Beatdown, aka “Got a million problems, and Huesca ain’t one”

8-2

Let that scoreline sink in for just a second.

8-2

In a competitive match of football, one team scored eight goals. The other team scored two. And the losing team scored first.

8-2

For you statisticians and analytics types, the xG (expected goals) for the match looks like a massive blob of pink dots around the Huesca goal, each one a condemnation of the foolishness of the brave. When Cucho bundled in a goal within the first two minutes of the match, setting tongues wagging and not just in celebration, gloom stalked the halls, an augmentation of the prevailing mood even before a ball was kicked.

Rotation, rotaion, rotation was the order of the day, a notion that made some pithily observe that certainly the defense could use a rest, given how easily that first goal arrived for the opponents, new to the top flight this season. They even got a second, wrapped around a trio of tallies from the home side in something of a wild first half that ended 3-2 and leaving some with a point to make about rotation and letting an XI come together first.

But as usual in the second half under Valverde, adjustments were made, leaving Huesca a bit of consolation: the last time they visited Camp Nou they lost 8-1. So they improved by a goal. Their coach made it clear that they weren’t playing for a draw, something that was evident in the zeal with which they attacked the Barça end of the pitch, raising eyebrows and worries beyond a hammering that was always going to be, late defensive wake-up calls notwithstanding. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

Jordi Alba: Once we acknowledge how amazing and enabling Eric Abidal was, how much he made possible with his pace, range and dedication to the cause, we can suggest that Alba isn’t that player. Eyebrows shot up as new Spain coach Luis Enrique left Alba off the roster in picking his team for the upcoming friendly. Petty personal nonsense, or coach’s tactical decision, only Luis Enrique knows. But the increasing trend of looking to the left side of the Barça defense to find joy was even exploited by Huesca. A glorified winger that plays fullback, Alba is fantastic for thsoe who value the attacking side of things. If you were to ask Umtiti what would make his life easier, however (and Pique for that matter), they would probably want a more defensively solid LB. Maybe Luis Enrique ain’t crazy after all.

Sergi Roberto: Unlike Alba, who at least has the pace to toddle back to solve some problemns, once Sergi Roberto is done for, he’s done for. And then there is another turtle in Pique, for an attacker to play with. Both Barça defensive wings offer playing space for opposing wingers. In a game that has moved from center to flanks for creative energy and scoring drive, that is a complexity that will need solving. Valverde clearly wants Sergi Roberto’s brains and understanding of the way Barça should play on the pitch at all times. But Semedo has to be wondering whose puppy he kicked, to have been beasting around only to have to sit and watch.

No press: WAtching Liverpool on the weekend, and a press that forced errors, created breaks and rarely gave an opponent any time on the ball, was nostalgic. Cardiff played Arsenal, and the striker ran full speed at the keeper, in the hopes of forcing a clearance error, like Samuel Eto’o used to, and like Barça used to press under Guardiola. With that press, the attacker was the first defender. Not any longer. Now the first attacker, Luis Suarez, is a player who seems to say, as opponents scurry off with the ball, “You bring that back here!” And that works about as well as it does for anyone else. Counters are so effective against Barça because when Semedo isn’t on the pitch, the only pace is from Alba. Everyone else is degrees of not fast enough, including in the crucial midfield area, where neither Busquets nor Rakitic could catch a cold.

Supporters clamor for swashbuckling football, not realizing that if the team loses possession in the wrong place, Ter Stegen gets yet another opportunity to pad his save stats. Barça plays tight because it has to. With Guardiola, the team attacked and defended with eleven. Now, in the gala XI, there are four players — Messi, Suarez, Dembele, Coutinho — who think of defending as something for others to handle. Dembele is learning to track back. Coutinho does reasonably well at it. But it’s still going to be an opponent jailbreak when possession is turend. And often, with defenders pushed up, there are — complexities.

Coutinho and Dembele: Dembele flows less freely on the left when Coutinho is in the XI alongside him. Coutinho does a lot of the stuff that he does in bringing the ball up, moving around and shooting. Dembele becomes more static as he waits for Coutinho to finish doing what he is going to do with the ball. For a player whose game is predicated on dribbling, passing and moving without the ball, times are a little uncertain tactically for Dembele.

8-2 hides quite a lot. But in all of the pre-match snarking about Valverde, the best “worst coach ever,” there have been just a few looks at reasons why, and concerns. Those who want to see Barça running and gunning are going to be disappointed. Valverde will need to, of necessity, play tight at the back. Because on almost every break, Barça is quickly outnumbered by attackers. As with last season, even as the roster is delightfully deep, the dofensive vulnerability to the counter is always going to exist.

So what of this rotation business, three matches in to a new season? Naaah. Let the players develop and redevelop the necessary chemistry, then rotate. Valverde has the horses to rotate, but until the biggest problems are solved, the potential for a loooong match or Champions League campaign will always be there.

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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.

44 Comments

  1. mvarfi
    September 3, 2018

    In the end, it was as it should have been. A convincing win against a promoted side. Nothing more, nothing less. As he pointed out, Valverde’s priority is not finding a fixed gala XI. Instead, it’s thinking up the best possible XI per opponent. That should be good news for Semedo, as well as the new signings.
    I can’t wait!

  2. September 4, 2018

    I wont say Alba is brilliant in defending, but we should not forget how many times he made last ditch tackle or clearance to save us. . And he is definitely the best when it comes to attacking. Am fine with Alba even if he makes mistakes. I remember Kevin saying defenders will let in goals..

    SR on the other hand, is perfect for the team play, but he is kind of a baggage in defending. I feel really bad for Semedo. Whenever he has played, he was mostly good and with more time he would have been excellent. But if he is to sit out how will he learn.

    I think if Semedo plays, then we could match those days where Puyi, Pique and Abidal ensured the defense while Alves went on his raids. With Semedo Alba could get more freedom and he may not be Marcelo, but he is a real threat and his understanding with Messi is only next to Alves.

    • georgjorge
      September 4, 2018

      I agree on Alba, and I can’t understand Enrique not playing him in the Spain squad. Alba is one of the best leftbacks in the game when attacking, and he’s pretty good defensively – if he’s back there when the attack comes ; ) I see it more as a tactical problem (i.e. Valverde’s orders) to ensure either he or Sergi Roberto are back there when they are needed. This game alone, he “scored” the second goal (with some help from Huesca) and provided the assist for the third if I remember clearly, and the early goals are the most difficult ones. He adds a lot to our attack.

      I also love Sergi Roberto dearly, but I would wish Valverde found another place for him to shine in that team, be it as a Busquets backup or on the right side of midfield. Too many attacks come from his side of the pitch. I won’t put all the blame for the first goal on him though, as he was once again left marking two men in the box on his own (due to Piqué losing his man).

      • bhed
        September 4, 2018

        Agreed, but how can you make a capitan second string?

  3. georgjorge
    September 4, 2018

    Thank you for a very level-headed analysis, Kxevin!

    I very much agree on the need for defensive solidity from Valverde, which means less gung-ho attacking. Last season, the league games often looked easy because the team almost never had to chase a goal – they kept it tight at the back, and there would inevitably come a moment when they would score themselves. The seasons before, the team would often have to chase a goal after conceding early (even against smaller teams), against an opponent invigorated by the situation.

    I disagree a bit on Alba in defense and Suarez pressing. Last season, Alba was putting out fires from counterattacks through the middle (i.e. not his territory) time and time again, and he’s pretty good on defense when he has the order not to go forward all the time. As for Suarez pressing, he has shown in the past that he can do some ferocious pressing – again, I think the lack of it is more down to either Valverde’s orders or the situation on the pitch, i.e. pressing is useless when the second line doesn’t help with it.

    • September 4, 2018

      Yes, me too find Suarez is pressing very well. In fact he is doing it better than Samu. But why we feel nostalgic about that old press is that, then we pressed like a gang, like a bunch of wolves as there was that 6 (or 4?) seconds rule. And the distance between the three lines and the players were much less.
      Now, though, Suarez is pressing alone, Messi if he does press alone, and our next player is at least 10 meters away..
      If remember well, the last time we pressed like wolves was in that 4-0 Milan game in CL. I remember Xavi saying, after the first leg that he was re watching and was shocked to see we were hardly pressing.

  4. Hristo
    September 4, 2018

    The last time we played Huesca we won 8-1. They improved and we regress.

    As Kevun said; no press. Even in home games.
    My notes:
    Arthur and Arthuro worked very well. I feel a trio of Those two ans Busi would complement well. We will have more pace, penetration, possession and defensive solidity.
    Valverde does Enrique all over again. What worked shaw be done again, even if it does not.

    I make again the point that Barca trashed any team who played open last season. Bar Roma.
    About 30% or 35% of overall pitch issues comes through Sergi.
    Holding Alba, leaving Rakitic in no mans land, as well as Pique uncertain what to cover. No width.
    All this can be solved with Semedo playing.
    Yes, there won’t be less ‘chemistry’ in front, but is not like Sergi didn’t much in attack that much this game against mighty Huesca.
    JLo rotate every game and RM already look like the team to beat. So fast. He plays to the players strength.
    What does our coach stand for?
    Last season i asked a question on Churros y tactics. The question was to Kiyan Sobhani ans David Garrido; “What is RM identity right now, not historically. What does the team team ans club stand for? “
    This spurred on for the next 15min. It was a mess.

    So I’m asking you guys here: What is our identity right now? What does the club and team stand for?

    • bhed
      September 4, 2018

      This is one of the first times I’ve ever seen him in an interview where he seems relaxed just talking. It was good to see.

  5. September 4, 2018

    Diana Kristinne – my heart felt thanks to you for translating the Best Messi interview so far.. I do think this is so easy for me to say, but really you are a star.. Merci beaucoup, Muchas Gracias Senorita.

    And if there are guys like me, JIm :)- , who is not into twitter, please go through this link – twitter page of Diana – for the best, and the longest, Messi interview
    https://twitter.com/DianaKristinne/status/1036679100507860992

    He loves Alba and Suarez.. Even he is surprised by Arthur. He calls himself a false winger now. Yes, like many fans, our players too are mad about CL. I completely agree with him when he say that we lost against Inter and Chelse, while Pep was here too, but we were still superior. Even after Chelse won CL pundits were calling us the best team.
    and there are lot more interesting information.
    Once again thanks Diana.

    • September 4, 2018

      Even after Chelse won CL pundits were calling us the best team. – not said by Messi, it was reality then

  6. Khing_prince
    September 4, 2018

    My takeaways from the game: – Barca have missed having a pure breed winger: What can I say about this but to awe at the presence of Dembele in our XI. Since Neymar left, Barca have really needed a player that can stretch the opposition horizontally and also be able to limit the presence of the fullbacks. If you watched the match and more importantly Dembele, not only his movements and threats but his ability to cage Jose Miramon for the entire match and when he went centrally to overload the centre backs he was giving Jorge Pulido a headache. It shows a lot of maturity and talent from the young lad. – Jordi Alba should be offended more often: What a way to respond to being snubbed by the national team coach, Jordi alba was on fire yesterday, it seemed like anything he tried came off, He’s forming a letal patnership with Coutinho and Dembele knowing when to make runs in behind & when to to track back. I for one am not part of the bandwagon that believes that Alba cannot defend.

  7. Víctor
    September 4, 2018

    You can also see it the other way around, Barça didn’t press as much and still managed to thrash the opposition. Granted, a weak opposition, but still a La Liga team…

    Hristo asks: What is our identity right now? What does the club and team stand for?

    Personally, I think that Valverde has brought some versatility to the team. Yes, I know it sounds like an optimistic way to say: the team plays its typical possession and press game and can also play with a more balanced approach and even a defensive one with the ability to do fast counters… and that’s the point, the way it is right now, seems like the idea behind this team is to be able to handle a few strategies for any given situation.

    • Khing_prince
      September 4, 2018

      I see it that way too, Valverde is creating a team for all types of storms. Now if he could trust the rest of our squad that would be great

  8. Hristo
    September 4, 2018

    As Messi said in his most recent interview: “we defend with the ball”. Says a lot about his view about our way of play.

    Like most i also think Valverde wants to create a team that is equally balanced.

    Most alarming thing for me is that most fans here and there have chosen to not see more of the picture. Here it is, again:(and please pay attention)

    This balanced team you talk about cannot exist in this current squad.

    Our best players are much, much better with the ball.
    Coutinho will never turn into a balanced LCM player. He is highly attacking and thats that.
    Dembele may track back but does not have natural defensive awareness. He does not even have the physical body structure for this as well.
    Messi won’t press. Suarez would occasionally press. Roberto at RB is a liability that sets our defensive shape awry. This is anything but balanced. This squad cannot learn the opposite of what they have been taught to play for more that 15 years.
    Alba too is much, much better offensively than he is in defense.
    So, for the life of me, what balance Are you talking about?
    I’ve pointed to the facts. I do not wish to involve wishing, wanting, desiring or anything of that sort.
    So take a look at the facts. Take a look of what is pertinent. Forget about what Valverde wants and look our team without wanting to confirm your ideas or the opposite. When you do that, the facts will start to crunch infront of your eyes.

  9. mvarfi
    September 4, 2018

    Thank you sharing FOTOBIRAJESH!

    I can’t say how calculated the timing of this interview is, but my impression of Messi is that of a measured person. Assuming Diana’s interpretation is spot on, I take his words at face value. I was already convinced, but if Messi thinks that this Barca has enough quality and balanced versatility to bring home the CL cup, then all antagonistic whining becomes white noise. That’s not to say this team is flawless. Nor does it say we can’t be concerned and therefore nit pick. After all, drama makes everything more interesting. It just says, have a little faith and lighten up. The process has just begun.

  10. Hristo
    September 4, 2018

    Usually, not mentioning the coach at all says something. Yes, we have an incredible squad. Do we have an incredible coach? Messi decided not to say anything about it
    “We have a great squad and a great manager”… Yeah….

  11. Andh'ol Roin
    September 4, 2018

    Come on man, why would you pick on Alba? The guy is flawless, on a side where nobosy defends well, from Andres to Coutinho. He is lethal in assisting Messi ever so often and tracks back tons of balls. I know you remember him from under Dzeko, but to compare Jordi to any other left fullback in the world in the past few seasons is blasphemy. Ironically, he is compared to Marcelo a lot, who is at fault for rms poor defending record and also is assisting much less than Jordi. Come on!

  12. mvarfi
    September 4, 2018

    To Kxevin’s point on the Dembele-Coutinho pairing, I say it will improve, a lot and with time. Coutinho has already shown signs of becoming less curlicue-y, more streamlined, which should benefit all around him, including Dembele. I love this mosquito.

  13. Jim
    September 5, 2018

    First of all, thanks to Fotobirajesh and Mvarfi for the links to interviews. Always an interesting read and Messi in particular, for me, said some interesting stuff. Thanks, of course, to Diana for taking the time to translate. So good of her to think of the rest of us !

    As I read the various responses to the start of the season I found myself wondering why. Why EV did as he did last season and what we have learned so far this season. Without claiming any insight ( whatsoever) I reckon his thinking might have been along the following lines.

    Last Season – this isn’t too hard to guess at. He comes in, Neymar leaves and the Barca world is in uproar. Too late to bring in much so need a good look at what has been brought in. He’ll have quickly come to the conclusion as we did that LE’s buys, to a man, weren’t going to hack it, couldn’t be relied on to start and would make no impact from the bench. That means leaning heavily on the starters and rules out any kind of heavy press leg wise. That in turn leads to the thought that we need to be tighter at the back and rely on the two strikers we do have to carry the goal scoring.

    Basically that approach turned out pretty well. Strolled to the league and cup with defence generally doing pretty well. Downside was the style of football at times and a couple of CL performances. I reckon he thought he could live with that.

    This season – preseason there have been some encouraging signs. He has promoted Alena, introduced a couple of others to first team training , kept Samper ( although I suspect that may have been a Barto one given what the poor lad was put through for two seasons) and got rid of some of the deadweight. There has been a great start in terms of results. Good signs are that he has played three up front. He knew that last year’s “Suarez on his own” approach wouldn’t wash this year and we are getting more players into the box. He has been criticised for lacking rotation but for me it was more important to get the feel good factor going while nobody actually needs rotating out ( you could argue Suarez could have done with more than four days training before starting but he needed him firing as soon as possible.). He also needed to let Dembele and Coutinho find their feet with the proper starters. That has worked .

    Downside is that there are still questions about style and performance. Also, a couple of shoddy goals in the last game wouldn’t have pleased him. More generally, I still have no idea if we are going to use a press this year.

    Huesca. – I enjoyed the game, loved some of the attacking football, am happy with the confidence which will stem from it and concerned about the goals we lost. Dembele is growing in confidence daily, still not making all the right decisions but also keen to get onto the score sheet. Coutinho is flitting in and out a little but showing touches.

    The goals. The first came from an overload at the back post and SR took a lot of flack. Now, I’m on record as saying that longer term I reckon Semedo is a better bet but I can’t really see what SR does wrong ( although he does barely get off the ground to at least worry the scorer). No, the problem stems almost exclusively from midfield ( and not for the first time). If you look at the link below starting at 0.25 you can see quite easily what happens. Rakitic completely leaves his man to run unchecked towards the front post. He may be expecting Pique to cover him ( which he has to and does) but that takes Pique away from the middle/ back post and leaves SR with no option but to move forward to cover the nearer man. Umtiti and Alba are correctly positioned throughout.

    The second looked bad but it also had a large slice of luck attached to it. Alba and Busi had the guy captured, he tried a hopeful thump which deflected up in the air and landed right into the runner’s path. Could Umtiti have blocked the subsequent cross ? Maybe but that’s a bit harsh. Should Pique have followed Umtiti to close the shot across TS ? That’s pushing it . Could SR have got goalside to prevent the toe poke ? Maybe but again that’s with hindsight. Both opposition touches were at full stretch and fitted together beautifully. So not as concerned with that one.

    So now we reach the break playing with three up front, on top of the league goals coming from more players and squad confidence high. Arthur has looked really promising so far ( Messi’s comment about the ease with which he has taken to the rondos is pleasing), Vidal will fulfill a function in certain games, Messi has started on fire, Suarez is playing great again ( can’t believe some are still peddling the notion that Suarez doesn’t press ) and Malcolm will be available, and needed, for rotation. On top of that no NT duty for Alba due to LE’s pettiness ( let that be his character note !), Messi or Pique and what’s not to like ?

    Yes, I still have questions about the midfield, I don’t expect Rakitic to finish the season as a starter, I’m not sure Coutinho has the discipline to play in a three in midfield, I’m not sure when push comes to shove that EV won’t revert to a more defensive lineup ( maybe needed on a few CL away games? ) but I’m liking it so far.

    • Hristo
      September 5, 2018

      Jim, Valverde is a puppet, if you don’t know, to the board.
      Playing three is the only option this season for him. Why? Barca have spent 300 million for two players and he has no choice but not to play 4-4-2
      Either 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-3

      • Jim
        September 5, 2018

        Sorry, Hristo, but I don’t know that. I don’t know that the board will have indicated anything other than maybe that they want to see a more attacking style. I’d agree that I’d think he’ll be under pressure from fans and possibly club to play more attacking football but I don’t think the only way to do that is 4-3-3. It’s about getting bodies up and into the box at the right times. That also gives you the bodies in position for a high press which is crucial to avoiding to many counters.

        I think there are good signs with Messi playing more advanced and Coutinho looking to go forward but I’d still worry about how we deal with the counter. If it’s not by a heavy press far up the field what are we relying on ? Coutinho isn’t great at getting back quickly, Rakitic is too slow, despite his best endeavours to close much down in time, Busi isn’t quick.. . . That’s why I reckon Arthur will have Raki’s place before long. Offers everything Rakitic does but at a quicker pace. Still not sure what our midfield will look like eventually though. It almost lends itself to a four rather than three.

        • September 6, 2018

          Jim, I saw somewhere, sorry my memory isnt very useful, that so far Messi is the player who has recovered maximum balls in the final thrid in the whole league.. That could be an indication of how we might press.
          Am also still not very sure about Coutinho in the mid 3..
          But the good news is Messi is said to be really determined, just like he looked in the 14/15 season, that is some news for us. Wasn’t it Pique who said about that in 14/15.

  14. georgjorge
    September 7, 2018

    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/sep/07/girona-v-barcelona-miami-likely-la-liga-javier-tebas-manchester-city

    La Liga says the game Barcelona – Girona will be played in the US “with 90% certainty”.

    I’m not sure why they are that certain, given that they also state “There’s no obligation for teams to play one game a year in the US, only the clubs who volunteer to go will go” and FC Barcelona seems not very thrilled to do it.

    If it really comes to this, I hope I remember in time not to watch it, because the whole thing is just stupid. Yes, revenue and more revenue, but also 40.000 Spanish flags handed out for an all-Catalan match and free flights for Girona fans to the US (!).

  15. Jim
    September 8, 2018

    Thanks, Mvarfi. An interesting article.

    Looking forward to watching LE’s new Spain against England. After his sycophantic comments about Madrid players, dropping Alba and his new macho rules for the team he’d better win against a very average side . . .

    In other matters it was great to see pics of Messi on the school run taking his kids to school. He deserves the rest. Didn’t realise he refused to come out of his room at all the day after missing that penalty in the WC, even missing the team BBQ ! Way too much pressure on one person.

    Also seems as if Suarez, now that he’s had some time to catch up on missing half the preseason, is enjoying the international break ( although I’d still rather he’d retired after the WC for our sakes ).

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8kaQRiXTfrY

  16. Jim
    September 8, 2018

    Not that I want anyone ever to lose yo England, but I like to think Pique and Alba are sitting sharing a glass of Rioja watching the carnage of that England goal. Ramos m.i.a. yet again, leaving everyone else scrambling to no good effect. Alonso started it by attempting and missing an unnecessary tackle high up the field then had no pace to get back, Nacho got his positioning wrong but could still have slid it out and Carvajal just looks bad in not getting to his man becUse Ramos’ absence hauled him way infield.

    Might have a glass myself come to think of it . . .

  17. Jim
    September 9, 2018

    Just finished watching Sunday Supplement, the football writers’ discussion programme and a debut for Sid Lowe plus a small discussion on Spanish football. ( They also talked about Sid’s article on Santi Cazorla – well worth a read. It’s the sort of human interest story Sid does so well. ) .

    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/sep/07/santi-cazorla-villarreal-injury-arsenal-interview-sid-lowe

    I thought Sid came over very well, especially on the pitfalls of taking a league game out of the country and he touched on the article quoted above by Mvarfi. Also, liked his take on the WC performance by England where he talked about them being super consistent – they always beat teams ranked below them and lose to those above so the concept of a good or bad WC is, for them, largely irrelevant. Good stuff.

    It was also interesting hearing the writer’s talk briefly about the influence of Thiago on the Spanish style of football in terms of controlling the ball and pace of the game, the lack of such a player in English football and why this was. For me, you saw it best when Thiago came off to be replaced by SR. Anyone doubting what Thiago would ( have?) brought to us should look at that display. Sorry, but one of them is a world class international mid and the other isn’t. Spain lost rhythm and control with the switch. However, to put the counter argument for a moment you have to ask yourself why, if he was available, nobody else snapped him up. Strange.

    Another interesting snippet was when they discussed the English ( British) culture of not playing small sided games when kids grow up and Sid mentioned that Argentina have also gone down the road of 11 a side from an early age with the implication being that they don’t have the conveyor belt of ball players they used to for this reason. Didn’t know that.

  18. Víctor
    September 9, 2018

    @Jim: have to agree about Suarez. I watched that Mexico vs Uruguay name and Suarez was effective there… that rabona assist was great, but you can also see a display of poor ball control just before that.

    One can just wonder why Suarez has less trouble playing well for Uruguay than with Barcelona. The only answer I can find is: gameplan. Uruguay strategy is one suited for counters and absorbing pressure, which makes their forwards have more space when attacking… while Barcelona is a team that press other teams and makes them play tight and defensive, which results in very much less space for forwards.

    Suarez is not as good as he was back in 2015 and 2016… but is still a forward which can hurt you if forget about him… the 6-1 against Girona and the 8-2 against Huesca shows that… and our rivals ain’t stupid, they know that even when Suarez has a crappy first touch and has a lot of hard time when marked/pressed, he can make lots of damage if you give him space…

  19. Jim
    September 9, 2018

    Yeah, it was the fact that the Rabona actually went where it was intended that got me.

    Just a couple of other thoughts, Victor. I agree with you that there’s no doubt that playing against packed defences, especially back to goal has to be the hardest job in football. It’s always easier when you’re facing your opponent’s goal.

    It’s also true that quick counters make life easier for forwards. That’s where Neymar came in useful as he’d often run 50 yards with the ball. However, teams seldom attack us in sufficient numbers to enable us to rely on that. I’m not sure why you think he isn’t a physical presence up front. I’m not sure there is a stronger CF in terms of holding players off or barging through them.

    I also though find it interesting that with Suarez a lot of folk in general focus on poor touches rather than his good ones. He does have some clunky ones but he definitely doesn’t have a poor touch. If you have a poor touch you just can’t do the stuff he does. A great footballer can always play a poor pass but a poor one seldom hits a great pass. How many other world class forwards do you hear people saying yes well I know he’s top or equal top scorer but he misses a lot. Why not have a look at his goal scoring rate per shots at goal ?

    I’m not sure I’d necessarily agree that he’s poorer than in the season’s you mention although I haven’t really thought about it. Last season he played until the November international break with a niggling knee injury. Folk accept that then say but he wasn’t scoring goals during that period so it’s evidence of decline ? Why not compare he and Messi’s goal tally from when they were both fit after that? Or even their assists ? We all agree that EV played more defensively last season with one up on many occasions yet our forward press isn’t good enough ? “He’s not fit. “. What minute was it that he chased a poor through ball, reached it first and won a penalty in the last game ?

    It seems to me some folk are determined to present a narrative around Suarez and have been since he arrived . Don’t know why. I didn’t like some of his behaviour before but he has been perfect since arriving and I appreciate that.

    It’s not really a problem that folk say or think that as long as it doesn’t affect Suarez, and as he says nobody is more critical of his performances than he himself. It’s all just opinions after all and that’s what makes this place interesting. I will confess to a small smile playing across my lips as I read yet again about player X or Y ( read Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Alba, Pique, Suarez, – have I missed anyone? ) being written off as declining only for them to inspire silence right afterwards with their performances.

    There will come a time soon when we need to consider a replacement for Suarez in the natural order of things ( and tbh, we should already have had a possible replacement in the squad to learn from him) but in the meantime folks would do well to give him the praise he deserves for the goals and assists he has delivered EVERY season since he has been here.

    Btw, I forgot to say in a previous post that having defended him ( rightly) to the hilt for his performances on the field I’m not best pleased with Pique’s latest driving exploits. That’s not the action of a Barcelona captain and he should have to apologise to the rest of the squad. Interesting that it happened while Shakira was away on tour. Mind you . . .

  20. mvarfi
    September 9, 2018

    I wasn’t able to watch England v. Spain, so I can’t comment on the difference between Thiago’s 80 minutes and SR’s 15 minutes on the pitch. However, and while we disagree on SR’s abilities, it should be pointed out that Thiago has 31 caps for Spain. SR has four. If nothing else, Thiago has had more opportunities to get comfortable with the various iterations of the Spanish team. Playing for country is a different cattle of fish. Shouldn’t we allow SR to accumulates at least a dozen caps first, before we’re convinced of his inferiority to Thiago?

    • Jim
      September 9, 2018

      Fair point, mvarfi, although I suspect that SR may toil to get enough time in our midfield to even justify a call up. Nothing against him as he gives his all but I just don’t see the skill level.

      We’ll see as the season goes on.

  21. Víctor
    September 15, 2018

    Valverde plays a rotation XI, without Busquets and Coutinho: the team plays badly, and goes down 1-0 against Real Sociedad… Busquets and Coutinho enter the game and, with the huge interventions of Ter Stegen, Barcelona scores 2 goals… 20 minutes to go…

    • Víctor
      September 15, 2018

      by the way, this is not a criticism against Valverde, is just a statement that shows that how rotation can affect the team performance… people say that Valverde should rotate, and that’s alright, but remember that rotating players like Busquets, Rakitic, Coutinho, Suarez, Pique (not to mention Messi) isn’t that easy… whenever you see that one of those players isn’t in the XI expect a different Barcelona.

      Also, some say that Valverde was idiotic to not start Busquets against Real Sociedad at Anoeta because “this is one of the matches where you can’t rotate your best XI”, uh yeah, even if you concede that, you gotta realize that Busquets needed to be rested anyway, he played two internationals…

  22. Víctor
    September 15, 2018

    Consecutive wins at Anoeta, granted, not in the best of ways but still…

  23. Víctor
    September 15, 2018

    I love how fans harp on Valverde because of “boring football” (Guardiola had his fair share of boring games too, by the way) and because “results aren’t everything”, yet those are the same fans whose demand is “you should win Liga&UCL or get out of my team”…

  24. georgjorge
    September 15, 2018

    Only saw the second half. Tough game, tough ground, and if Ter Stegen wasn’t on fire right now we would be looking at a loss. Those two saves at 0-1 were unreal. Oh, and two really scrappy goals from our team – those goals are usually scored against us, and we bang our heads at how unlucky we were. Today, the dice fell for Barca.

    I agree with what is said above about rotation, and wouldn’t put too much into a game after an international break (remember how we hated those even during the Guardiola era?).

  25. christembassykapo
    September 15, 2018

    I used to critisize EV but am done doing that now, these guy has lost only once on la liga, once in the champions league, none in copa del Roy and he went to ground that was seemingly cursed and it first coach in the past seven seasons to get a win, not to talk of consecutive wins.
    Didn’t watch the match wholly, heard we were lucky, but his subs changed the game.
    Am done criticizin EV am with him all the way, I just hope he can go ahead and surpass everyone’s expectation this time, since dembele good or bad is contributing, and Suarez seems to be gradually waking up
    By the way does anyone know what Madrid played

    • mvarfi
      September 15, 2018

      EE drew 1-1 with Athletic Bilbao. I only watched the second half, which was good.

  26. mvarfi
    September 15, 2018

    Real Sociedad defended well, but we were moving as if in a daze. Ter Stegen was sharp. The rest of the players looked in varying degrees of stupor. The ball kept being played to Semedo as he looked to have more space down his flank than Alba did on his. But, he wouldn’t make any runs, as if impeded by an invisible wall. It was bizarre and sad. I hate seeing a fine specimen like him playing as if on a leash. Other players did poorly enough to be picked on too, but (sigh of relief) we improved in the second half. I could also list a few convincingly negative factors for such a performance, but we won, why bother.

  27. TITO
    September 16, 2018

    A game of two halves.
    First is not even worth mentioning.
    Second one was better but still way bellow our capabilities.
    So, 4 games in the season, and how many minutes our signings have together?? A midfield of Rafinha and SR in Anoeta was never going to work,even at easier away matches.
    Whatever the results, i want to see more of our signings cause they do promise a lot. Our next game at home is against Girona. Let’s see if Valverde decides to do something about it.

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