Valencia 1, Barça 1, aka “Not what anyone wants to hear”

From the Spurs match thoughts, worth keeping in mind as we delve into the Valencia draw:

On the down side, Liga returns over the weekend, where teams aren’t proud, don’t mind reducing 90 minutes to a joyless slog through a defender-crammed final third. Attacks peek their heads out like paranoid meerkats, popping up when advantageous but otherwise, staying in their holes.

This is exactly what happened. Valencia drew up in an excellent match plan that takes full advantage of the grim reality of not only this Barça team, but teams going back to Guardiola’s vaunted sides: the struggle against the low block.

What is different about this team is that is can’t survive any lost possession without conceding goals or excellent scoring chances. And there are errors. The Valencia goal came from a play that a sharp Pique makes. As he himself said after the match, he had made some errors that have cost the team points. That he also went defiant, saying that now it seems like every time the team concedes it’s his fault, is a bad sign.

And the “Valverde out” legions are growing, another silly sign of a nonexistent crisis. Thankfully, the board isn’t that stupid — or at least not that panicked yet, and certainly not sufficiently panicked enough to introduce a degree of chaos that would be attendant to jettisoning its coach fewer than 10 matches into a season, a coach who is so far perfect in the Champions League group stages, a group which paranoid supporters figured foretold doom. Fire Valverde and you might as well switch from blaugrana to white.

Which brings us to Valencia, and yet another low block, a parked bus of intelligence and movement, a bus affected only by a moment of genius from Messi, a rocket into the lower corner to equalize the match. From then on, Barça had full control of proceedings, passing and probing, looking for weaknesses and creating chances.

Football matches come down to moments, and this one came down to two: the miscontrolled corner, and Coutinho deciding to go for the perfect shot, instead of just shooting, something weird for a player so fond of shooting. And it was a hard-earned draw in the savage Mestalla, a draw that could have been a win, just as it could have been a loss. Instead it was a draw, and people lost their minds, after a run of dropped points in the Liga and a run that coincides with poor form by Real Madrid, who lost to Alaves.

Hay, Liga, indeed.

As you can imagine, Barça Twitter went balistic. Valverde doesn’t have balls, Valverde waits too long to sub, Valverde made the wrong subs, Valverde doesn’t have any tactical sense.

Matters were compounded when, after the match, a translation that got the words but not the spirit right, featured the coach saying that he waited so long to make substitutions because he didn’t know exactly what changes to make. And people looked at that statement without looking at what happened: Dembele and Rafinha were subbed on, and the team played worse than when Coutinho and Arthur (resepctively) were on in their steads.

As many including me have been saying for this young season, Valverde is a coach with problems, with a deeper but incomplete squad. The other problem is that one of the squad’s key players from last sesaon, Paulinho, returned to China. As a very astute Twitter observer said, echoing what many of us were already saying: Barça is pretty much the same team from last season.

Not only is it pretty much the same team from last season, but the XI essentially features the same players. “Oh boy, wait until we get a full season of an assimilated Coutinho and Dembele,” we said. And at that first time when Dembele, Ccoutinho, Messi and Suarez were in the eleven, everyone was excited. And then reality struck, which was that none of those four were all that interested or capable from the defensive side of things. So danger beckoned every time an opponent got hold of the ball. The reasons were clear, even if they weren’t always seen.

Rafinha is just a different midfielder, another variant of small ball. Dembele brings pace, a shot from distance and ball skills to the left side, just as Coutinho brings … the same, except he doesn’t render Jordi Alba ineffective. The squad got deeper, without getting any more effective, which is rather an odd thing to say. But the XI, as its core, remains the same as last season: Ter Stegen, Semedo or Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Coutinho, Messi, Suarez, Dembele. This season, there is the addition of Arthur, who brings control to the midfield, if not real creativity. Yet.

So against Valencia, Arthur and Busquets teamed with the rest of the squad to help keep the ball, and keep it some more, and keept it some more, passing it around a packed, effective Valencia low block that moved around to block entry to everyone, made smart interventions to stave off last-ditch attacks. And Barça played the kind of midfield-dominant football that people have been craving, led by a controller, the vaunted controller in Arthur. There were tricks, flicks, backheels and almosts. And Valencia didn’t break.

Valverde had subs warming up, and he waited. And waited. And waited some more. And the subs were ineffective. “Make subs!” “Those subs suck! Make different subs! You know, the ones that work!” The subs and their effect showed exactly why Valverde waited. “Make subs!” Making subs just to make changes, or to bring on fresh legs happens to what end, particularly if the team plays worse. It’s coaching busywork. Make those subs earlier, as some of us asserted, and what probably happens is the same 1-1 draw.

This team isn’t as bad as many suspect, nor is it as good as many believe. It’s a work in progress in the hands of a man who many believe is not up to the task. He is. For this team, this particular team. But it will take time, even if we don’t want to provide that time — not that we have any say in the matter. We’re just fans. Demanding fans who want magic, joy, the precarious beauty of a crazy goal such as the one Arsenal scored against Fulham, filled with headers, backheel flicks and crazy magic. Nope. Because no team that plays Barça wants to be Huesca. Or PSV. And the pass magicians face another Quixotic quest against yet another low block.

What if the kind of football that everyone wants Barça to play doesn’t work in the modern game any longer, because of how defenses are drawn up, because of how players move. The man who created its glories, Pep Guardiola, doesn’t play that way any longer. Didn’t play that way at Bayern Munich, and doesn’t play that way at Manchester City. Arthur has come to help the team play that kind of football, and opponents know how to deal with it. So now what? The team and bench are stocked with players whose very existence is a shrine. Barça football. Cherished, vaunted Barça football. And teams just erect a wall and watch the passing display from behind it.

The team wins enough to win a championship, does it because it has the best player in the history of the game, has players that can present moments of absurd brilliance that become decisive. We scoff at those moments, however, even though they have been hallmarks of Barça teams for years and years, because of a devotion to an ideal that doesn’t exist any longer.

We don’t want a goal from individual brilliance, unless it’s Messi. Beyond that, we want a 424-pass edifice to the art of football, an attack of sustained joy that results in an eminently logical goal.

Valverde has a team that he is the wrong coach for as regards philosohpy and expectations of a demanding fanbase. He wants to win by being what he is, a dour man who mostly dresses as though waiting to enter a funeral. This is true even as he is the right coach to extract the maximum from this collection of veterans. But we expect him to be daring, swashbuckling when he is the kind of coach who might wear a belt and suspenders. He wants his team to be secure, to not leak goals. Then if the solid structure works and Messi has a moment, his team still wins, 1-0. A Simeone scoreline. We went him to make bold decisions, bold subs. Not gonna happen. He will wait, and read, he won’t be bold. Failing? We knew that about him going into last season.

Bad coach? Nope. Conservative one? Yep. More tentative and hesitant after the Roma debacle of last season? Sure seems so. And this is the coach who has to solve the problems that bedevil his team.

Despite all of that, we all know what is going to happen in La Liga because it does every seasaon. Upstarts find their way into the top four, but by the winter, they are gone, nestled in their familiar positions in the table, and the same three teams are up top, sometiems in different order.That is as immutable a part of the world as the Barça fanbase seeing a crisis, seeing doom. He knows what he has, knows what he can do with those players. We will want something different, something daring, something spine-tingling and joyful. That isn’t going to happen with Valverde. But he has what he has. And we have what we have.

But none of this is what anyone wants to hear. Sorry.

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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.

71 Comments

  1. ChaoticReaper
    October 7, 2018

    Messi’s best years are being wasted by cowards like Tata Martino, Luis Enrique, Valverde, and Sampaoli. Messi will never get these last few years back and you won’t sack Valverde until another year is gone. Ronaldo’s greatest crime is convincing the world that he is equal to or even greater than Messi.

    • October 7, 2018

      Curiously, How Did Ronaldo Prove To The World That He Is Equal To, Or Even Greater Than Messi, CHAOTICREAPER!?

    • Khing_prince
      October 8, 2018

      Aren’t the 5 balon d’ors obvious or maybe the 5 champions league trophy or is it the trophy with his country. He accomplished the greatest steal of the decade, Reaching Messi’s stratosphere.

      • Víctor
        October 8, 2018

        @KHING_PRINCE: so what? The Balon d’Or is obviously a perception prize… just like the one Modric got last month…

        UCL & Nation trophies are a good measure, but not definite. And either way, even if the world thinks that Messi is not the best player, who cares? Why give a fuck about it?

    • Víctor
      October 8, 2018

      Yo? You sure that’s “Cristiano’s biggest crime”? I think he allegedly raped 2 women…

    • Khing_prince
      October 8, 2018

      I seem to remember using the word “steal”. Hey I love tarnishing Cr7’s reputation as much as the next guy but lets just steer clear from the supposed allegies until proven guilty, then we could have a pop at him.

  2. October 7, 2018

    Lots Of Times I Feel Barca Has The Most Spoilt & Ungrateful Fan Base Ever! The Kind Of Negativity That Spews From Most Barca Fan Base Platforms Is Stupifying! It Amazes Me! This Is One Of Very Few Places I Get To Read A Very Cool Headed & Positive View Of The Current State Of FCB! Thanks So Much Kxevin For UR Write Ups! More Grace To U & UR Team!!! Kudos!!!

  3. Jamal103
    October 7, 2018

    Kev, I don’t agree with your assessment of the subs. 6 and 4 minutes respectively is not enough time to get a feel for the game and fall into rhythm. In the few minutes they played, Rafinha and Dembele showed sparks of what we needed. Although Rafinha lost the ball quite a bit, he provided an outlet on the right for Semedo to connect to and therefore stretched the Valencia backline a bit.

    I don’t know what it will take for you to call this a crisis. 3 points out of a possible 12 is not to standard for a team like Barcelona and what defies the mind is that it could have been worse without some incredible interventions by Messi who continues to do the tortuous work of papering over the cracks of a club that is losing it’s core values. I suspect we would be looking as abysmal as Real if Messi were to get injured

  4. squeen
    October 7, 2018

    Foo-ey! I enjoyed the game despite the tie. For me, watching Barca be Barca (for the last two games) is more entertaining than winning everything and looking like ever other counter-attacking team. I’ll just enjoy the suspense of each game more. I also believe the kind of teamwork and skill they are showing triumphs in the long run. We shall see…

    Saurez is the man to break the low blocks, but he is off. Expecting a child, knee injuries, no rest…I don’t know what, but we need him! Paulinho was another. Vidal (if he can keep his mouth shut and not piss the coach off) could have helped muscle our way past the bus. Less tired from a mid-week adventure, the startign 11 is sharp enough to win this too. Oh well.

    Again, when I see that kind of control, I am not worried. (But what do I know?)

    Here another thought to chew on: if it wasn’t for Saurez, Messi might have retired (or left) already. And if it wasn’t for Messi, Saurez would probably be banned from playing.

  5. October 8, 2018

    In many ways am allright with the 1 point.
    I do agree with some of the negatives
    – too late for subs, there too bringing in Rafinha. For me he is not going to make any difference against a good team
    – Running the tanks out of Rakitic. If this is continuing am afraid he will become absolutely useless by the second half of season
    – Not bringing in Vidal by 60 – 75 min. He, for me, has proved can pass and I would like to see him subbing in for Rakitic. And he must be determined and hungry too.

    Coutinho is giving me many doubts. He dont see some good passes, shoots like CR7 even with a bit of goal view but when he gets the best chance of the game, screws it up. We would have won it 2-1 and we would be discussing how good we were for many parts of the game. Especially some time before and for long time after the Messi goal we passed the ball in the final third with conviction and purpose. Valencia was so determined in their defending, surprising angle in a Marcelino team! ,
    Watching Arthur gives me lots of pleasure, nostalgia and hope..
    If we can keep Rakitic fresh then this midfield can help us this season. Of course teams will park bus. Ever since Mourinho showed the trivolte set up in those 2 legs of Volcanic ash CL games, we faced double deckers for more than 90% of games till LE took charge. We were not drawing or losing all those matches, even if we didnt had Suarez then. For now, I do feel we might get better.

  6. PPos
    October 8, 2018

    I watched the game and it was the classic Barca vs the parked bus. I think the problem with the current starting line up is the lack of pace on the break with an end product. This is where we miss Neymar the most. Neymar wasn’t just extremely fast but when given the right angle and time. it was a guaranteed goal. The way to break down the bus is to let it come out into your half and then hit them with a lightning fast break.

    Coutinho is a way more talented than Dembele but just not as fast on the break. We don’t have that verticality of the LE days. Valverde seems to be too conservative since the Roma match. He’s afraid to make radical changes which he should have done this game. Throw in Malcom, tel him to shoot from distance, give Neto something to worry about. I’ve seen some crackers from Malcom at his previous club.

    Throw in Vidal sooner, have him oxygenate the midfield and break up the rhythm that the team had fallen into. It was the same lets build up slowly in front of them but it’s too slow that there are no lanes to shoot. I gotta say both matches I watched this weekend were really boring. Man City vs Liverpool was a stalemate of stalemates and this well, the same.

    Our defensive problems worry me. We just cannot keep a clean sheet. It’s like we have reverted to LE’s last season where it was ok, let’s just score more than they score us mentality, but we don’t have the personnel to fight against that i.e. Neymar

    Semedo i think just isn’t good enough. He’s too afraid to cross like dani alves. it just seems the team is stuck in transition. They either attack too slow, or too fast, there’s no flow. The Guardiola teams had a perfect balance of working the rhythm of the match in our favor thanks to Iniesta and Xavi. Xaviniesta.

    La Liga is totally unpredictable right now. We just have to keep on fighting game by game. Taking our chances and shutting down our rivals. Like messi says This thing is long.

    • Khing_prince
      October 8, 2018

      You envisioned my thoughts accurately. Too many sideways passes and no urgency in the passes, Just too predictable. The point was very nice tho but I would have loved to see the team ACTUALLY dominate and not just passing the ball needlessly 30yards from Neto

  7. TITO
    October 8, 2018

    We wouldn’t be talking about crisis or whatever if we had three wins in the previous three matches. There are some games, that we usually take the wins for granted, and some, especially played away, that even if we lose, it’s not the end of the world.
    We expect to drop points against Valencia, Sevilla, RM, AM, but not against minnows.
    What’s good for us is that regardless of dropped 9 points from possible 12, we are still just 1 point away from the top. Because, imagine, if RM won all their games, that’s about 10 points to chase, which usually is unreachable.
    Another thing, TIME, the thing is that we can’t give time to the team. Why? Messi has couple of years in his legs, so does Busi, Pique, Suarez, Rakitic, so does Alba. So, the results must come now, we have to use these last atoms in their old legs to get some more trophies, because let’s face it, in the end, that’s what counts.
    As for the game, you can’t have many chances against packed bus, especially if that is Valencia in Mestalla. I don’t think they will play like that against any other team in the world, bar us. That’s why, when you have a chance, you score, you make the most of it. I was freaking yelling at Coutinho when he didn’t shoot. That’s that chance, that’s that shot, that’s that goal and we have three points, from Mestalla.
    Artur will be great for us, if he continues like this. Pique needs a rest, so does Suarez, so does Rakitic, Busi…but not all in the same time in the same game.
    As i already discussed it with someone in an earlier post, Valverde does know more from us, he knows the players, BUT, the results aren’t equal to that knowledge.
    And, who the hell is his assistant??? We used to talk a lot about assistants and their impact on our play and players in previous years. I haven’t read a single word here about him/her?

    • Hristo
      October 8, 2018

      We don’t take them for granted. You were and the rest where told last season that our team was bailed by Umtiti, Mats and Messi.
      I explicitly warned u all. No u see when Umtiti isn’t there, Messi does not have the same luck before.
      And Pique is way worse… No own goals.

  8. Grindelwald
    October 8, 2018

    I would have been happy with yesterday’s bore fest if not for the late subs and inherent reluctance to sub out Suarez and Rakitic. I’m afraid this two will appear way worse than they are in February when we normally have hectic fixtures and we’ll need them the most.
    I disagree slightly with Kvexin notion of controlling the game while ceding the attacking initiative to the opponents. We controlled the shit outta games and still ended up beat during Tata’s reign.
    I feel this team are only controlling games in the midfield because they don’t know what to do with the ball in the attacking third or, worse, when they’re without it.
    This “controlling the game” theory is a mirage: wait till we play against teams that can actually press e.g., Madrid teams, bayern, Juventus, and the big guns in the UCL, then you’ll see we’re almost as poor on the ball as we’re off it.
    I just hope EV plays Vidal, Dembele, and Malcmolm more in the following weeks, they might be our saving grace by February. Also, does anyone ever think how we’ll end up if, God forbid, messi gets injured for 3 months? I’m sure that’s the worse thing that can happen in the culverse. I always form a coach ratings & credentials on what happens when their star players gets injured for extended periods – sadly, neither our players, nor the system has given less hope in the case of that eventuality.

    • Hristo
      October 8, 2018

      It does not bother u that we didn’t press? We had no game plan? No structure or clear organisation?

      When they appointed JL at RM i went onto the MM podcast and asked a question: how can u appoint a manager who plays predominantly possession based footbal ans expect players who thrive in counter Attacking conditions to adjust to this game plan after they have been conditioned this way for many years. The core has to go in order for this to happen. They are playing counter-intuitive.

      We are the same. What do u suppose mean Malcom being left out and Vidal out of favour? What does that tell u about our manager? Personal feelings above professional courtesy?

  9. TalentNHeart
    October 8, 2018

    I’ve been trying to remain on the moderate side of things this season, so just a few things I would like to hear your guy’s thoughts on. Hrsto you are fiery as usual 🙂 and give voice to some of my more extreme thoughts so no need to repeat those.

    1. Wasn’t Suarez playing injured? If not he sure looked like it the way he played. Similar to when he had a knee injury the beginning of last season, bad touches, misplaced passes, and a lost of a quick first step. Why play him if he can’t be at his best and risk injuring him more? He needs rest like. We need to trust our bench and take a little risk. He could always be subbed on later if needed and against a defense with tired legs he would be more effective.

    2. Lack of attack on the right side. This, I believe makes us very predictable and easily defended against. Attacking only from the left makes the field narrower and we need more play on the right side to stretch the defense. The winger spot is vacant and Nelsinho only gets support from Raki. He also has noone to overlap with. I believe Nelson would be much better going forward if he wasn’t so worried about getting caught up field with only a tired Raki to help him. Which brings me to my last point….

    3. Rakitic needs rest. He can be excellent if he wasn’t shattered from playing so much. I think that Vidal is a very good box to box man and they should share time to keep both fresh and at peak form. Vidal and Nelsinho have shown that they play well together also. They both have an aggressive playstyle, throwing their bodies around, which has been refreshing to watch, and I think much needed in the team.

    I hope the coach rests players and tries some new things. Thanks and great comments so far as always guys.

    • October 9, 2018

      You have explained my thoughts, much better than I have ever done. 🙂

      • TalentNHeart
        October 11, 2018

        I didn’t see this comment until today, but thank you! You should give yourself more credit. Reading your comments every week has helped me to form my own. Cheers!

  10. October 8, 2018

    AS (yes, consider the source) had a piece documenting 5 Pique errors that cost the team 9 points. I don’t believe that a conceded goal is a single player’s fault. Never have. But to suggest that Pique is having form complexities would not be all that farfetched.

    — Valverde seems a little damaged since the end of last season. But as noted above, he has issues to solve. Everyone has the easy answer for what ails Barça, so easy that it’s surprising an experienced coach such as Valverde can’t see them. It’s worth watching Valencia again. The team played quite well once they got the match by the scruff. But the complexities outlined above still hold, and there are still no easy solutions. The biggest thing required right now is calm. It’s cool that we all have passion, but the hard part is trying to sit back, take things in and assess.

    “Valverde out” makes precious little sense. Who does the club replace him with? Somebody! Anybody! Does that coach have the same problems and struggle with the same solutions? Possibly. At some point, 2+2=4 no matter how you do the math. So now what?

    — Rakitic and Semedo were excellent against Valencia, particularly Semedo, who is growing in confidence by the match. It will be fascinating to watch how he devleops this season, and whether he can keep Sergi Roberto at bay. On more than a few occasions in recent matches, his pace kept problems from developing. Sergi Roberto’s footballing brain in Semedo’s body would be the best RB in the history of the game.

  11. TalentNHeart
    October 8, 2018

    Or get a clone of Dani Alves. Semedo looks to have everything he needs skill wise from what I have seen of him in the past to do well in this team. It’s only now with lack of consistency and confidence, as well as little support that he has been not as effective going forward. If you go back to his very first starts with Barca you can see he was much more confident in his dribbles. Look at his style when he played at Benfica. That shouldn’t have changed. I think he has been put on a leash and being prevented from playing instinctively…which is a shame since that is what got Barca’s attention in the first place.

    • October 8, 2018

      I wouldn’t mind seeing this XI:

      Dembele/Suarez/Messi
      Coutinho/Arthur/Busquets
      Semedo/Pique/Lenglet/Umtiti
      Ter Stegen

      If a coach is looking to do the Classic Barça thing, Henry is now Dembele, Iniesta Coutinho and Abidal Umtiti. You also solve the problem of Dembele and Alba getting in each other’s way, and give more precisely defined spheres of influence while tightening down at the back as Umtitl becomes that defensive LB. So many problems come from a turnover, and Alba being caught up as an opponent goes long over the midfield to get directly at the back line.

      Coutinho isn’t Iniesta, but he is a penetrating dribbler who is learning ball security under Valverde. And then you also get midfield control with him, Busquets and Arthur. You also get all your money on the pitch, rather than having to choose between having 140 or 160m on the bench.

      But Valverde will never, ever do this unless Alba was kidnapped by dingoes. Though he did try Vermaelen at LB, which didn’t do all that badly.

      • TalentNHeart
        October 8, 2018

        Titi on that side as LB would definitely be interesting. It would give defensive solidity on the left that the team would normally lack with Couter and Dembouz in the lineup. I am still on the fence as to where Couter is best played, and for me, him and Dembele haven’t shown that they can play without getting in each others way. I’d like to see Malcom in this line up with Couts too. He seems to work harder on defense than Dembele. Wouldn’t hurt to give a try. We would still be left side attack dependent tho… which we know is difficult to solve with both Messi and Suarez in the lineup.

      • October 8, 2018

        I would totally be up for just swapping Malcom with Dembele. His comparative lack of creativity/versatility might even work better in that arrangement in reducing the spheres of influence and potential overlap of he and Coutinho.

      • TalentNHeart
        October 8, 2018

        This would probably help Pique and the back line as a whole since before Titi got injured he was venturing too far forward and not level with Pique at times, which when the ball is knocked over Sam’s head leaves Pique scrambling to cover. Pique has lost a step and if anything Sam should stay home and cover and Pique venture forward. If Sam is in LB he’s up where he likes and can make forward passes from that position. Lenglet can be told to stay home to cover.

      • bhed
        October 9, 2018

        Umtiti as a back? It’s so crazy, it might work. He’s got the athleticism to play a few spots, in theory, but he’d for sure have to adapt. I don’t know, he’s such a great centerback, and for Barca… we’re lucky to have such a solid, young centerback, better to find or promote a proper outside back, and keep Samuel closer to goal.

  12. Jim
    October 8, 2018

    First of all, Valencia are a decent side who will end the season quite high up. They are very well organised in defence and can break at lightning speed. They played well in a rather limited way.

    I keep coming back to Ruud Gullit’s assessment when he used to comment on our CL matches saying ” it has always been much easier to destroy a house than build it ” We are a victim of our incredible team under Pep where coming out to play meant inevitable destruction. So teams stopped coming out. They didn’t , and still don’t, do that to Madrid because they feel they have a chance. Nothing we can do to change that. And on narrower or deliberately unwatered or overwatered ( looking at you Bayern ! ) pitches we will always struggle even more .

    In this match ( leave the goal aside for just now) I thought we moved the ball quickly and intelligently, coming close on numerous occasions to making something happen. However, as was bound to happen really, we tired and when that happens the ball movement slows down, we get less time and things start to get loose. The surprise for me was that they managed to keep their energy up quite well, maybe because they retreated and didn’t have much ground to cover, I’m not really sure.

    No, Semedo isn’t pulling his weight offensively but he is generally learning the defensive side quite well for me. Didn’t like him going to ground against Kane but he’ll learn from that. His dribbling is coming on and the next bit to add is to use his pace to get to the byeline rather than continually turning back. Arthur, likewise, has shown us he can keep the ball ( really like the way he takes it in, turning as he does do with head up ). It would seem he’s also gaining the trust of EV which is good so give the offensive side time.

    The business of leaving out Alba is for me ludicrous. He is one of the best FBs in the world and also one of our most creative attackers as well as learning to use his pace to cover in defence more. The problem is that he’s one of only a very few who carry any threat. Of course teams will mark that move because it is very successful and we don’t have a lot of options. That doesn’t mean you drop Alba – it means you give them something else to think about as well.

    Now to the goal. Not sure why we are reduced to quoting AS with regard to Pique. How about having a listen to what the man himself says ?

    “I feel good physically, although it’s true that I made a big error against Leganes,” said Pique.
    “A lot of people are hoping that things don’t go well for me and when we concede a goal it’s always Pique’s fault — and not just in Madrid. As I’m critical of the media, they’re waiting for me [to make mistakes] and want to get me.
    “They can enjoy it [at the moment], the [journalists on] television should come out of their caves and enjoy the sun. It’s part of the game.”

    Apart from the seagull/ trawler-ish bit he is spot on. He did make an error against Legans which he fesses up to. He then quite rightly has a go at lazy viewing of journalists and others who don’t take the time to see what really happened. Let’s take his latest error ( because I’ve covered the others ! ) . And have a genuine look at the clip below. If you don’t agree with my assessment, fine, but tell me why.

    The ball comes over and TV completely mistimes it ( don’t think he was pushed but just possible). Anyway, he glances the ball,at speed, down and towards our 6 yard box. Because of his deflection Suarez’ jump is ridiculous but it completely blocks Pique’s view of the incoming. Pique is bending for the flight of the ball but doesn’t see it coming at all and it deflects off him to the unmarked man at the back post.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3Bv6sdI75NU

    What exactly was his error ? While you’re looking at that why not have a thought for our player at the back post who is ball watching throughout and doesn’t even see his man moving towards goal to score ? Tell me who it is.

    Can we get a grip here ? We were always likely to be skooshed once TV diverted it into that spot. Not necessarily blaming him as he wouldn’t have done it voluntarily but to blame Pique ???

    Pique, for me, had a pretty good game, as he does almost every game. His ability to get his head first to every dangerous ball that comes in, to find the perfect position to cut off balls into the box and ability to cover for his fellow CB are great and seem to go largely unnoticed. If he’s lost a step, the forward who took him on in the second half in the foot race to the byeline over twenty yards must be suicidal that he was still with him to block the cross.

    In the seasons up to now, I’ve had the luxury of being able to record our whole games and play them back to see what went right or wrong. Now, I’m in the same shithole as many of you with Eleven Sports regarding ten minute highlights as adequate to advertise it as “watch the game again” ! But we can always see what happens for the goals on YouTube so let’s do that rather than keeping on rounding on a player based on one viewing and no explanation.

    There is a lot wrong with our side at the moment, for me. But there is also a sign of some green shoots. I know, our right side isn’t dangerous as has been said, for whatever reason the defence isn’t performing as it should and there is literally no creativity from midfield which will have to change. As has been said, an injury to Messi would be a disaster at the moment .

    However, I don’t see the benefit in shouting for Valverde’s head just now. He has attempted to respond to the “boring” criticism of last year by reverting to 4-3-3. May work may not, in which case we need mids in a different formation who regularly crash the box. He’s giving Semedo, Dembele and Arthur a chance, even if some of it is down to injury. It’s not his fault Coutinho is taking a little longer to have a major impact in matches. Flits in and out a little for me . He’s also got a 150m euro man who has as many downsides as up. I’ve said before that EV’s main issue for me is Rakitic’s position. . . . But we’ve been here before so I’ll leave that one.

    Biggest worry for me is Suarez. We have no real replacement for what he does. Messi as a false nine was never great. It ended with Villa being played wide left, one of Spain’s best goal scorers while we had nobody to occupy the CBs. I’m wondering if it’s the cyst from last year or a new injury. Whatever, we need to give him the rest he needs while we can. Neither he nor Messi, nor Pique, nor Rakitic should start any Copa this year.

    In other news RM have 8, yes 8 nominations for the Balon while we have three. Remind me, was it 17 points they finished behind us in the biggest test of consistency ? Our defence let in 29 league goals to their 44 yet three out of four of theirs are nominated and none of ours ? I’d love it if I didn’t care but I do.

  13. mvarfi
    October 8, 2018

    @TALENTNHEART
    It’s odd how quickly people forget the enormous energy invested at Wembley. It makes you wonder whether they’ve ever had any meaningful workout session in their lives, let alone for an extended period of time.

    1. I do not think that Suarez would be put at risk knowingly by the coaching and medical staff. The only logical conclusion I come to is that whatever the nature of his injury, running with it for an additional 90 minutes would not have deteriorated it. Also, lest we forget, it was his assist that gave Messi the opportunity to bag a point.

    2. We are a bit lopsided in attack with Messi preferring to tuck in and leaving Semedo the entire right flank. Considering that he was likely a gazelle in a previous life, I don’t mind it. He has the lungs and skill set to deal with it. That said, I do think he would naturally draw more support from the midfield if he were to become less timid in attack. As it is, his hesitation forces the team to switch to the left side more often than it likes to.

    3. Vidal’s time will come. I don’t think he’s ready yet. I worry about Racitic resting too, but then I remind myself that sports medicine and its supporting technology is far too advanced nowadays for me to suspect that Racitic will be allowed to run himself to the ground. The team has the depth this season to deal with fatigue. Give it time.

    Finally, I’m not picky about lineups. Regardless of individual flaws, every player brings quality to the table. I’m glad of the international break. It will rest key players and give the coaching staff time to regroup and rethink stuff.

    • Hristo
      October 8, 2018

      He dis risk Suarez and Pique last year. He got to play with injuries. With injections. It didn’t end well.

      “I’m not sure if substitution was needed or not”

    • October 9, 2018

      No sports medicine can help keep the intensity on tired players. Am not sure about that.
      Hope you noticed how Rakitic was not able to complete even easy passes in the second half. He is important for us especially when we will have important games every 3/4 days come Jan. If he is tired by second half now, I dont know what later. This is my biggest complaint against EV. The puzzling factor is there is Vidal who can replace Rakitic, A

      • mvarfi
        October 9, 2018

        I didn’t suggest that sports medicine has invented a panacea for tired legs and brains. I was pointing out that professional athletes are well monitored nowadays. Science and technology are at a level that can help anticipate overtraining and getting sick.

        Racitic was not the only one making sloppy passes. I hope you noticed that even Busi and Pique had one or two “oops” passes. All the players were drained, which explained the lack of sharpness and the slower tempo. Valverde either didn’t want to, or couldn’t explain why he chose to keep the Wembley lineup intact up until the 83rd minute. It seems he operated at least on his instincts.

      • October 10, 2018

        Exactly friend. Our players are already tired.. Thats the bigger point. When EV is giving some rest to Bus, Messi etc.. he is using Rakitic for every minutes..

      • mvarfi
        October 10, 2018

        No two athletes are built the same. Some can handle more load than others. That is not to say that that’s the case with Racitic necessarily. It is to say that I find it hard to believe that EV cares about Racitic’s wellbeing less than we do.
        Patience, friend.

  14. Khing_prince
    October 8, 2018

    3 points out of a possible 12. That’s not bad?! It’s terrible, what’s even crazy is dropped points against out of form minnows. For me EE’s slump is understandable, it has come against teams that are in form and in the top six. We dominated them!? yeah right, the team seemed to have already settled for a point before a ball was kicked afraid to lose all three on the counter. Like Kxevin said “THIS team is the same as last years own”, just wish they would roll their sleeves up and stop riding their luck and hoping on Messi and actually get the job done. Hey, seems like own goal is not in form for us this season after his goal spree last term.

  15. Hristo
    October 8, 2018

    Here is my take.

    Coutinno Dembele(Kevin’s right/Malcom)
    Messi
    Arthur Vidal
    Busquests
    Alba-Umtiti-Verm-Semedo

    Here is why this particular line-up solves all issues and makes the best team in the world. A team that cna spontaneously autocorrect erros systemically as long as the coach don’t ask them to defend much without the ball.

    I don’t want Suarez for he has lost speed, agility, penetration and is not scoring goals. We can’t wait for him like last season.
    Messi at F9 will work because we will have actual wing that works. We saw two games ago how fluid Semedo and Dembele were – speaking the same languege. Dembele also immediately attempts to recover the ball after he loses it(credit to Valverde(). U need that.
    Vidal has natural tendencies to sniff out turnovers as well as ability to steal the ball and press exactly when needed. U don’t need to tell him that BUT u do need him to play him at CM. He gels well with Semedo and will Dembele. Vidal brings the kind of(don’t fucking die) attitude u when u see no way IN. Against Roma that would have been huge help. And he is an improvement over Rakitic. Vidal is also something else, and he will be something else consistently if he plays.
    – First line of defense. Messi won’t press often and Coutinho does not have that instinct either. You need Vidal infront of Busi and Arthur. He is very intuitive, as is Busquests.
    Arthur: I have been advocating for him since before he started for us. We had not conceded a single goal while he was playing for us from the pre-season started. We conceded each time he left. Give him the ball to starve the opposition.
    Now I’ll share with you Arthur part of the game. Somebody else pointed those out in the summer but i needed to confirm wirh my own observation. Also why Vidal is important for Arthur’s game.
    Arthur lacks often the diagonal pass to the rifht wing ans often does not see a clear run by the full back. As there was that time again Valencia where Semedo made a perfect run with so much space it was just stunning. Arthur saw it but then didn’t act. For Barca this is a musr skill. But Xavi too lacked this until late in his career. It will come.
    Arthur can influence the pace of your team but the pace of the game influences Arthur himself. If it is a slow game then tends to forget himself fading to stagnation. He protects the ball slows down a slow game. With Vidal, as we saw, thisnis different. Vidal is the opposite. He doesn’t really slow down. U need this when u play with Busi and Arthur.
    Busquests for one will have someone to take off his additional duties in tackling and covering so much ground. Vidal can do that and Arthur can channel between the lines balla all night long.
    Rakitic won’t find you in clustered midfield, he will pass ot back and sideways all day. Both Vidal and Arthur especially will find the better pass all day long. That’s is a fact.

    If you take a step back and look at the suggest line up u can notice that this line up, unlike any other is synergistic.

    Now on to Messi. Ive mentioned many times before that we smashed every team sho played open footbal against us/bar Roma. Messi thrive in space. We need that rifht wing so we can stretch the field and create space space for him.
    Malcom will do it and Coutinho also, with Arthur drawing players towards himself and Vidal pushing, there will be plenty of space even in low sitting sides.
    In our last game Messi kept cutting from the left to shoot with his right foot. He did this uncharacteristically him. Made 2-3 shoots from very far away with his righr foot in a bad position.
    Pochetino was naive. Playing a pressing game with midfielders who are vastly inferior to his starters, with incredible high defensive line, playing into the hands of Alba, Coutinho and Messi. In those case u don’t need necessarily a right wing when u have acres of space in the left.
    I was surprised Pochetino would chose to play like this. Like a said, we always dismantled teams with high defensive lines. This plays into Alba, Couthino and Messi strengths. Those 3 with space are enough.
    But with coaches who posses footballing acumen, who don’t even need great players, all it takes is, sit deep and flud the middle and left. Simple. And all we need is to stretch the right for which we have players.
    Alex Ferguson sacrificed Van Nystelroy for collective Throphies. He had to. Ruud was scoring for fun but the team wasn’t a team. The media went crazy bur Ferguson won Throphies and shut up.

    When we make tough decision we seldomly know whether we will muster what it takes to stay with this decision. When u need to break up a relationship with someone u care for u know you gonna be in pain, and it seems like there is no medicine. The thought of time ‘passing’ is not comforting. You will just have to find out in the process of recovery what u need to do.
    Now, I’m a psychotherapist and with dealing with families you know that the less you know about a family and its problems the best you will respond in the here and Now.
    You didn’t see me once to blame Enrique. For 18 years of following Barca i have never asked for the coaches head. Never. You wont find a post or a single shred of evidence about this.

    This is the first time i do something like this. Few months ago a promised you another humbling defeat like the one from Roma. It is coming. And for those who chose not to see things as they are will suffer for it.
    During the summer and even last season i spoke about our season being made by three players. And the fact that Real and Atletico were playing bad. And we were lucky. Last minus goals, devine interventions by Messi and Mats.. match winning own goals and so on. Okay fine. Luck is good. But the issues we had last season are still here. Which is worse we have abandon press pretty much bar few games here and there. Our coach under pressure said that “system are not important” which explain why he does not make subs but rather waits for Messi magic to happen. But Messi is a year oldee and has a little less. When he makes subs he does not change the game plan only replaces the player with another most likely playing him out of position.
    A good coach see the problems and a great one can anticipate them. And not sure we have a good coach let alone a great one.

    What made want his head how he treats people. I cannot accept punish players foe his own agendas. This i cannot accept i never have. As long as see players like Malcom casted out dispassionately, Vidal, Semedo who plays because Sergi is injured i will not be silent and be complicit.

    Bowen(psychiatrist) has 8 concepts. One of concept is this one:


    Differentiation of Self

    Families and other social groups tremendously affect how people think, feel, and act, but individuals vary in their susceptibility to a “groupthink” and groups vary in the amount of pressure they exert for conformity. These differences between individuals and between groups reflect differences in people’s levels of differentiation of self. The less developed a person’s “self,” the more impact others have on his functioning and the more he tries to control, actively or passively, the functioning of others. The basic building blocks of a “self” are inborn, but an individual’s family relationships during childhood and adolescence primarily determine how much “self” he develops. Once established, the level of “self” rarely changes unless a person makes a structured and long-term effort to change it.

    People with a poorly differentiated “self” depend so heavily on the acceptance and approval of others that either they quickly adjust what they think, say, and do to please others or they dogmatically proclaim what others should be like and pressure them to conform. Bullies depend on approval and acceptance as much as chameleons, but bullies push others to agree with them rather than their agreeing with others. Disagreement threatens a bully as much as it threatens a chameleon. An extreme rebel is a poorly differentiated person too, but he pretends to be a “self” by routinely opposing the positions of others.

    A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality. Thoughtfully acquired principles help guide decision-making about important family and social issues, making him less at the mercy of the feelings of the moment. What he decides and what he says matches what he does. He can act selflessly, but his acting in the best interests of the group is a thoughtful choice, not a response to relationship pressures. Confident in his thinking, he can support others’ views without being a disciple or reject others’ views without polarizing the differences. He defines himself without being pushy and deals with pressure to yield without being wishy-washy.

    Every human society has its well-differentiated people, poorly differentiated people, and people at many gradations between these extremes. Consequently, the families and other groups that make up a society differ in the intensity of their emotional interdependence depending on the differentiation levels of their members. The more intense the interdependence, the less a group’s capacity to adapt to potentially stressful events without a marked escalation of chronic anxiety. Everyone is subject to problems in his work and personal life, but greater vulnerability of less differentiated people and families to periods of heightened chronic anxiety contributes to their having a disproportionate share of society’s most serious problems.”

    I hope u enjoyed this effort of writing i don’t want to repeat.

    • October 9, 2018

      Lots of information Hristo. I will have to read it multiple times 🙂
      .

    • squeen
      October 9, 2018

      Interesting stuff! Thanks for sharing.

      I’m not sure if I buy the basic premise of a fixed quantity of “self”, and an individual permanently falling into a category—seems more dynamic than that. I find that models like this tend to oversimplify and distort our world view slightly since everything is viewed through a tinted lens. Like the Zen koan says: “The map is not the territory.” Does Bowen provide hard, empirical, evidence to support his model? How could it be possibly be validated? The scientific method usually only allows you to disprove a hypothesis, never conclusively prove (which makes for a slippery kettle of fish when it comes to human behavior). Models like this can have their uses, but tend to have only a limited scope of applicability and fall in and out of fashion.

      That said: I’m failing to see exactly how it applies to Barca or Valverde. Perhaps I just missed the explict connection.

      • Hristo
        October 9, 2018

        Valverde has nor got strong self of self. He acts confused. As he admits himself in the press conference. He freezes up very often. Does not act.

      • squeen
        October 9, 2018

        Oh. Agreed—he does not act decisively at high-pressure moments. Strange behavior for a former player.

        Still….hard to shallow a manger at the highest levels has a weak self-identity.

        Regarding the last game, I imagine Vidal was not brought on in order for Valverde to maintain control of the dressing room. Can’t have players lashing out at the manager without chaotic results for the season.—that’s an issue bigger than one lost game—and who else to bring from the bench? The team on the field was tired, but still was clicking. I honestly thought that a ball would eventually penetrate (looking at you touch-you-three-times-Coutinho) but wasn’t expecting too much because of the mid-week effort.

        SO happy Messi/Suarez/Alba don’t do international duty this break.

      • Jim
        October 9, 2018

        Not for me. I liked the idea that EV was confident enough to come out and say he wasn’t sure that changes would be for better or maybe worse.

        I was sitting at home thinking the same . Dembele would have struggled against the packed defence and could have just lost the ball a lot more or he might have had the key but either way it’s a close call. Rafinha never affects things much but maybe would offer fresh legs and lose the ball as much.

        For me, it’s never a weakness to admit you’re not sure about something. Whether a manager should always have all the answers I also find questionable. Most are just scared to admit it.

      • Hristo
        October 9, 2018

        Coutinho stays and Suarez goes out fpr Dembele.
        We stretch the game on both ends. This will create space for Messi. Otherwise we have to wait for Messi magic, which in the most important games in CL does not happen. Because its a team effort.

      • Jim
        October 9, 2018

        . . . is your opinion, Hristo, which is fine .

        I’d worry about us ever seeing a Barca jersey in the opposition box again never mind score 30 or so goals on his own. Let’s wait till we see how Dembele handles a packed defence first. He doesn’t look to me like he’d survive any of the tackles from the back that come Suarez’s way. But I’m sure we’ll get the chance to see soon. Especially if Suarez’s knee injury persists.

      • squeen
        October 9, 2018

        Jim: Not to appear too wishy-washy, I was thinking of Roma, not Valencia when I envisioned “panicked”.

        And I also like that he’s confident enough to admit mistakes or moments when he’s doesn’t have an easy solution in-hand—not some kind of insecure Mourinho-type who looks for someone else to blame or fears being “found out” as a sham.

        Valverde is the real deal as a manager, even if he is not a Cryuff-level genius. “The Ant” == hard worker.

      • October 10, 2018

        Also, Jim, it’s worth noting that the translation wasn’t the best. People are (as I suspected they would) taking it as he didn’t know what to do, which is inaccurate. More correct is that he looked at his available options, and didn’t really see any that would change the situation.

        I wish he’d had the courage to not make any changes at all. The team was worse after the subs.

      • mvarfi
        October 9, 2018

        “A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality.” Bowen

        Of all Bowen’s profiles, this seems to fit Valverde the best. I know, not what you intended. Your aim was to give a scientific explanation of not only why you’ve been right all along about Valverde, but more importantly, why everyone else should jump on the bandwagon of wanting-Valverde’s-head-on-a-paper-plate.

        If I may appropriate one sentence from Bowen’s quote, I’ll add that every human profession has its standard setting, excellent individuals, inept charlatans, and people at many gradations between these extremes.

      • Hristo
        October 9, 2018

        There is more evidence growing gamw by game that Valverde is inept.
        Nearly all tactical analysis so far shows his tactical inferiority.
        As the man himself says “tactics are not important”.
        He runs his players to the ground and then says he does not know why this or that happen.

        The only explanation of why u can’t see all this is that there spme sort of identification with Valverde from your side.

        The best u know man is under pressure. Ans under pressure Valverde started to say stupid shit.

        No Subs until the 81st min against Roma, no subs against Valencia too. He runs them to the ground. U gotta take care of those players not the other way around. But u gonna say he treats everybody alright. He is fair and treats players by Deserve.
        The longer he stays the worse it wil become.

      • Hristo
        October 9, 2018

        Mark my words. When Valverde gers fired or quit at the end of the season he will begin to reveal he actual self. It will be ugly.

      • mvarfi
        October 9, 2018

        The only polite explanation of why you: a) insist that people have the same view of EV as you do, b) are unwilling to put yourself in their shoes to understand their point of view, and c) vehemently reject the idea that you might be wrong in your assessment of Barca’s coach, is that you could have an out-of-proportion regard for yourself as a psychotherapist.

      • Osas
        October 14, 2018

        Now he is being forced to play a style of game he can’t relate with . He therefore looks lost and doesn’t know which subs to make. It wasn’t like that like season because we used a system he understand..

      • Osas
        October 14, 2018

        So many times last season , he made a lot of changes that imparted games.

  16. Jim
    October 9, 2018

    Sorry, ” wouldn’t lose the ball as much”.

    • mvarfi
      October 9, 2018

      I just looked at the nominations for the Ballon d’Or. What a joke! Benzema is on the list, but not Umtiti. Go figure.

  17. TalentNHeart
    October 10, 2018

    @MVARFI
    Well we know that the coaching staff thought he was fine, but its no fun going along with everything they decide 🙂 With Suarez injured and having multiple other options on the bench that are fresh and hungry, I think the less risky option in terms of the entire season, is to rest him. Doesn’t help the squad guys either if they see that the coach doesn’t count on them. It was a missed opportunity. Give the kids a chance, at least a half, that is all I am saying.

    From everything I have seen in the past from Semedo he has been very attack minded. I think it is a system issue and not that the guy is timid. I believe he is told to be more defensive and only push up when there is opportunity. Seeing as there is no winger and he is almost always up against two sometimes three defenders, there are not many opportunities.

    I’m not sure why you think Vidal is not ready? He was the best player on the field against Bilbao until he was subbed off. He has been a world class midfielder for many years. (This coming from somebody with a Peruvian wife. She’d gut me if she knew lol) I don’t know enough about sports medicine to really comment, but as with anything, it is not foolproof. I’m of the opinion that keeping the players fresh and hungry would help more than hurt. While there may be some internal politics at play in EV not selecting Vidal for Valencia, I think he is a direct swap with very little skill drop (if any) from Rakitic, and an improvement when Raki was visibly tired.

    • mvarfi
      October 10, 2018

      Well, it’s no fun complaining about the same thing over and over again, either. Our priorities, as fans, can not possibly overlap entirely with the priorities of the coaching staff. That’s a reality we’re better off making peace with. Yes, Suarez could have been rested and Munir started or at least played part of the game. Would you have risked that though? (Yes, you would have.) Knowing that you’re playing Valencia at their home, and that Suarez is sturdy enough to play one more game before getting two weeks off. Munir shows promise, but he doesn’t have the same connection with Messi. The lineup worked well at Wembley. EV may have opted to ride the wave of confidence the same group of players earned there. People were complaining about Arthur not getting enough minutes not long ago. Well, he has started two games in a row now. Trust the process and be patient. Players will get their chance when they’re deemed ready by the coaching staff, not by us. That’s a fact. It’s our choice how much we bitch about it.

      I started watching football again only about a year and a half ago, after a long hiatus. So, I can’t really comment on Semedo’s form prior to last season. But, I’ll take your word for it. He may have been told to pace himself and not go forward as much, but then you wonder why the ball kept being played over to him at Anoeta, only for him to pass it back over and over again. It was a sad sight, especially considering that he IS capable of creating opportunities, not simply taking advantage of them. That said, he has looked more confident in the last couple of matches, which is heartwarming.

      Vidal did have a good match against Bilbao, but he was partnered with Sergi Roberto AND Racitic. Players’ dynamics are fascinating and taken into account when lineups are devised. How do we know that Vidal’s great showing was independent of Racitic’s presence? So far, he may work better with Racitic than Busi, for instance. In that sense, I say that he’s not ready yet. He’ll get there, though, which means more rest for Racitic. Probably.
      Finally, I agree with you that having fresh, hungry players is good. However, having fresh, hungry players who are fully integrated into the team is better.

      • TalentNHeart
        October 10, 2018

        Not sure if I came off wrong on my comment. Opinions and just having a discussion. If I’m coming off as complaining then you’re getting the wrong idea. I do see your points about Suarez. I just want him when he is not injured. What playing him means to me is the team is too dependent on him, which it should not be. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

        I don’t think the coach or his teammates (Raki and Pique mainly) would want Semedo to try and take on two to three defenders, risk losing the ball, and in turn expose the right flank. His main job isn’t to create those opportunities, not with that type of risk. It is the winger’s job in front of him to.

        I see your points and I agree on player’s dynamics affecting each other. I have to state that I always prefer Rakitic in and playing when he is rested and in his best form. The only way to get that is to rest him. I just don’t see the downgrade that you do when it comes to Vidal in comparison to Rakitic. Also, I would like to point to the minutes that were played before the red card was handed to Lenglet in the Girona game as being the best showing I have seen from our midfield. The team looked like it was going to demolish Girona until that red card came out. That was an Arthur/Busi/Vidal midfield. Many forget those minutes, but I saw hope in those minutes. Too romantic I know 🙂 Again, agree to disagree. Cheers!

      • mvarfi
        October 10, 2018

        You didn’t come off wrong. But it sounds like I may have.

        Alas, the team IS dependent on Suarez, even if not at the degree that it is on Messi. He is one of a kind in his own right. Replacing him will be hard.

        At the moment, the winger in front of Semedo is Messi. We know how he operates, so unless Semedo becomes a bit more adventurous, we will continue to be lopsided on the right side. That, or you’re looking at shuffling the front three to accommodate a more orthodox winger.

        Until the much-debated red card happened, I was enjoying our game against Girona too. I wish that good-looking midfield would have gotten a proper looking at, unfortunately the dynamic of the game changed drastically once Lenglet was sent off. After Girona, Barca had four tricky matches, away at Leganes, home v. Bilbao, and away at Wembley and Mestalla. I’m not sure it would have been a good idea playing both Arthur and Vidal in any of those matches. That is, without first having an idea of how the three work together for 90 minutes and with a full set of players. They’ll get another run together soon enough.
        Cheers!

  18. October 10, 2018

    Man. Psychological profiles of coaches now? It must be the international break. It’s hard to evaluate anything without calm. Right now, there is precious little of it as everyone tries to figure out what is “wrong.”

    People who watched the team said it would take time to come together. And so it is. The last time Barça started the season with a points total equal to the one it has now was in 05-06, when they did the Liga title and Champions League. There has also been the “Crisis At Anoeta.” That team won a treble. Crises are usually the stuff of people who struggle to find answers to questions that matter to them. But sometimes there aren’t any answers.

    Look at last season. If Messi doesn’t miss that shot on the doorstep, and Suarez converts one of the three chances he had against Levante, the team makes the Champions League semis, probably wins it, and goes unbeaten for the Liga season. Margins are razor-thin at the top.

    This team has had a trajectory of success that, over the last decade, has been astonishing. It is, unfortunately, tainting the way we look at what it does in the here and now. They got lucky. Atleti had a slow start, and RM is also struggling, but their struggles are different than those of Barça. Both teams will sort themselves out.

    Meanwhile, we wait. Valverde isn’t a good a coach as his proponents suggest, nor as bad a coach as his detractors want to believe. But he is an excellent coach, and still the right coach to coax his collection of veterans and young’uns into a functioning unit. Firing him would be stupid, and this board is a lot of things, but they aren’t stupid.

    What can we do as supporters? Take games as they come, watch the team hopefully come together, and stay chilled. As the likes of Klopp and Guardiola have said, it’s just a game.

  19. October 10, 2018

    And on another note, it’s worth noting again that we are not our ideas. Personal stuff should be reconsidered before being posted in the comments. Everyone isn’t supposed to agree, but there is an expectation of respectful discourse.

    The mods here aren’t as vigilant as the mods at other sites about managing the content here, so we depend on the people who comment to keep things calm and clean.

    Thanks, everyone.

  20. PPos
    October 10, 2018

    I think we need to chill. Everyone is in full meltdown mode. The table of La Liga right now is Sevilla 16, Barca 15, Atleti 15. RM 14, It’s only October, like Messi said last season when we got blown out by Madrid in the Super Copa. This thing is long. We need to give Valverde the room to make mistakes. If he’s as incompetent as everyone says, then he will sack himself with his choices, and besides, there’s literally no top coaches out there that we could hire. Mourinho hahaahahahahahahaah, Conte, hahaahahaahah,
    Zidane?? Not unless hell freezes over. There’s literally no coaches available. Rijkaard? Ha I’m just saying that because I just rewatched the highlights of our 2006 CL final against Arsenal. We should have lost tbh, Henry was awful. and wasted like 5 chances. I can’t believe it’s been ten years since Guardiola’s first CL.

  21. Jim
    October 12, 2018

    Thanks for the correction, Kxevin. I was actually taking it that way as I couldn’t make my mind up if it would be an improvement or not.

    Thinking of knees today as I tweaked mine at the golf today, attempting to carry a bunker I’ve only seldom even reached ! Had a bit of cartilage removed after a small tear about 15 to 20 years ago and I now have had another one for about four years. However, things have moved on and it appears doctors are no longer so keen on nipping bits off your cartilage as it tends to lead to osteoarthritis. So I’m having to ” manage” it in current medical- speak. It’s fine for the golf although it would get worse quickly if I tried to play football.

    So why is this relevant other than your natural concern for an ageing footballer ? Well, it would appear that we have two of these,possibly, on our hands. The obvious and maybe more concerning one is that of Umtiti. It is definitely a cartilage problem and I can’t think it’s anything other than a small tear. If so, that’s bad news. I’m not buying the managing of it – tends to mean you’ll be fine until you’re not but that will happen most times you attempt to sprint and you’ll pull up very quickly with a sharp pain. Not good for a footballer. I reckon if it is that then surgery will be needed. Don’t know how long they take see days to recover but I was out for three months at least and even then it was another couple before I trusted it. So, prepare for bad news there.

    The other one, Suarez, may not be as different as first seems. He had a Baker’s cyst last year which responded to rest and some preventative work. Now, I’m no medic, but a simple check on that suggests that it is often the result of something underlying with the knee like a small cartilage tear or even osteoarthritis setting in. Coming back again, if it is the same, would suggest to me that the underlying problem isn’t going to go away without some intervention. So, it may be bad news there as well. If it isn’t, then we need to get serious about rest for him as we don’t have much of an alternative.

    Btw, folks watching Paco’s exploits ( and it’s good to see him happy, he tried hard when he was here) should be starting to appreciate the difference in playing for us where movement is harder in a packed space neither Dembele nor Malcolm could offer us that and opposition CBs would have a field day with all the play in front of them.

    So, I’m sitting here, knee up on the couch, with our short golf holiday up to the north of Scotland starting tomorrow. My good lady has just said as I type this, without realising the irony, ” Well, it’s your own fault. You should have had a rest this week instead of playing”. Out of the mouths . . .

    • October 12, 2018

      Knees are stupid designs, Jim. I swear. Umtiti was durable before coming to Barça, so this spate of stuff comes as a surprise. Though as one whose knees (at my age) are always sore after extended stretches of intense activity, you do have to wonder if his playing all the time because of the lack of a quality rotation at LCB contributes.

      A Barça CB runs, sprints, turns and cuts quite a lot more than a CB for another team, I would wager, just because of the nature of how the team plays. I recall how quickly the club made the call on Mathieu’s knee surgery.

      I recently tore a meniscus, and it was the same. My ortho said, “Wait six to eight weeks and if it isn’t better, we’ll need to consider surgery.” I was pretty bummed at the four-week mark then suddenly, boom. It started getting better rapidly, and I was able to avoid the knife. I wonder if Umtiti is in a similar holding pattern.

      And the thing is, once the knees start having issues, they kinda don’t stop. It makes the acquisition of Lenglet rather perceptive. And I wonder if Marlon wouldn’t still be in the side instead of Vidal in that other non-EU slot had people known how quickly Arthur would assimilate.

    • mvarfi
      October 12, 2018

      Rowing is a low impact sport on the joints. With proper technique and a healthy lifestyle, you can do it well into your eighties. While I’ve have other injuries, I’ve never had knee issues. That changed, albeit temporarily, last year. I decided to train for a full marathon. Running has never been my cup of tea, but I had made up my mind. That I trained on a concrete surface and that it took a few weeks to find the right shoes for me, didn’t help. But, I completely sympathize. Knee discomfort is bad, as it affects your posture and walking, which could lead to other issues. It does suck!

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed for both Suarez and Titi. I draw a bit of comfort from the fact that they’re being treated in Spain. I’m reminded of Sid Lowe’s article on Santi Cazorla’s saga of his injury, how it was dealt with in England versus Spain.

  22. Jim
    October 12, 2018

    I’m actually quite impressed by how well knees cope with the weight on them and the need to twist so often for something like golf or football.

    Yeah, Mvarfi, I do rowing at my gym as it’s not hard on my bad knee and even cycling is fine as there’s little weight involved whereas the running machine is a complete no-no. Unless the movement is in a straight line it’s the cartilage that bears the brunt of cushioning the weight and the twisting with bones pressing against it. I hope Umtiti will be fine but I’m pretty sure I read somewhere it was a cartilage issue. Not much can go wrong with them other than a tear. Still, I could be mistaken in that. As Kxevin says regarding Matthieu, the club must know already and surgery now would have him available for the tail end of the season, given his general fitness and excellence of the medical facilities.

    • mvarfi
      October 12, 2018

      Ahh… the ergometer… One of the most mind-numbing, exercise machines ever invented! Not a fan of it, but when the Charles freezes over, I have no choice but to use it. It’s the closest cross training to the actual rowing one can get.
      If not for that pesky rule about the number of international players allowed per club, which I find arbitrary, I would have been happy if Barca had kept Marlon. I liked him in preseason. Bummer.

  23. Jim
    October 12, 2018

    Btw, tell me y’all have better things to do than watch this crap that passes for an international fixture between Croatia and England.

    • October 13, 2018

      Ha ha, I love your comment Jim. Did Rakitic play 90 min there too?

      Regarding the knee issues of you and Kevin. Could I say something. In my place there is a traditional natural medicine system called Ayurveda. Some of their oils are sheer magic.
      I myself use them (after a motorbike accident 16 years before in which I tilted by hip and ever since my 5 lumbar discs are always in trouble) and they simply do something for which am eternally grateful. I wont play football anymore but still workout intensely, can even do hand stand pushups and some flags and keep my body athletic at 44. During the flood relief in August, I was hurt again and even got a minor scoliosis.. Thanks to these oils and just 5 days of some Ayurvedic therapies, was back to good in 6 weeks. Am back to gym in last 2 weeks and feeling healthy again (when my friend a neuro surgeon said I will have to undergo a surgery I can never afford or live with the scoliosis and suffer) .

      Sorry for all the story. If you have an Indian community around, you might be able to locate an Ayurvedic store, try to find MURIVENNA or MARMA THAILAM. Simply warm these oils and apply it wherever you have internal injuries (muscles/tendons/ligaments and even bones) overnight for few days and it should help. Like in Kevin’s case when Dr advises some rest might help, these oils can work wonders.. A pity those branded oils wont be as good as what I can get here locally from traditional physician families.

      I wish both of you courage to deal with these injuries.

  24. PPos
    October 15, 2018

    Ugh, I wish you guys a quick recovery. Knee injuries are always tricky and difficult. I had one two years ago. It took 6 weeks to recover. It happened because I played football on a astroturf field and felt a pull when I went to do a hard sprint with no one around me, that’s when I knew I was screwed.

    Anyway, talking about injuries. We have a crisis at Barca. Vermaelen was just ruled out for 6 weeks, Umtiti is still KO. Lenglet is not ready and Pique has like 600000 games on him which is why he’s playing like garbage. He needs rest. Tired legs, make mistakes, and can create injuries. I think it’s time for Valverde to get creative. He’s gonna have to drop Vidal to CB like Pep did with Masche or pull players from the B team. I just dont think Valverde is bold enough to do that though. He’s not going to turn Vidal into a CB, which might work. He’s tall, he’s got a good passing range, and is good on both the standing tackle and the sliding tackle and marking. What are you guys’ thoughts?

  25. Jim
    October 15, 2018

    Thanks for the suggestions, Fotobirajesh. There is an Indian community in a city not far from us. However, I may have been guilty of over egging the injury. It’s not something that stops me going about, playing golf and only on the odd occasion does it cause any pain now that I’ve stopped playing football.

    What is doing my heart good is LE’s Spain being taken apart at the back by England, yes, England, at home ! Now, you’ll all know I’m no England fan but needs must. Unlike Barcelona, I’ve no allegiance to Spain if they don’t play Barca players or decent football. And that back four is a mess. I’ve said before it amazes me that anyone rates Ramos as a great CB, Alonso is a nightmare waiting to happen and its 0-3 at half time. And the team leaving to boos. Life is good.

    I hope Pique and Alba are sharing a pizza somewhere in front of a TV . . .

    • squeen
      October 16, 2018

      Makes me wonder is LE is just trying out the players he isn’t already familiar with, or does he have an axe to grind against Barca.

      Yeah. Spain without Barca might as well be Real Madrid.

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