Roma 4, Barça 4, aka “End days”

The savage thing about hope is that it exists and the intersection of joy and heartbreak, a cosmic fork in the road that Fate capriciously chooses for us. It’s worse when hope has to suddenly manifest in the wake of confidence being dashed, an emotional about-face that makes the subsequent disappointment in failure ever more cruel — almost dreamlike.

“I’d be lying if I said we could learn from this. We went out in a similar way last season, albeit in the first leg, not the second.”
–Sergio Busquets

The complexities alluded to by Busquets go much deeper. In essence, nothing has been learned since the Bayern destruction, a similar Champions League hammering, even as this one feels so much worse. A battered, injured, psychologically hammered Barça faced off against a younger, hungrier side that cast them and their wounded leader aside. Against Roma, Barça had a 4-1 lead on aggregate. They didn’t lose. They capitulated, a decision that lies at the feet of not only a manager who flinched in the face of potential greatness, but a sporting structure that let down the greatest player in the history of the game. Failure accompanied by shame feels that much worse, particularly in the wake of lessons that should have been learned and weren’t taken to heart.

Knowing that failure is a part of sport, a consistent presence that stalks dreams like an athletic Babadook doesn’t help. That, as Busquets ruefully noted, we have been here before doesn’t help. Rage doesn’t help. Recriminations don’t help. Hashtags or other social media activism doesn’t help.

At the end of a bitter couple of hours when it seemed that everything was lost, it didn’t seem like anything would help. Goosebumps, that tight skin in the wake of disappointment verging on heartbreak, the welling, the lump right there, the rote performance of tasks, a weird grief reaction that you tell yourself is silly, that it’s just sport.

Now imagine how the players feel.

Should we spare a moment for them, or no? Yes, they were poor. So, so poor. But they had an assist in that regard from the structure that should have helped them. Should we wonder how Iniesta might feel, how Busquets feels, how Messi feels, how Pique and Umtiti, the men trusted with the latch to the back door, feel? We should. For us, it is a game, vicarious thrills that we live, relive and take a distant part in, even as the most devoted supporter. For the players, it’s their life. It’s everything. It’s one more year off the ticking clock of a career measured in the compressed time of athletic excellence. For them, failure is legitimately heart-rending.

But what we are left to wonder is, at the micro and macro level, how did we get here?

“Everythihng was in their favor. They scored an early goal and the atmosphere was causing us many problems.”
— Ernesto Valverde

After the match Valverde, the man whose job it is to ensure that none of the things that he cited happen, sounded like a coach not ready for the moment, a small-team manager thrust onto the big stage and found wanting. A Barça coach doesn’t say that.

That he said he is responsible is also important, not only for ownership but for the truth of the matter. For those wondering how it happened to PSG, it was this: a conservative, fearful coach set his team up to defend the big lead that it had. It was the same script as PSG, so you might imagine someone would have been aware, a team pressing to make up a deficit, the complacent opponent sitting back, on its heels instead of on its toes.

The match started, Roma charged, Barça absorbed. And as with the goal away goal that turned out to be crucial, Dzeko got goal side of Jordi Alba, who could do nothing. The man who could, Sanuel Umtiti, hesitated. And suddenly, in the most rudimentary of manners — a simple long ball over the top — Roma had the early goal that created the momentum, the energy.

Barça never attacked. There were still two more goals to give up, after all. We’re fine, a battered team must have told itself at halftime, being down only one of the three goals its opponent needed to turn the tie. And then, stupidly, early in the second half, another goal conceded. And still, the team did nothing, its coach did nothing, seemingly paralyzed by the moment even as it was clear to anyone what was happening. We saw it happen to PSG, we saw it happening to Barça. If we saw it, the players certainly saw it. And still, nothing happened, and it gets to a point where nothing can happen.

That Andre Gomes for Iniesta was the first sub, late, too late, encapsulated the micro and macro issues facing this team: the other guys aren’t good enough. So even though Iniesta was like a leaf being blown about in the wind of the Roma aggression, a 34-year-old midfielder about to get his gold watch was still better than anything on offer. That speaks to failure of the sporting project, occasional baubles being purchased notwithstanding. A team that has needed major work for years got a series of patches, and new psychic blood in the form of new coaches. There were transfers, those too aimed at keeping the aging machine going rather than honestly and cruelly considering whether it needs an overhaul.

On the micro level if Valverde was going to set up to defend, he chose the wrong XI. Of course Roma was going to press. If you are going to defend, like a small-club coach with a lead against a superior opponent, Paulinho is your midfielder, not Iniesta. Put a big body out there to fight for those long passes that Roma completed so easily. If you are going to defend, Vermaelen, a more traditional CB, is your choice. Perhaps Umtiti plays left back, rather than Alba, who contributed nothing. Perhaps.

If you are a brave coach with real ambition, you attack. You start Dembele, who could do what he did early in the match to set Roma on their heels rather than them Barça on theirs. You go for the throat, for that crucial away goal that puts the tie out of reach. Small clubs sit back to defend a lead. Barça is supposed to attack. Against Bayern, even in the face of everything that happened, Barça tried to play its football. It was brave, foolish and ineffective, but there was an identity, some effort.

Barça looked like a team with too many key players at or over 30, that magic age in football. It looked tired, bereft of ideas as it cowered on the rocks. It would be facile to say, “This isn’t my Barça,” because it is. This team was, until the battering in Rome, unbeaten in league and Champions League. This was attained at a cost, extracted from the tired legs of aging players. When Iniesta HAS to start, your team has a problem, even as his moments of sparkle allowed his devotees to suggest that he still has it. Not at 34, not playing every match. Iniesta should be the fine china you bring out for special occasions, not the everyday dishes.

The acquisitions of Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer can now be seen, now that the smoke has dissipated and the mirrors cracked, for the body blows they were. Neither player was good enough to supplant an incumbent. Suarez wasn’t poor against Roma. He would have to be visible to be poor. But what is the alternative? Nobody. Even as we screamed for Valverde to make subs, who, aside from Dembele, could he bring on to make a difference. A real difference.

Busquets has to play every match, because what is the alternative? Iniesta has to start, because what is the alternative? And at the end of a Liga campaign in which the team is still unbeaten, a price was extracted in energy. This team has gotten it done all season so we expected them to against Roma, somehow, expected a late miracle right up until the final whistle, the alert that the time for miracles was done.

Messi has been magnificent this season because he was able to be decisive, rather than essential. Valverde adapted the system to suit his needs, acted like a coach instead of an accountant. Messi’s teammates played, did work, set him up and were set up by him. Against Roma, those same teammates desperately pushed the ball in his direction, expecting to be saved. Nobody DID anything, took anything on themselves. All season, even when the team hasn’t been good, it has understood how to get results. Its pragmatic coach worked a weird alchemy. All those matches, all those minutes, all that running showed up as Roma charged. Their football wasn’t elaborate or elegant. They got the ball up the pitch, set piece after set piece showing the tired desperation of a team that was just defending, just surviving — until it was done in.

And then, too late, Valverde acted, inserting Alcacer and Dembele, deciding to finally try to play attacking football. The result made you wonder what would have happened had those subs been made earlier, or had such a conservative XI, one built to play football rather than defend, been selected. On paper the XI made sense, combining security with control. But this wasn’t a normal match, we realize in the wake. Roma was always going to attack, always going to press. Bold decisions needed to be made. Players whose form argued for their substitution in the XI still started. Vermaelen is playing better than Umtiti. Denis Suarez is sparkier and more active, on form, than Iniesta. Yes, the former is a defensive liability, but so is the latter. What is there to be lost? Busquets had a bad toe, Pique a bum knee, Messi an uncertain hamstring.

Even geniuses and warriors get tired, get hurt. There have to be options for when they are. The club structure has failed the greatest player to ever play the game by not providing him with the foundation necessary for him to excel. Spending money at the death helps, but when the problem has been clear for some time, that failure is ever more apparent. Seven years, and one Champions League victory, with Messi running the attack is as savage an indictment as there can be.

Barça needs youth and pace, needs a coach rather than a caretaker, needs ambition as great as that which motivated the Joan Laporta board to take a chance on Pep Guardiola, a coach untested on a stage as big as Barça — also a genius who got his comeuppance on the same day as Barça, in a bitter, twisted bit of irony. Was Valverde the right choice for THIS team, an assemblage of aged thoroughbreds and clunky spare parts? Yup. This team needed a caretaker as much as the Tata Martino side did. Whether he is the coach with the drive and ambition to move the sporting project forward is another question. There are already rumors that Valverde will be leaving at the end of the season. Should he? Yes. If the team is going to rebuild, going to buy and sell like a team that understands time is wasting, Valverde isn’t the right coach for that task, nor are accountants in the boardroom the right people to lead this club forward.

Haste isn’t the appropriate reaction in such a charged aftermath, when the failure that many were anticipating and dreading even if they weren’t expecting it in Rome, came to pass. Again. But this isn’t haste. At the beginning of the season, a few of us said, this team could get something done, even as it isn’t complete. It will win Liga. Properly managed, it could have won a treble. People said after the Roma beatdown, “This team wasn’t good enough to win anyhow,” consoling themselves in the aftermath of utter failure. Bullshit. This team is more than good enough. But tentatively set up and stuffed with tired-legged players who for too long have borne the burden of team building failure? Naah. We knew that, saw that, but still hoped, because that is what you do.

There are two levels here. Short-term, this season, and long-term, from next season on. Short-term, the team and players were getting it done. Long-term, the verdict is a more damning one. Next steps are crucial. What we know is that as with Bayern, everyone hung on too long. As Busquets said, we have been here before, and learned nothing. A new day brings a new, sad lesson. Will anything be learned this time?

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

66 Comments

  1. Grindelwald
    April 11, 2018

    A Fair assessment of both board decisions and the players reaction. Sadly, Iniesta has announced he’s leaving at the end of the season; he deserves at least a champions league send-off like Xavi’s. Madrid are the ones planning for the future and Ronaldo reaping the benefits while our boards are continually letting Messi down by doing their best impression of pre 2013 Madrid and expecting different results. It wíll be attrocious to see Madrid walk away with another champions title.

    • Víctor
      April 11, 2018

      It doesn’t seem to me that they planned for the future that well… they won La Liga and UCL last year and they looked quite like the strong team back in August… and now this season they have been dissapointing… if they get KO’d at the UCL the pressure will be incredible on them…

  2. Víctor
    April 11, 2018

    The #ValvedeOut crowd seems to be very happy with this result, even when it means that Barcelona is out of UCL. It was the result that they were long awaiting for. Sad.

    Valverde fucked up incredibly? Yes, but before the match it seemed that he made the right decisions and… other than Valverde’s wrong tactics, the players were poor as well… sure thing, tiredness played a factor on that… since the international break Barcelona has 4 consecutive games conceding goals… and, dunno, maybe the team attitude had to do something with it as well? Feeling already in SF before the game… perhaps it would have been better if the result at Camp Nou was 2-1… at least we now know that Own Goal isn’t always reliable… =P

    Call me crazy because I think that Valverde should continue, but I really despise those Barcelona supporters that are going haywire and even setting RM as an example to follow because they are still on UCL… for fucks sake, RM only has the UCL to “save some face” this season, their league performance has been a total disaster…

  3. ChaoticReaper
    April 11, 2018

    The mentality of the club was very poor. Already talking about playing Madrid in the semi finals or finals. Saying Messi should rest against Roma. We got what we deserved.

    Valverde has disgraced the Barca philosophy and deserved to get thrown out. Our message for future managers should be that we don’t care about your results until the end of the season where we can look down and see all the trophies. Until then don’t defend bad tactics with results

  4. April 11, 2018

    I didn’t do any real tactical analysis in the recap, which was taking a macro view, but Roma’s tactics were perfect. They made Barça have to play like Stoke via pressure. Our CBs suck at things like tracking attackers into the box, because they are so used to playing like DMs. It’s a particular skill set. Roma, with their long balls forward, put Barça on the back foot and kept them there, making them chase attackers and play the kind of football the team is ill-suited to play because it never has to.

    The Dzeko goal at Camp Nou was a template for Roma. They saw that and how easy it was, and the rest is history.

    Barça evinced zero on-pitch leadership. That wouldn’t have happened with Puyol as captain. Somebody needed fire, to get in folks’ faces. Nobody did.

  5. PPos
    April 11, 2018

    Yeah Barca needed some real on pitch leadership. Carles Puyol would have never ever let this happen. He would have yelled and screamed in everyone’s faces. Yes Roma’s 3-5-2 allowed them to clog the mid, and put immense pressure on Busquets and Rakitic who weren’t allowed to turn and spread the ball wide. We did a lot of playing in our own half of the field. I know that Barcelona is playing badly when we do that annoying thing where the keeper is getting more touches than the forwards and spreading possession side to side. What we needed was raw pace in the wings to open up the game, but EV is a coward and didn’t bet on Dembele and at least Aleix Vidal to spread the game out, and pin Roma back into their own half of the field. If you’re going to be a coward, at least play Paulinho instead of Iniesta to muscle your way around in the midfield and help with second balls.

  6. Jim
    April 11, 2018

    Agreed on the leader front but I haven’t heard a huge outcry against Ini, Messi and Budi being captains none of whom are suited to the task. The last leader we had was Masche who unfortunately wasn’t a great CB. For me, Pique is the one who would get into faces. Witness his exasperation with Rakitic after only a couple of minutes. He knows our way of playing and isn’t scared. I’ve also seen a few Pique finished comments. I’d merely point out that he made at least FOUR goal saving tackles as well as having his jersey grabbed at the penalty. Have to say for balance he played one of the worst across penalty box passes I’ve ever seen in the CZl !
    Busi handled the press just fine, they singled Iniesta out for treatment because he was the only one who could go past people. I was horrified when he was hAuled off for Gomes just as we were getting a bit of the ball and he was running at the box.

    • Davour
      April 11, 2018

      Piqué finished? My word. For me, he was the only one displaying any kind of engagement, despite some mistakes. He was repeatedly used as a desperate outlet by the right side (Raki, Semedo, Sergi) who couldn’t beat the press. Sergi and Semedo does not work too well together. And yes, weird to replace Iniesta unless he asked for it or something. Bringing on Gomes did make zero sense to me. Paulinho had been more logical, looking for runs and aerial threat. Dembele even more logical (with SR taking Iniesta’s spot). So much weirdness.

  7. Hristo
    April 11, 2018

    I’ve been on the ass of Valverde since the start. It broke my heart within the first two months. I could feels his fear in mine veins.

    The tactics and selection of the coach were bad. Proper bad.
    The man risked the health of Pique so many times. Treated players terribly.

    The tactical side is very simple. You want to extract the best of your players, right?

    U can’t do that with 4-4-2. We have no width. No speed in midfield as well.

    So u want to play 1vs one. 4-3-3. The players know it.
    It will stretch the field and it will create 1vs1 every where on the pitch. Individually we are battering them.
    But to play 4-4-2 vs 3-5-2 is suicide. Valverde knows Messi isn’t optical, he know Suarez is tired, Busi is injured ans Roberto just won’t stretch the pitch, because he can’t! Why do it then?

    It’s because of fear. It’s a mode we go into we are unsafe. But we wise person distinguishes psychological fear from physiological one. It’s okay to fear but is not okay not know what’s behind it.

    The coaches responsiblity is to protect his players health, not risk it, to gamble with for his own sake. He said: I don’t care about fatigue…

    I am not one to criticise the players. They knew the set up went work. They knew it. We, most us knew it too.

    Was this avoidable? No. What we could have done Is voice our concerns loudly from the start. Instead of soothing because our own insecurities.

  8. Frank Stain
    April 11, 2018

    Kxevin’s point that Barca has a first XI capable of winning any game, but a squad that is not up to the task of winning a treble, is a good one. We’ve seen a marked deterioration at this time of year that mirrors very closely the pattern of the last few seasons. That fact leads me to believe that, while Valverde got many things wrong, there are systemic, and long-standing squad related issues here that can’t be pinned on him. When RM won the league and CL last year, they played virtually a second XI in their league games. And they had a bench good enough to make it work. For the past few years, Barca has tried to win a treble with a first-class XI, and an unreliable bench. And in each of the past three years, a moment has arrived in March when the team has looked utterly vulnerable and close to collapse. They have been dismantled in CL away games in those three years, not just defeated. In 2016, they came back from intl break and lost to RM, Real Sociedad, Atleti in the CL, and Valencia. They just about managed to turn it around in the league that year. I just think they need to have a hard look at this next year, and maybe decide that if the squad isn’t robust enough to challenge on all fronts, maybe play the b team in the copa. I love the fact that Barca utterly dominates domestic competition, but 4 copas in a row (fingers crossed!) would be enough for me. Especially if it means the first 11 is not exhausted in march and april.

    • Víctor
      April 11, 2018

      Agree with that, not excusing Valverde but there’s an issue to be addressed when the team has gotten an habit of losing badly at away games in the UCL Knock Out stage… and seems that the answer is simple: fatigue (obviously) and international breaks affects this team a lot… under LE’s 2nd season Barcelona almost bottled La Liga championship (and got knocked out by Atletico in UCL as well) after a FIFA break, and let’s not forget that in 2017 Barcelona advancing to the UCL QF was a literal miracle…

      People say: rotate the squad and rest the key players and I’d agree with that… just be aware that rotating the squad also means a higher risk of dropping points against lesser opponents, points that can lead to losing La Liga… however, I do totally agree on giving less importance to the CdR. We are always mocking RM because they rarely win it as of late, but truth is… they don’t give a crap about it… and maybe we should as well if we want the gala XI at their best possible at the later stages of UCL… if we get knocked out in CdR on December or January while playing the “B Squad” then no big deal…

      And let’s be honest: playing three different competences and winning them all is, in no way, an easy task and expecting a treble every season is bonkers and kinda delussional. I still don’t get why many supporters have the idea that a treble is an entitlement or something.

      And, by the way, the UCL winner is not always the best team in Europe… just look at it… yesterday the 3rd placed team in the EPL and the 4th placed team at Serie A defeated the EPL’s and La Liga’s most likely winners… today the 4th placed team at La Liga is at the verge of knocking out the Serie A leader… and let’s not forget that the Ligue 1 leader didn’t make it to QF. Only Bayern are on their way to qualify to SF while winning their league…

      As for Valverde, my judgement is this: if he happens to win both La Liga and CdR then we definitely should give him another season… if he wins La Liga, I’d argue for that as well… if the team happens to lose both then yes, he should go… in the strange event of winning CdR and losing La Liga then we should start questioning everything we know about football…

  9. Half and Half
    April 11, 2018

    Agree with the main themes. EV is a sticking plaster who whilst coming up with something that has been effective I don’t personally enjoy it and it certainly isn’t addressing anything long term.

    The squad issues and how we got here….. Well this board isn’t going to change. They don’t have the foresight, nous, or ability. It’s all about image and to spend, spend, spend on the biggest names they can.

  10. Jamal103
    April 11, 2018

    There is a profound and frankly untenable notion out there in the Barca Verse that EV has been playing magnificiently all season and that his decisions today were an aberration from his usual tactical actions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, I understand there are many hyperbolic Barca fans that have exaggerated our flaws but the truth of the matter is we have played very poorly this season in Champions League, safe for a few sparks of magic.

    Kevin you included a good quote from EV’s presser, here’s another gem

    >“I used the same lineup, because we played well in the first leg and we scored 4 goals.”

    For me this mentality says it all. He truly believed that our performance last week was worthy of a repeat. It says more about the manager that he looked at the agg score instead of looking at individual play between Semedo-Sergi, or how Suarez was isolated for most of the game.

    I saw a verified comment from Iniesta after the half time talk where he told Sergi that if we kept playing similarly, we would lose the tie.

    How prescient was he in that moment! Iniesta has the most experience in this league by far. He knows how much momentum and killer instinct play a part in success. EV set us up to defend and the players were clearly not in agreement with that decision or else Iniesta wouldn’t be having to give Sergi ominous predictions like that. This narrative is further corroborated when you find news that EV rebuffed Pique after Pique asked for a change in tactics following the penalty.

    It’s all blown up in EV’s face. He needs to own all of this. I’m tired of seeing people blaming the players for not trying hard enough or not having enough passion. You look at Iniesta’s tearful face after the game and tell me he didn’t want this. You look at Messi playing at RB and instructing Semedo + Sergi on how to attack more vertically and tell me he didn’t want this. You see TS pull out ridiculous saves and tell me he didn’t want this? No, EV didn’t want this.

  11. TITO
    April 11, 2018

    It is obvious that it will be a game to talk about it in years to come. And not for good.
    EV bottled it, pure and simple. When gazillion of people saw it and realize it last night he should have as well. It was not some advanced maths go figure it out. And his after game comments are even worse.
    Im not for sacking him unless he screws up the league and the copa somehow, which would be a science fiction.
    Anyway, he needs to sit down prior fo next season and have a chat with Busi, Messi, ,Pique and whoever there about the fearless approaches to a game, especially these kind of games.

    • Jamal103
      April 11, 2018

      He’s too prideful for a sit down like that. He wouldn’t even listen to Pique during the game yesterday

  12. April 11, 2018

    Valverde, as a new coach, is coming to a team that has won two trebles in the last decade. Logically, rotation, and HEAVY rotation should have happened during the Copa. But woe betide the coach, particularly a new one, who seems like he isn’t going for the treble. It’s almost become part of team lore.

    What I don’t know is if rotation during the Copa had happened, if those role players would have grown into their roles and subs. The best teams — and this was the plan for Barça — have subs that can play without much dropoff from the XI. But there is no replacing or not having dropoff from football legends.

    And as noted above, the transfers hurt last season and this one. If we had Valencia Gomes, it would be a quite different thing. And Valencia Alcacer. If a coach gives them time to try to bed in, as Luis Enrique did, he is damned for playing Gomes too much. If he doesn’t, he’s damned for not trusting his bench. A Barça coach can’t win.

    A lot will happen this summer. I think among the departed will be Rafinha (the one player I think we should have kept) officially, Denis Suarez, Gomes, Alcacer, Digne, Vermaelen, Marlon (officially), Iniesta, Aleix Vidal. A couple of big surprises wouldn’t shock me. Someone could throw a bunch of money at, say, Rakitic. Cillessen might also be tempted away by a starting role somewhere. He’s good enough to start for a great many clubs.

    I just don’t believe that we have the coach or board to steward this next transfer refresh process.

    • Rokke
      April 11, 2018

      I thought appointing Valverde was a fine decision because I didn’t really think a manager who can reinvent the team was needed. We just needed someone to come in and get the core players playing their best the last seasons we have them, and I thought Valverde could do this which he has pretty well to be honest. He got a team that still had Neymar and it absolutely had the quality to win it all. Then Neymar left and suddenly we have to fill out the creative gap left by the 3rd best player in the world. That meant over reliance on Messi, Alba, and to some extent Iniesta, and it definitely didn’t help that the replacement got injured for 6 months, although Dembele would probably still have needed the season to adjust.

      Coupled with the expectation to perform and the board’s failure to build a strong bench, it’s not hard to understand why Valverde may have felt forced to run his best players into the ground.

      Now the question is what the club should do heading into the next season. Iniesta looks to be leaving so we have a gap to fill there, although a much more fillable one than the one Neymar left. I think we have the right personnel to fill it with our current squad, but the midfield will probably be lacking a magician, and we’ll still have the issue with lacking squad depth. We can probably continue to act with no real vision and get the same results as this season, but if we really want to start the transition to life without Pique, Busi, Iniesta, and Messi then we’ll need a clear plan. However, like you say, I think it’s incredibly unlikely that the current board is capable of this, and that’s what really saddens me about this humiliating Roma defeat and consecutive quarter final exits.

      For now, there are some pertinent things for the board to address in the summer. We’re fine on goalkeepers. We have good right backs. The center of the defence might need a new player unless Vermaelen is good for another season and Mina can be trusted. If we do need one I really hope we look at the guy that sent us out of the CL. Alba is good, but Digne has really come short this season and there’s absolutely no question for me that we need to bring back Grimaldo and sell Digne. From what I understand, he’d cost about 30 million and Digne should bring in 10-15 million, probably. The midfield needs some work. Denis can be sold, Iniesta is probably leaving and unless we’re planning to continue with a double pivot Gomes can also go. We also need to consider whether Samper and Alena can contribute to the team before sending them out on loan. It’s certainly hard to see them doing worse than our current bench players have this season. If we sell both Denis and Gomes we’ll definitely need to bring in another midfielder. In the final third we can sell Vidal and Paco too while bringing Munir back who has played well this season. If we then see ourselves needing another attacker for depth, maybe Arnaiz can be called up for some minutes. He definitely looked close to the level required for a squad player whenever he played.

      Assuming we buy right, which we likely won’t, that team would probably be fine to compete on all fronts the next seasons while the core players reach the end of their careers, but if we want to start the transition to a new guard, and I think we should be looking to do that, I would seriously consider also selling one of Suarez and Rakitic. Rakitic has become very important this season, but if we really want to work towards a Barcelona resembling those of Pep, Tito, and Lucho, then he might fall a bit short on his technical ability. On the other hand, if we want to move forward with the double pivot I can’t think of many players I’d have over him. Selling Suarez would also be a very difficult decision, but despite scoring a decent amount of goals this season, he hasn’t really been his usual self. Some of that might be down to issues with injuries and fatigue, but even during that stretch from November to February when he played his best football this season he looked changed. If we really are going to pay Griezmann’s release clause I definitely don’t see a place for Suarez in the squad anymore depsite not being sold on Griezmann’s ability to play as a sole striker.

      But then we’re back to the board and the realisation that whatever good happens in the summer, and all summers and winters until 2021 when there will be elections again will just be down to luck.

  13. PPos
    April 11, 2018

    Ugh, this board is terrible. When is their term up?

  14. Grindelwald
    April 11, 2018

    Juventus have had Madrid on the ropes for the past hour or so, could this be the after effect of the Roman miracle? I sincerely up Madrid are sent packing and Sevilla scales through!

    • Grindelwald
      April 11, 2018

      Speak of the devil. And Madrid scores!

  15. Hamid
    April 11, 2018

    Looks like the knives are out. I totally agree that we should have advanced to the semi-finals given the (not-so-convincing) advantage gained in the first leg. I also agree that Valverde’s tactical blunder was ignominious. The question remains: Do we honestly believe that this season’s barça is a treble team? On one hand, we recognize that this is a team in transition and should be reinforced and given more time. On the other, we ask for the coach’s head because he can’t win everything in his first year. Given our physical form, reliance on individual brilliance, lack of depth and unimpressive journey in the European competition, we should be nowhere near the CL semi-finals. We know it deep down but we, as culers, chose to HOPE and put more pressure on the coach and the players. So Valverde has been playing his starting XI in all competitions. Some of them are exhausted, others play while injured. Sure, Valverde should rotate. But are we willing to accept the consequences? Zidane knew RM can’t compete on the 3 fronts with his squad. He made some questionable but audacious choices and assumed the consequences. Nobody wants his (hairless) scalp (for now). As far as CL is concerned, my only consolation would be that RM doesn’t win a third in a row.
    The season is not over and we have not won anything yet. The upcoming games are against solid teams (Sevilla, Valencia, Madrid, Celta, Sociedad). Let’s close this season with a domestic double, a huge achievement given how the season started (short memory anyone!) and a deserved reward for the hard work and sacrifices of the players and the coaching staff.
    Thank you Kevin for another level-headed analysis. A rarity nowadays.

  16. Víctor
    April 11, 2018

    Madrid didn’t set up a defensive game and they are bottling it… Juve 3 – 0 right now…

    • Grindelwald
      April 11, 2018

      But Madrid still has a plan B: launching the ball forward and expecting headers from Ronaldo and other tall players. Juve shouldn’t allow them to get close to the byline, they’re incredibly dangerous there. I just hope those late goals won’t rear up its ugly head again!

    • Rokke
      April 11, 2018

      At least they got punked for the 90 minutes. Whoever they draw in the next round could probably use it to boost their mentality. They certainly aren’t invincible. Hopefully they draw one of Liverpool or Bayern.

  17. Femflexi
    April 11, 2018

    Can’t imagine how anybody can think of exonerating valverde!? Guy bottled it up totally
    Didn’t understand why he stuck to being defensive for 82 mins
    I know he saw what we all saw during the match yesterday : Iniesta is like an antique piece of spectacular jewelry that should be used or worn sparingly; Roberto is NOT suited to playing “JUST EVERYWHERE” partnering him and semedo will simply not work
    Still don’t understand why he had to withdraw semedo for dembele when he knows that they complement each other
    Why is he still not using yerry mina the guy is good so far but then you don’t develop youth by not even including them in March day squads
    If Barça sells Denis Suarez,rafinha,alcacer( to me currently he is better than Suarez) I’m feeling soo slsspy will continue soon.

    • G6O
      April 11, 2018

      Mina’s absence has been a complete headscratcher.

      Of the three starting CBs, two are over 30. And Umtiti has been playing a lot.

      Why not play Mina against Girona and Levante? Stuff like that…

    • mvarfi
      April 11, 2018

      Though the article reiterates some of the points already made by Kxevin and other folk, thinking about Barca’s problems in the context of European football helps soothe the pain, a bit.

    • G6O
      April 12, 2018

      This is an observation I’ve made a long time ago myself.

      I don’t think it is primarily due to teams not being able to defend.

      What is happening is that back in the days tactics played proportionally less of a role in deciding the outcome of a game than individual quality, while today the game is so sophisticated tactically and the top teams are so efficient that any major tactical hole in the setup can be exploited by the other team to catastrophic results for the team that allows it.

      Thus Madrid beating Bayern 4-0 and other results of the sort.

  18. PPos
    April 12, 2018

    I have a feeling that with Yerry Mina playing instead of Umtiti, Dzeko doesn’t score in the 6th minute and Manolas doesn’t score in the 82. He’s 5 inches taller than Umtiti

  19. April 12, 2018

    @ Jamal – excellent comment.
    It is a sin to put this on players. Valverde behaved like a small team coach rather than Barca coach. It now is looking more and more obvious that players wanted to change the system, but coach didnt until the 3rd goal.

    Not giving chances for Mina and Vermaeleen and risking Pique with a bad knee this is something I could not understand at all.
    Anyways, at least please please dont lose the classico. We need to win that match.

  20. Femflexi
    April 12, 2018

    Funny how some of turn into sporting directors we’ve all been getting our transfers wrong
    I don’t know why anybody would wanna sell Denis Suarez the guy is good enough just needs a season of regular starts. We all need to wise-up to Luis Suarez the guy is slowly becoming a very big liability(disrupting plays, misplacing passes, lack of good pace, no-good balance when on the ball, zero dribbling skills and I can go on and on) Iniesta confirmed he’s leaving @ the end of the season well that is good cuz that should help the team a lot, HOW?! : all Barça coaches after PEP have all been sentimental about our old guards they always start the aging legs cuz of experience it works, but then these old war horses get tired and then BAM!! we all know what happens
    I’m a die hard culer but sometimes even we have to be pragmatic enough to tell ourselves that this team needs an overhaul. If we look @ guardiola’s projects he’s always building his team so they can last for as long as possible. And this Barça side (@ least the near xi is still his project) he is always building around a young talented player, phases out the old guards and brings new blood, nurtures them and turn into champions. Madrid too is also building for the future they buy young and promote and the their coach zizou because he understands gives these kid chances, If u still don’t get it let me make a comparison between pep’s past and present players, Madrid team, our bench and B team, potential transfers
    Pep’s players: DE bruyne, Bernardo Silva, thiago, Alaba, Douglas Costa, kimmich,(didn’t really do much of a rebuilding @ Bayern) busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, thiago, pique, Alba, Messi, alves, Xavi, now @ city sterling, Jesus, sane,b.silva, Mendy, walker,laporte, stones, etc he phased out players like yaya, kompany, zabalwta, kolarov navas etc. All players he managed he got them when they were in their formative years as footballers and can be easily moulded and made sure that he knew the skill set of everyone of them so as to get the best out of them. Now the QUESTION IS: Before guardiola, were this players world class players?, were they as good as they later become when they were consistently given game time and nurtured?
    Madrid: casemiro, Asensio carvajal, Vasquez, ISco, varane, nacho, majoral. Phased out players Casillas,pepe, Alonso, Morata (zidane found out he’s not good enough) abeloa, slowly phasing out modric benzema.
    Barça players fringe player present : dembele & coutinho(suprising but yes), alcacer,semedo gomes,alena, yerry Mina, vermalean, paulinho, Denis Suarez, Rafinha. Are the Madrid bench player better than these group we have @ Barça? ABSOLUTELY NOT !!! then we want to know what the difference is between them. It’s simple because pep, Wenger zidane, Paco jemez,the girona coach try to understand these young players and devise a playing style to suit the skill set without compromising the teams’ balance and altering their playing pattern they try as much as possible to give minutes to them to build up self composure and confidence get them used to playing real matches with the mature players help them build chemistry between them and the others and overall try to improve them
    In essence this team is okay with just two subtractions ( Suarez snr and gomes) one necessary big signing and just one other small money signing for the defensive mid role. you’ll ask me who I have in mind? But I don’t ave anyone in mind positions are a lockdown; find a tall physically imposing fast and intelligent striker buy or promote a player to challenge Alba for his position Digne def out, replacement should be an upgrade, promote creative MF buy a cdm and next season we make this team gel even if we don’t win anything we surely win the following season
    Sorry if I haven’t made sense as I’m not a wordsmith but will seriously appreciate comments

  21. Jim
    April 12, 2018

    First of all, I agree with any of the sentiments in the article. We have a team of winners and they won’t take well to losing, especially in this way. I said in the last comments that I’d only had time, or rather inclination, to watch the first six minutes. Well, I’ve now watched the rest and if anything it’s worse than I felt on the night. I’ve defended EV’s starting lineup and I see no reason to change that. For years we’ve bleated on about Pep not paying enough attention to defence. EV certainly does that and with a 4-4-2, which to be honest was actually more of a 4-5-1 given Messi’s constant dropping into midfield that should have been enough to ensure we could defend a 3 goal lead. If anyone is going to tell me they would expect a defensively setup Barca, not much different from the way we’ve set up most of the season, to lose three without reply I’d have taken some convincing.

    However, that’s what happened and for me there were three basic reasons.

    1. We lost three very bad goals. Two simple balls over the top which weren’t defended properly by our CBs and Alba, even allowing for Pique getting his jersey pulled which is more obvious on a second watching. There is still in general far too much space between Pique and Umtiti during games when the opposition have the ball. You don’t let them down the middle. I don’t agree with the opinion that our CBs aren’t expected to track forwards. I understand that we expect more than that from our CBs but that’s exactly what they must do – it’s the basics of defending for goodness’ sake!

    The third was a simple set piece move. Someone said Suarez started to move to the ball but stopped. That’s because he has a specific job to stand at the front post for balls coming inside the six yard box, not deal with players coming from behind who are already marked. The whole point of zonal is that you don’t chase the ball. I don’t like the system but that’s what it is. No, it’s down to Semedo and and you can clearly see that he knows this by his reaction. A shame for him ( and us!) because his display didn’t deserve that finish. No, if you lose three preventable goals like that, none of which came from the system employed you’ll always be in bother.

    2. We’re not good at defending without the ball. Yup, notwithstanding this game our defence have played really well against good teams this year. One bad display doesn’t wash all that away. However, much of our defence is based on keeping the ball, being able to play your way out of a press and not hoofing the ball. We started to lose that with LE’s notion of getting it forward quickly, it continued with his awful transfer summer when we brought in a number of journeymen who never had the skills to survive at Barca ( why could people not see that after a couple of months even if we give them a whole season to adapt ? ) So, this summer we will hopefully see the departures of Denis, Vidal, Gomes, Alcacer ( no he hasn’t shown any signs of being able to lead our line ) and possibly Rakitic.

    Just to reiterate, much of our woes during this match was down to the inability to play our way out of a press and vision, control and sharp passing are the skills all Barca mids need in abundance. It was embarrassing watching our attempts at times..

    Those slagging Iniesta btw, should have a look at the types of situations he was given the ball in. I have and there’s not another player in the world who could survive most of them. The game passed him by not because he’s old but because they knew he could hurt them. Have a look at the fifteen minutes before he came off and tell me who our most threatening player was. He can’t survive in this situation though if he’s got others around him who don’t pace at the right times, right pace and move to receive the return. As Xavi once said, passing is not a solitary occupation. You depend on others. Btw, he’s also not slow. Some of his work to get back quickly into defence was admirable. His problem was our problem, not being good enough to get him the ball at the right times.

    3. I’m aware this isn’t the first time I’ve said this but I’ll say it again because it hacks me off. There is nothing wrong with Suarez that a bit of company up front wouldn’t cure. Kxevin rightly says that one of the things RM do well is get numbers into the box. man City, Liverpool Bayern, they are all good at this. We used to be but this season Suarez has been isolated for large stretches up front. Now if you want a number nine to pitch his tent in isolation, win the ball in the air against 7 foot CBs and hold the ball up for the rest to arrive then great but that person isn’t Suarez and this isn’t the club. We tried that with Ibra ( although not intentionally ). I’m not saying Suarez played well and nobody can say he didn’t because he never saw the frogging ball !!! That is down to EV and him alone. It needs to change because right from the start of games we are reducing one of our top assets to a spectator. Give him company he’ll score goals.

    Too long already but you understand the cathartic nature given the circumstances. Finally, the board. Yes, they have overall responsibility and there is a growing need for Barto to step in here but let’s get it in perspective. There is a lot of rubbish talked about the board’s culpability in our decline.

    Accusation : they haven’t bought well. Barto doesn’t go out and scout players. He relies on the sporting team who are not the board. It went wrong when LE saw ( thought) he didn’t need Xavi in the second half of the treble season or indeed much of a midfield at all. Some, here and elsewhere were lauding this and some saw what was coming. So LE was allowed to go out that fateful summer and buy too many, and too poor, players to become our new midfield. It didn’t work, it was never going to for reasons I’ve covered.

    Accusation: they haven’t been prepared to spend the money. Come on !

    Accusation: they haven’t supported La Masia. Some truth in this. Too many of our promising youngsters have been allowed to go without being truly tested in the first team environment and without knowing the ins and outs the board must take some blame for that as they can set the tone for a coach. Yes, I’m thinking Samper especially who was NEVER given a chance to play with the proper first team. Any time he did he had other reserves also in the side. He just needed half a dozen games to become twice the player because he has the precise skills we need. Won’t serve him well at all clubs but at ours . . . There were others.

    So yes, and I suppose I should have just said this at the start and headed off to the golf – I didn’t see anything wrong with the lineup or the start ( 6 minutes) . However, once we lost the first and they got the bounce we weren’t seeing the ball and again as Kxevin says we’d all seen that scenario before. By 30 minutes in we should have changed our shape and attacked them more. And that is solely down to EV.

    • April 12, 2018

      Forget 30 mins Jim. Even if we had changed when De Rossi scored. We could have gone through.
      I hope you saw the news that Pique asking Valverde to change tactics and coach saying something like am responsible or so. Also of Iniesta saying we are going to lose if we play like this.
      And as you have said always LE should take blame. Yesterday read somewhere that board presented Gundoagan and Turan, and LE picked up Turan.. Likewise he must have decided on Gomes, Vidal too.. Its incredible how the club as a whole has forgot about the long term.

      • Jim
        April 12, 2018

        No, I hadn’t when you wrote that Fotobirajesh, but it comes as no surprise. I found myself getting really angry at EV’s inaction on a rewatch of the game. Whether Pique was merely asking for a change of tactics the senior players aren’t daft. If we can see it they feel it much more strongly. Thought I was getting over it today then I saw this.

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

        Anybody who reduces Iniesta to this needs to stay out of my way ! He can’t be allowed to finish in this cowardly way. No question Valverde will have lost the dressing room, not by the initial lineup but by his rabbit in the headlights show thereafter. Does anyone seriously think Pique, Busi, Messi or Suarez aren’t raging at going out with a whimper ? Whether or not he can get it back depends on a much better apology than we got at the presser. Want a bet we play 4-3-3 in our next game ?

        Next steps:

        Barto speaks with EV and sporting team to re-establish our style of play. Gives EV till end of season to show he can start to integrate youngsters and who he sees promoted next year. EV decides whether he can do that.

        Barto orders Xavi and Iniesta into La Masia to look over its workings then recommend cull of any deadweight at La Masia, and sends scouts out to find 10-12 year olds throughout Spain.

        Barto gives list of leavers ( I can help him with this). He then visits training ground, apologises to Samper, says no promises but he will get a fair chance next season.

        EV calls meeting with captains to admit he got it wrong then calls presser and rinse/ repeat. If it’s not a done deal he gets captains to work on Iniesta and tells him he’s instrumental in allowing us to play our way for at least another year.

        Sets up attacking formation for rest of season .

        Did I mention staying out of my way ?

        • mvarfi
          April 12, 2018

          Ohhh… I do hope now Don Andres is pissed off enough to stick around for one more year!
          Valverde’s learning curve has proven costly, but I do think he’s on to something with this team. He just needs more time. You can bet that THIS catastrophic display WILL galvanize all club’s stratum.

  22. georgjorge
    April 12, 2018

    Thank you Kxevin, for a great article giving me a bit of solace after that defeat.

    I agree on almost everything but not on the future role of Valverde. He had a major share in this painful defeat, that’s true. But he also had a major share in the games we won this season, some of which I and others didn’t expect us to win when he was appointed (RM, Chelsea…). He has taken this – as you rightly say – collection of players and formed them into a coherent and strong team. And, for god’s sake, it’s his very first season at the club, a season in which he more than earned his right to do it for some more! We give new players at the club at least a season before we judge them, so why not a coach who actually didn’t screw up very much at all this season?

    In your ideal world, Valverde is replaced by a bold coach with vision and an understanding of FC Barcelona and its philosophy. In my ideal world, Valverde already knows a lot about all that, and learns from this season’s lessons (such as the game in Rome) what he still needs to learn.

    • April 12, 2018

      We do not know this friend, if he learnt from this game.
      I also suspect with this game, he must have lost the dressing room, most probably the seniors, if its true that they wanted early change of tactics and he denied.
      Unlike all our previous semi or quarter loss’, where we still ‘played’ here he failed in making his team play, against a back 3!!

      • georgjorge
        April 12, 2018

        Yes, we don’t know much. He could learn, or he couldn’t. And if he showed he was willing to learn, he could keep the dressing room. If he didn’t, he probably shouldn’t be coaching here much longer. Those things are beyond our knowledge.

        But based on his results (not only of the games but also the team-building process and the strategies employed) so far he should definitely be given more chances to work with the team.

  23. Víctor
    April 12, 2018

    At least we wont be seeing UEFAlona claims for a while… so I guess that’s something?

    Today I have seen several UEFAdrid complaints… that’s a good change, for whatever it’s worth… and, being fair, that PK was a very tough call… people have seen the replay countless times and there’s no clear veredict. You think VAR will solve that? No way in hell. However, VAR would solve at least the clear cut calls, at least.

  24. April 12, 2018

    Lots of great comments here. And Jim breaks it down quite, quite well. Rokke gets it right, with:

    “I thought appointing Valverde was a fine decision because I didn’t really think a manager who can reinvent the team was needed. We just needed someone to come in and get the core players playing their best the last seasons we have them, and I thought Valverde could do this which he has pretty well to be honest.

    The anti-Valverde crowd I just don’t think understands the necessity of how this particular set of players needed to play and be coached. I have no issues with Valverde, other than him standing there, fiddling while Rome burned. And this is true even as I don’t think he is the right coach to oversee the next level the team needs to pursue.

    As Jim notes, there is a lot of blame for the board. You can take macro issues with the board, but blaming the Roma match on them as I am seeing a lot of mostly on Twitter, is misguided. It’s trendy, because all the cool kids are doing it, but the board didn’t ship three silly, silly goals, then stand around and get bullied by an inferior team.

    — Oh. The Pique thing. It was a sideline chat, and both he and Valverde agreed on the next tactical step. People are overblowing it by taking a quote out of context.

    — The biggest issue now will be deciding on how whatever coach, whether Valverde or someone else, wants the team to play and getting the players to play that system. The issue now is that Barça has a lot of transfer detritus from various coaches and their various systems, with players not exactly suited for the next coach’s system. And then there are the players who didn’t pan out. Summer will be busy.

    — Here is the XI Valverde should have used if he wanted to defend:
    Ter Stegen
    Sergi Roberto Pique Vermaelen Umtiti
    Busquets
    Semedo Rakitic Paulinho
    Messi
    Suarez

    The XI that he chose is the one with which you play Barça football. You don’t defend with that XI. Busquets was gimpy, Iniesta can’t do it, Suarez and Messi don’t do it. That leaves you with imbalances all over the pitch, and a smart coach will just hoof it to get directly at those imbalances. Alba isn’t a defensive fullback. He is a winger who can defend. . Roma knew that. Note how often they set up Dzeko for 1v1s with him, especially knowing that Umtiti isn’t that adept at tracking his man like a traditional CB.

    But there is too much blame on Valverde. That XI has the muscle memory to play football, irrespective of what a coach might tell them. And it didn’t. It panicked, and dissovled into a leaderless goop that got exploited. The team misses an “in your face” captain like Puyol or Mascherano. Iniesta said if we keep doing that we are going to lose, so grab somebody’s shirt and yell at them to do what they’re supposed to do. Get after it.

    — The reality is that this team has overachieved. Even a domestic double is overachieving. A treble and Valverde would have been canonized. That is worth remembering. After Neymar left, so many were down on this team and its chances. Valverde was the exact manager to give it a fighting chance.

    • Rami
      April 12, 2018

      Agree, Valverde’s pragmatic and conservative approach is what allowed us unexpectedly dominate la liga and on our way to a domestic double, But i think we somehow came to accept this approach, Because we saw it as a necessary evil, Due to the botched summer window we had, Losing 2nd best player in the world, The debilitating and long injury to our 120m golden boy, And the late arrival of our 160m star, But for us his approach to the game was only meant to ease the transition, A temporary measure, Barca’s core philosophy in football will never be going into a match to setback for 90 minutes and capitalize on a large lead in your first leg, That’s small teams mentality.

      What will decide valverde’s future for me, Is showing us what he can do as a coach in the coming matches, Showing us that he can adapt and change, That the tamed-down barca we’ve been seeing for the past months isn’t his final product or a preview of the coming season, If he can show the cules that he has much more to offer, I’m sure most will be wiling to give him a second chance, Including me, However if the football we’ve seen from him, Is all he can offer us, Then he can’t stay.

      The worst thing valverde can do right now, Is choosing not to look at what the newspapers, Media and fans are saying, This is the perfect time to look at what he’s been criticized for, And be brave enough to amend it.

  25. mvarfi
    April 12, 2018

    Still reeling, but my mildly superstitious, inner fan is telling me to turn the page, and focus on the game against Valencia. There’s too much negative electricity in the air surrounding the team. It can’t possibly help. Valencia is loving it!
    Hence, I’ve decided to take a deep, deep breath and send positively charged particles Barca’s way. Come Saturday, the players will need more than Camp Nou’s support, and I intend to start giving mine from Boston right now!

  26. TITO
    April 12, 2018

    Freaking Roma!!!
    I still can’t believe it.

    • Víctor
      April 12, 2018

      Freaking Liverpool knocked out City at UCL QF… and without the need of away goals rule… would you have believed it back in January/February?

      About Roma… maybe it’s about time we should stop underestimating the Italian clubs? Juventus made Real Madrid shit their pants yesterday… and people (including me) considered them “dead” before the return leg…

      It hurts, I know, but the reality of UCL is that the best team of Europe does not always win it… Chelsea won it in 2012, were they the best team at the moment? Hell no. Real Madrid at 2014 and 2016 weren’t the best european team either… and someone can wonder if they were really the best european team last year, maybe Juve or Bayern deserved it more…

      Funny thing about UCL football… after the first leg everything seemed defined… Liverpool, Barcelona and Madrid just had to “appear as a mere formality” to advance to SF… Barcelona got knocked out, Madrid got lucky to survive and Liverpool’s fate was uncertain at the 1st half of the return leg (Lahoz did his thing and who knows what would have happened if that goal was validated)… the only tie that didn’t seem so certain was the Bayern-Sevilla one… and yet, it was the one that didn’t bring anything unexpected…

      • TITO
        April 12, 2018

        I watch Serie A every week, including Roma’s games, and believe me when i say, you dont go out to freaking Roma in UCL.
        Juve and Roma are at least one class apart from each other.
        Im not saying that we are or were the best team in the competition. But surely much much on a higher scale than Roma. Keep in mind that we went there with a 4-1 score from the first game. They needed to chase the game, we needed to play our game, wirhout even giving our 100% on the field. That’s how much was necessary to pass this stage.
        And, we didn’t.
        You dont approach to the game against weaker opponent in that manner.
        Actually i cant remember the last time we we had such an approach to a certain game. Shameful
        And yes, it’ s still ubelievable to me, not painful.

        • Víctor
          April 12, 2018

          I do understand that, bottling a 3 goal lead is… just shameful…

          But being fair and thinking a little in hypotheticals: first, Roma did deserve better at Camp Nou… 4-1 scoreline was rough on them… a 3-1 or a 2-1 would have been more fair… yes, own goals are a product of pressure and offensive football, but luck is almost always involved… and second, maybe a 1 goal or 2 goal lead going to Roma would have been better for the team (and Valverde)?

          Knowing that the lead is not that much and seeing that Roma isn’t a pushover either may have made Barcelona players and coach to go with a more offensive strategy instead of hanging on a 3-goal advantage…

          Man, there is just many things to ponder… after the first match Valverde said that he preferred a 3-0 victory over a 4-1 victory and sure, it makes sense because of that pesky away goal rule but I also remember myself thinking after that: “yes, but who cares? it’s a 3 goal lead, just go score 1 against Roma and that danger is averted… score 2 and now we are talking”… should have seen that as a sign of what was in his mind for the return leg…

          • TITO
            April 13, 2018

            As you say, many whats and ifs, but the feeling doesnt go away that we should have done much better. Because we are that good. Not just for Roma, but for any team. We have HIM in our team, as the title states, but it was a complete fallout.

      • hereiam
        April 13, 2018

        Oh yeah.
        Liverpool was always a wild card. They can score a shitload of goals one match and nothing the next one. They can also lose by a shitload of goals.
        It’s Jurgen Klopp style: gungho until the last minute,

    • G6O
      April 13, 2018

      To be fair, that goal made it 4-1, and they won 7-3.

      But yes, in general these things are forgotten and what is remembered is only who won. Not how.

      You see it with even more recent events — rightfully Madrid’s last La Liga title should have been in 2008, The two they won since then were achieved with a massive push from the refs (in both directions — we were on the receiving end of a string of horrible decisions in each of those seasons). You almost get the impression that there is a quota set, where if Madrid have not won La Liga for four season in a row, they have to get it the next season and the refs make sure it happens.

      Yet nobody really talks about it anymore, and it was just a season ago.

  27. ugo nze
    April 12, 2018

    Am new here and i have been following ever since…

    my thought in the match. all errors in the game. is the coach fault…

    and that’s the main problem of the club….
    barca…
    when we got knocked out 7-0 nill… by bayern..
    and that season their coach go to win the treble..and suddenly their coach say he will be quitting…and all my thoughts was like go get him no mater what…
    negotiate with him till he agrees…..
    same with klopp of the rebuild Liverpool even with the departure of cotinho..same with guardiola when he left bayern….etc.. that pinned me down because seeing marino, Erique, now this same Empty head EV has is really regretting..infact it can make a die hard fan quit easily……..it’s stupid seeing them ends up in a club like Liverpool, now a better club than before..man city the best club in England at the moment.., bayern.. now a better club than anceloti era…even Winger is better than all this Emty Skulls..
    now i see how People are been rot..and never forgiven those barca boad who only apoint’s those who have played for the club barca… ha ha ha example they will be quick to give guardiola as a good example…..lol.
    let us tell our selfs the truth… if the useless and racism act is removed from the laws of the group. then we will be seeing a better coach that can really play our beloved pattern as it’s our trade mark.. and be successful out of it…..just like guardiola did..
    am sure they are out there….and i can’t wait to see pep as the coach xavi as the assistance…wow. what a barca-+ beautiful football+ tiki_taka+dominance+world class+good youth facility@ lamacia+new talent+ skill+triangular shapes and team work..+no more dependant on Messi+Unsein Messi secret weapon unleashed+beter and more supporters around the world+population+inventions..etc…..
    he has done it before without spending millions but With ideas development and creations….etc..

  28. hereiam
    April 13, 2018

    From CL season 07-08, the dawn of Messi era, until 12-13, we’ve always reached the Semi, winning the tournament twice.
    From CL season 13-14 to 17-18, other than the year when we won the CL, we have always been knocked out in the Quarter. Three times in a row, recently.
    It’s our systematic decline for sure.
    I don’t think it’s realistic to demand treble every year.
    But it’s realistic, in my opinion, to demand the team of Barca’s stature, to reach the Semi, or the Final, at least occasionally. Once every two year, perhaps?
    The fact is, Messi bailed us out numerous times in the past. But how many years he’s got left?
    The show must go on, there goes the saying. But most crucially, the club has to figure out how to, surely. Dembele and Coutinho, although good, are not capable of leading the line against Europe – not yet. Not when Messi has to eventually move to midfield, and with Iniesta gone. They are raw. We have to somehow develop them into finished products – like Suarez.
    Then I realize that we have recently become the club where talents go to die young.

  29. squeen
    April 13, 2018

    Dealing with the loss for the past few days, I’ve come to the realization how much winning the Champions League has come to mean—to me and probably many other fans as well.

    Is it more important than the league? I’d have to say a tentative “yes”. Like a Classico, it’s the biggest stage. Players typically bring their A-game. Sad that this time we did not.

    • georgjorge
      April 13, 2018

      Champions League is bigger for me as well.

      Though it’s also that we’ve had some time now this season to get accustomed to winning the league ; ) I’d probably be nearly as shattered if the team played such a stupid match on the last day of the league and lost it by one point, but that’s just not going to happen this season.

      Some big games coming up – big in terms of showing us where Valverde and the team stand in relation to each other, and what the future will hold. The tactics and personnel employed as well as the effort the players put into it are going to tell us a lot, especially with tomorrow’s game against Valencia, the Copa final and the Clásico.

    • Rami
      April 13, 2018

      CL being a sought out holy grail, Doesn’t make it in any way an accurate measure of a successful season.

      A truly successful team is one that is able to pull great performances and results on a consistent basis, Hence why truly great teams almost always win the league, But not necessarily a knock-out competition like the CL,
      However, Things aren’t true the other way around, Mediocre teams can never win a league, Yet may be able to go very far, Or even win a knock-out style competition, Chelsea in 2012 comes to mind.

      To give you a perspective, This year’s semi finals has, The 3rd in PL, The 3rd in serie A, And the 4th in la liga, Which shows how a competition like the CL, Doesn’t care much about “being consistent”, And also shows how it’s vulnerable to “aberrant events”, Like a team unexpectedly having a bad day, Or controversial or outright wrong referee decisions.

      I love to see us winning the CL as much as any other cule, But for me, The league will always be the most important trophy, Let’s keep in mind, We’re not competing in a one team league, Like in Germany and France, We’re directly competing with one of the most famous and richest club in the world, Who happen to be our arch-nemesis, Taking the league from them is the best measure of success i can think of.

  30. Víctor
    April 13, 2018

    Sure winning the UCL brings more light and recognition to a club… but, like many have pointed it out, the best team does not always win… the same applies to the World Cup as well… Italy in 2006 comes to mind… sure they had a strong mentality and were a good team, but the best one back then? Naaahhhh… France deserved that WC more than them, but Zidane&Materazzi happened… the same can be said about Netherlands, people claim that they deserved the 1974 and 1978 WC more than the hosts…

    I see many supporters say that it is not about getting knocked out, it is about the team’s approach at the game but I don’t buy it…

    People were asking for LE’s head after the 4-0 defeat at PSG and after the 3-0 defeat at Juventus… even when LE is more of a “Barça style” coach and likes to play on offense…

    Oh and when Barcelona made the epic 6-1 comeback, did people give Enrique any credit? Noooo… it was just the players’ doing…

    The same applies when Atleti knocked us out at 2016… people wanted Luis Enrique out, even when the team fought tooth&nail on the return leg…

    • hereiam
      April 13, 2018

      I think the reason why people were distraught was because of our recent CL drought despite having the best player of all time at his peak, knowing that he won’t be forever.

      • Víctor
        April 14, 2018

        Drought? Is it so? People say 1 UCL in 7 years despite having the GOAT… ok… but go further back and you’ll see that Barça has won 3 UCLs in 10 years with the GOAT.

        • hereiam
          April 14, 2018

          We also had Xavi and Iniesta.
          Now Xavi is gone, and Iniesta is leaving.
          And even the GOAT can’t play forever.
          I don’t know. Thinking about the future just gives me despair.

  31. christembassykapo
    April 13, 2018

    Yes, yes. Jim has a way of always saying something meaningfull, nice write up. And my my it was Cray Cray seeing iniesta rage up like that.
    Like @Victor said yeaaahhh people be like the approach and all. I buy it. It’s not really the approach but the inability to read the game and change the situation, mind you Roma scored their second goal in the 52nd minute and it didn’t just happen as we were harassing and bashing them with shorts on targets and incisive passes, but no they were tearing us apart like an angry gorilla and uncle EV was doing what?? So yeaaahhh still on him.
    But like jim noted Maybe it wasn’t entirely the line up, dude maybe just saying he may not have been favored as well, guess the gods were pissed this time and probably went like “nope this is all on you bro” hopefully hee would learn.
    I said so because, if you recall last season’s champions league bout round of 16 match , Monaco vs Manchester city . Man city after roasting Monaco 5-3 at the etihad stadium, lost 3-1 in France (again away goals) and they intended wasting Monaco as we all expected they didn’t sit back but no it wasn’t too be. And something of note, mancity headed by our beloved pep didn’t have a shot on goal in the first half in France.
    Although this time around he was ousted again but at the knockout stages but he was kinda in EV’s shoes, blew a 2 goal lead, and every one says he is stubborn, pragmatic uses only one style if only hee would start thinking defensively, and maybe that’s his woes but you know it won’t happen, i mean pep defending, ha ha ha, give me a break.
    And another point of note the great mou losing to sevilla at old Trafford, almost using the same method EV used, and his reply to the journalist was he had knocked out man u, in the competition before playing how he played.
    But then again, lets see what happens with Valencia, would he change his pattern (bet he won’t already left out mina from the squad)
    Would we win (guess we might *if we start getting lucky again)
    But one thing am certain he is not a bad coach, just maybe not our guy

  32. TITO
    April 14, 2018

    Good response from the team. They needed this win.
    They were all clearly down after Roma debacle, but managed a hard fought win.

  33. mvarfi
    April 14, 2018

    Granted it was different opposition, different stakes, different intensity, BUT that display showed no signs of discord between coach and players. In fact, considering the team’s sadness of the past few days, every single player showed up, no self-pity in sight. Ok, maybe Suarez seemed to second guess himself a little, but he scored, so moving on.
    Tuesday was a freak occurrence, in that neither the coach or the players showed up. That will not happen again, not with these players, not with this coach.

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