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!

By Kxevin

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. OOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! A review..

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

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

    1. 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.

  2. 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!”

    1. 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™‚

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

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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!!!!!!!!

    1. 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.

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

    3. 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™‚

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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)

    1. /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)

    2. 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.

  9. Alright, who wants Rooney to miss—

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

  10. 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.

    1. 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…..

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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?

    1. 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…

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

    1. 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.

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

    2. 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!

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

  13. 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™‚

    1. 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™‚

    2. 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˜€

    3. 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.

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

    5. 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.

  14. 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.

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

  15. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

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

  17. 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.

  18. 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™‚

    1. 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?

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

    3. 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.

  19. @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?

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  24. 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.

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

  26. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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™‚

  27. 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)

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. 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

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