Barca 2, FC Kobenhagn 0, aka “Bringing the beauty, and the stank” (UPDATED)

This will be the shortest review that I have ever written, unless I were to just copy/paste the word “frustrating” endlessly. Because that’s what this one was all about. The Fox Soccer commentators were laying our deficiencies bare, and they’re nothing I haven’t noted before:

–Nobody in the box
–Villa lining up offside
–No width
–One pass too many

So Kobenhagn were allowed to hang around and hang around, and really should have gotten at least one on us, but thanks to a staggering display from their forward, who stopped because of a phantom offside, then somehow missed an open net, we were let off the hook.

But know that a better team would have turned our asses inside out.

People will see that we won 2-0 and think “Hmph, must have been pretty easy.” It wasn’t, because of the aforementioned reasons. It doesn’t do a lick of good to gut a defense and find your way into the box if you don’t shoot, or your forward is lined up offside so that he has effectively removed himself from the play. People have been lambasting Alves for his crosses, but who is he to cross to, when there’s only one person in the box, and that person is a midget.

Abidal flipped in a perfect cross, but Villa didn’t deign to get grass stains on his uniform, and Iniesta just missed, probably because he was shocked that Villa didn’t tap that one in. And so it went, for minute after frustrating minute, with three goals disallowed for offside, and numerous last-ditch interventions by Kobenhagn defenders that kept passes from going through. But the interventions were easy, because all they had to do was camp out in the middle of the Camp, and stick a leg out.

Yes, Messi scored. Twice. Once off of a brilliant shot, smoked in when the Kobenhagn defenders didn’t mark up on the most dangerous man in the game, and the second off of a scuffed crosshot by Abidal, that essentially fell into Messi’s stomach so that he could almost walk it into the net (finally! We walked the ball into the net! Yay for us!)

For too much of that match, we appeared desultory and disinterested as a team, just kind of sleepwalking around at times, giving the ball away as if we wanted to make things more interesting for ourselves, and otherwise conspiring to, once again, cock up a series of great scoring chances. Once I finished giggling at the FCK on the scoreboard, there wasn’t a whole lot to smile about in this one.

People will point to the absence of Xavi as the problem, but that wasn’t it. We didn’t lack for scoring chances and opportunities in the box. We just don’t know what to do with them. I once quipped that giving Eidur Gudjohnsen, our late, great Icelandic Monument, was like giving a bear the car keys. “Arrragh! What this for!?” But that’s our offense with scoring chances now, and it kinda sucks.

Team: 5. Fast start that made it look as though we were going to run them off the pitch, then we lost interest and/or energy, and suddenly this was a tense match that Kobenhagn could well have won with the right breaks.

Guardiola: 7. Right lineup, right strategy, right substitutions. But sometimes he doesn’t seem to know how to get his side out of a funk, and standing on the sidelines applauding isn’t the answer. That much is evident.

Pinto: 5. We see why he’s the No. 2 keeper. He does some things well, but most not even remotely as well as Valdes. He plays with the ball too much, and like Valdes, can’t seem to clear the ball with a kick, with any remote degree of accuracy. He also needs better judgment. He gave up a late corner on a shot that wasn’t going in. He had precious little to do with the shutout.

Alves: 6. Play the ball more quickly. Simple as that. Players have made the runs, the defense is destabilized and Alves seems to want to take a moment to examine his laces, then cross the ball in. By that time, people are offside, or the defense has recovered. Got forward very effectively, and had an immense last-ditch tackle to save a sure Kobenhagn goal, which was awesome.

Pique: 5. Average match in which he started out exceptionally well, including functioning as an extra attacker to really destabilize the opposition defense. But woe is us if he gets caught up the pitch. Love the Piquenbauer thing, hate the pokiness.

Puyol: 5. Got seriously done for pace on a couple of occasions, and completely lost contain on his player, losing out to pace and positioning. Luckily, they didn’t score. Yes, he’s a lion. Always is. But this wasn’t his best day today.

Abidal: 7. Strong on offense and defense, and very good moving forward, with crosses into the box and overlaps that made him a significant part of the offense. Stupidly went for a steal that let Kobenhagn loose on our goal, but we were able to deal with it …. just.

Mascherano: 8. Dude was awesome again, from passing to defense. Time and again, he won balls for us with ease and style. He’s also a fine, fine passer who is most effective when he doesn’t get caught on the ball. Then, watch out!

Busquets: 5. We’ve had good Busi and bad Busi, this was okay Busi. He had some good moments, and some “what the hell was he thinking” moments, but overall, an average match, and his worst this season to date. He just wasn’t very effective working as part of the attack, leaving Iniesta to do a LOT of running and coverage.

Maxwell: 5. Drifted in and out of the match like one of those old radios. Also had some control problems that either led to lost balls, or a recovered defense. I like the aggression in the shots at goal, and I’m starting to think he makes a better midfielder than left back.

Iniesta: 8. Whoa baby, what a match! He was clearly meant to be the Xavi today, and reined in his high-risk tendencies for a blizzard of great passes and runs. Missed a glorious scoring opportunity, but was constantly setting up teammates during our innumerable attacks. An omnipresent, Man of the Match performance.

Messi: 6. Laid on a brace, but was guilty of moments that were as selfish as his first goal was spectacular. The way that he unsettles a defense is remakable. When we are playing well, you have to make the decision to control someone, which leaves the other players free. In theory.

Villa: 2. Losing balls at his feet or hitting excellent scoring chances right at the keeper, are just some of the things that found his match wanting today. Not even close. I’m not sure whether he’s trying too hard or not hard enough, but being caught offside then not racing to get back, doesn’t fill my heart with song.


Pedro! (for Maxwell): 5. Brought some great energy to the pitch, but was never a real threat. Had a series of great hustle plays, chasing balls down left and right and applying pressure to keep them in their end at key times.

Xavi (for Villa): 4. Hey, guess that Xavi wasn’t the problem with our lackluster display. He had hardly any influence beyond some typically brilliant passes that he can put exactly where they want and need to go.

Keita (for Iniesta): incomplete. Came on, but didn’t get enough time to really influence anything.

But hey we won, right? We go top of the group, and are an all but lead pipe cinch to go through to the knockout stages. We might not be winning easy, but we are most definitely winning. On to the weekend!

David Villa needs to start putting the goals in, or sit. Simple as that. Everybody was all over Ibrahimovic for all the things that he was doing wrong, even after he started like a house afire and wound up with 20+ goals with last season. It was “Bench him for Krkic. Yes!” But at least Ibrahimovic started like a house afire. Villa is getting more and more frustrated, and it’s showing in his play. And we can’t bench him for Krkic, because that option is worse. So Messi bails us out yet again.

I know, I know. I hate David Villa. Whatever. He’s a 40 million striker who can’t put the damn ball in the back of net.

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. Agree with all ratings except Messi’s.. strikers are supposed to be selfish.. and if your partner in crime can’t score.. you obviously expect him to be even more selfish.. but yes.. he made bad passes and but also made some good ones..

    And an attacker getting a rating of 6 when he scores 2 goals when the rest of their team has lost their boots…. well who gives that player a six rating .. do you have a different scale for Messi which is twice tougher than Iniesta/Xavi combined..?

  2. The first half was magnificent, we should have easily collected 2 or 3 goals.

    I thought Abidal in general was not to his usually standards, not even close!!!! almost everytime he was beaten for pace, he should have made sure he would keep his balance and react faster when the opposition went down our left but he didn’t on average. But to be fair, he isn’t match fit.

    I thought Villa was unlucky after performing fairly well in the first half and not coming off with a goal. But in the second half he was frustrated and he didn’t run at all. Plus he keeps making mazing runs whenever Messi is bringing teh ball forward, Messi has no clue where to pass to Villa half the time.

    I have to agree, overall we were poor, but is it down to form or are we that bad?

    There isn’t anything missing in the team, thats what I realise, what is wrong though, most of the players are not playing as well as they usually do, maybe its still early season gitters, but I sure hope we get over them fast.

    1. “Drifted in and out of the match like one of those old radios”

      Simile of the year award.

  3. pedro-5.great rating.

    someone said kxevin has 2 give some one a very generous or a draconian rating,coz if the ratings are perfect,there is no for the sake of stirring conversation pedro got a 5.

    now my question what did pedro apart from shooting a shot from outside the PB.ooops conversation.

    guardiola 5.there is no need 2 take off villa.

  4. my motm is dani alves.full of energy,gave width(btb why there is only villa in the PB always,why not more ppl)and what a great tackle.

  5. messi-6.i think he deserverd a 4.full of sale-fish play,scoring a goal by shooting when he can pass 2 someone.

    1. No player deserves 6 when he scores 2 goals.. scoring is the most difficult art in soccer.. common guys.. give a thought to that before rating and posting comments…

    2. So a guy who scores 3 goals but puts 2 into his own net in a 3-4 loss deserves a 10? what about a goalkeeper who scores a penalty brace but gives up 5 goals?

    3. ahem,when a guy scrd 3 and put 2in his own net he scrd 1 goak and 2 own goal..the important wrd is own

  6. off topic.

    what are the best individual performance of a barca player from 1998-2010.

    my top 5 are.

    5.rivaldo hattrick against ACM.
    4.messi hattrick against EE.
    3.Ronaldinho against EE @SB.
    2.messi against the gunners.
    1. the one and only Rivaldo against valencia.(have watched that bicycle kick morte 1000 times)

  7. -I think you are a bit harsh on Mascherano who deserves a 10 IMO,ALves
    -Now its the right time to bench Villa,not doubting his quality but he needs it more than anyother time,we will keep on winning even if Villa continue to miss 10 sitters but we need him and if we want him to be back to his best then we should, bench him for Pedro or even Bojan,Pep was too late to bench Zlatan last year and it costed us the Cl semi and plz Pep dont start Villa again,he really needs some bench time
    -if Villa continues to play like this,anyone sees a swap with a striker from Manchester looming?
    -Mascherano was impressive,he pulled the strings and ran the show in absence of Xavi,something I expected from Busi and was surprised to see it from Javier,it looks that he will joun Keita and Pique in our best deals recently.
    -Messi is getting more and more selfish every game,he is world’s best player but he is the most selfish aswell
    -ALves and Iniesta are nearly back to their best
    -I liked the formation today which was closer to a 4-4-2/4-2-4 with Messi in the free role behind Villa,its a shame that we shouldnt try it again in the next games if Villa continues to play like Shit
    -I really like the versatility of our midfield,it was not one of those Keita matches and Xavi was out but we still didnt have any problems in midfield in prescence of Mascherano and Busquetes
    -is it just me to think that every time we put Javier and Busi together,Busi fades.

  8. messi is the most i know he is selfish but most selfish, not so sure.wht about the 2 passes of him 2 villa,villa didnt control that,is that also his fault.?

    agree with u about the busi and masch combo.yap i m also with u that busi fades when masch plays.have u seen his 30 -40 yard passes.that was almost like xabi alonso.

    about the player from MANU,i think he will score in the red light streets(lotz of them),but not in the field

  9. I dont get u guys, why wouldnt messi be selfish when all our players in goal scoring positions shy away from the shot and shuffle the ball into his feet instead.

    Villa needs some more goalscoring threat around him, he looked comfused out there.
    Every time messi drove forward from midfield and looked up, villa would be trying to shake off 3 defenders with
    one diagonal run – it just wasnt working.

    He needs some danger on the wings that stays on the wings( not maxwell or free roaming iniesta).

    And he needs late runs from midfield to deflect attention, he also needs a real striking partner not a false 9 and finally hes gotta put home those chances, the misses aint funny anymore.

    1. So you’re saying we should change the whole team? If villa has scoring chances then what’s the problem? Just needs to be composed and put it in the net.

      also, on a another note, I’m amazed with how awful some of the writing is on these posts. I know we use lots of nicknames, that’s fine, but some of the other stuff is really hard to understand.

      I know we’re not all native English speakers, but it’s still frustrating to read. Maybe this is just me being an English teacher (some of it’s worse than my Chinese students’ writing)

      Great post Kev!

  10. I’m sure others have said this, but I’m loving the Masch transfer right now. I didn’t think it was necessarily going to happen, and there were all those debates about using the kiddies more, but it’s proved to be a godsend for us.

  11. -First of all, Pep got it all wrong with the formation. Why play with such a defensive line-up? Why not be more adventurous? Play Keita(to help VIlla and Messi) with Iniesta and Smash. And I really didn’t see the need to bring Xavi in. Why not Thiago. We needed a spark!! Thiago and Pedro in=FIRE!!
    -Rest Busi,Puyol, Pique.
    -Maxwell as many mentioned for the past weeks just isn’t adventurous enough going forward which baffles me, since he has great skills.
    Gonna watch the match again later. I know it’s frustrating but sigh.
    -I didn’t find Busi poor actually. He was good, just not that flashy.

  12. Just watched the game again and to be honest we didn’t do a whole lot wrong. Their chances came through individual errors from our defence ( Abidal left his man and was lucky Puyol hooked it away with his leg, Puyol got caught wrong side and God only knows how they didn’t score, Alves ball watching let his man away and was lucky to make the tackle).

    On the attacking front Villa was unlucky on two occasions ( the bar and the snap shot just before he was hooked) Alves hit the post, Pique should have shot himself when through, Vila and Messi both got on the end of great moves for their offside “goals” and several times they stopped moves with last ditch tackles so we’re making the chances. After that a lot, although not all, is down to luck.

    I suppose the big decision made by Pep which you either agree with or not was to play two DMs. To my mind we had two players doing the job of one. Was that why Busi had one of his poorer games? Certainly neither of them contributed a jot to getting into the box or joining the offence in any way.

    So we’re down to Iniesta and Messi to create. Maxwell isn’t the sort of player who makes things happen on his own – or at least he isn’t at the moment. It was good to see him crashing the box on occasions in the first half. Didn’t do it as much in the second which was part of the problem.

    I can understand the frustration with Villa. I thought that he would come in and would start scoring right away. I’m sure he did as well. However, he should have been coming into a forward line with at least two other occupants ! Last night was a great example of overthinking the game from Pep in my opinion. We had Messi as a “false 9” (??? ) which basically meant he dropped back from the forward line and we had Iniesta who had to make the creative plays so he had to drop back. This left Villa, as others have said, on his own. I watched him closely for the whole of the first half and have to say I was happy with all his movement. He was continually making runs, pulling up and starting again, looking for early balls that don’t come apart from Iniesta or Messi – the exception to this was a briliiant first time ball from Abidal where he was caught on his heels and should have slid into it. Is it a genuine suggestion to sit him . . . and play who in the front line? If we play a genuine front three and the goals don’t come then fine.

    I think Ciaran put it well in another post. No matter how you may thnk Bojan is playing we need a front three. If Messi is to be in it then he is in it and not constantly pulling deep. For me, it would be Messi wide right (- remember when he used to link really well with alves?), Bojan playing as a real number 9 and Villa wide left. It would mean a midfield of Busi as DM on his own and Xavi and Iniesta in front of him. If Xavi can’t make it then either Keita or Maxwell but they need to know they have an attacking role with instructions to crash the box and take shots where possible.

    The only other thing that struck me is that because so many of our passes are across and back players have stopped playing the one two and really sprinting for the return. Too many get the ball when they are standing still which doesn’t test defences and gives them time to reorganise. Pedro and Messi are honourable exceptions to this. It’s okay when our passing game is on top form but when we slow it down then we become predictable.

  13. – don’t know about you all, but i can see some sort of implosion looming.

    – re messi’s “selfishness”, it seems to me he’s trying to take on responsibility, and i’m glad he is. villa doesn’t exactly inspire trust.

    – looking back, i think ibra and messi’s communication, though not what it could be, was much better than villa and messi’s. then again i never bought the “villa has played in the spain nt and la liga, therefore he will fit in in no time at all and score 40 goals. QED.” – yes, i think losing ibra was wrong, and the subsequent bad-jacketing of him is just that – post-facto face saving nonsense.

    – i’m of the opinion that pep was pressured into offloading ibra at the last minute by rossell, who managed the deal behind his back and sprung it at the supercopa. that’s the only scenario that makes sense, seeing the way pep has remained silent about things, and ibra comments after the fact. ibra thinks it was pep, which leaves rossell looking “just the guy who signs the papers” – and that chimes in well with his recent abstention or “it was the will of the people” stance.

    – pep, in that situation, and for the sake of the club and the season remained silent. it was part of the play. all that said, i think he’ll be gone by summer.

    – all of which makes me worried about the “messi-inter” talk. but then again, i may be making to much of the bad vibes i’m getting. i’ve actually been considering not renewing membership, seeing as i had no say in rossell’s candidacy, and the fact that the only way i can express my fears as to where he’s taking the club (fannie mae and freddie mac shirt sponsorship, or something just as hideous).

    – had FCK gone onto the pitch thinking they had a fair chance, i think we might have lost or come out with a tie. they were up to it psychwise, and i blame their coach (who didn’t set them up to play their chances) for that, but had they been we could have lost three points.

    – also, “Copenhagen” or “København” ending up spelt “Kopenhagen” or “Kopenhagn” is just wrong.


    1. Really don’t want to go into all the Ibra stuff again except to say that I don’t think the Messi / Villa understanding is any worse ( or maybe not any better either) than that of Messi / Ibra. I would point you to Villa’s offside “goal” as evidence that it isn’t as bad as you might think, though.

      I don’t agree that Pep will be gone in the summer – at least not because of what has happened so far. He’s be a fool to walk away from this side. What might make it come about though is if we heap the pressure on the side and create a bigger problem than we have. I agree our small squad will cause us problems if we have injuries but otherwise I expect us to be in at the end of all the trophies. After that, who knows? It may be that it is Chelsea’s year for the CL. They’ve been pretty close a number of times. It may be that a loss in the Classico is enough to give EE the title. We’d be devastated but shit happens.

      What I do know is that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching this team of ours over the last four or five years and I’m seeing nobody who comes even close to playing this style of football which I love. It was great watching Cruyff last night on Sky tearing into Mourinho’s style of play. He’s also absolutely right. Everyone needs rest and our guys haven’t had any. Pep will have a really hard time this year juggling things to ensure they all get some.

    2. i’m not getting into the ibra stuff, as you say, i just think we should’ve kept him.
      the reason i mention him, is that i see it as a symptom of something greater: that something being rossell.
      you may disagree, that’s fine. just voicing here.

    3. – what i’m trying to say is that i don’t buy the “official narrative” of what went down and how. that’s it. call me a skeptic.

  14. No way does Pinto deserve a 5. He looked completely out of his depth and very nervous (especially during second half). Horrible distribution. His uneasiness started to unsettle Pique and Puyol when they tried to work the ball out of the back. A disaster waiting to happen.

  15. wow!just wow!2008-09 season:first scorers:messi,eto,anri.2009-10:messi,pedro, is our first scorer.we miss the third player who can score.pedro?bojan?who?and the easy is say:oh villa you are the only reason we don.t score!yea i remember last yeas how we crushed dinamo kiev,rubin kazan and inter with ibra.we play much better than last season.the fact is our defense is worst.we need a top class L.B

  16. i don.t like that villa-ibra debate.there is a reason to talk about that?pep don.t like the guy and he gone.ibra was better than eto? what s your point ermengol?i wanted eto stay.but what.s the point say now this?no the team and the players

    1. when and where has pep ever said “i don’t like the guy”?
      have a quote? source?
      what’s your point?

  17. my point is that when we buy ibra and all the europe laughed on us for the most stupid transfer here nobody said:laporta is crazy!now we find rosell and we attack him for everything!but you forget that this team is a laporta team.we buyed mache and adriano!they were rosell choices?we have 5-6-7 players on loan who were laporta forget that?ok blame sandro for everything if you like it so much.and 40m for villa was laporta transfer.

    1. you seem to enjoy excess, exaggeration and sophistry.

      your claims go way through the roof every time, and might i say, veer far from anything resembling truth, or even reason, but hey, knock yourself out with it.

      when you’ve calmed down and have found your ability to talk in anything other than over-extended universal declarations and tabloid hyperbole give me a shout, okay?


    2. Technically, there are coach (and staff) transfers and technical director transfers. Txiki B was fairly active in the speculative transfer market (Gone Adriano and Keirrison). Laporta simply signed the checks. The day a club president gets to make or call for transfers is the day that the coach resigns, and hands him the whistle.

      Every transfer that has been made to date has had its gestation during the Laporta period. Sandro Rosell, to date, has two fire sales (Txigrinski, Ibrahimovic) to his credit.

      When Ibrahimovic was purchased, there were some who said “The transfer doesn’t make sense.” There were others who said “Uh, oh …. the best team in the world has the most talented striker in the world.” It depended on who you asked.

  18. Ugh. Call Villa out for not playing well, but I’m sick and tired of hearing Ibra’s name bandied about every time Villa is discussed.

  19. I’ve said before that Vila is having the most difficult time meshing with Messi, because Messi not only isn’t on the Spanish NT, but also because Messi will shoot first and pass second. So Villa sees Messi get the ball and he begins his run, because he’s used to being served. Messi does one of his run deals to create space, but Villa is already offside, and being pokey about getting back on. Same with Iniesta. Xavi is always thinking service, and Villa loves that.

    His frustratiob is indeed affectins his play. He, like everyone else, was thinking that the goals would come thick and fast. But I repeat: we are a hard system for anyone to play in, even a guy with Spanish NT and Liga experience. He isn’t option one any longer, but he’s paying and moving like he is. Hence the offsides, and off positioning.

    He will start scoring. We all know this. I’m not worried. But he can’t get so frustrated that he starts playing with the red mist, as he was. He should have come off even earlier in my estimation.

    I don’t believe in comparing strikers, or recriminations. Deals happen for whatever reason. My Ibrahimovic mention was merely to point out the looooong rope that Villa is getting.

    We need to play better. Simple as that.

    I too am loving the Mascherano signing. He didn’t play to a 10, but he was awesome, and a killer passer. He also has huge range, like Busquets. With an aging Keitee, you can see many of the same skill sets in Smasch. He’s one more example of the fallacy of judging a player before he’s had a chance to play. “Too small,” “Not a good passer,” “Card magnet” were among the charges leveled at him. But great players adapt. He did, and so will Villa.

    1. Mascherano is a very weird player.
      He seems so small , especially for that position and judging from the beast we used to have there in previous seasons, but still posesses unbelievable attitude and strength.
      There was that yesterday that an opposition player came against mascherano and tried to outmuscle him out of the direction of the ball , only to bounce off mascherano body. Our player did not push , or in any way hassle the opponent , and yet a seemingly more powerful , taller and more muscled player was brushed aside like bojan. Spectacular stuff.

      He has a long way to go to be considered a keita or amongst regular starters , but man his progress is scary. Plus pep said he has already won over the dressing room !

    2. I loved sMash. There were some plays where he dispossessed the opposition and built play from back all in the same movement – and that was just outstanding. Wow,.. what skill. Im happy with Villa so far. He may be a 2 for the rating he gets for his performance in this match, but some of his skills and ideas are pure striker…he has boat loads of potential, and love how he keeps teasing the offside line. Hopefully things will start working out for him sooner than later regarding his penchant for getting on the score sheet. He should learn to open himself when Messi makes runs, so he can do a one two with him rather than make a run and get caught offside, the rest of his play is perfect. The way Messi is hard wired is that he gets on one of his runs, he thinks of all his team mates as doing one two’s with him so he can cut through the entire defence and score – the only caveat is the Villa is used to receiving the ball in the end and scoring, not doing the one two, and this is where Villa has to do some adjustments. I would not make that adjustment with Villa if it was any other player on this planet besides Messi.

  20. I thought no one would mention it but Sam finally did.
    The ratings all look correct for the most part, besides I think Messi should’ve been a little higher but the really bizarre one is Pinto a 5.

    5? Pinto did nearly nothing correct last night. Almost nothing. He was beaten to his near post on a blistering shot that hit the post, he saved a 40 yard chip that was going out, and his passing percentage was probably near 20%. What did he do to deserve a 5, only 1 point less than Messi, who scored two goals?

    1. Pinto patrolled his box well, controlled his line and came off the line at moments that could have resulted in trouble. Was he having complexities in the second half? Yep. So were Puyol and Pique. In the match that I watched, Pinto played to a 5. Keep in mind that Barca keepers are sweepers as much as they are keepers, a 5th back line member who can be pressed into service when the time requires it. Valdes does this better than Pinto (duh, right?) but Pinto does that task.

  21. Also sMasch’s passing CONTINUES to impress the hell out of me. Busquets, even on an off game, seemed to get forward a lot more. He was pretty cute on the ball sometimes, especially the Sombrero.
    The theme of the season seems to be ‘unlucky not to score’.

    Villa is still meshing, and Kxevin put it perfectly, he’s having trouble with Messi’s shoot first mentality because he is the same way. The wide players for Spain are distributors first and shooters second. Messi is basically a wide striker. He was very unlucky not to get a hat trick.

    For me, if he receives Pique’s pass thats 1, the brilliant curving shot was almost 2, and then another shot in front of goal off the ground cross was 3.

    Also anyone realize that since he missed that PK in the group stages of the WC he hasn’t been the same? That PK also cost him the Golden Boot.

  22. I thought Mascherano had a very good game. He is good at closing things down quickly and is obviously pretty strong. However, both he and Busi had an easy time last night. They were part of a 6 man defence against an average side at home. Let’s not confuse easy passes backward or wide around the halfway circle with genuine creative ability. I wouldn’t like to see a head of steam behind Mascherano resulting in him getting a regular start along with Busi. That, imo, would seriously harm our long term prospects . . . and my enjoyment. He’ll be invaluable in away games in the CL where we need to hold on.

    1. This game was “well there’s nobody else” type thing… I think he did great, but he’s the guy who’s becoming “the help.” He’s adapting rapidly and that is huge for any player at barca.

    1. Thanks for that, Kxevin. I’d seen it before but never been able to figure it out. With regard to the Heat map I’m guessing it only shows 1st half or is there a way of swapping to 2nd? I looked at Abidal and he is only on one side of the pitch which is what you’d expect with alves producing the opposite. Interesting stuff.

    2. Apologies to all. But awesomeness must be shared. Check out the first Messi goal. SpecTAKAular!

  23. Well, all the boys got their brand spanking new Audis today. Very nice. Wonder what they do with the old ones? Hopefully donate them to charity or something.

    1. I don’t know, really, that we ever play a system, but if you had to describe it, it would be a 4-3-2-Iniesta.

    2. 4-3-2-Iniesta is just awesome. Where did you come up with that phrase. That is brilliant!!!

    3. I agree with this! Barcelona plays such a fluid game, with everyone moving around so much and covering each others’ positions, that you can’t really say that we play any kind of consistent system beyond how the players initially line up.

      And Iniesta can play wherever the heck he wants to, because it is almost always exactly where we need him to be. (This is also why I hate it when people talk about Iniesta taking over Xavi’s role. Don’t you see how that would limit him? His particular genius is that he can play so many different positions and is comfortable and creative in all of them. Iniesta must be free!)

  24. I don’t really make assumptions based on tactical stereotypes. I mean…I cant figure yet -for example- how Barcelona’s selection was a 4-4-2 as commonly presented in the media so far. Who was the right wing again? I think the closest to that role was Alves, so who is the forth defender? Me=confused.

    But my main point is not the 4-4-2 assumption, but the “two holding midfielders” disgrace. I wrote a post about this topic once covering the world cup and it is bolder when we talk about Barcelona. Why is it an nonnegotiable mistake to have two so-called holding midfielders and who say it means less offense and more defense?

    When the two “holding midfielders” play closer to the opponents’ area more than any center midfielders at any other team, then is it still valid to call them holding midfielders? Are we call them holding midfielders based on their position with respect to their teammates or their position, role and movement on the field? Good question.

    Secondly, When two players like Busquets and Mascherano retire Iniesta, Messi, Maxwell, Villa, and-relatively- Alves from doing the fitness-burner continuous back and forth transition and instead concentrate completely on their offense role, is that a favor for defense or offense? When there was a moment in the match where Alves, Pique, and Puyol were all in the opponent box contributing in the offense movement (not a set pieces), is that a favor for defense or offense? when both Abidal and Alves feel secured enough to repeatedly join the attack both at the same time, is that a favor for defense or offense?

    And still Busquets was able to contribute in the offense buildup -excellently- and Mascherano (beside intercepting more balls than anyone else on the field) he also completed more passes than anyone in the match. I am not sure how can we call that a defensive approach.

    Mind you, Mascherano passes were mostly buildup-passes, not passive-passes. As if there were plenty of players behind him in the first place…

    And needless to say,Me happy to read your Mascherano praise. Keep them coming. 😀

    1. but the “two holding midfielders” disgrace: I mean considering it a disgrace to use two holding midfielders. Just to make things clear.

    2. Thanks for pointing that out. I wonder how many more Guardiola’s going to attempt that set up…
      But isn’t the “system” all attack, all defend? Tiki-taka? First half looked that way to me in this game. Mascherano – Busquets is good, I like it.

  25. Apparently when given their Audi’s the President of Audi said “It is an honor to be present with the great club Real Madrid” or something along those lines.

    Or maybe it was a joke that pep decided to RT.

  26. @Ramzi

    I was taking my time thinking and trying to respond to the double holding midfielder which is too much respect for the opposition claim, but you made it first, so I echo here.

    Indeed, many family members here are stuck in the position ‘titles’ of the players. Villa is the striker, Messi too, Xavi midfield maestro, Abidal LB, Alves LB. It makes sense in almost all cases in almost all time, we also have these positions to define our structure. However, when we come to play the football we are best at, these positions don’t matter a whole lot. To say we take Villa off and left us no striker, and which means no attack is just a misconception to the football we have been playing, because we are not other teams. We kinda scored without Villa at the end. Yes, fluke and all, but we scored when we had NO striker. We play total football and total football means we all play out of positions whenever it is needed, and the eleven players do it together. Of course, you won’t see Messi or Pedro playing center backs, but you see them defend a lot, because they want the ball back.

    Ramzi had said it enough and need no more example. You won’t see Pinto going forward to attack with the ball although sometimes it looks like he want to try, but you will definitely see Pique and Puyol in the opposition’s box, even Abidal forced a great shot with his right foot last night. Favor of defense or offense? Just wanna keep asking. We aren’t defined by positions. So when we evaluate substitutions or lineup, throw the traditional concept away and take the total football or Cruijfism (help Soma!).

    I totally agree with Pep’s lineup and substitutions. You play two ball winning player in the center, with one (Busquets) moving forward to give more pressure, they are bound to play closer to their end than ours. It’s relative, you can call it a form of defense, but if they are playing football only around their own box, are we still defending? Just asking.

    Regarding Villa, I guess the more important thing is to keep a consistency in fielding players. If you aren’t playing well, I need to let you know. Look at the face of Villa when he sits, he needs some time to reflect. The coach is responsible to let him know he did not perform good enough and thus be taken off. I know we have a short squad, but it doesn’t mean we still have to let bad players play. If Villa continue to suck, Pep will sit him. I am sure about this. He will do whatever he could to make the team play better. Even if it means to play Iniesta Pedro and Messi up front. We have a small, but very versatile squad after all.

  27. I’m having trouble seeing what others are seeing in the match last night. What I saw was a team which played well in the first half as it moved the ball about and created some chances. As has been said we had numbers in the box at vital times. ( These did not include either of the DMs as far as I can remember but I might be wrong). However, it did include Maxwell which was good to see.

    Second half I lost count of the number of times that Villa was left on his own in the box. Yes, both FBs managed to get in there on occasion but I don’t remember us being spoiled for choice when it came to cross balls. If you have the match, have a look at the 75th minute when we take the ball out of defence. Messi has it 10 yards inside his own half and has nobody ahead of him to pass to so we faff about for a while by which time there are two banks of four in front of us.

    Are the two DMS responsible for this? It’s easy to say that they cover while others go but that didn’t happen to any extent in the 2nd half and that’s my problem with it. As players get tired they don’t make those runs from a long way back. Maxwell got tired and he wasn’t all that far away. Don’t remember the 2 CBs attacking much and even Iniesta wasn’t hitting the box with any conviction. Go back and look at when he had a “real” forward line of Messi, Eto’o and Henry. They were all potential poachers and others were busting a gut to get into the box. Remember Keita’s run of goals when he broke into the box time and again ? I’m not seeing it at the moment and we’re not picking up the extra goals that make a game safe earlier.

    I just don’t see that 2 DMs are necessary against a team that hardly attacked all night. As I said before, I’m not getting at Masch. I thought he played well although I didn’t see the brilliant offensive passing game that others seem to have. I also said that I could see a place for him in certain ties. I just don’t think I like this becoming the norm.

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