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 Barça.”
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, 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.

211 Comments

  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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

      • Jnice
        December 13, 2010

        Definitely a.

      • Jim
        December 14, 2010

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

    • 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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!
    –Villa still isn’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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

      • Colby
        December 14, 2010

        Thanks so much!

  7. 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 .. 😀

    • 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.. 🙁 ..

  8. 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.

  9. 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! 😀 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.

    • December 13, 2010

      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).

    • December 13, 2010

      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) 🙂

      • 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?

  10. 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. 😀

    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

      • December 13, 2010

        too many things on his head?

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

        Seriously… It can’t be good for him.

    • December 14, 2010

      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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

      • Jnice
        December 13, 2010

        He’ll have ’em all.

    • 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.

  14. soccermomof4
    December 14, 2010

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

    • soccermomof4
      December 14, 2010

      hard

  15. 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.

  16. Guano
    December 14, 2010

    Interesting match coming:

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

  17. 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.

  18. Miguel
    December 14, 2010

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

    • Jnice
      December 14, 2010

      Great avatar.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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..

  22. 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

  23. 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+.

    • Jnice
      December 14, 2010

      I did. It’s a shame.

  24. 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

    • Vj
      December 14, 2010

      awww…

      • 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!

  25. 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.

    • Jnice
      December 14, 2010

      What a ridiculous human being.

      • Eklavya
        December 14, 2010

        Wow.

    • 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.

  26. 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?

    • Diego S.
      December 14, 2010

      Agree.

      • 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?”

  27. 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.

    • soccermomof4
      December 14, 2010

      welcome fellow cule!

    • blitzen
      December 14, 2010

      Welcome! Sit down and stay a while!

    • K(legit)
      December 14, 2010

      Coffee?

  28. 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 Barça (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 Barça 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 😉 )

    • 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.

  29. Diego S.
    December 14, 2010

    USA is facing Egypt on 9th Feb.

    The Match will be held in Cairo. 😀

  30. Nick
    December 14, 2010

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

  31. gowtham
    December 14, 2010

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

  32. ajani
    December 15, 2010

    test

Comments are closed.