What’s the deal with us, aka “Would less talent make us better?”

We can’t score goals, but why? Last season, we were scoring goals at the rate of 1 in every 6 shots. This season, it’s 1 in every 9 shots. If we match last season’s efficiency, we have 6 more goals and are almost certainly undefeated.

Here’s something else. This season, we’re averaging 18.75 goal attempts per match, compared to 15.6 last season, and 17.0 the year of the treble.

Guardiola says that we’re playing better than we were in his first season, and it would appear that he’s right. The only problem is finishing, and that’s a problem. A huge problem. People in the comments portions are offering up all sorts of names and players that will solve the problem. Buy this, buy that, add this, add that.

But what if the problem is too much talent, creating too many possibilities, creating a more casual attitude, leading to our frustrating profligacy in front of goal? Let me explain.

I’d like to start with bits of a comment by Bill (not because it’s an ode to Eto’o 😀 ):

…Goals weren’t coming as easily, even though we dominated play and created chances.

With our style of play that forces ‘parked buses’, I noticed that when Eto’o would be inserted into the game…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.

So. Is the absence of Eto’o the problem? Some have said yes, others say no. I say that while his absence isn’t the problem, the absence of what he represented is most definitely the problem. We can’t get him back, nor does Guardiola want him back. But boy, is he trying to find out how to get back what Eto’o represented.

Huh? What?

In the world of talented strikers, Eto’o wouldn’t be in most people’s Top 10. In the world of goal-scoring strikers, Eto’o is in everybody’s Top 3, never mind Top 10. See, Eto’o isn’t a guy for the tricks and flicks. He doesn’t think of backheels, or funky ways to put the ball into the net. He’s like a shark, who swims forward, toward the end result. Boot. Ball. Goal. Win.

His shots were always direct, and rarely with any bend, spin or any other funkiness. It was a direct, hand-stinging blast, with interest. That was and is Eto’o. Give him the ball in a good spot, and he will score for you. Early and often.

What that relative lack of talent also means is that, being aware of his limitations, Eto’o always works to make sure that he’s in the position to make a very direct shot on goal, precisely because he doesn’t have the pure talent of many other strikers.

Compare that with Villa or, even better, Ibrahimovic. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on anybody’s Top 5 list of most talented strikers on the planet. But does that talent make him a bit laconic? Where Eto’o bulls, or powers his way to get to the one spot that will allow him the most direct, effective shot on goal, Ibrahimovic often seems to think, “I’ll just stand here, because I can wrap my leg around a defender and do some ninja thing to flick the ball into the net.” When he’s right, it’s spectacular. Hell, even when he’s wrong it’s spectacular, but when he’s wrong, it doesn’t result in goals.

Villa, too, is immensely talented. The array of shots at his disposal is staggering. I’m sure that in a striker’s game of HORSE, he would kill Eto’o. But in a match, who do you want running at your keeper with the ball at his feet, Villa or Eto’o? Right now, and maybe always, the answer is Eto’o. It’s the directness, the hunger. Goals are vindication for a striker. For Eto’o, they seem to be like oxygen.

So maybe, just maybe, the problem is that we need less talent. Look at the two goals scored on Sunday. We nailed a perfect goal built from the back, with beautiful passing and an exquisite finish that Messi curled around the defense and inside the far post. Wow, right?

Mallorca just crossed the ball in, and the dude headed it past our keeper. Bang. Boot. Ball. Goal. Points. It was as direct and inelegant as can be, but still counted for the same amount on the scoreboard.

Talent sometimes makes you lazy. When a ball comes to Villa or Krkic (Messi is usually very direct, which is part of why he’s so successful … talent+no screwing around=bags of goals), they have the control to reel it in, and the ability to create space to try all sorts of creative shots from seemingly impossible angles. In consecutive matches, both Villa and Krkic missed a backheel attempt directly in front of goal, off a fast-moving cross. It’s a cross that Eto’o probably angles his body to hold off the defender, squares up and taps in. Because that’s Eto’o. His lack of ultimate talent works in his favor to make him a scorer nonpareil.

There is no question that our overall level of play is higher this season, that the addition of Villa has made us more fluent in attack. We see it in every statistic except for goals. Guardiola said yesterday that if we keep finishing as we are, we won’t win squat this season. And he’s right.

I said in the Mallorca match review thread that if we had the hunger and drive of a less-talented side such as Mallorca or Hercules, we’d steamroll everyone, as we did the season of the treble. Maintaining that hunger is hard, because it’s driven by fear and feelings of inadequacy. After two seasons with no silver, we were like a starving man at an all-you-can-eat banquet. “Grrrrrr! Lemme at it!” Our football wasn’t as pretty, but our results were gaudy. Talent+hunger=success.

Talent can also make you complacent. Playing as beautifully as we are, you think that another chance will always come, and this one will go in. Then suddenly you’re hearing the double whistle, and the other team is celebrating. And there are no more chances.

Of course, none of us would trade any of the talent that we had for the world, right? But think about the brilliance of Keita this season, the man who might be among the least talented players on the squad. He thinks, “I must get to their box, because that is how I can score. I don’t have a long-range curler, or the ability to dribble through an entire defense. But I have a foot, and I have a head. And from three to six feet out, I can knock it past the keeper.” And that’s what he does.

That’s also what we need to do, recognize that sometimes, it’s more, or more appropriately less, than talent.

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Written by:

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


  1. Diego S.
    October 5, 2010

    Very well said. You can’t change a player. Bojan and Villa have talent, you can’t convince them to wait in the box or shoot on sight. They feel the need to show their talent, It comes from the body before the brain sends his orders. Guardiola should have a talk with the players and tell them to shoot when they can “Dani, Thiago, etc”.

  2. Tarik
    October 5, 2010

    I agree with this article for the most part and find it to be quite well written. A+ in that regard.

    However, I think it’s important to note that the focus here is talent vs. hunger and not talent vs. ego. I don’t think adding another star will end up being detrimental to our season…and having somebody more consistent than our current Ibra/Eto’o fillers would be nice. It might even create a little competitive hunger amongst the front line which is more than welcome. I never see the team playing and think “that’s a dressing room problem” as far as causing lack of hunger. If we can get a relatively humble striker to play up front…then I can see really good things happening.

    I think the natural progression of our season will see us converting more of these opportunities…but I especially don’t think that our current waiting-to-be-born striker (Bojangles)will ever really fill the void in the sense that all his (and Barca fans in general) are hoping for. Is it worth the cash and potentially smothering Bojan’s golden opportunity? I’d say yea.

  3. ooga aga
    October 5, 2010

    no. there is an element of luck in football. having more talent makes you less beholden to lady luck, but she is always there.

    there are also ebbs and flows of fortune and output. just as, say, ichiro, might not get a hit in 10 at-bats, he is still the most consistent and you know he will get his 200 hits in a season. you dont freak out or say something has changed with ichiro when he doesnt get a hit in 10 at-bats. you have to be patient.

    please forgive the baseball analogy. i hate baseball but i live in seattle.

    pep says we areplaying better than in the treble season. that may or may not be true. but winning titles, esp the CL, are not a given even when you are the best team. i think we are playing beauitiful football and i wouldnt trade it for the world. it’s why i watch barca. the style. the titles are a bonus.

    i also dont think laziness or complacency are the problems either. but i dont know how you could prove this one way or the other. i certainly dont see anyone standing around. not even villa.

    • Luna
      October 5, 2010

      but Ichiro, you mentioned Ichiro. Love you for that!

  4. ooga aga
    October 5, 2010

    this year we were a whisker from the CL final and we won the league.

    comparing september of this year with october of last.

    (this is from FCB website)

    september 2010/11
    Jornada 2 FCB 0-2 Hèrcules
    Champions FCB 5-1 Panathinaikos
    Jornada 3 At.Madrid 1-2 FCB
    Jornada 4 FCB 1-0 Sporting Gijon
    Jornada 5 Athletic 1-3 FCB
    Champions Rubin Kazan 1-1 FCB
    Jornada 6 FCB 1-1 Mallorca
    7 games, 4 wins, 2 ties, 1 loss, 13 goals

    october 2009/10
    Jornada 6 FCB 1-0 Almeria
    Jornada 7 València 0-0 FCB
    Champions FCB 1-2 Rubin Kazan
    Jornada 8 FCB 6-1 Saragossa
    Copa Cultural 0-2 FCB
    Jornada 9 Osasuna 1-1 FCB
    Champions Rubin Kazan 0-0 FCB
    7 games, 3 wins, 3 ties, 1 loss, 11 goals

    • majatt
      October 5, 2010

      Think its less about final result and more about frustration. Its one then when a bus is parked and you can’t get past it, its another when you get past it 4 or 5 times and still get no where.

      • ooga aga
        October 5, 2010

        no, the point is that all teams, even champion teams, have periods when they score less goals. just like we did last season. these periods are generally shorter in duration and of less severity than for other teams. we are going through one of those periods. kxevin is good at generating discussion but i think we will be through this period very quickly.

        we are creating tons of chances. the goals will come.

  5. majatt
    October 5, 2010

    I agree about the directness, sometimes in the box it seems like that extra inch of pace is left off because the player sees a potential pass rather than blindly charging the shot.

    Iniesta, to me, is often guilty of thinking about shooting last.

  6. blitzen
    October 5, 2010

    I don’t think so. There is such a thing as overanalyzing, and I think we are all guilty of that. You can’t seriously look at the way Pedro or Messi have been playing and accuse them of being complacent or lazy. Villa? He’s hungry–he wants those titles! Dani Alves? Keita? No complacency there. Busquets, Iniesta? Pure poetry. Xavi has had an off game or two, and now we know why–he is injured. You are right in one way–we are suffering because our team is incredibly talented. So talented that they are consistently called up for international service, as well as playing in La Liga and the CL. They are tired, dammit! and their bodies are not being given enough time to recuperate.

    And honestly, I am so tired of people making statements about what Eto’o (or Ibrahimovic, or Ronaldinho, or whoever) would have done with any particular ball in any particular game. You don’t know. You can’t know. None of us can. Maybe Eto’o would have knocked that ball right over the goal. See? I can speculate just as well. What I do know, and what is a fact, not speculation, is that David Villa has been one of the top goal scorers in La Liga for years. He knows how to put a ball in the net and he never gets tired of it. Goals will come.

    • Kari
      October 5, 2010


      (Oh, and you better get used to the overanalyzing, blitzen, especially when things “aren’t going well” and there is an international break to mull/brood/moan about everything. I’m just bidding my time until we eventually click and the goals explode.)

    • Kxevin
      October 5, 2010

      Go back up and give another read. Complacency and laziness are hardly words that I used to describe anyone. “Sometimes, talent can make you lazy” does not mean “So and so are lazy.” Those are two very, very different statements. And note that I exempt Messi, saying that he is a very direct player.

      Further, you assume that lazy and complacent are bad qualites. They are aspects of the human condition. Would “comfortable” have been less upsetting? Maybe. Not to me because in this situation and for the sake of this discussion, all three are the same: conditions that keep a player from doing exactly what he needs to do, all the time.

      Now. Talent does make you, whether the talented one knows it or not, less inclined to work like crazy all the time. It just does. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Extremely talented people take shortcuts. As I note above, because they can. It just means that people are human.

      Iniesta is pure poetry, to be sure. But we don’t need poetry all the time. Sometimes, you just have to shoot the damn ball. It isn’t about the perfect goal. It’s about the goal.

      Right now, nobody is playing like they’re hungry. Even Guardiola notes the lack of desire in the players.

      And in your ire, you miss the point about Eto’o. It isn’t that I want to see him in the colors, or even that I compared him to anyone. But there is a quality about his game, as laid out above. And it’s a quality that we need more of, in a psychological sense.

      There isn’t a shard of speculation about what Eto’o would have done in a given situation this season. I don’t play that game.

      Look at Arsenal and Chelsea over the weekend. That was us and Mallorca, who thankfully weren’t a better side. Arsenal kept the ball, made lots of pretty passes, had many good scoring chances and the majority of possession, and lost 2-0 to two very direct plays, a bull rush of a goal from Drogba, and a rocket of a free kick from Alex.

      And what does international service have to do with putting an excellent goal chance away? Fatigue means that you don’t get there to create the chance. We are getting there, and creating excellent chances. We’re just screwing up the finishing, which is where hunger and concentration shows. Sorry, but it is.

      Goal scoring chances just don’t come a dime a dozen. They are rare things, things that of late, we are squandering. Blown chances almost always come back to bite you in the tail. Where would we be right now had Krkic not blown that header in the Champions League semi-final last season?

      I’ve said time and again that this team is going to come good. But my piece analyzing what I think is one possible aspect of why it isn’t together yet is an intellectual supposition. Why not counter-argue with one of your own, rather than an assault? It isn’t about Eto’o. It’s about a quality that might or might not be missing.

      • blitzen
        October 5, 2010

        Assault? Who do you think I am? De Jong? 🙂

        I have some more points to make, but I won’t be able to properly respond until I get home from work. Basically I just disagree with your central premise that talent makes a person less likely to work “like crazy” all the time.

  7. messi_fan
    October 5, 2010

    I agree with SOME of what you said. There is definitely a lack of directness and there may be a lack of hunger (though this is harder to prove). But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the problem is having too much talent.

    Back to the directness thing though. When I first started watching Barca matches was in the days of Overmars. Back then goals seemed so simple – race down the flanks, low cross to the centre of the box, BOOM goal. Now sometimes it seems like we try to score in as complicated a manner as possible.

    That’s why I’m liking the way Iniesta and SMasch are starting to take shots from distance. Good things happen when you shoot. Even if the ball doesn’t score, someone may get the rebound

  8. Diego S.
    October 5, 2010

    Last season Messi scored 34 goals in La Liga and 8 in the Champions League – more than a third of Barca’s goals in those two competitions. The season before Messi netted 32 times in the two competitions – less than a fourth of Barca’s goals.

  9. Dave
    October 5, 2010

    One answer Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney type is required not some prancing pony.In defence of Ibra though we bought a striker to solve our plan b but then continued to play the same way ie ball on the ground and slow build. Theres sometime more fundamental than buying Llorente etc. If we buy a striker will WE Adjust to his strengths?

    I think if Pep signs a big man he’ll continue to play balls like he has Bojan out there.

  10. El Diez
    October 5, 2010

    Offtopic – Can some one post the link for Revista De La Liga pls?

  11. vicsoc8
    October 5, 2010

    Interesting post, but I wouldn’t have taken the same direction. I disagree with two of your main points:

    “Talent sometimes makes you lazy.”

    There are some people who are lazy, and some who aren’t. There are some people with talent and some without. Some talented people are lazy, some aren’t. Some untalented people are lazy, some aren’t. The point I’m trying to make is that being lazy or not, and being talented or not are two separate characteristics.

    Imagine a very hardworking person who is dedicated to their pursuits but isn’t very talented. If they were suddenly blessed with talent, they wouldn’t also suddenly become lazy. The characteristics could be connected as you develop them, but having talent doesn’t make you more likely to be lazy.

    “Talent can also make you complacent”

    This may be semantics, but I would say that it is success that can make you complacent, not talent. The difference between the players in 08-09 and now isn’t talent, but rather the recent success they have achieved.

    The reason I say this is I got the impression you were saying that the very high level of talent the squad has is the problem. You talked about the drive of Eto’o, and that’s what we are missing right now, drive. This is another problem with having a short squad – they players on the bench can act as a driving force on they team as they fight to earn more minutes.

    People speak about players being tired physically, but our players are also tired mentally. They’ve been playing very high level football for two years, and winning almost everything in sight. This is mentally wearing, and I think right now we are seeing that. Whether it is Xavi taking a couple extra seconds to make up his mind, or a forward is just not as concentrated when they take their shot, or Pique jumping a bit early and missing his header.

    Somehow we need to get that drive back.

    • El Diez
      October 5, 2010

      Well said we have lost some good players this season. We havent found proper replacements. With this factor and the hectic WC schedule ect will affect our performance.
      Now it is upto how we tackle these. We have a small squad & have put faith in cantera. So let see what we do in coming matches. As of now ours is not that critical situation. But need to improve. This what is expected from great teams.

  12. vicsoc8
    October 5, 2010

    This post also made me realize something. Unrelated to how I view our transfer dealings, I miss Eto’o. The man has an unquenchable thirst, he always wants to win. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have sold him, but damn do I miss him.

  13. BA
    October 5, 2010

    maybe this lack of goals is due to the fact that we don’t have a central striker, or even a real professional 3rd attacker (Pedro and Bojan don’t count).

    a shocking theory, i know.

  14. Culer_Than_Thou
    October 5, 2010

    A highly thought provoking perspective once again Kxevin. Thanks for that. Indeed ‘Hunger’ is one of the intangible factors that go into making a good team / player great.

    And Pep seems to be mindful of this right from his first days when he jettisoned Ronaldinho, Deco and other divas from the dressing room since they no longer looked hungry. “Corred cabrones, corred”, the Viva la vida video at Rome, Pep’s animated gesticulations at the sidelines – are all tools to fuel the desire in the team. They’re not footballing techniques picked from the manual. Tbh, i perceived maintaining that hunger as an insurmountable challenge as soon as Guardiola won us the 3 (and later all 6) trophies in his maiden season. Somehow, Pep managed to keep the fire burning for a second year and the team played with ample desire again. This is why he’s giving such high priority to the hunger bit and with the amount of faith that i have in him, I won’t be surprised if he can find ways and means to sustain it further.

    The challenge this year, more than last year is – apart from tired players from the WC and satiated desires – is how teams come to play us with the objective of earning ONE solitary point. The novelty shock of our tiki-taka has subsided. Teams know what shape they need to keep to minimize their chances of conceding. Hardly any team plays us to win. The reaction of Mallorca and Kazan players celebrating the draw is the most recent example.

    The interplay of these factors makes it very challenging for Pep to win the league. Particularly with a wafer thin squad. La liga is the real Everest. UEFA CL is much more comfortable since there you have to score to go through without being dependent on the lottery of PKs.

    In the past Pep has, unfailingly, found solutions to his problems. Here’s hoping he does it yet again.


  15. October 5, 2010

    I think we were simply too adapted to the striker we had that we were not capable of customising the system when we changed him. It is a completely false assumption that Eto’o was good against parked buses or he made the difference then. In fact that was our huge problem during Eto’o’s era -I still have the matches recorded. When Henry played as a nine he always showed quality and even scored hattricks against buses and it was a striker like Larsson who won us the first champion’s league, while eto’o was barely playing as a nine against Manchester (the game plan was that Messi play as a false nine and Henry get into the box while Eto’o pull defense out of position then attack spaces. (That was after Iniesta led us to the final after two disappointing performances against inter home and away where Eto’o struggled at home because of missing Henry -he was injured- who’s support inro the box was one of the reasons Eto’o had lot of scoring chances same as having Roni before. In the second leg he wasnt better. So -in brief- eto’o is a great striker, but evaluating him against parked buses is not exactly the best way to praise him.

    I think the “problem” last season was the time the striker needed to adapt and the pressure he had to deal with -taking the position of Eto’o+price tag. Added to missing Henry who’s performance declined. Iniesta was not better as well. Ibra suffered last season -aside of his own flaws- the same problems Eto’o suffered when Roni and Deco stopped playing.

    This season, we bought a player who basically has nothing to offer as a striker that Eto’o wasnt able to offer -if not better. Eto’o is a better 9 than Villa. Villa is better on the flanks, but thats not where he is used. The first successfull cycle had Roni -who was alone able to get points and goals- and Eto’o one of the best strikers the club ever had. That was the base of the offense. In the second successfull cycle there was Eto’o and Henry causing threat inside the box with Messi slicing to the box like a shark (at least we had Eto’o who was deciplined to attack the box added to Messi with Keita moving forward to create holes- when Henry was benched). Last season our whole offense was playing in the midfield with Ibra, Messi, and pedro moving deep. This season we only have Keita and Messi dribbles to cause threat in the box without any forwards to create holes. It will come with time but so far it is not happening.

    All what we need are tactical modifications. We failed in that matter last season, and our main forward didnt help as thecoach was more busy monitoring his form than customizing him and the team to fit each other. This season, it is still too early to tell. With some tactical customizations things can work (putting depth issue aside). Without it, Villa’s weaknesses will be exposed and will not have a larsson nor a Henry to cover it. That will be unfair for him. For the reccord.

  16. TriFan
    October 5, 2010

    You got me thinking, about a list of top 5 strikers. This is just for shiz and giggles (i said SHIZ).

    C. Ronaldo

    top 10

    Torres (when not injured)
    Luis Fabiano

    I dont see Rooney as a striker per se. Plus he’s been doing horrible last few months…but then again so has Torres… hmm.

      • Dave
        October 5, 2010

        well if you don’t see Rooney as a striker how can you see Cristiano?

        • Dave
          October 5, 2010

          And cut Robbie Keane sum slack, on his day hes a terrific player

  17. Bill
    October 5, 2010

    Kxevin finally sees where some of us are coming from! Someone! Please break out the champagne! haha.

    This is what some of us have been saying for a while. It’s no coincidence that Casillas said he was glad to see the back of that particular striker. He had a directness that was harder to game plan for, and was always dangerous when he was ‘on song'(which he wasn’t all the time).

    The one telling quote from Eto’o that made me finally understand his essence, was after one particularly frustrating game, similar to the Mallorca game, he said “I wasn’t intelligent out there today, I made it complicated when I should have kept it simple”. That just blew my mind right there. It was a rare window to the workings of his mind. No stepovers, no flicks, no fancy dribbling or unnecessary backheels. Soo many times he would get the ball, look up to see where more talented ball handlers were, give them the ball, then run to a striking position. THATS THE KIND OF STRIKER WE NEED!

    I like Villa alot. I think he will come good and bang in lot’s of goals for Barcelona. But he has a tendency to drift leftwards, crowding out P!’s favored position and leave the middle and right side to messi and messi alone. Hope this can be fixed.

    As for Ramzi, there is soo much misinformation about Eto’o on your piece I don’t even know where to start. As far as parked buses (chelsea) you talked about. Last year against Inter should have taught you something. Eto’o was not the problem, and therefore Ibra wasn’t the solution. The problem was too many passes from side to side, no crosses in on a frequent basis, no fast counters before the other teams defenders knuckle down, no outside shots, and no one was breaking down the bus by running towards the baseline, collapsing the retreating defense and creating confusion in the middle. It was not Eto’o’s fault. Besides, he was the only guy I remember who almost broke down Chelsea’s defence in an incredible manner:
    Did you see how he ghosted from the baseline to kill Arsenal? There isn’t a good team in Europe that guy didn’t destroy one way or another, including barcelona.

    Anyway, this piece isn’t about defending Eto’o, nor is it about comparing him to anyone else. Rather, it’s about our strikers needing to move well off the ball, get into striking positions and just take them without trying to complicate things. Keeping it simple.

  18. October 5, 2010

    And for the record, I dont think there is laziness or serious lack of motivation in the team (at least it is too early to say so). Maybe some confusion from the players on the field and the coach on the bench. As I mentioned above, it takes time to change the method of play when you change key players (same as players need time to comprihant their role in a new team). Hopefully Villa will get enough time with the team and the team with him. Though adding a striker who can add some other dimentions to the offense is still a must IMO.

  19. Philo Barca
    October 5, 2010

    I see comments like

    All what we need are tactical modifications


    The problem was too many passes from side to side, no crosses in on a frequent basis, no fast counters before the other teams defenders knuckle down, no outside shots, and no one was breaking down the bus by running towards the baseline, collapsing the retreating defense and creating confusion in the middle.

    that I agree with. So I’ll ask: are we ever likely to see Guardiola change our tactical approach?

    You’ll notice in his comments that he thinks that the only thing we need to change is our finishing, nothing about our tactics or style of play.

  20. Dave
    October 5, 2010

    When we got rid of Eto and I knew we’d miss his determination more so than his goals. People said things like’he is a dressing room poison’ that hes confrontational. Perhaps but he was a winner. Its this competitive streak/bitterness that he possessed on the field that made him a champion, hunting down lost balls and defenders like a mad man and yet inevitably and ironically was the cause of his problems off it.

  21. Tyler
    October 5, 2010

    hmmmm great read Kxevin, you make a ton of great points and I think you are right for the most part. But I don’t think our problem is that we have TOO much talent. I also don’t think it is because we lack hunger. Three years into the Guardiola era and teams know what we are going to do, and we are doing it beautifully these days. But once again, if you know how a team is going to play just stop them at their game.

    So, I think our problem is really simple. Right now, for all intents and purposes, the problem is we have one striker – Messi. Villa is a little out of shape – justifiably so – and has not fully adapted to our system. Pedro seems to be in a slump and is not looking threatening on the pitch in terms of finishing. And Bojan, well… I won’t even go there. So we have a mutant 4-3-3 with really only one person who can score right now. We don’t have an Ibra to draw defenders away from Messi. We don’t have an Eto’o or even an Henry to mess up a back line with diagonal runs that often break double teams. Now, also note we have done well every time this season when Villa AND Messi have been in the lineup. This is because Messi has been able to get some space due to Villa, and Villa has been able to shore up some loose ends and grab a couple of goals. But take one of those strikers out of the equation and we are paltry up front.

    Look in comparison to EE. While they are not as good of a team, they do have a constant threat of people who can actually score – Higuain, Ronaldo, Di Maria, Ozeil, Benzema just to name a few. Now these guys don’t always score, but they are proven THREATS that a defender can’t deviate their attention from for a single moment or they will pay. Say what you can about Pedro and Bojan, great players with loads of talent, but they’re not going to command that attention or respect from defenders. And guess where it’s gonna go to? Put two guys at all times on Messi and hope Villa is still offsides/out of form. Bam. Who is going to score then? Now occasionally we can get by with this. Look at our 3-1 Bilbao win. But, all it takes is a very focused defense (Rubin Kazan, Hercules, Mallorca) and you can shut us down FAST. And Xavi and Iniesta for being the best midfielders in the world (and make no bones about it, they are THE BEST) are not consistent goal scorers. So who is supposed to score when our strikers are shut out? In essence we are sending perfect products down an assembly line until it gets to the final person and if he is on break or is having a bad day at the office, well the product is getting shipped back to the beginning of the assembly line because of bad finishing.

    Would less talent make us better? Nay, more talented FINISHING STRIKERS would make us better. Messi, although close to a deity, is still a human. And if defenders shut him down with a triple-team, and Villa is slumping – who will save our collective asses?

    *sorry for writing a book, graduate school is infecting my brain.

    • October 5, 2010

      Good book. Regardless if it will become a best seller or not.

      • Tyler
        October 5, 2010

        haha, do I get royalties it is a best seller.

        also, one more thing I realized, Xavi has been playing hurt/exhausted and we have had abidal and puyol out for several matches. this is a big factor and also makes me feel that the question of “hunger” is not applicable right now.

  22. BA
    October 5, 2010

    given our obvious lack of options up front, how much does that influence a real possibility of us putting in a serious bid for Fernando Torres over the winter window?

    • Nik
      October 5, 2010

      Eh, at this point, we have no indication that he’ll ever get back to his pre-injury levels. Why risk a lot of money on such a gamble?

  23. Dave
    October 5, 2010

    Fernando Torres is a magnificent player however many suitors I feel will take a step back when considering his recent run of injuries. Secondly as a price, it will be impossible in the summer never mind the inflation that characterizes January signings

    • Tyler
      October 5, 2010

      Torres is great, but I prefer a very simple “ball-in-front-of-foot-shoo” kind of player. Like Dani Guiza in his hey-day. Can we call that a hey day, he was pichichi. I think Llorente would be great – hard worker, tall, mobile, seems to have very little ego. His goal scoring rate is low but if we could have a tall strong poacher that commanded some defensive attention it would be great. We used to have one of those, I think he was swiss, or swedish….. ah it doesn’t matter he’s gone now.

      • Dave
        October 5, 2010

        Thats the problem, the transfer window is not Dr Frankenstein’s lab, where you can assemble a perfect striker. He does not exist at this moment. IMO forget flicks tricks, simply can 1 he head 2 is he pacey physical and hunt defenders. 3 must be cheap.

        So, no problems.

  24. Jnice
    October 5, 2010

    Revista De La Liga 10-05-10






  25. Kxevin
    October 5, 2010

    Torres is a mess right now. And he’s injured again? I think that, also, he’s to my eyes a giant Villa. I really don’t think that the club needs anything except a killer instinct. And you can’t buy that with a player.

    October 5, 2010

    why we don.t play villa as a central striker?why bojan play in the wings?they are central forwards not wingers.do you except goals from villa playing on wings?he is a 9 not messi.messi must play right,villa 9,pedro or iniesta or jeffren left.that.s the solution.and why to play keita so much?tiago must play more than him.

    October 5, 2010

    villa is the perfect striker for us.more than eto.but he must play in the box.what.s the point to have him in the left?messi as a 9 is a bad idea.we must buy a real left winger some day.a player like anri but young.we depend too much to messi for goals.that.s the truth.maybe luis suarez or someone else.

  28. Spiro
    October 5, 2010

    so far everyone on this blog page have pointed out a million problems, some almost conflicting with others.

    I think it is easy to point certain problems with our team and relate it to our performances and results, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that particular problem has any affect on our success.

    What Kxevin pointed out is that our game is BETTER than ever. the way we play has been dominant. How can we relate to that with something like mental fatigue or lack of squad depth?

    What really hurt me in our last game was the fact that we saw us play good enough to win by 8-0 but we didn’t.

    I think right now we definitely do have a problem that needs to be solved. But we do not know exactly what is causing such a problem.

    I think Kxevin has been closest to the actually cause of our problem. Yes the team has been LAZY. It could be down to just the mindset during the game.

  29. Nik
    October 5, 2010

    Via Pep’s Twitter:

    “Barcelona is willing to offer 40M for Argentine Palermo attacker Javier Pastore (21). [gazzetta]”

    Can’t say I’ve seen much of the kid’s game. However, it’s a little weird that we’re willing to spend so much on a midfielder when our most pressing need (IMO) is in the forward line. I figured a midfield of Iniesta, Xavi, Busi, SMasch, Keita (with Thiago & JDS called up when needed) is not too bad, but what do I know.

    What do you guys think?

    • jose89
      October 5, 2010

      40M? i don’t think so. it isn’t the first time we’ve been linked with this guy, but i can’t see why we’d opt for him considering our depth in midfield (as you pointed out).

      i would like to see us get Llorente or Dzeko, if anybody.

    • October 6, 2010

      Pastore has thhe potentials to be the next big name in world football.He is Messi friend as well. If we will buy a midfielder/wing, he is the one to go for. But a forward mustbe the priority.

      I still dont think there are any problems conserning the players available.With some more luck and a bit of Pep magic we would have won all the points we lost already. Not that the squad is perfect, but too early for the panic bottom.

    • Nik
      October 6, 2010

      PR staff is denying the initial report now (again, via Pep’s twitter):

      Estiarte (pr officer): “We’re not interested in Pastore and won’t spend 40M for a position where we already have many players.” [tmw]

      Hopefully it’s true. For now, that money is probably best spent elsewhere.

    October 6, 2010

    maybe forlan..he said that if a good offer come he will go..yes he is 32..but for 2 season he will be a good squad player..offcourse for nothing more than 15m.

    October 6, 2010

    can pep live with pepe?haha!rumors are that pepe.s representatives are in talks with us..i know that many of us hate that guy..

  32. poipoi
    October 6, 2010

    I’m glad to hear me miss eto’o, one of if not the best 9 we ever had… in terms of efficiency and titles 😉 almost always he was there in the fight for the pichichi/golden boot. Right now we don’t score as much as last season or two seasons ago but I sure don’t miss ibra. Last season he was lucky messi scored 40 something and we won la liga with his goals. Xavi and Iniesta have never scored more than 5 per season IMO… we should fix that to be even better but that was always the same with eto’o and ibra. I think that the problem at this time is bojan 😀 I don’t villa will fall that short in the comparison with eto’o. If the new striker running at the keeper with the ball at his feet is far outside the box I’d say eto’o but I’d choose villa for the short distance. To me Ibra was a bad choice, I don’t feel like villa will be considered as one someday. He runs a lot to the space has skill but not the need to show it every-single-time like ibra, is still hungry and is always over 20 per season, he’ll score a lot one he gets into it. Ibra “futboliscamente” ( footballistically?) deserved another year and who knows maybe he would have been the bomb… but he did something in the dressing room (((insert twilight zone music))) … If villa is not-that-good like ibra was in his 1st year he will get another year in FCB, WITH another good 9 to compete with. At least he knows messi is better than him, eto’o also did but ibra… I don’t really know.

    anyway as you said… “Talent can also make you complacent. Playing as beautifully as we are, you think that another chance will always come, and this one will go in. Then suddenly you’re hearing the double whistle, and the other team is celebrating. And there are no more chances.” — That’s so true, we have always played like that, like the goal will come by itself. It doesn’t matter if the score is 0-0 or we win by one we just think we deserve the win morally since we play so nice keep 80% possession don’t kick knees or loose time and the footy gods will bring justice. like with mallorca, then they get a corner kick and score, making you look as dumb as a side with that kind talent can be. And then we start playing nervous in the end of the game. I just hate to be the moron that always goes “guys, it’s only 1-o, watch out… and score a second just now. GUYS!! ”

    Sometimes a cule likes it when we get scored in the 1st minutes, so they start to run and attack a bit more agressively. I really do, and think “now we’re gonna see some barça” 😀

  33. Helge
    October 6, 2010

    Superb article, Kxevin!

    I agree that there’s a general tendency of talented persons – in every part of life, not only football or sports – to sometimes let yourself go. As you’ve noted, not every talent is lazy but the more talent you possess, the bigger is the temptation to think “I’m soooo good, I don’t always have to give 100%”. And indeed, this is often the truth.
    But often is not always, and I’ve experienced the consequences during school. I’m not a genius nor a very talented mathematician, but during the pre-last year on my secondary school I’ve found myself losing the motivation to learn for it because everything was rather easy up to that point (I’ve been learning a bit mathematics in the previous years and everything was fine, so why not try without any learning?). I’ve lost my hunger to learn, and paid for it with bad grades.
    Back to football, losing the hunger is a serious problem as soon as the situation you are facing is a more tricky one than expected. And I think that is what happened with our beloved Barcelona against Mallorca and Hercules. It’s against smaller teams where relying on your talent becomes the biggest temptation (so consider yourself warned, Valencia CF).

    Villa and Messi will never be a working machine like Eto’o, but I’m sure that they will work hard for the team to get back on track. Note that we are talking as if there was a sort of crisis, althogh we are just 3 points behind the leaders. Ask some red Scousers about crisis… but that’s a different topic.

    PS: In Bojan’s case, I would start worrying that my talent is fading away unless I start working harder! Because if you have much talent, but rarely show it, then a lazy attitude is a verdict of death… He is the one who sould adopt Eto’o’s(correct spelling?!?) attitude more than anyone else in our team.

  34. Matt
    October 6, 2010

    Bit of a silly article that brackets ‘talent’ in a completely non-sensical way.

    Talent is entirely subjective. What happened to talent being viewed and judged on a mental plane as well as a physical one? You can have all the footballing attributes in the world, but if you haven’t got a ‘talented’ footballing brain a la Eto you’re not talented.

    Football is a simple game, it’s not as tactical as F1 or American football, it’s easy. That said, the best players have the best footballing brains and that is a talent in itself. As a consequence, Eto is far more talented than Ibra. I know who i’d want in my time, a goal scoring machine that knows where to be and when to be there, vs a big game bottler.

    Your article makes no sense to me, none at all. It’s Guardiola’s philosophy that needs addressing we are predictable.

    • Kxevin
      October 6, 2010

      Well, if you shut your brain down and hew to your own worldview, then everything that doesn’t is silly, right?

      The piece was meant to induce thought. And judging by the comments above yours, it did precisely that. If it doesn’t make sense to you, well, again, that’s your particular worldview, isn’t it. Like talent and its attributes, or calling what can be one of the most tactically complicated games on the planet “easy.”

      Whatevah. Rock on.

    • October 6, 2010

      “Football is a simple game, it’s not as tactical as F1 or American football, it’s easy.”

      I’ve read lots of comments on the internet that was not easy to digest- From the common sense perspective. Well…this one reaches another level. If you just know how wrong you are.

  35. Barcathegreatestever
    October 6, 2010

    Thinking of Etoo brings me a lot of remorse, but also great memories. He was my Magic Johnson.

    The team has only eyes for Messi and Messi is playing for the Balloon d’ Or, an exaggeration for sure, but the difference for me. Eto’o and Henry commanded the ball and the movement was stratospheric.

  36. sic
    October 6, 2010

    Pretty pessimistic view of Villa’s “too much talent”. Anybody who has watched him over his career knows that he can and will score goals in any shape or fashion. The problem is that even he needs to transition into playing for Barcelona, like any player no matter how great. Give him time to settle and he will be finishing instead of hitting the post. The problem in the last match was the lack of Xavi and Villa. Bojan has not proven he can start for a team like Barcelona and sometimes I doubt that he ever will.

  37. Blow-Grenade
    October 6, 2010

    I miss Eto’o. I am happy with Villa so far.

  38. stowe
    October 6, 2010

    Wow! lot’s of negative comments to a very insightful article. Kevin, I understand that the article was to spark thought and it appears to have worked.
    I agree with a lot of what you say. When I look at sports that I play, ultimate and soccer, and my difference in talent in the two, I totally agree with your comments about talent. I’m good at Ultimate Frisbee and when I play with less talented players I don’t work as hard and try riskier plays knowing that I can get away with them or make-up for errors later.
    When I play soccer I know that I’m probably the least talented player on the field. But, I know I’m faster and stronger than most players and I know where to be. Because I play as striker I don’t try fancy moves or try to dribble past people because I know I can’t do it, I’ll lose the ball. Instead, I take the chances I’m given, the simple shot if it’s there or the easy pass if there is no shot. I know that I must work harder than the other, talented players. If I don’t then I know they will just resent me for being on the field.

    The Team is playing great and creating more chances than ever. Obviously we don’t need to change tactics or we wouldn’t be getting good chances. Strikers need to improve their finishing. There hasn’t been a problem with breaking the bus, like Kevin, said we just need to put the ball in the net after getting past the bus. Do I miss Eto’o? Yes. But I think Villa is more than capable. I would love to see us get another striker to challenge Pedro and Bojan (they are not starters yet in my opinion). We need someone who is a consistent threat either from the wing or as a 9.

  39. Nabeel
    October 7, 2010


    Watch this – for me, this was the point where I truly believed that we would win the title after two years of disappointment. See how Eto’o messes up, again and again, but eventually saves the day because he was just so bullheaded. His attitude was sometimes good (like here) and sometimes bad (like the end of the season where he monopolized the team’s attack just to win Pichichi,and failed),but I think Kxevin is simply pointing out that the current Barca team needs a little injection of that spirit – that direct style.

    Eto’o was my favorite pure striker in the world for years (Ronaldinho was always an attacking midfielder/support striker in my eyes) and his quality is undeniable. But he often had feet of stone – a meme from the Offside days – and equally, he could sometimes pull out the most amazing control (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rHqShnxCCA#t=1m55s for an example – watch the whole compilation for a pleasant four minutes of footballing nostalgic joy).

    Someone made a comment above that Bojan needs to be more like Eto’o – and that rings so, so true. Sure Bojan may have a crazy amount of talent, but he also lets pressure get to his head in a way that Eto’o rarely did – I hope, for everyone’s sake, that Mr. Krkic just forgets about the externalities and believes in himself to score so that his shots don’t go into the gloves, but into the back of the net. Right now you can see that he’s hesitant, playing within himself, trying hard but always just a LITTLE bit fearful. That’s why he comes ever so close – where lesser players would just miss, he hits the post.

    Fearlessness is a good thing to have in a striker.

  40. Nabeel
    October 7, 2010

    By the way,that Betis vs Barca highlight video also reminds us of the tremendous width that Henry brought, of the immense value of Valdes,who literally saved the game,and of the value of not thinking too much when given an opportunity to shoot. Plus we see an early Piquenbauer. I really like Kxevin’s thoughts because he points out that our strikers, especially Bojan and Pedro, are just guilty of thinking a little too much. One of the reasons Pedro was effective last year was that he just took his shots, and often they’d come off. Not happening a lot so far.

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