El Derbi Barceloni Post Mortem: 5-Star Day

Iniesta, in bloom

“Held to the past too aware of the pending.” The Barcelona Derby rarely fails to live up to the hype, in one way or another. Today’s match at El Prat again made for another highly impressive and entertaining match. Barcelona hit 5 again, in what I believe shows how far the team has come since the beginning of the year, and how all the pieces are coming together. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named decided to take a nice little break from scoring and instead contributed a hat-trick of assists. Future FIFA Ballon d’Or winner, Xavi, contributed a goal from a spectacular angle and at least 1 assist. Face of the organization Andres Iniesta played his heart out, in what seems to be a game that continually weighs on him more and more each year. Espanyol finally broke the high line for the first time in more than 600 minutes against Valdes and the defense. And the team played a wonderfully complete game, overcoming a defense that normally gives us fits.

I will say this up front in this post mortem, and I wholeheartedly mean it: I respect Espanyol. There are those here who despise Espanyol with a passion that I reserve for people who abuse kitties or puppies, Sarah Palin, and bigotry (which are usually synonymous), but I on the other hand see something that I admire in the blanc-i-blaus. Whereas many clubs likely view the Barcelona tie at home to be something of a must-win, to Espanyol it is effectively their Champion’s League Final every year. They play at El Prat against Barça with a force that befits a cornered dog fighting for its life. The other reason is the force with which they have adopted Andres Iniesta. Due to his continual commemoration of close friend and former teammate Dani Jarque, Espanyol seems to have adopted him with their own tributes and honors. Upon leaving the pitch today after being subbed off, Iniesta was met with a standing ovation by the rabidly anti-Barça Espanyol fans. GolTV showed fans with #21 Espanyol shirts with Iniesta’s name on them. It is to me an endearing adoption by a team of a worthy player and apparently excellent friend. A fitting tribute.

Enough of that though. Espanyol came out and showed that they were not going to sit back. They were going to foul and foul hard and they were going to push forward on the counter while playing the high line that had served them well so far this season, but that turned out to be a disastrous. Chasing Messi around all the way back to midfield may have assisted in his what-will-surely-be-momentary scoring draught, but it also pulled another defender so far forward that Pedro was effectively holding steady at the back line and outrunning every perico to the ball. Eventually the same opened for Villa with Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, and Alves acting as primary playmakers. It made for an entertaining match to be sure.

I would say “we started slow” or that “Espanyol caught us by surprise” but neither is true in any real sense. Before Barcelona could establish control and possession, Espanyol used this to their advantage and held our defense on its heels until Xaviniesta asserted itself and began immediately providing open shots on goal. To say that we have seen this outpouring before is a truth universally accepted, but it is also no less of an understatement. Putting 5 through on Espanyol is actually a feat that no Barcelona team has ever accomplished, and to do so in such a blindingly beautiful fashion on their pitch only added to the importance. In the past 2 season the Blaugrana have managed almost nothing against Espanyol, at home or away, and certainly nothing even approaching acceptable for a team with so much talent.

However, today was a destructive force that we would have been hard-pressed to find or even hope for after the Hercules loss or the Mallorca draw. But now the engines are throbbing in perfect motion. Where once we had complacency and missed opportunities there are perfect passes, defensive cohesion, and offensive imagination. Some might say it’s that Messi has come on since then, now with 17 goals and 11 assists in La Liga this year or that Villa finally started to integrate more fully into the side or even that Xavi seems to be healthy after achilles problems early in the year. I however believe the culprit is something much less tangible and focused and is more a team-wide complete integration resulting in a side that can outscore its two fiercest rivals 10-1 in derbies, captured first in its UCL group, and has outscored opponents 44-4 in 11 games since drawing with Copenhagen on November 2nd. In short, this is the type of side that can come to Espanyol, attack a rival, bludgeon them even when they are playing their best football in many years, and do something than even 6 trophy side couldn’t do.

Now moving on to the goal, since it will likely be the most discussed occurrence of the night. Firstly we must remember that any time you play a high line with as many as 7 attackers, you will be vulnerable to the counter-attack. Now, was it anyone’s “fault”? That’s more difficult to say. Mostly because establishing fault in a team sport where one player did not absolutely shit the bed is almost impossible. Was it Alves’s for taking a bad angle coming back? What about Pique and Abidal for keeping him onside? Puyol for getting masterfully beaten by Osvaldo and failing to keep up? Or Valdes for not coming out more quickly? Well it’s all hard to say on this goal, but it seemed to me to be a well-played ball that Osvaldo ran on to, that none of our players were capable of stopping. When playing Puyol we know that he is getting slower, we know that Alves takes bad angles sometimes, and the chances of Valdes reaching that ball or altering the outcome in the event that he comes out earlier are slim, at best. I give Espanyol credit for making this play and don’t necessarily “fault” one player other than our general style of play, which hadn’t allowed a goal in more than a month.

The positive of doing a post-mortem and not a review is that I can talk generally about what the match means and not just review the goals and big plays, which I abhor doing. Problem here is that we only have one more match before a short holiday break and we know our boys are wont to shit the bed after breaks. So let’s hope that is not the case here.

Oh player ratings. Well, football is a team sport, so ratings for individual players, in my opinion, are meaningless. The arbitrariness of assigning a number based on a player’s supposed performance for a game is a giant factor counseling against such a system. Do you rate Pique today as a 5 or a 7 or an 8? Well, he missed a ball that came through that led to a half chance for Espanyol but was stalwart after that, providing the class Piquebauer we know and love. What about Puyol? He’s a leader and a wonderful defender who sprays balls around, but he also got lapped on Osvaldo’s goal; 4 or 7? What about Villa? Well he had 4 goalscoring chances at least, 2 of which succeeded. Then the refrains come that he isn’t playing well or something like that, until you realize that his spacing and work with Messi have been staggering of late and he made at least 3 splendid runs on goal. However he was in and out during the first half, so 3, 5, 7, or 8? You see my predicament. The point is that without Xavi or Messi, Villa and Pedro wouldn’t have scored. And without defensive lapses in front of him, Valdes would have never been put into that position. Unless a glaring or glistening performance of such magnitude arrives that it shocks the conscience, then it’s usually safe to rate everyone as a 6 or 7 on a win and rate the team accordingly. Thus, I would say this match results in an 8.5 rating. It was about as strong as we can get, and even the goal was just one of those things that happens. It also came against Espanyol. This was simply a work of art.

Hey a crowd of people, I'll jump on it

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images Europe
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images Europe

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141 Comments

  1. jordi(TM)
    December 19, 2010

    Btw where is Kanoute? Dont trust Negredo to score at all.

  2. blitzen
    December 19, 2010

    Gah! They keep giving the ball away!

  3. blitzen
    December 19, 2010

    I knew this was going to happen. Grrr.

  4. beeeef
    December 19, 2010

    it really is kind of pointless to hope that other teams will help slow down EE for us but damn, the way sevilla are playing you would think they were down 1.

    • blitzen
      December 19, 2010

      It just pisses me off that RM can play so mediocre and come out with the same 3 points we get for playing brilliantly.

      • beeeef
        December 19, 2010

        that’s a typical Mou team for you. defensive, uninspiring, often mediocre, but they grind out the wins and get the points. at home, always. guy’s never lost a home match since 02? what??

      • blitzen
        December 19, 2010

        The fans aren’t happy with it, though, you can tell. Madrid fans always want exciting football, and this ain’t it. I predict Mourinho “decides” to move on to a “new challenge” (read: is invited to leave) at the end of the season if they don’t win either La Liga or the CL.

      • PM
        December 19, 2010

        Thi is why there’s another clasico. Barca will piss on his record with another manita 😀

      • Victor(2)
        December 19, 2010

        Yes, but we know the quality of our wins in our hearts. I mean, winning against Sevilla by only 1 at home? That’s gotta smart, a little.

  5. jordi(TM)
    December 19, 2010

    No one went to cover the line.How basic is that? Anyway 2-0 like i said

    • blitzen
      December 19, 2010

      I blame you.

  6. jordi(TM)
    December 19, 2010

    lol cant wait till AS blow the villarato trumpet

  7. mardia
    December 19, 2010

    Re: the RM-Sevilla match–really, Sevilla? REALLY? I honestly wasn’t expecting Sevilla to come away with the win, but by the 75th minute, I did think there was a shot of them not conceding. Bah.

    It’s probably not healthy or productive to watch a match solely in the hope one team will lose, but that’s always what I find myself doing with the RM matches. Well, that, and hoping I get the chance to watch Mou or Iker throwing a fit on the pitch.

  8. Nick
    December 19, 2010

    Sevilla are pathetic. Also, has anyone seen Luis Fabiano on the pitch tonight?

    • Jose
      December 19, 2010

      You know why DiMaria scored that goal and Sevilla looked impotent all game? “Unfair TV contracts.” 😛

  9. beeeef
    December 19, 2010

    hypothetically speaking, if RM win zero trophies this year, will Mou be out?

    since there are even examples of managers winning titles but being dumped by their management anyways, it’s hard to say.

    would the special one get special treatment?

    • December 20, 2010

      Hypothetically, no. Mourinho started his EE career aknowledging everyone that he needs one year to make a team.

      But do not foget that he put an option of breaking his contract with EE after the end fo each season. Which is so Galactico… 🙂

      Poor thing…

  10. Victor
    December 19, 2010

    It is really something curious… Mourinho’s teams seem to improve when the ref sends off one of their players.

  11. Diego
    December 19, 2010

    Real fans are probably happy about the 3 points but they should really think about how their team was playing.

    I felt they were playing the match just so they can get a penalty, Di Maria dove everywhere. I was annoyed even though I wasn’t playing, I can only Imagine how Sevilla players felt. Negredo missed the 1-on-1 that would have changed the match.

    **P.S : After Di Maria’s diving for the penalty, A Friend texted me saying “I fell that Di Maria will score tonight.” 😀

    • Diego
      December 19, 2010

      **”I feel that”

      • Eklavya
        December 20, 2010

        Hahahaha, the original one is better! 😀

  12. vicsoc8
    December 19, 2010

    I’m bored… so I looked up our recent form

    10-0-1 since the start of November. 43 goals for, 5 goals against.

  13. Jnice
    December 19, 2010

    Guarantee Sid is going to write about Madrid and Mourinho with his list of “13 errors” of Clos Gomez tomorrow. Sigh.

    Dude whines about referees no matter where he goes, but the press eat it up.

  14. barca96
    December 20, 2010

    I’m so sorry to bring this heated topic back up.
    But I was too busy when this topic was brought up.

    For all those people that were condemning FIFA for choosing Qatar and not raising doubts about Russia should condemn FIFA for choosing Russia too.
    Yesterday or the day before, there was a huge rally in Moscow.

    I’ve always found it unfair for people to only raise doubts of Qatar.
    I, personally, would feel safer attending matches in Qatar rather than Russia. I would rather see women forced to wear moderate clothes( less skin) in order to respect the country (Qatar) rather than people(with colors) fearing for their lives in Russia.
    There are more racial violence in Russia than there is in Qatar.

    In Qatar you just gotta behave in public which is really do-able whereas in RUssia, there is nothing to prevent you from getting into trouble as they target your skin color and ethnic background.

    Once again, apologies for bringing this up but the situation in Russia is not that ideal either.

    • Josep
      December 20, 2010

      I’m sure its because a lot of us are bitter Americans and we lost the bid to Qatar. I don’t know who here is from England, who lost to Russia.

  15. Helge
    December 20, 2010

    I like the comments from Del Nido. First, he criticized the comparisons between Messi and Crynaldo, and now he added this after the match:
    Del Nido (president Sevilla): “I keep on thinking you just can’t compare Barcelona and Madrid, but if they continue to be this lucky…”
    That hits the nail on its head!
    I just can’t believe it; how many times EE played poorly this season but still won! We’ve been playing waaaay better than them, but still only sit 2 points ahead. This really p***** me off!

    • barca96
      December 20, 2010

      Yeah. It was the same last season.
      And in 06-08 too.
      We couldn’t buy a goal in those years and were leaking goals and at the same time played beautiful football.
      They’ve always come away without playing good.

      THe last time they played good constantly were in the early parts of this millennia.

      I didn’t watched their match against Seville though but what did EE win a soft penalty again?

      • blitzen
        December 20, 2010

        No, they didn’t get a penalty, but not for lack of diving trying. EE played wretchedly, but Sevilla just couldn’t convert the many chances into a goal.

  16. blitzen
    December 20, 2010

    Apparently the crowd at the Bernabeu was booing their own team because the football was so lousy.

    Felling the heat a bit, Mourinho? 😀

    • Diego
      December 20, 2010

      Yeah, They started at the 30 minute mark and kept on booing the team with every chance they waste till they scored, The fans kept cheering when their players were wasting time. 😀

  17. blitzen
    December 20, 2010

    Bojangles has extended his contract til 2015. Kari can breathe easy!

  18. December 20, 2010

    BFB!

    I am surprised that you guys are asking for donation. Can you give us a rough idea how much it costs to run a blog? I think many of us are unwilling to see this wonderful blog vanish in the cyber space because we obviously have love for this community, but if we have a better understanding of its finance situation, we certainly would find it easier to measure how much we should offer. Again, thanks for running this blog, because we all know you guys don’t get paid to do this. Not sure how much ads could generate, but please let us know more details.

  19. stowe
    December 20, 2010

    Bojangles? we need to extend ALVES. I like Bojan too, especially with the way the team is playing now with Messi playing as a Ten in the middle more

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