I’m a rather content little piggy at the moment, despite there being plenty of reasons to be fairly pissy after yesterday’s match against Osasuna. Yes, we won and got a clean sheet too, but were it not for Victor Valdes’ early heroics, the story of this match would have been frightfully different. We were atrocious in the first half, with the notable exception of minutes 20 to 30, when we picked it up a bit and stopped passing directly to them or to the ball boys, but then we returned to that oh-so-successful.
Still, I am content. Sure, we had a pretty bad game and that doesn’t auger well for the coming visit to Mallorca (Saturday, 3pmEST on ESPN Deportes) or the trip to London to face Arsenal, but we’re certainly capable of winning against anyone with the squad put onto the field against Osasuna. It’s not too hard to envision a moment where we’re faced with serious adversity on the scoreboard, but it is hard to envision a moment where Guardiola stands around doing nothing, convinced his system will work in the end. He’s a tinkerman in a sense, but not the Claudio Ranieri version; no, he’s more worried about the minutiae that most of us fail to see. Men like Jose Antonio Camacho, Gregorio Manzano, and Arsene Wenger are much the same and so matches against their squads break down into moments, into tactical nuance; rather than smoothly flowing rivers of football, these matches are more like rapids that devolve into calm waters and before hitting another series of large rocks.
Because I have a job interview tomorrow, this will be short. Apologies for it being late as well as short, but the quest to earn a paycheck is greater than the pain I feel at not putting up a post of timeless quality.
The Bad: Because it’s easiest, we’ll start with the bad and leave you on high notes to keep you relaxed before the Mallorca preview is posted tomorrow afternoon.
-The thing I remember most vividly is the one-on-one shot from Vadocz that Valdes parried away in the 4th minute. It started with Iniesta giving a little pass to a not-all-that open Yaya who in turn panicked a little and attempted an unintelligent backpass to Puyol that didn’t even get halfway there. Puyol was then burned and the ball was flicked over to Vadocz, who put it right into Valdes.
-If the one-on-one showed us the best of Valdes, then the resulting corner brought out the worst in him. A long, floated cross was lifted to the back corner of the six yard box and Valdes half-heartedly went after it, realized he had misjudged the flight of the ball, and promptly stranded himself in no-man’s land. Fortunatley, Nekounam couldn’t put his header on target.
-Ibra showed a penchant for not putting balls away again. In the 11th minute, for instance, Henry tossed in a cross from a good position and Ibra whiffed on it and then was promptly called offside anyway (though it clearly wasn’t offside). It seems to me that even if he’s going to be called offside, he should put that ball into the back of the net. I thought it had gone behind him at first, but replays clearly show he merely missed a guilt-edged chance.
-Busi picked up a stupid yellow card. That means he’ll miss the Mallorca match and while that means he’ll be better rested for the Arsenal match, it isn’t particularly inspiring that he’s going to miss what could be our toughest away match of the year (take that, Madrid). Because this means more Yaya, maybe this should go in the good section? I’m just joking, Busi has been playing very well of late and missing him is a negative.
-We were horrible at passing throughout the night. Balls sprayed everywhere like we were a cat with a urinary tract infection. Blech. Simple passes that you or I could make were shot wide of their mark, behind a man on a run, or directly to an opponent. How is that even remotely okay?
-Dani Alves had the pure stankness going on. Did he complete a cross all game? Within 20 yards of his intended target? Okay, so he did it once and it ended up with Keita banging a header into the keeper. That’s why you cross the ball well. There were several times when a beautiful move by the whole team (in the second half since that didn’t really happen in the first half) was blown to smithereens by Alves shooting the ball into the crowd or to the far sideline. He once crossed so badly that Maxwell got on the end of the cross as it curled back towards our half. Really?
-We got ticked at the ref again and we can’t really have that. The ref was obviously not the brighest of the bright, but hey, we have to deal with that, don’t we? Stop whining and getting stupid yellows for mouthing off, Dani. And stop retaliating and expecting to not get a card, Leo.
The Good: There’s a lot of this too, which is why I’m such a happy porker.
-When we weren’t playing well, when our lanes were being closed down, we worked hard to get into the match. We didn’t take it lying down and we didn’t just let them kick us around. We took the pressure to them and worked hard defensively after our early lapse. They never meaningfully threatened again
-Our versatility was impressive today. The whole team moved all over the field, playing all the positions they needed to and not getting any the way of each other. Typically I see Messi and Ibra running to the same space at least once a game, but I didn’t noticed it a single time yesterday. That’s fun.
-Guardiola’s tactical changes allowed us to do some creative and effective wing play that Osasuna simply couldn’t deal with. In the move that led to our first goal, both fullbacks were deployed as wide wingers while our “wingers” (Pedro and Iniesta) were more pinched in. Messi was in the middle like a true 10 and Ibra was playing a pure striker’s role in distracting the center backs. Pedro fought hard for the ball in midfield and then slipped a pass left to Iniesta, who held the ball and waited for Maxwell’s completely undefended overlapping run. The resulting little pass freed not only Maxwell for the cross, Iniesta for the return pass, and Pedro through the middle, but also allowed Ibra to get into a good back post position for his tap-in. The defense is so bamboozled by the move that no one knows who to cover and it results in an easy goal.
-Our second goal was a very similar concept as Bojan gave a little ball to Pedro, who was playing as the 10, who then gave it to Iniesta. Instead of waiting for Maxwell’s run, which was some hours behind the play, Iniesta takes on his man while Bojan squirmed his way through the middle. Messi held back and kept his defender busy, which gave Bojan a 1v1 opportunity with his defender, but Bojan was already at full speed. Pedro held his run at the top of the box, which kept a defender there from even attempting to cover Bojan or Messi, meaning someone was going to be open despite their numerical advantage (4 on 5). Bojan’s putaway was nice.
-Bojan’s joy at scoring. I love watching the kid score. It’s like he just opened a Christmas present and found Jenna Jameson in it. The kid is just all kinds of all smiles and that’s awesome.
Check out the highlights, in German this time, just for Helge:
Okay, this one is over. See you tomorrow.