Hey, I knew I’d find something that Pinto does badly, since it ain’t stopping penalties. We won the Gamper Trophy match today, a desultory, half-speed affair that nobody really cared about, because the real news was being made off the pitch. You’d have to have been a cave dweller not to know that Milan is throwing its hat in the ring for our BANGS. Ick.
It was difficult not to think of happier times, what with Joan Laporta grinning that unctuous smirk of his, and Ronaldinho running around, just grinning. But there was business to attend to, both on and off the pitch.
Ibra no canvis el pa amb tomaquet per el pasta Italiana, read a hastily lettered sign being held up in the Camp Nou during the match. “Ibra, don’t exchange p’amb tomaquet (irresistible Catalan appetizer) for Italian pasta.” Sure, Ibrahimovic can be forgiven for thinking, “Where the hell was the love when people were calling me shit for ONLY scoring 21 goals and notching 9 assists,” but that would be churlish of him. Besides, we have an excuse of a match to deal with.
This won’t be a traditional review, because of the half-assed nature of this endeavor. We played two separate units, starting with Pinto, Adriano, Puyol, Milito, Abidal, Maxwell, Iniesta, Dos Santos, Jeffren, Ibrahimovic, Villa, with the second being Pinto, Alves, Krkic, Thiago, Messi, Keita, Busquets, Pedro!, Pique, Fontas. And the curiosity was obviously whether Ibrahimovic and Villa could demonstrate a capacity to play together. Well, if the feeds and interplay were any indication, hellz yeah. Ibrahimovic was one of the sole bright spots of a pretty lackluster first half, and if the ref had a heart, he would have let his crazy-sick goal stand, coming as it did off an inch-perfect cross from Adriano, and this body-twisting, bottom of the foot ninja thing that had the ESPN Deportes announcers giggling, and nattering about jiu-jitsu.
Yes, he was offsides by a hair, but the intent was clear: “Find me somebody else who can do THAT shit, and not rupture something.” Interesting.
Even more interesting was how Villa and Ibrahimovic cleared out space for each other, sliding the ball back and forth in a sort of great striker mutual admiration society. Anyone watching that, and thinking those two can’t play together is clearly out of their minds.
The match itself was scattered and wide-open, but with little chance of too many goals being scored because neither side was all that sharp. There were two goals scored, one from an excellent ball into the box that was slid just inside the near post by Villa, a beautiful play. And hats off to one hell of a golazo by Inzaghi, who took full advantage of Alves being caught up the pitch.
At any rate, here are some general impressions of players that I thought really stood out:
Pinto Excellent play, bailed out by some pretty stanky Milan penalties. The only one who seemed serious about it, Yepes, banged it right past him. Still, his reflexes and ability to guess right and move quickly, we’ve seen before when it actually did matter, in the Copa del Rey on a crucial penalty save.
Adriano Um …. okay …. I know that Dani Alves is our Sonic the Hedgehog, but a case could be made for figuring out some way to get he and Adriano on the pitch together. His crosses were more accurate than Alves, both from the right and left sides of the pitch. He also has pace to get back on defense, and a wicked crossover/dive for the line to create space. I like this transfer more and more. Killer assist for the Villa goal.
Dos Santos This kid has something special, folks. He was playing almost a DM role rather than playmaker, demonstrating a maturity in his ball movement and sensing the flow of the match. He was a little too ambitious with a couple of passes, but you got the sense that he wouldn’t have been were he the actual playmaker, rather than Iniesta. He needs first team time to fully develop, but I really like what I see.
Maxwell He continues to impress. He’s been exceptional in the early season, and is looking like the steal of the transfer season last summer.
Jeffren Jeffren reminds me of a colt who outruns its legs. He has pace, but wants to make everything happen too quickly, to his eternal detriment. Once he calms down and lets the match come to him, he will be a formidable player. I don’t know that he will ever be a starter, but he will be an excellent squad player. And I hope that Guardiola talked to him about ignoring an excellent Ibrahimovic run in favor of a shot that didn’t have a prayer.
Villa Once he gets rid of the tendency to flash the fancy bits, what a player. The delayed run for his goal was classic Villa, occupying space against the run of play. And what a finish off a ball from (guess who?) Adriano. He has an excellent touch, moves beautifully off the ball and understands how we play. And it was his first of what promises to be many, many goals for our beloved club.
Ibrahimovic Sorry, but if we sell this player, we are out of our minds. His movement on and off the ball is vastly improved this season, and we are recognizing the runs that he makes. His skill at maintaining possession with a defender at his back, facilitating our possession attack, is unrivaled. And I won’t even get into the absurd shots from crazy angles. At the end of the match, you saw Galliani and Rosell making plans to meet on Thursday, so we’ll see. But what a player.
Krkic Effort and work rate are off the chart, and he is getting very good at reading the ball and its movement, then putting himself in the right spot.
Thiago Looks like more of a playmaker than Dos Santos, frankly. Calm and composed on the ball, aggressive and slick without it. Once he matures, he’s going to be really hard to keep out of the lineup. He has a nose for goal, and isn’t shy about taking on anyone, anytime. But he doesn’t do it rashly, rather in a way that makes sense. His shot from distance needs work, but he was really, really impressive today.
And oh, yeah …. the Camp Nou bid a fond adeu to some dude named Ronaldinho, who did a thing or two for the club. I’m on record as not being all that fond of the way he left the club and what happened during his last season, but his efforts on our behalf are undeniable. With that in mind, I leave this with something positive, instead of more Ibrahimovic blather.