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.

By Kxevin

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. Do you actually have something to say beyond “First,” or must I delete this comment? The game of being first to comment in a post, means the first to actually comment. Dig?

    2. I think he meant that he was happy for our 1st win of the new campaign..

      Also, Villa scoring his 1st league goal put a smile on his face.. And EE dropping their 1st points in Mourinho’s 1st game in charge made his weekend..

      Am I correct Diego? 🙂

    3. Absolutely .. After I typed the words “First” The Light went off in the whole city .. We’re having an electricity problem right now

    4. on the off chance that you are referring to your position in the table, you’re second and looking up at sevilla. : )

      this is sevilla’s year!!!!! (i barely can muster enough hope to think this is half true) : (

    5. oh we did too, believe me. BUT, the reality is that 6 seasons ago we were shitting our pants to be playing in europe. 4 years ago we won the uefa and a sinkhole of joy opened up in sevilla (except for in triana). so, disappointed? yes. but expectations are terrible only if you let them cloud your reality. sevilla’s reality is being a damn good team in la liga and a pretty good team in europe.

      good luck with your expectations, barca fans. i hope they won’t all be squashed. : )

  1. Disagree on a couple of points, but what the hell, whenever EE drops points I’m more than haapy..

    And I demand to know how Isaiah got access to so many Hector pills..

    1. Watched it live, and had so much fun I watched it again, right after. And without the crazy-hard Sunday training ride, I didn’t need a nap or anything.

  2. in before the “Kxevin why do you hate poor little baby Bojan so much?!”.

    pretty spot-on, but i think Iniesta did better than you gave him credit for, particularly in the 2nd half. he dropped back and collected and controlled wonderfully then, despite yes the couple un-Iniesta-like giveaways. deputizing for Xavi ain’t easy.

    it should be noted, too, that we essentially spunked our whole first team out there today, barring our Puyol/Milito center-back pairing. so that was it: all the players you saw today is all we have (Mascherano i suppose excepted). there’s certainly no proven attacking or midfield options waiting in the wings, and our fluidity this season *must* be key if we’re going to do this thing with the thinness of the squad we have now. our core of Pique, Dani, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi have to be incredibly strong and on-point this season because while the rest of the squad are wonderful moving parts, these are the ones who are going to make things happen and drive us forward. Adriano is a versatile player but he’s no Xavi; Keita is hugely underrated and does great work box-to-box, but he’s no Iniesta; Pedro is a promising talent and remarkable goalscorer, but he’s no Messi.

    an excellent all-around performance from us today, nevertheless. time will tell on the rest, but Madrid have already fallen a step behind. here’s to hoping they stumble until they fall flat on their overpaid faces.

    1. Well, Madrid did lose to Mallorca last year too; they’re a pretty decent team! You forgot to mention Villa btw; teams are going to struggle trying to contain both him and Messi. 🙂

  3. very good reviw kxevin!and yes i love so much that 10 you give to our leo!wonderful!

  4. Although you give Maxwell a 6, I believe he was all over today, he has come a long way, so much so that I believe Guardiola’s making Abidal a CB because Maxwell took LB starting position. And there wasnt a run he didnt make or attempted to make. His passing is incredible this season.

    1. I agree bu,t he had a few off moments and though the penalty was not actually a penalty it was still the result of 2 bad plays from him. I think the score was fair.

      And I still think Abidal is our number 1 LB.

  5. Agree with everything you say in the review. Maybe I’m wrong but I thought it was Iniesta who took the pass from Xavi and set Messi away?

    Think you’re a little hard on Iniesta overall. I thought that a great goal, an assist and taking over the Xavi role well – they hardly had a kick for long periods in the second half – merited a little more than a 6. It’s easier for Xavi if Iniesta’s there so a little allowance for the lack of his partner might be in order.

    1. They hardly had a kick because of the efforts of the entire midfield, though, not just Iniesta. Busquets and Keita were probably more at credit for the control than Iniesta.

  6. Oh and we have 2 days to Loan Bojan out to whomever, and get someone else. Hope that happens.

    1. LOL but were already shy one CF. If Ibra was still here I would Whole heartedly agree. But since he is not I only 90% agree. LOL

  7. I wrestled with a higher score for Iniesta. But after watching it again, it’s about right. He came on like a freight train for sure. But don’t forget that everyone starts with a 0 from me, and works their way up.

    And believe it or not, I actually wanted Krkic to do well. We need him this season. BA’s points about depth are well-taken.

    1. iniesta got 6.hmmm an assist,a goal.h much he as to do 2 get more points than 6?

      controlling the game is is not easy,but whats the profit if u cant score?c spain in the world,all the control in the world against germany,paraguay,but who scored?did u give xavi,alonso,or busi 10 on those matches or puyol 10 for scoring the goal.

      i c the match,busi and iniesta both made bad passes.in case of busi it was 2,in case of ini it was 1,i counted.not a matter in this games,but if busi made 2 passes against a stronger team then we will be a trouble.not a busi hater BTW,he has improved leaps and bounds,but not 9 in this match,not 9.i agree with keita though,u r generous,but its ok.

      VV 10,stopping a penalty earns him that??????????ur reasoning is that it was a crucial junction in the game,now if i made this argument about ini,he scored in the crucial moment to give us a little cover,isnt he worth a little more??

      its your review,u may mark anybody u can like,but as a barca fan i can voice my displeasure in your ratings,aint i?

      adios

    2. BTB,what did xavi do in the 45 mins to earn more points then iniesta,may be i m blind or i watched the EE game,coz xavi simply did nothing.after a long time c xavi played a game so poor

  8. I’m also glad EE lost points but less concentrate on ourselves.

    Kxevin I know some will say you always give the players you allegedly like good scores and the ones you don’t bad scores. But you were near perfect on the scores IMHO.

    Abidal did great at the back and like Euler said in the previous post if he can be solid there than our back line issues are settled.

    Iniesta was good in the goal and the pass to Messi for the opening goal. Other than that, in the first half, he was pretty invisible. But in the second half he did well in keeping the tempo and distributing the ball around. Though it was not to hard with Busi and Keita roaming around.

    Keita is just so freakin tight.

    Bojan sucked I know his playing time has nothing to do with Ibra but his performance today did not make me feel better about Ibra’s departure.

    Anyway REALLY REALLY good review.

  9. “the early goal from Messi was crucial, as Xavi broke him loose with a perfectly weighted ball”

    the first goal was Xavi to Iniesta to Messi, so technically the assist should be credited to Don Andres

    1. sorry, in the time it took me to read the review, multiple people addressed this issue.
      I withdraw the objection.

  10. BA we have the best starting eleven in the world and a very quality bench.this team is a result of years hard working.the more important thing in football is the chemistry of the team.pedro is not messi.is pedro.have faith to all of our players!

  11. Here’s how I see it:

    GK: Valdes, Pinto
    RB: Alves, Maxwell, Adriano, Mascherano
    LB: Abidal, Maxwell, Adriano
    CB: Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Milito, Mascherano
    DM: Busquets, Mascherano, Keita
    AM: Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Dos Santos, Maxwell, Adriano
    F: Villa, Pedro!, Messi, Krkic, Jeffren

    No, the squad isn’t that deep, as in 23-25 players. I wish that it were. But what is there is quality. All quality, all the time. I think that it will take some luck, and a quicker substitution hook from Guardiola, in matches that we have put away, but we can get it done with this crew. I really only worry about the falloff from Valdes to Pinto, and from Messi and Villa, but two of the best attackers in the world will make anybody a pretty serious fall-off.

  12. Also, the force field only goes up when Don Andres is in the 18. When he shoots from outside, the only things that can get in the way are defenders, keepers and zephyrs.

  13. OT but, just for the sake of controversy:

    Source: Football Italia

    Adriano Galliani promises “champagne football” at Milan and reveals the negotiations for Zlatan Ibrahimovic go back many months.

    The striker landed at Linate Airport this afternoon and will be presented to the fans ahead of tonight’s Serie A opener against Lecce.

    “Milan are now among the best sides in Italy and in Europe,” said the Vice-President. “How would I define the trio of Ibrahimovic-Pato-Ronaldinho? Very bubbly, pure champagne football.”

    The transfer turned out to be quite a coup, as Barcelona signed Ibra from Inter for €50m plus Samuel Eto’o only a year ago.

    Instead Milan have him on a free loan for this season with an option to buy for €24m, to be spread out in three instalments.

    “I wouldn’t say €24m is a small amount of money and then one has to consider the salary,” noted Galliani.

    “We found the right formula for Milan. Was this move born four months ago? I don’t like to reveal behind the scenes, as transfers are done better when in the dark. I was silent all summer and at the end we made the decisive move.

    “The four days in Barcelona were very tough. I was going from euphoria to sadness, as there were so many difficulties.

    “It was complicated, but my 25 years of experience in this business helped. Where did the idea come from? I do know, but prefer not to respond to that.”

    Ibra’s agent was also on the plane from Barcelona to Milan and gave his version of events to Sky Sport Italia.

    “These negotiations certainly didn’t begin 10-15 days ago. In July we realised that we could not carry on with this Coach and told Barcelona there were only a few clubs we’d accept. I can say we are in one of them now.”

    The row with Pep Guardiola has dominated the negotiation process with clear issues between the two men.

    “Why was this move born? Because of Guardiola. It was evident the club could not solve this problem.

    “How did we get from €70m to €24m? Zlatan’s strength of character helped.”

    //http://www.acmilan-online.com/cgi-bin/newspro/viewnews.cgi?newsid1283100202,31489,

    can’t bold what i wanted to bold, but 4, yes FOUR months.

  14. Hey, why the hell didn’t any of you Eagle Eyes notice that I forgot to score Valdes? 😀 That, too, has been fixed.

    And yes, the choice of writing the review without mentioning the I-Word was deliberate. He is a Milan player now. We have wars to fight on the pitch, rather than off it.

    Question for the class: How in the hell does Mascherano fit into this lineup?

  15. This is the “first” time for Messi to score a single goal in El Sardenero .. Last Two Years he scored a brace

  16. Don’t like bringing it up- “How did we get from €70m to €24m? Zlatan’s strength of character helped.” In otherwords he took a leaf out of Raiola book and acted the tosser so he could get the fee down.

  17. In looking at the season, there aren’t a lot of ties that worry me, but Atletico in their house the weekend after a midweek Champions League tie does. If we can beat them in their place, sky’s the limit.

    1. There are two sides to this .. When we play Atletico early in the season in El Vicente Calderon , They usually struggle in the first half of the season and barely over the Relegation Zone .. but they might be on a high note following Forlan’s world Cup, Europa League and Europe Super Cup!

    2. The bonus is that we play that Champions League game on a Tuesday so we get one extra day to prepare.

    3. At least it’s a CL home match against Panathinaikos.

      But I didn’t know yet we’d face Atleti so early, it’s only the 3rd playday!
      That makes it even better to see Madrid drop points today, because we will most-likely do so in 3 weeks. As you said, if we can beat them in their place, everything’s possible.
      Atleti is the 3rd-strongest team on paper this year and I don’t expect them to underperform as vastly as last year – en contraire, I’m even dreaming of Atleti finishing 2nd, above EE and behind us 😀
      Consequently, beating them at home this year would imo be a bigger achievement than during the past years, and they already beat Inter, so they are capable of performing in the early season.

    4. I think it is better we play at Calderon early in the season. We will probably be at full strength, barring some unfortunate injuries.

  18. It was such a relief to have a game and watch the team actually perform on the pitch.

    They were terrific. This was amongst the most interesting tactical matches the club has played in a long time, especially on the back line.

    Regarding Mascherano – if Pep wants to play the Don out on the RW then there are many opportunities that open up. I could see Pep using Masch as the holding player, Busi in the more advanced role (almost the Keita role) along with Xavi.

    Busi is really more a “box to box” midfielder than a defensive specialist. That’s very important because it will allow Pep to play both Busi and Masch together without necessarily changing tactical formation. Both can play without Barca using a “4-2-1-3.”

    Lots of flexibility. The squad could use a 20th player on the front line as that would complete it. But that shouldn’t be a forced move just to get another player.

    1. “Regarding Mascherano – if Pep wants to play the Don out on the RW then there are many opportunities that open up. I could see Pep using Masch as the holding player, Busi in the more advanced role (almost the Keita role) along with Xavi.”

      phasing Keita out?

    2. I’m sure I’ll be more convinced once I see him in action with us. But I was just watching the Busquets/Keita combo and thinking “Man, Mascherano better bring it. Hard.”

    3. Keita has been killing it lately, but as he’s 30 it’s time to start thinking about what we will do when he leaves in the next 2-3 seasons.

    4. No not phasing Keita out at all. Just another option and another look they can choose to deploy. Keita has been great and looks like he’s integrating better and better into the system.

      I could see times where Pep may try to play Masch-Keita-Busi and rest Xavi. I think Busi could play ok in a central midfield role, especially with messi dropping deep to build play as a false 9.

      If Masch is to see time however Pep will wind up having to go to a squad rotation system more and more in midfield.

      Which is what I’d like to see as I hope Xavi gets more rest and fewer minutes.

      The main point I was trying to make is that Busi’s flexibility doesn’t require whole scale change in the way Barca plays in order to fit both Masch and he onto the pitch at the same time.

      Cule’s have often said that barca may play a “double pivot” with Masch and Busi. That would be a major tactical change for Pep as he doesn’t play two deep players n the same line.

      Busi and Masch can operate together because of Busi’s flexibility.

    5. Busi’s not a box to box player, he doesn’t have the athleticism to play that role. The brilliance of Keita would require two Busis to perform.
      Keita’s replacement whenever will have to be like for like. Big shoe’s to fill, he was player of the tournament in the u 20 wc way back. Very intelligent mid f and according To Pep the best player hes ever trained.
      Said it yesterday when Luke announced his squad without Keita, its going to take something special to oust Keita.

  19. With all the talk of where Masch will fit… am I the only one who is wondering where the hell Fabregas would fit if we made a move for him next summer? If both Thiago and JDS take their chances well I can’t see a place for him, hell it’s hard even if only one of them takes their chances.

    1. Nope, you’re not the only one, although I prefer not to think of Fabregas during the season.

    2. Cesc should be filling Xavi’s shoes when gets older, And Has to play with him at least for a year to Learn the trade

    3. Mash will take Busi’s spot in his D.Mid role. Busi will take Xavi role in the future. Thiago is more of an attacking player, I wouldnt put him in a holding role with the amount of damage he can do up field. Dos Santos has good defensive and distribution qualities for D.Mid.

  20. I’m loving how pumped everyone is today compared to yesterday, myself included. Rock on, Barca! Perfect antidote 😀

    I’m really excited!

  21. Finally! A striker on the same wavelength with Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. I’m ecstatic!

    Messi is getting scary. With the Villa goal, he beat two defenders at the center circle and started the attack. But this is Messi 3.0. So instead of running at the defenders alone, he looked up, saw Alvez, passed to him and immediately started running to a dangerous position to score with a touch or two, but the ball went to Villa and it resulted in a goal.

    We didn’t play very tidy, we were a little pressured by racing at some stages of the game, and gave some balls away. But this is just the beginning of the season and we will get better. This never looked like a game we could lose..

    Hope Xavi is well, we need his leadership on the pitch, definately.

  22. Terrific way to start the season and a much needed injection of joy after all the silliness. What a difference a day makes, huh?

    Perhaps a telling moment regarding the Ibra-Guardiola “situation” — and, yes, I’m sorry to revisit this but I don’t recall anyone mentioning this:

    I remembered a moment during the Club World Cup celebrations and went back to it on my DVR the other night. There’s a touching moment where Pep realizes the gravity of their success and begins to weep on the pitch. Players, coaching staff, etc. come to Pep’s side to console and congratulate him. It’s interesting, however, once Ibra comes to his side. I don’t know what was said, and perhaps I’m making too much of the moment, but Pep seems to recoil and pushes Ibra away with what seems to be ire. Maybe it’s too strong of a description of his reaction but it may be telling about their relationship all along.

    Pep’s team is what it is because of the relationships they share, not just their sporting ability — which is immense — but underlying all that is the necessity for modesty; something that Ibra was never known to possess.

    Certainly, I will miss the opportunity to FIFA it up with a top three of Villa, Ibra, and Messi, but more importantly (and less selfishly), Guardiola is largely shaping his team with players that have been dreaming about days like this since their cantera days. You can see on “Tourna la gent normal,” a video on Barça TV, just how close some of these guys are and the history they share. Otherwise, you have players humble enough to understand the importance of togetherness over stardom, i.e. Keita, Maxwell. The result is a team that plays “by memory,” as it were, totally, and with the kind of support that you would give to a friend. There is little to argue with that.

    1. We’ll never know (in regards to the Pep-Ibra breakdown) but I don’t think it was during the CWC; that’s just too soon IMO. Personally, I think the seed was budding during that infamous Zaragoza match and grew during the Inter ties, and bloomed during those last matches of the season.

      But whatever, he’s a Milan player now.

      “Pep’s team is what it is because of the relationships they share, not just their sporting ability — which is immense — but underlying all that is the necessity for modesty; something that Ibra was never known to possess.”

      So true, st3. Great post, btw.

    2. i think i remember this scene as well. ibra probably made some immature joke about pep crying, either not realizing the magnitude of the achievement, or just being a d*ck. i don’t think it’s necessarily telling of their entire relationship however. or maybe he said something completely different, who knows? anyways, he’s gone, and so is my interest in him. season’s started, so we have to look ahead now.

    3. Word. “All along” was too much of a generalization, I agree. Whatever the reason, it is what it is, and we move on with confidence.

    4. I remember that moment when Pep was crying and there was no ire involved. They all seemed to be, like you said, consoling and congratulating him. Ibra made some off-color joke probably, which made Pep react by pushing him a bit, but from what I recall, it wasn’t done with anger, mostly amusement.

      I think its more likely that Ibra didn’t like the idea of having to fight for his spot. Especially at the end of the season when we saw Pedro taking that starting spot.

      I’m actually bummed Ibra is gone, I thought a trident of Villa-Messi-Ibra would have been great. But I trust in Pep to get good results from his players. I just hope there are no major injuries, since the team isn’t massively deep.

  23. Very very good game for our boys. A few lapses all around, but that is to be expected. Messi was lethal throughout and Villa will learn that Barça players rarely get the benefit on offside calls.

  24. this barca is more than a group of professional players.is a company of friends.you
    can see the joy of those players.the most of them LOVE barca,not money.i am so proud for us every day.

  25. Nice review Kxevin!

    Not much too add really, but I just wanted to say how happy I was to see Iniesta get a standing ovation from most of the Racing fans when he was substituted. Awesomeness!

  26. Messi goal (English-Sky Sports Commentary)

    /http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGizMIdIJ00&feature=channel

    INIESTAZO (see above) – LOL, Pep at 0:16 looks like he’s saying “Crazy”. Iniesta doesn’t score goals, he scores GOLAZOS.

    /http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sejJCP30V00&feature=channel

    David Villa goal (See Messi parenthesis)

    /http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4mUsg793A&feature=channel

    1. Thanks, I really like how the British Sky Sports commentators dignify Barcelona’s style 😀

      4th goal of the season for Messi, one might wonder if a season with less than 40 goals could already be considered as a failure – provided he stays fit.

  27. a nice read, but….

    harsh on iniesta for sure. true, aside from a goal and an assist in the first half it wasn’t his best.

    to me, it took everyone a while to get into the flow. messi’s early goal flattered to deceive the early play.

    very good points on villa’s early play, but he gained steam with the rest of the side. i was disappointed with messi to not find him open to his right in the box and instead forcing it. times in the second half provided glimpses of the sublime interplay we can hope for later in the season.

    i agree with the earlier comment that abidal to the center is partially a reaction to max. however, i believe that it is furthered by lack of depth in the center and the signing of adriano, who also looks to be making a case for inclusion on the left. about that, abidal scares me in the middle. he survived well enough today, but i am yet to be convinced he rates any better than an emergency sub in the middle.

    i was also very disappointed with bojan and pedro. i was in agreement with the substitutions, though i expected them a little sooner, and thought adriano was coming in for alves and bojan for messi. i admit i get a little paranoid about leaving messi in during the meaningless minutes. the ibra transfer has paved the way for both of them, moreso bojan, and he seemed even more lost than usual. pretty frightening given that you could argue his playing time comes at a cost equal to the loss in the ibra transfer debacle.

    the highlight for me was less the score and more WHO scored. I think it is very important for those three to get off the mark early. villa and messi obviously because they will need to do the heavy lifting this season. To have iniesta score, hopefully building his confidence from the WC final, is as, or more, important. Even more important was the way he scored, one touch, instinct not over-thinking. I hope this is a hallmark for him. there is no argument that him “up front” with villa and messi is the most fluid option; the question is whether it is the most potent, given that it implies leaving pedro! on the bench. I also wonder how long pep would be content to do that.

    i also appreciate the midfield analysis. it will be interesting to see how the addition of masch affects the rotation. i am also more confident that the group, busi, keita, iniesta, and masch can collectively cover for xavi when he is out or rested. something i would like to see more often, again for my anxiety not for viewing pleasure.

    finally, specifically on the ibra debacle…it was a poor piece of business to begin with, eto’o plus any cash is silly. more worrisome, however, was his transfer history, he had already been involved in transfers totally 60 including moving from juve to inter implying a complete lack of tact, conscience, or more accurately, blinding vanity. how exactly he was expected to fit in is a mystery on par with the accounting skills of the former regime. not that i am giving rosell et al. a pass, as they have managed to give away/sell arguably 100 in player equity mainly so they wouldn’t have to pay their wages and/or to fund a fruitless pursuit of cesc.

    on the whole though, most of the game was a joy to watch and with real and mourinho dropping points, it was really more than could have been expected.

  28. Regarding Mascherano, I’m sorry but the suggestion that Busquets is a “box-to-box” is flat out wrong. A box to box midfielder makes runs into the opposition half and box, and is available for link up play in the final third. Think someone like Fat Frank or our very own Keita. Busquets is a very, very good player, but that’s not his role, he’s basically a deep lying central midfielder with an excellent positional sense.

    I think Busquets and Mascherano CAN play in the same team but not when Xavi is playing, because then Xavi and Busquets will almost get in each other’s way (Busquets would get pushed up 10 yards in such a scenario). You can imagine B and M playing in one team if M is the DMF, B plays the Xavi role and Iniesta does what he does.

    I guess we can put it this way: of Busquets, Xavi and Mascherano, I see only a maximum of two playing at any one time.

    Anyway, it was really nice to see Messi dropping deeper, his vision and passing is so sublime it’s scary. Have you guys noticed that he can pass on the run without breaking a stride? Notice how most players pass, they sort of break their momentum and change the angle of their foot to the ground, but Messi does it while running, which keeps defenders off balance. Really pretty to watch.

  29. I’m wondering if part of the reason Maxwell started was to show him that he is still a valued member of the team even though the club spent much of the past week a) threatening to sue his agent and b) running his best friend out of town.

    Hope he stays, he’s been a fantastic signing!

  30. Busi’s not a box to box player, he doesn’t have the athleticism to play that role. The brilliance of Keita would require two Busis to perform.
    Keita’s replacement whenever will have to be like for like. Big shoes to fill, he was player of the tournament in the u 20 wc way back. Very intelligent mid f and according To Pep the best player hes ever trained.
    Said it yesterday when Luke announced his squad without Keita, its going to take something special to oust Keita.

  31. Kxevin excellent my man. I enjoyed the review a lot. I heard Ibra’s new side won today too. I am so glad we got off to a great start and the EE dropping points today just made my day. Like one of the guys said Mourinho’s face was priceless

  32. Great review Kev. While it sucks for me that I missed the game today, a comment that BA made (wayyy up there ^^) caused me a few concerns…

    BA said: “it should be noted, too, that we essentially spunked our whole first team out there today, barring our Puyol/Milito center-back pairing. so that was it: all the players you saw today is all we have (Mascherano i suppose excepted).”

    While we’ve discussed our practically inexistent squad depth on several occasions, the reality of it is a lot more worrying. Whenever we’ve discussed this topic we typically sufficed to say that each starter has 1 or, in some cases, 2 back-ups(excluding Barca B’s input). The part of this equation which we’ve neglected to an extent is the need for our coach to make ‘substitutions’ on any given day in order to optimize the energy (and quality) levels of the team on the pitch.

    To clarify, I’ll give a brief example: Let’s say 3-4 players are injured at any one point in time during our season (which happens pretty much once a year) and let’s assume that of those injured players, our ‘versatile’ players, namely Adriano, Maxwell, and, to an extent, Iniesta and Messi, were the one’s who were out. This basically leaves us with a pretty inflexible starting line-up and a bench full of canteranos. In this case that the four aforementioned players were out, we could possibly see the likes of Thiago, Bartra, etc to fill in the gaps.

    Now if we were in this situation for a couple weeks, then, based on a typical schedule, we would expect to see a similar line-up and bench for 2-3 league games and potentially 2 CL games. The dynamic nature of the game and the varying contributions of different players on any given day require that substitutions (typically all 3) are made over the course of the game. In this case, it would be very likely for us to see plenty of our La Masia seniors stepping on the pitch to support the game plan.

    If we were ever to find ourselves in such a situation, here are my key concerns:

    1 – Are the kids really ready to step in at that level of competition?

    2 – Are we, as a club, really prepared to take such a big gamble and rely on such a thin squad for complicated run ins?

    3 – Could Pep potentially over-use/over-exhaust (avoid resting) any specific player (say Villa or Xavi) to avoid a drop in the quality of play on the big occasions/difficult weeks?

    4 – Are we, as fans, going to tolerate subpar performances from our canteranos on, say, a CL night (and potentially hinder their development)?

    I guess viewing a team’s depth and considering the various permutations possible to fill up a starting line-up is one thing, but planning for injury spells and game-day substitutions is a whole other thing.

    I can only hope that we won’t need to answer any of these questions any time soon…

  33. Hate to be the bearer of more Ibra-related news:
    via Pep’s twitter:

    (agent Ibrahimovic): “The transfer operation started four months ago due to problems between Zlatan and Guardiola.” [via sms]

    WTF?! So are we now to assume that the Catalan papers had a clue after all? Were the comments made by Ibra/Raiola/Pep/Board Members/Rosell about how ‘Ibra’s not for sale’ just made to fuck with us (the fans/members)? And finally, WHY DID WE SCREW UP SO BADLY IF WE HAD 4 FREAKIN MONTHS!!

    (Sorry about that.. I couldn’t find my Hector pills, seems I finished them on the Rosell/Galliani skit :s)

    1. I believe Raiola is just trying to save face on this one. He also screwed the pooch on this one. The man is scum. Don’t believe a word he says.

    2. well sorry, I don’t like referring to another human being as scum, so I take that back. He’s dubious…

  34. Regarding Mascherano, I’m sorry but the suggestion that Busquets is a “box-to-box” is flat out wrong.

    I believe with this comment you are referring to the prior conversation in this thread about Mascherano and Busquet’s roles. If you’re not please feel free to disregard this comment.

    Earlier Busquet’s was not referred to as a “box to box midfielder.”

    This is exactly what was said:

    Busi is really more a “box to box” midfielder than a defensive specialist.

    Perhaps we disagree on this point, but despite the fact that Busquet’s plays in a holding role to me he is far from being a specialist player. He is not a “destroyer.

    The role and game that Busquet’s currently plays has long been something of an ambiguous one in football. He’s really a central midfielder who’s game is reminiscent of a role utilized prior to the hyper specialization of football, particularly in the central midfield. He does many things very well but with a few exceptions doesn’t do anything great (Busquet’s breaks with this mold because his positional sense and capacity to read the game and anticipate passes is truly outstanding.)

    The issue then is what to call this role. Central mid-field is probably the most accurate but it’s ambiguous, so in many regards not helpful.

    In English one of the closer references is “box to box” which in itself is also ambiguous. So what are you going to do?

    That’s why Busquets was described as “more of a box to box midfielder than defensive specialist.” It’s true, he is probably neither at this time but he’s somewhere in between. But his skill set and style of play are clearly much more nuanced and multi-focal than the defensive specialists who often play the deeper holding role.

    But it’s difficult to describe what this role is. Busquet’s doesn’t play exactly like Keita either. But what position does Keita play? That’s difficult to say also. One could argue that keita isn’t a true “box to box” player also.

    Nonetheless it’s a vital role.

    In addition, Busquet’s has only completed his age 21 season. Like Pedro his game will grow, mature and evolve over time. It’s true that he doesn’t make runs into the opposition half often – but that’s largely for tactical reasons. I personally feel that he has the skill set to grow his game in a more forward role given the barca system and the support he’d get from the surrounding players.

    Regarding his compatibility with Mascherano and Xavi at the same time – I think that’s only going to decided over time. We’ll have to see how those players are aligned on the pitch and how it works empirically. Personally I think Busquets has a varied enough skill set to make it work – it’s not in any way an optimal situation but for squad rotation purposes and injuries I think it’s viable.

    They only have 19 first team players so different combinations are going to be required to get through 60 matches.

    Also, while Busi has primarily played in back of Xavi in many matches – especially the matches where Barca dominates – Xavi and Busi at times wind up sharing very compressed space. With their high defensive line when Barca is really clicking the compress space to the opposition third and make the field very small. This pushes Busquets up. It also pushes Xavi up but when the field is already so small there is only so much room available.

    For an example of this, see the first part of the Barca’s CL match with Arsenal when Barca absolutely blitzed Arsenal off the pitch. Barca was able to play so high during the opening of that match Busquet’s was pushed very far up the field and he and Xavi had to share space. They did so brilliantly. And Busquet’s got forward a few times for opportunities in attack.

    1. i too disagree on Busquets’ optimal position: he’s much closer to your standard defensive midfielder than the box-to-box midfield player epitomized by, say, Michael Essien or embodied in our team by Seydou Keita. but Busquets’ game is probably best characterized as a true *pivote*, that is a mostly defensive player who simply and quickly links defense and attack. if we think of this Barca team (or indeed the Spanish national team, now) on the pitch like a board that tilts back and forth as a seesaw does, Busquets would be the player at the center who’s arc is smallest. his job is as much to facilitate movement of the ball for movement’s sake (look at how many passes he was playing per game in the World Cup) as it is to recover possession, though he’s obviously also quite good at the latter; hence the term *pivote*, or pivot, defined in it’s usual sense as:

      1. a pin, point, or short shaft on the end of which something rests and turns, or upon and about which something rotates or oscillates.

      Busquets’ has taken that definition to heart more than any player i’ve seen in the contemporary game. his role in our team has additional responsibilities like dropping back when one of our center-backs presses on or between them when both of our wing-backs are far up the pitch, but essentially he’s still performing there the same function of balancing the team as he does around the center circle. i don’t know anyone (but would be interested in recommendations) who solely performs this same role for any other major club in Europe and it is in a way a luxury to have such a player, as many who play in the same general position are forced to do much more (Marcos Senna being the epitome of the DM who does it all with supreme competence), but surrounded by Xavi and Iniesta and supported by good ball-playing center-backs like Marquez and Pique it’s a role that adds real assurance to our game, in a way that previous proprietors of that space like Mark van Bommel or Edmilson just couldn’t offer.

      certainly an interesting question.

    2. I agree with you that within the confines of the Barca system, Busquets game is partly modeled on the classic pivote role. As I mentioned above, he plays a central midfield in a style and role which has in many ways disappeared from the game – as more and more teams wanted holding players to be “destroyers” the pivote diminished. Barca is one of the few teams to use one.

      But the role a player occupies inside of a particular system is different than his skill set. And that’s critical.

      Just as an example of this. People in England are thoroughly surprised that Mancini has moved Yaya to a more advanced attacking role for Man City. Why? Because they reduced his skill set (which is highly varied) to a role (that of destroyer).

      So while Busquet’s current role is partly that of a pivote the role of the pivote does not confine Busquet’s skill set. For example, Busquet’s IMO Busquet’s game is much more robust defensively and has considerably more defensive responsibilities in deeper parts of the pitch than the classic pivote did. Perhaps you can call him a new breed of player – the “modern pivote.” But in itself that’s confusing and I was trying to use terms that would be familiar. But the terminology here is difficult.

      Additionally, I think Busquet’s skill sets are varied enough that he could assume roles that are different than the one he occupies now. Playing as a “modern pivote” or whatever you want to call it may be his best role but he’s not limited to only that role. Also given how young he is I’m expecting for his game to grow considerably and in new directions in the near and longer term future.

  35. Jnice–any links to this match for a re-watch? You’ve become the man for that, whether you like it or not!

    1. English commentary, but not Sky Sports

      First Half:

      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65583627/bc1eccc/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.First.Half1-crpmx.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65583915/a0032fc/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.First.Half1-crpmx.part2.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65588275/2009aa3/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.First.Half2-crpmx.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65588396/a015c31/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.First.Half2-crpmx.part2.rar.html

      2nd Half:

      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65604781/e3435ac/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.Second.Half1-crpmx.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65604905/6137618/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.Second.Half1-crpmx.part2.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65628589/c773fcf/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.Second.Half2-crpmx.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65628736/d22dc25/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.Second.Half2-crpmx.part2.rar.html

      Credit to crpmx @fbtz.com

      These links are kind of weird, though. Each half is broken up into 2 parts.

      or

      Complete match:

      Spanish comm

      http://www.share-online.biz/download.php?id=5YM91Y7LG7Y

      Credit to hollano @rojadirecta.com

      Later in the day there will be HD links

    2. English commentary, but not Sky Sports

      First Half:

      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65583627/bc1eccc/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.First.Half1-crpmx.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65583915/a0032fc/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.First.Half1-crpmx.part2.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65588275/2009aa3/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.First.Half2-crpmx.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65588396/a015c31/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.First.Half2-crpmx.part2.rar.html

      2nd Half:

      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65604781/e3435ac/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.Second.Half1-crpmx.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65604905/6137618/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.Second.Half1-crpmx.part2.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65628589/c773fcf/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.Second.Half2-crpmx.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/65628736/d22dc25/La.Liga.Racing.Santander.vs.Barcelona.29-08-10.XviD.Second.Half2-crpmx.part2.rar.html

      Credit to crpmx @fbtz.com

      These links are kind of weird, though. Each half is broken up into 2 parts.

      or

      Complete match:

      Spanish comm

      *http://www.share-online.biz/download.php?id=5YM91Y7LG7Y

      Credit to hollano @rojadirecta.com

      Later in the day there will be HD links

  36. Euler: I think we agree more than we disagree, but we still disagree some.

    Zonal Marking had an excellent piece a couple of weeks ago on central midfielders. One of the players examined under this rubric was Busquets. I think sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the trees when it comes nomenclature. In my mind, he’s a central midfielder, or an old style “pivote”. Think Xavi when he first broke into the team, or Pep himself.

    Where we agree is that he is not SOLELY a destroyer (the so-called Makelele role, ironically Mashcerano plays the Makelele role better than Busi or, I submit, Yaya). This is your point about the specialization of roles, and I agree with you. Moreover, Busi’s method of destroying is different, in that he’s not a tackler as much as an interceptor. But it’s still breaking up opposition attacks, though the means are different. In that sense, he is destroying.

    The Arsenal game was sui generis in my view, those first 20 minutes will almost never be seen again. In general, Busi is the “drop-backer”, sorry for the lack of technical term. The basic point is that because our full backs push extremely high (especially when Maxwell is playing along wit Alves, as they were at Emirates), our center backs push to the flanks when we work the ball out of our defensive third. In this situation, Busi often drops back as a “third center back”, right in front of Valdes, essentially acting as an outlet for both VV and the back pass from one of the center backs.

    I also disagree with you on Keita, in my mind he’s the classical box-to-box midfielder, he makes incisive runs, he makes himself available, his work rate is phenomenal, and he is a good tackler. That’s box to box.

    I agree that Busi will improve/modify his game, but my analysis of whether he, Mascherano and Xavi can play in the same team is on the here and now. I see it happening VERY rarely, if at all.

    Like I said, we’re mostly splitting hairs here on the terms we use.

  37. Iniesta(6) and Xavi(7)…. Pathetic Man… Xavi was really substandard and was playing really too deep. Iniesta was average, his first touch at times weren’t great but still was way better than others. But there is no way you can rate xavi over Iniesta in this match.

    I thought in first half we played without much of a formation. Too many ball were finding it’s way through the middle. There was no arganised possession football in the first half and the two goals, Iniesta played a definite part in both.

    As far as Busquets is concerned, may be I was watching the wrong match. He is not a destroyer, for heavens sake. He had a decent night but have you ever thought why whenever he plays Xavi has to drop deep. The defense in the first half was a joke. Let me tell you if it were Valencia or some other better teams, we would have really struggled with this defense and a midfield which asserted no dominance in the first half.

    Second half was much better and we were back to our usual self. Villa header was great, anyway.

    Xavi playing deep far away from Messi and Iniesta is not the ideal situation as we saw in the first half.

  38. i can’t but have this feeling that even though we played well we didn’t play to our full potential.Like there’s always these “thing” missing.
    Take today for example.I understand full well why Guardiola rolled out that particular starting 11, but what I cannot understand is:
    a) why not use Pedro on the left wing instead of Iniesta so Andres can create play with Xavi in between lines..and stop using Keita?!?!? I’m tired of this “keita is a workhorse” b.s. He’s a burden to our creative midfield.He slows down the game and kills our fluidity with the ball. I would be more than happy with Iniesta playing up on the left if we had brought Fabregas,but…that didn’t happen
    b) why is Messi in the middle when Villa or Bojan are on the field? Messi should be roaming around from the right wing to the center, but not playing as a “9”

    Bojan gets all kinds of crap because he allegedly doesn’t take advantage of his opportunities,but it’s difficult for the kid to score when he goes into a match in a position that isn’t his natural position on the field (he’s a striker,not a winger) and also when the match is already dead.By dead I mean we’re up by 2,3,4 goals and there’s 15 minutes left and we’re just tiqui-taquiing our way to the end of the match.He showed in the final stretch of last season that given a starting role,in his position he will deliver.I mean he relegated our 66M euro man to the bench!

    Finally, I’m eager to see Mascherano play with us.I think that in tough matches we can use him a a 2nd pivot like Spain did in the WC with Alonso and Busquets…it’s not as pretty,but it definately works.

    P.S.:Valdes still does not get the credit he deserves.He still carries the bagage of mistakes he made when he was 18 or 19, but a lot of people easily forget how PERFECT he has been when it really matters. He’s consistent,aggressive,focused,driven and still young. We have ourselves one of the world’s greatest keepers…and the best possible for Barça. Notice that 99.9% of the time he doesn’t clear disputed balls near our box by just trying to hit the stadium lights, he controls it…keeps it on the ground..keeps his cool and plays it so we keep possession.It’s nerve-wrecking sometimes, but I love him for it.

    1. agreed with u on a but not on b.messi is not a 9 but he is a false 9.

      though i like keita,reading now a days about him made me think he is a god.he did give us stability and iron in the MF,but he did take us our creativity and fluidity.not his fault though,nobody is either xavi or iniesta

      on VV,may be i m biased ,but 2 me for the last 2 years he has been simply phenomenal,and 2 me the best

  39. Like I said, we’re mostly splitting hairs here on the terms we use.

    Ahasan, thanks for the clarification. I very much agree with you that it’s splitting hairs and it’s the nomenclature that’s much of the issue. The ambiguity in nomenclature is why I even used the description of “box to box more than defensive specialist” in the first place. It’s more like putting a bounds on the role rather than giving it a specif term of reference.

    I completely agree with you that Busquets is a “central midfielder.” I’m just reticent to use that term too much because in itself it is so vague. Box to box is something people are more familiar with at least (though itself is also vague, though less so then central mid).

    And the main point I was trying to make is that if Barca wants to play Masch and Busi together they don’t need to play on the same line.

    Another point of clarification where we probably agree more than disagree is on Keita. I agree with you that he has “box to box” midfielder skill sets but I don’t know if I’d call his role within the Barca system as a true box to box role. It is and it isn’t, IMO. Again, he goes forward some but not that much because he his duties are still primarily to maintain tactical discipline in the midfield. When I think of a true box to box guy I think of someone who goes forward even more than Keita does. But again, this might just be semantics.

    The “box to box” role has largely disappeared from the game due to specialization and the increased dominance of systems based play. In a sense the true box to box role was more of a pure need before systems came to dominate the game. That’s why I’m not sure if I’d call the “keita role” a true box to box role within the barca system.

    I think now what we’re seeing is a renaissance of players like Busi who have diverse types of skill sets utilizing that flexibility to add richness to proscribed roles and expanding it. I think these skill sets are actually a range of skill sets or perhaps a family of skill sets rather than a defined list of requirements. Systems don’t necessarily require specialization but they require roles. Those roles bound the utilization of the skill set. In specialization the opposite happens. The limitation of the skill set bounds the role.

    In a sense I think we’re getting different flavors or variants on the old “box to box” role if that makes sense. We’re getting away from specialization in some ways but still staying within bound that are proscribed both tactically and within systems confines as the roles different “agents” take on.

  40. Kxevin, I have a suggestion for your reviews. It seems there are always people asking for links to dl the game in the comments. It might be nice to ad a link to the rojadirecta forum dl page. The games usually are uploaded immediatey after the game is done.

    1. Here is the link for today’s game.

      *http://forum.rojadirecta.org/showthread.php?97776-La-Liga-BBVA-Racing-Santander-vs-Barcelona-29-08-2010&s=6368f95ac82cdc630d3156cac6ea9733

    2. would officially posting links be a bit risky for a high-profile blog? i think we should stay on the safe side and leave them for the comments

  41. finally getting around to watching the match. What a sublime lob from Iniesta. I have good feeling about this year for our little gusiluz

  42. finally watched the match as well as the review + the comments. *relieved* Thanks for the review too, Kxevin.

    I noticed the 6 for Maxwell should have been a 7 or 8 last season. He was not bad at all, but I’d take this 6. Because the standard and expectation of him has increased. Very clearly, he kicked butts at the left-back with that extra gear that came from nowhere, outrunning attackers after attackers and chased balls tirelessly. Very true, I still believe this guy can play a lot more offensive than he did. This 6 indicates he has room for those extra 4 points to score and I like it.

    Messi wasn’t perfect imo, but very close. He still showed flashes of being too selfish when there is a better option right next to him. That play when Alves stole a ball and passed it to him in the circle, facing 1 defender and Bojan made a perfect run right next to him, with no defender in front, and still on-side. Messi chose to dribble pass the defender instead of sliding a thru ball to Bojan that will send him 1 on 1 with keeper. Surely, he could have made the run and finish with another chip, but he didn’t.

    That also tied to Bojan’s score. He wasn’t completely worthless to me. He lost balls after balls, which to me, is kind of expected. A striker is in the position to try and make things happen, he did it with a lot more confidence today, including one play that saw him facing 4 defenders alone, he slowed down this time instead of trying to outrun all of them, and also remained calm and composed in front of them, at the end he dribbled to the narrow angle and forced a shot. Guardiola applauded. But surely that wasn’t a good or successful play, because nobody expected him to take on 4 defenders in man size and score, but the effort and guts to try are actually good. I see a small step of breakthrough. But that will only bring his score up to, ummm, 2.

    Iniesta’s 6 is correct. Nobody can score more than that when he only came up,pop a goal, and then disappeared for a long stretch of time.

    =================================

    still feeling the bad taste about Ibrahimovic’s departure in the mouth. i love the club, but you also have fights with what you love, just as with girlfriend or wife. someone help me get over it.

    1. yeah, get over it…we’re the Beatles and Zlatan was Yoko. We’re NWA and Zlatan was Suge Knight. Express yourself…

  43. I don’t understand the intricacies of tactics very well so someone who does could clear this up for me. Are we lining up with a loose 4-3-3 this season? With Iniesta dancing between the midfield and forward lines? And do you guys think this is Pep’s go-to line-up for big games? Or will we see a different XI? (Assuming there are no injuries, of course)

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