Barca 5, Real Sociedad 0, aka “It’s important to note where we are.” (CORRECTION!)


“I’m full of goals, but I will have room for more. Just wait.”

I know, I know. What the heck is taking so long with the review? Well, I couldn’t stop watching this match. So sue me. This was an extraordinary display by an extraordinary team. Or should I say, another extraordinary display by an extraordinary team. And it doesn’t get old, primarily because I have watched a lotta lotta lotta lotta footy, and not just this past weekend. Watching Chelsea/Spurs made we want to retch at times. This side, this glorious XI that we have right, that seems to do the same stuff no matter who’s out there, has ruined me.

Another match, another Real opponent, another manita, another side that didn’t have a chance, even though at times they had at least 8 men in the box. What’s going on here? Are we as good as everyone says we are?

Let’s looking at some numbers, shall we?

–Within the same week we set records for most passes in a Liga (938) and Champions League (971) match
–We are the first team to reach 40 points after 15 matches in Liga history
–In 67 minutes, Xavi made 120 passes against Sociedad
–21 led to Messi’s first goal. Think about that for a second. 21 passes!
–We haven’t conceded a goal in the last 606 minutes
–Xavi’s passing accuracy percentage? 97, says Sky Sports
–We have scored 5 goals in 5 matches this season (Panathinaikos, Ceuta, Sevilla, EE, Sociedad). The last time we did that was in (AHEM!) 2009.
–Messi notched his 5th Liga brace this season (seventh in all competitions), and would be tied for pichichi if an insufferable windsock of a footy rag wasn’t the one keeping the statistics

How about some quotes, since perspective can always be found in the words of people in the game.

Jokin Aperribay, Sociedad president: “As far as their game, this is a historic moment for Barรงa.”
Javier Mascherano: “Is this perfection? Difficult to say. We need to enjoy it with modesty. This is a reward for all the sacrifice and hard work.”

And for me, this is the most meanigful stat:

–Trophies won: 1 (Or 0, depending upon how you feel about the SuperCopa.)

We are nowhere yet. We’re top of the table in the Liga, into the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey and knockout stages of Champions League. That’s it. We haven’t won anything yet. So now what?

I think that all we can do is enjoy every single moment of every single performance by this amazing, amazing side. It’s interesting to look back at the dire moments, the 2-0 home loss to Hercules, the draws to Mallorca, Copenhagen and Rubin Kazan. After the loss to Hercules, Liverpool fans were visiting the site to gloat because Mascherano wasn’t all that good in the match, and some of us were worried, while still others of us cautioned patience, because the first parts of seasons are always messy for big squads in World Cup years.

Heck, we couldn’t even score goals!

And now look. The most amazing part of yesterday’s match for me is that not even firing on all cylinders, we reduced the 6th-place side in La Liga to a spectator. They didn’t have a chance. When Guardiola said that we were better than last season, some scoffed. I don’t think anyone’s scoffing now, at least not this observer, who is running out of ways to characterize the things we are all witnessing.

This was supposed to be something of a tricky match. And Guardiola rolled out his “best available” lineup, featuring Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Abidal, Maxwell, Mascherano, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro!!, Villa. And when Sociedad got off on the good foot, pinning us back in our end a little bit, the initial feeling was that this might indeed be a tough one. But it took but a few minutes for us to get the ball, and then for the most part, we kept it. And when Villa notched a goal after what would be the first of many exquisite sequences of football, it seemed that the match was already over. Let’s look at this one in a bit of depth:

–Mascherano (I think) knocked an inch-perfect cross pitch pass to P!!, who controlled and was greeted by two defenders, so he dumped to Alves. At this moment, Sociedad had 6 in the box, and another two on the edge. Both Messi and Villa were in the box, in offside positions. P!! set up, and I wanted to text the Sociedad coach, “Tell your guys not to chase the ball!” Alas, I couldn’t so they did.

–The ball pings from Alves to Xavi, who pauses to allow Messi and Villa to slide back onside. As Messi slides forward, Alves bombs into the box, forcing the defense to shift yet again.

–Xavi slides a pass to Messi, and P!! sees what’s on and takes off almost as soon as the ball released, so Messi pops it back to the right side, where P!! is in full stride. He controls the pass, and knocks a lovely square ball to Villa, who roofs it, and that’s that, because the man chasing Pedro!! is the one that keeps Villa onside.

Ray Ray began a froth-mouthed display of superlatives, and all you could think was “Yeah, that was indeed pretty good, wasn’t it?” Then you stop and pinch yourself, thinking “This is my team. Ye gods, this is my team!”

The reason we are playing so well right now is simple, really: At every point on the pitch, we outnumber our opponents. They have one attacker, we have three defenders nipping at his heels, two of them usually quick-footed attacking players. On offense, we always have a place to put the ball, a place where a defender isn’t. Every time one of our players gets the ball, two others move, giving him any number of places to put the ball, then other players move to provide a soft place to land for those players and their passes. It’s so logical, and at present so unstoppable.

And if you try defending a space, well …. the second goal was worked off the dead run, as Iniesta gained control of the ball, smacked a pass to Pedro!! and ran full-speed into the box. Anticipating his run, P!! just kissed Iniesta’s ball with his heel, using the pace of the pass to just roll it into the attacker’s path. Iniesta didn’t even control the ball, because he didn’t have to, so perfect was the weight of the ball. He smashed it past the keeper on the near side somehow, though the keeper had the near post covered. Or so we thought.

It was 2-0, off another amazing goal. There were so many moments in this match that demonstrate how remarkable this side is right now, but if you still have the match on a DVR or something, roll forward to 34:35, where sMasch intercepts a pass and rockets a header at Xavi’s feet, and the ball just stops, in perfect control with no perceptible effort on the part of Xavi. And off he went. Why Sociedad let him have free rein, I have no idea. They chose to defend rather than pressuring, even though pressuing gives you more of a chance to at least slow us down. That decision led to the 21-pass wonder goal, that culminated in Alves and Messi working a series of 1-2s while on the move. Defend Messi and Alves shoots. Defend Alves, and Messi shoots, which was what happened. The finish was really anticlimax, compared to the buildup.

At 3-0, Sociedad didn’t have a chance in hell, then came the fourth goal, which was all Messi. He slid across the box at pace with the ball at his feet, waiting for the right angle, dragging the entire Socieded defense to the left with him. Then he slingshotted across the grain into the open corner. And again, that goal started with Keita doing donkey work to knock the ball loose, and feed it back into the mixer. And out came a goal.

Krkic, in scoring the goal that made up the manita, worked a very simple run and blasted a shot at the keeper. When the rebound came, he controlled and finished high. It was a well-taken goal and a lovely bit of skill.

This was a comprehensive destruction of a quality side, that just beat Athletic Bilbao in the Basque derby. Even their coach said that they didn’t have a chance, and he was right. We let them have the ball occasionally, yielding three chances for them, three promising attacks, that were all dealt with by our defense. Those odds aren’t going to work for many teams.

So now I get to give everyone a reason to call me a biased jackass even before I give the player ratings. Well two, actually:

–At this moment in time, are we a better side with Abidal at CB than Pique?
–Villa still isn’t playing up to standard for me. What about you?

Team: 8. We were loose with possession at times, a sin that might have been punished by a better side. But there aren’t many nits to pick in a display that featured team offense and team defense. When Xavi is in our box playing defense as Villa/Messi/Pedro!! are stealing balls in the midfield, it’s just crazy.

Guardiola: 10. This is his first perfect score the season. The subs were right and made at the right times, the decision to keep Pique in reserve for the Catalan derby was the right one, and Mascherano got another opportunity to start, in a real match this time. The extra love he gave P!! as he was coming off was exceptionally cool, and judging from the grin, seemed to make P!!’s night.

Valdes: 7. Even though he didn’t have to make any saves, his distribution from the back was excellent. Having that 11th attacker out there allows us to play differently in the attack. I’ve noted before that his improvement in that department has been vast this season, and it continues.

Alves: 8. So my screams worked for Iniesta, now it’s your turn: “Shoot Dani, shoot!” Very strong match, even the few times his defense was called upon. And that Messiesque run of his could have resulted in quite the golazo. Yet another match in which he very eloquently screams, “Pay me! I’m worth it.” Couple that with the series of 1-2s with Messi for the third goal, and you wonder if the shirt deal wasn’t done just so we could give Dani, then everyone else a raise.

Puyol: 8. Think of the adjective: stalwart, indomitable, high-energy, whatever you choose, Captain Caveman was it. This wasn’t his highest-energy defensive effort, but he made up for it in other ways, most notably contributing to our all-out attack. Ray Ray’s comment about Puyol’s needing the pay the club for a season ticket shows that he doesn’t watch our captain closely enough.

Abidal: 9. A couple of wayward balls kept him from perfection, but he had the most recovered balls of any defender (11, one more than Puyol) and broke up play after play. He was on the right, the left, forward, back, helping Valdes, helping Alves, bailing us out when Maxwell/Mascherano screwed the pooch, and doing it all with style. Did anyone else notice how every time Valdes got the ball, Abidal would sprint back to give him a close-range passing option? And he did it every single time.

Maxwell: 6. He’s been better, but he wasn’t as bad as you might have thought as you squinted at the Web stream of the match. He was very instrumental in possession maintenance, with some very good passes. Yes, there were defensive lapses. He isn’t as sharp as he was earlier in the season, primarily because he isn’t getting the reps. And with Abidal’s form, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. What must Adriano be thinking?

Mascherano: 7. Again, a much better match than people gave him credit for. He has really learned to slot neatly into the way that we play football. He had to rein it in a bit after the yellow that wasn’t, but people who said that he wasn’t a good passer and not Barca quality, just be verging on obese from eating those words. He isn’t just a destroyer, much to our delight.

Xavi: 9. Great scott, what a match. When he dishes out a bad ball, it’s such a shock that it’s easy to let it color your view of his match into thinking he wasn’t his usual brilliant self. Wrong. He controlled that match to a degree that must be frustrating to watch. You want the ball, but he always has it. And you can’t get it from him. If you come close, he just slides it to Iniesta, who proceeds to do exactly what Xavi was just doing. Madness.

Iniesta: 9. Speaking of, what a remarkable match. He makes playing the way that he does look so effortless, with the constant movement and repetition of “pass, receive.” But then you watch players who are merely very good, and you understand. That goal of his, by the by, was spectacular, though I’m still not sure how he got the ball between keeper and post.

Pedro!!: 9. Again, some wayward balls kept today’s Man of the Match from a perfect score, but he was like a Tasmanian Devil out there today, winning balls, assisting, tackling, passing and receiving and vexing anyone who came near him. It was one of those stat-stuffer performances that, aside from his assists, doesn’t show up on the stat sheet in any tangible way. Yet his performance was immense, and critical to our mission of destruction.

Villa: 6. I know, I know …. you hate Villa. You betcha. It was a nice goal, and his movement early in the match was very good. I’m not sure whether it’s fitness or tentativeness, but as a match progresses, he stops making runs. What I absolutely loved about his game today, in addtion to the goal, was the constant tracking back on defense. He had a number of steals and interceptions that demonstrate how he is embracing the way that we play.

Messi: 7. Even at 3/4 speed, he’s still amazing. I don’t know why I’m so surprised that someone with that much shotmaking fluency and creativity would also be an amazing passer, but there it is. And you can see the improvement with every match. He’s becoming a leader, though in a very quiet way, and it seems that he can score at will as he makes the difficult look so easy. You try shooting across your body while moving away from the goal, then come talk to me.

Substitutes

Busquets (for Mascherano): 7. He’s just playing so well right now, demonstrating that different type of DM from Mascherano, one that is also a very tidy playmaker, in addition to gobbling up every ball that comes near him. So impressive.

Krkic (for Pedro!!): 7. I thought that CT had a hell of a appearance. He constantly, incessantly makes the runs that Villa doesn’t. Some of that is the energy of youth, some is certainly his better understanding of how we play. He has very quick feet and a remarkable first touch, both of which we saw in his late goal.

Keita (for Xavi): 6. With more time, he would have played to a higher rating. He doesn’t play all the time any longer, but whenever he does play, he gives his all, then waits patiently for the next time. He is always winning to do the donkey work, whether it’s executing a Xaviesque spin with the ball to free up space, making the run or crashing the box.

Y’all know what’s next, everyone: the Catalan derby, next Saturday. So get ready. If we can get through that one unscathed and with full points, sky’s the limit.


“Show me the money! Show me the money!

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

211 Comments

  1. Vj
    December 13, 2010

    OOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! A review..

    Meanwhile Park scores one of the weirdest/fortunate goals ever..

    • Vj
      December 13, 2010

      No, awesome piece of skill with his neck if he intended it..

    • beeeef
      December 13, 2010

      haha yeah. it was well taken though given the circumstances. the arsenal keeper was in no mans land for that one.

  2. Kari
    December 13, 2010

    Kxevin review > Man Utd-Arsenal

    Visca Kxevin!

    • IS
      December 13, 2010

      Agree…

      Seriously wish Arsenal weren’t so damn tentative though, could make the game so much more interesting. Man U aren’t doin much really.

    • Eklavya
      December 14, 2010

      Wow, does Pedro read Kxevin’s reviews?!

  3. K(legit)
    December 13, 2010

    Noted

    1. The extra ! for Pedro

    2. I don’t care if Villa plays clunky as long as he scores on a regular basis

    3. Iniesta scoring consistently!!..great scot!

    4. My 2nd liveblog thing and i still don’t know the peanuts joke..boooo

    5. In line with the times,”OOOOoooohh!”

    • Vj
      December 13, 2010

      4. Its not much really, last season when we were playing Racing I guess, Eklavya cracked a peanut joke in the LB-

      “5 peanuts were walking down an alley
      and on of them was AS-SALTED”

      And we immediately scored.. And it caught on in the subsequent LBs.. So, whenever we need goals/Eklavya is in the LB, Peanuts is the thing to say..

      With all the hammerings we’re dishing out, I’d say the players’ diet consists of a healthy amount of legumes..

      Story told. Happy? ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. IS
    December 13, 2010

    Kxev, thanks for making it official… P! has evolved into P!!

  5. soccermomof4
    December 13, 2010

    Kvevin:”I think that all we can do is enjoy every single moment of every single performance by this amazing, amazing side”
    Amen!

  6. Kari
    December 13, 2010

    Just a bit of perspective on Villa:

    Currently, he has 10 goals, 5 assists in all comp. He’s underwhelming for some right now, right? Well, there was another striker that was playing for us last season that was kicking the jams and arguably produced his best football for the colors during this time period.

    He had 13 goals, 5 assists.

    It’s just stats, but I’d like to see the number of balls recovered, fouls committed and the fact that Villa’s ADAPTING his game to Barca by playing LW. Before people point out he does that for Spain, let’s be serious here–while Spain and Barca are similar, they play differently in key aspects.

    But we already knew that.

    • Kari
      December 13, 2010

      Sorry, that’s 11 goals (I’m using soccernet’s statistics) with 2 games in hand.

      • mei
        December 13, 2010

        you are right.
        Account it for the fact that ibrahimovic was practically garbage for the majority of the second half of the season last year and you get a glimpse of what we are onto.
        Barcelona is a much better team with villa. He presses more , runs more, can cooperate better with our players in creating danger.
        He can and must improve his passing , and making more runs but overall hes doing fine.
        penalty for manchester united.Arsenal choking again.

        • mei
          December 13, 2010

          rooney blasted it to the stars.
          He might hit an alien spaceship!

  7. soccermomof4
    December 13, 2010

    I’m finding it really hard to enjoy this EPL game right now. It’s not just because my preferred side is losing. It’s because I’m used to something much much better. I’m spoiled rotten by my Barca.

    BTW, GO RAVENS! tonight!!!!!!!!

    • IS
      December 13, 2010

      Aren’t we all… (spoiled, that is)…

      I was just thinking how big a nightmare it would be if either of the two EPL giants were dressed in blaugrana. As a (not too devoted) Arsenal fan, the game is simply amateurish.

    • El Tel
      December 13, 2010

      I’ll second that Ravens’ vote of confidence tonight. (I’ll worry about the O’s later.)

      • soccermomof4
        December 13, 2010

        Haven’t thought much about the O’s since Cal retired. Such a sad situation! Must get new owner.

    • December 14, 2010

      The exact same thought i had last night while watching that cricket match that was supposed to be a Derby of the top 2 teams in EPL ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. blitzen
    December 13, 2010

    Kxevin: “This side, this glorious XI that we have right, that seems to do the same stuff no matter whoโ€™s out there, has ruined me.”

    I said almost exactly the same thing to my father last week while attempting to enjoy an EPL game. There was lots of rushing about and booting the ball down the end of the pitch in the hope that someone would run onto it, and it was vaguely exciting, but it just could not be compared to what I consider REAL football, the way Barcelona plays.

    Good review, as always.

  9. skyislm
    December 13, 2010

    another excellent game! kudos to all.

    I have always thought that our way of playing also ensures a little more safety for our players and this is what I found from Phil Ball’s article today (as quoted by Sociedad gaffer Lasarte):
    the way that Barcelona play not only erases all possibilities of your playing football against them (because you never get the ball), it also reduces the chances that you might have to bother them physically, to knock them off the ball. Indeed, every time that a visiting player was poised to make a legitimate physical challenge on Sunday night, the ball was gone.

    Also found this master piece from Sid in SI – pardon me if it is a repetition, but this can be read a million times ๐Ÿ™‚
    \\http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/sid_lowe/12/03/messi.ronaldo/index.html

  10. Victor
    December 13, 2010

    Didn’t Bojan substitute Pedro instead of Villa?

    Other than that, I agree with most of the ratings. I’d give a 10 to Pedro, though. Mascherano an 8. (He did OK)

    • blitzen
      December 13, 2010

      Yes, it was Pedro who came off.

  11. soccermomof4
    December 13, 2010

    how does one add that avatar picture thing to one’s posts?

    • Kari
      December 13, 2010

      /http://en.gravatar.com/site/signup/

      Make sure the email you use to sign up is the same one you use to post comments (otherwise, it won’t show up)

      • soccermomof4
        December 13, 2010

        that is specific for just this site?

        • Vj
          December 13, 2010

          No, it can be used in other wordpress blogs as well in addition to other sites..

        • Kari
          December 13, 2010

          Err, I think it works for some other sites (e.g. TotalBarca and Disquis on The Offside (not sure on that one though)).

          But Gravatar is defi—

          Hand ball. Pen. to Utd.

          –nately the one to use on BFB.

  12. Kari
    December 13, 2010

    Alright, who wants Rooney to miss—

    LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Jnice
      December 13, 2010

      I actually want Arsenal to lose, but that miss was still funny.

  13. Jnice
    December 13, 2010

    At this moment in time, are we a better side with Abidal at CB than Pique?

    I don’t think so. We have played great matches when Pique has been CB also.

    Villa still isnโ€™t playing up to standard for me. What about you?

    I think he is. Besides scoring and assisting goals, he is tracking back and applying pressure more than he ever has. I think that more than meets the standard for an attacker in his first year with the club.

    • soccermomof4
      December 13, 2010

      At this point in time—I don’t know. I think Pique is the more talented of the two at CB, but he’s been eratic. I actually feel more comfortable with Abidal there of late. When Pique stops acting like a schoolgirl and gets serious about his football…..

      • Jnice
        December 13, 2010

        Yeah, he has been a bit erratic, but I feel better with the both of them in there, especially when the opposing teams have fast wingers, I’d prefer Abidal to be on the wing. He still checks inside anyway to help out Pique and Puyol.

    • ooga aga
      December 13, 2010

      he already has as many “balls recovered” as ibra did all last year. he tracked back deep into our own half to rob the opposition at one point in the 2nd half. i agree there is room for improvement for villa, he doesnt seem as pacy as before (like, when he used to roast us on the counters with valencia), but he fits the side much better than ibra. doesnt mean that there isnt someone out there that could do better for us than villa, but cmon i dont want to be spoiled. we look amazing and he is making a good contribution for a first season.

  14. Clue(less)
    December 13, 2010

    Gai on the right and Adam Johnson on the left…3 years from now Man City could have the second best attacking force in the world…unless Gai poo’s the bed.

    • Jnice
      December 13, 2010

      Sike. Gai isn’t going to pan out. And Adam Johnson won’t be world class.

  15. Vj
    December 13, 2010

    Van Persie an Walcott both slip simultaneously.. Way to screw up an attack..

  16. mei
    December 13, 2010

    boy thats what i call an ugly game.

  17. Jnice
    December 13, 2010

    The wastefulness of the two teams is shocking.

  18. Kari
    December 13, 2010

    If we continue kick ass after the Winter Break, we’ll win titles. Boatloads of ’em.

  19. Jnice
    December 13, 2010

    I wonder why some teams don’t like keeping the ball. Oh, well.

    • Kari
      December 13, 2010

      Because it’s–it’s…err, boring. Yeah! It’s boring

      • ooga aga
        December 13, 2010

        Man U leading the EPL with a game in hand, and they barely eked out a tie at home against valencia, who, i might add, isnt even in the Liga’s CL spots at the moment. they are what, 6th in Liga? and all the teams in Liga suck except Barca and RM, right?

  20. Kari
    December 13, 2010

    FT Arsenal lose to United aka. so what else is new?

    • December 13, 2010

      New? People starting to talk about Man U this year like they are the invincibles. Idiots.

      • Victor
        December 13, 2010

        I think that Manchester United is getting undeserved results. They don’t play good, they win their games with just some moments of brilliance, but generally they play crap for 80-85 minutes… really…

  21. GREECE BARCA
    December 13, 2010

    Wow valencia draw with osasuna!!In the end of season we will have 90+points and the 3d team around 65!

    • Helge
      December 13, 2010

      Unfortunately, that gets more and more realistic. I was actually more shocked by Villarreal’s loss @ Getafe, though. Sevilla is crap, Valencia is so-so, but I thought Villarreal might really challenge us (i.e., Barca + EE) for not losing 15+ points on the Top2.

  22. soccermomof4
    December 13, 2010

    Oh boy, the gravatar thingy works!

  23. sheena
    December 13, 2010

    Based on what we just saw, I hope we draw Arsenal for the round of 16, I really do.

    • Kari
      December 13, 2010

      I kinda don’t now. Based on what I saw, they might kick us at Camp Nou…

      • sheena
        December 13, 2010

        I just don’t think they could get near enough to do any damage even if they did start fouling. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • soccermomof4
      December 13, 2010

      Who said, “Arsenal’s defense is our playground,” on another thread?
      At this point, I don’t care anymore. Give me a Barca v. Arsenal round of 16 and I will gladly cheer my head off for Barca against my second team. Barca goes through 10-0 on aggregate (2 manitas- we’re good at that). Then I want to play against United in the quarter finals because they didn’t show me much today either- Barca goes through 10-0 on aggragate(see above reason!).
      I don’t know if I’m just disappointed with Arsenal today or just bored crudless by everyone elses football!

      • K(legit)
        December 13, 2010

        100 points for using ‘Crud’ in a sentence..
        Term last heard on the Swat Kats cartoon

        • soccermomof4
          December 13, 2010

          part of being a mom is that your language becomes G rated

      • Jnice
        December 13, 2010

        I donโ€™t know if Iโ€™m just disappointed with Arsenal today or just bored crudless by everyone elses football!

        That’s how I feel about everyone else’s football.

        • December 13, 2010

          I watched Bolton v. Blackburn the other day.

          Talk about painful. Coyles trying to make Bolton play more possession but basically long balls thumped toward the center of the box the entire game.

  24. K(legit)
    December 13, 2010

    The fact that Giggs created more in 10 min than Nasri did in 90 is staggering

    • ooga aga
      December 13, 2010

      Giggsy = a player that any neutral could/should like…

  25. Helge
    December 13, 2010

    Quick note about ManUtd-Arsenal:
    Arsenal was poor, no movement, no inspiration, no confidence from any of their player to take the risk of a dribbling.
    Fabregas was pathetic, misplacing pass after pass, not creating anything. My verdict: Let him stay at Arsenal forever, where he will most-likely never win a major title. He CHOSE to leave us, Arsenal didn’t force him. He was impatient, so now he shall pay the price, not we in the sense of a 30m+ buy-back. I wouldn’t even want Cesc for 20m, we’ve got more promising players in the Cantera.
    Maybe I’m a bit hard on Arsenal and Cesc right now, but that’s only because I still have a lot more sympathy for Arsenal than for ManUtd and Chelsea. Fact is, Arsenal are the eternal underachievers, especially in big matches; Buying Cesc would be a waste of money.

    ManUtd 5 points ahead now, Chelsea better beat them @ Stamford Bridge next weekend. ManCity could easily be 2nd after the christmas playdays ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kari
      December 13, 2010

      What’s we’ve been saying for the past 12 months (or more even).

      Thiago! Thiago! Thiago!

      I feel a cantera rant coming on after seeing Man Utd-Arsenal… Mostly against Fabregas. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • soccermomof4
        December 13, 2010

        save 50 mil- promote Thiago (eventually)- pay Alves

    • K(legit)
      December 13, 2010

      Fabregas was pathetic, misplacing pass after pass, not creating anything. My verdict: Let him stay at Arsenal forever, where he will most-likely never win a major title. He CHOSE to leave us, Arsenal didnโ€™t force him. He was impatient, so now he shall pay the price, not we in the sense of a 30m+ buy-back. I wouldnโ€™t even want Cesc for 20m, weโ€™ve got more promising players in the Cantera.
      he was just returning from a hamstring injury Helge..cut him some slack ๐Ÿ˜€

      • Helge
        December 13, 2010

        Hey, I was already admitting that I’ve been a bit hard on him;)

    • momo
      December 13, 2010

      I think you’re being a bit hard on Cesc here in the heat of the moment. He’s still a brilliant game changing player and IMO one of the last Xavi-like players remaining. Of course he is still needs polishing to fit perfectly into that string pulling role in the CM, but he’s without a doubt fantastic for it.
      You’re right though, 30 mill is pushing it, especially considering our current depth in midfield. But 20 mill? For a player like Cesc? That’s nothing short of a steal.

    • Jim
      December 13, 2010

      Fabregas wasn’t fit. That was obvious. When fit he is still a cracking player .

    • Louis
      December 13, 2010

      Agreed about not needing Cesc. However, you can’t judge him based soley on today. He was clearly not near 100% physically and rusty.

    • sheena
      December 13, 2010

      I gotta say, I don’t know if we’ve been spoilt by Barca, or just the Liga in general.
      You don’t see long balls in the Liga, you just don’t. After watching 25 minutes of ball thwacking in the United v Arsenal game, I switched to Valencia v Osasuna, saw some pretty entertaining play and 2 goals.
      The Liga is A LOT stronger than people think it is, and I dare say that on their day, Villareal would probably wipe the floor with Man U.

  26. momo
    December 13, 2010

    Poor Arsenal… They honestly need a new coach.
    As for our lovely team, it’s official! The have spoiled me to an extent where every other game immediately puts me to sleep.

    • Helge
      December 13, 2010

      That’s exactly what RayRay was talking about yesterday ๐Ÿ™‚
      And today, I felt the same. Damn you, Barca !

  27. GREECE BARCA
    December 13, 2010

    Also i want(when puyol and xavi retires)messi be the captain.I don.t understand the pique story.Messi is 10years here and the best player.Valdez second and pique third.

    • soccermomof4
      December 13, 2010

      Pique needs to grow up more before I want to see him as captain.

    • Barcamancini
      December 13, 2010

      I personally don’t like forwards as captains. Too much of an ego inflation.

    • Amira
      December 13, 2010

      I agree. I love PK, but I prefer Messi as captain because of his demeanor. He is calmer and has less of a temper and will be able to control everyone better.

      • Eduard
        December 13, 2010

        I like the defensive Mid player as the captain, Busquets is still a little green, but I’m sure if he stays with us he’ll be an excellent leader.

  28. Diego S.
    December 13, 2010

    OOoooooooooooooooh !! The Review looks spectacular ! I want to take a picture of it but I’m afraid I’ll distract Kxevin.

  29. Kari
    December 13, 2010

    The sad (read: pathetic) thing about the Arsenal loss is that they proved Evra right. Again.

    • momo
      December 13, 2010

      Those were some incredibly unprofessional comments though.

      • K(legit)
        December 13, 2010

        Unprofessional? Yes
        Vindicated? again yes

  30. Barcamancini
    December 13, 2010

    Uuuugh EPL makes me so angry. How hard is it to keep the ball on the ground for a little bit? Anyways, I totally agree with you about Villa. I see it in almost every game he plays. He starts off great, making runs and participating in the buildup. But as the match progresses, he just starts shadowing the opposition’s defenders and waiting for the ball to come to him. Reminiscent of the Swedish lamppost. This was still a great game. I had a good time watching it.

    • momo
      December 13, 2010

      “Swedish lamppost”! That is pure gold!

  31. mei
    December 13, 2010

    A newspaper has an article about a maggot trying to implicate barcelona players with drugs.
    Aparently we play that good that people are starting to rumour that our players are doped out of their minds during games ๐Ÿ™‚

    • jordi(TM)
      December 13, 2010

      The loonies are marca believe this must be the answer.Its not like Alonso Ramos and Casillas played at the world cup as well right?

      • mei
        December 13, 2010

        they dont mind including their players even in drug use as long as they can pinch something for our players hehe ๐Ÿ˜€

      • Victor
        December 13, 2010

        They don’t believe that is the answer. They want that to be answer. Of course, when you can’t defeat your rivals and they humiliate you… say that they cheated.

        As for the Spanish squad in the World Cup, I do think that Alonso did more harm than good to that team.

  32. sab
    December 13, 2010

    @kxevin.

    Regarding ur 1st question,my opinion is we r defensively better with abidal at CB than pique.but at the same time if we want 2 bring the ball frm the defense against a team whose gameplan is to pressurize then pique is our man.though abi was simply collosus today.

    2nd one,villa still needs improvement.it seems to me that after min 60 he gets exhausted.though he integrates to the system much more fluently then the ninja BANGS.

    watched the mu arse game.out of curosity i counted the passing sequence for both teams frm min 15.at min 24,arse successfully completed 4 passes on the trot,at min 27 mu made 5 passes on the trot.after min 30 i lost interest.in these 15 mins neither of the both sides can string 3 passes consecutively with the exception of the abovew cases.after watching barca how horrible for me to watch this.

    The way we were playing vs la real,why didnt pep let thiago play a single minute in this match is beyond me.

    I think its time for us to sell keita after this season if smash stays.wt do u think?

  33. vicsoc8
    December 13, 2010

    Comments on two players from the match:

    Villa: I thought he was pretty poor after his well taken goal today. It was almost like he scored and then completely forgot everything he has been learning working with the team this season. He held the ball too long, tried to beat defenders himself when he could have just kept the ball moving, wasn’t making himself available (I remember one occasion when he was wide open on the touchline, but as the ball went wide to Maxwell he ran into the middle where he was marked), and generally wasn’t making intelligent runs. I don’t know what his deal was, but I thought he stood out as the weakest link of the team today.

    Mascherano: Dude is good, but in my mind Busquets still gets the start in a do or die game (I wouldn’t think more than 5 seconds about it). Mascherano has skill, but he still doesn’t read the game as well as Busquets. Busquets is extremely talented at completing the triangle when we are on offense – he is always offering himself as a good option – the amazing thing is that he is able to do it without compromising himself should he need to transition to defense. Mascherano is skilled and intimidating in the middle, but he just doesn’t read the game as well as Busquets. Mascherano may be a better overall defensive midfielder, but Busquets is better for our system. There are many times where it takes Mascherano several seconds to move into a good position and complete the triangle, and sometimes the play passes him by because of this. In contrast Busquets is almost always completing the triangle before I even know where the next one is going to be.

    That said, I don’t mean to take anything away from Mascherano. He has been performing well (and has adapted quickly), and I’m especially impressed with his ability to pick a long pass.

  34. Victor
    December 13, 2010

    Both Villa and Mascherano are still understanding the system. Yes, I know this sounds like a never-ending excuse, but both of them are indeed understanding it.

  35. GREECE BARCA
    December 13, 2010

    Sorry but i feel that alvez story is one of major problems last years.Salaries.We paid big salaries always with the fear that we lose someone.What make a club big is not only trophies,traditions e.t.c.It s the power to say:hey man that money can give to you.No more.You are in one of biggest teams in world,in one amazing city.Take that or leave if you want more.Alvez now wants more.The club made offer.If is not happy let him go.we will survive.

  36. Jnice
    December 13, 2010

    Question to Santi Segurola:

    Xabi Alonso, Ozil, Drogba, Cesc …
    among the 23 candidates for the Golden Ball.
    Is this an insult to Sergio Busquets?
    I think he was the best in the world, do you not?

    Answer:

    Yes, Busquets had an impressive World Cup. Many say it was the best of the Spanish team, although it does not sound good to say. Busquets is a marvel of a midfielder, one of those that guarantees intelligence, order, selflessness, spirit of solidarity, competitiveness and guile. And a great first and second touch. A great player from head to toe, one of my favorites.

    *http://www.marca.com/charlas/santiagosegurola/13122010.html

    • December 13, 2010

      Busi will go down like Guardiola. If you know the game, you’ll know him. But he’ll never be on anyone ‘greatest’ lists because of the nature of his pivot/dm position. He doesn’t generate the kind of assist numbers that Xavi does to even get him that minimum level of popular recognition.

      We need some more baseball defense like statistics in soccer to quantify a player like Busi.

      PMoR – Passes Made over Replacement
      BWoR – Balls won over Replacement
      Range Factor for Tackles – +1 for making difficult tackles. -1 for missing tackles you should make.

    • Kari
      December 13, 2010

      The fact the Xabi Alonso, the liability, gets the credit for Busi’s work pissed me off.

      Okay, Xabi has the rep but Busi has the real deal.

  37. psqd
    December 13, 2010

    yep, busquets is much more fluid and effortless in the system. sometimes during the game i felt like sMasch was too pinned in the center. but he is coming along by leaps and bounds and breaks stuff up wonderfully. i also think he overall helped the abidal/puyol pairing come off better than it might have.

    However, i also have to say tha abidal was super-fantastic, and i really did not like him when he was at CB early in the season. Now, from a stability standpoint, i agree, there is an argument to be made for him over pique. The problem for me is that then you have max at LB. Unfortunately, for me, max was playing better earlier in the season. Now, when he is in he looks like a sub, as much or more than some of the B’s.

    Villa, he doesn’t look as good as the other guys in the system, but he hasn’t been in it as long so…he’s producing at a decent clip, don’t complain.

    Keita, he isn’t the same as thiago, but at this point midfield minutes off the bench are gonna be between him, sMasch, and thiago. for me, those minutes are better going to thiago and sMasch.

  38. Amira
    December 13, 2010

    Great review, but I would have rated Messi one point higher. I agree with you about Villa, but he is getting old though.

  39. Jim
    December 13, 2010

    Ok, I’m gonna rise to the bait again. First of all, if you have a problem with Maxwell’s reliability at LB give me some examples of times when he let us down. I looked at the Liveblog and saw several comments to that effect, rewatched the game and I can’t find these. He is positionally very secure and technically one of the better players in the side in terms of comfort on the ball. He didn’t have much to do defensively but then neither did any of the defenders. If you’re saying he should be more effective when he goes forward I could accept that although he wasn’t bad.

    Which brings me to my next point. In a game like this i find it difficult to believe that any defender is worth an 8 or a 9. They had virtually nothing to do, up against a single attacker most of the time. I couldn’t distinguish between Puyol and Abidal – both had a sound game but both were dealing with easy mop up situations, not anything that should tax a defence.

    The real credit must always go to our midfield and forwards. They get through so much work it’s untrue and that is why virtually nothing gets through to the defence – or at least nothing dangerous. For me, no question I’d rather see a forward run at Pique or Puyol than Abidal. They have dealt with Ronaldo. Let’s not get carried away too much with Abidal at CB until he faces a test.

    Finally, if any other player scored two such goals as Messi did, offered such a briliant assist as he did, chased back like he did and caused such disruption every time he got the ball it’d be an 11. How can he score less than a defence that had nothing to do?

    Just offering my opinion. Enjoyed the review as always.

    • momo
      December 13, 2010

      Well you can argue that he wasn’t tested Jim. We’ve seen how difficult it is for him to cope with threats down his flank most notably the 1st leg of the arsenal match with walcott, and the first leg against inter in the semis. He is a quality player but to call him “technically one of the better players in the side in terms of comfort on the ball” in a team like the one we have now is preposterous.

      • Jim
        December 13, 2010

        Don’t think so , Momo. Not saying he’s Xavi or Iniesta quality but he’s certainly the equal of most of the rest, imo. Not sure who you are referring to with the tested bit. I was referring to Abidal. I agree Maxwell doesn’t have a lot of pace but this is more than compensated for by his positional sense. It won’t get a lot of support here but Abidal costs us every season with poor positional play. However, it tends to be in the second half of the season when the opposition actually pose an offensive threat.

        In terms of Maxwell, go back and have a look at the Arsenal match. I still have it on tape. Walcott’s goal was down to us losing the ball needlessly and unexpectedly and a ball inside Maxwell. I’m sorry but given that situation nobody in the world was catching Walcott. There was NO other occasion when Walcott beat Maxwell. Go back and have a look. Tell me if I’m wrong. Sorry, but it hacks me off at times when people repeat thoughts without thinking. Did anybody get onto Abidal for getting smoked by Ronaldo in the first few minutes of the Clasico when Valdes was injured? Did anybody get onto Abidal when Robben gave him the runaround? Maxwell no sooner escapes the ridiculous “He gives away needless corners” comments than he gets comments about him not being secure at LB.

        One example of his technique occurs to me now I think of it. Remember when Abidal chested the ball back to Valdes. Look at the trajectory of it. Although a good play the ball came a little high off his chest. Now compare that with Valdes’ clearances to Maxwell on the touchline a few games ago when he was LB – I forget the opposition. With players only a couple of feet away the ball drops perfectly to his feet. Also, what about the backflick to Villa in this game? That’s technique. I’m not saying he’s perfect but nobody yet has pointed out a situation where he has let us down badly.

    • Jim, welcome to the blog.

      Kxevin doesn’t rate all players on the same scale.
      He instead rates them on a ratio from their perceived best. With their best performance being a 10.

      Despite the rating, Pedro! didn’t play better than Messi. Pedro! played better than he usualy does compared to Pedro!’s perceived standard. Messi, playing at a 7 (7/10 in fractional form, .7 in decimal, 70% in percentage) was giving us an average performance. Average when compared to Messi’s standard, not compared to other players.

      We have certainly seen Messi have sublime matches. He was great today. But just great.

      Maxwell was excellent yesterday, but as Kxevin noted, or hinted at… Maxwell was better when he was getting reps during Abidal’s injury. His touches were cleaner and tighter, his attacks were fast and bold. He played very well, but we’ve seen better.

        • Jim
          December 14, 2010

          I still have some bits that aren’t old though ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Jim
        December 14, 2010

        I think that’s why I have difficulty with the ratings . . . and i know it’s silly. It’s something I look forward to then inevitably pick at ! It really doesn’t matter. Kxevin writes a great review and I alwayas agree with the thrust of it.

        I suppose if i could get into my head that not a lot is expected of Abidal compared with the more gifted members of our squad I could reconcile the ratings. Maybe a ranked list of the tarif for each player? ie. who has to work the hardest to get a 10 ? ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. Helge
    December 13, 2010

    Lovely review, made me cool down a lot after my anger against Arsenal ^^

    And I would agree, right now Abidal is the better CB solution, but that’s mainly due to Piquรฉ’s unusual poor form. He should concentrate more on his game, and less on twitter! (just joking, his drop in form obviously came before twittering)

    • momo
      December 13, 2010

      I think the correct verb form for twitter is “tweeting” haha.

      • Helge
        December 13, 2010

        That’s an argument. Maybe I’m a neologist (which is another neologism, I guess)?

  41. Ethan
    December 13, 2010

    This year is the worst ive seen the epl in a long time. Just boring boring futbol. Spain at least plays attractive, talented futbol. Italy is boring, but even they are more fun to watch this season. Germany is actually producing some good ball these days which is really nice to see. It will be interesting to see how the Champions League Plays out, but for once, we have the top teams in the tournament.

    And Yes, we have been spoiled rotten, and all other futbol is extremely boring and even amateurish at its best. I wish that were not so, as i love watching all leagues. But this year, i just can’t stand watching long balls and difficulty stringing 2-3 passes together while both teams lose shape. I’ve been a fan since 05′ and without a doubt in my mind, we are witnessing this club at its best. Could it get any better? I sure hope so, and i definitely believe so. I want this team to go down as easily one of the best sides in history. How do we do that? By winning all the silverware possible for the next few years. We’ve won a lot over these last few seasons. Champions League twice, League 3 times, Copa Del Rey, Club World Cup, European Super Cup, Domestic Super Cup. If this team can double those accomplishments, then this team can be put up for best all time next to the ajax of the 70s and milan of the 90s. heck, even the barca dream team of the 90s in up there as well. But this team needs to win silverware before we can all bow down to it as the best, or greatest futbol of all time. What we are witnessing is truly something special as Kevin keeps saying, but until we produce the silverware, we have not yet earned the praise. At least these are my feelings. I believe we are witnessing history in the making, and we should appreciate every second of this glorious run of form of some of the best and most fluid attacking futbol ever. Visca Barca. Visca Catalunya. Visca BarcelonaFootballBlog!

  42. December 13, 2010

    P!! continues to impress and improve. The width issue disappeared because of P!! is not longer P!. Villa’s wing play also help addressing the width problem. I agree he has not reached his full potential, but look here, we are already kicking butts after butts without reaching our full potential, what else will we see when we do?

    That goal Alves and Messi created shows just how good the two players are as well as their perfect understanding with each other. I don’t know if it is because Messi is so good that even a bad player like Alves would look this good or it’s because they both have to be at a similar level, but at this point, I think the combination between Alves and Messi is irreplaceable. Yes, we said it before, but we need to say it again as it proves to us again.

    It’s ridiculous to criticize anything, but there is always room for improvements. One of which is that we should really start shooting more. According to Barcastuff, we had 9 attempts on goal only. In a match so one-sided in every possible way, we only had 9 attempts on goal. In fact I don’t even need those stats to remind me Alves should score 2 goals instead of none, P!! should bag a goal or 2 in the box. Even Maxwell should get an attempt or 2 on goal. Messi, of course, would bag a hattrick if he is more determine to test the keeper more than he did. Sometimes I feel contradicted, because the way we play right now is such a joy to watch. Part of the reason why it is so unbeatable is that we pass the ball until we could surely get a goal. But still!! I don’t know what I am thinking anymore, Barca makes me confused. What kind of football are we watching right now? tell me…

    Thanks for the review. I have been waiting all day only to miss the moment when it comes up.

    • soccermomof4
      December 13, 2010

      Pedrito became Pedro became Don Pedro (aka P!!)

  43. Kari
    December 13, 2010

    Barcelona made 938 passes v R.Sociedad last night, 25 more than Stoke have made in their last 3 EPL games put together (913) [barcastuff]

    Just getting that out there

    • momo
      December 13, 2010

      Now it’s just getting embarrassing. I’m telling you we’re playing a different sport.

  44. GREECE BARCA
    December 13, 2010

    In the last 6 games the opposite teams had 9(yes 9)shots on target.Unbelievable.Lucky valdez!You watch without pay!

    • skyislm
      December 14, 2010

      that is not true. he gets paid to watch it ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. Kari
    December 13, 2010

    53 – There were a total of 53 misplaced passes in the final third of the pitch in the first half: 20 by Arsenal, 33 by Man Utd. Sloppy. [OptaJoe]

    No comment.

    • soccermomof4
      December 13, 2010

      Really! I doubt very much that the pitch had that much to do with the loss. Arsenal lost because their style of play depends on passing and they couldn’t string together more than 4 of the things at a time.

      SO, now that I have become disinterested in any other football besides my beloved blaugrana and have more free time, do I…
      a. learn to knit
      b. exercise more
      c. actually get my housework done
      d. hope that I can tolerate other styles of play again, soon

      • Jim
        December 14, 2010

        On behalf of your kids can I put in a plea for C ? Otherwise, who’ll do their washing ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jnice
      December 13, 2010

      I feel you, Kari. Pep’s press conferences, interviews, or whatever are always impeccable. No excuses and no matter what he really feels about an issue, he never disrespects anyone.

      I mean he probably goes home and complains to his wife about the stupid refs and the stupid Madrid press, but I’m glad he always brushes it off in press conferences.

  46. momo
    December 13, 2010

    I’m assuming most of you have seen this, still it is poetry. (Watch it full screen with the audio turned up, and at the highest definition.)
    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_15msMNG43c

  47. just sayin'
    December 13, 2010

    Thanks Kxevin for the review, I always look forward to your assessment.
    To answer your questions”
    – At this moment in time, are we a better side with Abidal at CB than Pique? YES!
    โ€“Villa still isnโ€™t playing up to standard for me. What about you?
    I thought he had a pretty good second half.

    Not taking anything away from Pique who is a very good CB and works well with Puyol, but, Abidal is just quietly solid in every game. He is consistent, more defensively aggressive than Pique, a more precise passer, and hustles both offensively and defensively all game long. Overall, I would be more confident in Abidal as a total footballer than Pique at the moment who has been inconsistent as of late.

    I think what you and others have noted about Villa disappearing in the second half is really Villa working better in the Barca system. I don’t think he disappeared at all, but instead he started to make quick passes back to his teammates in the box instead of just shooting the ball no matter how impossible the angle. He looked like he settled in and he was finally figuring out that he needs to lay back a little and play tiki-taka. The more he learns how to become another cog in the system the more legitimate chances at goal will come his way. Personally, I saw a big change in his style of play yesterday and Saturday will be a good indication if he is starting to blend into the fabric of Barca play instead of standing out with his own clunky style.
    I gotta give Messi a 9. If it’s even possible, he looks like he plays better and better each game. He can single handedly change the outcome of the game. He’s ball handling skills and the way he can move through defenders time and time again is just truly amazing. I think we are spoiled and jaded, because every time he’s on the field he is supremely impressive.

    • momo
      December 13, 2010

      Abidal can pass better than piquenbaur? Hardly.

      • just sayin'
        December 14, 2010

        Well, if we are debating why Pique is down in form, I would say that his passing has been off as of late.

        • Jim
          December 14, 2010

          It may be off but when was the last time Abidal hit an accurate 40 yard pass?

  48. Tyler
    December 13, 2010

    Remember last year, when we couldn’t score until the 88th minute and squeaked by a lot of games 1-0, or 2-0?

    What a difference a healthy Iniesta makes. Last year Xavi was brilliant but all the pressure of stopping creativity in our midfield last year was on him, and it was easy to man-mark or shadow him. You just can do that anymore with the way Iniesta is playing now, and with both of them in sync… they’re simply unstoppable. Last year, much of our games were played with midfield lineups of Keita/Busquets/Toure/ + Xavi due to Iniesta’s long injury and gradual return to full match fitness. All of those players are excellent and great at their roles, but not creative like Xavi is, nowhere near as masterful. Iniesta comes close, but he’s obviously different in his approach so together you can’t man-mark both of them or now Messi or Pedro or Alves or Villa is loose.

    Oh yeah, we also don’t have this lumbering Swede trying to fit into the system. All of our strikers are either Masia raised, or have played in the Spanish (read Barca) system for a while now. While Villa may not be on the level he should be, he will get there, but more importantly he is helping make space for Messi and Pedro and has scored 11 goals in all competitions. Not bad, for a guy who can get better.

    After watching the Man U and Arsenal game, and watching Chelsea’s horrible slide down the table, I’m not afraid to take on anyone. We would destroy Man U and Arsenal simply with our control of the midfield. That whole game was played on the flanks and with long balls and crosses into the box. That’s not gonna work against us. I can’t wait to see who we draw, because it’s going to be an awesome ride this year!

    • Jim
      December 14, 2010

      Agreed. In so many ways Iniesta is the key.

  49. Colby
    December 13, 2010

    Hey Jnice- Could we have links to a download of the game?

    Also, if you wouldn’t mind briefly explaining how to find them that would be great. So that I don’t have to pester you after every match and can do it for myself.

    Thanks.

    • Jnice
      December 13, 2010

      Well, I use fbtz.com, the most thorough football forum/football downloading site on the net (eww, sounds like a plug), but since that is kind of exclusive in that registration is only open periodically, your best bet would be rojadirecta.com

      Go roja, go to “download matches” and you’ll always find the games there.

      Here it is: *http://forum.rojadirecta.org/showthread.php?109598-FUTBOL-La-Liga-BBVA-J15-Barcelona-vs-Real-Sociedad-12-12-10

      There are a bunch of different options if you scroll down.

  50. Manish
    December 13, 2010

    Kxevin and team, i really appreciate what you guys do. I have now morphed into a quiet Barca follower after moving to NZ, where i hardly find people interested in football. The way Barca plays, gives me great joy and the way you put it down in your blog makes me even more happy. Thanks a ton. And all the fans who put down their comments in this blog, thanks a lot, makes for great great reading..

    …But Messi deserved more than 7.. common .. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • barca96
      December 13, 2010

      Hmmm that’s odd, becoming a Barca fan after moving to NZ wher they don’t even watch football.
      What made you a fan? Did you see a match on TV in the morning?

      • Manish
        December 13, 2010

        I have been a Barca fan for 6 years now.. just that i have morphed from a loud one to a quiet one as there is no one to discuss football here in NZ.. ๐Ÿ™ ..

  51. December 13, 2010

    Corrections for the record, and pardon my brain fade, folks:

    –We have won one trophy this season, the SuperCopa. How could I have forgotten the thrashing we laid on Sevilla?

    –Krkic subbed for P!!, rather than Villa. That was only my thinking of the correct sub.

  52. December 13, 2010

    A bunch of comments in one

    –That Arsenal-United match made my eyes hurt. I kept thinking “Where are the passing options?” It was one player trying to beat a defender one-v-one and when he lost the ball, the defender would just hoof it up the pitch. The movement off the ball was appalling, and hey, everybody! What if we HAD bought Arshavin? Lord today! Aimless headers, no build-up play, no elegance, no nothing.

    I admit that I couldn’t watch the entire match, however. I wonder what Fabregas is thinking as he watches our matches? Arsenal are going to be in it with a shout before the season ends, but they simply have to win the big matches. Wenger is blaming the pitch? The pitch? Really?

    –Doping and Barca. That is the most profoundly stupid thing I have ever heard. The only link appears to be that “Well, Spanish cyclists are doping, so all Spanish athletes are, from Monkey Boy (some call him Nadal) to Barca. Dopers are, barring an extraordinary program (cough!LanceArmstrong!cough!), usually inconsistent. They will rip it up for a brief period, then go up and down.

    Further, what is the value of doping for a football player? It depends. Steroids? Hey, our guys clearly aren’t doing those! ๐Ÿ˜€ Uppers? They make you jittery and your mind isn’t clear. I see no evidence of that. EPO and other aerobic capacity enhancers? We see them getting tired during matches so again, that one’s a tough sell.

    Unfortuately in this day and age, whenever something extraordinary happens, it’s no longer because of hard work and sheer excellence. It has to be something else. Drugs is the thing to shout now. Sad.

    –Thanks for the compliment, Manish, but Messi deserved what he got. He wasn’t even full speed for most of this match, sleepwalking around, then waking up to do something brilliant, then half-speeding it around again. He’s played much better matches, and we’ve all seen them.

    –To Jim’s comment about high ratings for defenders in a match such as this one, I would counter argue that our defenders are more than defenders. Abidal, for example, was in the box during set piece attacks, he was on the right wing helping in the attack, on the left wing helping in attack, in the midfield helping with possession. Dude was everywhere. Puyol was almost as omnipresent.

    • I’d be worried if Messi was getting 10s every match. As it stands, he runs himself to the ground.
      I think this year he has mastered shifting his figurative gears.
      He works his ass off when he needs to, but when a game is dead he has *very intelligently* shifted down to 75% or 50% effort. And frankly, many times that suits us just well since he, at 50-75%, can still rain assists and goals all over the pitch.

      But to reference my above comment, he was great today. problem is he is graded out of 10(sublime), so no one should be offended when he gets a 9 (amazing), 8(incredible), or 7 (amazing).

    • Also, a note on our defenders.
      Our attackers and forwards are allowed mistakes. We all run to get the ball back and start again. When they miss a sitter, play goes on.
      Unfortunately for our defenders, they are the last line of … um… defense…
      Their errors are, most of the time, displayed up on the scoreboard, the forwards are not.
      And let it not be forgotten that the demand on our defenders on VV is very different than that of other teams.
      If you watch an EPL match you’ll see a line of four compact defenders, at least one of two wingers extending that line to 5, and at least one holding mid in front of that line.

      In our system we have Puyol and Pique 20 meters from the touchlines. Alves is usually on the line halfway up the pitch on full on attack mode. So, whenever they are called into action, its ussually a full on emergency fire drill type deal, instead of a standard SSS/DDD (Slow Play-Steal Ball-Start Attack) (Delay – Destroy- Develop) type defense.
      Actually we do a lot of both, but they have to do the fire drill thing quite often, and to do so excellently that without us conceding very often deserves much merit.

      • skyislm
        December 14, 2010

        well said Jason. And add to that, you have to do the firedrill without kicking or fouling the opponent (read as, without getting carded)! Our defense is superb!

        And that is also what makes VV great. He plays almost the entire 90 minutes as a CB (sweeper) and suddenly he has to switch to superman mode to stop rockets (if they ever come). 90+ minutes of undivided focus – one must try it to see how difficult it is! (even if you are paid millions to do that) ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Patrick
          December 14, 2010

          As a keeper, I can tell you one thing. 90 minutes of focus is easier than you think. All it takes is that one game, and that one goal you weren’t paying attention. No worse feeling in the world.

          What continually amazes me about VV–what I think is the hardest goalkeeping skill to master–is his ability to read the game well and come off his lines* to make clearances or make what should be dangerous through balls into routine saves. As a keeper, not constantly involved with the pace of the game, its very easy to either 1) overestimate your speed and get beat to the ball and rounded or chipped or 2) underestimate you speed and be faced with either a breakaway or a defender who is forced to commit a potentially serious foul or difficult tackle to stop a breakaway. This is made all the more difficult by the fact that as play develops forward you are often on your heels retreating from an earlier advanced position while your team had possession.

          *lines doesn’t really mean much in VV’s context considering how often he is located near or even above the arc.

    • IS
      December 14, 2010

      Kxev, I thought the doping allegations were based on all the “Ooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhss” the PFP boys were tweeting. Perhaps uppers?

  53. December 13, 2010

    And yes, P!! has acquired an extra exclamation point. He’s earned it.

    –My Villa and Abidal questions were honest ones, rather than something meant to firestart. I see very positive signs from Villa, such as the tracking back and possession work, as mentioned in the review. I also see the runs that he isn’t making, the balls that he’s holding onto too long and the lack of quickness (feet, thought) that make our players so dangerous. You can see them moving to where the ball is going to be. It’s an extraordinary thing to watch. Villa will catch up, just as Henry did. Next season will be much better for him, just as it would have been had a certain Swedish jackass remained with the club.

    But when I watch Krkic play, I see all the things that I don’t see in Villa. Krkic’s goal v Sociedad was a delight, because his control and anticipation were Messi-like. He constantly makes runs, and is tuned into the system, because he was raised in it. (I know, I know …. I hate Krkic). Well yes I do. All day and all night. So withdraw those positive comments. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Abidal vs Pique is a fascinating question. Abidal’s pace seems to enable Alves to a greater degree, as the center gives him more, and less room to roam. That is, running from left to right will take longer than running to the left or right from the center. And that injection of sheer pace in the middle was very cool. It even allows Maxwell to roam forward.

    Yes, Pique is the starter at CB, and the automatic one. He has earned that right. But Abidal’s last two outings at CB have been barnstormers, and the ancillary benefits of a French Greyhound in the center of the pitch have also been evident.

    No, it isn’t a slag on Pique. It’s just a question about a side that is difficult to find flaws with.

    • barca96
      December 13, 2010

      Pique’s head just isn’t right this season.
      He has too many things on his head;
      Ads-Nike
      Love-Shakira
      Twitter updates
      Facebook updates
      BFF’ing with Cesc & Puyol

      • too many things on his head?

        How about boots cleats, elbows, knees, blood, bandages.

        Seriously… It can’t be good for him.

    • Kxevin:

      Villa will never become what Eto’o was to this team. But Villa could become really handy. He is still struggling with the tons of offsides calls. He will improve gradually and will do well, better than Henry. One thing Villa does well is that he doesn’t slow down the team. Ibra’s real problem was that. Ok, Villa is not super quick but with him we still have enough speed on counter. Ibra never delivered that. Again it wasn’t Ibra’s problem, as that is not his strength.

      Now coming to Pique vs Abidal question. We should not move Abidal from left back, he gives so much cover from their. Pique has been sub standard since the world cup. The first thing Guardiola should do is promote Fontas to first team and give him more playing time. Along with Milito, he should give a sense of competition to Pique. He is gfeeling too safe nowadays and the coach has to shake him a bit.

      • just sayin'
        December 14, 2010

        Agree on both points. Villa looks like he’s just beginning to play Barca’s game and once he figures it out, he will really start contributing.
        Abidal should stay on LB, but Pique doesn’t seem to be taking his job seriously any longer. Like you said, I think he has gotten too confident in the idea that he doesn’t have to prove himself to play CB, but with the high standards required to be a Barca player and someone like Abidal breathing down your back … he better start growing up a little bit and settling into the game.

  54. majatt
    December 13, 2010

    Dunno if this has been posted here before but this is the first of a 9 part documentary on Laporta’s first year.

    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKJSDCcp6kE&feature=feedlik

    VERY interesting imo, the link for the next part shows up in the side panel.

    We get to see how Laporta and Rosell fell out, how Laporta changed things. Some of the back room dealings and how tough it was…must admit Sandro is a warrior…he really fought to get the club going right alongside Laporta, Txiki and Rijkaard.

  55. barca96
    December 13, 2010

    Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of our goals has been in the 6y ard’s box, the small box in the opponents penalty area.
    They are literally “walking the ball in the goal.”

    • majatt
      December 13, 2010

      Noticed that as well, Messi 2 years ago would shoot from outide, that curler to the far corner. He plays alot of 1-2s into the box now or gives instead of running and defenders stay with him opening up space for the other attackers, its brilliant.

      Would be nice if we had a Ronaldinho/Henry type creative range shooter that can take FKs…someone like CR but with less pout and more passing.

      • sheena
        December 14, 2010

        Well I don’t know about FKs, but Afellay has a wicked shot from distance.

  56. Kari
    December 13, 2010

    Breaking News: Samuel ‘Fat Sam’ Allardyce set to be appointed as manager of KFC

    Or maybe EE will sign him.

    • ooga aga
      December 13, 2010

      drumsticks, thighs or breasts, sir?

    • K(legit)
      December 14, 2010

      Well his dream is to manage us or the EE isn’t it?

      • Patrick
        December 14, 2010

        You ever see a blackburn game? I could coach that.

        long ball into box. rinse. repeat. get set play opportunity. bring up all tall players. long freekick into box. rinse. repeat. long ball into box……..

        I started counting their passes in the Bolton game. I think the highest I got was 7. Most were 2-3 before they lost possession.

  57. soccermomof4
    December 14, 2010

    can I just say— some days it’s fard to be a Ravens fan

  58. jaymin
    December 14, 2010

    bah humbug. poxes curses, etc. whiskey nosed scotland type howard webb it is a corner. i just entered the playoffs in my fantasy football league after eking out a .28 win and the rival whom i needed to lose obliged: by .28 points. I clearly am manager of a team of destiny, and thousands of dollars await me in custard cream and fresh tamale joyland. the blood of the children of my enemies lamentations of loved ones. hurrah hurrah. good night.

  59. Guano
    December 14, 2010

    Interesting match coming:

    Espanyol – 53 yellow cards, 4 reds
    Barca – 25, 2

  60. stowe
    December 14, 2010

    don’t have time to read the comments, but i want to say a few things.
    First of all, the first Messi goal was just beautiful and i’m not sure, but i think that last picture above is the celebration after. I’m sure they are laughing about how fun that was, I know that’s what I would have done if i were them. Second, the width of the attack is amazing. Didn’t see the game but i’ve been noticing lately and noticed in the highlights how wide both Villa and Pedro get and this really makes our attack work smoothly, I think this is the biggest difference that Villa makes in helping our attack compared to Ibra. Third and final, who would have thought last year, that Pedro would be getting Man of the Match. He has matured so much, and it’s great to see. Good to see Bojan score as well.

  61. Miguel
    December 14, 2010

    *http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/jonathan_wilson/12/13/arsenal.united/index.html

  62. Guano
    December 14, 2010

    Did anyone else notice CR celebrated last week’s goal alone?

    • barca96
      December 14, 2010

      Didn’t watch the match.
      can you give me the link please?

      • Jnice
        December 14, 2010

        There’s a link to plenty of links further up the page.

  63. Extreme barca fan
    December 14, 2010

    Great review kevin
    I Agree with what most people said here, i cant watch another team, they all seem so boring compared to barca.
    Actually this started to be the case back when rijkaard was in charge.
    We are lucky to watch this team.

  64. Vj
    December 14, 2010

    Ok, we play exceptional football and its obvious.. But its going to come up against its toughest test this Saturday – Its the clasico part 2 and this team is not going to roll over.. We are going to come up against the biggest bus of the season and a tough physical side to boot.. AND they’re sitting on one of the CL spots..

    It would not be unfair to say that this would be Espanyol’s biggest match of the season.. Lets rain on their parade as they’ve so regularly done on ours..

  65. K(legit)
    December 14, 2010

    One bad tackle on Evra and the Gooners think that Jack Wilshere is a ‘Legend’

    I think that word (ie Legend) is thrown around so flagrantly its unreal

  66. Eklavya
    December 14, 2010

    Have you guys read this?

    *http://www.totalbarca.com/2010/news/weve-got-mail-socio-status/#more-60274

    So you can’t make you under-14 year family relative become a member and then become one yourself. You have to wait till they become 18+.

  67. Jnice
    December 14, 2010

    Remember the little girl that cried because she couldn’t meet Xavi?

    She got to meet him yesterday.

    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJUM4GWi0ro

    via barcastuff

      • Jnice
        December 14, 2010

        Aww indeed. They actually have a tight blog. *http://www.spaindad.com

    • blitzen
      December 14, 2010

      I watched that last night! So sweet. Actually, the whole show is worth watching, although it is entirely in Catalan. Xavi’s parents and brothers are interviewed and we get to see some awfully sweet pictures of young Xavi, his debut for the first team, his firest goal, ect. There is also a very funny moment where they show a pair of feet and Xavi instantly guesses that it is Messi!

  68. Kxevin
    December 14, 2010

    In today’s “The modern game is still backward” moment I bring you Sepp Blatter, who says that in 2022, gay people at the World Cup should probably not have sex.

    Wow. Full-on, slack-jawed wow. I know, I know …. Qatar has its own laws and guests have to respect them. And at one time in America’s history, my current marriage would have been illegal. “No race mixin’, boy!”

    Not surprised, just bummed.

    • Diego S.
      December 14, 2010

      First Off, Islam doesn’t judge people by their height, looks, or color of skin. Many slaves were freed during the Islamic era, The Qur’an considers emancipation of a slave to be a highly meritorious deed, or as a condition of repentance for many sins. The first Muezzin in Islam (The Person who says the Azan in the Mosque.) was black.

      Second, Islam doesn’t tell us to force our beliefs on others. If a person is Homosexual, it’s his own choice, It’s considered as a sin just like pre-marital sex. Islamic Laws are applied to Muslims, Not Other people. In Egypt, Christians don’t fast Ramadan, etc.

      If It’s really in Qatar’s law to punish Homosexuals, It’s to Muslims only, Probably excluding Foreigners and people of other belief. If it’s to punish all within the borders of the country, It is Qatar’s Laws not Islam’s.

      • Kxevin
        December 14, 2010

        A little defensive there, are we, Diego? Where did race come in? My example is of an absurd law from America’s past that punished people for the simple act of loving an “unapproved” human being. The parallels to Qatar’s laws regarding same-sex conduct (since I assume that lesbians are also included) are very similar.

        It has nothing whatsoever to do with race, or Muslim law. As you said, it is Qatar’s law.

        Further, my outrage is rooted in Blatter’s comment, which was why I cited it.

  69. barca96
    December 14, 2010

    Just watched the match again, damn, I gotta say, Bojan was extremely selfish for the 5th goal.
    Messi & Villa were open. Villa was in fact free in front of the GK and he chose to unleash a weak shot that luckily bounced back to him.

    • Vj
      December 14, 2010

      At 4-0 it’s okay for him to take the goal.. You have to remember that he stole the ball and made the chance..

      Even Messi is selfish a lot of times.. If it helps him to get a bit of confidence, why not?

      • Kxevin
        December 14, 2010

        Find me a striker who isn’t selfish, and I’ll show you a mutant. People defend Messi when he’s selfish, so why isn’t it okay for Krkic to occasionally think of himself? At 0-0 at that point in the match, it’s a lead pipe cinch that he passes. But at 4-0 in the 93rd minute, I’m sure he’s thinking “What the hell, what can it hurt to have a go?”

  70. Atomix
    December 14, 2010

    Hi everyone,my name is Atomix. This is my 1st time I’m commenting but I’ve been following this blog for about 2 months now.I live in nigeria where its all about the english premiership and its really hard to find true barca fans.I really enjoy ur posts and comments especially posts from SoMa and Kevin. Not forgetting Isaiah and luke. You guys rock.

  71. Lev
    December 14, 2010

    sup yall!

    1. Abidal at CB or Pique?

    I prefer Abidal at LB, as Pique is better on the ball and complements Puyol better and because Abidal is defensively stronger than Maxwell imo. It is nice to see Abidal fill in at CB though so that when we do need him we know he is able.

    Btw I think Abidal is a good player, but could it be that he is so underrated by many that we on this here blog overrate him just a bit?

    I’d like to echo Jim’s comments that I just don’t see how he keeps getting 9’s in every game, especially since most of our games are not exactly that taxing on our defenders. I believe last season his was the highest average rating so by God he must be better than Xavi, Messi and Don Andres.

    2. Villa

    I think he is doing just fine to be honest. Imho you are quite harsh on him with your ratings but I mostly agree with your explanations of those ratings.

    When comparing him to IKEAhimovic though, I am very satisfied with Villa. Whereas with Ibra we relied on 1 or 2 instances of magic, he did not actually help the team play better, so when he was off form our team really suffered. Villa, even when playing badly and missing a lot of chances, still makes us a more dangerous team. He moves better, even when adjusting to a new position.

    His biggest problem does seem to be his fitness. That is why he is less dangerous in the 2nd half, and also why he has atypically missed so many easy opportunities (they might look easy on TV, but after running your ass off for 75 minutes they aren’t quite as easy anymore).

    Yet…if our team plays better with Villa… And his numbers are almost equal to Zlatan’s, who we all agree kicked some major Liga butt the first half of last season…I guess I can only say that I am really happy with having him in our team.

    3. I was born on September 8, 1978 and my parents have told me that I have been watching football ever since that day. I am pretty sure to have never seen a team play as well as Pep’s Barรงa (btw most important statistic this year is 0, indeed Kxevin).

    Anyway does that make me so spoiled that I cannot enjoy a Premiership game? I am kind of taken aback by those comments of so many of us.

    I personally like the up and down never stop hard to kill style of the EPL – remember watching Man City against (i think) Portsmouth not too long ago and it seemed there was a goal scoring opportunity every 90 seconds- very exciting stuff.

    Just because Barรงa play out of this world does not mean other leagues are boring and to be frank these claims make us sound very unlikable and also very silly. Just cause it ain’t blaugrana don’t mean that it sucks!

    (now if you want to tell me that Serie A is boring, ok, you might have a point ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

    • Kxevin
      December 14, 2010

      See my explanation above for how defenders, particularly Abidal, get high marks. It could be argued that our defenders have a more difficult job than our attackers, for the precise reasons that someone very astutely noted above. If Villa screws the pooch in the box, we might not score. If Abidal screws the pooch in the box, it’s probably a goal. Our defenders roam up and down the pitch from box to box, defending and attacking, passing and battling for possession in the midfield. While the attackers track back, they don’t do that as much as our defenders attack.

      So you grade someone for the whole game. Abidal or Puyol aren’t like Rio Ferdinand, who you will find in the United box, except on set pieces on the other end. Our defenders play an all-pitch game.

      –And I’m sorry, but too many Premiership matches make me want to gouge my eyes out. Long balls, needlessly physical play and just bashing the ball around is just not entertainment in my world.

      • Jim
        December 14, 2010

        My point was Kxevin that Sociedad hardly got into our box. There were very few important pieces of work for the defence to do. Also, every time villa misses a shot he goes down in the rating so at least as far as that is concerned it matters in your ratings.

        Look, the ratings don’t matter and please be assured that I like everyone else look forward to the reviews and enjoy them but if we end up at the end of a season where Abidal is the best player ratings wise then, I’m sorry but I don’t agree – unless we agree that he is the player of whom we expect the least so he is entitled to a 9 or 10 when he plays well.

        • Kxevin
          December 14, 2010

          But it makes my point about how our defenders play no less valid. If they just stood in the box while the attackers did their thing, that’s one thing. But when they play as they do, you have to rate them accordingly.

          And if Abidal ends the season as our highest-rated player, it will be because he was the most consistent player. Simple as that. You seem to think that if that happens, he somehow doesn’t deserve it, or the ratings are hopelessly flawed. That’s an incorrect assumption, just like the people who think that Messi should get an 11 every time he scores more than one goal.

          Villa doesn’t get downrated for missing a shot. But he does get downrated for doing things like losing the ball, holding it too long and not making runs, ALL of which he did in this match. He made up for it with an all-pitch game, which is a big improvement for him.

          The player of whom I expect the least is Villa, because he is the newest. It takes time to adapt to our system. But if you take the time to watch the matches, and rate the players and their performances, you will find that Abidal has been, match in and match out, our best defender. Now there is certainly a group who will always find fault with him, and they’re entitled to their opinion, even if I don’t agree with it.

          For me, when a player player well, he is rated accordingly. When he plays poorly, he is also rated accordingly. When Abidal has a mediocre match, rest assured that he will get just as much stick as anyone else.

          • Lev
            December 15, 2010

            ok, so twice did i write a long reply on Abidal and both times it got lost upon clicking “send”. Yesterday because of a problem with the website (i believe) and today because i did not write a “catchpa” code???

          • Kxevin
            December 15, 2010

            Yes Lev, as an unfortunate consequence of our popularity, we are being positively hammered by the spam bots. Captcha is a unfortunate consequence.

  72. Diego S.
    December 14, 2010

    USA is facing Egypt on 9th Feb.

    The Match will be held in Cairo. ๐Ÿ˜€

  73. Nick
    December 14, 2010

    Bojan did not finish high on the rebound. The ball bounced off Bravo.

  74. gowtham
    December 14, 2010

    hey guys…
    does anyine have links to the revista this week???

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