Barca 1, Mallorca 1, aka “Pretty colors used to paint an ugly picture”

This picture of Messi sums it up far more eloquently than I ever could. So no point in writing the review, right? Or perhaps, in the interest of rocking like our beloved club, I should write 98% of the review, then stop.

Because that’s our football these days. We do everything to build up to a goal and then something happens, somethiing that’s usually our fault. Then the other side has success because they do what we don’t, which is just shoot. Sometimes, you just have to say “What the hell,” and let fly. Everybody wants to be in the highlight reel for passing. Why doesn’t anyone want to be in the reel for scoring a goal?

Mallorca are giggling all the way home, as they grabbed their first away goal and point, with a bold, resolute display that had them playing their hearts out and us squandering chance after chance after glorious chance to destroy them.

On the up side, we’re 98% of a team that can win the Liga. Should we take heart in that?

Guardiola rolls out with a lineup that I liked a lot, with a notable exceptions: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Abidal, Mascherano, Keita, Iniesta, Messi, Krkic, Pedro!. Valdes was the captain, and we started out excellently, running Mallorca all over the pitch, ripping gaping holes in their defense with our passing and movement, and creating chances galore. There were three glorious chances in the first 5 minutes of the match from Pique and Pedro!, that should have been finished.

And everybody was feeding Krkic, trying to get him going because they understand the value of a properly functioning 9. And he was playing great for a while, as was the side, which has clearly been working on set pieces in practice. Two setups produced two excellent chances, the last a roller to Pedro! that he blasted over the net. Abidal was throwing in cross after cross, usually on the ground most effectively as opposed to Alves, who still seems to be expecting Messi to suddenly be 6-foot-5.

That it took as long to score as it did was a wonder, some might even say a harbinger. But score we did, and it was a beauty.

The goal started waaay in back, when Mascherano defended two men, helped Iniesta win the ball then kick-started the break that found the ball pinging between Messi and Alves and then to Pedro!, who slid it back for Messi, who curled a shot around the outside and just inside the post. It was a spectacular goal that also spawned a particularly misguided Ray Ray-ism: “You can follow [Messi] into a revolving door, and he will come out first.” Well, yes. He will. Because you’re following him.


That we needed such a gem of a goal to score against Mallorca should have been a warning sign. But nobody heeded. And the beauty continued, useless beauty that led to no more goals.

And then it happened. A long Mallorca pass, flipped to an attacker, caught Pique flat-footed as the man burst out behind him. The ensuing fire drill led to a shot that Valdes expertly parried away. It seems easy to say in retrospect that the way we were playing makes you lazy as a defender, but it does. You could see Pique standing there, with this “What the hell is that” look on his face. It was a smart attack from them, that caught us with our knickers down. Then on the ensuing corner kick, somehow, as usual, nobody marked the man coming in from the back, who pounded a header past Valdes for the 1-1 draw at the half. Suddenly, Mallorca had something to play for, and play they did, diving, kicking, clawing, fouling, time wasting, doing everything that they could to salvage their precious point. And we lost the edge, because you just can’t play the way that we played for an entire 90 minutes.

Then their rope-a-dope came into full effect, and they suddenly started having more possession and more chances, playing with the ball in our end and testing our defense, which came up with the goods time and again.

That was that.

I could rave and rave about the passing and aggression that had Mallorca on the ropes, or I could rail about the wasteful finishing that let them off the canvas, the one touch too many from everyone, including Messi, as we seduced ourselves with beautifully ineffective football. Good and bad. We are an amazing football side to watch, switching the field, with dizzying passes coming in from all angles, passes that find our attackers in excellent positions to score goals. And yet, we don’t.

Nor does it take the other side long to figure out that Pedro! and Krkic are not going to score against them, so just stop the little dude and off we go with a point. Pedro! is playing better overall, but he isn’t as sharp a finisher as he was last season, not by damn sight. It should be noted once again, my warning that in World Cup years, the more internationals a club has, the clunkier it’s going to be. Essentially the Spain WC side was Barca and a few other dudes. So Valdes, Pedro!, Iniesta, Xavi, Messi (for Argentina), Alves (for Brazil), Puyol, Pique, Busquets and Villa all had long summers, which led to long vacations, which led to late arrivals, which robbed the club of the sharpness necessary to kick out the jams. It will come. We are so brilliant, and 98% of the way there, people. It’s easy to get down on your club when it snatches a draw from what should have been a rout. Don’t.

You were also warned that there would be matches like this, and seasons (potentially) like this. Every year isn’t a treble and six trophies. Not hardly. This game is amazing in that it can make you so happy that you want to cry one moment, then rip your heart out the next. We aren’t scoring goals because we aren’t finishing. That is an easy thing to fix, in theory. It’s a matter of concentration and body control, and treating each goal chance as though it is your last. Teams like Mallorca do. We don’t, because right now we aren’t hungry.

People bicker and squabble about Eto’o vs Ibrahimovic, who or whose mama is stupid or not, transfers good and bad, etc, etc. Fact of the matter is that in the year that we swept all before it, we’d done squat before. So we had a full offseason and training camp with which to hone our skills, gain fitness and get ready to crush everyone. Then we did. And it was parades, parties, long vacations, bonuses, which dulled the edge. And even still, one wide header. This season was the aforementioned World Cup and all of its attendant complexity.

And then there’s the hunger. We’re playing like a club with nothing to prove. Problem is that everyone who plays us has something to prove, and we often let them do it. Did Mallorca deserve that goal? No. But the Footy Gods don’t roll like that. And that’s life.

What is most important is that we support our beloved club. Sometimes, lack of success makes a bandwagon a little lighter. And that’s okay. People who came to this club during the salad days are probably wonder what the heck is going on. Where are the 5-0 thrashings?

I say if you look at what we have done and where we are, they’re but a little bit of sharpness away. And even as my evaluative keyboard is sharp and unscathing, my heart beats Blaugrana, and will support this club, no matter what.

Now we have some ratings to bicker about:

Team: 6. For a while, a long while, it was a 10. Then Mallorca was let into the match by sloppy play. And as they started to get tired, the sharpness deserted them, as did the control and effort that turned the first half into a shooting gallery. And the set piece defending was inexcusable. The good was the passing and movement, and one-touch football that constantly gutted a team playing with 10 behind the ball. The bad was the sloppy finishing and bypassed shots.

Guardiola: 6. It was the right starting lineup, but he has to do something to put the fire back into his side. Throw a chair, get ejected, get in somebody’s face, something. You just can’t stand there, watching the train wreck. Nolito was a good (though only available) substitution. That Krkic was still on the pitch, however, wasn’t something that this evaluator can not support.

Valdes: 7. Could do nothing about the goal, but made many key plays and interventions, including saving the shot that was going in, and later roaring off his line to beat Webo to the ball on a break.

Alves: 6. Shoot, Dani, shoot! And stop crossing for the sake of crossing. Yes, they are accurate, but no, they don’t fit our offensive scheme. Krkic isn’t going to head the ball in. Neither is Messi, if there’s a normal-sized defender around. I loved his offense, though. Cutting ball after cutting ball, run after run, he was like an extra midfielder. His defense wasn’t called on much, but when it was, he was usually adequate, which is usually enough.

Pique: 3. Was off to a spectacular match, then he started to cost us, by being caught flat on the attack that led to the corner that led to the Mallorca goal, then off an atrocious giveaway that could have cost us the match. Thankfully, Valdes was on the case to parry away the long shot attempt from Webo. As the tallest man on the defense, to stand there looking lost on set pieces is unforgivable. And man, does his finishing need work. He’s a defender. I know. But if you’re going to be in the box as an attacker, finish.

Milito: 8. The only problem really is that he wasn’t Puyol. If Puyol is in there, we probably don’t concede on that set piece. But Milito made a match-saving intervention very late, and a number of other key defensive plays. He isn’t the fastest defender out there, but his positional sense is extraordinary. Very strong match.

Abidal: 9. Man, good to have the Greyhound back. From defensive plays and crosses, to making offense on one end then sprinting down to the other to be last man that kills a Mallorca break, Abidal was spectacular. His offense was superb, and as usual, his passes into the box deserved a better fate. He opens up space with that dive to the end line and always has a passing lane.

Mascherano: 9. A Man of the Match performance from a player that people said was a waste of money, wasn’t going to fit in, would be a card machine, etc, etc. He won ball after ball, stopped attack after attack, roaming from midfield to deep into our box. And what passes! He looked to the manor born this match, a spectacular effort that must have shut up a lot of doubters. There was nothing bad to say about his play today. Ramzi must be grinning like crazy. The way that he has (already) learned to win balls without destruction is impressive, and what a passer.

Keita: 7. Excellent match, a danger on offense and defense. I know what Guardiola was trying to do in bringing on Thiago for Keita, but it backfired in that it opened up the middle of the field in our end. You don’t realize how many of those counters Keita snuffs out until he isn’t there, snuffing them out.

Iniesta: 8. He made a liar out of me, as he showed the vision, patience and controlled aggression that made him an excellent Xavi today. I thought that he should have gone on more runs at the Mallorca defense. Those destabilized their bus, and made up for the runs that Pedro! and Krkic often weren’t making. I thought that he was magical today, and at the root of many an attack that should have resulted in a ball going into the back of the net.

Messi: 6. The effort, energy and quality were there until he started trying to think too much. Take and shoot is what Messi is best at. When he starts thinking, as he was when Aouate stopped him on the doorstep, it gives defenders a chance to react and keepers a chance to get set up. The goal was the perfect example of this, as he basically controlled a shot in one motion. When he started getting tired, he began to fade in and out of the match.

Pedro!: 5. The chances missed. Oh, the glorious chances missed. I love how much higher his football IQ is this season. I don’t love how he sometimes (still) just runs around like a man without a plan, like the guy on the American football team whose job it is to just hit people. Somebody. Anybody. And like a ghost, he drifts in and out of matches. Brilliant assist for the Messi goal, it must be said. And his movement on and off the ball is a thing of beauty. But he isn’t sharp right now, and it’s costing the side.

Krkic: 2. He started out like a house afire, raising hopes that this was going to be the match in which Krkic shut all his doubters the hell up. Then he began regressing. Twice, he passed up open attackers to take shots that would have been speculative even for an on-form striker. He stopped attacks by thinking too much, lost balls and began, once he didn’t score, to play like the ball of lack of confidence that he is right now. To be sure, his movement was excellent at times, as was his passing and control. There were a few jaw-dropping moments, including that snap shot from distance. But Krkic isn’t playing well enough right now, and it’s killing us.


Thiago (for Keita): 6. Damn, I like this kid. He became the Iniesta to Iniesta’s Xavi. I wouldn’t have minded seeing him start, frankly. What he brings to a match is that cutting edge, and fearlessness. I think that as the match wore on, we started playing scared. Not Thiago. He’s very quickly gone from being loose and scary at times to flat-out solid. Has he leapfrogged Dos Santos in the “next big thing” pecking order?

Nolito (for Pedro!): 5. Uh oh, Krkic. Those hoofsteps you hear on the horizon are those of a kid moving about a million miles an hour, shark-like, toward goal. Like early Pedro!, he is guilty of that almost panicked ohmygodiminnowwhataggggh kind of football, in which he is so desperate to make something, anything happen. And yet, he almost did.

Jeffren (for Milito): incomplete. A last-ditch roll of the dice that came late, very late.

Some takeaways:

–With two goals in two home matches, that equals our worst start EVAH!
–Pedro! has a torn calf muscle, out for at least two weeks.
–The pitch is crap. Everybody knows it, and are finally commenting on it.
–“They seemed tired at the end,” says Laudrup. Ya don’t say.

We’re fourth place in the Liga, looking up at Valencia, Villarreal and EE. Ouch. But there are a great many more points to play for, as the Liga sorts itself out. Keep the faith, and be patient. It will all come good. Meanwhile, here’s some Messi love to leave you smiling.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, Iโ€™m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, Iโ€™m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Hallo everybody,

    I’m following this blog since some weeks and really like the reviews and comments in particular compard to other barca forums and chats where at the moment there is an atmosphere of doom and gloom. I know that the result was somehow depressing and frustrating but at the same time I can’t say that I did not enjoyed the game because between all the defensive mistakes and missed chances there were still moments of absolute beauty in passing, in moving and in playing together as a team. I know that in some way I am the daughter of Wenger that for me the game and the style of playing comes before result and trophy, but that is just the way it is and I see no reason to explain and excuse such an opinion. And that is the reason why I love Barca because in every game, may it be dire and a loss, there are moments guaranted that just take your breath away: a xavi through ball that is just perfection like a goya picture or a geomatrical figure, a messi solo, a pique trick. So even if we don’t win a game( or a trophy), if I scream at the TV and at the player because we do miss sitters, at the end there is always a moment that made it worth watching, so that is being a cule for me.

    Sorry for my english (no mother tongue)

  2. When We bought Masch I said I was happy and Someone “can’t remember whom” replied “Let’s see if you’re happy when he’s sent off every match”

  3. the pitch is being replaced, beginning today. should be done in a week, then a week more for watering and compacting. they say itll be ready for valencia


    1. This is great news! It is actually dangerous in its current state, as poor Pedro knows only too well.

  4. Regarding the Ibra cause: having him here now would maybe help NOW but would use would be on long term. the failure was never one of ability but one of caracter, to play for Barca means to play buy sacrificing for the team, to put the team first, to score as messi but for the team, not as Ibra for Ibra, Sid Lowe put it absolutely right: He thinks he is Messi, but he is not. So in my opinion it would not come good even with a secound chance because you can not change the way you are, Ibra is made to play in Italy where the whole team is playing for him not with him (in a way) So even if Villa is struggeling at the moment I have more faith in him, because he is willing and able to sacrifice.

    1. Lets bench Messi, Alves, Villa, etc… for two or three matches at the time where they were in need for the support most then we judge characters. In fact, lets substitute Messi everytime he is close to get a hattrick -as an mescalculated attempt to keep him floored- then we see how he responds. Just a hint.

      The problem is not “(insert any player) is not Messi”. Thats a given. But there is no need to do everything possible to remind a player on dailty bases that he is not and will never be as appretiated. Espetially if that player live on confidance (even arrogance if you like) to do his tricks. Glory need two to tango, so as catostrophies. A lesson for the future, not to relive the past.

    2. The problem was not that he is not Messi the problem was as Sid Lowe said: IBRA thinks he is Messi and he is not. I can only recommend the article from Sid Lowe in the Guardian concerning this topic.

      And I think Ibra got a lot of support in particular in the CL semifinale where he was no help in the first leg but Pep put his thrust in him again in the second leg to no result, Pique in ten minutes was more of a threat, and I had never a problem if a striker has draught that happens all the time, but I if as a player you give the impression in such an important game that you could not care less if your team wins or lose, if your own goal keeper has more distance covered than your striker (to add insult to injury, that fact was happily descriebed by Marca) you know everything you have to know. I would never voice an opinion regarding Ibras personal caracter( as I do not know him) more his “pitch” caracter.

    3. I agree that dropping Ibra would be a big blow to his confidence and shouldn’t be done lightly but imo if he had continued playing we were unlikely to win la Liga so Pep was justified.

    4. I was not talking about the last segment of the season,but since day one. Thats the time when he wasnt allowed to hatrick for example. At the end of the season it was too late.

      Yet He is also blamed, so by no mean he deserve to be defended.

  5. It was a sad match where we played well but could not finish. i hope Guardiola continues to stress the importance of finish our chances.

    Great review Kxevin like always.I too was really impressed with Mascherano this game hope it continues. Also the Krkic rating was spot on, no matter what Ray Ray said.

  6. In other non-Barca news, good decision..


  7. ramzi is so right?yea..let.s fuck our dressing room with that tall moaning baby!i hope he go to madrid make company with the other crying babe!..pep is so bad,he never talked to me,he don.t love me,i want my mama!come on!..we won what we won as a team.with heart,humbling,passion,hard work.have you see in any game messi make tricks?usefull?me no.why?ibra,ronaldo do that stuff.why?cause messi is a team player not a clown.

  8. i know it will be difficult this season,but i hope one of our players will win the pichichi again.leo messi after the award for the top scorer in liga…yea will win it need 10ronaldos and 10ibra to score more than you.

  9. I will let poipoi’s comments about live Pedro serve as my comment to those who suggest that he and Krkic deserved the same rating. It just wasn’t what I saw.

    –That DeJong tackle was a horrorshow. His victim will never, ever be the same. When I was accused of overreacting to the Ujfalusi challenge, situations like that remind us why. Horrible. Just horrible.

    –As I said above, right now we’re playing like it’s a game, not war. We smile and give rueful shakes of the head at missed chances, because more will come. How can they not? What fun!

    I scoffed at Ray Ray’s “are we not entertained” comment. No. We are not. Beautiful? You bet. Fun to watch? To a point. But I’d rather see ugly goals than pretty, goalless buildup.

    Our lack of hunger means that the extras, the extra hustle, the desire to run that little bit faster, the passion …. just isn’t always there. It isn’t buying or selling. It’s putting out that little bit extra effort that puts you on the right side of a defender.

    1. I see that you and some other people actually forgot the “!” in pedro! … no, no, no. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      on dejong, it’s better to punch a rival in the face than that, he probably ruined the other guys career. muera dejong he should get a no-contact-with-football-ever order

      btw… can a player get a negative rating? bojan sure needs it

  10. These sorts of tackles should be outlawed from football. I mean the ones where the ball is there to be one, but it is obvious that the player will get clattered no matter what. Whne its this obvious its not even a question of bad timing- de jong was always going to go right through arfa. From his point of view the timing was good.

  11. I would also point out for all the people thinking that X or Y player is the answer, this club had Eto’o as its striker during its two trophyless seasons, right? Both those seasons featured a significant injury to Eto’o (in defense of those who say a full season might have done the trick), but scoring goals wasn’t the problem. Conceding stupid ones was.

    Sometimes, teams go through periods such as this. Guardiola’s most impressive coaching job will be getting them out of this malaise. Hunger makes players do amazing things. Without hunger, and hoist upon a petard of accolades, a lack of that necessary final step can become team-wide.

    We’ve all seen a player make like the most brilliant person alive at his position during the last season of a contract, or seen an F1 driver suddenly get fast when talented new blood comes into the team. The hunger is reinstilled, and the concentration is that little bit more intense.

    In many ways, I wish that we were a bit less stacked. Imagine this club, with the desire and hunger of a Mallorca or Hercules. The season of the treble, we had that desire, that hunger to demonstrate to the world that we knew best how to play this game, and the desire to show it.

    We have only done so in spurts this season. Will it change? Good question. With Euro qualifiers peppering this season, and friendlies and Copas and lord knows what else, the guys just get tired. Dog tired. This year is going to be a challenge, for sure.

    1. You know whats funny, I was the number 1 Ronaldinho fan, who thought Eto’o only scored because of Ronaldinho’s and Deco’s ingenuity. I only became an Eto’o fan, after we got Larsson, then Gudjohnsen and then Henry. All these guys were big names in their own right, before coming to barcelona. But I noticed something, when they played as our ‘9’, they all had excellent hold up play, silky smooth passing and moves and definately had beautiful goals in them…but the offense was somewhat impotent, and they couldn’t score with regularity even with that kind of service. Goals weren’t coming as easily, even though we dominated play and created chances.

      With our style of play that forces ‘parked busses’, I noticed that when Eto’o would be inserted into the game as a sub to those guys, especially after his injury lay-offs, we had a different dimension to the team. It’s the hunger, it’s the energy, it’s the movement, it’s the ability to power in shots when goalkeepers are blocking all other shots, it’s the speed and ability to create 2 inches of space out of nothing to get a shot off. There was a clear difference with him on the team. He made the team much more direct and much more dangerous. If you inserted him in this line-up we have now, you guys would see what I’m talking about.

      Messi had an amazing season last year, which hid the fact we had lost that extra umpphhh. I knew pep had made a great blunder, but I was always crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t come back to hurt the team that much. I’m still hoping Villa gets on a hot streak, and I hope Bojan comes good sooner rather than later, because I honestly don’t know who else is out there that can lead the offense that’s worth spending money on.

  12. Great review Kevin, as always. I always see so many people ranting about your ratings, but I’ve never had a problem with them. As a matter of fact, I don’t think anyone could be more accurate with them unless they watched the match 100 times.

    I still have faith in Bojan. I think either when we get out of the funk or the chips are truly down, he will shine and be our starting 9. I think this season will be rough for Villa, though, despite his early stats.

    Watching the game, I really felt like the team shifted down in gears after Aouate stopped Messi on the 1v1. after that, we lacked precision and things started coming loose. i dont think we took things serious after the first goal. did anybody watch alves showboating the entire first half?? that hunger is missing, but i dont know how we can fix that. Villa should be as hungry as they come, but i havent seen it in him either. maybe more appearances from the youngsters will help, but that is hard to manage when u have our starters, and even subs. Maxwell, Masch, Adriano, Bojan, Jeffren: they should all be hungry. everyone else has pretty much contributed in winning everything. but, why not again?

    i like that pep is confident that we can break any defense now. if only we could put away chances. winning fierce away matches is also a huge plus. the pitch sucks inexcusably. i still like our chances. in the end, i think it will come down to our games against the EE. i think they will take 1 or 2 more points from the rest than us, so we will need at least 1 W and 1 D. if we win both EE games, then what else could we do?

    i dont see us buying anyone in the winter window. it takes too long to assimilate foreign talent into the system. also, i think pep has confidence in the squad. as for next summer, what happens if Ibra winds up back here ’cause of some shady Milan dealings? Would we consider releasing him from his contract if we cannot sell him? ride the bench? or give him another chance? i think he’d be in the ultimate barca team, if he actually worked for the system instead of trying to make the system work for him. i dont believe villa was Pep’s first choice, and if so, only if he was thinking of a replacement for eto’o, not the dynamics of Ibra’s game (the big man, plan B, etc…). i have faith in whatever squad, and Ibra being gone is justified, but who knows what the future has in store. did anybody think this would be our squad right before Rijkaard got canned? when Pep was hired? at the end of last season?

    1. I actually kind of hope that Milan try and shove Ibra back to us next year, not that they would considering he’s single handedly winning games for them, but still…

    2. not me. he scored some goals and sometimes was involved in good ways, but generally, i didnt like the way we played when he was there. not as pretty. with this offense, the goals will come.

    3. Milan cant avoid signing Ibra as there is a condition in the loan deal force them to. But I am not sure if Ibra (or ibra agent?) will say “well…we dont want to sign unless if $$$$!!! or else we head back to Barcelona”. That will create a big problem.

      Ibra Vs Barca marrage is over. We need to move on, he need to do so as well. I do hope we buy a striker of his quality, but not him. That won’t work.

  13. Why didn’t Busi play? Is he injured?

    I missed the match but what Abidal on the match I think summed it all up;
    โ€œTwo years ago we would have been winning 4-0 against Mallorca after the first twenty minutes had we created as many opportunities as we did this past weekend because we had luck on our side. The only thing weโ€™re missing this season is that luck.โ€
    LUCK.LUCK.LUCK(and maybe a panther called Etoo :p)

  14. Hey guys

    Im based in the UK and was hoping to attend the El Clasico this November

    I was wondering if there is a way to source tickets here in the UK or would i have to get them whilst in Spain??

    Any help, info would be greatly appreciated for a 1st time attender!

    1. El Clasic has been sold out since mid-September. For the next upcoming Clasic, you’d have to go through that other team’s website.

      Either way, unless you’re a registered soci of either club, it’s particularly hard to get tickets for those matches… The tickets themselves though are not nearly as expensive as you would think, though (as cheap as 78 Euros).

    2. I’ll be there!! hahahahaaaaa

      my 1st time! (please don’t loose I’ll remeber it all my life)

Comments are closed.