concerns (Milito appears fine and Pique appears doubtful for Wednesday’s match against Osasuna), thus giving the defense a kind of shock that you don’t normally get in the midst of a match. Up until that point they’d only really had one major chance and Dani Alves blew that one up with a ridiculous diving tackle to save the day. After their two goals, we were back to our best and then Messi dropped another description-defying run that resulted in a clear penalty. Ibra’s conversion of that was necessary not only so that I could relax as a fan, but so that he can relax as a striker and maybe (maybe) put away those tap-ins he’s been missing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this game wasn’t easy and it wasn’t great, but it was fun. I enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to watch, with the exception of the moments that I am about to describe:

-Watch the sequence at 3:33 of the above video (77:00 on the game clock). It starts as a counterattack, the ball falling to Messi, who picks out Iniesta in space. At that moment (3:34), it’s 3-on-3, but Diogo is making a massive mistake by coming forward to meet Iniesta, leaving a 2-on-1 in our favor behind him. Pedro! and Ibra make diagonal runs away from Iniesta to provide space between themselves and the defender, who has to go with Ibra’s run because it is in the middle and you can’t leave the guy in the middle all alone. When Iniesta flips the ball to Pedro! on the wing, it becomes a footrace that Pedro! will not lose and then he just calmly puts the ball into the middle for Ibra, who has the simplest of putaways past Roberto. And that’s when Ibra slid the ball wide of the post and caused me to kind of freak out in the bar.

Missing chances is part of the life of a striker, but one should never miss a chance like that. It’s 0-2 and you can put us up 0-3. Or maybe we’re down 1 and we need to score to survive in the Champions League. Whatever the moment, that should be a goal. I don’t know what’s going on in his mind, but that miss embodies what his season is turning into. The guy who could score this can’t score that? It was against the same keeper, too, interestingly enough.

-At 4:38 of the above clip, you’ll note that Messi wins a ball in midfield and quickly dumps it off to Ibra. The pass wasn’t a great one (it should have been further out in front), but Ibra contrives to fire the ball into low-earth orbit instead of getting it on goal.

-Their first goal against us was just Marquez being beaten for pace on a long ball that shouldn’t have troubled him. He let his man in behind him and couldn’t catch up. Perhaps the lack of match time was to blame, but whatever the reason, it was absurd. 5:17 of the video gives you a good shot of what the field looked like when the ball was just lumped forward. Marquez is caught watching, Puyol has let him go.

-Their second goal was again a ball over the top (and an illegal one because the ball never stopped rolling before the restart, but that’s somewhat meaningless since we should have stopped it anyway) that was only not offside because Iniesta held him on. You can see that clearly at 5:35 of the video. Marquez was responsible for the stupid foul that led to the freekick and Puyol let his man go offside, only to realize too late that Iniesta was covering a different man and leaving him offside, but not Colunga. Sloppy all-around communication and bad ball handling in the midfield combined with a lack of midfield pressure earned them their 2-3 and some hope.

-Ibra’s lack of cheer when he scores. That doesn’t need much explanation. It just gets to me that he’s so sullen when he scores. Come on, lighten up, love the game and you’ll get those tap-ins.

Everything else (and sure, that seems like quite a list), was good and fun. Messi now leads the league with 25 (!) goals in 24 appearances. He’s 5 up on Higuain, and 8 on David Villa. And that brings me to the idea that Ibrahimovic isn’t performing well enough to be a Barça player.

  • Player A has scored 7 goals in 24 league appearances, 2 goals in 5 Champions League appearances, and 3 goals in 4 Copa del Rey appearances.
  • Player B has scored 13 goals in 22 league appearances, 2 goals in 7 Champions League appearances, and 1 goal in 2 Copa del Rey appearances.

If your math isn’t so solid, here are the totals: Player A has 12 goals in 33 appearances and Player B has 16 goals in 31 appearances. Which one is the more productive striker? What if you say that Player B has twice as many assists as Player A? What if you say that Player A scores once every 135 minutes on the field and Player B once every 174 minutes?

  • Player C has scored 13 goals in 31 league appearances, 1 in 9 European appearances, and 3 in 4 Copa del Rey appearances.

Again, the math there is 17 goals in 44 matches. Player C scores once 233 minutes.

Player B is obviously Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But Player A? Pedro. Player C? Diego Forlan. That’s right. Diego Forlan. In my estimation, not only is Ibra outperforming Pedro by a fair margin, he’s also out performing the man people think should replace him. Naturally enough, you can call bollocks or whatever on my stats if you think about them differently (for instance if you think Forlan’s teammates are what’s kept him from having more opportunities), but if Forlan is having a decent year (and 13 goals is nothing to sneeze at) then Ibra is having a decent one too. And it’s his first year in Spain. And Forlan is 30 while Ibra is 28 (and did you know that Ibra is exactly 2 months older than David Villa?).

Ibra accounts for 16% of Barça’s goals so far this season (100) while Messi accounts for 34% of them. Pedro has 17%. Keita and Xavi both have 6%. And yet Ibra’s head is on the chopping block? What about Henry, with his 3 goals? Bojan with his 5, only 1 of which is in the Liga? Hell, Dani Alves is outscoring Iniesta 3-to-1! Fuera!

See what I mean? If this is the low point in his Spanish career, which it probably is, Ibra is going to be a monster for several years. And that’s alongside a goal-machine Messi. And an improving Pedro. And probably a different LW or maybe Bojan. Ibra out? Seriously? Get outta here with that nonsense. I groan like the rest of you when he misses those chances, but come on, should we fire Guardiola if he doesn’t win us a trophy this year? Of course not. Should we axe Ibra if he doesn’t win pichichi in his first season (or ever)? No, obviously not. Keep all these crazy thoughts bottled up until next year at this time and if he’s only got 13 goals and we’re floundering, then we’ll talk about who to replace him with.

Before someone levels the charge that I’m just protecting my own interests: I didn’t want him in the past and I didn’t want to stump up the cost (€40m in transfer fees and €12m a year in salary), but I can now see that it was a good bit of business, especially if Guardiola didn’t want Eto’o and did want Ibra.* I still love Eto’o and wanted him to remain at the club even if it cost us a bit of money, but okay, fine, Ibra it is and I dutifully fell in love with the YouTube moments where he strolled through 80 players and scored wondergoals with his heels. And now I’m obliged to take the same measures I used to buoy my love for Eto’o and use them to decide whether or not Ibra is doing well.

Plus, I’ve seen him improving throughout the year, getting better at making moves through the box, and starting to make the runs Eto’o made as well as all the runs and moves Eto’o couldn’t make. They’re different players, of course and I hate to compare them in that way, but really, Ibra is on pace to score 18 goals in 31 appearances, which, if you think that’s horrible, you’re a jerk and should go back to your Xbox. After all, Ibra scored 92 goals in 207 games in Italy (for Juve and Inter), which is a goal every 2.25 appearances. He’s currently scoring a goal every 1.94 games (16 in 31). Eto’o? 1 every 3 games (11 in 33). So yeah.

*And for the last time, will all of you quit quoting €60m as Ibra’s price tag? Here is what exchanged hands: ~€40m and Eto’o for Ibra. The valuation of Eto’o at €20m does not mean that Ibra cost €40m plus the valuation of Eto’o. If you’re going to do that math, then what you have to include is the difference in salary. Because Eto’o was out of time on his lower Spanish tax bracket (I think it’s 5 years at 23% and then it jumps to 46% or so), his salary of €10m a year meant that Barça had to pay ~€15m for his salary. Ibra’s salary? Nearly €2m per year less than that. Therefore, if Eto’o’s valuation is included in the cost, you must include the money saved on the contract (~€10m), which would put the total cost at €50m if you wanted to do it that way. If you think Eto’o wanted more than €10m (and I think he would have) from Barça, you end up getting into a tradeoff of about €20m for the salary over 5 years, meaning, ahem, it’s potentially less than €40m for Ibra.

Kevin’s mantra: always leave them smiling.

I am scared of heights...please put me down. (Denis Doyle/Getty Images Europe)

By Isaiah

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.


    1. I don’t like to do player ratings. It’s not really my style. Plus, I didn’t DVR the match, so I can’t watch it again to make a good assessment.

      But, since you asked for them: Messi is a 12, everyone else gets a 7 except Marquez gets a 2 and Ibra gets a 5. Boom.

  1. Man…Superman…..Leo Messi
    By Sid Lowe
    It’s not big and it’s not clever but sometimes swearing is the only thing that will do. …………The Catalan newspaper Sport invited readers to send in headlines for what they had just witnessed and there were plenty of super, sensational and sublimes, some magic, magnificent and marvellouses, wows and wonderfuls, plus deities by the dozen, and even a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but still there was no way to really do it justice. No polite way anyway. Just wide eyes, a wider mouth and a simple: holy shit!
    “I’m not sure he’s human,” said the Zaragoza playmaker Ander Herrera of Messi’s display in their 4-2 defeat. “Tonight, I saw Diego Maradona,” declared the Real Zaragoza coach José Aurelio Gay, “but at more revs per minute. There are no words left to describe him – he is interplanetary. We could have beaten Barcelona but we could never have beaten Leo Messi. If we had scored four, he would have scored 12.”


  2. We are on the road to win the double this season!

    The awesomeness of Messi, improvement of Ibra, return of Keita and later Abidal, Busquets’ maturity, pedro’s emergence, all that good signs will help us to glory this season again!

  3. I am ok with form of Ibra. Rarely all the strikers fire at same time. We are still in Liga and CL so it is not a problem. I hope his reactions yesterday were due to pressure otherwise his body language is bothering me.

    Messi is making me very happy though.

  4. It’s times like these when you watch this team and you realize how spoiled we are. We are watching one of the best teams in the history of SPORT, EVER! and several of the best players in sports history EVER. and not to mention Messi, ’nuff said. sometimes you just have to dwell on that and realize how lucky we are to be watching this week after week.

  5. Haha, thats a funny piece by Sid Lowe.

    Messi was simply unstoppable. Before the game, I was having an intense argument with some people at the bar who have not really paid attention to Messi. They went on and on about how both Ronaldos and Zidane + Rooney are much better players than Messi, and then the game starts, and Messi goes ahead and does what he does. I couldn’t thank him enough for settling my argument. The guys left saying they probably should pay more attention to this guy! He was amazing.

    Did anyone notice the little kick the Zaragoza defender gave Messi after the second goal? Messi fell, got up, and kept running and celebrating. You cant get in his head people! CR9, you are not the only one who gets dirty plays, but theres only one of you who knows how to roll with the punches.

    Pedro’s energy and enthusiasm all over the pitch was amazing. I really loved his effort. His combination with Maxwell and Keita to give the yaya a shot at goal was sweet.

    Henry has two ways to go on the bench, sulk, or be the number 1 cheerleader. He chose the latter, and I cant mention how valuable that is from a player of Henry’s caliber.

    Sad to say, but I’m beggining to realise that our defensive lapses in the last few years hasn’t been because of our penchant to push up or our style of play, but Marquez! He is caught out too often and then is too slow to do anything about it!

    Iniesta’s command and control style is soo comforting to see when he is on the pitch. Defenders don’t hurry him like Keita or Busquets. They know what will happen to them.

    Whole team played well. That we can still dominate without our midfield duo is amazing. And it should put to rest those that claim Messi is nothing without Iniesta and Xavi on the pitch…

  6. I decided since a while not to defend two players. One of them is Ibra. In a previous article though, I made my price tag calculations taking it from different angle but reached almost to the same cost estimation (37 M)even by ignoring the Salary case you mentioned above.

    One interesting point here is Eto’o market value. If there was no club welling to pay 20 M to buy Eto’o , can we still evaluate his market value as 20 M (Read this: I am talking about market value, not football value). Of what I learned and practiced is that the market value is the output of supply and demand. There was almost no demand here, which means the price keep going down till you get your first offer. Thats the market value. I guess…

  7. Isaiah, that Rafa was beaten for pace is secondary. He was just slow (as always) getting back in line with Puyi to make that damn offside work.

  8. I agree with what you say about Ibra

    He was great finding space, he must just had a strikers block, but like all strikers with class, he’ll retain his form at just the right time.

  9. SoccerMom getting recognized…I see how it is, Isaiah!


    Well, here’s Leo’s hat-trick with Skysports commentary:


    ’cause you know, everything is better with English commentary 😀

    1. I’m pretty sure I watched it live with GolTV commentary so there should be a RayRay version floating around somewhere. It’s also possible that I’m wrong and it wasn’t RayRay spouting off a ridiculous string of adjectives, but rather it was myself since his normally over-the-top style of commentary would have been completely spot on.

    2. I watched it with RayRay (and that Phil guy) as well.

      Couldn’t find any of his commentary other than this one from ’07


      I wish I could see Messi live! This is from ’07 against Villareal. If your jaw doesn’t drop at 0:52, I don’t know when it will.


      Honestly, Messi will always be the best in the world for me. He just needed an injury-free season to prove it.

    3. I am constantly wondering where the hell the English GolTV highlights could be seen… I never find them on youtube, rojadirecta or any other source that I can think of 🙁
      It would be awesome if GolTV offered official highlights on their website, as some German TV stations do.

    4. I have downloaded the entire GolTV game, not just the highlights. Unfortunately I’m a bit too computer-stupid to figure out how to create my own highlights and upload them though, sorry.

      It was fun, though I’ve heard RayRay do better. I don’t think he made up any words, which is the standard I set him too. 🙂

  10. Random thoughts:

    During the game I was pissed at Ibra. Upon recollection, I was happy with his performance. I’m still somewhat concerned that he hasn’t put in a total performance for us yet this season – a performance where he puts everyone else on his broad shoulders and carries them.

    Ibra is still adapting to La Liga, but that isn’t the only thing he is adapting to. He is also adapting to not being the star player on the team, which is almost the harder thing to adapt to. I’ve always considered Ibra somewhat independent (and possibly a loner) which you can’t be on our team. We require all players to function as cogs in a machine, an I think Ibra is having a very difficult time changing his approach to the game (and possibly, to life).

    Will we ever see Chygrynskiy play again? Seriously, why not put him out there instead of Marquez? If we give up two goals with Chyg playing I can console myself that it is a learning process. Every time Marquez plays he does his best to convince me that he shouldn’t be playing for us anymore, despite my desire to defend him.

    I really dislike the all muscle all the time midfield. Busquets, Yaya, and Keita should never be our three man midfield again. The difference it made when Iniesta came on was unbelievable.

    Can Pep continue his streak of a fantastic cantera signing a year? Busquets last year, Pedro this year. Amazing. Who will it be next year? My bet is on JDS.

    1. Muniesa! Muniesa! 😀

      I thought Txignasty would come on, but it looked like Pep changed his mind at the last minute (there was a comedic moment when Pep says something to Txigrinsky and the bench crack up). Maybe we’ll see him against EE 😀 .

    2. pep didn’t know he had done all three subs and asked chigro to warm up. chigro, bojan, yaya, titi and the rest of the bench started to stare at pep and then stated laughing, pep left the place sorta ashamed …. lmfao

  11. “Ibra’s lack of cheer when he scores. That doesn’t need much explanation. It just gets to me that he’s so sullen when he scores. Come on, lighten up, love the game and you’ll get those tap-ins.”

    I agree that he’s too intense and trying too hard right now, but I don’t think he was sullen after that penalty. I think it was more of a “Jeez about time I get one in the net!” I’ve never been a big fan of players who do outrageous celebrations after penalties anyways and given his situation you can hardly blame him.

  12. I feel like I have been waiting all day for this review! I didn’t want to comment on the match comments post because I kept expecting to get Hectored…

    Anyways, I feel like fun is the best way to describe the game. Honestly, we didn’t play that amazingly, with the exception of Messi. I feel like a more creative midfield aka Xaviniesta would have put this game to rest far earlier, but since they were missing from the starting lineup, I am satisfied with how the game went.

    Here’s the problem with/for Ibra. Yes, he’s in a bit of a slump. But aside from that heinous miss in the second half (described by Isaiah), none of those missed chances were too egregious in my opinion. In fact, his form is similar to what Messi’s was in the Nov/Dec games. The real difference is that then Ibra was performing well while now Messi is performing out-of-this-world. Messi’s form then was a cause for concern, but since no one was such a standout to be compared to, it wasn’t so worrying. And we knew that he would come good soon enough. Well, we know that Ibra has it in him to be that lyrical dangerous striker again because we saw him that way earlier this season. It’s just that while Ibra is in this slump, he not only has to deal with watching his misses, he also has to deal with watching Messi enter his peak.

    As I watched Messi score his third goal, I actually had this moment of pity for Ibra. He’d just made this terrible miss and then seconds later Messi has another golazo to his name. Talk about having your failures shoved in your face!! Obviously I’d love it if he didn’t see Messi’s goal that way, but he’s a professional athlete with tremendous pressure on his shoulders, much of it self-inflicted. The commentators were simultaneously heaping plaudits onto Messi while scorning Ibra’s own efforts, and you know that Ibra had to be doing the same thing to himself. So it’s a confidence thing. He berates himself, and then has to see Messi become the standard to which he is compared. It’s just tough. In each of the goal team hugs, you could gradually see Ibra’s enthusiasm lessening, so it seems to me that it’s frustration at himself rather than a lack of team spirit which is keeping him down, and to me that’s forgivable. If I’d had that kind of game, I wouldn’t be too up for a celebration either.

    Encouraging signs are that he is connecting well with the team in terms of positioning. So when he regains form, it’ll be amazing. And I know every media outlet under the rainbow has mentioned this but I don’t care: I love that the team gave the penalty to Ibra. I don’t think that it is the goal that will return him to form, but encouraging signs all the same! I’ll end with a cliché that I think applies to Ibra: Form is temporary, but class is permanent. We know it’s true, and we have a victory against RM and a fleet of goals to prove it.

  13. it was great to see a non xavi non iniesta line-up work. messi won all by himself but the team was ok to me. I’m excited as hell to see what other wonders pep has to offer this year… the little tactical games he’s been playing lately amaze and entertain me so much. plus we have a great group of players that can exchange positions. the freedom he has given to messi is really working for him also. I think this is one of the most interesting FCB’s ever.

  14. Excellent review! I completely agree with your assessment of Ibra AND your relevant position toward Pep. It would be RIDICULOUS to axe either this soon.

  15. I didn’t get to watch this live since I had to go to a birthday party thing, but man was Messi awesome. He had the kind of match that can make people fall in love with the sport and fall in love with a team. That second goal particularly – you watch it over and over and it gets better and better.

    I’m feeling pretty confident about our chances for a doblete now. I’m not too worried about Ibra or about Marquez-uma. First, because Ibra will get there, he’s too talented no to. I just hope he gets some non-penalty goals, so that he starts playing with joy. I think he just needs to relax. In regards to Marquez, what can I say? I like him as a player, but can’t argue that he’s been crap this season. It’s too bad b/c when he plays well he has a lot to offer to the team. I hope he improves and can play some non-important matches to give Pique and Milito the rest they need for those massive matches we’ve got coming on. I’m bummed I’ll never get to watch Marquez at the Camp Nou, since I figure he’ll be gone in the summer.

    Anyway, looking forward to the matches this week, I gotta feeling EE will lose some points. 😀

  16. Oops forgot the ‘*’


    So do we start him or not? I know hes a professional but…

    Id sub him at the emirates and start him at home.

    1. Awww…

      Honestly I don’t see him figuring into it. I’d like to see it, I’d like to see him score at the Emirates, but I don’t see it. Very mixed feelings.

      Dammit, one of my teams is going to get knocked out at the quarters! I KNEW THIS DAY WOULD COME BUT WHY SO SOON!!!

  17. Hey Isaiah, have you been the only real Barça fan in Woodwork?
    I guess I would have scared the not-so-enthusiastic visitors with my goal celebration 🙂

    1. we have a little brooklyn penya here! there are 5 or so of us who try to get together for as many games as possible, either at woodwork, nevadas or at isaiahs house (since i dont have a tv!)

  18. The best thing for me yeserday was seeing Messi give Ibra the penalty. In a game frought with ego driven, arrogant players it is a wonder that the best of the them all is the most humble. I guarantee most other players, having won the penalty themselves, would have taken it. Most strikers dream of scoring 4 goals in a game. To see Messi give that up so that Ibra can get a lift, well its what makes him so special. I hope Ibra appreciates it.

    It also shows the team spirit that seperates us from the likes of Madrid. Compare this to the little spat Ronaldo and Alonso had a few weeks ago over a penatly and you see what I mean. IT also puts to bed any talk that there are problems between Messi and Ibra. The little hug Ibra gave Messi after the penalty was quite heartwarming 🙂

    I feel that Ibra needs a big goal in a big game just to give him that lift. I hope it comes against Arsenal, where obviously the eyes of the world will be on Messi, if Ibra can play well and score over the two legs (taking us through) I think it will do a world of difference to his confidence. Its all down to confidence now…

  19. Ibra’s problem is just confidence.He’s rushing things.When Zlatan and the ball are friends, magical things happen :D, but right now hes fighting with the ball.He just needs a golazo to get him back to caressing the ball.We need him to have fun on the field again.That means involving him more.In some ways ts like when leo plays with argentina.He doesnt get to have fun.But i have no doubt he will return.When strikers arent getting chances is when we should worry.

  20. Getafe/A. Madrid both are capable of causing upsets. But unfortunately they will gift EE easy wins. Which means we have to win two matches in a day if that’s what necessary. I fear overuse of some of the players in coming weeks 🙁

    1. I find this so frustrating. How come Madrid has two teams in their home city who play worse against them in the Madrid derbies? Thats almost unheard of. Espanyol always steps up their game for us, and Madrid is handed 12 points a year (The Athletico President even said so).

    2. What are you talking about? Getafe have taken 3 points off Madrid for 3 consecutive seasons.

    3. What are you talking about? Getafe have taken 3 points off Madrid for 3 consecutive seasons. I think they can beat them again on Thursday.

  21. I thought the team played quite well throughout although I’m not sure the midfield of the first half had the ball retention necessary for playing against a top side.

    If the reason Henry was on the bench was to rest him I’m okay with that as well. I expect to see him back leading the line on Wednesday.

    Ibra – this may not be popular but I’m not seeing much realism in some of the posts so far. Yes I felt sorry for him and yes I think we should persevere into next season with him. I want it to work. He started the season quite well but . . .

    He was an absolute embarrassment in this match and it has been coming. I went into work today to suffer the slings and arrows of various workmates who know I follow Barcelona – and they were right. He missed two or three sitters that any half decent amateur player would have nailed. His performance wouldn’t hold down a place in a Scottish premier league team. It’d be nice to let him play his way through this but we don’t have the luxury of doing that with the list of teams we have to face shortly. He is slow – and he’ll always be slow – if the idea is of a big burly striker making his presence felt against Premier defenders forget it. They’ll eat him. I’ve seen no sign of a towering arial presence for crosses. He takes too big a backswing in the box for quick shots. His ball control which I thought was good has gone to pot in the last few games.

    Finally, the idea that people aren’t passing to him at the right time is the last refuge of the scoundrel in my opinion. We wouldn’t accept that for any other player. You need to move at the right time and at the right pace if you want the ball in our team. We’re putting forward defences of Ibra that we would laugh at in any other context.

    Henry should lead the line in the vital games and Ibra should be on the bench. That doesn’t mean he can’t come back but let’s be honest in our assessment of his performances.

    Sorry – hadn’t intended to rant but looking at the posts so far you’d think he’d had a good game.

    1. I think that my overall point is that I don’t believe Ibra was the worst player on the field. He made the right runs, should have scored, blew a few chances (which we should shake our heads at and go “goddammit, Ibra”), and was gifted a goal by Messi.


      That he made the right runs is very important. He’ll put away those chances in the future, don’t worry. No, not everyone will be Zaragoza, which sort of fell apart at the back, but he’s improving.

      About others passing: I think it’s important to note that in this game there were several times when the passes weren’t made correctly. Messi held the ball for too long at one point and Ibra stepped offside because of it. There’s an adjustment to be made there and I’m sure that both Ibra and Messi will hear about it from Pep during video sessions this week. Still, as someone who plays striker in my rec league, I know when I make the right runs and then someone makes a bad pass that I can’t corral. That doesn’t make me a bad striker, does it? Ibra got a couple of passes like that and while with his talent he should be able to deal with it, it’s still worth noting because, if we’re holding him to that standard, we should be holding everyone to that standard. It’s not excuse per se, it’s a reason.

    2. his ball distribution was very good too. We all know he normally tends to hold up the ball for us, but in the last game he mananged to pass the ball off very swiftly and keep that high tempo when attacking, and I gotta say his quick thinking basically made our first goal.

      In contrast a few players fell victom to hesitation, and some of the balls Ibra received from his teammates were not good. Also I never recalled Alves making a single pass or cross to Ibra which at the time was worrying.

  22. I do think that it is probably most difficult for a striker to fit in to a new team than any other position.

    My problem with him is that he hasn’t looked the part for a long time – some times when the team plays well and others when it doesn’t. He has now had almost a full season to adapt and looks worse than at the start. If you were a striker who would you rather have than Xavi and Iniesta playing through balls to you ? You also have Messi occupying the thoughts of the defense massively. If you can’t find space and decent runs in this situation there is something wrong. I think he finds himself offside so often partly because he lacks pace and that isn’t going to sort itself with time. i can’t remember the last time he made a position in open play and scored from it. I’m sure others can remind me.

    I suppose its that I’m not one of those prepared to write this season off as an Ibra learning season. We have the best team in Europe and Messi playing out of his skin. That won’t happen often in our history. If we don’t win anything Pep will rightly get pelters. He will have bought Ibra, benched Henry for him ( rightly in the first half of the season I think but not now) and failed to buy a goalscorer in the January window to provide depth.

    Again, I’m not saying that he can’t come good. I’m saying that based on current displays he isn’t worth his place.

    1. Wait.

      “If we don’t win anything Pep will rightly get pelters.”

      What? Are you serious? We win 6 trophies in one year and the next year if we don’t win a trophy but instead play ourselves into the quarters and possibly farther of the CL, into the top 2 of the league, and a narrow loss to Sevilla in the Copa, we’ve had a season worthy of criticizing the coach? Really?

      And the reasons you list aren’t “problems with tactics” but rather “players not performing” and “failure to spend tons of money in the January window”? The first of those reasons is somewhat controllable and, if you think that’s the coach’s fault, then it’s an understandable concern to have, but you’d really put Henry in for Ibra because Ibra isn’t putting away his chances? What chances is Henry taking so well to convince you that he should be out there? He’s scored 3 goals in 15 appearances. One every 5 times he steps on the field. That’s…good? And for the record, I’d like to see more Henry AND Ibra together. I think that would work well now that they’ve learned a bit more about each other, though I’m loving Pedro’s workrate and contributions.

      The second thing, though, is what baffles me. A striker in January? Who? Why? We’ve scored almost as many goals so far this year as we had at this time last year and we’ve allowed goals at a lower rate. We have more league points than we did (I think), we’re just as far in the Champions League, at the time, and have begun to look like our old selves. Even without the retrospect of these last 2 months, I don’t understand going out and spending millions of euros while we have the tools necessary at hand. And to say we don’t have the tools is to denigrate the workrate and skills of all the other players we have in our squad and, to a lesser degree, in our cantera.

      IF Ibra is a failed experiment because we haven’t won any trophies while he’s been around, then don’t we have to wait until the end of the season before we demand his exclusion? He’s still at least as effective as all of our other strikers, after all. And it’s not like we’re floundering in 14th place staring the drop in the face. We’re freakin’ blessed to have THIS problem, if it’s a problem at all.

      A quick side note: the official site lists Ibra as having 79 shots, 40 (50.6%) of which were on target. Henry has 27 shots, 13 (48%) of which were on target. 30% of Ibra’s shots have gone wide, 33% of Henry’s have been wide. So they’re roughly even in effectiveness outside of goals scored…but…where did the other shots go? 50.6 + 30 = 80.6…um…20% (16 shots in this case) went…um…were they blocked? Dematerialized?

      And as for the offsides thing, Ibra’s offside once every 40:50 in the league (43 times so far). Compare that to Henry’s onces every 66:30 (16 times). So you do have a point there, especially if you consider last year Eto’o had 33 offsides all year.

    2. I haven’t read this post, or know the reason behind it yet, but all I can say is you’ve been Isaiahed bro. 😀

    3. Not arguing with the choice of Ibra over Henry in the first half of the season. My point was that now with Henry looking better than he did and Ibra looking much worse Pep needs to take the sensible decision to leave him on the bench for a game or two . He did it to Henry – why not Ibra? Because Ibra is his signing ? If he leaves Ibra in and he continues to play badly and IF AT THE END OF THE SEASON we don’t win at least one trophy then imo he will have wasted a chance with what we all reckon is the best team in Europe and will deserve pelters. This team is at its peak and can’t afford to waste seasons.

      I’m not denigrating the skills of anyone in the team ( although the younger players aren’t as good as everyone is saying). I’m saying that Ibra at the moment isn’t playing well enough to justify a place in the team. Don’t recall anyone here saying Eto’o’s barren spell was down to not getting the ball at the right time. That’s a cop out. If Messi’s godlike spell comes to an end we’re going to need some of the others, not just but mainly Ibra, to step up.

      Finally, I’m not an Ibra hater – I wish he was playing better – but no amount of stats can persuade me that he is playing well. I know what i see and so does half of Europe. At the moment he is cramping our style. I’m not sure he’ll ever be more than a streaky player. He has lots of skills – I’m just not sure they fit our needs very well.

  23. Agree he isnt worth his place judged on how he is playing now, but then neither is Henry, really. That is our problem right now.

    Having followed Ibra since his ajax days, his major flaw has always been his inability to keep things simple when he is off form. Even when he plays like shit he will neglect an easy header to attempt some half-hearted aerobatic backheel that comes off like shit with wings.

    Case in point in the 2nd half from left side of the goal instead of taking it with his left he tried to lob it over the keeper with a flick of the right.

    He has the talent to come good for us, though. I think that mentally he is stronger than people give him credit for. Obviously Messi giving him the penalty is some indication of the support and respect he enjoys from the team, and that’s an encouraging sign.

    Right now Ibra is our star striker. Worst case scenario the remainder of the season he plays god-awful. He will still have next season to prove himself, regardless. He has all the tools, he just needs to understand our game more and above all to mature as a player and learn how to use his talents more effectively at Barça. Time will tell.

  24. OT, but how badass was THIS* from Silva


    I want him so bad! (Eww! NOT that way, you perv 😛 )

  25. Honestly, besides the missed chances, I thought Ibra played well. His passing was pretty good, movement was WAY better than recent games, and our offense didn’t look as stagnant as it had been looking with him in there.

    I don’t understand how some people can’t see that Messi and co are holding the ball a little too long? Yes he is offsides way to damn much, but come on people, at one point Dani waved his hand for Ibra to go into the box, then changed his mind and plays him a ball when he was clearly off. Why are they passing to him so late? It looked to me like he was trying his hardest to change his runs, and it showed with the amount of opportunities he had, but on that same token, why are players deciding to hold the ball till he runs off? I mean you can’t stay onside forever… the ball has to be played at some point, right?

    I don’t understand.

    Hector, you probably missed my question in the other post, but what did you make of Ibra’s performance? What about you, Ramzi? I really did think he was better than the past games, his passing and movement looked way better. Just wished he finished those chances.

  26. Well, that’s a tough one.

    Firstly, a striker’s job in this system is to produce goals be it scoring them himself or assisting or drawing defenders on runs. I don’t care. If you judge him by those standards then yeah, he had the shits. A world class striker has to score at least one of those chances. I got on Eto’o for the same thing last season and it’s only fair call out Ibra on it too.

    However, the bright side to this is that he HAD those chances. He was getting in position to score but just could not seal the deal. If he keeps putting himself in position to get those types of looks then its only a matter of time before they start going in.

    I also noticed the following:

    – In the first half, with the 4-3-3, Ibra was playing alone up top and we were not getting very good possession. He hardly saw the ball on good looks in that half except for the corner kick he missed and when he recovered the lose ball and passed it to Pedro for the cross that led to Messi’s first goal. It was not a good first half but I would attribute that more to a good job by Zaragoza, Pep’s midfield selection, and Messi being shackled to the right wing. I know this is a tangent but I still don’t understand how people still want him to limit himself to the right wing. He is so much more deadlier in the free role and even more so now that his tactical intelligence is maturing.

    – In the second half, Ibra was doing a good job pulling defenders out of position, he had a few good runs, and scuffed some guilt edged chances. He put himself in position to score and missed. That’s on him. Now, how do we put him in those types of position more often or utilize his other attributes?
    1) Go aerial a little more often. You have a 6’4 foot striker, lob him a few aerial crosses every now and then.

    2) One of his best attributes is his passing and his vision. We got a striker and not a midfielder. I know but if we had wanted just another big box striker then we would have gotten Peter Crouch, wouldn’t we? We are not taking advantage of all of his qualites. We need to have him occasionally drag wide and face up on goal. He can do back to goal but we are wasting some serious attributes there. The problem is that if Ibra drags out, who goes into the box? Pedro? Messi? THAT’s where we miss Henry. I really would like to see Henry and Ibra try to develop some better chemistry in that regard. Henry is the only player on the roster with the qualities to play that type of game with Ibra.

    3) He needs to play the drop-run game a little better (one forward drops and the other pushes the line simultaneously with both playing between each CB and FB- it creates a diagonal space in between them and decreases the risk of getting caught offside while wrong footing defenders) with Messi and Pedro.

    4) I want to use him for “paredes” (give and goes) more often inside the box. Instead of always pushing the line, and trying to be David Villa, put the ball at his feet and give him options to make the pass or take the shot. He needs to see the ball with back to goal inside the box more often but he also needs to get face-up looks outside more often as well.

    4) He just needs to play better.

    I don’t buy the: he’s just too slow, he’s not good enough, etc… Being slow didn’t prevent all those chances, did it? Sometimes a player just has to play better, It will come down to Ibra’s will to improve and his team mates and coach being able to take advantage of his qualities for the goof of the team. I don’t buyt the he’s too slow, he’s not good enough stuff. He has all the talent necessary, both physical and natural. He said he wanted to come to Barca to become a better footballer. Well, now is his chance. It’s up to him to get out of it but it’s more mental than physical or talent IMO.

    1. I second that.
      Besides, there is the tactical notation that Messi is playing too deep this season. Sure he is getting more involved this way, but having him there while counting on Alves to do the runs from behind as well and Pedro/iniesta transition to midfield switched our system from 4-3-3 to a tactical variations with deeper lines. We are not pushing the buildup to be as close to the opponent’s area as last season. The buildup is more centered in the midfield while the set offense is more direct this season going straight forward from the midfield, Ban…Ban…to the opponent box.

      There are advantages in that, and there are disadvantages.

  27. Even Johan is so shocked by Leo that he’s forgotten to fart about Ibra in his latest article. By the way, could we please stop calling our little diamond – Messiah? He is not. He’s just a kid (still) from another galaxy.

  28. So Messi scored three hattricks this year. First against Tenerife, then against Valencia and now against Zaragosa. Common denominator? All teams wore white jerseys.

    1. last year, we even beat a team wearing a white jersey 6-2.


      or villarato?


    2. wow. never realised that.
      shit. i wish arsenals jersey was white-red instead or fer-white

  29. Haven’t seen the match yet, so can’t comment on that. But when Eto’o went through the patch where he was fluffing sitters last season, nobody was calling for his head. Tenure? I’ll buy that. It isn’t fair, but I’ll buy it.

    Isaiah makes excellent points, but Ibrahimovic is an easy target. He’s the new guy, was exoensive, and replaces a guy who many believe single-handedly won all of our trophies for us last season.

    I’ve said it before and will say it again: Ibrahimovic is this season’s Henry. He has immense talent, was a high-profile transfer, and was supposed to join us and score 23,967,618 goals. He hasn’t, so he sucks. Craziness.

    1. Whenever you do get around to watching the match, I’d love to see your player ratings. I find them really useful to gain perspective on the game both in terms of individual play and in player effectiveness outside the highlight moments.

      Craziness is both the belittling of Ibra and the over-hyping of Messi. I love the guy, but trust me, claiming he’s the best EVER does him no favors.

    2. But Eto’o was already tested and proven that even if he missed gaffers like that he would still end the season with ~ +25 goals. Ibra is being tested but hasn’t been proven to his full potential yet (his goal scoring abilities) therefore he will get his head called.

      It’s not just Ibra, every player who comes here, if he hasn’t performed well for a while people will be calling for his head. It’s nothing personal, people are just a. stupid or b. don’t know enough about the sport to see what he brings to the team.

      Ibra’s price tag will only feed the people who call for his head. It’s only natural. It isn’t fair, but who said life was fair?

  30. Hahaha! Ah, Crackovia, the only show where you don’t need to understand Catalan to lol. Three months later and their Guti and TB impersonations are as hilarious as ever!


    -Crynaldo doing stepovers on his way to the door.

    -“Pin-pan, pin-pan, pin-pan.”

  31. someone more knowledgeable than i please let us know: how much longer are our key players expected to be out?

    Pique ?
    Xavi ?
    Abidal ?

    who will be available for the first leg of the Arsenal tie? the 2nd leg? how many games is Pique expected to miss with his knee problem?

    1. Last I heard, Xavi and Abidal will be back for the first leg. But frankly, I’d rather have them gone at the Emirates than at home.

  32. Ibra is playing better than he was, say, four weeks ago. His runs are better, his movement is sharper, and his understanding with the midfield and Messi is better. He missed chances, yes, and he should be criticized for it because he is supposed to be the spearhead of the 4-3-3. But goals aren’t the only way to measure forwards, and on those other measures, he is playing better.

    I know people want to have a go at him, and fair enough, it’s a free world and everyone has their opinion. But I think it pays to be patient (and to his credit, Pep has been with him).

    As for Messi, there’s nothing left to be said about him, so I won’t even try.

  33. So, Mejuto Gonzalez is gonna ref the Clasico. Good? Bad?

    I have a feeling Messi will take a starring role against EE. I think a 4-2, we take La Liga.

    1. Mejuto Gonzalez? I know he got pwned by Iniesta earlier this season: *

      Wasn’t he the ref that missed two Valladolid penalties against EE? Ibra apparently had beef with him, because he dismissed two legit goals for Sweden in WC Qualifies in October.

      But, meh. It could have been worse–much, much worse.

  34. Take the Messi quiz. Naturally, I got a 10/10 lol.


  35. So, I was reading the comments to Sid Lowe’s article on Messi and ran across this comment:

    Before Einstein’s theories of space, time, and quantum surfaced, many painters, noteworthy among them Joan Miró and Salvador Dali, wanted to evolve further from the restricted three dimensions involved. Therefore, they started inculcating the Non Euclidean concepts of geometry, which dealt with the curves, rather than flat or two-dimensional spaces. The curved surfaces enabled an analytical depiction of the mystery and the complexity of human perception. In effect, the idea that dimensions beyond three are mere speculation, was discarded. It was proved with the help of artistic depiction that the four dimensions are ingrained in the theories of mathematics and quantum space.

    As much as those famous artists concept of four-dimensional painting relied heavily on curved shapes wrapping around the environment, Lionel Messi’s style of play goes beyond three-dimensionality, foraying into the fourth one. His performance.offers an alternative creative space, where even intuitive objects & thoughts can be portrayed without relying exclusively on the realism and objectivity of a three-dimension space.

    [I love that Messi inspires such comments.]

  36. Pep tried to make a fourth sub against Zaragoza which had Henry in splits..


    1. Everyone should watch the first video on that page. Love that kind of footage. Shows more than one could see even being in the ground.

    2. Deportes Cuarto. Excellent show, shows so much. They even have lip readers. There was one guy, dicsi, who regularly capped the Barça part of the show before and after games on youtube, but he doesn’t do it anymore.

  37. can someone name off the Justin.TV channels that typically show barcelona games. I just downloaded the Justin.TV app for my iPhone and it works AMAZINGLY well, even over 3G.


    1. I second this motion.
      …on thing you can do Alex is visit on game day and save all the JTV URLs. It’s usually the same 5-10 channels.
      I’ll try to do the same, cause it’s handy to re-watch the archives there too.

  38. Crynaldo just can’t win, can he? Even in regards to the green stuff:


    “United star Wayne Rooney, arguably the best player in the world today, does not reach the top 10…”

    Just had to throw that in there, didn’t they? Ah, the desperation of the English media. 🙂

  39. Guardiola will probably get rapped by the disciplinary committee for calling that dimwitted ref a liar. We’ll see how bad the punishment is.

  40. Sevilla just parted company with Manolo Jimenez. I suppose Del Nido thinks that with a budget that size he should be competing with us and EE? Kinda dumb move coming to the business end of the season.

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