Sevilla 0, Barça 5, aka “Acceptance”

“It’s clear we lost the worst way possible in the CL, but that’s how football works. Anyone can have a bad day, and you have to pay the cost. They were superior, but this victory against Sevilla is very important. The team needed it.”
— Jordi Alba

Life is a struggle with acceptance. Each and every day, we wrestle with uncertainty, and do so in various ways. In so many ways our embrace of sport introduces yet another control variable. We can watch our team and root for them, but we can’t influence the result in any way.

Barça obliterated Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final, dropping a vaunted manita in a match that was for the team’s first trophy of this season, with the second — for winning La Liga — on tap. The group was magnificent. Iniesta started, and played like Iniesta, like many of us knew that he would, a genius who has decided to leave the only club he has really known. He shook, slid and danced, and we want him to decide to stay.

After the match today, Jordi Alba was snarling, dropping truth bombs left and right. He and Sergi Roberto discussed the Roma match, the latter saying that everyone was trying to figure out what happened, but have also decided to move on. Jordi Alba decided to lash out at all of the talk about Valverde, saying that their Mister brought a clunky team to something exceptional, and Roma was on the players rather than Valverde.

Roma. It will always be difficult to consider this season without considering that awful 90 minutes. But as we watched the annihilation today, it was difficult not to wonder where this team was. Even where a shadow of this team was. It was more than fatigue and tired legs. Something happened, something deeper, something that even the players don’t know, and they were there.

In 1956 a movie came out, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The premise was that alien life forms came to Earth, bringing giant seed pods. The pods were placed at a potential victim’s house. When they went to sleep, the pod would “hatch,” taking the form of the person. It looked like them, sounded like them, but something was dead inside the replicant, something you would only know with intimate knowledge of the person.

Maybe Barça got body snatched. it’s as likely an explanation as anything else.

Look at that dynamic first goal, that started with a 70-yard bomb from Cillessen, a keeper with a key pass. Coutinho ran onto it, popped a pass to Suarez who slammed home. It was a bustout, and strangely reminiscent of how Roma played against Barça, bypassing the Sevilla press to get directly at the back line. It was a brilliant goal, and one wholly unexpected by Sevilla. Barça plays a certain way. What was this?

What life should really teach us is that control is illusory. We don’t have it. Not in work except in a limited sense, not in life, certainly not in the sport we watch as we cheer for our teams. Comfort and acceptance come when we understand how little control we have, accept and embrace that.

Roma was painful because a team that is so often controlled and in control, was out of it, run over and kept getting run over. Time and again, goal after goal with no answers. It verged on traumatic, and our quest for knowledge is going everywhere, from rotation and tired legs to a coach whose fault it all was. Reality is, who knows how it happened. Tacticians held forth, and it’s easy to explain what Roma did. It is impossible to explain what Barça did.

So what if we let it go?

What if we consider the Roma match as history, a series of moments beyond everyone’s control, and move on. Today’s match was a beautiful exorcism in which the team that we love played like the team that we know. Sevilla wasn’t expected to win this match, as much as people tried to create danger from a team that has been leaking goals like a sieve since its amazing ouster of Manchester United from Champions League. It’s almost as if Sevilla made a pact with Fate, giving everything to get that result, sacrificing much.

The final score probably wasn’t expected, becasue people still aren’t convinced that Barça is as good as they are, even as the openness of their attack today made them defensively suspect. Sevilla had chances, just as Celta had chances, just as Roma had chances. But from the early first goal, Barça was always on the front foot, deciding to deal with the philosophical notion of control by striving to play their game. When in doubt, do what you know how to do. Don’t think. Cede control to muscle memory and tactical reflex. Accept what you can do. Cede control.

This match was a party, an exorcism. Look at the spacing on the pitch, the ball movement, the running, the aggression. In many ways, it is a mini rebellion against the stolid solidity that has characterized this season, almost as if the accountant shed his sensible suit and black cap-toe shoes, took a trip to Armani and went wild. Barça gave up chances to Sevilla, but scored five goals. Poor finishing and luck helped with their clear sheet, along with an excellent match of Cillessen.

Iniesta scored. He had to score. We have long joked about the force field in front of goal that seems to plague everybody’s favorite player. Today, it was down. He spanked a deflected shot off the crossbar, and scored a lovely goal at the end of a typically Barça move. Iniesta. Correa tried a move, and it was Iniesta who darted over to control the danger, just outside his own box.

And look at that damn football. The run, the dance, the Alba backheel and the Messi slam home. But the roots of it was a perfect give and go with — who else — Iniesta, who slid into space to play a perfect ball for Alba to control. Alba, of course, tried to spurn the gift but made good in the end.

By the 33rd minute, Sevilla was two goals down. Sevilla had to chase the match, which was only going to lead to what it led to: more Barça goals. Look at how open the Wanda pitch seemed, compared to how compressed the home team, Atletico de Madrid, make it. It seemed as expansive as the Camp Nou, and Barça took full advantage, pressing and driving to create something, to make something beautiful for themselves.’

Before the match, Valverde said in a press conference that the team wanted, needed to win the Copa final so that they could begin the process of forgetting about the Roma debacle. We snarled in the cauldron of Barça Twitter, calling Valverde tone deaf, expressing rage and outrage that something such as that would ever be forgotten. Then after the match, Sergi Roberto talked about that very thing, about the players needing this result to purge, to chase away the ghosts.

To exorcise, they had to give up control. Not only tactical control, not only defensive control, but psychological control.

What if they had done that against Roma?

They didn’t. Let it go. They did it here, and won a trophy. They celebrated, even as the ceremonies were bittersweet because the players already know. The image of Messi hugging Iniesta, eyes closed like something that he never wanted to let go, the subsitution of Iniesta and the cheers from everyone in the stadium, the hugs from every member of the XI, Iniesta blinking back the tears.

Messi was genius, with pass after pass that only he could make, almost as if wanting to reassure Iniesta that though he is leaving, his magic will still exist. The third goal, an absurd ball threaded between the phalanx of defenders accompanying Suarez yet still putting it in a spot that only Suarez could get to, bursting clear to slot home.

The last time Barça played Sevilla, they pulled off an improbabe comeback from two goals down to gain the draw and remain undefeated. Sevilla was a different team, and Barça was a different team. Barça is harder now, angrier, more resolute. It’s easy to say that this team wouldn’t have been turned by Roma, but that’s history. Let it go. Enjoy your team, enjoy that magic, watch them do what they do.

This was always going to be this way. Sevilla might have suspected it, might have said among themselves, “You know, this team is looking to beat the crap out of something, someone in its first big match after that Roma defeat. This could be us.” And it was.

Iniesta’s goal could only have been assisted by Messi, could only have come from one of those perfect Barça give-and-gos that they perfect on practice pitches by playing telepathic football, his pass to Messi just outside the box leading to a run that can only be stopped by fouling him, but he is already in the box. When Messi slid him the ball, everyone — maybe even Sevilla supporters resigned to the inevitable — wanted Iniesta to do exactly what he did. His control was an afterthought as he rounded the keeper and bashed it home. It looked easy, but there are few players in the game who could have scored that goal.

The match was already over, but Iniesta put paid to everything with his goal, even the psychological coda on the proceedings. The Chicago Penya sang his name, just as the supporters did at the match. What else could you do?

Letting go is hard, but necessary. Life forces us to, to keep us from becoming bitter, a mentality shaped by what we have lost rather than what we have. The most bitter old people act as though they miss being young. The most bitter sports fans constantly discuss the ones that got away, the matches that their team lost rather than the ones that their team won, letting failure and negativity define their sporting existence.

The players of FC Barcelona chose not to do that today, ensuring that they will have a domestic double in a season that has been legitimately magical. It has featured amazing comebacks, goals that we don’t quite know how they happened, moments of wonder and majesty, capped off by a psychic and sporting purging against Sevilla. Barça’s players chose to not be defined by failure, chose to write their own story, to show everyone what they could do, and it was spectacular, beauty that is what it is, a beatdown that was for the players, for themselves. Have they let go? Today’s match wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t. Control what you can, let the rest be what it is.

By Kxevin

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


  1. How could such beautiful football make it also the saadest day. Looking at his tears, it was like happyness and meloncholy all happening. Cant Messi beg him to not go.
    That hug between Messi and Iniesta will stay with me for life.

    I really think this was team’s farewell for Andres.
    I just want them to give him another deserved farewell in the el classico.

    In between all this – that pass from Messi for Suarez was , I dont have words.

  2. Thanks, Kxevin, for this great comforting article, and for the paragraphs about Iniesta in the previous one. Yes, we should really let Roma go. Even if there’s something to be learned from it, we supporters are probably not the ones getting the learning done.

    I got tears in my eyes when Iniesta was subbed off yesterday. A very fitting goal he scored as well, dancing past the keeper with the move he has employed so well over the years, to the chagrin of midfielder and defenders everywhere. It’s good he can end his career at Barca with a double (and maybe a taste of being invincible in the league) and a goal as smooth as his dancing around the pitch over the years. Actually, it will feel weird seeing him again at one of the next games in the league, as this seems the definite end for him at Barca.

    I could write a lot more on Iniesta, but I probably already have below previous articles. And Kxevin said it all much more to the point – the possibility, the magic etc.

    As for Valverde – he has some things to learn, but he definitely also has the right to stay at Barca and keep on learning them. That was a dazzling team display, aided by but not reducable to Iniesta. He got the league in the bag a few games before the end (in a league where it was almost always tight), had the team play beautiful football many times, pragmatic or defensive football a fair number of times, but almost always winning football (we said we wouldn’t talk about Roma, didn’t we).

  3. I watched, I empathized, I read and I concurred.
    Homestretch folks, five matches left, and we just got the most cathartic second wind!
    Visca Barca!

  4. Imagine that. The team plays the type of beautiful attacking football that Barca is known for and they win….astounding! That was sarcasm btw…

    Forget about Roma!? Let it go?!? No let’s not. Not until the Mister and the Team show that they can play Barca’s brand of football consistently. When I say Barca’s football I don’t mean just the football of Pep’s era. I mean attacking, possession-based football, total football, positional play and flexibility, triangles all over the pitch, quick ball movement, with fast wingers spreading the width of the field, a high defensive line, and an organized press. Will we leak goals? Yes! Will we score boat loads? Hell Yes! But that is Barca!

    As for Rome, the failure of the team on the pitch should have triggered a reaction by the management team. This was ultimately the failure and why so many are angry. How is it that almost everyone watching saw that a change in tactics was needed, yet the management did not? You go in, play 45 minutes and nothing is working. Okay. That’s okay really. You talk at half-time, you say “What’s gone wrong with our game plan?” What can we do to fix it? You go out with the same trusted veteran players in the second half. Give it 10 minutes. Hell, maybe even 15. Still not working? CHANGE IT UP! AT LEAST DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! Roma pressing high crowding the midfield? Spread the pitch. Break their trap. Punch’em in the g’damn mouth and go long with a fast player. Like a certain someone you bought for 147 mil that’s sitting the bench….Try to get more space and time for your legends to do their thing. Make’em flinch and second guess their tactics. Rather than sit there and get battered for 80 some minutes without an answer. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but at least you made the effort and gave your legends a fighting chance; on a night where it looked like they needed the help.
    It’s been almost two weeks now, yet I refuse to forget. I can’t forget. I will never forget. The anger is gone, yet the memory lives. It is something, for me and a good many other fans, that will overshadow every accomplishment the team has made this season. I really wish it wasn’t that way, but it is. Don’t understand what I mean? What are the first things that come to mind when you hear the word remontada? Last year wasn’t a great year by our lofty standards, but we still had the remontada that would have been remembered fondly for many years. Rome took the memory and joy of that and replaced it with humiliation.

    Rome should live on as a reminder of ultimate failure when your tactics go against your identity, your years honed Barca training. The sacking of a Mister, no matter his record, should be a warning that that failure should have never happened and should never, ever happen again. A harsh lesson, but one that is required when you play at top of the footballing stratosphere.

    1. I too agree with you EV erred in that match, very true. And I was also worried may be he lost the dressing room.
      But now its clear, not just from the game but also from the player comments, that they are with him. So I think its time we also support EV and not ask for him to be sacked for just 1 terrible match, even if it was very painful.
      Especially now, after reading about the horrible tactics of the board to leak to the press, am even more with EV than I was after the Roma match.

    2. What does it matter now? How long should we hang on to negative events and emotions? Of what value are they in our lives? As fuel for rage and recriminations? Of what value is that? We might as well run outside during a thunderstorm and tell the rain to stop. There is just as much value in that.

      Hindsight is 20/20. The hindsight of a supporter, who has precisely nothing except emotion invested, is 20/20 slaked with an emotion appropriate to the result. The team kicked ass against Sevilla with a brilliant display, and still, it’s Roma. Not sure I know what to say, except the players have moved on. That Sevilla match made it clear. Maybe supporters never will. That can’t be helped.

      Perhaps when the team celebrates the Liga championship this weekend, people will boycott, because Roma. Not me. This team, aside from a couple of off nights and one horrid one, has been brilliant this season. And they have OVERperformed. They should be celebrated.

      There was a time when we used to scoff at Real Madrid and their coaching merry-go-round. We would scoff at their entitled fans who were filled with rage when the team didn’t dominate, didn’t do everything exactly right. We thought they were silly as they clamored for the sacking of a manager who won a title, but didn’t do it to their satisfaction.

      We have become them. And it isn’t a good look. People want to sack a manager who took a team whose dynamic attack starter, and one of the best players in the game, left in July. Then the replacement broke for five months. He stitched something together, and pulled off a domestic double. Out of nothing. Valverde is, for me, manager of the year. He deserves that accolade, rather than the sack.

      Valverde didn’t last a season before people were calling for his head. How long will the next manager last? Two matches? Three? Four? Maybe the winter break if the fanbase is feeling benevolent.

      Meanwhile those bits of pustulence that run the club leaked something to MD that if the team didn’t with the Copa final, Valverde would be sacked. And they did it the morning of the match. That is the epitome of shitty, but typical of how they operate. Everybody is focused on what is lost instead of what is gained. And we’re the poorer for it. All of us.

    3. It matters because it still affects the team, the fans, the entirety of the culerverse. I still respectfully disagree that the team has put it behind them, from their comments made after the Copa. I contend that what we saw in the Copa was a response to what happened in Rome. The players were and are still trying to deal with the loss. It matters because it has fractured the fanbase even more than it was. A good amount of the fanbase are still reeling. I used to agree with most of what you wrote, Kxevin. Now it looks like we are nearing opposite ends, enough so that I have made my first post after several years of reading this blog. To me that matters. Because, rightly or wrongly, I do put a lot of significance on that evening in Rome. Like I said, I am no longer angry, but the memory is still there. It is a negative memory, a reminder, but it is also a strong lesson. A lesson that is now stamped into Barca history. The team can turn that into a call to fight as they have done in Sevilla and I hope continue to do, playing the magnificent attacking style of football that Barca is known for.

      I’m sorry, but for me, watching the game, my thoughts in my previous post were not hindsight. I am nothing close to being football intelligent, however it was pitifully obvious that some change was needed by half time at the earliest. The team were under siege and management did nothing to alleviate the pressure. Would it have amounted to anything? Changed the outcome? Who knows, but for me, it would have prevented the doubt that I now have with the Mister. If the same management stay another season, I desperately hope that they take the lesson to heart and wish them future success. Should they be allowed another season to? I understand if they are not given that opportunity.

    4. It will likely not make you feel better, but it’ worth pointing out nonetheless.
      There is a difference between Barca’s and Roma’s remontada. On aggregate, Roma did not beat Barca. If not for the aways goal rule, the match would have continued an additional 30 minutes. Judging by how the coach and players seemed to wake up in the last few minutes, that extra time could have meant a Barca remontada as well. Alas, we shall never know. What I know is that, while the rule has benefited Barca too, according to Jonathan Wilson there is a case to be made against it:

  5. My 2 cents:

    The team wasn’t exactly a disaster last season, but it was in a turmoil after Neymar’s departure. People that are hung on the Roma collapse claim that it is bullshit to say that the team overperformed because we still had a great team nonetheless and therefore UCL&La Liga success was a big possibility if properly managed.

    Well, the answer to that is: partly so. Sure thing, a team with Suarez, Messi, Rakitic, Pique, Ter Stegen, Busquets, Iniesta, Umtiti, and Roberto is still a great team… one that could defeat most teams out there… but it isn’t exactly a team with the needed depth to compete for all three big trophies in a season… not to mention that Iniesta is not longer fit to play 90 minutes in a constant basis, Suarez’s quality is intermitent, Rakitic is doing great now but it wasn’t considered so back in August (many wanted him out), Alba’s quality wasn’t really known until this season… so, yes, while still a great team, it was certainly one that needs depth. And needed to adapt to Neymar’s departure, he was one of they key components in our attack and decided to leave for “glory” at PSG.

    So… not really easy to compete for a UCL championship with that kind of issues. Dembele is a great prospect and he’s doing good, but he still needs time to adapt and needed time to heal from injury. Coutinho being there helps the team a lot, but he couldn’t be played in this UCL. Do not forget that.

    Yes, it was a big flop to lose a 3 goal lead, it was ridicolous, Valverde froze, sure thing… but the team looked quite shocked as well… just like with PSG and Juventus last year. I may look stubborn, but I insist that the issue with Roma’s collapse is not just on the coach and players, it has to do with something else as well. I see main culprits being the international breaks (and the sporting plans not prepared to recover the players after those games&trips) and perhaps a little bit with being mentally prepared for those scenarios at the away legs.

  6. Sorry for that, a typo.
    We had depth, we have depth. Thing is nobody expected that an Arda, a Gomes, a Paco, a Denis, a Vidal and so on will not work out.
    If they did come good as we wanted and expected, then the depth was there.
    It looks like in every 5 purchases you have one that will work out. Shame.

  7. Firstly, and assuming the rumors are true, IF this board gets rid of Valverde, it will be a decision that falls under the ‘utterly idiotic and woefully shortsighted’ category.
    Secondly, when these experienced, world-class players ADMIT to having a hard time understanding what happened in Rome, then no one, and I mean no one, can get up on their high horse, put the blinders on and pout. Really, the only thing left to say is: “Get over yourself.”

    1. I assume your comment was directed toward my general vicinity or at least to people who think like me. I could get over myself. But I would rather look at things from multiple angles. I understand. It just so happens that I disagree with your preferred viewpoint. There has yet, nor do I think there ever will be in public, a frank tactical discussion from those involved, on what happened in Rome. And what would you expect professional athletes to say? Especially ones with the moral character and quality that Barca has? I don’t think they are going to throw their Mister under the bus even if they did know.

    2. If you read my comments on Rome sequentially, you would see that my current sentiment evolved from this:

      “As much as it pains me to say it, Roma won fair and square. They wanted it more. Valverde’s tactics in the second half helped Roma too. He choked.”

      Now, this is not to say that enlightenment can be achieved in the span of two weeks, nor does it say that I’m an easily persuaded clue. It just says that once I reached a saturation point of sorts, after “looking at things from multiple angles”, I let go.
      And I don’t equate ‘letting go’ with ‘forgetting’.

  8. This is so silly, so much silly, very smile, it makes me laugh! 🙂
    Man, all the romance on this site, and all the psychology and the philosophy behind Roma… “hard time understanding what happened in Rome”.. lol. Trust me, it’s not hard for Jordi to understand wtf happened in Rome when he was opposed to dzeko most of the time, which is twice as long and heavy as our fullback. We got lucky that punk didn’t score a lot more with those angled headers! There’s nothing for Leo to understand when he was thrown in all directions by much stronger, harder Roma midfielders, these are people which understand football on a godly level and even noob coaches like me would’ve swapped for a wider play @ half of the field and a quick replace for Jordi in defense (personally i would’ve chosen Vermaelen) to take some of the tight plays out of midfield and battle for thrown balls. People say Dembele, but the kid is a snowflake with no brain, i have serious doubts that speed will keep him in the team unless he starts putting his ass to work on the right, i’d rather had used Jordi as a replacement for the Ney role on the left, it was safer. Paulinho was a better choice than Busi, in hindsight, but he should’ve played if the team was setup defensively anyway, so why play Andres and Jordi both? No man, no big philosophy here, it’s not a matter of “hard time understanding what happened in Rome” , the team was setup as a disaster and no reaction to the obvious disaster took place. The whole planet saw it as a shameful display, not a glorious Roma remontada, cause that’s what it was. Should we trust VV? I say no, until now he took a squad with no depth which was arguably the best in the world and made it…. a squad which won a title and the copa, using the first team and 2 keepers. Well, good for him. But that has a mediocre sound to it, as the victories were not so great, football was not played that much, passing was not stellar, we had a fantastic keeper and well, Leo. However, he should be given another season if the team demands it. I am 100% sure that no coach would’ve gotten out of the locker after that type of tactical display without his players telling him how they felt. If that was the blanco locker he would’ve gotten a kick in the balls too and maybe a spit or smt. Anyway, i think he is, for now, our best option and that is just because replacing him with anybody would harm the team. They are obviously set to prove everyone that people have been wrong about them after Roma and now VV owes them some listening to.

    1. I disagree with your assessment of Dembele’s ability, he’s a damn fine player that given enough playing time to gel with the team’s approach he’ll become a spectacular player. Imo, he’s being hindered by EV Uber defensive approaches to team selection, under LE he would have been tearing it up at this moment.

    2. Lol … well, you can’t find this site that schmaltzy, otherwise you wouldn’t deign read it, let alone participate on it.
      But, seriously, we could speculate about the ‘why’ and the ‘if’ till we’re blue in the face. I’m trying not to. It occurred to me that the players’ admission of “… finding it hard to understand …” could be euphemism for “we really fucked up, shit really does happen, now piss off”.

  9. Can’t speak for anyone else but here’s where I stand on Valverde. He has done a great job putting the team back together after Neymar’s departure. He did this largely by adopting a 4-4-2 which was understandable as he needed us to be harder to beat. It worked. But it wasn’t really very easy on the eye and it’s not how I’d like us to play next season. To be fair, I think he did set out to free up Ini with four in the middle but it didn’t work out that way ( maybe partly because Alba was so good on the overlap? )

    The defeat against Roma wasn’t just a bad day at the office and I don’t think the players believe that for a minute. A bad day would be going there and losing the game but scraping through. A disaster would have been losing a three goal lead but playing well enough. This was much worse any way you look at it.

    So, what do we do now? Well, I’m not convinced by the formation but if Iniesta goes I’m not sure we currently have the players to play anything other than some form of 4-4-2. This is a complete and utter waste of Suarez up front. Until the Sevilla game I had doubts whether we could get the support up to him this way but ( largely thanks to Iniesta – still love typing that wrongly and having the iPad throw up ” no replacement” ! ) that game has shown it is possible so that may be where we have to go. We played our best football of the season, full of triangles and breaking their lines with dribbles and quick ball movement. If it’s being like Madrid to look for that, colour me guilty.

    Brilliant but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it was a finger up to Valverde’s defensive approach to Roma. You’re not telling me that Messi, Suarez, Pique, Iniesta and co have moved on or liked our setup and lack of change as the game went on ? Sevilla was a sign that it’s still tormenting them rather than a letting it go. And let’s not trot out the players supporting Valverde. That’s akin to the chairman’s vote of confidence. What are they going to say? I’m more persuaded by the coded comments of Busi that there is nothing to be learned from that defeat – because it was bloody obvious ( my words not his). We all saw it at the time, we’re agreed Valverde didn’t or worse, did and was scared to change.

    I don’t think EV should or will be sacked at the end of the season. I don’t think that was ever on the cards. We have no history of that so I don’t know how that has got so much traction. He has had in general a good season. Although perhaps not MOTY. I’m also not sure why everybody definitively believes the board leaked a potential sacking ( I know MD is a sympathetic outlet but is this there any evidence of this ? ) if they did I don’t think that’s fair on Valverde but even if they did it a similar performance to Roma against Sevilla and it would have become a valid question to be asked. You’re not telling me the fan base wouldn’t have been in uproar ?

    I can’t for the life of me see, even if true, how that’s typical of this board but there is a small minority who will never accept them so fair enough. Was Barto asking for a return to more attacking football? If so, it worked. Dunno but for me, Valverde could end up going at the end of next season if he can’t come up with a style more pleasing on the eye. I suppose it’s not helping him either that Pep’s mob have run away with the EPL with that approach, with a poorer squad.

    The least Valverde should be facing after Roma is an examination of his ideas for next season.. I don’t want to watch the same level of performance again. I want to see a much more attacking outfit and in particular mids who can hold the ball under pressure. I’m with Barto’s veiled reference to our play this season after the match that that was the best the team had played in a long time. I find that reassuring that, despite good results, the style of play matters to the board. (They may now have to dip into their pockets again this summer to support it.) That doesn’t mean I won’t celebrate this season’s achievements , especially if we go unbeaten. I was whooping from early on during the Copa win. So Valverde deserves credit for that and a pass for the season. With the caveat that things need to improve performance wise.

    I think he needs a conversation with Barto to establish if he thinks that is the way forward or if he is waiting for Dembele and Coutinho to settle to adopt a more attacking style – a fair position at the moment. He was also landed with a lot of dead wood this season so we need to be fair to him and give him the chance to buy and sell in the summer. But the jury will be out because no, I can’t forget that performance quickly. That Roma performance rather than the result will stay with me at least for another season till we can wipe it out.

    No mean feat without Iniesta..

    1. Good thoughts, Jim. Here is how I can see it happening:

      The Griezmann rumors are true. Then it gets quite interesting, especialy with Dembele returning to full fitness, Alena’s promotion, a fully assimilated Coutinho and Arthur Melo coming in winter (hopefully summer).

      Iniesta is impossible to replace. Once in a lifetime player. But you could see this XI:

      Ter Stegen
      Semedo Pique Umtiti Alba
      Busquets Rakitic
      Messi Coutinho
      Griezmann Suarez

      I don’t see Dembele starting over Griezmann, which yes, means the club spent 140m for a sub. But he is far too defensively lax, atop being casual with the ball. Until he fixes that …

      But the team has the basis of a excellent second unit, with Alcacer, whom I hope they keep, Sergi Roberto, Dembele, Alena, Paulinho, Arthur, Yerry Mina, etc. Quality depth was a big problem this season. It can’t be overstated how much Rafinha getting pranged long-term and Gomes never coming good damaged options not only for Valverde, but Luis Enrique. Suddenly, when you look at the bench for options, who do you have? Depth was appalling this season so yes, the XI had to play.

      Valverde could have rotated more, but Roma wasn’t about fatigue or rotation. Roma was about great players and their coach flinching in the face of serious adversity. They became PSG. I understand what made it so difficult. Thrashing Sevilla began their healing process, which is good.

      Dembele will almost certainly be the usual first sub. You could even see him and Griezmann rotating, depending upon opponent. Sergi Roberto becomes a quality sub as well, along with Denis Suarez, who seems determined to stay even though he isn’t and will never been good enough to start.

      The club still has to solve the Busquets dilemma. A fit Busquets raised hell against Sevilla. He was a gimpy man walking against Roma. The difference was significant, so much so that the need for a quality sub for him verges on Job One for the club, for me. Is it Oriol Busquets? Paulinho? Dunno, but the Octopus needs quality rest. Same with Pique.

      Vermaelen is clearly being renewed to make it easier to sell him. The Lenglet rumors are too persistent for there to not be something there. Would be a quality addition for depth. He’s also 22, with a lot of growing to do in a club. His time to leave Sevilla is now.

      Valverde isn’t the coach who I want to oversee a rebuilding. But what he has done this season should not be underestimated because of the Roma match, but that is the real danger. And that would be a shame.

      Sales will be significant. 30+ from Rafinha, 45-40 from Gomes, even a renewed Vermaelen will have a bit of value. The Griezmann money could be recouped from sales, leaving a couple of additions such as Lenglet and probably a good quality LB quite manageable with the available transfer kitty.

      Valverde will do well with that team. He understands how to play, which is a misconception about him. He also understands that he can’t play like people want him to play. Not yet. Rakitic being used with Busquets in that modified double pivot was very smart. It protected and liberated Busquets.

      But as long as both Messi and Suarez are in the XI, sacrifices in the style of play are going to have to be made for the sake of defensive stability. It was true this season, and will be true next season as well.

    2. Bussi said:
      “I would be lying if I said we could use this as a learning experience, because last year we went out in a similar way.”
      Hardly the connotation you imply.
      In addition to their professionalism and class, the reason the players are backing Valverde is because they feel equally responsible.
      Bussi also said:
      “It’s a very tough night, a sad night and one to forget, we need to apologize to the fans for how we have fallen.”
      (quotes found on

    3. Just a caution about the quotes that some of these outlets translate. They are not at times 100% accurate and take some liberties. For instance, from the video interview after the game that is on youtube, Busi never said anything about “one to forget” or “we need to apologize to the fans for how we have fallen”. I’m not even sure where they got that last part from.

    4. True. There’s much online garbage to sift through. We can omit Bussi’s second quote, but my point still stands.

  10. Valverde must leave.The only way for the man to find peace.The disrespect of this spoiled fanbase full of Guardiolistas Cruyiffistas Trianglistas Totalistas and so on.
    Bring whoever you want Setien Sarri Tuchel Jesus Christ BUT with same squad ok?
    The whole internet is full of football experts i wonder why they dont go to coach instead to spend time on keyboard.
    I support the club 20 years,i played football as a young and i am not an expert.
    But i trust Valverde and not what a guy from Brazil or S.AFRICA say.

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