Barça 2 – 0 Osasuna: The Art of Passing

Rumblin, stumblin, bumblin...
Little Leo, off kilter like the rest of the team (Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images Europe)

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.

By Isaiah

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


  1. A few thoughts:

    Alves – Although his crosses were horrendous, there were windows of time during the time when he bailed out our defense and stopped attacks on pure hustle alone. Great to see him stepping it up on the defensive end. He’s better than Maicon. Period.

    Messi – I like the way he played even though he didn’t score. Lots of heart. That yellow card was not smart, but it was acceptable. When players have to resort to falling down on no contact when they can’t stop Messi (EVEN BY FOULING???). Crazy.

    Henry – What an asshole, saying he won’t play (hard) against his former team. You’re on Barcelona now. They’re the best team in the world. Wow, what a shame for you. You could at least try half as hard for them as you do for, say, France.


    Bojan!!! – Alright. Two goals in his last two late substitutions (that’s a solid goal/minute ratio). Time to start giving him some playing time so he can grow from this hot-streak. Perhaps against Arsenal since Henry is being a douchebag.

    1. I’d like to point out that Henry very specifically said that he is a professional and will play hard against Arsenal. He wishes we were playing someone else. Oddly, he wants someone else to eliminate them to keep him from having to play them.

      I’ll have more on this next week when we’re gearing up for the match at the Emirates.

    2. This isn’t the first time tommy smyth personally want after Henry in a way that crosses professional commentator boundaries again and again. I did notice during the Osasuna match that he did misrepresent Henry’s comments and liberally tacked on his own dishonest interpretation.

      I don’t know why ESPN/ABC keep this guy on.

      and BA FTW

  2. Even though he made a mistake on that cross, my MOTM was still VV.

    Guess what, Maxwell’s assist was the only pass rolling forward. The rest were negative. I think. And that frustrated me a lot. He should stop being afraid of joining the attack or maybe that goes against Pep’s will?

    1. We could certainly do with him being more aggressive on offence. Beautiful run and cross for the goal but I want to see him run at defenders a little more. He has the technique to do it.

    1. Should I have gone with someone younger? Whitney Stevens?

      Or maybe someone a little less ubiquitous? Mom and Dad, this is Chasey. Chasey, this is my Mom and Dad…

    2. I have to second (third) the enjoyment of the JJ metaphor. Brilliant, made me laugh out loud. Hope you did well at the job interview, ’cause I’ve got mine coming up on Monday and it’s good to see someone taking it so lightly.

  3. Bojan is still a baby to me, so I prefer to think of his joy being akin to him finding one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets.
    Carry on.

  4. I think an unsung hero of this match was Keita, came on and within one minute had a shot on goal and then within four minutes Ibra scored. Coincidence? I think not. For us to finish this run to the end we are going to need all of our players to make valuable, quiet (or loud) contributions to each game, and I’m glad we have Keita back. He’s better than we probably know. Now we just need Xavi, Abidal and Pique to be healthy.

    Also, as bad as we were in the first half, I think credit needs to go to Osasuna for being extremely disciplined, organized, and prepared. It pisses me off when a team like Getafe rolls over for EE, but practically every team we play plays as if it’s the last 90 minutes they have on earth. Regardless, I feel this makes us a stronger team all around.

    1. i didnt see the first half, which apparently mattered the most, but i saw the second and getafe took the game to EE. they were down 4-0 and made it 4-2. it couldve been 4-3 and michel got sent off for arguing some absurd calls. they looked like they wanted the remontada. probably just good theater though. hah!

    2. haha and also after going up 3-0 I doubt thong boy was putting in 100% effort. ugh, I hope patetico madrid can somehow manage a tie with them.

  5. I loved the switch Peppy G put down after halftime. The width we were showing was off the charts. I’m pretty sure Alves AND Maxwell were off the pitch at some point trying to widen Osasuna’s back 6.

    While the crosses weren’t stellar, the space created allowed P! to have the space to move/juke his way past the defense, allowing him to pass to Iniesta for that first goal. I also think Ibra would’ve have some more chances had he stayed in after his goal, but I agreed with Pep’s decision. Save the pent up aggression to destroy Mallorca in what surely will be a tough one in the ONO Estadi.

    ps – can we just talk about how both goals came in from a LEFT SIDED ATTACK.

    Not like us. but a good showing nonetheless.

  6. A little off topic, but does anybody know if Xavi will be able to play against Mallorca or Arsenal?

  7. Wow! I got mentioned in an official BFB article from Isaiah, now I can die in peace (not really right now, but when the time has come) 🙂

    Am I the only regular, active user from Germany here?…

    Whatever, to those of you who understand a little bit German, this is THE WORST commentator of all times. It’s a commentator from respectively (aka, so it’s only an “internet commentator”. He is really horrible and I actually watch most of the matches on in shitty quality because of him… I’d pay 15 € / month for GolTV or SkySports, but stupid Germany doesn’t offer anything – just with an absolutely incompetent and soporific commentator.

    PS: Good luck for your job interview, Isaiah.

    1. I would have to mute the internet (no la Liga TV broadcast at all in Germany…) and the internet is always some time behind the radio. So it doesn’t really work.
      Sometimes I can find a GolTV link, then I’m a happy man despite bad quality (picture-wise) 🙂

  8. Thank you to everyone for their kind wishes of good luck with the interview tomorrow. I will dominate that crowd like I’m Messi in a tangle of Getafe-ian defenders. OLE!

    1. before you speak, think of yourself as The Yaya, you already won 70% of it, and then be the messi in the crowd to kill it off. 😉

  9. I did not enjoy this game, at HOME ! When we get a glimpsy of amazingness, we just destroy it but being horrible.. Dani Alves, played horribly, Maxwell was raped by their forwards everytime… just awful.
    I know some matches are to be tough but really? I feel this was could’ve been easier.

    ps: Keita, gave us some life. I liked his play, and does anyone know when Abidal will be back? I just feel we are missing him, when Alves plays miserably we seem to find ourselves on the left with him, I like maxwell… just not as much.
    Lets hope Sat’s game is better, and we see Messi put away more pichichi-ness !

    1. Just like to point out it was Maxwell’s run and perfect cross ball that enabled us to get off the mark and we did keep a clean sheet so it couldn’t have been that bad !

  10. Sup guys! I rarely post here anymore. i just wanna leave semi annual comment saying Gonzalo Higuain is the only one we should fear during El Classico. He is as hot as Messi right now, for real. Agreements?

    1. I feel I’m in the same boat, rarely commenting except in spurts over five minutes…..

      Higuain is so good I wish he would make a move over to ARSENAL. Of course, I can’t see him at Barcelona.

    2. He’s the only man that put Real Madrid ahead of Barca last year (THAT year), so why shouldn’t we rate him? An excellent player, on par with Casillas as a guy that, as Barca fans, we should at least admire, because certainly none of us will ever play that well and we will readily admit it, without too much hostility and anything less than a smile.

      I said it before and I’ll say it again, I can’t wait to see a Ronaldinho-style hattrick at the Bernabeu from Messi. Last year was great from Xavi and Iniesta and the whole team. This year is great from MESSI. What he did to Zaragoza was just filthy, I’ve never seen any one player do anything like that, even in such a mismatch. Either Messi sweeps RM and is involved in all goals, or it’s a 0-0 draw, or a loss. Yes, I said it.

    3. I’d ALMOST agree if i did not love beautiful football, Messi makes you not blink cause you’ll miss something.. Higuain is just goals, nothing special.

  11. Offtopic, I’m planning my first trip to Barcelona in a month of so on a shoe-string budget, would anyone have any tips on where I can get decent accommodation close to the Camp Nou?

    1. Try * you can find everything from shared rooms in private houses to private houses… 20 euros to 2000. Most places seem to have reviews.

    2. I wouldnt recommend staying by the camp nou, as it is far from the center of the city and not really close to anything. I always walk to the camp from my sisters, she lives by placa catalunya, and that takes roughly 45 min. as always u can take the subway but still takes a little bit of time and can cut down on ur budget, also it stops running at night so u would end up walking back anyhow as u will be out till 4am everynight. I recommend staying somewhere central, maybe in Born or Gothic Quarters, Gracia you could probably find decent accommodations for a reasonable price.

    3. geez, Ethan, you should write a tour guide for all the fellow non-spanish cules. will be extremely useful. you will have to include everything a cule should do as well as a tourist should do. very demanding huh? 😛

    4. Thanks Ethan, that’s helpful info, will look for something in the city then. ooga aga, I’m looking at 35-50 euro per night as a budget for accommodation.

  12. I must say that I immediately noticed how terrible the passing was. I don’t get many chances to watch Barca play but I was amazed by some of the awfulness. It’s amazing that we still had over 65% of possession.
    I thought that BANGS played pretty well today actually. He was making good runs but no one could seem to give him a decent pass. I think Saturday will be a great display if our passing is back to par.
    Messi was definitely taking it easy in this game, he got hacked a lot and didn’t get any calls.
    Yaya had some monstrous runs, 55th minute i think was the one i remember most.
    and that ball that pedro flicked to messi, the one in the picture, i thought for sure that would be a goal. what a pass!

    1. i don’t know if barca looked better, but i know i always feel better when yaya is playing while busi isn’t. i can’t explain it, it’s just a great sensation.

  13. Greetings from Boston.

    I just want to fuel the flames a bit and mention that Bojan has now scored 6 goals in all competitions this year. Henry has scored 3. Henry obviously still has more class than Bojan, but take from that what you will.

    1. Goals scored? Then le’s start Krkic on the wing against EE and sre how he does against Ramos. Then when we come to our senses, we can play a grownup in that spot.

      How quickly everyone forgets the difference that Henry can make. Was his match-changing substitution really that long ago? For me, there aren’t any flames to fan. I would no more start Krkic in a match that I wanted to win than attempt to fly to the moon by jamming a rocket up my ass. People shouldn’t let a goal or two them into thinking that a player who even Guardiola thinks isn’t ready for prime time, should get the nod over a legitimate threat.

      No flames, just embers of a goal against an inferior side.

    2. …but it’s Lilian Thuram! O.M.G. Who knew he was a BFB regular?!

      Well, that DOES explain his affinity for the French…


  14. is kxev no longer writing reviews, just snippy comments. ill take what i can get. especially with references to self-sodomy.

    1. Naw, he still does the reviews. It’s just that he’s on cycling training (?)/vacation.

      He should be back soon, currently Lilian Thuram has temporarily taken his place 😀

  15. Piqué and Xavi have been included in the squad travelling to Mallorca.
    It appears that Xavi has also been given the green light! :

    “After being given the green light by club medics, Xavi is back in the squad after recovering from an injury that he suffered in training recently”


  16. Great news, both Pique and Xavi have received the green light for Mallorca, I bet my left and righ nut they both start!!!!!!!


    1. truly a good news! xavi will need to play a match before playing arsenal so that he can get back into matching mood. we can’t afford to play bad against arsenal. we will have to be 100% in any position.

    1. Could he be back for Arsenal? The picture in my head of Maxwell vs Walcott hurts me… although Theo won’t start, I suppose.

    2. I actually prefer Abidal to come back and start the second leg. The reason being that it gives Arsenal a false sense of security.

      If they think Maxwell is our best LB* (and although they rate Abidal (I hope), they don’t really know how much ownage he actually is, or recognize the massive gulf between the two), and Walcott gets the better of him, they’ll “fancy their chances” against Abidal.

      We all know how wrong they’ll be in that assumption will be. 😛

      *I’m banking on the ignorance of the English press. We all know how much better Abidal is.

    3. I’m guessing Sagna, Gallas, Clichy, Diaby, and Nasri (good chance he starts on the right side) are all very familiar with Abidal’s ownage

  17. geez, i just looked, mallorca is 4th , 2 pts above sevilla, we can therefore say they are about as good as arsenal. should be a good warm up for the scrimmage in london next wednesday.

    1. Their home-record is a lot better than Arsenal’s, actually. I feel we won’t win at Mallorca, and same about our trip to the Emirates. I’m kind a scared for the first time this season 🙁

    2. Why do you forget that Barca is more motivated against difficult teams? I think everyone will step up their games and we will win.

  18. Positive news all around today. After medical clearances for Pique and Xavi, Cruyff was announced our honorary president. Congrats to him! Could it have been anyone else? 🙂

    1. It means that he has actually nothing to say when it comes to ANY decisions involving the club, but it is a nice gesture to show some gratitude for one of the greatest players of all times 🙂

  19. We should get as many people as possible from the blog together to go to Barcelona some tome next year, meeting all the guys and gals from BFB would be a riot. It would be like a man sized field trip with Kevin Isiah as the teacher/chaperones. I could see is all going for 8 days, catching 2 league games and a midweek game, either CL or CDR. Who knows, we may even get group discounts.

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