State of the Liga: Winter Break 2010-11

16 matches in and we still don’t have a champion. Disgusting. What kind of a league is this where it’s not a forgone conclusion by Christmas? Sure, sure, it’s basically down to 2 teams dominating the bejesus out of everyone else, but that’s hardly my point. What I’m talking about is the filthy and horrid trend of Real Madrid not losing games on a regular basis. Horrible.

But there are other teams out there. So let’s look at them in small clusters. First, the relegation battle. That’s not just the relegation zone, of course, but rather all of the teams that fall into a randomly defined points range. We’re going to go with 18 points and under, meaning 19 gets you the vaunted midtable status you were always craving. Yeah, I’m looking at you Hércules.

The teams that we’re talking about right now are, in order from bestest to absolute worstest: Depor (18pts), Racing (18pts), Osasuna (17pts), Levante (15pts), Almería (13pts), Málaga (13pts), Sporting Gijon (12pts), and Zaragoza (10pts). To put that in perspective, in order to get to 1st place, Almería and Málaga would have to win 10 consecutive matches while Barça lost 10 straight. But we’re not talking about the top teams, are we? Right.

In order to stay up, the general rule is that a team must earn 40 points throughout the year. At the current rate, only Racing and Depor will be above that line with 43pts each. [Calculated taking remaining games multiplied by points per match and then adding current points] This means that every point from here on out is extremely important for these teams. A single win by Zaragoza could catapult them out of the relegation zone, for instance and two wins? Well, let’s not get carried away. The only team they’ve beaten was Mallorca on Nov 7 in a 3-2 comeback win with a 90th minute penalty. Their top scorer is Gabi Fernandez with 3 goals, all of which have been penalties. Not only that, but Zaragoza replaced manager José Aurelio Gay with Javier Aguirre. Do they really expect to stay up? The man chose Bofo Bautista to go to the World Cup! And started him.

My season predictions, published way back on September 9, predicted the bottom 3 to be Osasuna, Málaga, and Levante and they’re currently 15th, 18th, and 16th, respectively. It’s Málaga, with their Qatari millions, that seem out of place down there, but perhaps they’ll see more investment over the coming years. Or they’ll see a distinct lack of investment if Qatar is cool with their current standing and Málaga go down.

The midtable teams are the ones that really have no shot of going down, but also have no real shot of going to a European competition. Again, it’s fairly arbitrary, but I chose Real Sociedad (22pts), Mallorca (21pts), Sevilla (20pts), and Hércules (19pts), all of whom are sandwiched between decent and terrible in the vacuum known as “who gives a crap.”

The obvious choice for “wtf?” team of the year is Sevilla, who are sitting down there all “we’ve lost 6 of our last 8 even though we have a ton of talent. Blah blah.” They’ve lost 5 in a row in the league, but when they played Valencia a week after Barça went all manita on them, they won, 2-0. What? 3 straight home losses (1-2, 1-3, and 1-3) to Mallorca, Getafe, and Almería have put last year’s coach of the year, Gregorio Manzano, no the hot seat, at least in my book.

Real Sociedad has been fun to watch and probably should have more points than they do—they should have beaten RM, for instance, but missing chances is hard on your points total—but they’re in danger of sinking into the midtable doldrums if they don’t find a sudden burst of form. Fortunately for them, they’re done with their gauntlet of Athletic-Barça-Valencia (until later, of course) and now they get to play Zaragoza and then the aforementioned, reeling Sevilla.

Hércules are doing well for themselves, which is pretty nice to see. They’re 12th and despite only having 19 points, they look like they’re capable of staying up. Being terrible on the road—just the one victory at the Camp Nou—hasn’t helped and if they do want to survive, they’ll have to become better while traveling. In the 3 away draws they’ve had (Zaragoza, Almería, and Racing), they’ve scored a grand total of 1 goal. They scored 2 against Barça, of course, but that is all. 0 goals in their 4 away losses.

Mallorca are back to being who we all thought they were last year, which, really, is just another member of the pack. They’re not all that bad, but then again, they’re not all that good either. They did manage a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou, which is something, but they’ll need a lot more than that to make a run at Europe and I just don’t see it happening. Losing Aduriz hasn’t helped, but they’re doing okay, with 16 goals from 16 matches, though they’re on a 3 match losing streak.

So, to the European contenders: Valencia (28pts), Espanyol (28pts), Atleti (26pts), Getafe (26pts), Athleti Bilbao (25pts).

You should note right way that I’m including Valencia in this despite the fact that they’re in the Champions League spots, but then you should also note right after that that they’re tied on points with Espanyol, so I can’t really separate them, can I? No, I can’t. Valencia aren’t doing as well as some might hope, but they’re doing better than a lot had expected. Unai Emery is doing a bang up job, even if they haven’t been the force they were prior to losing to Barça in mid October. Really, since the beginning of the second half of that match. They won 5 of their first 6 (and drew the other one), but only 3 of the next 10. They have yet to host anyone from the top 5, however, but will do so on Sunday when they meet Espanyol at the Mestalla. If they can put together a solid run in the winter months, they should be settled firmly and permanently into the Champions League spot come early April.

Espanyol were, until Barça smashed them, invincible at home. They were 7-0-0, which is good because they’re 2-1-5 away. They’re not as good as their current table position suggests and they’ll go downward in short order, but Pochettino has done something with this team and that should be commended. They’re the Mallorca of this year, except instead of a 0-1 defeat to Barça to break their defeatless home record, they got a drubbing worthy of, say, Madrid. Only 3 players have scored for them away from home and it shouldn’t be a surprise if that trend continues. Luis Garcia has 4 goals, 3 of which are penalties, so maybe they just need more firepower?

Atletico de Madrid. What a basketcase of a team, eh? They’ve got Diego Forlan, Kun Aguero, David de Gea, and various good role players, but they can’t seem to put together anything in La Liga when it matters. They’ve won 2 straight, but then again, that’s right after losing 2 straight to Espanyol and Levante. What? They haven’t beaten anyone higher than 7th, home or away, and only managed a draw at Valencia to save some pride. And now they’ve lost Simão to Beşiktaş, so they’re out another playmaker. What is with this team?

And then there’s Getafe and Athletic Bilbao, who are two mid table clubs with nowhere to go but up because the teams in front of them have nowhere to go but down. They’re both good and they’re both enjoyable, but there’s very little to say about either of them as they’re just solid. Athletic are my “second team” in Spain, so I’m rooting for them to make some CL moves, but that would probably inundate them with debt, so perhaps that’s bad. They’re only 3 points away, though, while Getafe is just 2.

Villarreal are 8 points behind 2nd and 10 behind 1st, so it’s unlikely that they’ll catch up, but they’re also 5 points ahead of Valencia, so it’s unlikely they’ll give up their CL spot. In fact, I think that disparity will continue to grow for a bit, especially if they can get points at the Bernabeu in a week. After that it should be smooth sailing as they’ve got Osasuna, Sociedad, Espanyol, Levante, Depor, Málaga, Racing, and Hércules before they face anyone serious (though being at Espanyol will probably still be hard). If they do do Barça a favor at Real Madrid, they’ll only further consolidate their position.

And the top 2 we know all about, so I won’t bore you except to say that RM start the new year out at Getafe, then host Villarreal while Barça host Levante then visit Depor. Should be 6 points for the blaugrana, so RM will have to win to make sure they stay on the pace before Barça’s 2 straight home matches against Málaga and Racing. Not that any of these are gimmes, especially with Barça’s trip to Athletic Bilbao midweek for a tough Copa del Rey match.

What I predicted vs current reality:

Actual (Predicted)
1 Barcelona (1)
2 Real Madrid (2)
3 Villarreal (6)
4 Valencia (4)
5 Espanyol (8)
6 Atleti Madrid (5)
7 Getafe (11)
8 Athletic Bilbao (7)
9 Real Sociedad (17)
10 Mallorca (9)
11 Sevilla (3)
12 Hercules (13)
13 Depor (14)
14 Racing (15)
15 Osasuna (18)
16 Levante (20)
17 Almeria (10)
18 Malaga (19)
19 Sporting Gijon (12)
20 Zaragoza (16)

If you want to quantify that like we did with last year’s table prediction game, that’s 52 points, which puts me in the “You clearly enjoy spending some Sundays in front of GolTV” category, which is totally true except it’s usually Saturdays.

Team Awards:

Most goals scored: Barcelona, 51
Fewest goals allowed: Barcelona, 9
Fewest goals scored: Depor, Racing, and Sporting, 13
Most goals allowed: Málaga, 35
Best goal difference: Barcelona, +43
Worst goal difference: Málaga, -15

Best home record: Real Madrid, 8-0-0, 24pts
Most home goals scored: Real Madrid, 26
Fewest home goals allowed: Real Madrid, Villarreal, Mallorca, 3
Worst home record: Almería, Zaragoza, 5pts
Fewest home goals scored: Mallorca, Racing, Almería, 8
Most home goals allowed: Zaragoza, 19
Best home goal difference: Real Madrid, +23
Worst home goal difference: Almería, -10

Best away record: Barcelona, 8-0-0, 24pts
Most away goals scored: Barcelona, 29
Fewest away goals allowed: Barcelona, 4
Worst away record: Osasuna, 0-2-6, 2pts
Fewest away goals scored: Hércules, Depor, 3
Most away goals allowed: Athletic Bilbao, 20
Best away goal difference: Barcelona, 25
Worst away goal difference: Racing, -13

Surprise team of the year: Espanyol
Enjoyable surprise team of the year (and runner up surprise team of the year): Real Sociedad
Negative surprise team of the year: Sevilla
Enjoyable negative surprise team of the year (and runner up negative surprise team of the year): Málaga. Boo Weligton.
Least surprising snoozefest: Depor. Seriously, guys? Seriously? 13 goals!

Fun facts taken from here:
Highest Gate: 98,000 Barcelona v Real Madrid
Lowest Gate: 6,000 Getafe v Real Zaragoza
Average Attendance: 28,436
Aggregate Attendance : 4,521,395

Games won by…
1 goal margin: 55
2 goal margin: 39
3 goal margin: 24
4 goal margin: 4
5+ goal margin: 6

Mostest cardful: Espanyol (58 yellows, 5 reds)
Leastest cardful: Barcelona (28 yellows, 2 reds)
Most yellows: Sporting Gijon, 61
Most reds: Zaragoza, 6
Fewest yellows: Barcelona, 28
Fewest reds: Real Sociedad, 0

Individual Awards:

Pichichi: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, 17
Assists (according to Soccernet): Lionel Messi, 10

I’ll say here that I don’t think penalties should count towards goals scored. Only free kicks and goals from play should count. That would mean Messi has scored 17 and Crynaldo just 13. Marca claims he has 18 total, but they’re wrong because they’re counting a freekick goal that clearly deflected off of Pepe and around the keeper. I also think assists are impossible to count and are done so very randomly; Messi is credit with 31 “assists” and 10 “assists” (yes, same word) by the official site’s statistical page. So, 21 times a player being passed to messed up and didn’t score? How can you even track that? Back to individual awards…

Bestest player in the whole wide universe: Andres Iniesta.
Worstest player in the whole wide universe: Joe H. McWeldontosh of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. That guy sucks.
Best transfer: Javier Saviola David Trezeguet (free, 8 goals).
Runner up best transfer: David Villa (lossa money, 11 goals, 5 assists)
Worst transfer: don’t have one yet, but maybe Weligton? Boo. Does Kaka count?
Mostest cardful: Albertó Botía, 8 yellows, 1 red
Permanent Red Mist Condition: Leonardo Ponzio and Eliseu, 2 reds each.
Yellow is my favorite color: Carlos Gurpegui, 9 yellows

Coach of the year: Unai Emery, Valencia. Losing Villa, Silva, Zigic, Baraja, Marchena, Alexis, and Del Horno and you’re arguably better?
Worst coach of the year: José Aurelio Gay and Javier Aguirre, Zaragoza. Out of the frying pan and into the burra.
Worst coach of the year runner up: Gregorio Manzano. How the mighty have fallen.

Teams Messi is currently outscoring: Mallorca (16), Depor (13), Racing (13), Osasuna (15), Almería (15), Sporting (13), Zaragoza (14).

As always, discuss my ineptitude below.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. Per the registration thread in the last post, I don’t have a problem with registration as long as I don’t need to pay for it.

  2. Actually, is that guy from Slippery Rock real? For anyone that doesn’t know, there really is a college called Slippery Rock. They all want to go into Parks or Law Enforcement, and I’ve met many of them.

    But that name sounds too fake…

    1. Google doesn’t think he exists.
      But that Slippery Rock joke killed me, I go to Grove City College which is just down the road from SRU and nothing cracks us up like ragging on “the Rock.”

  3. It still mind-boggles me that Atletico Madrid are not in a CL spot considering the talent that they have. Especially considering Diego Forlan’s form at the World Cup.

    FWIW: Captcha, registration, whatever you need to keep this site running, I support.

    1. What did you do to get yourself into trouble/moderation THIS time, Kari?

      That vid was too cute (last thread). Unrelated BUT, it’s also a comfort to see that the famous have as much clutter as I do!

    2. It was the same video reposted with more verbal diarrhea 🙂 But I didn’t but a “.” “/” or an “*” in front of the link. You’d think I’d know better by now, but you’d have thought wrong. 😀

      I have a bit of a soft spot for El Kun (it could be because I saw his live in ’07 and that he sings his own song . )

  4. If you’re a lurker, your new years resolution should be to pull up that keyboard and start posting. We always love to hear from new and diverse voices.

    Just think, everyone who posts here was at one time a lurker.

    1. ouch! lurker here… been so for more than a this blog, and yes im getting a daily dose…but, i get so engrossed w/ reading the posts and all the comments that i always forget to write somethin
      -but thanks vicsoc8 for the wake-up call…

      happy white new year bfb..
      lurker burried in 60cm of snow, siberia

    2. Ouch! Well as a newbie cule I feel like I have nothing substantial to contribute to the discussions just yet, but I enjoy reading the articles and comments here. Thank you, everyone, for contributing to my football/FCB education. 🙂 It’s an incredible time to be a Barcelona supporter. The current XI epitomizes beautiful football for me. I don’t enjoy watching the EPL as much, because I’ve been spoiled by Barca — all those long balls and sloppy passes! (Although I would probably say Arsenal is my team if forced to answer at gunpoint, but then they try to play that passing game Barca has down to a science.)

      Wow, for a lurker that was lengthy. *goes back to lurking*

      Happy 2011, everyone! 🙂

  5. Hey, you’ll all be happy to know that The Sun has The Knowledge. It says that we are going to go as whole hog as we can (as in, 31m) to sign Fabregas this summer, and that RoSELL has told friends that this matter is so important, he will take charge of the negotiations himself.

    And they have on the table, in addition to the 31m, Wenger’s pick of our young’uns, Romeu, Thiago or Krkic.

    Anybody who calls, will have to answer to me. And if is indeed, what in the hell does that make

    Oh, yeah …. EE is going to bid 35m for Fabregas because you know, they don’t really have enough young attacking mids running around, right?

    Jesus. It isn’t even officially the winter window yet, and summer nonsense has already started. Lord, protect us from the madness.

    1. Anybody who calls, will have to answer to me. And if is indeed, what in the hell does that make


  6. Oh, and how far the mighty hath fallen. Our very own not-quite-beloved Oso, Eidur Gudjohnsen, will be allowed to leave Stoke. That’s cold.

  7. And before I forget, Happy New Year to all, in whatever time zone you’re in. May 2011 bring you everything you’ve ever wanted, as long as it includes a big pile of silver for our beloved club.

  8. Excellent collection of midseason stats, Isaiah! My favourite:

    “Teams Messi is currently outscoring: Mallorca (16), Depor (13), Racing (13), Osasuna (15), Almería (15), Sporting (13), Zaragoza (14).”

    My thoughts:

    –thrilled that the Yellow Submarine is doing so well! They are my second favourite La Liga team. Hope they keep a lock on third place, or maybe even edge up to second. 😛

    –Valencia has slacked off a bit since starting off gangbusters this season, but I give Unai all kinds of props for keeping his team in the top five after having to sell most of their best players.

    –I should hate Hercules for beating us earlier this season, but I admire their fighting spirit, and they are in pretty good position for a team that was just promoted.

    –2nd runner up best transfer: Javier Mascherano (gave up some of his own money to make it happen, working out really well).

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    1. After snagging a lot of big name players and then going on a roll, Hercules are finding it tough to say them..

      Sadly, this type of mismanagement is common in Spain. Its a wonder that la liga is going on despite the problems..

  9. “If Pep told me to throw myself off the third tier of Camp Nou, I’d think, ‘there must be something good down there’.”
    Dani Alves on Pep Guardiola

    Taken from barcastuff.

  10. Isaiah, are you mexican? LOLz, I am, and I mention this because I never expected to see a comment about Aguirre’s decision to take Bautista to the World Cup. Just about everyone in the country saw the BS it was. Taking Bautista over Jonathan Dos Santos? WTF?

    Either way, happy new year to everyone.

  11. Happy new years from West Palm Beach, 2011 is going to be amazing!!!!!! Now lets get to Wembley!!!!!

  12. From the official website: Ten magical moments from 2010

    4) Sandro Rosell, 39th Club President
    9) Agreement with Qatar Foundation

    Whatever is magical about these moments is lost on me.

    Here’s to hoping 2011 will bring even more amazing things to our team, and prevent the aforementioned “magical moments” to appear in end-of-the-year countdowns when this year comes to a cose.

  13. Woah, just noticed the early start for the game tomorrow. Starts on Sky at 4.55pm UK time. Need to start looking out my prematch routine again ! Only real question for me is whether Bojan will get the start or whether Iniesta will be pushed up again. Hopefully not. Don’t think it’ll matter at the back tbh.

    From Barcastuff: “Ex-player Migueli, whose record of 549 official games will be equalized by Xavi, will on Sunday give the kick-off of the game #fcblive.” Is this allowed in a real match? Big, and well deserved, moment for Xavi.

    Lovely to see these bits of history. Watched Iniesta’s reception from the Espanyol fans again yesterday. Had a lump in my throat as the camera panned round the Espanyol players who were also applauding. One of those moments where the whole footballing family comes together. Also loved how as soon as he was off the pitch the booing restarted 🙂

  14. Slow day today. I’m responding to my own posts 🙁 Come on you lot. We’re meant to be back in training. Where’s my preview? Isaiah, wake up. 🙂 Just watching Man U. They must be glad they’re not facing us anytime soon. They can’t even keep the ball against West Brom !

    1. Good morning, Jim! I’m watching 3 EPL games at once (I love pop-up screens). Any idea why all the Liverpool/Bolton players are wearing black armbands?

      So you’re in Scotland? My Dad is from Glasgow, I’ve been there many times. Keep an eye on the Celtics/DeRosario situation for me, will you?

    2. I believe for Liverpool it is to do with an ex Liverpool player being dead, some Israeli player named cohen i believe. I do not know about Bolton though.

    3. Avi Cohen, of course! That makes sense, thanks.

      The Bolton ones are thinner, I assume they are doing it in sympathy,.

  15. Jim your from Scotland? what the Scottish teams not strong enough for you :). Kidding of course 😛

  16. Strong isn’t a word I’d use for Scottish teams, Roz. In fact teams isn’t a word I’d use either. It implies the ability to work together rather than all chase the ball individually in the vain hope that it will at some point land on the pitch, if only to enable the nearest player to hoof it into the air again. Our style, ‘though, a bit like Barca’s, seems to be catching on. I’ve noticed quite a few EPL teams experimenting with the philosophy recently.

    However, I have to say our national team ran Spain closer than most 🙂 and we still have the best singing of a national anthem in the world imo.


    Hi Blitzen. I think the armbands were for ex -Liverpool player Avi Cohen who died after a motorbiking accident last week. I think the De Rosario situation is down to paperwork although last I heard Toronto didn’t know much about what he was up to.

    1. I hope we don’t lose DeRo, he’s our best player, but I couldn’t really blame him. TFC is having a bit of a crisis right now.

  17. Iniesta: “My injuries? We’ve found the cause and everything is ok now. I’m enjoying and playing like I’ve always wanted.”

    Best news ever

    from barcastuff

  18. Tim Stannard of La Liga Loca has part 1 of Liga quotes of the year up:


  19. Not sure if this has been posted, but The Guardian has a list of the best football blogs. So we can all waste even more of our time!


    Wake up, everyone! It’s a brand new year! I have football, beer, and leftover Ethiopian food, so I have absolutely no reason to leave the house. Amuse me! 😀

    1. God there a lot of blogs!

      The list is incomplete as it doesn’t have the DirtyTackle.. Excellent blog!

    2. thanks for this blitzen… will surely be exploring..
      wonder how many hours on average a cule spends reading all the blogs and news everyday… coz it sure does eat more than half of my day..and truthfully, even in my dreams.

  20. A funny:


    La la la. Just talking to myself again.

  21. A Chelsea Christmas Carol:


    La la la. Just talking to myself again. 😛

    1. ” now then, my boy, do you know if the prize Messi has been sold yet?”

      love it

  22. Fontas not at training again today, so I guess that means he will not be playing against Levante. Either that twitter wasn’t authentic, or he jumped the gun, or he is being punished for tweeting in the first place?

    Looks like Bartra might start, though. My lineup prediction:

    Alves – Bartra – Abidal – Maxwell
    Xavi – Mascherano – Iniesta
    Pedro – Bojan – Villa

    Subs: Jeffren (for Villa), Thiago (for Xavi), Keita (for Iniesta)

    But I’m probably completely wrong.

    1. Milito is apparently training again, but I don’t know if Pep will risk him in this game.

  23. I watched that whole Arsenal/Birmingham game and failed to notice whether Hleb was even on the field. Ah yes, I see he was a sub. He obviously had a great impact on the match. 😛

    And apparently, Barcelona broke him:


  24. /off topic

    After watching manutd and arsenal games today, it makes me appreciate the level of play “we” have. Both games showed a mediocre possession skills and, more importantly, referee mistakes had huge impact on the game.

    Can’t remember the last time Barca had to lean heavily on “luck” (manutd game could’ve easily went the other way) or a referee decision. Can’t remember the last time when the game was close and “up for grabs” against a mediocre opponent (home or away).

    1. Oh your last paragraph brings back a lot of memories.. ’98-’04, the glorious years of FCB where we used to play thrill-a-minute football, where we lost matches as easily as we used to win them, we had icons like Rivaldo, Kluivert, Saviola, Reiziger, not to mention Pep himself.. Your last sentence epitomizes those years..

    2. Thats right. The period when even the most passionate and most knowledgable fans were starting to question the feasibility of “Cruyff’s way” in, at the time, modern football.

      It took a lot of sweat, blood, and cussed words to get to where “we” are now. The strong work ethic of this team and the amount of revenue The Club is generating assure me that “we” will not revert to those years of pain and suffering in front of our TV set. More than anything, the feeling of wasting the team’s potential.

      On a side note, I “feel sorry” for Rivaldo. Partially for Cluivert too. Had they been playing just few years either way, they could have had significantly more prolific careers.

      Rivaldo was a Ballon D’Or material and Cluivert had physical presence and great understanding of the game on the top of above average handling skills. Something the team is missing now at that position. Imagine how many more goals he would be in position to score with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi playing at the present level.


    3. Rivaldo holds a special place in any Cule’s heart, that overhead kick made him a legend.. No doubt one of the best strikers to grace the jersey.. Too bad he had to warm the Milan bench to win the CL..

      Kluivert on the other had is what Pep had in mind when he offloaded Eto’o.. He wanted a tall, technically gifted, good in the air and with a keen eye for goal kinda striker and only one player came near to that description.. Sadly it didn’t work out..

      Say what you can about Laporta, but we are eternally debted to him for bringing us out of that ‘rut’ and playing an integral part in forging the formidable side we are today..

    4. Looking back, I’m not sure why the staff thought they will be able to change Zlatan’s character, the way he approaches the concept of critique and his understanding of “team first” mentality. More and more I think of it, it looks like the whole deal was forced to counter Madrid’s spending that summer. A “political” move to satisfy the fans.

      What bothered me most is that it seemed like the management had not prepared an exit plan for Eto’o ahead of time. Everything looked sloppy and rushed.

      Personally, I always wanted to see two players playing for us up top. The first one is Trezequet (at his prime) whom for Capello said numerous times “the best in-the-box striker in the World”.

      The second one, the one I liked better, is Gabriel Omar Batistuta. The built, “feeling” for goal, aerial presence and a powerfull long range shot mixed with that South American flair (the kind Argentinians are born with). I am convinced he would be a great success wearing number 9.

      “Presi”, God bless him, always struck me as somebody who sort of stumbled into success. A man who would be described more often than not as “with his heart in a right place” rather than being shrewd and forward looking. I mean he and his team did have a solid business plan but the way “we” acquired Ronaldinho was lucky to say the last.

      The real turning point, in my opinion, was when they brought Davids in the winter to “spot” Ronnie. That was the key since it allowed Ronnie not to waste too much energy tracking back (he would go back all the way to the corner flag back in the day, unthinkable now) and focus on offense. The team went on an undefeated streak that Spring and the rest is history.

    5. Because you have to take a chance. (Excellent thoughts, Tom!) Sometimes they come off, sometimes they don’t. I think that Guardiola is a high-risk kind of a coach, who does a lot of things by feel. I’m sure he thought that Ibrahimovic was worth the risk. And when it went bad, it went bad in an immense way, not to mention the ego blow of being replaced by someone half your size. 😀

      I think that what they’d hoped was sitting in a locker room with Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Alves, Valdes, etc, etc, and watching how they went about their business and were totally dedicated to the club would exert some kind of peer pressure on Ibrahimovic. But in hindsight, he seemed to be wondering (witness his comments about our practices and player attitudes during) why they weren’t more like him.

      But I think that rather than being a move aimed at placating the fans, Guardiola saw the potential that an adjusted, committed Ibrahimovic would bring to the side, and rolled the dice.

      The Eto’o thing was and will always be very messy. My view then and now was that both sides were culpable. And now we have Villa, who I don’t think would have been Guardiola’s first choice had Ibrahimovic not been batshit crazy, but we still lack that true 9. And I don’t ever see us getting it. Rosell is pleading cheap (unless it’s Fabregas), and wanting to work within the system, which is aces at raising defenders and mids, but not strikers, and certainly not big, powerful ones.

      And so it goes.

    6. Sorry, Kxevin, but you’re wrong. Villa was Guardiola’s first choice. Villa was supposed to come to Barcelona last year, and it was only because Valencia decided to tough it out one more year and blocked the sale that Ibra was even considered. You don’t believe me? Ask Xavi. Ask Villa. Pep was in constant contact with Villa through the last season reassuring him that he would be coming this year, as were Xavi and Puyol. I’m not making this up. It has been mentioned many many times in interviews from most of the main parties. I do think that Pep hoped Ibra would work out and he would have a Villa-Messi-Ibra trident, but Ibra was always going to be a gamble and Villa was the “sure thing” Pep was looking for.

    7. I heard the buzz that Villa was Guardiola’s first choice, blitzen, but I just don’t know what to believe. There’s still a part of me that says if we wanted Villa we should have kept Eto’o, even as I understand the strengths and weaknesses of both players (Eto’o wouldn’t have as capably enabled Messi as the false 9, which was either 1) part of the Guardiola grand design or 2) a make-do because we don’t have a real 9.

      But I do think that he had hopes that the Ibrahimovic experiment would make him look a genius. And for half of a season, it did, before true colors reared their heads.

  25. Random request, but anyone know where I can get a download (in English) of the 06 quarter final first leg at Stamford Bridge? The one where del horno was sent off?

  26. Pep confirms what Kxevin was saying all along,

    “Abidal is our fastest guy in defense. When he has played as centre-back he always did great.”

    quote via Pep @ Barcastuff..

  27. Whooo, baby, what a day! A “simple” home plumbing project turned in a mass of frustration and a broken-off bold inSIDE a faucet fixture. (Sigh….) So I take a break from driving back and forth to Home Depot to watch me some footy, and might I just say:

    What a golazo from James Morrison. And I was trying to think of a way in which West Brom could have gotten more hosed. I don’t know what the ref was looking at. Pretty ridiculous. At 2-1 W.B. and a man up, it changes everything. Hmph.

    Citeh still doesn’t impress me. Arsenal look to finally be getting it together. That CL tie is going to be verrry interesting.

    And where the hell’s our preview, Isaiah? 😀

    1. Arsenal looked very good today! But they looked equally lousy a couple of days ago. They just can’t seem to get on a roll. I am actually really excited to see what happens in their match vs. Citeh.

      Speaking of which, City were OK today. I mean, they won, and they didn’t play their usual defensive game. But it irks me how they consistently undervalue David Silva, who is actually one of their best players (especially when he links up with The Yaya, together they are terrific).

      And Liverpool squeaked out a win! Uncle Roy gets to keep his job? Maybe? Oh dear, oh dear.

    2. We had a home plumbing experience a few years back….ended up with a flood and a new floor….sometimes it pays to pay…

      Thankfully (for those of us who consider Arsenal their token EPL team), Arsenal does seem to be getting it together, but they are lacking finishing they way we did in the beginning of the season. I’m still not convinced that they are going to be scary for us. We are better than them in every dept. and they don’t even own a bus much less know how to park one so no worries there.

  28. Hold the phone. Sport says that Wenger has promised Fabregas that he can transfer this summer if we offer the same fee as last summer. (Sigh …. will it ever end?).

  29. @Kxevin (the reply option is mysteriously absent at the previous thread)

    Definitely, the chance has to be taken in order to accomplish something extraordinary. In this particular case, however, the gamble was just too big. There were too many question marks/liabilities.

    To compound the problem, we made a mistake of spending too much money. The transfer fee in the $70M ballpark and Messi-like salary of $12M/year (after-tax I believe) is too great amount to be gambling on. Especially for a club of “our” stature.

    That being said, if you are putting this much at stake then you better have plan B and C ready if something goes wrong. You can’t tell me it had never crossed the management’s mind that someone with such a temper and ego might not be willing to listen to some criticism.

    It also simultaneously raised the expectations among fans (of all backgrounds) and put more pressure on Zlatan to deliver. An environment ripe for overreaction if and when things go not according to plan.

    “I think that what they’d hoped was sitting in a locker room with Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Alves, Valdes, etc, etc”

    Difference is, these guys (Alves is a hot-head himself) have been in-the-system for a good decade or so. The idea of “Barcelonism” has been installed in them long ago. At the latest, they are Catalan/Spaniards feeling special bond to The Club. Cultural and social.

    They also happen to have relatively small ego and no major issues.

    (on the topic of Eto’o)

    I am not assigning any blame. But the management had to have things “in motion” way before the summer came. Guardiola already tried to “get rid of him” a summer ago. The fact that he was nearing the end of his contract and had not changed much his behavior during the season, there are no excuses why the management didn’t contact Inter (or any other potential suitors) ahead of time. They could have even fetched the better price due to inflation in the market created by Madrid.

    I too was also under impression that Pep was at the time very keen on Villa and Mata.

    1. All true, Tom. Still not sure why there was no Plan B, but that was a symbol of the Laporta era. That, and the answer “Sure” to pretty much everything.

      But huge risk, huge reward, right? I was about to say that I hope Ibrahimovic is happy, but actually I don’t care. I think that Guardiola is happier with the system, even as I think he still harbors dreams of that big, strong, agile 9.

      I can only imagine the expectations that were heaped upon Ibrahimovic. In many ways, an absolute boon for Messi’s development was that he slid into a high-functioning side, with the likes of Eto’o and Ronaldinho. He had zero pressure to be a savior, or anything other than a talented, developing superstar in the making. It’s why I’m less inclined to believe that Krkic is going to be all that and a kettle of stew, by the by, even as I hope that he is. He got the same cool deal that Messi got, and then some. No pressure, just play, kid. And for a while he did.

      What strains the powers of my imagination is what folks such as Henry and Ibrahimovic had to deal with when coming into the side. Because rather than a lack of pressure, those cats had a world’s worth of pressure: fans, media, coaches, themselves, their legacies. That’s crazy. Ibrahimovic cracked. Henry didn’t, even if he should have paid for a season ticket his last year with us.

      It’s interesting with superstars. Some sign on an all-star team and adopt the “When in Rome” stance. Others think they are the biggest star on the team, and that the team should bend to their will.

      And there is something to understanding what playing for Barca means. To Ibrahimovic, it was just another club that paid him a boatload of money. In the 20/20 nature that is hindsight, that light at the end of the tunnel WAS a train. 😀

    2. When discussing Ibra ( and I’m loving the touchy feely nature of our discussion 🙂 ) I think we need to remember the circumstances at the time. Although we were playing well we did all have a bit of a reality check around the Chelsea game in the sense that their physicality caused us problems before Iniesta stepped up. I remember us having a discussion about that afterwards and there was certainly a feeling in the EPL that this was our weakness. However, after the final that kinda slipped away.

      We still do have a small weakness, imo, when we are chasing a game – whether our type of football needs complete confidence in ourselves or whether under severe pressure those gaps start looking a little smaller. I know this sounds silly when we are blasting ( top) teams away atm but at the business end of the season we will face teams who start to get at us and that’s when we’ll see the quality of our defence. I’m sure that’s when Pep would welcome a Plan B but to be honest I’m not sure who could fit into our front line and give us more than we would lose.

    3. Jim, I don’t think any responsible fan is going to question the decision to acquire a striker with bigger body frame. The particular choice and the related price tag is what the problem is.

      No one is also going to deny that we still are missing this. Especially against the teams who are most likely to “park the bus”. More athleticism up front is not going to be enough though. We need to complement this with:
      -better long-range shooting (mostly from our mid-fielders)
      -establish a threat from free-kicks (as much as it pains me to say but we need what Ronaldo is giving to Madrid)
      -a left winger who can dribble fast and successful to the left instead of cutting inside most of the time

      “but to be honest I’m not sure who could fit into our front line and give us more than we would lose.”

      Looking at the most recent failures at the position (Ibra, Henry, Keirrison and Bojan, Eto’o, Gudjohnsen in their own right), the most important factors to look at are:
      -strong character and work-ethic
      -experience playing Primera and/or speaking Spanish language
      -price tag (potential burden of it)

      Look at the pattern of our more successful signings. Alves, Pique, Maxwell, Keita, Mascherano. What sticks out is relatively low cost (Alves had a huge transfer fee but the salary is in line) and are familiar with either language or Primera.

      Now look who are the most notable failures (price/expectation vs output ratio being a deciding factor). Ibra, Henry, The Ukranian, Hleb, Caceres, Keirrison.

      This being said, an without doing much of the scouting, I would say we need to look at the type of player like (in no particular order): Llorente, Forlan (I believe Txiki was working on this couple of years ago but the fee was large), Luis Fabiano (getting old an injury prone though) and Higuain (keeps it simple and is sturdy enough, this is what we need Bojan to become).

    4. “In many ways, an absolute boon for Messi’s development was that he slid into a high-functioning side”

      Ibra too slid into what one would say was a high-functioning side. A triple-crown winning team, no less.

      What I see as an important difference is that Ibra, Bojan and Henry were strikers. The goals are/were expected from them. From Messi (at the time)? Not so much.

      “Because rather than a lack of pressure, those cats had a world’s worth of pressure”

      I don’t think the pressure generated in Barcelona is significantly bigger than at any other club in the World of similar stature. Players in question were all mature and paid millions of dollars. If they are asking for such a salary then they should be able to handle the pressure.

      What I think is the key factor for any “star” player that comes to Barca is what they encounter in the practice. Sure, they saw Messi, Xavi, Iniesta on TV playing a weekend game but I think when they come to practice and see what these guys (not only starters but youth players too) can do day-in and day-out, it is very humbling experience.

      The bigger the ego the bigger the disappointment. Literary, before they came to Barca, Ibra, Henry and Hleb thought they were “the shit”. After they logged in a month of practices, they start realizing that if these guys (pedro, busquets, thiago to name the few) can do all this maybe I am not as good as I thought I was. It can be a very humbling experience.

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