Trust, taint, transfers and your summer

It is almost transfer season. And this is true even as transfer season really never ends in football as whispers become rumors become concrete things or not, become shirt swaps and joful/sad/puzzled fans.

A high-quality Twitter account that is more than worth your time, @santapelota, wrote a piece on Griezmann that contained a great deal of useful thoughts in general. The second paragraph is masterful:

First, that the outlay matching or improving on Antoine Griezmann’s buy0ut clause directs resources away from areas of the team, namely midfield, that need addresssing in the form of restoration, an unavoidably ideology-laden preoccupation at a club like FC Barcelona.

With a elegantly assembled collection of words, the writer summed up so much that is complicating matters in this transfer window. My less elegant summation is that people know what they know and what they think is best. The problems arise when they place that above what the club needs, complicated by the fact that we really have no freakin’ idea what the club needs.

Let’s take, for example, a midfielder. You have to look at now, the B team, who is in the pipeline and how they are progressing at Juvenil level, the odds that person will become an issue down the road, as well as price of the transfer in the context of club relationships, other squad needs and fiscal complexities such as new stadiums, potential new sponsors and global branding.

Mes que un midfielder, right?

Many supporters have a way they want the club to play, and players who they think will support that way of playing. As a consequence, we becone wedded to the idea of those players and that way of playing, at the exclusion of everything else.

In addition to being a bon vivant and an example of how to always live your best life, Paulinho should have taught us quite a lot about what we want, and squad needs. The 29-year-old midfielder came to Barça from China in a deal that will rile people up decades from now, for EUR40m. Leaving aside that 40 is the new 15 in today’s market, it was the idea of him that vexed and still vexes. This idea existed in layers.

— Age
— Price
— Skills
— Philosophical necessities

Valverde wanted him because he watched him in China and with Brazil, and understood that in his notion of an idealized Messi structure, you needed a player who would facilitate the Argentine’s dreams of winning and scoring bags of goals. This means you needed a husky, physical player who could help press to turn possession close to the opponent’s box, withOUT having the entire team press like demons because structure at the back was also important, given that two of the team’s attackers weren’t going to be making defensive contributions, as they did when Guardiola unleashed hell on world football.

That conception also needed a player who would keep the ball moving, who wasn’t going to take a pass, caress it, note how many laces there are per inch in the sphere at his feet, then send it along. Wall passes. Pam. Messi takes, runs, feeds to that player and keeps running because he knows the player is just a human backboard that will give him the ball right back. That was Paulinho. And that is all that Paulinho was.

Removing all of the ideological stuff from the equation, and also revealing a future post, Paulinho was the transfer of the summer for Barça, while also being a reviled player because of the reality of his necessity. He was a player who was good for the team, even if he wasn’t good for anyone’s notion of their ideals of what their version of the best team needed. But the best team is defined by available personnel and tactical realities.

Sure, you can set up a team of capering sprites, but if all that group sees is low blocks, what does it need then?

Transfer season is about idealism. “Let’s get Eriksen, and Thiago, and Pjanic, and Alaba, then De Jong and De Ligt. Perfect.” Considering what the team really needs isn’t any fun, really, because we don’t know. So it reduces us to intellectual inaction in many ways because … well … dunno.

The best Barça team was the one that had Paulinho in the midfield. Overall performance declined when he suffered the foot fracture, then the fatigue-based form fracture. That team, for various reasons, never returned. Had you said that to someone in July when Paulinho was offered up as an option, you would have been run out of town on a rail. But that was what happened. Was it a perfect solution? Nope. But it worked.

Ideas of transfers become ideas that supporters embrace as extensions of themselves. To dispute the player is a direct attack, rather than just a piece of theory. “Brown shoes or black?” It’s that kind of a question, rather than any sort of a direct attack on our notions of what we know about football and our ideals of the team. Because we don’t know until the player comes, and we know.

Thiago Alcantara is the name on most lips. If he were to return to the club, everyone would be giddy because of what he represents as much as the skills that he brings to the side. On Twitter the other day, someone suggested that Pjanic was a better Thiago than Thiago as well as being more durable. You would have thought they said that Martians are on Earth right now. Because of ideas and ideals.

Both are fantastic players. Both aren’t the only player, or the only solution to a midfield dilemma that just got a bit more complicated thanks to a ruptured set of muscle fibers on Carles Alena. Their potential effect, as well as those of a bunch of other folks, is worth discussing. But the biggest value of transfer season is that it gives supporters something to do. It’s like fantasy football for NFL fans. Wheeee! That’s all it is, which is worth keeping in mind amid the blizzard of rumors about this or that player being available. Theory works best as such, rather than ideology.

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

43 Comments

  1. mvarfi
    June 9, 2018

    Agreed.
    Here’s to hoping that this World Cup will provide some respite from the barrage of transfer hopes and rumors. I’m just waiting on Griezmann’s decision, then I’ll unplug from all things Barca for a whole month, until the end of the WC, that is. It’ll be a mental and emotional fasting.

  2. PPos
    June 15, 2018

    well Bartomeu proves his ineptitude AGAIN! Griezmann is gonna stay at Atletico. This board is pathetic. They can’t even get a transfer done right! It’s ridiculous. I wish Messi would use his influence to call for a vote against the board.

  3. PPos
    June 15, 2018

    well Bartomeu proves his ineptitude AGAIN! Griezmann is gonna stay at Atletico. This board is pathetic. They can’t even get a transfer done right! It’s ridiculous. I wish Messi would use his influence to call for a vote against the board. ..

  4. squeen
    June 15, 2018

    You can say that again!

    (just kidding)

  5. Jim
    June 15, 2018

    Woah, how does this show ineptitude on anyone’s part ? We go after a player, player decides to stay where he is end of story. How can this turn into ( yet another) incompetent board story ? Why do you think that ? Do you think he didn’t offer enough ( there was a release clause amount I’m guessing) , do you think he didn’t sell Barca as a team ? Give us a clue.

    For what it’s worth, it’s doesn’t bother me much. I’m not sure Griesman, although a great player, would thrive in the lack of space with us. He also isn’t a winger, plays his best off the front and that’s where Messi plays. He’d be good for rotation but if he doesn’t want to come there’s a reason so good luck to him. He’ll not win La Liga with Atleti.

    I’m MUCH more concerned that we do some business in the midfield. Folk will know that I’m a huge admirer of Thiago’s play and I’d buy him in a minute. I said earlier this year that I met a diehard Bayern fan in a Bavarian pub in Vegas who told me that Bayern would let him go as he split the fans. Folks didn’t think so but it seems he might have been right. Injuries are a worry but I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone else enough to persuade me that they can improve our midfield.

    He’s not playing tonight which I can understand as they have Iniesta and Busi so they need a runner in Koke ( who I’m not really impressed by) but he will be used and it’ll be interesting to see if he steps up. I watched him give a masterclass in the last warmup but one and he’s the only one who can give us back something of what we’ve lost with Iniesta.

    If we don’t buy a really good technical creative mid I fear for us.

  6. PPos
    June 15, 2018

    Let me tell you Jim, if it was Joan Laporta doing the transfers, Griezmann would have been wrapped up before the World Cup. Let’s see who Bartomeu has bought, Douglas, Deulofeu, Turan, Aleix Vidal, Halilovic, Alex Song, Gomes, Digne, Alcacer, not exactly world beaters. The reason we haven’t gotten past of the CL quarterfinals is weak leadership leading to a poor transfer policy.

    I agree with you on Thiago. He’s class. He’s Barca made. He’s kind of injury prone but with the right physios and maybe Messi’s italian dietitian things could change on that front. I guess Griezmann isn’t really a priority for we have a good forward line, but giving Suarez proper competition i think is necessary. Griezmann would have helped on that front. It’s just embarrassing that the guy decided to stay. I think bartomeu didn’t do his job well enough. Laporta got transfers done, through and through.

  7. luisthebeast
    June 15, 2018

    Be ready for a difficult season cules.
    Board and players are lucky that there is Valverde and he would take the blame if a bad season comes.
    Watching Pique Suarez and Busquets today made me feel what i will watch if they will be starters next season.
    The other top clubs try to sign young fast players and we will have the same 30+ slow grandpas start every game.

    • Víctor
      June 16, 2018

      Busquets was great yesterday. He made the two passes that led to Costa’s goals. Pique was OK. He made a foul against Cristiano that led to Portugal’s equaliser, but it wasn’t that of a silly foul for me.

      Suarez, man, he was just crap. I was hoping that we would see a better Suarez with his NT, but seems that his form is forever gone. Even when he isn’t that old…

      Umtiti’s handball today was the silly one for me. Even if it was a small contact, you don’t go raising your arms like that in a FK, Dembele was decent…

  8. ULTRACULÉ
    June 16, 2018

    Ok..so,
    if the last 3 years is anything to go by,
    we can safely assume that Portugal is winning the world cup right?
    Ugh.

    • Víctor
      June 16, 2018

      Meh, Portugal is gonna reach quarterfinals at best… they rely so much on Cristiano, but he can do so much… they should be worried about their future, though… Cristiano hasn’t many years left at that level and they don’t seem to have a proper squad to make up for his departure…

  9. TITO
    June 16, 2018

    Ok, so you have 8 defenders who cant defend and 3 forwards who cant do much on their own.
    That was Sampaoli’s game plan?

  10. Víctor
    June 16, 2018

    Can’t really blame Sampaoli for that tie. Iceland’s goal came through a serious blunder from Argentina’s GK and poor defending…

    Also, it’s not like Iceland is a crap team. They qualified by winning their UEFA group, even ahead of Croatia. They also made a decent/good performance at UEFA Euro 2016, even knocking out England. Granted, England wasn’t the best of teams back them, but still…

    Finally, Argentina looked quite good at the second half… sure, sure, that was helped because Iceland just sat back waiting for a counter or the game to end, but their players created a few good chances… still bummed because Messi missed that PK…

    The only teams looking good so far are Spain and, to a lesser extent Portugal (and mostly because of Cristiano) and Argentina looked like if they focus a lil’ bit better and connect better they can do great things… France’s victory was a shoddy one…

    • Grindelwald
      June 16, 2018

      If this match taught us anything, it’s that it’ll take a miracle for Argies to even reach the quarterfinals, I wonder where there would be without Messi!
      Messi had an horrendous game, its understandable as he’s under extraordinary pressure, the likes which Ronaldo never had to contend with in his national team colours, which makes him make unusual decisions today. It’ll help if Messi relaxes in the next game and finds a suitable playmate, also there defences is pure shit; Masche should be brought back to the defense to partner Otamendi, while Rojo should play as LB atleast there’ll be a semblance of coherency.
      Let’s wait and see what Germany and Brazil comes up with cause all the big teams have fell flat so far.

      • G6O
        June 16, 2018

        Well, that’s the thing.

        Cristiano doesn’t have more talent around him than Messi, but Portugal is not of the same statute internationally as Argentina, and it has not endured a 25-year old trophy drought.

        And they got that fluky win at the last Euro to further take the pressure off.

        I in fact don’t quite see what pressure Cristiano is under at the moment at all.

        • Víctor
          June 16, 2018

          Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portugal NT are, indeed, under pressure. Not as much as Argentina obviously; but given their group, is expected for them to advance. Portugal failed to make it past group stage at Brazil 2014 and was a big dissapointment, it is not expected for them to not advance again.

          If they advance, their most likely rivals are gonna be either Russia, Uruguay or Egypt… Portugal’s fans would certainly expect their team to advance through… so yes, they are indeed under some pressure. Making it to the Round of 16 will be considered barely fair enough for them, making it to Quarter Finals will be OK, at least.

          And yes, while I reckon Argentina having lots of more status in the football world, I’d also say that it is also fair to say that they have been overrated in the last 10 or so years… Argentina isn’t, right now, the football giants they used to be. They aren’t living up to their “usual standard”.

          I do think they have a decent chance of making it past group stage, though… just watched Croatia vs Nigeria and both teams were kinda dissapointing, mostly Nigeria.

  11. Grindelwald
    June 16, 2018

    Crashing out with a whimper at this WC can break Messi forever and tarnish his image considerably, giving Ronaldo an edge over future debates. So sad to see the best players surrounded by useless casts.

  12. Víctor
    June 16, 2018

    By the way, not to shit on Messi or anything like that… but I do get kinda annoyed at the “he has a lot of pressure” over him statements to kinda “justify” his shortcomings… I mean, by this moment he should know how to handle it… or at least somewhat…

    Since the moment it was announced he was going to take that PK against Iceland, most of us ‘knew’ that he was going to miss it… we should be able to admit that PKs aren’t Messi’s thing… even if it means admitting that Ronaldo is better than him on that regard… but hey, people like to get themselves in the Cristiano vs Messi debate and aren’t able to recognize that there might be some things that Ronaldo is better at, while Messi is better at other ones.

    • hereiam
      June 17, 2018

      Personally I don’t think so, no.
      So much of Argentina’s hope rests squarely on his shoulders, and he knows he doesn’t have that much time left. He went so close before, so close, yet the only thing he has to show for it for his national team is the Olympic medal. CR7 doesn’t have that kind of national hope on his back, and it is liberating for him. But more than most, I think Messi feels as if he owes his nation something, and he is really really truly desperate to pay it back.
      If only he had won one Copa or two, it would have been so much different. It was as if fate conspires against him.

      As a side note, sure CR7 is better at penalties, he wasn’t named “Penaldo” for no reason.

  13. luisthebeast
    June 16, 2018

    Best game by a Barca player in WC until now by Rakitic.
    Our best MF right now.
    If Thiago or Pjanic comes i would like to see Raki more time at DM
    Dembele was like a kid today who must learn how to play football,i still cant believe we paid 140m but we cant wait i guess.
    Argentina must beat Croatia,one of the best teams for me in this WC.Sampaoli must stop be stupid playing Macherano and Biglia.

  14. luisthebeast
    June 16, 2018

    And more watching our players in WC,more i see that Valverde was nt a coward at Rome but a pragmatic man who see the reality and made an amazing job winning double with this squad.

  15. Jim
    June 17, 2018

    A lot been happening to fill the dull close season and some interesting thoughts.

    First, PPOS,, I’m still not sure how Laporta could have bought Griesman if he didn’t want to come ? I’d agree most on your list haven’t worked for us but there are also several who have which weren’t on the list, including us spending over 200m just last season on two popular forwards. We don’t have money to waste on someone who mucks us about.

    Thiago is class, knows our system so there’s not the season adjustment and fits our style of play perfectly.

    Ronaldo ! Just have to say from my POV he won a penalty from dangling the usual leg against the defender but Nacho also sees this every week so that was a stupid challenge. His second was laughable – and not the first howler from de Gea in the last month. Don’t like him. He’s a nervy keeper. The third was again a very soft FK. I think Pique got a little close to him but there was nothing there. The FK however, was superb, given the context.

    Again, for me, De Gea’s positioning was shocking. From that position he needed to favour the side the ball went to rather than his choice of 3/4 of the way to the other post. If Ronaldo was going to put the ball in that corner he’d have to start it close De Gea swinging away, which is more easily dealt with. The side it went to it was never stoppable until it swerved inside the post, much harder for a keeper.

    Luis, I’m not sure where you got the idea that Pique and Busi were poor. I thought both were excellent. Also, the idea that we need to replace them and leave Rakitic is weird on many levels. I agree with you that we need more pace in the team. We could start that with Thiago replacing Iniesta but the real problem is Rakitic. You do know he’s the slowest player in the squad (from a year ago) ? Btw, have a look at Pique and Busi. Just in passing. Pique is deceptive. His weakness is nippy forwards one on one turning him yet folks here constantly talk about him being slow. Both of their reading of the game is also more important than folks think.

    https://www.90min.com/posts/4828503-revealed-the-fastest-and-slowest-barcelona-players-so-far-this-season

    I didn’t see the Croatia game so can’t comment but we have continually lowered our expectations for him from when he arrived as a box yo box player who will score goals from long range to he’s busy covering for someone at RB when nobody mentioned the LB was the one who went forward until last season to where he was reduced to a job share with Busquets. I shudder to think is out him in Busi’s role on his own. He’s slow, can’t keep up with play and doesn’t have the technical skills to keep the ball under pressure, for me. He’s the one who needs to go to make way for a pacier mid. I’ve nothing against him. He gives his all every game and he’s actually a better forward passer than he has shown us but not good enough to be a regular starter.

    Lastly, Messi. I didn’t think he had a bad game at all but he will struggle in this side. First thing both Argentina and Barca need to do is remove the penalty taking from him. He doesn’t need that pressure along with everything else. He’s the best player ever, in my opinion ( and Im old enough to have actually watched Pele, Maradonna, Best, Cruyff, etc) and just happens to not be a great penalty taker. I think part of the problem is that he has so many ways to beat a keeper that, having the time to think, choosing one is difficult !

    Btw, I’m seeing the name Pjanic from Juve come up a lot. I’ve watched Juventus a few times this year and he’s never imposed himself on my consciousness . Can’t remember him at all. Reminds me a little of Dybala who we made look good then he disappeared.

    Anyway, need to check on Germany and then Brazil later on , plus catch the last round of the US Open. Busy day of nothingness.

    Just sayin ‘

  16. Jim
    June 17, 2018

    Btw, I meant to say I thought Masche had a great game yesterday at DM and nobody would accuse me of being his biggest fan !

  17. Jim
    June 17, 2018

    Ok, last thought. Just watching the camera pan along the German team and thinking how many would I play in ours . Answer for me is frighteningly few, if any. How do they do it time and again ?

  18. Víctor
    June 17, 2018

    Not to toot our own horn… but Mexico has done, easily, the best performance so far. Even better than Spain, Portugal and Argentina.

    • Víctor
      June 17, 2018

      Of course, I don’t discard the possibility the team may fuck up against South Korea and/or Sweden and end up in 2nd place… but still, Osorio made a great game plan, Mexico should have scored 1 or 2 goals more…

  19. PPos
    June 17, 2018

    No, Victor, you’re totally right. Mexico was very impressive against Germany. They made Kroos and Khedira look like they hadn’t won 5 Champions Leagues between them. It was amazing. They should have had more goals to be honest, Germany remind me of Spain at the 2014 World Cup. Out of their depth, old, and uninspired. I hope they get knocked out to be honest.

    Messi, oh my poor boy. He’s playing for a team that honestly is pretty terrible. Argentina at the back look awful. No organization. Nothing. They need some Valverde to tune them up haha. I seriously hate that Sampaoli doesn’t trust in Dybala. He could have made something happen with his trademark long range strikes. I would drop Di Maria into the midfield like Ancelloti did at Madrid with him and start Dybala.

    This World Cup is been pretty fun so far with all the “favorites” struggling. It reminds me why I love football. You can talk tactics all day long. Tout the weight of the shirt you wear and what not, but if you don’t show up when you have to. It shows. In the end, its 11 vs. 11 after all.

  20. Víctor
    June 18, 2018

    What are your opinions on VAR, people?

    Me, I think that it had been good. Not perfect and it won’t take away all controversies around games, but it has brought some justice to the games at least. France’s win was fair… yes, I know that “in terms of football” they shouldn’t have won, they weren’t good, but their two goals are totally valid.

  21. luisthebeast
    June 18, 2018

    I wonder whats going on at Barca.
    Are they sleeping?
    Same time Atletiko keeps Griezmann they sign Lemar and they renew Lucas,Barca waiting for what?To find players in WC?
    I read rumours that Paco and Digne will stay,Vidal Gomes cant find teams to pay good money and they dont know if they will bring Arthur now??
    Also as we all see in this WC football is more now about physicality and speed,not only technique.
    Cant believe we will have our grandpas after a WC starters for a season with 60 games.
    Very very bad signs.

  22. Jim
    June 19, 2018

    Just getting over England’s injury time goal. Can’t say it wasn’t deserved or coming but still a blow when it arrived. They are actually a good example of physicality and pace so it’ll be interesting to watch their progress.

    Physicality and speed have always been an important part of football but never the most important for me, or at least not in terms of the whole team. A CB who can’t read the game is useless no matter how much speed he has. They said exactly the same before the arrival of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Before the CL final against Man Utd I remember reading a piece in one of the English papers dismissing the lack of physicality in our side and that ended with Rooney throwing up his hands in despair because they couldn’t get the ball. I would echo Cesc’s comments on TV the other night which is that the most obvious feature of the WC so far is exactly the opposite, that there has been a dearth of creativity from midfields.

    I think we’ve seen enough over the past few years to know that we won’t know a lot about our transfer work till it happens. I would imagine they are working pretty hard, first of all in getting rid of the mistakes of the LE era ( and that will prove hard enough but is necessary to make way for younger players) but also in bringing in what we need. I sincerely hope that these moves are under way or else we’ll end up in the huge error of paying over the odds for someone who happens to have a decent WC.

    I’m not worried about next year but I am worried about giving Messi a midfield that takes some of the necessity of coming back and going forward so much away from him. And, yes, the new members of that area should have pace, but more importantly the ball skills, especially the ability to break the lines and get forward. I think our new purchases will tell me a lot about the philosophy of our sporting team and by extension the handle that Barto has on them.

    On the rumour front ( started by me in this instance ! ) I note the comments from Isco, a player who is growing in confidence and creative ability, regarding his admiration for Messi and the Barca defenders Pique and Alba. Hmmm, Neymar to RM, Lopetegui apparently a huge admirer of an available Thiago and Isco already on the fringes of the first team at times ? I fear for culers’ sanity if Thiago were to go there and we end up with another Gomes. As I’ve said before, it’s not that hard. There are at most three or four players around who could genuinely add something to our midfield and Isco and Thiago are two of them. Otherwise, the loss of Iniesta will be crippling.

    As far as performances in the WC are concerned I’ve still seen nobody come close to matching the football that Spain have played. Doesn’t mean they are favourites though. A lot will depend on whether they can get the goals their play deserves but Costa is off to a good start.

    VAR beginning to annoy me. Leaving aside whether it gets it right or not ( surely it will on most occasions ) It really does look intrusive as you’ve mentally moved on with the ref’s decision only to be informed that maybe that decision will be overturned in a minute. Doesn’t sit right with me I’m afraid.

    .

  23. Jim
    June 19, 2018

    I’ve obviously been ignoring my Barca related reading recently ( still enjoying great weather here in Scotland ! ) I missed the stramash surrounding Pique and his video company producing two videos of Griesman ? Now, apparently, Barto has had a word. Can someone explain exactly what he did wrong ? As far as I can see he has explained that he didn’t know of the decision until the day before and informed the club as soon as he did. Is it the fact his company accepted the work ? Jeez. Apparently Umtiti has also been getting pelters ? Not sure how I would approach those conversations without hacking off one ( or possibly two ? ) CBs. I’m calling BS on that.

  24. Hey Jim. ca va? Am sprinting to the last week of a month in France now and hence francais :)-
    Its the board who sees a problem with Pique and we all know you are not a big critic of the board :)-. Of course LE asked them for Turan instead of Gundogan etc and played a big role in us ending up with mid table level mediocre bench players (some of them we are even finding impossible to sell), but the board clearly is not looking great. Even if there is 25% truth in the repeating stories on how the dressing room dislikes the board and does not even want some of the board members in the dressing room (Segura an important figure) then is it not enough to say that not even the players are happy with the board.
    Am missing many WC matches but ran nearly 3 kms to a bar to miss only the first 5 mins of Argentina match.. and shit…. The biggest mistake made by Messi in his life is to not accept the Spanish offer.
    He has half the country against him, nearly 75% of his nations media against him, a moronic AFA that he even has to pay the wages to the training centre security staff and some mediocre players around who thinks their job is done once they pass the ball to him…. what a hell show..

  25. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    Well, at least this time Messi won’t get all the blame for this fiasco. Their goalkeeper practically killed them in this World Cup.

  26. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    It was that GKs stupid pass that made the whole difference, before that… Croatia wasn’t that better… they could have nicked a 0-0 draw, but that goal and Argentina’s desperation ended it all… especially after Modric’s goal…

    By the way, Rakitic ended up being the Man of the Match… he deserved that goal, even when it was easily conceded by Argentina…

  27. ULTRACULÉ
    June 21, 2018

    unbelievable what horrible circumstances messi has to deal with.
    that was one of the shittiest matches i have seen.

  28. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    Argentina isn’t mathematically out… but if Iceland wins tomorrow they are practically out… Croatia and Iceland would just pass the ball until the time runs out in their last game and that’s that…

    What’s the best scenario for Argentina? Nigeria win. Which seems unlikely, I doubt they may do something against Iceland’s defense and organization.

  29. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    About Sampaoli: everyone is shitting on him because of his line-ups, OK, I get it… but sadly, I don’t see that Argentina NT has potential for so much more… I don’t see too much quality from Argentinian players overall… just like Italy and Netherlands, their current generation doesn’t have too much quality…

    Besides, you can’t blame Sampaoli for that silly pass from their keeper… you can blame him, though, for that shitty defensive organization that led to Iceland’s goal…

  30. TITO
    June 21, 2018

    Difficult to blame someone, but i will take my chances with Sampaoli and his game plan, as it was with Iceland.
    You need the team to play for Messi and not around Messi. As is Portugal doing. But, what do i know.
    In other news, that guy Rakitic knows how to play football, does he? Man of the match in their two games so far. Too bad we want to sell him.

  31. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    You can blame Sampaoli, his tactics and gameplan but… what’s a gameplan or strategy that may work well for this Argentina team? I can’t really think of any strategy other than playing a la Simeone or Mourinho that may get them some success. And even then, I’d doubt it… their defense is just horrid.

    Of course the Messi vs Cristiano in their NTs comparisons will keep on coming… and while they may prove a point about Cristiano being more successful and perhaps having more leadership… I think that we should also see that Portugal NT is pretty much a team with good/average players in every position. Other than Cristiano Ronaldo, there’s no really other player that stands out… perhaps Quaresma, but that’s mainly because it’s surprising to see him still playing there. However, the rest of Portugal’s players are good in their positions, not great or bad, but players that do their job just good enough. Their coach also plays them in a strategy the best suits them, despite the fact that it results in boring football, but brings the best of them.

    You can’t say the same for Argentina. Other than Messi, Aguero and perhaps Dybala, who stands out in that team? Higuain, Di Maria? Both are known for being chokers. Mascherano? He is very loved in Barça’s universe, but he really isn’t that player anymore. Biglia, Banega, Lo Celso? Don’t make laugh. And their defenders and GK are just awful.

    So yes, while Argentina have a decent-to-good attack with team, you also have a crappy midfield, mediocre defense and awful keepers. You can’t really expect to win an international tournament with that. Yes, I know, Barça has won a lot without having a great defense or goalkeepers, sure… but Barcelona has always had a good-to-great midfield and the defense, while not the best, is still a decent-to-good one and the keepers we have are, at least, competitive ones.

    Other than that there’s also the topic of leadership. Argentina does not have a leader. Messi, sadly, isn’t fit to be a leader. It might come as a shock to many, but that’s the reality… he isn’t the one to carry a team’s mentality and spirit through… and the same kinda applies to Iniesta, by the way, no matter how much we like them, they do not have the leadership quality that players like Totti, Xavi, Puyol, and even Ramos have. Argentina just doesn’t have the mentality or a leader on the pitch to make them carry on and face adverse circumstances accordingly… since the moment Croatia scored everyone “knew” it was over for Argentina.

    Take, for example, Spain… they didn’t “fall into pieces” after the penalty scored by Ronaldo or after De Gea’s mistake… they are a team that can plow through adverse situations and that’s why it’s gonna be hard to beat them… Spain’s defect, by the way, is the opposite… it seems that they can’t handle favorable circumstances… once they are winning is like they kinda forget who they are, but that’s another topic.

    So yes, sad for Messi, I didn’t expect him or Argentina to win the WC, we all knew that it wasn’t going to happen, but I guess that I naively expected them to do a good run… perhaps reaching semifinals or quarter finals and then say… “Ok, they failed to win, but they weren’t a disaster either”… it seems that even that was expecting too much for them.

    In a nutshell: this is the chronicle of an announced disaster. Argentina barely made it to this WC and in their March friendlies they were mainly bad… we hoped they’d fix their crap somehow but well… they didn’t. And things seem darker for the coming years for them… Messi will eventually retire (or maybe he just decided to do it again) and, which players will represent them for the next years? Maybe them reaching the 2014 WC final was a fluke…

    • georgjorge
      June 22, 2018

      Great analysis, thanks!

      Sampaoli seemed like a real coach after Maradona etc. during the last few years, but it’s not much help. The second half yesterday was awful. They have a team where everything depends on Messi without having a system where Messi can really shine.

  32. Víctor
    June 22, 2018

    So, Argentina does have a small chance of making it… but I don’t see them defeating Nigeria… but let’s just hope that a miracle will happen next Tuesday… but maybe the best for AFA is to end up getting eliminated next week… if a miracle happens it’ll end up masking their mediocrity…

    • Víctor
      June 22, 2018

      LOL, used a lot of “buts” there… that’s because I can’t really decide between:

      – wanting Messi to go to next round
      – knowing that this Argentina team doesn’t deserve to go through…

  33. TITO
    June 23, 2018

    Well, a lot of other teams in previous WC or EC didnt deserved to make it through the group stages and in the end they won it.
    Not saying that Argentina can and will, just that this is football and stranger things have happened in the past.

  34. Víctor
    June 23, 2018

    Mexico looking quite good… the entire mexican media should ask Osorio for forgiveness. This team seems like a serious World Cup contender, at least so far. Will most likely avoid Brazil in R16 and facing Switzerland or Serbia in R16 looks like a pretty winnable match.

    I see Mexico making it to a World Cup QF for the first time outside of mexican soil, and that’d be an important part of mexican football history…

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