FC Barcelona and O.P.P.

When you buy a house, it comes with the stuff that other people decided was worth something — remodels, projects, landscaping. Maybe some of it bothers you enough to do something about, maybe some of it doesn’t. Either way, you have to make do with a home that isn’t quite your ideal, unless you decide to tear it down and build something to your exact specifications.

But where will you live in the meantime?

Adapting that complexity to football, one of the biggest problems for new coaches is O.P.P., other people’s players. If we look at the arc of Barça and its current roster, it’s interesting to see how things have arrived at this point.

In 2008, Pep Guardiola took over from Frank Rijkaard, and began the process of remaking the team. Out went Edmilson, Zambrotta, Gio Dos Santos (who wasn’t as good as hiding as brother Jonathan), Deco, Ronaldinho, Henrique, “Uh, Oh … ” Oleguer, Crosas, Ezquerro and Thuram.

In came Keita, Pique, Pinto, Hleb, Busquets, Caceres, Alves.

The makeover was significant, but there were plenty of players such as Gudjohnsen and Sylvinho, left over from previous coaches. What is also interesting is that the only players still on the roster from that treble-winning squad are Messi, Pique, Iniesta and Busquets.

In the next season, more changes came as Pedro and Jeffren were added, along with Ibrahimovic (in the absurd cash plus Eto’o disaster), Maxwell and Txigrinski.

The following season, Villa, Mascherano, Afellay and Adriano were added, Villa being the most significant in the wake of the fire sale of Ibrahimovic to Milan. This was also the first year of Barça as an “austerity club,” under the aegis of its new president, Sandro Rosell, who moved on Txigrinski, as much to show his coach who was boss as any sporting notions.

The next year, Fabregas and Sanchez came in, while Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu, Bartra, Montoya, Muniesa, Rafinha and Jonathan Dos Santos were promoted.

Guardiola left, and Tito Vilanova assumed the coaching reins. Alba and Song were added, while Keita, Afellay and Cuenca left.

After that sad, tragic season, Martino took over as coach, and Neymar was added.

At this point, holes were beginning to form. The system ideally needed a 9, experiments that began with Guardiola, were neglected for obvious reasons under Vilanova. The CB deficiencies were clear, and clearly ignored. Structurally, Fabregas was an albatross, and Thiago Alcantara moved on, the effects of which are arguably still being felt. This was also a period when Barça began the process of hanging on to players for too long, because no viable alternatives were in the frame.

And then came Luis Enrique, who got the same makeover capabilities as Guardiola, and the first significant transfer activity in an off season for the club since the 2008-09 season. Added were Ter Stegen, Bravo, Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Mathieu, Vermaelen and … Douglas.

Out went Puyol, Sanchez, Valdes, Pinto, Fabregas, Song, most notably. The result of that makeover was a treble. That 9 was added for Neymar and Messi to play off. CB solutions were found and Rakitic was in fact what Fabregas was hoped to be. Bravo was the shot-stopping keeper, and the rest was history. Things began to go bad the very next season, however, when Xavi and Pedro moved on and Turan and Vidal were added, failed transfers both. It got even worse the next season, which is the one that is most affecting this one, even as the problems began many seasons before this one.

Gomes, Alcacer, Digne, Umtiti and Cillessen were added, all except two of them transfers that created more problems than they solved, and the worst transfer summer for the club since the year that Alba and Song were added, in terms of sporting effect. Valverde came in, Neymar left and panic ensued. Dembele was added, a transfer that will look a lot better next season than it does now. Paulinho came to solve a problem created by the team structure, and Coutinho came in winter. Yerry Mina won’t matter until next season.

When Enrique’s O.P.P., in the form of Alcacer and Gomes, failed, that left Valverde with a great many problems to fix, especially for a coach faced with two attackers who aren’t really going to defend all that much, which creates difficulties in face of the Cruijffian doctrine that Valverde is so often accused of spitting in the face of. As Cruijff said, the attackers are the first defenders, the defenders the first attackers. Messi and Suarez, however, don’t defend like, say, Henry and Eto’o. This isn’t a knock as much as an observation from the real and tactical senses, and it forced Valverde to look for a player that allowed him a degree of physicality and control in midfield, but who could also run the channels to make up for the gaps in attacking when Suarez is mucking about on the wing. That player was, like him or not, Paulinho.

In part the loss of Mascherano necessitated his arrival. To take a longer view, the loss of Thiago Alcantara also necessitated his arrival, as the tean had to get control in a different way. What Paulinho, who is limited technically and not up to the skill level of a Barça midfielder, does is run around, play wall passes and help defend. All of these are necessary as Messi stands, waiting for the ball, and Suarez needs the ball delivered to him before anything can happen. If Paulinho has to dribble and make runs, the system is broken. People snarl about Paulinho making runs, rather than understanding that something else is broken, necessitating those “runs” of his.

Gomes failed. He is never going to become the player that he was at Valencia for Barça. That failure was massive, because Gomes was the idealized player that would have negated the need for Paulinho. Deulofeu failed, which meant that wing play went away, even with the arrival of Dembele, who broke for five months. Alcacer, at Valencia, was a nuisance player, someone who darted about to find spaces, then capitalized on a hard, accurate shot — sort of a low-rent Eto’o. He also tanked, so Suarez has to play, and play, and play, and …

Should the club have kept Munir? Valid question, particularly given how Munir has performed, albeit in an entirely different situation with more space than he would have been afforded at Barça, and how Alcacer has performed. Munir could have not played about as often as Alcacer, and saved 30m. But transfers are about potential, based on past performance. Alcacer seemed a good move at the time if, like Gomes, the Valencia version showed up. It didn’t. So O.P.P. broke the system.

People scream about Thiago Alcantara’s departure in terms of a lot, but the effect now is worth considering. The club has signed Coutinho, and Arthur will be coming in the winter. It also tried Gomes. In every case, the intention was the capture some of the skill set that Thiago has. Combine all of them, and you get Thiago, who can run the channels and play wall passes, create off the dribble, control at the base of midfield and score goals from inside the box. Without getting into the attendant narrative about who left or let do this or that, from a strictly skills and tactical viewpoint, the departure was significant.

Equally significant were the years of neglect of the CB position. Again, O.P.P. is killing Pique, who can’t NOT play. Yerry Mina is the first RCB the club has signed since Pique returned from Manchester, an action that is ridiculous and short-sighted. Umtiti is brilliant, but how is that the only good CB that the club has signed since Pique? Mathieu and Vermaelen are serviceable, and Mascherano was always a stopgap, who could only play CB for Barça, really. A solution should have been found before now.

Left back is another difficulty. Digne hasn’t worked out to be what anyone expected, so Alba has to play, and play, and … Grimaldo is oft discussed, but anyone who watches him play and thinks he would have been playing any more than Digne has the kind of optimism that makes the world a better place. So Alba plays too much, despite being tactically and physically limited, something exploited in draws or losses at Deportivo, and by players such as Bale and Dzeko.

The biggest problem with O.P.P. is Sergio Busquets, and not having a viable sub for him. This reality forced Valverde to have to Hamburger Helper his midfield defense by playing a double pivot with Rakitic and Busquets, the former another player who doesn’t really have a viable analog.

If we want to scream about how Valverde plays, it has to be in the context of his available tools. When Rakitic is out, who does that job? Nearest to him is Sergi Roberto, but it isn’t at the same level, so Busquets has to cover more space and is found wanting. He has to play Paulihno, and should have against Roma, to gain a degree of control and defensive solidity in midfield. He has to play Suarez all the time, has to play Alba all the time, has to play everyone all the time. It isn’t a question of rotation, but more a question of what happens to the level of play when subs enter. Denis Suarez is great in a sub role. He makes things happen, makes forward runs and now that he is playing like a man rather than a boy, is a delight to watch. But defensively? Sheeeit.

Marlon is at Nice, quite likely never to return. Vermaelen is on the bench, where because Umtiti is more fitting to the style Valverde wants to play, he sits. If you are going to play a pickup football match and you have a nice, new shoe and one past its time, where your ankle wobbles and one toe aches after every ball strike, which boot are you going to use? That is Valverde, a coach who sits at the nexus of years of poor planning, missed transfers, makeshift crap and statements made by boards and coaches. He has what he has.

“He should have rotated in the Copa.” With who, without making it look like a new coach is dumping the Copa? Let’s say he has an XI of:

Cillessen
Semedo Mina Vermamelen Digne
Gomes
Denis Suarez Alena Sergi Roberto
Alcacer Paulinho

Those are, in effect, the subs. Who wouldn’t laugh if Valverde brought out that XI? Heavy rotation? There you go. Then what, after the Copa is lost and culers say Valverde can’t even win a “gimme” competition such as the Copa. This year was vastly more fraught than we realize.

What will happen this summer? Alena will be promoted, and Arnaiz will get a look. Arthur will come in winter, Griezmann will come in the summer. Who will leave? Gomes, Alcacer, Vidal and a few other players as the team gets a rehab more than a makeover. Dembele will be fully fit, and Valverde should do pretty well with that group. He will also play differently with that group. That’s part of the deal. Of course he had to play boring-but-effective football this season. What were his options, if you look at the arc of transfers and personnel. If anything, he tried to be too interesting against Roma, and it cost him. Roma’s press precluded playing the ball out, but long balls to Sergi Roberto or Luis Suarez were lost almost immediately. Paulinho would have been much more effective at taking those passes, as well as helping defensively right outside the Barça box, where Roma ran riot. Reality dictates necessity.

Nothing has, for me, changed about my view of Valverde. He has been brilliant this season. My mind strains to think of a better candidate for coach of the year, even as he won’t win it, and Barça supporters won’t back him for such honors because so many are busy seeing theory instead of reality. Reality is this: a collection of failed transfers and players who aren’t good enough have dictated Valverde’s options. Yes, he is conservative. But the talent also forced that upon him.

What is most interesting about next season is that potentially, it could be as close to an idealized Barça, especially with another (essential) CB signing to accompany Pique, Umtiti and Mina. And then we will see what Valverde wants to do. Right now, so much of what he is doing is what he has to do, because what are the viable options?

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Written by:

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.

57 Comments

  1. Jim
    April 16, 2018

    Serves me right for taking so long to type out a comment on this very subject ( last post). I literally pressed the button and the site came up with this !

    Anyway, literary merit aside I could have written this Kxevin. Spot on, despite the fact you didn’t mention the “Samper” word in the part about Busi.

    • April 16, 2018

      Samper was an oversight, Jim. Thanks for pointing that out, even as I don’t think he will ever be good enough to feature for Barça, even had he not suffered that awfu injury. He will, like Jonathan Dos Santos, be an excellent CM at a mid-table Liga side, another quality professional created by La Masia.

      Though I would love to be wrong about him. His dedication to the club deserves to be rewarded.

      • Grindelwald
        April 17, 2018

        Song was signed by Pep if I’m not mistaken.

      • Jim
        April 17, 2018

        I’m not sure either, Kxevin, but really only because of the latest injury. I just feel we’re due him a chance after putting him through the needless hell of those loans. You don’t improve your passing and control by going to teams which neither control nor pass and are a mess of players running round shouting look at me ! You improve by playing with top players who will give you the hospital pass because they trust you, can take a fizzed pass, are available for a quick return and that’s what builds confidence. Allowing him a preseason and giving him a squad place would do wonders for the fan base and La Masia.

        Tbh, he couldn’t be any worse than those playing in midfield the last two seasons. It’s going to be an interesting call and one I’ve a feeling Barto might make, for various reasons.

        Fwiw, I thought his defensive skills were better last couple of times I saw him play. You’ll know that was my only area of concern with him. He was pressing well and starting to anticipate the speed of the game better. May all be academic now, though. That is a bad injury. I mentioned my golf partner had exactly the same and he’s been told they’re not taking the pins out as they don’t think the ankle would be strong enough., leaving him with limited flexibility in the ankle as the pins prevent full movement.

  2. mvarfi
    April 16, 2018

    As a newcomer to the world of Barca, I thank you for this delightfully neat recap.

  3. christembassykapo
    April 16, 2018

    I couldn’t agree more. Am thinking, maybe in the light off the roma defeat, maybe just maybe valverde has little options. We would see as time flies

  4. squeen
    April 16, 2018

    Kxevin (and Jim) nice post(s). You both have been helping me through the “recovery” process–coping with the Roma lose. Many thanks.

    I think it was Ferdinand commenting after the Chelsea victory that this Barca team never looks like it gets out of first gear, and he wondered if it has a second gear.

    I think we saw, in the last 10 minutes of the Roma game, and a bit too during the Valencia match that the team does has a second gear—but it’s unreliable. Some of the cogs are missing gears.

    For example, after the third goal, when they (finally) started to attack Roma, there were a number of fast passes that got Roma pinned back in their third, and I started to hope that Barca would indeed get the missing goal. That ended with Semedo who took too long on the ball and was dispossessed. Then, Barca were back tracking, and trying to absorb a counter-attack while the clock ticked down. I think it was a bit indicative of our overall frustrations with the team this year. That sense of skating by on “luck” (looking at you mister own-goal). We want/need fast play. Many incorrectly misinterpret that as fast runners (e.g. bemoaning the loss of Neymar or decrying the “stupidity” of not playing Semedo or Dembele). In my opinion, we need fast *passers*. Folks like Iniesta, Messi, Courtinho, Busquets, Roberto, Pique and Alba (notice I leave out Suarez who I love but is too inaccurate). Critical mass of players with a fast game, that support each other, don’t lose the ball often, and aren’t hampered by injury or fatigue. A tall order.

    Right from the start in Rome, when Roberto was blind-sided/dispossed and Messi slipped on our first attack, I thought, “Oh no. Something is wrong”. Losing in Rome was an injustice, just like Iniesta’s wonderful acrobatic shot not going in to finish the symphony of skill that led to the chance. Both were a case when the universe did not produce “beauty” when it should have, and instead chose a darker path. The Illunionista DESERVED that goal. A Barca that lost Neymar and fought their way back DESERVED to outlast PSG an Madrid in the CL. Courtinho (who went out on a limb to get to the club) shouldn’t have to watch Liverpool progress further. (Dare I vocalize it: Messi should win the WC.)

    They would…if I was writing the script. The underdogs (and oddly usually-dominate Barca were this year) should have gone further—or at least not gone down in such a humiliating way.

    EV is good coach. I like him. He makes sane decisions, but still has some learning about the “Barca Way” to do. But Jim is right…there is an almost subsonic drum beating. A rhythmic chant slowly finding its voice. Doubters of midfield magic beware….

    (xavi is coming… xavi is coming… xavi is com-ing…)

    • Grindelwald
      April 17, 2018

      I think you’re wrong in labelling Alba a fast passer – if anything, he’s a fast runner with quite limited passing abilities!

  5. Hristo
    April 16, 2018

    “Marlon is at Nice, quite likely never to return. Vermaelen is on the bench, where because Umtiti is more fitting to the style Valverde wants to play, he sits.”

    No, Varmaelen is more of traditional CB… Since. Valverde plays a traditional 4-4-2…
    He has been the most consistent and reliable defender. Hard shake off. Perfect tackles.

    Play Couthino on the left, Messi in the middle and Dembele on the right. This gives Suarez rest.

    My God people there always viable options. Zidane rotate… (someone is gonna moan “buy look at their players).

    The purpose of this article was to show how new coaches inherit old stuff… Weight unwanted.
    What it actually wants to show us is how Valverde is all innocent. Coaches takes risks. Zidane does it, so does Klop and so does Pep…. all of them… Totthenam do it too.
    Rest again Leganes? “why? We have 8 games to play. What if we lose 4 of them”.

    Kevin, about 18months ago u disappeared and and u came back sometime later, something happened to you dude. There is subtle shift in your writing. You are different. Somehow caution. And assuming more than ever… Stop trying to sustain stuff to control.
    U are justifying without the need to do it. Writing about past stuff to justify present turmoil, when that should be but a dead subject. It has to be.
    We are in trouble. The board and this coach are harming us, our identity, our integrity. Aren’t u pissed off? If u accept it too, as a man who has become an authority on subject, it will become the norm.

  6. squeen
    April 16, 2018

    I noticed the change too. Kxevin seemed to have had his fill of all the ranting in all-caps, I-told-you-so’s, and negativity prevalent on the web.

    It’s been refreshing.

    • April 16, 2018

      Thanks. It hasn’t been a change, really. Twitter has made a lot more fed up with much of the bullshit attendant to being part of this club’s fanbase. But I have also learned more from you all, and many of the smart people I follow and interact with on Twitter. The biggest thing I learned is to stay calm, because it’s difficult to see with red mist in the eyes.

      Valverde got a crap deal in many ways, like the last caretaker type coach we had in Tata Martino. He has done a lot better with it than Martino, though I do wonder what might have happened had Martino stuck to his guns, instead of trying to play the Barça way in the second half of that season.

      • Hristo
        April 16, 2018

        Martino played against the best Atletico of their generation. He lost a strong, strong Atletico. Real also were more consistent then there were this half season

  7. Bruce Wayne
    April 16, 2018

    Question: If next season, we play Dembele as RW & Messi as false 9, does that mean SUPER SLOW Suarez plays LW? Or Dembele plays LW, Messi RW & Suarez center forward?
    On a similar note, we need a pacier CF who doesn’t kill off our counter attack…

  8. christembassykapo
    April 16, 2018

    Well, i think i kind of understand the dilemma in which we are in, but with so many angles to view from, at a point it’s not entirely clear, like you quoted kxevin red mist.
    Well might i add my twist to the turn, our fan base don’t seem too appreciate the results as much because of the manner by which we get them, players looking tired, oppositions pinning us back in our half, and then Messi bam!! A two at most three goal margin on a good day, when back then we bossed team around, the mere thought off barca sending down shivers and so on……
    But the twist here is despite the seeming dragging display from the team, they keep breaking records, and doing better on paper than our best assembly of teams at any given point in time. Under any coach. And are on course to the at one time unthinkable, THE INVINCIBLES. So there. If you say this team is s#%t and based on luck, how come no other person has been this lucky, and if you say they are the best, well in a moment or too, you would receive a good spanking with some proper education.

    BUT ALL I CAN SAY IS, ITS NOT A CRIME TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT, DESPITE WHAT YOU HAVE, BUT IT’S UTTER STUPIDITY, DESTROYING WHAT YOU HAVE THAT IS WORKING BECAUSE IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WANT

  9. TITO
    April 16, 2018

    Same story over and over again, ideally we want that, in reality we have this. And it’s not bad, not bad at all. What hurts is the way we lost to Roma, if we would have progressed and in the end we won that CL wirhout playing that beautiful football people would surely be happy.
    We all saw how RM reached the semis and how they are playing the entire season. Their fans wont mind the Juve loss if they win it all.
    We are spoiled, no doubt about that. As soon as people have a reality check, it will make their life easier, which doesnt mean that we should have lower expectations. We should aim for every trophy, every season.

  10. Víctor
    April 16, 2018

    So, according to Barça twitter they aren’t demanding treble after treble any longer. In fact, many of them agree with “screw the Copa del Rey”… that’s something I can agree on. Play the “B team” for those matches… if they manage to get it to the semifinals then maybe consider playing the gala XI for those matches…

    I just hope, once again, that they won’t hit the Panic! button if Barcelona gets knocked out at CdR Quarterfinals or earlier… but I’m guessing that they’ll do it anyways…

    And yes, the other claim is that they want the Barcelona identitity back, the tiki-taka, offensive football that demonized Europe for about 6~8 years…I admit, it would be great to get back to that stage… however, it isn’t a real possibility in the near future… that gamestyle that used to thrash teams left&right and even ridicule big opposition teams (particularly Real Madrid and Arsenal) relied on a team whose midfield was composed of Xavi, Iniesta & Busquets; had one of the best (if not the best) right backs of the world in Alves; had a deadly offensive trio in Messi, Villa & Pedro (and then Messi, Suarez & Neymar) and had one of the best centerback couples in history in Pique & Puyol…

    It’s not realistic to expect another team with that level of quality… the team, surely, can try and adapt its current players to that style but they are not gonna deliver it quite as a nicely… mistakes are gonna be made more oftenly, possession will be lost more and the opposition will have it easier when carrying out their counter-attacks… so, the team will lose games more oftenly, yes, even UCL games…

    How do you think that the fans are gonna react when that happens?

  11. Grindelwald
    April 17, 2018

    I think the unbeaten run earlier this season has actually worked against Velverde: it has made most Barcelona fans placed too much expectations, mostly absurd, on this team. Had we lost more matches earlier, maybe most barca fans would have seen this team for what it truly is – a team in transition – and that might have lowered expectations to a reasonable degree; even Madrid fans would have been pleasantly surprised if one of their best team ever assembled got to win a treble, while in Barcelona it is seen as the only definition of a successful season. Losing to Roma was just the harshest of reality and it didn’t go well with most fans, me included.

    • Jim
      April 17, 2018

      That’s a fair point, Grindelwald. I certainly wasn’t expecting this. For me, the problem is that our current woes were foreseeable. I’d been banging on for years that what we needed was a post Puyol partnership for Pique. If we’d had Umtiti ( ignoring his recent stumbles because he’s still a young player and will learn ) I reckon we’d have won at least another CL, certainly another Liga and possibly another CDR.

      If someone had had the foresight to stop LE’s splurge on mids, insist on a worthy replacement for Xavi and impress on LE the importance of bringing through youngsters from a position of power after the treble I think LE might well still be boss ( although he was a stubborn sod and probably wouldn’t have listened. )

      I’m sure the senior players have been telling EV that we are wasting an asset by isolating Suarez up front. It’s not been hard to see the discontent from them over the last half dozen matches. I’ve seen Suarez waving the mids forward to press in exasperation, Iniesta gesticulating trying to get them to play out more quickly, Messi indicating frustration with Rakitic not playing passes forward and Pique showing with his arm Rakitic where he needs to be to receive the ball and help him. ( I’m actually amazed our defence have managed to avoid making a huge passing error given the pressure on them. ).

      Even if it’s only Paco ( although possibly preferably Arnais) the extra body up front takes some of the attention away from Suarez and allows him more space to work. I’m amazed he hasn’t been complaining as our system this year affects him adversely more than anyone else. You can’t go from MSN to a single isolated figure up front and a set of mids unable to play their way up to the box regularly without causing concern in the fan base. I understand EV’s caution but he needed to trust the defence more. As many of us have said, he gets till next year to restore the balance.

      Hopefully he sees the problem and will deal with it. I don’t matter as they get nothing from me financially ( unless they reopen the Socio membership sensibly) but the fans at the stadium will vote with their feet. Once you have seen the type of football we can play it’s hard to go back.

      My hometown team had a spell 20 years or so ago where they managed to assemble a great attacking team backed by the ex WC player Sergi Baltacha at the back who covered everything. I and my friends all bought season tickets and loved every match. Some seasons we actually challenged at the top, others due to injuries we didn’t but the style of play was attractive. In recent years the current manager has assembled a side that is pretty hard to beat and has finished regularly in the top half and even qualified semi regularly for Europe, unheard of for a small side – and nobody cares. Tough but that’s the way it is. It could take almost a generation for expectations to be realigned.

      • April 17, 2018

        All excellent observations, Jim. It’s the reason I have come around to accepting that Griezmann will be coming to the club. As I have said before, an isolated Suarez is an ineffective one. Even Alcacer helps, but Suarez needs someone to play with.

        Grindelwald also makes an excellent point, which I allude to above. People went from no expectations, to low ones, to medium, to high, to full-on “where’s our treble?” It makes the sting much more acute. Ah, the vagaries of being a fan.

  12. ugo nze
    April 17, 2018

    News is breaking from a Barça insider that Valverde and Dembele had a bust up and almost came to blows in training today. Apparently, Valverde racially abused Dembele. Luis Suarez had to intervene and stop it. [sport] (Edited: Link removed.)

    • Víctor
      April 17, 2018

      It doesn’t even give a link to a sport article… so I highly doubt that claim. LOL, dude, the fact that he wrote that “Suarez had to intervene to stop a racial abuse” should have given it away.

      • April 17, 2018

        That is the kind of vileness that is spreading like wildfire. Valverde called for Dembele’s signing. Why would he racially abuse him? I see that the person who made up that scurrilous, awful thing is someone I have blocked on Twitter. Which figures.

        If we are going to post things here, please check them out. Only one place, a French website, picked it up, based off the original Tweet that cites Sport as a source. But when you visit Sport, there is nothing like that anywhere on the site, on the news or Barça tab.

        Not everyone is a journalist, but I believe we should function as one, especially in these times where people are spreading all kinds of shit about the club. There was a “Barça insider” quoted by someone who should have known better, that another “source close to the club” said that Dembele was “worse than Douglas,” on Twitter. The original Tweet was deleted as the person came to their senses, but not before it got out there.

        And the thing is, nobody did the most basic investigative work, and it has already been RTd almost 2700 times. The account has about 1,800 followers and if you look at its content, nothing about it indicates that they would have access to ANY “Barça insiders,” much less one that would have access to training. And if that happened, MD and Sport, in addition to other media outlets, cover training. Something would have come out.

        Please, please let’s keep this space clean of that kind of crap.

  13. ugo nze
    April 17, 2018

    If this is true, Then he Has to leave…Period..

    • Grindelwald
      April 17, 2018

      It’s not true. I believe it’s just a troll account or something. Pls, try to investigate before posting any news you see from an unverified sources!

  14. TITO
    April 17, 2018

    What IF Neymar stayed and Verratti came as a Xavi replacement which, i think, he would have done it quite well.
    The club wanted this, the fans wanted this. Who knows how things would have gone, good where EV would be a genius, or bad where EV would pack his stuff and leave.
    Personally, i still wouldnt mind Verratti for next season.

    • georgjorge
      April 17, 2018

      It’s not easy getting the definite truth about these dealings, but I definitely remember PSG stating they wouldn’t let him go for anything (is that where they made him read a statement that he was going to stay at the club, or am I confusing him with Coutinho?). And since they have the economic muscle to back it up, it’s not so much about what the club and fans of FC Barcelona wanted or still want.

  15. ugo nze
    April 17, 2018

    ok kxevin and grindelwald…
    i heard you. and i should have make my investigations further as you said..
    but Seriously i hate people molesting this club with every means possible…both online and offline…
    this should be called racism…

  16. georgjorge
    April 17, 2018

    Now that’s a starting XI that says “I couldn’t care less about this game”. Almost full sub team.

    Ter Stegen
    Digne – Vermaelen – Mina – Semedo
    Coutinho – Gomes – Paulinho – Denis Suarez
    Alcacer – Dembélé

    Not to put those players down, but if that team of individuals who for the most part haven’t played together outside of training beat Celta away, then we truly know that Valverde is into dark magic.

  17. Jim
    April 17, 2018

    Wow! With this lineup EV must really want that Copa. TS captain. Good for him.

    Btw, was Pique ever appointed as fourth captain or was it forgotten about ?

  18. TITO
    April 17, 2018

    Thats nuts, regardless the final result.
    How do you go from NO rotations to TOTAL rotation??

    • georgjorge
      April 17, 2018

      There are some conflicting narratives in that lineup.

      There’s “Now we have the league and the record for unbeaten games, a well-deserved rest for the starters” (Reconciliation)

      There’s “we want that Copa very much” (Ambition)

      Or there’s “You want rotation? I’ll show you the level of the substitutes in that squad” (Defiance).

      And probably some more.

      • Rivaldo
        April 17, 2018

        That dude is definitely trying to prove a point here. You don’t flip the switch that hard; all at once. From zero to ALL!!! At one of our most difficult grounds through recent years???

        DEFIANCE!!!

        I hope the players “ball out” and we win cause he’ll have a lot to Funny though, seeing how Mourinho is slated to do this very thing with the FA Cup. Haha. Look Out Below!

  19. tunde_campnou
    April 17, 2018

    Check this out guys, a good read from The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2018/apr/16/pep-guardiola-next-challenge-manchester-city-win-champions-league
    Only I don’t agree with the part where he said ‘Guardiola has never managed a team where success would not have arrived anyway in some form or other. He is rightly feted for his 12 trophies at the Camp Nou….There is nothing here to compare with Porto winning the Champions League, or Inter, or Atlético Madrid’s rise. Winning a title he had no right to win, wrestling against the tide of history.

  20. April 17, 2018

    Wow. What a lineup. Will be interesting to see what happens. Btw the sky sports commentators pointed out this second string team cost a whopping £415m so really there should be no excuse!

  21. Andh'ol Roin
    April 17, 2018

    even though i very much dislike the stile of VV, we should never, ever fire a coach after a first season. This would psichologically mean that we have finally fallen on the side of all the other teams which do that, you really don’t want to be the manager who adds this stain to the club’s history. VV should in exchange look to the indignation he raised out of the cules and build something out of that. He should stop introducing the subs in bulk and start trying to integrate them gently. We need to learn how to build, from scratch, because we are having a new start, almost. If dembele is worth that chance, then semedo is too and so is mina who is spectacular until now against Celta. once again kevin is pragmatic here and is right too. but, i expect that we will start having some balance in the force, once VV trusts he will get another season, to build something.

  22. PPos
    April 17, 2018

    Damn what a goal from Dembele. I like this second string. They should have started against Roma XD

  23. Grindelwald
    April 17, 2018

    We’ve been blighted by Celta attack so far, only Stegen and a bit of luck has saved us. Seems EV is trying his best to be in the bad books of the fans and board alike with the kind of illogical rotation tonight. If Celta doesn’t score in this 1st half, then we can hold on for a draw; there’s no way we’re winning this match either way!

    • Grindelwald
      April 17, 2018

      Oh my! As I type, dembouz just scored!

  24. PPos
    April 17, 2018

    WOWWWW ANDRE GOMES IS A FREAKING LOGGGGGG

    • georgjorge
      April 17, 2018

      To be fair, that foul on him must have HURT (and wasn’t even given a yellow).

    • TITO
      April 17, 2018

      Is not that he is having such a bad game or he is a bad player, just as with Delofeu and similar players, his decision making moves often have no football logic…Denis comes to mind as well, but little less than Gomes. With some smarter plays, we could have scored couple more.

  25. PPos
    April 17, 2018

    Yeah I didn’t see the foul. I took my eyes of the screen. Is it just me or is this Celta team like lightning fast since Guidetti left?

  26. PPos
    April 17, 2018

    Our best mid has returned! PAULINHOOOOOOOOGOOOOOOOL

  27. georgjorge
    April 17, 2018

    It may not be the Barca way, but I find these tactics of protecting our goal with dark magic (and Ter Stegen) and scoring very efficiently on the other end highly amusing.

  28. PPos
    April 17, 2018

    Damn, a well deserved red card. Sergi Roberto always taking one for the team

    • georgjorge
      April 17, 2018

      I guess he REALLY didn’t want to play today (subbed in after 60 minutes, gone after 71).

  29. TITO
    April 17, 2018

    Still undefeated, though lucky…very very lucky. They could have scored a dozen.

  30. Víctor
    April 17, 2018

    With lots of luck (and a ref mistake that affected us) but still unbeaten after 40 games…

  31. Víctor
    April 17, 2018

    Valverde troll, he threw out an almost complete rotation XI… lol, a bit late for that I guess?? But still, better late than never… besides, this can be the time where the team can try developing them…

  32. mvarfi
    April 17, 2018

    Why doesn’t La Liga have AAR(s)? Too cheap?
    He would have soooooo seen Aspas’ shenanigans!

  33. luisthebeast
    April 17, 2018

    What to say?Except Coutinho and Paulinho the others were meh.
    Mentality is a key factor to play at a team like Barca.
    Mina was bad and it s fair that he did nt play more.
    Andre and Denis must leave,they dont have the mentality for Barca.
    Paco is ok but i dont know if he can be ever a starter.
    Digne must leave.
    Dembele must grow,it will take time.
    Fans are unfair to coach.He doesnt have the bench that Barca should have.

  34. TITO
    April 18, 2018

    For me, Mina did quite ok, along with Semedo.
    Why our defense suffered was because of lethargic defending from our midfielders and attackers, apart from Paulinho. They were falling down almost in every contact with them, they left a lot of empty space for Celta players to move, not quick enough, not determined enough to help defending…but on the other hand, offensively we were much better.

  35. April 18, 2018

    EV seems to see only black or white, nothing in between. 110% rotation for one of our best opposition :)-. I just wish he had finally arrived into this kind of a full second eleven with few games. Anyways.
    I simply cant fathom why Mina didnt play much. Mina and Vermaeleen could have given enough rest for our first CB’s, especially since Pique bad knee.
    We were so lucky and a brilliant show from TS.
    Brilliant finish from Dembele.
    For once I felt very very sorry for Gomes. It was not that he was excellent – him and Denis has real problems in decisiion making – but a foul which should have won a red card, made him clumsy and the equaliser came.. pity.

  36. squeen
    April 18, 2018

    My heroes of the first half were Paulinho, Courtinho and Ter Stegan. As Kxevin has stated, it was a massive mistake to not play the former for the Rome game. What a work-horse!

    For the second-half is was Roberto (and Messi, of course). That kid has come a long way. It actually calms me to know he’ll be in a game. Tell me this—how come players can rugby-tackle Messi and not see red? Ever time he gets the ball, it’s a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

    While still wild at times, Denis also impressed me for the very first time. I’d keep him and Paco (who is a bench-able Pedro—major team-player) another year and try to work them in to the rotation a bit more. Dembele is on the right path, but looks 90% lost without the ball at his feet.

    The rest was a hot mess. Semedo needs another year to see if he’s even capable of learning Barca’s style. I totally see why Mina hasn’t seen much action—massively out of position most of the time. Almost zero ability to read a game. I really wonder if he has the brains for this club. Digne was AWOL on defense—usually not even in camera view during counter-attacks. And goodness gracious! If I NEVER again see a Barca defender (or goal keeper) boot a ball aimlessly up field to lose hard-won possession because our midfield can’t do it’s job—it will be too soon.

    It’s been awhile (well, maybe a bit last year actually) since I shouted at the television screen to coach the team on how to play football. Embarrassing, really. And these are professionals who depend of this game for their livelihood! Whoa. An example of a team sport being played by overly energetic (at least for the first 20 minutes) individuals. It reminds me of what my wife used to say about the local high-school (boys) varsity team, “They are so fast and strong…if only they had half a plan on what they were doing out there.”

    Valverde—man, you are one crazy dude.

    • TITO
      April 18, 2018

      We lost the last two seasons there with our strongest line-ups and got totally outplayed by Celta.
      So, no, it wasn’t all that bad, considering that this is the first time that this bunch of players played together.

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