Parachutes and Goalless Draws: Barça 0 – 0 Athletic

It’s always as if you fell off a cliff. At first it’s exciting and new, but then about halfway down you realize the ground below is probably pretty hard. And you forgot your parachute because you’re the worst base jumper in history. Classic pull the cord and out comes silverware nonsense you only see in cartoons and YouTube videos. And maybe the next Jackass.

So it was a scoreless draw. And I have to say that it was a pretty one-sided scoreless draw for the most part. It technically could have gone either way given the corners that Athletic took and nearly scored on and that one slip in the box that destroyed a perfect opportunity. Yet all-in-all, Athletic did a wonderful job of defending and should be lauded for their technical abilities. Not that I approve of the tactic, but their utterly scared mentality—and make no mistake about it: they were terrified—got them a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou, which is better than anyone this side of Hercules and Mallorca can say. And that includes Real Madrid, Villarreal, and Valencia.

What I took away from all this was that we’re still a work in progress. I’ve written before about how amazing we are as a team and part of the proof is that many of us have become so used to success that the simple act of not losing isn’t necessarily a positive anymore. That’s kinda crappy, I think. If we score 1 goal at San Mames in the return leg (January 5, btw), they’ll have to score 2 in order to advance. Any draw other than 0-0 gets us through and obviously any win does too. Any loss knocks us out, but that’s par for the course and, really, as it should be.

And we got to see some minutes for players who aren’t necessarily used to playing these days. Guardiola’s “rotation” system appears to be “Subs, move around on the bench a bit, switch things up,” rather than on-the-field moves. But this time we got to see Bojan partnering Iniesta and Pedro up front with Keita, Mascherano, and Xavi in the midfield. The back line wasn’t a particularly strange one, with Alves, Pique, Abidal, and Maxwell and it functioned quite well most of the game, so I won’t really dwell on them.

The one thing that I saw throughout this match that I didn’t like was the lack of work up front. Some of that can be attributed, I think, to a lack of positional responsibility. An example: Pedro cuts to the end line and fires a ball across the middle. No one is on the back post for the tap in. Why? I read it as Pedro on the left, Iniesta in the middle, and Bojan on the right. With the ball on the left and Pedro cutting towards the line to create some crossing space, Iniesta has to react and cut in towards the keeper to try and get on the end of that cross. Instead, he ducked towards Pedro, as if to receive a pass, but Pedro was already going towards the endline. That vacated space in the center is where Bojan ideally wants to be, so being on the right and no one being in the middle, he cut towards it. Except the ball went towards where he should have been and, I think, would have been had Iniesta not tried to play midfielder in the box.

No one was particularly brilliant today, though Abidal and Pique stand out a bit, perhaps because of the possession we had. Everyone lost their footing about 8 times, Xavi and Pique should each have buried one from very close range, and Messi was shut down completely by a lack of movement around him. He can take the first 3 guys, but the fourth is the one a teammate has to keep away from him with a smart run. Those runs weren’t really happening and so we let them defend in 2 solid banks (4-5-1 that was often 5-4-1 or 5-5-0) and even though Dani Alves basically played goalie for them, we weren’t able to break them down. It was as if we couldn’t stay on our feet and couldn’t do more than make a lot of fancy passes horizontally. No one saw the few runs that were made over defenders’ shoulders and even Xavi failed to try to make a flicked pass. An odd day at the office.

But it’s okay because I like Athletic Bilbao despite their Petronor sponsorship (I’m not an oil and gas kinda guy) and if they can hold on to some hope before we crush it horrendously in front of their home fans, so be it. Guardiola wants to win this one again or, perhaps, to simply outlast Madrid. I don’t really know.

And now for a well deserved break from all of this action. For the team, of course, not for me. All of you have been extra special nice with your donations (we’re almost done with the drive, keep it up!), so I think you should get an extra special nice Christmas gift on Saturday. Even if you’re not celebrating Christmas, you’ll get something. Because I’m amazing. Until then, let’s do some End of the Year type stuff, shall we? Okay then. See you tomorrow with a stocking stuffer of a post about Ibrahim Afellay. Remember him?

Fun tidbits from the game:

I thought Mascherano was very good throughout, but that the decision to remove him was good because they weren’t threatening. Then they went and threatened a bunch because we played basically a 3-3-4 and there were gaps at the back that they nearly exploited.

Bojan spanked a shot from outside the box that the well-spelled Iraizoz spilled. If Messi had been on the field, we would have scored because of the follow up run, but again, no was making that run. That was Bojan’s territory, apparently, but he was outside the box on the left cutting in for a great shot.

Iniesta shoots now! WTF!?

Pinto’s braids are both terrific and terrible all at once.

The movie Machete is better than whatever your favorite movie is. Even if it’s Machete.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.

61 Comments

  1. poipoi
    December 22, 2010

    Nolito leaves us 🙁 I feel it’s good for him in a way, it would have been almost impossible for him to make it to the 1st team in a couple of years and he’s not very young.

  2. Vj
    December 22, 2010

    And Ibi joins us.. its a cycle of life..

  3. Vj
    December 22, 2010

    “The sale of Ibrahimovic and the deal with Qatar Foundation are the two best decisions of my mandate so far.”

    Ugh..

    via Pep @ barcastuff

  4. BA
    December 22, 2010

    Rosell on the Qatar sponsorship embarrassment:

    “I am very proud,” he explained. “It has given the club oxygen. Sealing this agreement has allowed us many things, among them is to not increase membership fees, not to bring in more advertising and to be able to continue to be a sports club.” The Barça supremo also said that the predicted economic losses for the 2010/11 season would not be reduced from 22€ million to 15€ million.

    —-

    those sound like pretty horrid reasons to me. he continues:

    “Rosell then reflected on the board’s relationship with Johan Cruyff and stated that according to the statutes: “The position of President of Honour does not exist.” He added that it could be brought up at the assembly. “Cruyff is a member of honour. Time will ensure that everything is sorted out and that it will be fixed,” he commented.

    —–

    not sure if it’s possible for me to dislike this man more.

  5. BA
    December 22, 2010

    Rosell on the Qatar sponsorship embarrassment:

    “I am very proud,” he explained. “It has given the club oxygen. Sealing this agreement has allowed us many things, among them is to not increase membership fees, not to bring in more advertising and to be able to continue to be a sports club.” The Barça supremo also said that the predicted economic losses for the 2010/11 season would not be reduced from 22€ million to 15€ million.

    —-

    those sound like pretty horrid reasons to me. he continues:

    “Rosell then reflected on the board’s relationship with Johan Cruyff and stated that according to the statutes: “The position of President of Honour does not exist.” He added that it could be brought up at the assembly. “Cruyff is a member of honour. Time will ensure that everything is sorted out and that it will be fixed,” he commented.

    —–

    not sure if it’s possible for me to dislike this man more.

    • cliveee
      December 22, 2010

      i dislike him more, i think… and no, i am not always right.

  6. Nick
    December 22, 2010

    I thought Bojan was shite. Really.

    • cliveee
      December 22, 2010

      i am not going to defend him, but i am standing in between. on one hand he has improved, and it showed. on the other, he is still way below par. not only his touches and movement, but also work rate. as i noted in the liveblog, he had flashes of goodness before disappearing in a long time, but he also slip some wtf balls in between. so, i don’t know. if there was a real false 9, i wouldn’t say it was iniesta, because 4.5 is a false 9.

  7. Ben
    December 22, 2010

    So what happens in a 0-0 draw? Penalties?

    • cliveee
      December 22, 2010

      and we will have the edge because Pinto has a really decent penalty saving record. but why would we go to penalty with them?

  8. Josep
    December 22, 2010

    1. Amazing shout on Machete. What an awesome movie.

    Bojan had one good shot as noted thats about it. Again, the team struggles when Iniesta plays up top. Why does Pep continue to play him LW or anywhere other than midfield. Hopefully Ibi can push Andres back to midfield where he belongs.

    How come the press isn’t praising Atletic’s coach? When Mou did this exact same thing he was hailed as a genious last year. I still think thats the most overrated tactically output ever.

    • Victor
      December 22, 2010

      I do not justify the overall press attitude (generally, the press is just looking for scandals)… but it’s different. First off, Mourinho’s scheme was applied in the Champions League Semifinal against Barcelona’s first team… here, it was a Copa del Rey game in the round of 16… and it wasn’t against Barcelona’s best team.

      However, is it really over-rated? Don’t get me wrong, it is obviously boring and tedious to watch. However, how many teams haven’t tried that approach with Barcelona and failed? Hell, Mourinho tried that with Madrid and they got humiliated. Not any team is able to keep Barcelona scoreless at the Camp Nou.

      Granted, I think that Bilbao was also quite lucky. The pitch conditions played mostly against us.

      • Josep
        December 22, 2010

        Yes its EXTREMELY overrated. He said alright boys go out there, and everyone stay in the box and defend. Thats it I can imagine, the real praise goes to the defense, and the Wing Backs… Chivu and ETO’O.

        He was lucky to have his 3-1 lead and hold off for a 1-0 loss but for all the complaints he has about refs, two dubious ref calls have given him two champions leagues.

        • missingpage
          December 23, 2010

          hey josep! Since i like digging into refs ugly past could you please tell me about the champions league with porto and how refs helped the traductor?!Thanks!

          • Josep
            December 23, 2010

            In I believe what was the QF, Paul Scholes had a completely legit goal disallowed for offsides. Porto then went on to score a late one. You can youtube scholes vs. porto or something of the like.

      • Tom_Johnson
        December 22, 2010

        The scheme itself is the same regardless of the context of a game. It is up to the players to put it into life. They are affected by the atmosphere and how much is at stake (group stage vs semifinals).

        Granted, coach carries some weight in the game preparation but it rests largely on the players actually being on the field and not the coach.

        “Hell, Mourinho tried that with Madrid and they got humiliated. Not any team is able to keep Barcelona scoreless at the Camp Nou.”

        Difference? Both inter and madrid (as well as chelsea and manutd) have players who are paid a lot more than Bilbao’s. Players who are starting for their National teams and were in close contention for FIFA Player of the Year or Ballon D’Or. The clubs themselves are quick to advertise as “the best in the World”.

        We have missed Iniesta and Abidal (at full strength) last year.

        “and it wasn’t against Barcelona’s best team.”

        Llorente was missing too. With Javi Martinez, the best and most influental player for Bilbao.

        • SoccerMom
          December 23, 2010

          Agreed. I would even go so far as to rate Joaquín C. MOTM. He had his boys in lockdown for 90 relentless minutes at the Camp Nou before a team busy of late racking up a manita of manitas.

          Really, what would you do as a mid-league coach? Your star playmakers are out. You are playing the best team in the world. Away. In a tourney where you know they care, but not like, a whole lot. You, on the other hand, have a chance. And a ferocious fan base.

          They didn’t kick or foul, for an athletic team. They didn’t dive or complain, as a proud team. And they didn’t string themselves out, wear themselves down or in any way at any moment lose discipline, as a lesser team. I find that admirable, actually.

          Also I got a kick out of JC ribbing Pep for not giving Cronaldo the ball during the Clasico. It was timely, amusing, friendly and communicated three things at once:
          1. Hey, I’m teasing you for giving players a hard time.
          2. Hey, that was a good one. God we hate those guys, don’t we?
          3. Hey, team, they’re just human beings too.

  9. Josep
    December 22, 2010

    Barcelona Juvenil A forward Gerard Deulofeu (16) has offers from several European top clubs and could leave for Real Madrid. [sport]

    • Diego
      December 22, 2010

      Beat me to it. 😀

      Hopefully Rumors.

  10. GREECE BARCA
    December 22, 2010

    What???Gerard to madrid??No that.s a crime stupid agent

  11. GREECE BARCA
    December 22, 2010

    Is he under contract?Can we give him a contract or is he too young?I hate those situations it s like fabregas.

    • Diego
      December 22, 2010

      Those youngsters contracts’ are a little easier than the professionals. A club may be willing to take the bet and pay his clause. But we don’t want to promote him too soon and have another Bojan on our hands. He’s still in Juvenil A, works his way up to Barca B then to the first team.

  12. Diego
    December 22, 2010

    Deulofeu did this

    **http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL9gU2eUwac

    • cliveee
      December 22, 2010

      how about that? we produce someone like Messi every 5 years? sounds like a la masia objective, huh? 😀

      • beeeef
        December 22, 2010

        he’s got a bit of that CR flair in his game. looking like another gem boys and girls.

    • stowe
      December 23, 2010

      i was hoping he would be taller, but i guess he could grow a few more inches. we have lots of talent when it comes to young, short, attackers.

  13. Jim
    December 22, 2010

    Since Kxevin isn’t here I’ll say it for him . If he wants to be there more than here let him go. (I’m really only saying this as nobody could be that daft, atm). How many youngsters have Madrid given a decent chance to? Canales anyone?

    • Jnice
      December 22, 2010

      Yeah, would be a an extremely silly move. I don’t see it.

    • Josep
      December 22, 2010

      Well Canales isn’t even their youngster its Racing’s right? Their best youngster in recent memory is what? Mata?

    • Diego
      December 22, 2010

      Mata, Soldado, and Negredo.

      If he moves to EE, He’ll have a great chance to play for Valencia or Sevilla.

  14. GREECE BARCA
    December 22, 2010

    Yes but behind him there is a father,a family,an agent.People who are hungry for money e.t.c.I hope the boy realize what is better for him.But if he go to madrid i will hate him much more than figo.

  15. Helge
    December 22, 2010

    Now I know how Madridistas must have felt after our Almería match…

    PS: What took you so long to realize the greatness of Machete? 😀

    • Victor
      December 22, 2010

      Hahaha, I wonder if this time they’ll make a list of reffing mistakes.

  16. GREECE BARCA
    December 22, 2010

    Our first game of new year will be against who??Oh yeah levante!Hehe!Btw my favourite movie always will be Sin City!

    • Jnice
      December 22, 2010

      Might be a different kind of game after a vacation, plus it’s away and I’m sure they will want to give a better account of themselves in front of their fans.

      No Messi either, so we’ll be looking for maybe Bojan to step it up.

        • Jnice
          December 22, 2010

          Silly me. Of course it’s at home. Nevermind, 3-0 win then lol. Just kidding.

      • Helge
        December 23, 2010

        Why should Messi not be available ?

        I know his vacation is prolonged, but Messi can play a match even without having trained before. And as far as I know, he will be back on January, 2 – maybe even on New Year’s Day.

  17. jaymin
    December 22, 2010

    oh no. now you have money. how tragic. you guys would rather be administered by a drunken uncle than a stern father.

    • tutomate
      December 22, 2010

      Is Laporta that drunken uncle?
      Then hell yes.
      LOL

      • SoccerMom
        December 23, 2010

        Yeah who’s more fun at the family holiday party? The stern old man or the jolly red-nosed uncle? Who is more likely to lend you his lighter, pocket you a fiver for being a ‘good kid’ or slip you a sip of rum in your cocoa?

  18. blitzen
    December 22, 2010

    Have Xavi and Thiago ever played at the same time?

    I ask because I was thinking about our Messi-less lineup for the Llevante game and I came up with this:

    VV
    Alves – Puyol – Pique – Abidal
    Xavi – Busquets – Thiago
    Pedro – Iniesta – Villa

    Yeah, I know you all want Iniesta in the midfield, but this way he could play as a deep CF. My only concern with this lineup is that Xavi/Busquets/Thiago could form the perfect Tiki-Taka Triangle, and the ball could get eternally trapped in a passing cycle.

    What do you think?

    • Jnice
      December 22, 2010

      I’d love that, but I doubt Thiago will start unfortunately.

      And no, he hasn’t ever played in an official match with Xavi.

      • blitzen
        December 22, 2010

        Never underestimate the workings of Pep’s mind, he almost always surprises me. Mark my words, one day we will see Keita as LB and Pinto playing forward! 😉

  19. GREECE BARCA
    December 22, 2010

    Guys i read it in total.barca in a comment and i love it!Messi christmas and a Xavi new year!:-)

  20. blitzen
    December 22, 2010

    I know you all probably regularly check it out yourselves, but the new Crackovia is up, and it features Zlatan! Pedro!! and Rosell’s Christmas message (Hi-effing-larious!)!

    *http://crackovia.tv3.cat/video/crack-20122010

  21. blitzen
    December 22, 2010

    Apparently the RFEF is considering changing its rules to require a team playing an away match to travel the day before a game and spend the night in a hotel, in a bid to avoid repeating what happened with the Barca-Osasuna game:

    *http://www.elmundo.es/elmundodeporte/2010/12/22/futbol/1293024507.html

    It has not been officially approved yet. Most teams will support this, but Pep has always tried to let his players spend as much time with their families as possible.

    What do you all think?

    • Jnice
      December 23, 2010

      Unnecessary in my opinion. In 3 years there has only been one mishap and that was more the fault of the RFEF than our methods.

      I guess this should dispel rumors of favoritism and bias towards Barça.

  22. blitzen
    December 22, 2010

    Just me. Again. RM won their game against Levante 8-0 today. That’s actually good for us, since they must be a pretty lousy team, right? We can beat them without Messi, no problem.

    And I’m not posting anymore today. 😛

    • Vj
      December 23, 2010

      Marca/AS are thanking heavens for that display.. “A win for peace”..

  23. stowe
    December 23, 2010

    just a thought about the CAPTCHA code. What if the “Submit Comment” button was below that so we don’t forget it. sometimes the bottom of my browser cuts off that part. I think people would be less likely to forget.

  24. Guys, Nic from FCBnews.com has stopped blogging. So it may not be a bad idea for you guys to contact OleOle.com to get you blog in their network. It could definitely give more income + you may not have anymore infrastructure cost. Give it a try….

  25. Roja_N
    December 23, 2010

    According to BS.com, Perez has joined the RFEF board of directors. Something fishy IMO

  26. Phephe
    December 23, 2010

    Hi guys, i’m a lurker here and just wanted to say thank you for the blog, i really enjoy it and i think i’m addicted now cos i can’t go a day without it. Can’t imagine life without it. Keep up the good work.

  27. Diego
    December 23, 2010

    Mou’s list of 13 Errors

    **http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWJMrkW_o6w

    3,9,13 are just Epic Fail. 😀

      • Vj
        December 23, 2010

        Most are 50/50 which is more than enough for them to start wailing..

  28. sheena
    December 23, 2010

    Gotta say, it isn’t a nice feeling that Madrid now have their very own 8 – 0. Petty, but still.

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