Barca 2, Valencia 1, aka “What have we learned today?”


Every day in a person’s life, it is said that they should learn something. Nothing teaches you about yourself like adversity, those times when you’re staring at something that you don’t want to admit or deal with, consequences that are, frankly, going to suck the big one. And what you do at those times can define who and what you are.

And you learn something. So what have we learned today, after watching our beloved club play only a half of football and win a tense, close-fought match?

–We learned that Puyol will be impossible to replace. Look at that rocket of a header of his off a flawless Xavi cross. And remember the ball after ball that he headed out of danger. Now recall what might have happened had we had him for that awful 1-1 most recent draw. He brings something to this club that will never be replaced.

–We learned what it would be like if we didn’t play our possession game, and what trouble our defense would be in. Guardiola is right in that without the ball, we’re kinda crap. You can get at Pique and Puyol, and Alves generally finds himself on the wrong side of attackers.

–We learned that we can play without Messi. Yes, he was in the lineup. So?

–We learned that Villa, like Krkic, has some stuff going on that needs to get resolved, and I don’t mean tomorrow.

–We learned that Valencia is for real. Those guys aren’t going anywhere. Their coach came up with a game plan that had us in danger for a while: attack the wings and clog the midfield passing lanes to minimize the Xavi effect. It’s worth noting that for the go-ahead goal, Messi was the playmaker and Xavi on a wing.

–We learned that people who doubted Mascherano and what he can bring to this side should doubt no longer.

This match was huge. It would tell Valencia where it was, and it would test us so that we could see where we were. Both sides were looking to find things out about themselves, and Guardiola rolled out with a lineup that included a surprise: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell*, Busquets, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and Villa. The inclusion of Maxwell surprised me because of Valencia’s pace and fluency on the wings. Presumably Maxwell was in for his offense, but the way Valencia was bombing up and down the flanks, it was his defense that was tested far more than his offense.

Another surprise was the freedom of Keita, who has become the Xavi doppelganger, a combo platter of ball winner and playmaker, a pressure-relieving pit bull who today, was also Man of the Match. Busquets slid back to the spot right in front of the defense, but in reality he was all over the field as usual, wreaking havoc and winning balls.

But Valencia sent a message that they were serious very early on, when a pass caught the defense pushed up and done for pace. Valdes kinda flapped at it, and Maxwell saved the day, before trouble arrived. That Valencia scored first didn’t surprise me all, because they looked a lot more ready to play this match than we did. Whether it’s the FIFA virus or what the hell ever, who knows. But they were quick and intense, ready to show everyone that they are legitimate contenders for the Liga title.

Of course, we helped their cause by having absolutely no wing play, which made it very easy for them to clog the middle and gum up our passing works, a lack of possession and control that springboarded attack after attack. And the goal for them finally came, it was kinda painful to have it all happen because of an awful pass by Xavi. Dude dished a stinker, then tried to tackle it away from the attacker, who was off to the races, full-tilt boogie at a defense not renowned for its pace. As usual, the ensuing fire drill didn’t put out all the flames, as everybody chased the ball, but nobody marked the leaker coming up from midfield. Keita saw the danger, and got there a fraction too late. The finish flew past a helpless Valdes, and it was 0-1. Even worse, we weren’t looking good as a unit, though individual players evinced our typical brilliance.

That we got into the half being down by only one goal was, more than anything else, a testament to the ability of our defense to scramble, and the immense quality of Busquets and Keita, who destroyed attack after attack, particularly Keita. And I don’t presume to know anything about what was said at halftime. Guardiola said that he just reminded the players that we need to keep the ball. And often, all it takes is a mirror to give a real professional a pep talk.

Because we came out and got elbow-deep in some Valencia ass, and the match was under control in a way that it never was in the first half. Valencia were chasing ghosts, the jailbreak counters weren’t happening and very quickly, we scored a beauty of a goal that began with Keita and Busquets combining to win a ball that sent us off to the races. Iniesta linked with Xavi for a millimeter-perfect 1-2 that yielded a score of such ease that even the force field had to yield. We had the keeper dead to rights.

Most importantly, we scored in the first 5 minutes of the half, which meant that Valencia couldn’t buckle down and protect the lead, and they had too much pride to play for a draw. And Villa, in a bit of charity, was conspiring to keep them in the match by either being offside or missing golden chances. He was lining up offside, or not bothering to get back onside, something that our previous “9” was incessantly lambasted and called lazy for. Should we say the same thing? Dunno, but our midfield turns the ball so quickly that it is essential that our attackers always keep themselves on. Yes, it means sprinting back after a play ends, because you never know.

And then it was Xavi and Puyol who combined to put us ahead for good. Messi destabilized Valencia’s midfield with a run, a lovely tactic that essentially removed their ability to play the passing lanes by making a player who can dribble his fool head off the playmaker. No passes, no passing lanes. Messi fed Xavi who was lurking on the wing, who dropped a ball right in the one spot that it needed to be to meet Puyol’s head rather than the keeper’s hands, or the head of a Valencia defender. Puyol’s rocket blast of a header had pace, power and precision. It also had perfect timing to beat a keeper who was having one hell of a match.

It was 2-1 and that was that, as Valencia just didn’t look like scoring, once we clamped down on things, and we sailed home for the win. It’s hard to overestimate the value of this win for the side. It was huge, in part because we haven’t exactly been setting the world afire at the Camp Nou. But also because we have to win to keep pace with That Other Spanish Team, so that when we beat them we will be top of the table. Valencia was a tough, daunting opponent that came at the worst time, after an International break. That we dispatched them by only playing a half of football and essentially without Messi, speaks volumes for this club.

And this match was very real for us. Usually when we beat someone, it’s almost as though we can’t be bothered. But Alves, going at a Valencia player after the match and some more in the tunnel, makes it very clear how much this match meant to us.

Team: 5. About the right score for playing only a half of football. Yes, the half was majestic, but sleepwalking through the first half kept the overall score down.

Guardiola: 8. Right lineup, perfect substitutions. But why weren’t they ready to play this huge, huge match? Aren’t great philosophers also motivators?

Valdes: 6. He really didn’t have a whole lot to do today, once he finished picking the ball out of the back of his net. His distribution needs a lot of work. I haven’t seen more balls puntet out of bounds since a coffin corner NFL punt specialist.

Alves: 7. Excellent passes, crosses and a few key interventions.

Pique: 6. Fine match, but didn’t really have a ton to do as Valencia were choosing to do the dirty work on the wings. Had a few brain cramps, and he still has to learn how to deal with fire drills.

Puyol: 9. Speaking of marshaling a defense during a fire drill, he should have known that someone was leaking from midfield for the tap in. Other than that, he was astounding, including the headed goal and getting his noggin to any serious ball that flew into our box.

Maxwell: 5. Width is the key to making our midfield and attack work. We didn’t have much on the left, and he still gives away corners needlessly.

Busquets: 8. Brilliant at reading a match, and figuring out where the ball is going to be, rather than where it is. And he seems very suited for the creative destroyer role that he plays with increasing regularity these days.

Keita: 10. A stunner of a match. He won all after ball, helped retain possession, tracked back on defense and stormed their box. He’s one of those stat-stuffer dudes, but know that he was absolutely amazing tonight.

Xavi: 5. Not as influential as he usually is, but when he stepped into the limelight, great things happen, including goal-scoring chances by the bundle.

Iniesta: 8. A few of his patented Dribbles to Nowhere dragged his rating down a tad, but he was glorious, showing off a lower-risk game, as well. Nice goal, as well, not as much the tap-in as what it took to get where you are today.

Messi: 3. I kept thinking that something was going to be the spark that set him off, but nothing was. Aside from a few moments, including a couple of blown scoring chances that an alert, focussed Messi puts away, he just wasn’t there today. Recall how rare his first-half touches were.

Villa: 3. He was there, and did a number of very good things, then he’d mess it all up by blowing some glorious scoring opportunity, or not passing when he should have. And I’m still not sure how he missed scoring when he was put in on goal, with just the keeper to beat. But he did. He’s doing so much right, though he still is only half-assed playing defense and battling for possession in the midfield. But for a striker, the ability to be there is huge. He just isn’t finishing, and how.


Mascherano (for Xavi): 8. Would somebody tell me again that he isn’t Barca quality? Between distributing, possession and being kinda Xaviesque, he was also a one-man “Closed” sign for the midfield. It’s worth watching him and only him for a bit. Man, what a player.

Pedro! (for Villa): 5. With more time, probably would have played to a higher rating but again, his energy, pace and unpredictability made him the perfect substitution for that time of the match.

Abidal (for Keita): 5. A few nice moments but we were in command and control time, by the moment that he entered.

Next up is group leaders Copenhagen on Wednesday, for Champions League football. I expect that we will take care of business, and assume a leadership of the group that we are not going to relinquish. Meanwhile ….

"Huh? What?"

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.


  1. I got the score right! I got the score right! I got the–

    Yeah. I got it right

    The goals with Sid Lowe (!) commentary:

    Iniesta 1-1 (notice how he rubs his belly πŸ˜€ ) *

    Puyol 2-1 (really loved how excited Sid was when he scored πŸ˜€ ) *

    1. Sid Lowe commentary! it’s nearly worth getting GolTV just for that! or is it an audio stream paired to a separate video stream?

    2. Sorry for the late reply; it’s GolTV Canada, which is different (read: worse) than the original. The only redeeming quality of it is that they sometimes show games that the other US version doesn’t; that’s when they get the “foreign” commentators like Sid (but it’s not always him, it depends on what video stream they jack).

  2. Another hard fought victory! It was another loss for futbol though. Once again, we play a team content to use every lowball trick possible to beat us (see: Cesar feigning injury, Cesar time-wasting [repeatedly; emphasis on occasion with “clearing” extra ball], reckless fouls [see ankle step on Messi, second foul on P!]). Not to mention, the ref was an absolute incompetent. After watching college football the rest of the day, I don’t know how American sports fans can legitimately complain about bad officiating other than a rare play. What happened today was a shame, like mostly every weekend these days…

  3. Iniesta was like, “yeah, another baby-boom in 9 months”.

    Messi’s rating the same as Villa? A constant threat throughout the match?
    Smash was really good today. I thought he was a hybrid of Xavi-Iniesta-Busquets last night. When he was dribbling, for one second I thought, when did Busquets shrink?

    Nobody(yeah you ref) seemed to notice the foul on Pedro after the play-acting of SMash.
    And what was up with Vicente? Why was he so pissed at Alves? Was it for the “ball to nuts” incident?

  4. Alves’ tendency to cross instead of shoot when presented with one on one opportunities with the keeper is killing me… That is the only thing that this team is missing IMO, the direct aggressiveness. Believe it or not sometimes too much of a good thing (Creativity and talent in our case) is a bad thing. Nonetheless a brave second half performance…

  5. I hope we show that kind of spirit every match. Villa should start bagging goals or we will suffer because not every match will we create many chances to score.

  6. too harsh with xavi’s ratings…. he was injured… n on top of dat he set up both the goals…. anything below 7 would b a shame!

  7. Few points from this match:

    1. We can create chances against any Bus Parking team using one-two movement from the midfield. Recall back how Keita broke the defense against Bilbao. Its similar movement. I think the team should practice more on that since many teams like the same bus fucking tactics against us recently.

    2. We need a striker who can really play as real no. 9. Yesterday’s match shown we were mobile from the flanks but stop at the center.

    3. Masch was awesome but i’m bit worried because every time he starts, we dropped points. hahahha….

    1. Disagree on the 1st & 3rd point.
      Valencia wasn’t parking their bus and we won’t lose points if Smasch starts. He brings more security to our team, defend a lead kinda guy.

  8. Btw, Villa’s offsides are due to him trying to beat the offside trap. He is that kind of striker. And his offside calls are close, last night, twice, the linesman got it wrong. While last year’s #9(you brought him up) was yards offside.
    There is a difference there.
    Why didn’t you give comment on how well Villa is connecting with Alves, Iniesta & Xavi?

  9. -we also learned that Keita is our best buy in the last 4-5 years,was the only player playing well in the first half and a good second one,Pique comes close but have the potential to become the best buy ever
    -Great to see Iniesta scoring again,People always criticised him for not scoring without realising that we dont put him in good positions to score,the finishing of the first goal was extraordinary for a midfielder,I think that if we keep playing him in attack,we will score 10-15 goals this season,Man of the match today after Keita
    -Villa continued his poor form,dont know whats going with him,I dont care about his offsides bec his game depends on beating the trap,he did it twice but whats going on with his damn finishing,He did everything but to score which is a major problem for a striker depending mainly on scoring like Villa,I know its too early but if he continues this form then he will be a big flop here,he is confused,lacking confidence and feeling the pressure,when he didnt pass the ball to Bojan everyone said he is selfish,ehwn he passes it he turned to be an idiot,now everyone knows that Noone can match Zlatan’s first season at Barca,I expected more from Zlatan but now I know that its impossible for any striker in the world to match his first season(doubt that Villa will match half of his 30 goals contribution)
    -Messi had a night to forget,Lazy first half even didnt care to press and defend,overall very selfish and a…..blatant Dive
    -Alves and Puyol had great matches,I think Daniel deserves a bit higher than 7

  10. puyol!!! you are 100% correct = irreplaceable!

    and masch, once again i was left very impressed despite the limited playing time.

    vv running across half the pitch to protest = boss!

  11. I was in the stadium again, last night with my girlfriend and this was one of the finest games we’ve seen live in Camp Nou… awful in the 1st (valecnia kicked ass) glorious in the 2nd what a thrill. I’m the biggest ghostface fan she’s crazy about puyi so it was all perfect.

    10 for keita, compared to his standards. He was great tactically and was stealing balls all over the place but what can he do with the ball in his feet? He didn’t do much. Only when andres came back in the 2nd half we started to roll… again. Mache 10!!!! Grande Masche!!!

    Valencia were great, not even ManU has done what Valencia has done in Camp Nou, big respect.

  12. I actually thought Alves was our man of the match today. When we were lethargic and just struggling to get going, his energy and positivity really ran through the side. He played really well today.

    Tale of two halves really. I wonder if Villa might benefit from being on the bench for 60 minutes, just to take the load off him a little bit. Maybe if he comes in when we’re a goal or two up and the other team is tired, that might get him going. Right now, he’s just off. I don’t mind the missed chances because that’s usually just a phase, but the constantly being offside thing is starting to get old.

  13. Agree with all your notes apart from Xavi (okay maybe I am not objective in that) but he was preparing the two goals and putting on line everything for thΓ­s club (again) by playing in not the best physical conditions to help the team

  14. After the hard fought wins yesterday and away in San Mames and the Calderon the lost “easy” points at home are hurting so much. I mean were are just behind the EE but we could be away and sailing and that irks me off, But on the other hand the EE did not have to face real tough opponents yet so we will see how that plays out.

  15. Keita usually always gets a high score when he is invisible, and last night he was everywhere and everyone noticed his presence. Big credit to him.

    Along with Keita, Puyol was also a big target for Valencia, when those two had the ball Valencia would close them down like mad. But these two players did a good job under pressure last night.

    Xavi lost a few rating points because he usually deals with pressure easily and today he lost the ball here and there and one of those moments cost us a goal.

    Alves started off slowly but he was very persistent throughout the match, it was vintage Alves. Has anyone notice Iniesta’s super stamina? he was like alves 2.0

    I thought Villa played decently last night, in the first half he was present all the time, unlike the guy on the right side. I don’t think there is something wrong with Villa, offsides are a normal thing, and well wasn’t he (or Maxwell) completely offside when Iniesta scored? which infact made Valencia’s defence hesitate and let Iniesta break away.

    People need to remember that the team hasn’t played together for more than two weeks and we havent gone even a month without disruptions. We all expect the team to be playing flawless champions league winning football by now. but that is stupid. We have to build our momentum first. Patience!! PATIENCE! lol

  16. Valdes made a stunning point blank save from Pablo Hernandez in the first half that kept us alive and in the game. I don’t know how we would have reacted with 2-0 down. That save was HUGE and alone worth an 8 at least.

    And with regards to Messi, well you say yourself how brilliantly he played tactically, dropped deeper in midfield and took over the Xavi role and all that. So even on a bad day, he is smart enough and has learned enough to be a real factor. It wasn’t his best day, but he shows why he is the best. Even on a bad day, he puts himself in for the team and tries to help.

    Villa…damn….not that worried yet but he needs to get over whatever problem he got.

    1. oh yeah, and full agreed on Masche. You point out how bad we’re as a team when we don’t have the ball. However, no player in our squad is better in defending without the ball than him. His presence and understanding is simply most impressive.

    1. There are a lot, but it depends on what premium file hosting service you are subscribed to.

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  17. For me, it was creditable win. We are not firing on all cylinders while Valencia are playing well.

    On players, i did not think Keita was that good. He was good and played to potential but for me his positioning was one of the reasons for our loss of midfield in first half.

    i thought Pique was below par as well. Messi was rusty (though for me, he was still ok and definitely not as bad as quite a few have stated above) and Villa still has too many offsides for my liking. Villa was also quite selfish and though i understand this being primary trait for striker, i do believe he tool it too far yesterday.

    For me, yesterday we would have done better to start SMasch and play Busi in place of Keita.

    Puyol was immense. The dude is awesome.

    I was very happy to see Iniesta scoring a goal. The dude adds a few goals and nobody can quibble about his being one of top 3 players in world. If i do have criticism of Iniesta, it is that lot of times he runs up blind alleys.

  18. Thoroughly enjoyed the match last night – both halves. It was great to see Valencia having the courage to come and have a go at us. They pressured well and moved the ball well. I think Kxevin’s right. They’re not going to go away playing like this.

    Can’t agree with Keita as MOTM though. I thought he had a very ordinary game. Yes, he runs and chases well but I’ve just gone back and rewatched the whole first half in case I’m missing something obvious. As far as I can see from that he won the ball a couple of times, lost possession a couple of times, was lucky not to get booked for a silly trip ( which would have meant a red for the card in the second half) and was at least partly at fault for the goal we lost. Rewind and watch who was marking the scorer before he started his run. While you’re at it have a look at the great save Valdes made towards the end of the half, rewind it and decide who should have gone with the attacker as the play developed. However, I’m not getting at his overall contribution. It was a difficult half for us in general – just that we sometimes tend to go overboard on fairly ordinary players and undervalue the genuine talent in the team. Xavi didn’t have his best game but still made the difference between the two sides with two great balls. Iniesta was everywhere, keeping possession in very tight situations and spraying great long passes. Puyol, as has been stated is close to irreplaceable in our side when he plays like this.

    Messi was awful – don’t know why but I can’t argue with the assessment of him. Yes, he was closely marked but nobody can mark him when he’s in the mood. Villa still has a way to go in terms of scoring but I’m not concerned about his general play or the offsides. The amounts are miniscule and with even a fractional improvement in timing that’ll sort itself. In the interests of fairness πŸ™‚ Villa should have had a penalty with the header – certainly if Spain got one for less on Tuesday night. I also actually thought it was a decent decision for him to square the ball to Puyol but I accept that most confident strikers would probably have taken it on. I do like his ability to dribble in the penalty box. That’ll pay dividends as the season goes on. Worth more than a 3 imo but there is still room for improvement.

    It was interesting to see Maxwell start over Abidal when both are fit and untired from travels. I’m guessing it was for his superior technical ability in tight situations and maybe positional play but it’ll be interesting to watch how that develops. FWIW, I thought Maxwell still needs to go forward with more determination and speed. He should certainly have taken on the shot.

    Finally, a rating of 8 for Mascherano totally mystifies me. How many times did he touch the ball for this in the 15 minutes he was on the park – three or four ? I didn’t see him do much wrong but then I didn’t see him do much at all and would be hard pressed to make positive or negative statements about Barca quality or Xaviesque based on it.

    We probably won’t play a better side in La liga all season and we played virtually without Messi which bodes well for the weeks to come.

    1. My favorite line:

      “Strong institutions need strong leadership, not divisive figures characterized by ambiguity.”

      A strong leader recognizes a problem and fixes it, always keeping in mind the health of the institution that he has been chosen to lead. A weak, insecure one says “Looky how bad this is! Now I have to fix it! Aren’t you lucky to have meeee!” Rosell is worse because it’s personal. He wants to damage Laporta by attempting to eradicate the fact that he was head of the club during its most successful sporting period, ever, by accusations of fiscal malfeasance. A man would have said “Laporta was a great president, and did right by Barca. I hope the club, under me, can continue the same sporting success.” Then you hole up in the back room, and get to work the stuff that you need to work on.

      Thanks for that link, Cesc Blanc. An excellent, highly recommended read.

  19. Xavi doubtful for Copenhagen, and Guardiola says that he isn’t going to be able to be a week-in, week-out automatic starter unless his tendinitis improves. Which ain’t gonna happen, because between Liga, Copa, Champions League and Spain call-ups, this year, as with the previous ones, the demands are incessant.

    Now ….

    –Xavi. I don’t add points for playing hurt. That’s silly.

    –Anyone who doesn’t think Keita was MOTM is entitled to their opinion. The folks at EMD voted for Iniesta, probably because of the forehead glare, and the goal. But as poipoi notes from his live viewing, Keita was a monster.

    –I hope I am not supposed to be giving Villa added points for blending well with his teammates, now. He got full credit for doing the work to be where he was to screw up the scoring chances. And hell, he SHOULD be blending well with our attack. It’s the Spanish NT except for Messi, who Villa is meshing the least well with.

    He needs to start scoring goals, and understanding that sometimes in the box, passing is a better option. The lack of scoring is making his desperate, and he isn’t thinking clearly. The header is one example. He had all day to take that pass and put it past Cesar. A direct, hard header is easy to stop (unless you’re Puyol).

    As for his being offside because he’s trying to beat the offside trap, not always. Go back at watch him. There are times when Valencia springs the offside trap that he isn’t as quick as he should be getting back onside. So when we get the ball back, our striker isn’t an available passing option. Sorry, but that ain’t good. It was one of the strengths of Eto’o, that kind of boundless energy. (No, this isn’t an “Eto’o rules” comment, just an observation.)

    –Mascherano isn’t supposed to have the ball. That’s the job of other players. But he did indeed assist in the ball control game, and much more importantly, stonewalled Valencia time and again. He’s hard to pick out sometimes, as just another midget running around, but it’s worth watching him again. He was very convincing.

    He isn’t Busquets or Keita, who are more positional types of defenders. Mascherano is something we haven’t had in a long time: someone who sees the ball and can stop it straight up, or with a sliding tackle, then distribute quickly, turning defense into offense. That quality, particularly if Xavi is further hampered, is going to be immense, and might make him our smartest buy in some time.

    1. “Mascherano isn’t supposed to have the ball. That’s the job of other players. But he did indeed assist in the ball control game, and much more importantly, stonewalled Valencia time and again:
      very true,was a bit surprised to see Javier controlling the game from his deeply role,a very nice surprise,I really dont want Xavi to participate in every game,for the first time in 5-6 years,we can survive without Xavi bec of Javier and Busquetes,Yaya used to be very important,I though that we would regret selling him(for not using him in his natural position) but it loooks that Mascherano has another opinion

  20. Now I can see some reason in signing Cesc.. He could deputize for Xavi instead of risking Xavi.. Lets hope Rosell will negotiate better – as I don’t think the saga will end until we sign him..

    And I’m particularly worried about our offense.. Pedro!’s goals have dried up, while Messi and Villa are hitting some rough patches.. Better they get sorted quickly, because I don’t think Copenhagen are pushovers..

    1. Cesc is no Xavi and he will never be a Xavi,not doubting him,he is one of the best 3 attacking midfielders in the world but he is not Xavi’s type,dont think he can do a Xavi to be honest,when Xavi is absent then Mascherano-Busquetes-Keita/Iniesta would be our first choice,our 2nd would be Busquetes/Masche-Keita-Iniesta,we dont need a midfielder in the next 5 years.

    2. Keita will be 31 in a few months and I don’t know for how long he’ll continue pulling out one lung-bursting performance after another.. To state the bleedingly obvious, we sorely lack creativity without Xavi.. Cesc will never be Xavi but he’s the next best thing to Xavi (after JDS of course :P)..

      I don’t particularly want us to sign him but face it, it’s inevitable that we’ll sign him (partly because of the oneupmanship currently going on with Rosell and Laporta), this summer or the next – even a gooner will agree..

      Now I’m starting to see the point of his ‘homecoming’..

  21. Fun fact – Keiteee’s wiki page states exactly that – ‘He’s also known as Keiteee’


  22. I agree with almost everything except Messi. We played with 10 men last night. We had a hard time finding a rhythm and when we kinda found him and play him a pass, he lost the ball. In other words, he was playing a Krkic last night. I’d give him a 1 or 0 in that regard. Because, again, we have another standard when we look at Messi. His second half was more decent as of the whole team, but still, unacceptable to me.

    To play Maxwell instead of Abidal was a mistake, a significant one. Abidal came out, and we even attacked more, because Abidal has improved to ‘that’ level. The way he storm forward, forced keeper to play long, and his speed in general is a driving force to keep us attacking as well as winning the ball back in the opposition’s side of the field. That is also why we were busy defending on our flanks so often, because Abidal wasn’t there to push the line up. Maxwell is ok, but again, unspectacular and at times, he gave away corners that could be dealt with in a better way. -1 for Pep in that regard.

    Villa… what more could I say… I only hope you will keep things simple by making the decision EARLIER and WISER. Goals will come and we need them fast. So, make up your mind early, but be smart.

    Nonetheless, we beat Valencia, and its HUGE . I understand our team has too many national team players and we must deal with it. We were kinda lucky because Valencia almost got us in our house, but I just wanna see the front line improve immediately.

    I am very positive about Thiago because he is more promising and has already shown how capable he is if he were to start for us.

    1. I have never ever dared to critisize Messi but last night, like you and my commentator both said, it looked like we were playing with 10men. Really dissappointing.
      If he really was that tired, why didn’t Pep take him out since all he did was try to dribble in slow-mo and constantly lose the ball.

    2. Well, the difference between Messi’s performance against Valencia and Krkic’ performances in his last matches is simply that Messi has still been influential. He was the one who distracted the Valencia players from Xavi and played the pass to him. Maybe another player in Messi’s situation would also have played that pass, but the whole defense of Valencia wouldn’t have been so focussed on that player, because even if Messi is having a bad match, the opponents still fear him more than anyone else.
      The way I see it we probably would not have won without Messi, whereas Bojan did not contribute anything to the matches lately. So a rating of 3/10 is okay.

    3. Ok, I don’t agree that Abidal adds anything in a positional sense over Maxwell – exactly the opposite. I do think that because of the arrival of Maxwell he has had to, and to be fair has, upped the attacking side of his game. I’m not an apologist for Maxwell – he doesn’t need me to defend him, he has been a really solid buy – as I’ve been pretty vocal in saying that he needs to believe a lot more in his attacking skills. However, pace apart, to me he offers a lot more. Anyway, we can agree to differ on that one, although as I said it’ll be interesting to see what Pep’s thinking is. I’m sensing that the balance has swung away from Abidal at least a little.

      However, what is getting my goat (Scottish expression?) at the moment is this nonsense about Maxwell regularly giving away needless corners. Details please? I’ve now watched the whole game again and I’m just not seeing it. He blocked one attempted cross right on the line which went for a corner and which I’m assuming we all agree was a cross we couldn’t afford to have go past him. Apart from that? Were there any others? I’m happy to rewatch the game again to identify these times when he gave away needless corners and will acknowledge if I’ve missed them but if the details aren’t forthcoming can we put this nonsense to bed for good?

    4. You can see it in the way that Pique and Maxwell defend passes in the box, when near the end line. Pique will whip a leg around and almost always push the ball out to the side. So will Puyol, and you can see his anger when he doesn’t.

      Maxwell, whether it’s a pace deficiency that finds him on the wrong side of the ball, or a default setting that still has jim thinking he has Lucio to defend set pieces, will nod or boot the ball over the end line. Sorry, but he does. There’s no taking away from the fact that he’s an excellent player who, like Keita, has improved this season. And wht a bargain!

      But he gives up corners when he doesn’t have to. Alves is also beginning to evince that tendency.

    5. Everything you say may be correct, Kxevin, but he didn’t do it at the weekend and hasn’t for some time. I agree that set pieces could be a big issue for us this year and we can’t afford to give them up lightly.

      It’s only a small point but it just irks me that Maxwell is playing well but getting little negatives when he doesn’t actually deserve them. Maybe the corner thing was valid way back. I missed most of the the preseason last year and that was something people were exercised about then and it seems to have stuck. It’s hard to argue against it when there are no concrete examples to go on. Maxwell also put in two great cross balls in the match ( one which Keita scuffed and the other Messi chested in) but got little recognition for it while Abidal comes on in the 88th minute touches the ball once ( well three touches while moving with the ball), plays a pass at the end of it and gets a 5.

      Can you put me in touch with the Maxwell Fairness Committee, please?

    6. I had him giving one up in my notes, Jim. I’ll watch again, and correct the record if I was wrong.

      Maxwell doesn’t need a fairness committee. I think that I and everybody else gives him full props for his play. I just think that yesterday, particularly given how well Abidal has been going forward, we might have been better served by having Abidal in rather than Maxwell.

      But the result argues for the selection, right?

      Note also that in a review earlier in the season, in commenting on Maxwell’s play, I said that perhaps the time had come when Abidal wasn’t in ink as an automatic starter. That time is now. I know that folks have forgotten that, because the only things people remember are the negative things that I say about favorite players, right?

  23. Mind you telling me how Keita got a 10? The guy couldn’t stay on his feet, he passed every ball BACK, he had no sense of attack, he lost a ton of good passes… maybe a 7, from what he CAN do to what he did, I honestly didn’t think he was any help. In the first half, second half he did way better.
    Completely agree with Villa, there’s no reason he should be doing as badly as he is, stay on sides, find your teammates better, make a damn goal. Not to be THAT guy, but if he does this badly maybe Bojan will step in an take his spot? πŸ™‚ just saying, we need someone to bang those in, and Bojan incidentally is that guy.
    Mascherano, great ! I think he’s earning a spot on that field as the guy we can depend on, not necesarily a starter but do exactly what he did in this game.

    1. Keita was brilliant but I too felt that he didn’t deserve a 10. Thought Iniesta and Puyol contributed much more to the match than Keitee.

    2. I don’t like his game very much, but after seeing the 1st half I would not have sat keiteee, no way. Don’t know what would have happen if he hadn’t started.

    3. He just didn’t do anything special, he was bad along everyone else on the field. Not good, def not great. IMO

    4. what worried me more is that both fernandes and banega are good destroyers AND creators, much stronger than xaviiniesta xavithiago inithiago or whatever. they are one of the best pair of of mids we have faced IMO (when they play well and vs barΓ§a everyone plays their best) and they were backed by albelda, those 3 all together can destroy a lot and fernades-banega can really play the ball. besides valencia always had superiority in our right side they were really hurting alves… I felt in half time that we really needed keita we seemed so weak in defense that I didn’t look at the offensive aspect.

      I mean that I don’t know because I hope that a better skilled offensive mid would have made us hold the ball more and threaten the goal more, instead of stealing it and passing it to the next guy (behind or in one side) πŸ˜‰ Keita crashes the box and scores (I love how he heads the ball how the puts speed on the ball) but when he raises his head with the ball in his feet there is no threat or creativity. I wish for him to loosen up or something and show his moves, he takes 0 risk IMO.

    5. I wouldn’t say that he passed EVERY ball back. Recall the pass (after his steal) forward to Xavi, that directly led to Iniesta’s goal. That’s just one of many examples of his excellence during that match.

  24. I don’t think Pep made a mistake by starting Maxwell. Abidal was our only CB cover since Milito is out with an injury.

    Did anyone see the point in the match where everyone thought Puyol pulled his hammy? Imagine if Abidal was playing LB, it would have been a very bad situation.

    Clearly Abidal is a 4th choice cb for a reason, he isn’t used to it and if he were to play CB after playing LB for 60 minutes it would screw him up.

  25. I just saw El Chino’s golazo and I want to cry. (it’s the EPL and Blackpool, I know, but it’s still one heck of a goal–I expect no less)

    1. That was pure magic – Silva led Man City to 2nd spot in the EPL.. They are serious contenders for a CL place.. This only means more spending (read inflation) the the summer transfer market..

    2. Maybe it’s more like Carlitos led them to 2nd spot… 7/12 goals scored for them, including winner against Chelsea and two goals yesterday.

    3. Maybe so, but it was Silva who engineered that win yesterday.. Tevez was ineffective till Silva was introduced.. Had Blackpool finished the two sitters we’d have seen the same old Man City from previous seasons.. Silva was the reason they won yesterday..

  26. When was the last time a player had a falling out with Fergie and stayed at ManUtd?

    When was the last time Liverpool were in the drop-zone?

    When was the last time us winning helped EE go to the top of La Liga?

    I want answers! πŸ™‚

    1. Ehm… my answers would be:
      57 years ago (at least it’s their worst start for 57 years)!
      Don’t forget about Villarreal, they can still go top of la Liga today!

  27. isaiah happy birthday man!i was off these days and i had no internet!happy for the win but sad by the fact that we used injury players.the team need transfers or promote some youngs.we will have serious problems with fatique and injuries if we play the same guys.

  28. I want to ask for you opinion on a conspiracy theory i have, regarding Villa and Valencia… But not in the “helping them stay with as little goals in the net as possible on the Camp Nou” but in the way of beating the offside trap (or defocusing them, pushing them forward) so our thunder-bringers (is bringers even a word in English? πŸ™‚ ) would slice up the defence, like it was the case with the first goal?

    I mean, he cannot acutally hope to receive a pass in this situation, right? And that’s what all of the Valencia’s defence thought also. But Don Andres and Xavi had other plans… πŸ™‚

    Just look how calm does he look like on the third pic :))

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