Chelsea 1, Barça 1, aka “What a cruel thing football is”

Again it was Stamford Bridge, again it was chaos, again it was Andres Iniesta to make order of that seeming chaos.

Football is an unspeakably cruel game, particularly if you are Chelsea and its coach, Antonio Conte. They got it 99 percent right. The tactics were spot on, the execution verging on flawless. It was a brilliant, completely selfless performance from his team as it devoted itself to, just like a Liga minnow and anyone else with sense lining up against Barça, defending and coming out to play when safe. There was Willian doing Willian things, a player without a real position, listed on the team chart not as a forward, mid or winger, but Dude Who Messes Shit Up. Two off the post, one just inside it, like a marksman lining up the shot.

Even Conte’s decision to start a relative bairn worked. It all did, right up until it didn’t, right up until that young’un, flush with the ambition of youth, tried an ill-advised long diagonal that sullied perfection, that doomed Chelsea to be 99 percent effective and damage their Champions League hopes.

Football is only rarely a game of execution, of two teams squaring off and forcing excellence by dint of what they do. Usually it comes down to key mistakes, and someone capitalizing on them. Willian’s post endeavors both came from sloppy giveaways in the Barça midfield and athletic, quick players moving to capitalize on them. The Willian goal came from a ridiculous marking error, as no Barça player seemed sure of who to pick out on a corner. Hazard sussed the danger, even as it wasn’t all that hard since Willian was standing there by himself, wondering if it was something he said.

The Barça goal wasn’t a wonder strike, a legendary smite that sparked a baby boom. It was a ridiculous pass from a defender, particularly at that moment of the match, and two great players made the opponent pay. Coaches and tacticians will talk about things in the emotionless sterility of analysis, but all you needed to do was look at the faces of the Chelsea players after that goal, really the only clear look that Barça got all night, to understand the humanity of this game we love. They all looked like they had been gut punched. And they had. It’s walking back to your table with drinks, stumbling over the chair as you set them down and spilling everything.

They understood in that instant that now, instead of going to the Camp Nou and controlling, defending with nine behind the ball as they did, inviting Barça to make futile runs into the teeth of a machine, they have to play to win, play to score a goal. Yes, the tie is more delicately balanced at 1-1 than it would have been had Barça got a second, but Chelsea will still have to play to win, play to score. Play to advance.

They looked gutted because they understood what happened — they played a brilliant match as a unit, as individuals, as Barça didn’t. Clunky, slow, ponderous in possession, loose with the ball, mental lapses galore. There was never going to be a better time to beat this Barça. But in that moment of laxity, it came down to a pair who had been there before, doing what they do.

It seemed Iniesta, who labored for most of the match, looking like the 33-year-old midfielder that he is, had a moment of purity. It was captain on captain, and Iniesta won the race, correctly judging the trajectory of the wayward pass more effectively than his Chelsea counterpart, and knowing exactly what to do. Suarez was there, hovering at the edge of being offside, his usual place in the world. There was also the possibility that Suarez would do what Suarez does all too often, which is not score goals that he should. Then it became a geometry equation, spaces and angles. Iniesta spotted Messi, inexplicably running free to make the Willian moment of freedom suddenly the second most gobsmacking period of the match.

He went for the sure thing.

Pity Courtois, who had no idea what to do. The memory of the Iniestazo still echoes in the rafters of Stamford Bridge. So there was that. Then there was Suarez, lethal, predatory, lurking at the edge of his vision. And Messi. Always Messi. Courtois had to do his own math. Once Iniesta passed Messi the ball, was the greatest player in the game going to shoot, or feed Suarez? Note Courtois’ reaction, as he fell in the direction of Suarez. Messi as playmaker is now as lethal as Messi as goalscorer.

Unpacking that goal is an amazing thing, particularly as it all started with a young player and was finished by veterans. Azpilicueta knew, and desperately went for the ball. Iniesta knew, and just as desperately went for the ball. Andreas Christensen knew, and ran to atone. Rudiger knew, Courtois knew. Everyone knew. And that knowing helped nothing, didn’t save them, because great players are thus because they are also hard-hearted assassins who will ruin you in a sliver of time.

People who didn’t see the match will see the scoreline and figure it was the usual boring match of football. One team scored, then the other, then everyone went home. But the match was spectacular, even if Barça wasn’t.

The world of Barça social media detests Paulinho. He is everything for them. Substituting him will lead to goodness and glory, because he is the anomaly, the donkey in a world of show ponies. Ugh. And yesterday’s match in the world of Barça Twitter, became about Paulinho. Every pass, every dribble, everything except when he did the things that made clear why Valverde started him. People don’t care about those things, because that’s donkey work. A team such as Barça shouldn’t need donkey work. This just isn’t true.

This piece by Mike Goodman does a brilliant job of explaining Paulinho. Not that anyone cares. Aesthetes detest donkeys. Keita was a donkey for Guardiola, like Fernandinho is now. Great teams need donkeys. Messi loves playing with Paulinho, because Messi understands the value of a donkey. Donkeys aren’t pretty. They draw carts. “Why isn’t a race horse pulling that cart? It would arrive a lot faster.” Because the race horse is busy, being a race horse.

At one moment of the match, a pass was made at the edge of the Chelsea box. And there was Paulinho, harassing and battling to win the ball loose and feed Suarez, who couldn’t make magic. Donkey work. It was uncommented on, except by me. It is exactly what Paulinho does. He had two header chances, neither particularly great. People screamed about one, even though a header from that range is never going to beat a keeper of Courtois’ quality. But it became a miss, a chance that would have been turned by a player who isn’t a … donkey.

After the match, Valverde is essence said, “Of course I started Paulinho, because my team needs what he does. So deal with it.” Barça didn’t play well. The Chelsea mids and wingers were outrunning, outworking their Barça counterparts. Almost every loose ball went to a Chelsea player. It was athletics vs aesthetics in many ways, and athletics was winning. Without wing play, everything was funnelled through Messi, which meant the middle of the pitch, which is exactly where Chelsea wanted everything to go, with its stacked banks of four and five players, just waiting. Head it away, kick it away. Alba was kept busy, too busy to become a legit attacking force. Valverde subbed in Aleix Vidal in an effort to gain some pace and width. It worked a little bit, but it was still too central, too ponderous, everything moving too slowly to not be easily parried by Chelsea, who looked quite comfortable, until that one moment.

Messi to Iniesta became Iniesta to Messi almost ten years hence, and the Bridge was silenced again, by the same duo, older and wiser, but no less lethal. Everything to play for at the Camp Nou? Of course. But Chelsea played 99 percent of a perfect match, and thanks to away goals, they lost. Do they have another perfect match in them, and will it be perfect enough to keep Barça from doing what it does?

In seasons past, with a Barça team not as secure at the back, we could be confident in saying that Barça will score, and that will be that. This Barça, the one so carefully constructed by its calm Mister, is secure. The Camp Nou leg could easily be a scoreless draw not because any buses were parked, but because a team that is secure at the back, just didn’t score a goal. Chelsea went from secure and confident to damaged and worried because of two moments: a kid being a kid, and its coach being conservative, deciding that what has worked until now would continue to work, especially after his team had gotten a goal.

It’s like nobody understands, even after decades of cruelty, how cruel football can be, and the magnificence that exists within the parameters of that cruelty. And those moments make for excellence, and drama, and being able to say, after a titanic clash such as this one — what a match.

By Kxevin

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.


  1. One of the things you look for in a coach is someone who understands his players, their level of fitness, form and ability to execute on his plan and to adapt accordingly. This is one of the areas where I see Valverde continues to excel. A lot of criticism around Paulinho but I do not think he should have, or even could have played anyone else in this game. Away from home against a team that has a fast and powerful midfield, with some formidable players on the break AND all of our key players having very little rest recently and certainly some element of accumulated fatigue the goal will have been to control the game as much as possible, not concede and try to get the away goal. Paulinho does the dirty work that is fundamental to achieving that. Is it pretty? No, Does it display Barca in its best light? No. However, it gets the job done. Now we have 3 weeks left with fewer midweek games, with the ability to hopefully rest some key players . That should mean that we arrive to the next leg with a sharper, fitter team and I expect a quite different display.

    I was actually quite happy with our performance, it wasn’t our best by any means, but it was both professional and effective. Yes we conceded a goal, but generally we controlled the game well and kept their chances to long range efforts from Willian. We didn’t create that many chances, but I don’t think that was the aim frankly, we didn’t go there to win by 3 or 4 goals. We went there to make sure when they come back to the Nou Camp they are the ones chasing the game, not us. That means less risky passes/dribbles, with more of a focus on retaining possession and probing for weaknesses, ensuring the team is well structured to deal with counters.

    Both goals, theirs and ours, came from moments of poor judgement. I don’t see how their goal is any less lucky than ours was. Their player made a stupid pass, our player(s) decided quite stupidly to leave their most dangerous player completely unmarked at the edge of the box. There was only every going to be one outcome when Willian got the back. The same can be said for when Iniesta got it.

    1. Excellent summing up, Hilal. And thanks, Kxevin. So often it becomes the either/or with the hotly debated Paulinho. Twitter Barca hate him, to a large extent, and Kxevin and a few others defend him, trying to explain what he adds. Never black and white, of course. Yesterday, for me, he did not have a good game – yes, he added things, but he was too lousy in possession to balance his contributions, and that is always the trade-off. He has not been as effective of late (that header could have been received and turned into a shot, perhaps) – different position, farther right? Yes. But also less immediate plays, dwelling on the ball, either misunderstanding his role (unlikely), or not knowing what to do with it, or not knowing fast enough (more likely). And when Rakitic also has a below par game, there is not enough technical ability in midfield (can’t have two donkeys).

      Was it Paulinho’s fault we didn’t dominate more? Of course not. To me, he rides with the team, adding spice and work, but of he is asked to be creative from deep, it ain’t working out. This is not just due to him, though, but the team not clicking enough. It was a professional display and I am pleased with the result, but it will not be enough to just hand it to Messi and hope. Look at the moment early on when he loses three players, leaving Rüdiger on his ass – what then? Nothing. Messi looks up – Suarez jogging over yonder, Paulinho nowhere to be seen – and leaves it for Roberto who can do little in that position.

      I believe we’ll see a different team at home, but it needs more options than genius.

    2. I read that the season in the Chinese league starts in March which could explain Paulinho’s drop.

    3. Well said Davour.
      When I saw that ball, which was perfectly weighted, and seeing how he was unmarked, he could chest it down and shoot. You can expect that from an even an average Brazilian, right?
      I think, irrespective of his quality, he needs rest. he looked completely out of place in that match and it has only been growing in the last few matches.

      I cant agree with the comparing Paulinho to Keita. Keita had much better touch and was more mobile too.

      Am sure Chelsea will park its double decker. But they will sure try to go up in humbers at every single opportunity. This would be the game when our possession skills should come useful. And if Suarez wont go offside, he will definitely get chances.

    4. “Both goals, theirs and ours, came from moments of poor judgement. I don’t see how their goal is any less lucky than ours was.”

      Because it was a less lucky goal, you don’t need to be a football expert to see that. Their goal came from a set piece and they placed Willian at the edge of the box exactly for that, to make him shot from that distance in case he was unmarked. They saw he was left unmarked and let things go according to that plan. Chelsea wouldn’t have made that pass if Willian was already covered.

      I don’t think Barcelona planned their defense to make an screwed up pass after a throw in. To put it shortly, Chelsea’s mistake was way bigger than Barcelona’s distraction at that corner. That’s the truth of it.

      Luck can make big differences at games and league results. Part of the game. Barcelona lost La Liga last season because of screw ups from our defence and goalkeeper, we got unlucky back then several times… yet we ended that season just 3 points behind from the first placed team. Do people blame luck for that? No, of course not… the easy thing is to just blame Luis Enrique.

  2. Just a note:
    Trust me Kxevin, Fernandnho is NOT a donket for Pep. He is actually much like Yaya was for us – passes, physicality, goals, etc. To compare him to Paulinho would be a disservice.

    Because the Mister says deal with it , it doesn’t mean he was correct. We could’ve been 3 – 0 down easily in this match.

  3. Am I the only one who does not give a damn about the CL this season? I have agreed with Kxevin when he said in a previous post that Barça is at this point a “Work in Progress”. The lack of depth is causing exhaustion to our key players. The new players are in adjustment mode and we should not pressure them. Most of the contenders in the CL have either wrapped up their respective leagues (Man City, PSG, Bayern) or given it up (Madrid, Chelsea). They can afford the luxury to focus on Europe. Barça still has some decisive games in the atrocious La Liga and a difficult CDR final. Valverde has shown exceptional game and squad management skills and is fully aware of team’s shortfalls and how our opponents will always try to capitalize on them. I think that he was hired to shape the post-Messi/Iniesta/Busquets/Piqué era. He has started that process, while giving us a shot at an unexpected domestic double. Just remember the drama that pre-season was and look at us now.
    With regard to the Chelsea game, it is always difficult to play against teams managed by Conte or Simeone, who have no interest in the ball and no interest in what football is about. What matters for them is the scoreline (I have no respect for neither of them btw). It is unfortunate (though expected) that more and more teams are adopting the same strategy against Barça, while allowing Madrid to trash them. This is not new. This is the reason why Valverde is not falling into their trap: If you don’t wanna play ball, that’s fine but don’t expect me to hand you the game by taking risks.
    Thank you Kxevin for another spot-on depiction of the game and Paulinho’s role. I don’t however think that Chelsea had a “brilliant match”. They defended well… at home. I am quite sure that they will park the bus again at Camp Nou and hope for a defensive mistake from our players. The thing is that we don’t make a lot of those mistakes nowadays.

    1. It seems Atletico’s only purpose this season in la liga, Is to be a giant thorn in the nail for us, How many times they finished a match with a 1-0 scoreline?, They’re clearly not going to win it, But be nothing more than a pain and distraction, The fate of la liga should’ve been sealed by now.

      The chelsea match, Went exactly like many expected, Parked bus, Little spaces, Lot of ball pointless ball circulation, Quick counters from chelsea, I was convinced it’ll end by us losing 1-0, Thank you iniesta and messi, I don’t see things being much different in camp nou, It’ll be very close, I even suspect we’ll see it going to extra-time.

      And may i say this, Willian can go F himself, They guy hasn’t even been a consistent starter for chelsea this season, And he decide to have the match of his life against us, Bugger off!

  4. Back in 2012, Barça had the game against Chelsea, they were winning 2-0 (2-1 agg) and then Chelsea got a PK at Camp Nou and that was it.

    Barcelona, back then, could have just chosen to keep safe and let Chelsea start taking risks looking for their goal… they didn’t and bad stuff happened. Even when Barcelona was the better team in that tie.

    Now Chelsea has to come at Camp Nou looking for that goal, not that it is gonna make them offensive or looking to generate, but Barcelona, this time, will play a safe game knowing that the need isn’t for them. Valverde will play an attacking game, but keeping the defenders and DM at their places… even if Barcelona fails to score it will be 0-0 and Chelsea eventually is going to have to take risks and that will be their demise.

    Yes, football is cruel, yesterday Chelsea deserved to win… 1-0 and nothing more, but 6 years ago we deserved to pass and football decided that we shouldn’t.

  5. Speaking about Simeone and Conte just caring about the scoreline, well, we are all like that to some degree. Results matter first, playing style and spirit second. Tata Martino’s Barça played well, managed to have a good season and it was an offensive team… but he won nothing. The general supporters’ judgement for him? He is a failure and should have never come to Barcelona.

    Rijkaard’s Barcelona played an attractive football, offensive minded, he won 3 major throphies during his 5 year era? What’s the general judgement for him? Not a good one, he is like a forgotten man for many people. Even when he brought important success for the team.

    Luis Enrique’s era was one of great success despite what many critics could say. However, since nowadays people demand a treble every damn season and even sextetes (because of Guardiola’s era) then he is regarded as a “crap coach”, but hadn’t Guardiola happened he would be generally regarded as one of the best coaches for Barcelona… and he was.

  6. Was gonna leave this till tomorrow but Sevilla vs Man Utd is just an awful game. Sevilla just aren’t a good enough side to progress in the CL and Man U don’t get a chance to show anything because of their manager. So I’ve seen enough.

    When assessing our performance you have to ask yourself what did I want out of this game ? For me,
    1. A draw or a win
    2. An away goal
    3. No major injuries

    The fourth ask ( to beat them into a pulp with awesome attacking football was a desirable rather than essential game spec. ) And we delivered on the three major ones so no beef from me on that score. The starting eleven was pretty much the best EV could put out to ensure that as far as I was concerned. This is in the full knowledge that we probably wouldn’t be scintillating in attack or be able to show a lot of creativity in general. Also, in the knowledge that our midfield four would be the slowest of all the teams in this stage of the CL so allied to a slow back four ( apart from Alba) we could be vulnerable to pace.

    As it turned out we did what we could pretty well. We held the ball and had over 70% possession. We limited them to long range shots and we grabbed a lucky, but great, goal. So all in all I slept well last night.

    However, we won’t win the CL playing like that. Maybe doesn’t matter this year but for me if you have a chance , and we do, you need to do what you can this year..

    Our GK and defence deserve a CL win. They have played consistently well and the number of defensive errors has been cut right down to the extent that I can watch a team attack us and still feel comfortable. Busquets and Iniesta undoubtedly deserve it, as do Messi and Suarez. However, there are three positions in the side where the quality drops dramatically and if we want to be there at the end we need to do something about it. I’m talking about Rakitic, Paulinho and whoever joins the two up front. Only two will play in the same game but it is costing us. I don’t like describing anyone as a donkey because here it refers quite clearly to a very poor player. Each of them has strengths but weaknesses which for me mean they shouldn’t be in our first team.

    Rakitic has played one or two decent games recently alternating in the DM position with Busquets but that won’t work against good opposition. He is slow, technically no better than average, can’t carry the ball past opponents but a decent passer across and back. If we need a player like that ( a donkey if you will ) we need a faster one with the ability to break the lines occasionally. Yes, that will cost us and no, there’s still nobody better suited than Thiago but we’ve discussed that before.

    Paulinho started the season well and scored a few ( partly luck but more by being in the box often ) . He has never been great as part of our passing game, he doesn’t have a great ability to play defence and to be honest his game has been pretty awful the last two or three appearances.

    If our third person up front is Paco we are talking about someone low on confidence and with no great skills at this level as a striker, certainly not operating in the confines that we do in the opposition penalty box.

    So we knew that. And up to half time I could live with that. I was sitting there thinking that we have completed our objective to get to the half without losing, they’ve been chasing the ball a lot ( OK, not as much or as quickly as I’d have liked ) so second half we come out with a heavy press first fifteen, make sure that Paulinho gets forward to support Suarez and try to snatch that away goal. It didn’t happen, essentially because EV is pretty conservative in his views and that could be an issue further down the line but not quite yet. If we can’t keep a decent defence with Busi and Rakitic just in front of them to allow Paulinho and Alba a little license then our defence isn’t as good as I think. By not pressing forward a little more until we lost the goal we are completely wasting Suarez, one of the world’s top strikers by leaving him alone surrounded by two tight banks of four.

    Quickly on the goals. Theirs was an unbelievable error in marking as has been said. However, nobody was really ready for the quick corner and I’m starting to wonder if our mix of zonal and man marking is getting out of hand. Suarez is in place guarding the front post, Pique is playing his zonal role which is to stand middle of the goal and try to get his head to anything nearby after that it gets hazy. Who is now our back post zonal person ? Thought it was Rakitic but he was off wandering so maybe not. Busi not to blame as he’s got his man in his sights and it seems as if Umtiti and Rakitic have three between them. Not good.

    I’m gonna suggest that it’s about time we fixed this problem and gave Pique the job of making sure we have all options covered. He’s in the best place, experience wise and position wise to see what’s going on. The problem is easily sorted if someone is shouting instructions , telling folks where they should be. Paulinho, Rakitic and Umtiti all definitely see Willian yet nobody does anything. Iniesta the captain doesn’t even turn round. He’s in his normal corner position but that’s not enough if you’re captain.

    Our goal was even better than has been described. Iniesta’s part is just unbelievable . To move at that speed towards a ball in the 75 th minute after the defensive shift he
    put in is incredible. To control a ball at that speed so perfectly that it doesn’t run away from you is just impossible. To be able to lift your head to pick out Messi while your doing all. this completely alien behaviour. Once I saw it was Messi I felt genuinely calm. That says it all. A great goal despite its provenance.

    The question now is what happens in the return? Will EV put out the same side and hope we do better attacking wise on the bigger and better pitch? Or will he revert to 4-3-3 and really make them suffer first twenty in the hope of putting the game to bed ? Not sure. Whatever, EV’s comments about Pique’s knee are maybe the most worrying thing to come out of that match. As I said at the time you don’t muck about with knees or it will come back to bite you. We won’t be seeing him for the next couple of matches methinks.

  7. Sevilla vs Man Utd was a huge waste of time. It put me right to sleep. Mourinho does not fit the attacking philosophy of Manchester United. I don’t see them getting past the QFs if they make it past the round of 16.

    The game at Camp Nou is going to be a tricky one. I hope EV starts Vidal instead of Paulinho to give us more pace and an outlet in the right side of the field, there’s no way he’s going to do a Semedo and Sergi Roberto duo. What i’ve learned about EV is that he’s as pragmatic and loyal, something that LE was not. LE was all heart and let’s go outthere with no real plan just give it to Messi and have Neymar stretch the field.

    I expect a more offensive minded Chelsea at the Camp Nou because they have to play that way, otherwise it’s lights out for them. I dont really care if we get all the way to the final with 1-1 draws away and 0-0 draws at home. All I want is that we get there and win. I’m sick and tired of seeing Ramos and his smug face lift the cup. It’s making me ill. I want Iniesta to lift the cup, so, so, badly. Trying to keep my feet grounded though, this is definitely not the finished product of Valverde at Barcelona but just the beginning.

    We definitely could have used Coutinho against Chelsea, but the cup tied rule sucks. Paulinho yeah, he did the donkey work, but he didn’t do it very well. He kept misplacing passes, dribbling too much. It’s was like being in London reminded him of his time at Tottenham. He’s probably exhausted because the CSL starts on a different date than ours, and he played football all summer while our players rested.

    I hope Atletico drops points in the league and helps us increase our gap because the toil of having to keep up in the La Liga is definitely getting to our players specially since EV doesn’t trust his second line. Alcacer has barely played since coming back from injury. Denis Suarez hasn’t played since January, Vidal, and Gomes more of the same. I feel like we are going to have to start Coutinho in La Liga and trust him with the team while benching Messi to rest our talisman and have him be fresh for the important games like Madrid did last season and the one before that with CR7. It was key to the late explosion of goals Cristiano had in the latter stages of the competition.

  8. We can win games vs midtable teams in LL without Leo.Rest is important,people say we cant win CL,but come on,Chelsea won it in 2012 with an average squad.
    So our plan and tactics are spot on,what we need is better perfomance of our players.
    If we qualify,next opponent will be a team that play more open than Chelsea.
    From all the teams in last 16 Chelsea and Juventus are masters of defending.
    I will be more optimist vs a team like City or Bayern,we will have more space.
    Against Girona it s time for Semedo,Mina,Paco,Coutinho,Dembele,Denis,Andre,Vidal.
    Game by game now and we will see what will happen.

  9. Offcourse biggest problem of Barca is the slow and quality lack of MF.
    Busquets and Iniesta are quality but both slow and Raki and Paulinho less quality.
    Valverde is nt stupid to understand that,so if we go to a 4-3-3 and i doubt it,who is gonna play RCM?
    Rakitic?He doesnt have the quality to play there.
    I can see 4-4-2 until end of season except if Dembele play there.

  10. Also it s a fact that many players will leave this summer.It is clear that Valverde doesnt trust Denis,Paco.
    Vidal is average,Digne not a solid back up.
    Paulinho and Andre also they will leave and maybe Rakitic be sold to raise money for young MFs.
    With smart moves we can sign 2-3 talented young MFs.

  11. I think it is a convenient generalisation to suggest that Culers are all Aesthetes who don’t see the value of “donkeys” like Paulinho. I think that is grossly inaccurate, as is the comparison of people like Seydou Keita to Paulinho. Please. I think that those criticising paulinho are criticising his terrible touch which is quite strange to see for a Barcelona player, and that too a Midfielder. Keita may have been a donkey, but the midfielder from sevilla had a good touch and a great shot. Folks who know and watch football keenly do recognise the value of balance in a team. Folks understand that without people like Pedro and Abidal, and Puyol even, that glorious team could not have existed. I’d liken this paulinho dilemma to mourinho actually. You see, many a time this argument has come up against the style of mourinho which is that “when the team is winning, it is all fine, but when the results come up empty then there is little to defend because the method has been so cynical, destructive and ugly”. I’d say that with paulinho too, as long as he is banging in the goals (like he was earlier in the season) it is all hunky-dory, but when the goals dry up there is very little to argue for the inclusion of such a player in a barcelona midfield. As someone suggested, if it is donkeys we must have, many would argue and they would be right, in that Sergi Roberto and Ivan Rakitic do the same donkey work as well if not better and also offer a lot more than paulinho does.

    Barcelona got that away goal. I actually knew it would be different this time when I saw that Willian hit the post. I remember thinking that perhaps luck was on our side this time. Like I said in the previous post, The biggest value that EV has brought to our side is our ability to win games without being convincing at all. It is a quality that I’ve long been envious of EE. Its a good thing that we have that as well, Now, it is perhaps time to turn on the style now and then cos like i said, when the results dry up then what do you have left? The crowds and we as football fans, watch for the oohs and aahs. For the aesthetic beauty of football. That is why we are all Culers. We are not Fulham fans, are we? If we wanted to watch donkeys do donkey work, there are other places to go to see that. Not a Barcelona game.

    1. From the barrage of people on social media that I have seen suggesting that supporting the club is somehow about appreciating aesthetically appealing football, it occurs to me that many fans have very little sense of the club’s history and its raison.

    2. I see many people using broad sweeping generalisations to paint fans so that they can be the knowledgeable and balanced Culer in the discussion – The Fan that knows it all, history, its raison and what not. This is disturbing and laughable.

      When someone criticises the touch of Paulinho, it DOES NOT automatically mean that they are all aesthetes who only want to see sprites pinging the ball in pretty triangles. In fact that (me) this fan with “little sense” as you like to put it is a massive fan of folks like Mascherano, Puyol etc and how they have served the club. They’re not exactly aesthetes, but hard nosed guys that bring balance and steel to the silk that Barca is famous for.

      It’s a bit disappointing when some try to pen a comment with enough disclaimers, context and talking points and yet others focus on entirely something else.

    3. “For the aesthetic beauty of football. That is why we are all Culers.” These were the exact words that I was responding to.

      I apologize if I offended you. I was replying to you, but I was really casting a much wider net. There are a lot of fans who seem to think that what Barcelona is about as a club is aesthetically pleasing football.

      I just don’t think that is what really unites us as supporters and I was trying to bring some perspective about what I believe to be a much greater purpose.

    4. Ah, But I do believe that most, if not all fans do take pride in the football that Barca play. In fact just today Bartomeu (not that I wanna quote someone like him) has said that Barca bets on good football, has a unique style yada yada.. I’d like to think though, that is the case with this club. Maybe it did not start that way. But post Kubala and Cruyff, the club did re invent itself and has prided itself on its style of play. We saw the zenith of that during Pax Guardiolus and I do think that that is a great set of principles and ideal to strive for. It doesn’t mean that there is one right way and as iniesta himself as noted, we played that way (08-12) because they had to. It was the practical thing to do because of the players that were there. You see, I think that this notion of good football isn’t something set in stone and does have so much flexibility, a testament to the complexity and simplicity of this game. It is essentially putting a ball into the net. But he/she who has played knows how difficult it is to do the simple things well. To control the damn ball.. Barca has always bought, pursued and promoted a Certain kind of player. A footballer with intelligence and the “touch”. Half touch as xavi used to say. That’s why when we went and bought luis suarez i was a bit surprised even as i saw the obvious value he would bring. He doesn’t have that touch but he gives us a looot more. And therein was the basis of what I tried to write about – Paulinho. When he isn’t bringing goals or shutting down opposition midfielders, he looks very ordinary indeed and sticks out like a sore thumb in a midfield where giving away the ball is a crime. Keita, donkey as he may have been, never really looked out of place to me. Anyway, good talking and no offense taken. Cheerio.

    5. I believe that beautiful football is a part of the Barcelona tradition and is a primary factor in both manager and player selection. I also believe that you don’t raid the enemy when your women and children aren’t secure.

      It seems to me that Barcelona, as a team, are in a transition period and that Valverde and Paulinho both have played very important roles in ushering the team toward a new era. To some extent, I believe Valverde, in particular, is a nearly heroic figure in what appears to be a mostly thankless task. I would like to think that he is not merely playing the custodian, but will be given a chance to express himself when the midfield is younger, faster, and more dynamic.

      Some of the things I have seen people say about Valverde and Paulinho have been disturbing. I guess I felt the need to be a dissenting voice after years of radio silence.


    6. Equalizer, I quite carefully read the piece to find where I wrote or implied that ALL culers dislike Paulinho. Couldn’t find anything. So not at all certain how “grossly inaccurate” I am.

      I suppose more accurate would have been “99.99999 percent of Barça social media detests Paulinho,” but didn’t think the distinction was worth making with that fine a point.

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