Racing 0, Barca 3, aka “Same as it ever was”

Boy, does it feel good to get back to doing what we do best, and that’s kicking ass and taking names. We rolled into Racing with a lot of questions swirling around the side, questions capable of distracting a lesser team. But no less than 3 minutes into the match, the Xavi-Iniesta-Messi combination had our Man of the Match off to the races again, to see if he can top last season’s gaudy goal total.

And suddenly, it was all like it used to be.

I could watch this match again and again, because Pep Guardiola rolled out with Valdes, Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell, Keita, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Villa. More important than who he rolled out with, was what he rolled out with: A new look Barca. Make no mistake, it was the same tika-taka, but with intent, particularly once Villa decided to actually become part of the offense rather than stand around, waiting for the ball. Iniesta was drifting back to bring the ball forward, thus saving Messi from long runs. He also relieved the defense of the burden of bringing it out in the face of an attack-minded Racing side.

It was also an “it takes a village” midfield, as Xavi was as subdued as I have ever seen him during a match, and not just because his Achilles tendon was bothering him. Keita and Busquets were deputized to help him maintain possession, and Messi’s passing skills, developed during this summer’s World Cup, were on full display.

Last season, a team could flood the midfield and play aggressively against Xavi, fouling him if necessary. This season, with Iniesta as not only an attacker but a safety valve, Messi as an attacking midfielder rather than a full-on forward and Busquets playing the Guardiola role, that tactic is not going to work, particularly if Keita and Busquets continue to mine their rich vein of form.

And this season, the width is back! Villa’s movement off the ball and his tendency to drift to the left means that defenses are lopsided again. This gives more space for Messi, and with Iniesta pushing up into the attack, it makes us so much more difficult to play.

Crucially, this wasn’t just a match, this was a message: No matter who we roll out with, we are ready. Even in the second half, when Xavi was watching from the bench in street clothes, we reduced Racing to chasing the ball, maintaining possession for what seemed like hours, with the metronomic precision of pass-offer-receive. It was brilliant, and a delightful way to start the season. Messi did more with less effort, the side showed that, unlike last season, it can play perfectly well without Xavi and Villa notched his first official goal for the club, sending him off to the races, as well.

But because things didn’t start out as smoothly as we’d hoped, the early goal from Messi was crucial, as Iniesta broke him loose with a perfectly weighted ball. He outfought the defender and lofted a cheeky chip over the charging keeper, and that was that. Barely 3 minutes in, we had an early lead, which gave one David Villa a chance to get himself sorted.

His first efforts were offside, foul, lost ball, offside, etc, etc. And when he wasn’t running foul of an overzealous sideline official with an offside flag, he was static, not yet realizing that you have to become a cog within our attack at both ends of the pitch. Once he got a clue, he was marvelous, working give-and-gos with Messi, battling for possession and making things happen. And when he scored our third, off a flawless cross from Alves, the thrashing was complete.

From then on, it was just a question of playing keepaway, which we did to perfection.

The other remarkable thing, which can, we hope, augur well for the future, is that Iniesta’s force field seems to have come down as he scored an absolute delight of a goal that will take one hell of a strike to be outrun for goal of the season. Messi and Villa worked a play, and the resultant Villa cross was punched away by Racing’s keeper. Iniesta ghosted over and, with perfect form, struck off the volley over the keeper. Frankly, I was stunned, more because I, like everyone else, assumed that the force field was still up.

It was also a goal that came from pressing, and effort. Messi worked himself into a position that forced the keeper to make the punch, rather than catching and distributing. And Iniesta was pushed up, because we were determined to attack, and not cede any possession that we didn’t have to, to Racing. So he was in the perfect spot for his golazo. And once we notched that second goal, it was all over but the shouting, even though there was still a bit of drama, courtesy of Valdes.

After a bad bit of interplay between Busquets and Alves, Racing were off on the attack. Maxwell initially tried to take the professional foul on the sideline. When that didn’t work, he had to chase, and caught the attacker in the box. He did indeed brush him, but no way should have have been a penalty. Yet the attacker got the call. At 2-1, it’s a very different, and much more fraught match. So up stepped Tchite to take the penalty. He struck it well, and Valdes, who has clearly been working out with Pinto, flashed out to parry it away. And that was that, the last real threat that Racing offered us. They did have shots, including a couple of excellent chances, but Valdes was more than up to the task.

The other thing worth noting about this year’s group is its versatility. Our starting LB played CB, the LB for this match slid into midfield when a mid came in, and said mid played LB. A CB brings the ball up the pitch to start the attack, and a ghost plays DM. This is just crazy, and exciting.

Team: 8. There were some lapses but overall, a very fine performance against a club willing to chip, fight and scratch. Racing attackers were unleashed at full gallop through the midfield a little too easily. A better club will take more advantage of those, but it’s early days.

Guardiola: 8. I liked his substitutions in this match, and the precautionary moves with Xavi and Puyol not only keep them fresh, they introduce doubt rolling into the FIFA break. Nice! His experiement with Abidal at CB seems to be bearing fruit, as well.

Valdes: 10. A contender for Man of the Match, since his penalty stop made things very different, but Messi was just too good today. He is brimming with confidence, and looks to be talking to the defense more, which was a weakness of his last season.

Alves: 7. His defense is much improved this season, though he was often too casual with the ball, losing it as a result in a dangerous spot. His passing and running are, as always, marvelous, and what an assist on the Villa goal. Pressure from Maxwell and Adriano has him raising his game.

Pique: 6. Came into the match very nicely, but could have cost us on more than one occasion. It took him a while to comprehend that because he is slow, he has to compensate for it with superior positioning. Once that happened, he was excellent.

Abidal: 9. Wait a minute. The man who can’t play CB gets a higher score than our starting CB? You betcha. Dude was full-on beast, and another example of what having to play your way into the lineup will do for you. He had one funky clearance that Pique got on him about, but was omnipresent and spectacular.

Maxwell: 6. Attacks flowed a little too smoothly up his side of the pitch, and though Valdes bailed him out and it wasn’t a penalty, it was a risky play given that the official was an idiot today. And his offense didn’t really make up for the defensive lapses.

Busquets: 9. Were it not for a Bad Busi moment or two, he’d have grabbed a perfect score. His possession and distribution were extraordinary today. He has matured so much over the summer, and the way he slid so elegantly into the Xavi role alongside Keita was wonderful. He’s a destroyer, but also a creator. And rather than destroying with the tackle, he’s just where the ball is, before the ball gets there. It’s crazy, but so cool to watch.

Keita: 9. A little loose with possession at times, but he was hovering very close to his second 10 of the season. What a match from a versatile, aggressive and energetic player. His passing game has improved to the extent that he and Busquets can form a very effective Xavi possession clone.

Xavi: 7. I wanted to see him impose himself more on this match, though his passing eye is clearly as unerring as ever. Perhaps it was the knock that he picked up.

Iniesta: 6. He took time to work into the match, and was essentially invisible, aside from his golazo for most of the first half. When he assumed the Xavi role, his first touches were uncertain on too many occasions, losing possession for us in a dangerous part of the pitch. But holy crap, what a goal! He made the amazing look easy.

Messi: 10. Perfection for our Man of the Match, from his finding Villa with perfect passes, to battling for balls that other players had given up on to his incessant work rate, this was a marvel of a match. I would rather Messi play a match such as this one, than score 4 goals as a less-effective player. Everyone was involved thanks to him, and where before he would continue his run, now he might stop to make the pass. Seems impossible, but he’s better this year.

Villa: 6. Too static for too long. He will learn to hold those runs for that beat necessary for Xavi to survey, then pass. Once he opened up and became part of the offense, he was exceptional, and what a well-taken goal. So much of goalscoring is making the run to be in the spot. He made himself available to Alves, knowing that Alves could get the ball there. And the header across the goal was beautiful, as was his interplay with Messi.

Substitutes

Pedro! (for Xavi): 5. Continues to display the maturity that I have mentioned before, along with an improved sense of reading the match. But he wasn’t as effective as he usually is. With the attack-minded Iniesta, I wonder if P! will be part of our best lineup.

Krkic (for Villa): 1. The Kid was worthless today. When he wasn’t in the wrong spot, he was giving the ball away, or having it taken away by a defender. I like that Guardiola subbed him in during a match that was under control. But he has to do better. This is supposed to be his season, and the path to playing time will never be more clear for him.

Adriano (for Iniesta): 7. I love what this guy does. Recall the attack in which he ran to the corner line. You could see him looking up, repeatedly surveying the pitch so that his cross would in fact be effective, rather than what most players do, which is to create space and just throw an aimless cross in. He also has pace galore, and will be difficult to keep off the pitch.

This wasn’t as dominating a performance as our SuperCopa dismantling of Sevilla, but it was more impressive, because Racing’s tactics didn’t play right into our hands. We had to win this match, and did so at a caper. And EE dropped points, which is the perfect way to start this season. And with that, a bit of joy.

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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.

226 Comments

  1. sab
    August 30, 2010

    can any one say who is better?canales or thiago?heard a lot about canales,but after watching his game for EE,he didnt impress me at all.watched a lot of thiago compilations on youtube,but u know h this compilations can make a player look xtra ordinary even if that player is the gr8 lucas leiva.

    hope any one of u can enlighten me in this regard

    • Bundy
      August 30, 2010

      hmm who knows, they both play different positions, so I dono how you can compare the two.

      Canales has already played a season in the Liga, while Thiago has played less than a handful of games, so really they are not playing on the same level yet.

      In terms of potential, they both have loads of it. But I think we will have to wait a while before we can make any comparison, but for us, Thiago looks very very promising. As for Madrid, don’t know if canales will be able to find a spot in their team given the amount of high earning players they buy each season.

    • Jnice
      August 30, 2010

      Well from what I saw of the Euro U19 championships… Thiago is better than Canales. Most Spanish journalists thought Thiago was better than him, too. Like Jordi said the other day, if Thiago played on Santander or something, he would be coveted like Canales was.

      Thiago was being played deeper than normal for Spain, but everything ran through him. If he’s not better than Canales, he’s at least on par, IMO.

  2. IS
    August 30, 2010

    Another Raiola comment from Pep’s twitter:

    Mino Raiola has suggested that Barcelona left back defender Maxwell could move to Milan before the transfer period ends. [tuttomercatoweb]

    What a prick!

    Although I doubt very much this would happen, but still, what a prick!

    • Helge
      August 30, 2010

      I don’t think that Maxwell will throw away this golden opportunity to improve even more and get more playing time at the best club of the world for a – with all due respect – CL quarterfinals contender 🙂

  3. Jnice
    August 30, 2010

    I posted some links to the match in a reply above. Later today, there will be HD links though in Portuguese (Brazilian) commentary. If anyone is interested, let me know.

    I’ll try and post the Revista de La Liga links every Tuesday or Wednesday. Great Liga review show with full highlights, good insight, interviews, and inside information.

  4. August 30, 2010

    – Finally Abidal playing as a CB more often. And yes he can
    – Talking about positions. Busquets will play games as a B2B. And yes he can
    – Some parties involved in Ibra’s transfer are still doing the roles agreed on between the people involved in the negotiation. Nice to see how they strengthen each others positions in the deal.
    – I saw lot of things I didnt like in the match yesterday. So yea, it was far from being perfect. But lets enjoy the win. For being the first game of the season we can expect massive improvement in the coming weeks. And it is needed. Really
    – Football games! Nice to be back. Tomorrow silly season close. Hooray!

  5. Cesc Blanc
    August 30, 2010

    yeah, aside of goal and assist Iniesta wasn’t that great.

    Anyway, Dr.Lowe

    **http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/aug/30/zlatan-ibrahimovic-barcelona-david-villa?showallcomments=true#end-of-comments

    “As one insider puts it: “Zlatan thinks he’s Messi and he’s not.” ”

    Nope, he ain’t. Messi is MJ, Zlatan is Toni Kukoc…at best.

    • mei
      August 30, 2010

      Guys , someone getting a goal and an assist, and then the following sentence that accompanies that is “he wasnt that great” , hints at what the expectetions have grown into about our players.

      • sab
        August 30, 2010

        just what the reviewer says,yet the very same person said that we the cules expect very high standard from IBRA

      • mei
        August 30, 2010

        What we expect of ibra is to shut his big mouth and get on with his life.
        He had a decent season , not a great one by anyone – even his own” standards , especially for being our main striker.
        He was never the famous plan B , although he did and would provide tactical variations due to his nature , along with many many shortcomings.
        He might haave been a revelation this year, or a total disaster as far as im concerned.
        But he is not here and nobody could quarantee either of those.
        Villa is here. He scored twice last night , very mobile , already having his teammates picking up his offball movement and a hard worker too.
        Lets carry on.

  6. Kxevin
    August 30, 2010

    mei, I don’t think it’s as much expectations as the fact that I don’t just review the score sheet. A goal and an assist and overall lackluster play means ….

    Not to say that Iniesta was lackluster overall, but as I said, he was pretty invisible early, and had a spate of uncharacteristic looseness in possession that would have cost us against a much better side than Racing. He will get better, and so will the club.

    • mei
      August 30, 2010

      Kxevin thats a great review btw. I was not referring to the scores .

      Perhaps I did not make myself clear enough :
      Iniesta’s performance did not ask for a better score on this review.
      I too saw some dangerous misplaced backpasses and some creative forward passes that were nont weighted well enough and never found the intended player.
      6 is quaranteed because of those mistakes , that in another day could cost us.

      What I meant was that we are expecting , myself including , great overall performances from players like iniesta , xavi , messi . Just goals and an assists dont cut it for us anymore.
      I remember myself criticising overall play last year despite of a hattrick.

      • Kxevin
        August 30, 2010

        Aha! All clear, and very good point. I do think that the level of analysis here has grown, from me as well as everyone else. I think that as with our club, everybody pushes and challenges everyone else to be better. I like that.

    • sab
      August 30, 2010

      xavis input in the game??????does he get a pity 7 or he really deserved a 7?in other words does he really deserve more than 2 game changing moment iniesta

  7. Kxevin
    August 30, 2010

    Buzz is that we already have a forward replacement lined up, awaiting the approval of Guardiola. Go figure. Lots of names being bandied about, so who knows? Apparently Hulk and his agent were in town last week. I don’t know about the ultimate qualities of him, but I would sign him on his name alone. And rest assured, that would be one player name/number shirt I would have to own. 😀 The names Mata and Robinho keep coming up, but the fact that they keep coming up, and their expense, make me think we have someone else in mind.

    –And Krkic will take the number 9, that is now available. (Must not make 4.5 jokes. Must not!) Mascherano’s number will, according to the folks on Deportes, be 14. Full-on, fancy-pants presentation today.

    –Maxwell leaving would bother me more than Ibrahimovic, actually. He has really stepped up his game, and Abidal is going to get injured at some point this season. He always does. On the other hand, it isn’t all that difficult for him to see the additions of Mascherano and Adriano and start feeling like the odd man out. So now we wait and see.

    –Benfica have an agreement with Hleb (loan, with option) and are just waiting on our approval.

    –Racing’s trainer believes that we are better than last year. I think he’s right.

    • Helge
      August 30, 2010

      Maxwell cannot want to leave voluntarily, everything’s going so well for him. If this f**ing prick Raiola somehow gets into Maxwell’s mind and convinces him to leave, I’ll run riot!

    • Cesc Blanc
      August 30, 2010

      Given that Porto qualified for the Euro League, Hulk wouldn’t be eligible to play in the Champions League, so I doubt it’s him. Luis Fabiano on the other hand could play for us.

      (Stupid UEFA rule…if your club was knocked out of any qualifiers, you’re allowed to switch to a club that still plays in that tournament. If the club however is still in an European competition, you’re not. Case in point is Jelavic not being allowed to play in CL for Rangers, because his former club Rapid qualified for the European League. So given that Porto play in EL, Hulk wouldn’t play for us in CL).

    • Jake
      August 30, 2010

      Wow hadn’t heard any Hulk rumours. I’ve only watched him a few times, but I do like him. He’s not noticably tall, but he’s as strong as the name suggests. And he seems to be pretty good with the ball at his feet. As a back up or extra option, I’d take him in a heartbeat.

  8. poipoi
    August 30, 2010

    er… ummm… ibrawho? 😀

  9. August 30, 2010

    Cant Zubi hunt a striker from the Basque? As long as we buy a striker-not a wing- it is all fine. Or else, loan that other player from the Sheikh City and give it a try…I just cant see a reason to buy a player for a position where Pedro, Iniesta and Villa can play (Even Bojan and Jeffren can try) over a position where we have only one reliable option if Villa got injured. Neither Bojan with number nine nor Messi as a nine are interesting options for me.

    But the time is ticking…

    • August 30, 2010

      **over a position where we have NO reliable option if Villa got injured.

  10. Helge
    August 30, 2010

    lol, did you guys know that Pep Guardiola’s brother is the agent of Luis Suarez?
    According to Pep’s tweet, this fact excludes L. Suarez as a possible transfer…

    • Jnice
      August 30, 2010

      Yeah. Pere Guardiola.

  11. Blow-Grenade
    August 30, 2010

    First off the match was boring, mostly because Barca were so good, Racing was unable to put in a fight. It is exciting when two equals are protagonists.
    Secondly, it is unbelievable how amazing this Barca team is with Villa in it. It can only get better as these players play a few more matches together.
    Lovely review, look forward to the next games.

  12. Helge
    August 30, 2010

    Mmh… interesting.
    According to EMD, neither Suarez nor Robinho nor Mata is an option for us. But we’re on the verge of signing a striker, only thing needed is the “ok” from Pep.
    Now goal.com reports that L. Fabiano has extended his Sevilla contract to 2013 – I really wonder which striker is the potential signing …

    • Jnice
      August 30, 2010

      First name, No. Last name, One.

      We definitely are not signing anyone.

  13. Diego S.
    August 30, 2010

    Although HULK is very talented, He’s selfish and chooses to shoot most of the time, He’s fast and kinda strong, He’s not named HULK because of his strength .. because he looks like Lou Ferrigno

  14. Manish
    August 30, 2010

    Strange…Barca’s first game of last season, Ibra scores with a header of Dani Alves..

    “In minute 81 the game saw Ibrahimovic make his mark as he was unmarked at the far post when Alves’ cross was flicked on by Gregory and the powerful Swede dived to head into the net. Bojan left the field on a stretcher after appearing to injure his knee, but even that could not put a dampener on a good start to the league season for Barça.”

    http://www.fcbarcelona.com/web/english/futbol/temporada_09-10/arxiu_partits/lliga/jornada01/Barcelona_Sporting_Gijon/partit.html

    • iBlau
      August 30, 2010

      Ibra scored with a header off a cross from Messi.

  15. Blow-Grenade
    August 30, 2010

    I am not sure if signing a striker is the right option considering, Bojan is developing/almost ready. Villa is already there as the central/left sided striker. Give the kid more playing time. He has as much or a better chance of success than most signings in that front position.

    The other point is with Pedro and Jeffren already on the bench and Iniesta taking up forward roles, which striker would be willing to join Barca to sit on the bench?

    • majatt
      August 30, 2010

      We don’t need a striker but a 6ft CF who doesn’t mind the bench ala Zigic would be great.

  16. DontPanic
    August 30, 2010

    If I’m not mistaken only Pique and Busquets are around 1,90m tall. The rest of them are rather…small. What happens if/when we end up playing Chelsea or some other tall squad? A cornet or two and we’re out.

    • DontPanic
      August 30, 2010

      I mean short, not small.

      • mei
        August 30, 2010

        From their point of view :
        What happens if they play us?
        They are all tall and much less agile and pacy than us.We also get all of the posession.

  17. Jnice
    August 30, 2010

    HD links to the match. Multiupload, so there’s a bunch of options.

    *http://futebolx264.blogspot.com/2010/08/la-liga-round01-racing-x-barcelona-29.html

    • MoSSi
      August 30, 2010

      You’re the best Jnice!

  18. barca96
    August 30, 2010

    I don’t understand why Kxevin said that Villa was too static.
    Compare him to Ibra from any match from last season!!

    I thought that Keita was once again our weak link. The guy keeps losing the ball and yet nothing is mentioned. Last night alone, he did 2 Busi style passes straight to a Racing player.

    Busi didn’t have such a great match either. Didn’t do anything wrong but didn’t do anything great either.

    This is not the 1st time right that Max has awarded penalty to an opposing team? I find him really poor at LB. Inter?
    He should play LM.

    Pique needs to stop with his lunging tackle!

    It was such a joy to watch Villa and Messi playing together. They looked happy with each other. It looked so much different compared to last season.

    And what took Pep so long to introduce Adriano?? That boy is something special.

    All in all it was such a refreshing sight to see our team playing with fludity without the controversial big man.

    PS. Why is Maxwell leaving us? Like Kxevin said, he improved a lot.

    • theMaginator
      August 30, 2010

      You don’t like Pique’s lunging tackle? Oh my, your going to love Mascherno then!

    • Bill
      August 30, 2010

      Yes, Ibra was much more static than Villa is. Its a much needed change if you ask me.

      • August 30, 2010

        This isn’t and either/or. Ibrahimovic is a Milan player. I don’t care about him, and wasn’t reviewing him, so don’t imply otherwise. I no longer care about Ibrahimovic.

        David Villa, No. 7 for Barcelona, was static early in the match, in the context of nothing at all except the match in question. When he started moving and working with and withIN the offense, he began to play a lot better, and you could see why we signed him. Simple as that.

        At no point this season will I be comparing any player to anyone other than his own personal standard. It’s how I have always reviewed, and how I will continue to review. Villa’s rating and play are explained quite clearly above. If they don’t make sense, watch the match again. Perhaps they will.

      • Bill
        August 30, 2010

        Well, unfortunately for you, theres a body of work to compare it to. When Ibra scored the only goal for us in many games last season, you gave him high marks for winning the game. But in most of those games, he had really crappy all round games, and being static was part of it. So when you say Villa is static, then we have to compare it with someone who was always static but rarely criticized for it.

      • August 30, 2010

        Nonsense. Or post the relevant passages, and make them make sense in the overall context of the review and the player’s rating. A player can score a winning goal and be praised for it, and still be static. Both are possible. Further, that static quality might or might not be noted. There are matches in which Messi was static last season. It wasn’t always mentioned, which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It just means it wasn’t relevant at the time.

        When I say Villa was static, Villa was static. And by saying “we have to compare it with someone who was always static,” a certain amount of information is revealed. Even the harshest critics of Milan’s latest signing will not contend that he was “always” static. Again, it’s an unsupportable contention that wastes time arguing about a Milan player. I no longer give a shit about Ibrahimovic. And frankly, I don’t give a shit about Villa, except in as much as he helps the club win matches.

        So unfortunately for you, you have the task of making that body of work support your contention. Good luck.

  19. Jnice
    August 30, 2010

    Milan set to sign Robinho tomorrow. They should be interesting to watch.

    • jordi™
      August 30, 2010

      And they’re getting rid of Borrielo to juve, who though i didnt want here, is a hard worker.Seems very indulgent to have so many players that wont track back.Reminds me of our old “Fantastic 4”.They can probably outscore most teams in the league but can they keep a lead against a decent side?Should be fun to watch though.I hope they get a couple 4-3 last minute wins against the EE :D.

    • jordi™
      August 30, 2010

      *http://www.goal.com/en/news/1717/editorial/2010/08/30/2094955/calcio-debate-milan-will-score-100-goals-this-season

      Carlo Garganese thinks they have a more complete forward line than us.And now i remember why i dont read their knee-jerk articles.

  20. FranFlorida
    August 30, 2010

    someones bitter that ibra left…calling villa static!

    • August 30, 2010

      Already it starts. And I don’t mind being called a biased asshole when the evidence supports such a contention. But go watch the match again, FranFlorida and barca96, then come back to me and talk crap.

      If you bother to do so, you will see Villa standing there, watching the midfielders and waiting for the ball. When he wasn’t fouling or being called offsides (incorrectly or not, his predecessor got stick for being called offside and standing there waiting for the ball, so what makes Villa exempt?). Static, static, static. It wasn’t until he started moving, taking and receiving passes and being part of the offense, that the spark was struck.

      But I don’t review a player based on expectations, or 10 minutes or a half-hour of a match. It’s the whole match.

      “Bitter that Ibra left?” How DARE you? Were you not part of this space and its comments, when I was the one saying repeatedly that no player, not even Messi, is bigger than this club, and if selling one is what this club has to do to improve, then so be it? Or did you miss all those comments. If you did, go back and look for them. Because that statement is shit. The purest, completly unsupportable, mean-spirited bullshit. It’s unsupportable by anything even approaching facts, and you should be ashamed of yourself for having made it. I doubt that you will be, but you should be.

      • Bill
        August 30, 2010

        I watched this game on-line, so I may be deceived, but I didn’t notice Villa being static any more than any other player when the ball is not in their area. It certainly wasn’t anywhere close to Henry and Ibra’s lack of movement soo many times in the past. I like that Villa had purpose, directness and aggresion whenever the ball was around his area.

      • August 30, 2010

        I’ve watched it three times now. On a 58-inch high-def plasma screen via DVR, using things such as frame-by-frame and slow-mo. Villa was static, not compared to anybody else, but compared to Villa. I repeat, I don’t care about Henry and Ibrahimovic. They are, respectively, players for the Red Bulls and Milan. They aren’t part of my evaluative context.

      • Bill
        August 30, 2010

        You had me at 58-inch high-def plasma. I gotta get me one of those. 🙂

  21. Kxevin
    August 30, 2010

    And yes, I’m taking the cranky pills today. Last season, I took a lot of crap from people, not of it supported by anything other than the assailant’s biases and impressions of my biases. Sorry, but it isn’t going to happen this year. I don’t mind being called wrong, or being told that a rating is high or low. I welcome it. Show me why, and then we can talk. But I will not in any way, shape or form tolerate any accusations of bias or favoritism on my part. Zero. And I will come out with guns blazing.

    I take great pains to do an unbiased match review. It is a lot of work. I deliberately am NOT a fan of ANY player, mostly because I am fan of the club, but also because being a fan of a player impinges upon my ability to review the match impartially. And I review every match impartially.

    So if anyone is going to accuse me of bias, you’d better be prepared to support it, because I take such things very seriously.

  22. Lev
    August 30, 2010

    Great review as always. We will have to agree to disagree on the ratings, for me a player who scored a goal and had an assist will always have a 7 or higher since he delivered when it mattered most.

    On a same note Messi had a great game, but I do not understand you would prefer him to play like this over playing “less effectively” but scoring 4 goals. We won 3-0. Correct me if I am wrong, but had he scored 4 goals we would have won 4-0, regardless of every second of play in which he had not been scoring the goals.

    If Messi scored 4 goals a game I wouldn’t care if he played like crap, we would still be winning every game lol

    • Lev
      August 30, 2010

      oooooh and btw my fave Messi moment was in the first half when he a high arched ball entered the box and Messi outjumped/muscled two Racing players and got the ball. Maradonesque if you ask me.

    • Bill
      August 30, 2010

      Good point. If a player is giving you 2-3 goals a game, you have to learn how to work around his crappy games. No use getting a better all-round striker who gives 0-1 goal a game. Crap + 3 goals is always better for a striker.

    • August 30, 2010

      What I mean is that if Messi scores 4 goals off running at the defense and ignoring passes, the record will show that we won 4-0, but at what expense? I’d rather see him making passes, being part of our motion offense and letting the match come to him. When he takes it all on, he’s too easy to defend.

      He is much more difficult to play when the defense doesn’t know whether he is going to pass or continue the run. In the long run, that makes him a better, less bruised player. If, instead of taking the hard tackle, he slides the ball over to Villa or Iniesta, rock and roll. We’re better, and everybody is involved.

      • Lev
        August 30, 2010

        Mmmmm I expected something along this line, but still very handsomely argued. Let me ask you this, though: are player ratings game to game, or more in view of the long term

        For me when he takes it all on and scores 4 times that’s a perfect 10. When he takes it on and doesn’t score doesn’t pass he will get a considerably lower rating. A game like yesterday when he scored, passed and hustled yeah that was a 9 for me and he was motm imo.

        I guess what you are saying is you prefer him to get 8s and 9s and involve the team than to occasionally get that 10 (referring to my example of a 10) and at other times a 6 or 7. In that case we agree 100%

        But any given game I would prefer him to score 4 goals because that guarantees us the win.

      • August 30, 2010

        Player ratings include the match in question, in relation to that player’s individual standard.

        For me, if Messi takes it all on and scores 4 times, his rating will depend on a lot of other things. If, in scoring 4 times, were there 15 other runs at 5 defenders in which he lost the ball, or ignored players making runs, or did other, un-Messi like things? That isn’t a 10.

        If everyone else was having an off match, and Messi took it upon himself to lift the side, scoring 4 goals and getting us a win in the process, that’s probably a 10.

        It’s the same way people ooooh and aaaah when Messi makes a run, then loses the ball. All I think is “But he lost the ball. Why couldn’t he have passed?”

        See what I mean?

      • Lev
        August 30, 2010

        I see what you mean but I will have to disagree. If Messi scores 4 times I will give him a 10 every time, regardless of anything else that he does or fails to do in said match.

        That does not mean that I want him to go for self and try to score 4. Uh-huh, I want him to pass and involve the team cause like you rightfully argue, this makes Barça (and Messi) harder to defend.

        But let’s say we are in the CL final. Biggest match of the year. If beforehand you can chose between:
        1. Messi plays like yesterday
        2. Messi plays like crap but scores 4

        I think I know what you would chose.

      • August 30, 2010

        I understand where Kxevin stands, and I agree with him.

        If a player score 4 times but in fact that match could have been a 7 goals margin because there were more clear chances, but the player chooses to ignore them and take it all on his own, then he doesn’t deserve the 10. Because he did not choose the best option.

        Let me ask, if a player score 4 times but we still lose, will that automatically be a 10, too? You will doubt that 10 if we lost 5-4. but that rarely happens.

      • sab
        August 30, 2010

        we cules set a really really high standard for our players,someone complaining me bout that.

    • Euler
      August 30, 2010

      If Messi scored 4 goals a game I wouldn’t care if he played like crap, we would still be winning every game lol.

      In this one game against a poor opponent perhaps but one can reasonably argue that “playing like crap” is a less generalizable skill and if that type of game is then reproduced against teams with better organization Barca will not fair as well.

      For example, part of the reason why Messi was played on the right flank prior is because it moves him away from the other team’s “destroyer” and their central backs. This season Pep seems to want to play him as a false 9. In the center of the pitch it’s going to be considerably more difficult for him to help the team win if he “plays like crap” but scores a goal.

      The issue is really how that play impacts the teams’ capacity to win over the long haul.

      The role of every player – even the striker – is to do everything possible to facilitate the team winning. Goals are a big part of that but overall play is as well.

      And in general “playing like crap” but scoring some fluky goals is not going to work against better teams. Better teams make very few mistakes. And many of the goals that are scored when a player overall plays like crap are off of mistakes of the opposition rather than independently contingent on the players own skill.

  23. Euler
    August 30, 2010

    I don’t understand or see the point in comparing the way Villa played yesterday to any other player, let alone a player who now plays for Milan. Players aren’t graded on curves.

    If that were the case then I think what we should also do is start grading Xavi in comparison with say Fabergas.

    Xavi was more static than Cesc would have been had Cesc joined the club.

    It’s a pointless comparison.

    Ibrahimovic is in Milan. His former play for the club is a completely separate issue than Villa’s current play.

    To compare who static Villa may or may not have been to Ibrahimovic is abstract and irrelevant to the way the club plays now.

    People keep assuming for some reason that Villa will have a flawless transition to Barca. I disagree with that. That assumption places an inordinate amount of emphasis on the idea that the Spanish NT and Barca are equivalent. They aren’t.

    Villa is going to have to learn both how to play for Barca and also how to play full time on the left.

    He’s going to need to learn how to play with the players supporting him on the left flank – whether it’s Maxwell or Abidal. Those are players he hasn’t played with.

    Most of all he’s going to have to learn how to play with Messi whose game is unlike any other player’s in the world.

    Villa yesterday did look relatively more static yesterday than he did when he was the point of focus for Valencia’s attack.

    He looked like a player who had to think about the game rather than allowing it to flow naturally through him and that was because he was making adjustments. You could see him making these adjustments as the game went on, for example in his runs and his link up play.

    He was still figuring things out and at times uncertain of what to do and when to push the game. And you know what? That’s not a surprise. It’s only to be expected because the guy is human.

    There’s nothing wrong with pointing that out in a review because that’s honest. And that honesty has literally nothing to do with Ibrahimovic, a player whose game and tactical role was completely different than Villa’s and a player who plays for a different club.

    • Bill
      August 30, 2010

      To pretend that certain players didn’t exist in our history is an act of futility. For better or for worse, those players were part of our team and each contributed something to it…even Ibra. There is, therefore, nothing wrong with comparing how they operated under our system, compared to how someone else is doing. It only helps us see where there is room for improvement or where we have improved.

      As for Villa, you can tell that with his set of qualities, that he will be a great success in the team, barring any injuries. I don’t even care if he played with the spanish NT. It’s just his skill set, hunger plus attitude. He will definately raise Ibra’s mark, and trumple Eto’o’s withing 2-3years. After all, those are the unofficial benchmarks set for him

      • Euler
        August 30, 2010

        It’s not pretending. It is however abstract. And that’s fine if someone wants to make a reasoned, thoughtful set of comments about how the system changed or varied. Counterfactual arguments have real value though it is easy to overstep bounds when making them.

        But just making isolated comparisons that amount to how can you say Villa was static when Ibra was more static last year don’t really contribute to that larger analysis or history.

    • Jim
      August 30, 2010

      The problem as I see it isn’t with Kxevin’s review on this game. He’s right Villa can improve on yesterday, especially early on. However, last year, and I count myself in on this, we read glowing reviews of Ibra’s displays when even on his best games some of us thought movement wasn’t slick or in time with the rest of the team. That has prompted a reaction now that he’s gone. However, he is away and I’m already fed up with the debacle and ready to move on. We have so much to discuss. My own pet concern is that Iniesta is starting to be undervalued and seen as some kind of utility player who might end up not playing every week if he’s fit. I’ll fight that to the death !

      However, on a more serious note I think we need to be careful here. Kxevin produced the work for us to argue over. He is entitled to his views (not that he needs me to defend him) and I enjoy having the ratings to argue over. But that’s all they are – an opening discussion point. It’s not life or death. The extra influx of blog participants seems to have sharpened the edge of the comments to a point where I worry about losing what we had. The one thing I wouldn’t associate with kxevin is deliberate bias towards any player ( which doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to debate the merits or otherwise of Abidal’s positional sense ) 🙂

  24. poipoi
    August 30, 2010

    do you guys think of pedro! as a starter? or more of a 1st sub with Iniesta-Villa-Messi as “tridente” ? it sure is a killer tridente, with Villa and Messi playing like 2 9’s and Iniesta absolutely free to become a trequartista if he wants. That way you can manage to put xaviniesta+keita+busi or even xaviniesta+adriano+masche, omg such a cool line-up 😀

    valdes
    alves-pique-puyi-abi
    – mascherano –
    xavi – adriano
    – iniesta –
    messi – villa

    • Lev
      August 30, 2010

      The only thing i wonder with iniesta just behind messi and villa is where the width and where the triangles come from?

  25. Jnice
    August 30, 2010

    Tevez’s shocking miss from the weekend, in case anyone missed it. Yaya did brilliantly to put it on a platter for Tevez and he somehow puts it over. The reaction of the Deportes commentators is funny.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKGAJTjQTSA

    • August 30, 2010

      And look at the cost. 0-1 loss, rather than a draw, in a league in which the top clubs aren’t going to be giving many points away. Chelsea is looking full-on ruthless.

    • messi_fan
      August 30, 2010

      I miss the Yaya

  26. MoSSi
    August 30, 2010

    Villa quote :

    “It is an honour to play in this team and with players like Messi, the best player in the world. Whoever does not fit in with him, doesn’t deserve to be in this team,”

    Do you think he’s talking about Ibra?

    Source BS.com

    • Lev
      August 30, 2010

      Wow, that’s pretty outspoken lol

    • blitzen
      August 30, 2010

      Cruyff weighs in as well (also from BS.com, but I think their source is good):

      “Cruyff also passed comment on the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, back to Serie A with Milan, and added that the Swede should have been more controlling regarding the comments of his agent, Mino Raiola, who has been vocal of the player’s relationship with coach Pep Guardiola.

      He stated: “Your personality and the way you are marks your success or failure within the group.

      “The player is always responsible for what his agent says. If you open your mouth, it should be goodbye.””

  27. Euler
    August 30, 2010

    It’s interesting how surprised and baffled many people in England were when Mancini moved Yaya the advanced midfield role for City.

    It just spoke to how little people there understood his game. it was just assumed his skill set was equivalent to a role of “destroyer.”

    I was very surprised to see Gareth Barry often playing as the most advanced mid in City’s first match.

    Of Yaya, Barry and De Jong there’s little question who is most able to play in an advanced role, regardless of how large he is.

    • Jnice
      August 30, 2010

      I agree. I even saw some “top” English journalists laugh at Mancini playing Yaya in an advanced role or question whether Yaya could do anything other than destroy. Then he does a couple of moves on the pitch and outruns a couple of players and everyone is surprised.

      This is what happens when you only watch the PL and only Barcelona only when they are playing Madrid, Chelsea, or Arsenal. You know very little.

      • Hilal
        August 30, 2010

        That is the ignorance of the English press and the English fans in general. I live in London so I experience it day in day out. It is actually quite ludicrous at times how arrogant and ignorant they are.

        We brought them back down to earth when we smashed their champions in the CL finals though 😉

  28. Hilal
    August 30, 2010

    The great thing about Kxevins reviews are that they are a journalists reviews, not a fans reviews. This tends to piss off some fans who are gona get irked because how could anyone possibly critisize Messi, praise Ibra or see the value in Keita, since they are not fan favs.

    It must be really hard to try and seperate yourself from players like Messi and try to be objective and I find it quite impressive that you are able to do so. For example rating Iniesta a 6 in this game. Most people would find that surprising, especially when you gave Keita and Busi higher ratings. Iniesta got an assist and scored, Keita/Busi did neither, yet over the course of the game they contributed more than Iniesta did and you rated them accordingly. So, Kudos to you Kxevin, for trying to remain objective and fair. Sometimes I see a rating and think WTF? How did he get a rating that low/high and then I rewatch the match and I get it. Actually thats how I learned to appreciate Keita and he is now one of my favourite players now..

    • theMaginator
      August 30, 2010

      Completely agree. Kxevin’s work is much appreciated. Its a good thing he has thick skin cause some comments are just straight up absurd when they question his integrity about weather he is grading someone a certain way, be cause he likes them or dislikes them.

      Keep it coming K-Man eres un crack.
      Good thing Isaiah put up the KRS.

      • Jnice
        August 30, 2010

        “…K-Man eres un crack.”

        Yup.

      • Kari
        August 30, 2010

        He’s the man!

    • sab
      August 30, 2010

      @hilal can u xplain how xavi deserves more than ini plz

  29. Vicsoc8
    August 30, 2010

    Kxevin –
    I would argue that it is a philosophical impossibility that any person can be free of bias due to the personal nature in which we interact with the world, and therefore it is impossible for you to be free of bias.

    😛

    • theMaginator
      August 30, 2010

      Would that be your biased opinion?

      • Vicsoc8
        August 30, 2010

        I wouldn’t call it an opinion, but rather a personal belief about the philosophical underpinnings of life. But essentially, yes.

    • Miguel
      August 30, 2010

      yeah, i don’t believe in being unbiased just for the sake of it/saying you are. goes back to the whole being smug thing.

  30. Luis
    August 30, 2010

    With Ibra gone, I cant fully accept the Vila will automatically end up on the left, and messi in the centre. I think this is the scenrio pep is most confident with for the time being. The confidence comees from messi end of last season and Villa in the world cup(I think pep gets alot of ideas from national team like Iniesta on the right which i personally dont like). I think Villa will eventually move to the middle where is movement will be more damaging…

  31. Jnice
    August 30, 2010

    If anyone wants to watch Mascherano’s presentation: It should be on soon.

    *http://www.iraqgoals.tv/ch1.html (thanks to barcastuff)

    • Eklavya
      August 30, 2010

      Thanks!

    • Miguel
      August 30, 2010

      thnx!

  32. Jnice
    August 30, 2010

    “The presentation of Mascherano is being delayed a bit because a last document has to arrive from Liverpool.” (barcastuff)

    Barcatv is showing highlights right now, so I guess they are waiting.

  33. Lev
    August 30, 2010

    @Kxevin
    Just wanna echo some of the statements on here that even though I might not always agree with your ratings and/or views, I for sure love reading them and much, much appreciate your time and effort

  34. FranFlorida
    August 30, 2010

    Does anyone remember the scene in Hannibal – Red Dragon where Hannibal Lecter is sitting in the operah house watching the orchestra and is so irritated by that one flute player destroying the harmony that he ends up eating him?

    Thank god we have Villa instead of ibra now.

    • Lev
      August 30, 2010

      Nice one. I thought of “the Bonnie Situation” where Vincent (Pep) blew of Marvin’s (Zlatan’s) head. Villa would be Mr. Wolf.

  35. ermengol
    August 30, 2010

    Hey Kxevin,

    it’s a man’s job you’re doing, and you’re the man.

  36. Jnice
    August 30, 2010

    Bartomeu (sport vice-president): “We can confirm the squad is complete. There won’t be any more signings.” (barcastuff)

    Figured as much.

    • Miguel
      August 30, 2010

      i was just about to(copy &) post that!

      • Miguel
        August 30, 2010

        i’m bummed by it, though. realistically, was never gonna happen. :#(

  37. Miguel
    August 30, 2010

    mas-che(not mas-ke) is saying all the right things, “i know i won’t be a fixed starter…i gave up part of my salary because this sort of opportunity only comes along once in a life time…blah blah blah.”

    how can such a cool mellow dude be such a thug on the pitch?! i love it.

  38. Cesc Blanc
    August 30, 2010

    Villa came from a club where he played for years counter attacking football, so even if he is a shoe fit in, he will need some time to really adapt to our football. Guess that’s also why starting on the left is easier for him for the adaptation.

  39. Bill
    August 30, 2010

    With such a small squad, how much does it hurt for Pep to include Hleb, Keirrison and Caceres? Caceres may not be Puyols equal, but I think he is better than Abidal in central defense, can get games in the Copa and is a great insurance policy against injuries. Hleb may not be the greatest, but can be useful as a back up in midfield and as a starter in copa games to give the starters a break.

    If Pep finds ways of getting this guys into the squad and getting them some in some games and situations to succeed, their values will go up, and the team will benefit. Pep really needs to work on learning how to manage personalities that he may not like, for the benefit of the team. After all, this is not team Pep, it’s team Barcelona.

    • M
      August 31, 2010

      A year before Guardiola came we were team shit, a year after we are the greatest team in history, literally, so the club needs to adjust to the coach’s personality as much as the coach needs to deal with players’ ego.

      and most importantly, the backbone of the team looks up to him.

      Personally I prefer his way of management than Rijkaard’s “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it”.

  40. August 30, 2010

    I love the fact that we have a full on thug now. No one can bowl over Messi or Iniesta and not fear retaliation anymore. Fight their thugs with our thugs, I say.

  41. Diego S.
    August 30, 2010

    Barcelona’s Medical staff reports “Valdes’s chest is swollen and bruised due to frequent chest bumping incidents” 😀

    Does anyone have a pic of that ?

    • Kari
      August 30, 2010

      LOL

      Unfortunately I don’t Diego. Too bad. Even Keita did it too 😀

  42. August 30, 2010

    *http://www.fcbarcelona.cat/web/catala/noticies/futbol/temporada10-11/08/30/n100830112642.html

    It’s Official Caceres to Sevilla on loan

  43. Philo Barca
    August 30, 2010

    Regarding, “what formation were we playing?” I think this question is often not very useful with Barca, because the players are trained on both offense and defense to space themselves around the ball first and secondarily the pitch, which is the opposite of most modern tactical systems where “keeping your shape” means keeping your basic formation around the pitch as a whole.

    Consequently, during the course of a game, the formation for Barca will be constantly changing as we follow the ball around the pitch, much more so than other teams.

  44. Cesc Blanc
    August 30, 2010

    something completely different

    **http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWjuaCtRC1s

    Draper couldn’t have done this better…goosebumps..

    • Jnice
      August 30, 2010

      Nice.

    • DontPanic
      August 30, 2010

      Excelent, another Mad Men fan. I absolutely love that show.

  45. poipoi
    August 30, 2010

    why don’t my silly tactical comments go through??? is it for the amount of slahes and crosses??? d-x-a-x-m-x-n

  46. jaymin
    August 30, 2010

    this is why i peruse this blog. unlike almost any other football fan site, your guys’ comments section is like a salon. there is much one can learn. your community similar to zonalmarking’. bloody worthwhile. thanks.

  47. October 21, 2010

    Thanks dude, I didn’t new this, appreciated.

Comments are closed.