Barca 2, Levante 1, aka “Bailed out by an (un)willing opponent”

I woke up from a nap, and Eric Abidal was there. No. Right by my sofa. I ran. Hopped in the car, went to the hardware store, and Abidal was there. Just looking at me, waiting for me to do something. It freaked me out, so I ran to my car, and heard the keyless entry chirp. Abidal pressed the button. How he got my keys, I’ll never know.

Ahhh, it feels good to come back from a break and vex folks by picking Abidal as MOTM over Pedro!!, who scored a brace and the winning margin, but that’s life in the big city. Because every time (except for one) that Levante was threatening, Abidal was there. Even Valdes panicked a couple of times, but not Abidal, who was our best player on the pitch today. Was his play a penalty at minute 20? Some say yes, others say no. The ref said no, and I’m inclined to agree, from what I saw.

Yes. P!! scored two. But what of the player whose omnipresence prevents goals? Valid question.

It was Levante, folks, a team that when last seen was having eight goals dropped on them by EE. Working in their favor: rage, vacations, injuries and suspension, a determination not to be shamed again and the fact that defensive football can hold off offensive football …. for a while. So they rolled out with that “Okay, there will be none of that now” tactic that Athletic Bilbao worked to perfection, determined pressure and defense in depth. And for that tactic to work, you need a lackluster, vacation-bleary Barcelona squad who started the match down to 10 men.

Guardiola’s selction was Valdes, Alves, Busquets, Abidal, Maxwell, Mascherano, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro!!, Krkic and Villa. Yes, there were a couple of odd bits, including Busquets as a central defender. But it was almost certainly going to work, because of the pitbull-like presence of Mascherano, and the fact that Levante really had no interest in doing much of anything except defending what they rolled in with: a point. And we were complicit in their efforts by leaving the “On Vacation” sign hung out, looking for all intents and purposes like a clunky, funky team that left its sharpness in various European holiday spots.

Because here’s the thing: For there to be ball movement, there has to be movement. And I’m particularly indiciting our forwards today, who lacked sharpness. Villa was walking around, playing a mostly sulky, selfish, pouty match, walking when he should have been running. Krkic decided to make like a statue, and stand in that spot right at the shoulder of the defense, forsaking the very thing that provides him with at least a shot at playing against grownups. And Pedro!! was back to headless chicken mode. So yes, we had more than 70 percent of the possession, with nobody showing any real interest in making a goal happen.

So after 20 minutes in which Levante had better chances than we did, Iniesta took matters into his own hands, twice creating moments of brilliance that should have been goals. That the half ended scoreless was due to appalling finishing, desultory movement and a Levante side that didn’t take either of the very good chances that it had. Whew!

But for the second half, we rolled out a livelier bunch, with a notable addition that came from a substitution that I wouldn’t have made: Thiago for Mascherano. And I wouldn’t have made it because Krkic was dire, and showed no signs of improvement. I would have brought Thiago in, but for him. At any rate, the consequence of not only the Thiago sub but a side with a high-quality rant still ringing in their ears was much better ball movement and real, actual player movement …. well, from Pedro!!, anyhow. And when Alves received a pass in the box with acres of shooting space, he just dribbled, and dribbled, and waited and passed to P!!, who is never shy about shooting. And in about the same space that gave Alves pause, P!! blasted a goal, demonstrating that when in doubt, shoot. Because you never know what might happen. It was 1-0, and there was much rejoicing.

And minutes later, we had our second goal thanks to another P!! rocket, as the Alves to Pedro!! connection looked to be in full effect. But it’s worth noting that brilliant passes from Xavi opened up the Levante defense in both instances. The first one found Alves onside in the Levante box, a pass with millimeter-perfect weight that got to Alves just before the onrushing Levante defender. Perhaps his shooting paralysis was due to being stunned that the ball actually got there. The second was a ball in space to Krkic, who had one of those Gudjohnsen-like “What do I do with this thing” moments, before rolling it over to Alves, who fed the man who actually did know what to do.

It was 2-0 and we were on cruise control, going back to 11 men when, right after Xavi put the ball directly onto Krkic’s foot only to have him fall down and lose it, Guardiola inserted Keita for some midfield steel. Was this his way of saying “My bad” on the Mascherano substitution? Perhaps. Or maybe he had it planned all along. Either way, he probably wasn’t anticipating Levante deciding to make things interesting by scoring. They’d fired a warning shot across our bow by previously taking advantage of a long ball over our midfield pressure-fest, only to have Valdes easily save the rocket of a header. Would Mascherano have prevented the goal? Good question. Maybe he would actually have been back, where Alves and Milito were playing a game of “After you, my dear Alphonse,” and suddenly one hell of a golazo meant that the match was interesting again. And where was Keita? Another good question.

But it was 2-1, and Levante had life. They came out of their shell and began to play football, rolling forward with something that wasn’t quite abandon, but was certainly interest in seeing how the grass was on our side of the pitch. More frustrating was that the goal came after Villa wasted a brilliant opportunity by screwing about with the ball, instead of just shooting it. It could have again been 3-1 as Villa took a pass and rolled toward the goal with absolutely zero intention of even looking at the conga line of players holding themselves onside, waiting for the pass that should have been made. Yes, he got the corner. No, nothing came of it.

And suddenly, the match was over after a series of heart attack-inducing long balls from Levante, aimed at taking advantage of our seemingly soft center. It was a desultory 3 points, but 3 points nonetheless. Almost two weeks is plenty of time to lose sharpness, as we so capably demonstrated, but not enough time for Levante to develop the killer instinct to take full advantage of us. Which is a very good thing.

Team: 5. A win despite itself, as the side played with precious little sharpness, urgency and cohesiveness. The Thiago injection helped a lot in getting things back on the right track.

Guardiola: 7. Right lineup, though pretty much the only one that he could have called upon, and the right substitutions, even if they didn’t quite work out the way he intended. But I have no idea why he left Krkic on for as long as he did.

Valdes: 7. Strong saves and good play, though he tried to gift Levante a goal with a silly clearance. Yes, you can laud his ambition in the spanked outlet pass, but the player was covered all day and all night.

Alves: 7. Good defense, good passing and some nifty steals, but shoot Dani, shoot! The goal-scoring window is a small one, and he who hesitates is lost. Boy, did he miss him some Messi, but adapted to P!! very well.

Busquets: 7. He deserves more love than he will get for a wide-ranging performance that consisted of him doing what he does: Be a thorn in the side of the other side’s attack. He was equally strong with and without Mascherano, too, which blows one theory of mine out of the water.

Abidal: 9. That scuffed shot was riduculous. Pique so would have scored that one. Other than that, he was extraordinary, and our best player on the pitch for the entire match duration. He is so calm with the ball, easily dribbling his way out of defensive danger, running down players, stealing balls and intercepting long passes. He plays CB as he does LB, with the entire pitch, from sideline to sideline, as his playground.

Maxwell: 4. Kind of anonymous. Levante wasn’t offering much from the attacking side but when they did, Maxwell was like a turnstile. And he didn’t make up for it with attacking flair, either.

Mascherano: 7. Solid and omnipresent, even coming up into the attack and facilitating the short passing game that makes our club go. Guardiola has to start finding more playing time for him. He just makes everything in the middle so difficult for an opponent.

Xavi: 8. He was a little slow on a number of passes. Yes, he completed more passes by himself than the entire Levante team, but he’s been sharper. He seemed buoyed by the arrival of Thiago. Yes in his defense, the players weren’t making runs as they should have been. So get in their faces, Captain.

Iniesta: 8. An excellent match. He was full of danger, inventiveness and movement. I do wish he wasn’t so fond of that end line dive move, but what are you going to do? He, Xavi and Thiago were constant danger. I can only imagine how they would have fared with actual, functioning forwards.

Pedro!!: 7. He picked it up a lot in the second half. In the first, his movement was way off, and he wasn’t reading the match as he usually does, including one glaring error off a Levante inbounds play that resulted in a dangerous chance for them. Two lovely goals and excellent movement, once he got into the match. Fearless and accurate are qualities that you want in an attacker.

Krkic: 2. He gets credit for the pass to Alves, even though it came as a consequence of his own uncertainty. He was just terrible today, too small to play like a 9 even though he kept trying. And the full-sized Levante players just knocked him out of the way, and he whined. His movement and control on the move are brilliant, so why give those up by being so static? Notice also the times that he gets the ball at the top of, or just inside the box, and runs away from goal.

Villa: 4. Selfish, static and petulant was how I would describe his match today. He did some good things, including a few runs and some excellent tracking back on defense. But it’s worth noting for Villa that when he has the ball, he has teammates. He passes back to Messi, but when Messi isn’t out there, he takes on too much by himself.


Thiago (for Mascherano): 9. Would you all just promote this dude already? Why keep screwing around? “He has more growing to do,” says Guardiola. Perhaps, but he picked the team up today, providing a jolt of electricity when it was needed. He was passing, shooting, stealing, defending and moving like a player who sure looks ready to me.

Keita (for Krkic): 5. Helpful in the midfield possession role, his quality seems to be diminished by a lack of reps, as he wasn’t his usual fluent, athletic self out there. Partly in his defense, Levate’s Route One footy disabled many of his strengths.

Milito (for Maxwell): 5. Having a hand in conceding a goal mere minutes after your entry is not exactly what I would call ingratiating behavior. Solid after that, and might have played to a higher rating.

And yes, the Xavi tribute was magic.

Claudio Chaves/El Mundo Deportivo

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    “And for that tactic to work, you need a lackluster, vacation-bleary Barcelona squad who started the match down to 10 men

    …This is what they call foreshadowing, isn’t it?

    Yup. It is. (And–*gasp!*– I agree).

    –By the way, I guess I’d go with Pedro!! and Abi being the joint Men of the Match. Both were equally important to the cause. Alves also made a case for himself but I’d give him ‘Most Frustrating Player of the Match’ with Villa as a close second.

    • Jnice
      January 2, 2011

      Yeah, I probably would have went with Pedro as MOTM, but Abidal had a strong case as well.

      I like the Most Frustrating Player of the Match choices, Kari.

      And also, on Villa, why does he look so clumsy when he dribbles? He looks like he is fighting to get the ball from under his feet all the time, it’s weird and annoying. I thought he had better technique than that.

      This sure would be a nice match to make a Thiago compilation….

      • Stephen
        January 2, 2011

        Oh you noticed that too?? Its like he had springs on his ankles and make the ball rebound away!

        • Jnice
          January 2, 2011

          Yeah, I notice it every match. I’m like, “what is wrong with this dude?” Why does he look like he is fighting with the ball every match?

          • Stephen
            January 2, 2011

            I almost want to start finding some Valencia footage and see if he pulled this with them. I’d say its the short, fast passes but.. he still does it with slow, long passes. Ibra pulled similar horrible ball control towards the end also.

      • Kari
        January 2, 2011

        And also, on Villa, why does he look so clumsy when he dribbles? He looks like he is fighting to get the ball from under his feet all the time..

        LOL! So true 😀

        In his defense, when you have Messi, Iniesta and Xavi all on the same team, you’re ball control is going to look pretty sh*tty in comparison.

        — I was always a Thiago fan, but he’s very close to making me a fangirl (status I only reserve for Messi). His confidence is awesome.

  2. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    And Thiago is such a boss. I know sMasch is called El Jefecito and a kid 7/8 years his senor shouldn’t be called El Jefe, but man.

    • Jnice
      January 2, 2011

      Where’s jordi, the third founding member of the Thiago Fan Club?

      • Kari
        January 2, 2011

        Furiously YouTubing Thiago highlights and drooling on his keyboard. He’ll be back once his salivary ducts temporarily dry up 😀

        (And, it should be his junior but you get what I mean)

  3. BarcaOwl
    January 2, 2011

    Thanks for the review, Kxevin. It’s an excellent read, as always. I must say I’ve missed your style of writing. And a very Happy New Year to you. 🙂

  4. Stephen
    January 2, 2011

    Abidal !!! def. with you on the Abidal MOTM, he was there the entire time, he was amazing, calm, and skilled. Way better than any other season he’s had with us so far.
    This game was frustrating, I missed our CBs mostly because I missed Busquets in the middle, Pedro and Villa dropped too deep for passes, Alves was not someone showing “hey pay me whatever I’m asking.”

  5. January 2, 2011

    It was a clunky game but honestly no one could have expected any different, right after vacation and a couple of important pieces missing. And yeah, Thiago is class. Literally any other team in the world, and he’d be starting games semi-regularly.

  6. just sayin'
    January 2, 2011

    We are not a team that comes back well after a break, be it vacation or friendlies or what not. However, this was not our starting XI. We were missing 3 key players and it showed but the team that Pep fielded should have had a better showing against a Levante. Pedro just gets better and better, even if he looks like a chicken with his head cut off, he has a good sense of where to be and he knows how to take an opportunity and convert it into a goal. Villa not so much. Not only does he looks clumsy with the ball, as was discussed above, but he has the bad habit of just shooting the ball once he’s inside the box, especially in the outside corner. He’s so predictable. If he gets the ball there, he won’t even look up to see if he has a chance – he just shoots. Most of the time there are 3 or 4 defenders crowding the box and it just goes off one of them for a corner. I wonder if Pep has discussed this with him because if I can predict what he’s going to do, I’m sure the other team can as well.
    If the team looked a little sluggish from their NY’s hangover, Iniesta was in fine form (as he probably isn’t much of a drinker). He created chance after chance with his creativity and skills trying to help the forwards who were slacking.

  7. BA
    January 2, 2011

    Abidal was dominant today, no doubt. forget Greyhound, he should have been named Iceman. dude never panics on the ball, and what an asset that is for a defender. he’s also got one of the best controls on his chest i’ve seen from any player of any position; i remember a Levante player crossing into a dangerous area and Abidal is suddenly there taking a pretty fast ball on his chest like he’s goofing around in training. fantastic.

    he and Thiago were the outstanding players this game, but Pedro can’t be refused a mention. i had worried that his big-game goalscoring habit was a fluke, but he keeps pulling it off, over and over. i’ve since come to realize that’s what some people call “class”. an interesting attribute for a kid 2 years out of the Segunda B.

    the less said about Baby Bojan the better. are we back to thinking his skill set, that of the classic #9, just doesn’t fit into our current system?

  8. Euler
    January 2, 2011

    Barca was clearly rusty today and off their game.

    At the same time, it seemed very clear that Luis Garcia drilled Levante over and over how to play deep and defend in numbers against Barca over the break. I’d guess they used much of their preparation time specifically for this match. I thought they defended well in the first half.

    By far the biggest issue with the team today was off the ball movement from the forwards. That was the biggest reason why the attack looked so sluggish.

    Pedro had trouble because the space that usually opens up when Messi plays the false 9 just never materialized. That left P! repeatedly running into defenders as they packed in deep. It wasn’t until the second half when Pedro started to figure things out in terms of positioning. It also looked like Pep had him playing more often switching to the center with Villa shifted more out to the left flank.

    Villa was very uneven today but I think you have to take his performance with a grain of salt. It looked to me like Pep tried to have him play more like a false 9 in Messi’s place and that’s just not easy to do. I think that’s why he was dropping back so often deep to midfield.

    Bojan…. really not sure what to say. He was awful. He really was. He was by far the worst Barca player on the pitch and a major reason why the team was so sluggish. He’s immensely talented and critical to the future of the team. But today was one of those days where it just looked like he was playing in a style which completely misunderstands the kinds of challenges playing at the top level of football poses.

    He looked like he was playing the “9” in a style that was probably how he played against the competition he faced when he was 16 and dominating the world. It just doesn’t work for him at this level. He is far too easy to physically dominate to play the way he positioned himself today.

    For mush of the match it was as if Barca were playing only 2 forwards rather than 3. Bojan was invisible.

    What’s concerning about Bojan is that despite being in the system for so long, off the ball movement is not a great strength of his. I just get the sense that he was so successful scoring so many goals at a young age that he never had to learn how to do what say Pedro is so good at. Part of it is definitely age and being promoted too early. But it’s an issue.

    And Pep tries to be supportive of him. Bojan was the weakest link today and should have been the player taken out of the game for Thiago. He was the single biggest issue. Instead Mascherano gets removed to augment the attack.

    Taking off a defensive player for another attacker will almost always expand the attack because you’re adding numbers. But it comes at a cost of losing defensive solidity. And it makes little sense to add an attacker to enhance numbers when the fundamental problem is that one of your attackers is invisible and not contributing. The direct solution to that problem is to take the problem out of the game.

    Today was another match where having Afellay could be enormously beneficial.

    Bojan is going to need to step his game up. The season is now entering it’s serious phase. And now he’s going to have to compete even more for playing time.

    On a positive note – Xavi, Pedro and Abidal all had excellent matches. Any one of them is a reasonable MOTM.

    Abidal has been great at CB this season. What a difference from the World Cup. The only problem with Abidal at CB is that they lose Abidal at LB.

    • Soto
      January 2, 2011

      I agree about Villa playing a false 9 role. There were some very nice plays where he was linking our midfield to Pedro! and Bojan.

      The problem with Villa’s attempt at playing in Messi’s shows is that Villa did not maintain the consistency and urgency that Messi brings. This became more and more true as the game went on. I do, however, think it was a good experiment by Guardiola, since it never hurts to have a back up fornthe false 9 role.

      Hopefully, as Villa continues to grow into the Barcarole style, these experiments will start to bear fruit. Imagine the turmoil that an opposing defense would feel if at any moment Villa and Messi could effortlessly and effectively switch between striker and false 9?

      • Euler
        January 3, 2011

        In the match prior where Messi didn’t play, Pep tried to play Iniesta as a makeshift false 9. And it didn’t work. Iniesta just couldn’t do it.

        This match I think he gave Villa a chance there to experiment. It also didn’t work.

        Messi as a kind of false 9 gives the team a new dimension through which they can “break the bus.” As a modified false 9 Messi forces defenses to lose shape.

        This is critical because if you cause the defense to lose shape, it counteracts defending in numbers and also defending deep.

        But the problem is that there’s no other player in the world who can assume that role and produce that kind of effect.

          • poipoi
            January 3, 2011

            I think iniesta as false 9 when messi is not on the pitch is my favourite line-up. I wanna see iniesta playing as close to the box and as centered as possible. Iniesta centered playing between enemy lines and 2 of either p!/villa/affelay cutting from the sides. Maybe it didn’t work don’t remeber which game it was but I’d try it once again. The thing is iniesta won’t ever score as messi but nobody moves in tight spaces like he does.

            villa – (iniesta) – pedro!
            affelay – busi – xavi

            goals can come from any player but iniesta 😉

            where do you think affelay will play most of the games? don’t know him much

    • Nik
      January 2, 2011

      Agreed on Villa. Bojan and Dani were more frustrating to me than Villa, as I too thought he was told to play the Messi role. I think he just doesn’t have the conditioning (not to mention the dribbling skills) like Messi does to play that “false 9” role and hence had periods of non-activity.

  9. Victor
    January 2, 2011

    I do think that you are being a little harsh on Villa and specially Bojan. Of course, Villa is being clumsy with the ball and that’s unexcusable, just like the selfishness. However, he wasn’t playing the same role he is being used to in this team. Just like Busquets, they are prone to masking mistakes when they suddenly change roles. So, I’d cut some slack for Villa. (And Busquets, by the way)

    On Bojan, yes… odd that he “made a statue of himself”, but, as I said earlier: Maybe Pep told him to do so. I know that it might seem very strange that Pep asks for that, but consider the situation.

    Bojan knows the system, he has shown that he knows how to move… and we all know that he wants to be in the starting XI. So, when given the chance to demonstrate why he should be in the first team, he wastes it playing like that, with practically no movement? Seems a little bit illogical to me. Everyone at Barcelona knows that playing like that is a paving your way to the bench… specially those who grew up with this system… so, why would Bojan do that? The only reason that seems logical to me is: Pep told him to do that. At least seems more logical than Bojan actually deciding to play that way which results in having a bad performance and losing another chance in your way to the starting XI.

    Of course, many will disagree with me and, obviously, this is nothing more than mere speculation from my part… perhaps Bojan was out of rhythm from vacation, perhaps he wanted to score so badly that he didn’t care about movement overall… but my guess is that: Pep told him to play that way.

    • Stephen
      January 2, 2011

      assuming that’s possible by any stretch of the imagination… why would Pep Guardiola tell him to play terribly? just speculating.. what would be the ultimate “goal” of that? (no pun intended)

      • Victor
        January 2, 2011

        I’m just saying that, I think, Pep told him to not track back and keep on that position. (Of course he didn’t tell him to play bad)

        Why would he do that? To experiment a little. Try something new.

        • Stephen
          January 3, 2011

          Sorry missed your previous post, thought you meant pep told him to play bad. I got you, maybe he did, but some tactical things should happen for him regardless of position which he’s been lacking lately. That said, if he pep saw him doing badly with that instruction, he def. made the wrong substitution in taking mascherano out.

    • Euler
      January 3, 2011

      Guardiola: “Bojan has still a big margin to grow. Now it’s up to him to fight for his spot. He has the talent for it.”
      -via Barcastuff

      Pep’s comments abpve about Bojan weren’t particularly positive. It doesn’t sound like he was particularly happy with the way Bojan played. Pep very infrequently says anything even remotely negative about his players to the press – particularly after matches. And he’s been especially protective of Bojan given his youth and being promoted so early.

      That statement is as close to Pep calling out a player publicly as we’re likely to see while that player is on the club in good standing.

  10. lovelymofo
    January 3, 2011

    I agree with Abidal as MOTM. He kicked ass the entire match. Usually its Xavi/Iniesta/Messi that make me swoon during the match, but this time around it was all Abidal.

    Anyway, I gotta find a good place to watch these matches, the interwebs at home is super slow and I hate just listening to it via my phone. Rant rant!

  11. vicsoc8
    January 3, 2011

    I’m having an internal struggle at the moment. My instincts want to defend Bojan, but my brain refuses. Ah well.

  12. Jnice
    January 3, 2011

    I honestly don’t think Bojan can be defended today. I saw no positives whatsoever.

    And regarding Villa and the false 9 role or whatever he was asked to play. Sure it’s not his natural position, but does that mean you stand around the entire first half? Does that mean the ball should bounce off your foot every time you dribble? Does it mean that you should wait so long in the box and make the worst possible decision every time? I don’t think so.

    I find it hard to buy any excuses for his performance in this match.

    I’m interested to see how we will perform against Athletic. We should have a bit more rhythm to our game and hope our movement and intensity is in full force. I also don’t think Bojan deserves to start Wednesday. Sorry.

    • ML
      January 3, 2011

      What if pep gave Villa a free role? Drifts from side to side like Messi, and is available for the pass or run. I remember one valencia match where he was given the free role, he destroyed the opposition.

      • Jnice
        January 3, 2011

        Point is, a free role in the Barça system doesn’t mean you are allowed to just stand around for 45 minutes.

  13. tutomate
    January 3, 2011

    I was not particularly happy with anyone but Pedro, Abidal and Busquets with sMach having an honourable mention. I felt that Xavi had a bad day as did Iniesta They were both particularly absentish when compared to their regular selves most solid attacks were coming from Alves’ side with a few cameos by Iniesta. other than that I agree with the K-man. About MOTM Abidal has to take it with Pedro a very close second. Aside from the wimpy shot at goal and the penalty that wasn’t but that could have been, the man was an absolute beast and nearly flawless. It is no wonder that when Milito replaced him at CB we conceded a goal.

    As for Most Frustrating I say that either Bojan or Villa can easily take it. As Jnice mentioned on twitter Bojan spends the bulk of matches on the floor wanting and begging for a free kick or a penalty. I don’t think he exaggerates or dives I just think he falls really really easy. And Villa dribbles like he has his boots on backwards and inside out.

    Bad game but I’ll give them a break cause they won and it was just after a vacation. Wednesday though no excuses.

  14. January 3, 2011

    Thiago is better than Cesc.

    The main problem against Levante was:”Who can play as a 9?”. Pep started Bojan there. Didnt work. Then he switched him and Villa. Didnt work. And he was forced later to use Pedro. If Villa cant play as a 9 in a match against Levante, then when can he? Bojan is a young dude and I can have patience with him. I believe he still can work. But I said it before and will say it again: This team lacks a forward. We are standing on one leg at the moment. I dont want to imagine the team without Messi for couple of weeks. Afellay is not a 9.

    Pep subs were more strategic than tactical, and I do think we dont need that. He had lot of faith the team will win anyway so he choose Bojan’s long term moral over the team needs for the match. I dont agree with that. Bojan is a first team player now, and there is no need to pamper him anymore. He is just another member in the squad, and should be treated per se (that’s not a critic toward Bojan, its Pep’s job). If Keita accept bench role, Bojan shouldn’t complain. If one of the two best holding midfielders in the world-the second one is Busquets- and Argentina’s captain, accept getting subbed, Bojan better accept that as well. Thiago in, Bojan out. Done and dusted. No need for acrobatic subs just to give Bojan more time hoping he taps in a goal.

    What Pep need to feel guilty about is not subbing Bojan, but not showing the same tolerances and generosity toward other players like Vazquez to name one. I am not sure if he will get back his previously known quality, but he is not getting a chance to pass the test anyway, while Bojan is eating the whole birthday cake.

    And just because I like how it sounds, I will say it again: Thiago is better than Cesc.

    • Jnice
      January 3, 2011

      Thiago is better than Cesc.


      No need for acrobatic subs just to give Bojan more time hoping he taps in a goal.

      True that.

    • MA
      January 3, 2011

      -I dont think that Thiago is better than Cesc for now,but he has the potential to become twice as good,he is more complete as well and more versatile(in 3-4 years time he will be able to play in the Xavi Role,in Iniesta’s role in midfield and maybe even as a false winger),Cesc is a superb player,yet he is only 23 but he will cost a Fortune and he will block our youngesters(Thiago in particular and I think everyone on earth Knows that we signing him will be the worst decision ever(maybe not everyone as it looks that Pep and Rosell both have another opinion),Thiago in my opinion has the potential to become as good as a mixed version Xavi-iniesta-Deco but we shall see what happens to him,dont know whether a promotion now will help him(Busi and Pedro-esque)or will it hurt him(Bojan-esque)but if Pep wanted to spend 50m on a creative midfielder last summer then there is a place for Thiago in the team,so I say promote him,give him the number 4.
      -Our need for another attacker is now being more of a must,Llorente,Lukaku and Dzeko are too options in my mind and both are exactly what we need,so spend what it takes to get anyone from them,and anyone from them will have his minutes in rotations bec of the versatility of Messi-Villa-Pedro,what I fear most if Barca going for the creative midfielder to leave us with 5m to spend it on Adebayot or Bendnter,I am hoping our board are not that silly to do that

      • poipoi
        January 3, 2011

        too early to talk like that IMO. thiago has to play and after he plays some years we can compare. there’s many important dimensions in a player others that just his skill or “tecnica”. time will tell but by now cesc is european and world champion, bravo & golden boy, owns a club in london and scored 20 goals last season… all without being the son of any famous player and starting to play in a little village team called arenys de mar. I mean, what has thiago done so far? some tricks? he still has to prove a few things IMO. Anyone can step on the ball and do a vaselina but command a team in a foreign league for 5 or more seasons is a whole different subject.
        I defended iniesta from the 1st minute I saw him, I fell in love and said he was better than anyone (even Zidane) but I’m sorry can’t do the same with thiago. He is a very promising upcoming player, probably the best we have now that busi and p! are starters, but that is all for me. People trashed busi and p! and they love thiago that’s just how it goes but I don’t like it. I think the less attention he gets the better, and pep acts as if he thought the same way.

        • Jim
          January 3, 2011

          I agree. It’s reminiscent of the overhyping that GDS and Bojan received when they were first promoted to the A team. Worst thing we could do to him atm. He does look promising but the hardest part comes now in moving from promising in flashes to performing at the top level consistently.

          As far as Cesc is concerned it is quite a stretch of the imagination imo to say that Thiago is better than him, at least for now. Cesc has proved himself over and over and should the unthinkable happen and either of our midfield geniuses get a long term injury I know who i’d rather have in our midfield. Thiago has played a handful of minutes at the top level.

          • Jnice
            January 3, 2011

            You guys do realize “Thiago is better than Cesc” is a joke, right? Just checking.

            No need to present Cesc’s credentials. We aren’t idiots.

          • poipoi
            January 3, 2011

            1st I’m not defending cesc just trying to relativize this growing thiago fever. The comment may sound like it but I’m no arse fan.

            No need to note you’re not idiots, I recognice my peers at 1st sight. But it’s not only idiots the ones who don’t know about golden boy and bravo, some normal high educated and never-classless people also don’t 😀 (((cesc won both at 19 which is thiago’s age right now))) On the other hand, some idiots already know he was both best player and maximum scorer of an under 17 world cup, some wise men don’t… idiocy does not seem to be related to storing useless footy data. I know heavily mentally impaired men that can tell you full line-ups of twenty years ago. and from atleti!!!!!

            But it was the part of “without being the son of any famous player and starting to play in a little village team called arenys de mar” what I tried to stress 😉

  15. jong
    January 3, 2011

    strange part being that Pique and Puyol’s absence motivated Abidal, while Messi’s absence discouraged Villa and Bojan.

  16. mei
    January 3, 2011

    I still dont get it, after the match.
    Since messi wasnt playing why was pep trying to occupy the false nine position?
    If iniesta couldnt do it, dont try anyone else.
    Stick with him until he understands it , or abandon that position if messi is not around.
    It was so frustrating to watch every player who found himself in that position yesterday being clearly useless and not getting involved at all in the game while being there.

    • January 3, 2011

      I don’t think it was about the false 9 (With or without Messi) but more the lack of 9 in the first place. I dont think Pep has the luxury to make choices in offense (with or without Messi), the offense structure is almost a given.

    • January 3, 2011

      I don’t think it was about the false 9, but more the lack of 9 in the first place. I dont think Pep has the luxury to make choices in offense (with or without Messi), the offense structure is almost a given.

  17. larm
    January 3, 2011

    was it just me or did i think xavi was off a bit today? how many passes to dani did he try to force through but got cut off by the second defender? shame on him for trying to force a perfect through ball to the right back!!!

    lol, no really other then passing to dani, i felt xavi had his usual game of dominance through distribution.


    im ready for registration, ive not posted many a time cuz im too lazy for captcha.

    viva la bfg

    • tutomate
      January 3, 2011

      Your not the only one that thought he was off.

  18. Nick
    January 3, 2011

    At long last I agree with your mark for Bojan. Pep said he was cojonudo (spa. terrific). Either he referred to the Catalunya’s match or misspoke the word “terrible”. Let’s hope we are NOT in for another five years of the same pathetic stuff.

    • mei
      January 3, 2011

      Okay hold on a second.
      Bojan has played some terrible matches this season.
      But whats that bit about 5 more years of the same pathetic stuff.
      Are you counting the liga he helped , majorly, to win last year?

      • Nick
        January 3, 2011

        For a start, “majorly” would be a big word in this context. But to answer your question, I am obviously not referring to his previous better form. As others mentioned above, he needs to man up. Hence my hope that his new 5-year deal does not give him too much comfort and halt his development (or even make him regress).

  19. y2k156
    January 3, 2011

    It does seem to me that Pep took the chance to try out few things in this match. Which can be good or bad, depending on result. This time, it was good.

    Bringing out SMasch did seem needless though. He was playing well. I guess one thing is clear, we have Messi, who is the best false 9 in world and than we have our other attackers, good in their own way but not false 9s. We just have to live with the fact. In case Messi is not there, Pep maybe can try 4-4-2 and have Villa and Pedro as front 2. That could work.

  20. Helge
    January 3, 2011

    Sometimes I feel like Abidal is a better CB than FB 😀

    Anyway, the whole team had an off-match in the first half, but as far as I remember even in the 2nd half Iniesta and Xavi played an unusual amount of bad passes.
    Krkic definitely was the worst performer of the night, but he was not the least effective. The least effective to me was Villa, who in the end didn’t participate in either of the two goals and only wasted chances by dribbling against 3 players as if he were Messi or not seeing better positioned teammates.
    It’s a valid argument to say that Krkic was way too static in this match, but at least he started to storm into Levante’s box after playing the pass to Dani Alves and thus created panic in the defense of Levante (although it was only Krkic, they tried to cover him). If Krkic had not made this run, there wouldn’t have been (that much) space for Alves to pass into and Pedro to run into.

    “It could have again been 3-1 as Villa took a pass and rolled toward the goal with absolutely zero intention of even looking at the conga line of players holding themselves onside”
    I don’t have the possibility to record the matches, so I can only speak about what I remember. But the most shocking moment for me was when Dani Alves broke free on the right flank (when the result was 2-1), Villa AND Pedro were in the middle to receive one of the simpliest passes but Dani Alves overhits it. I don’t remember the situation with Villa, but that Dani Alves moment was pathetic…

    • Jnice
      January 3, 2011

      Yeah, Dani’s moment was a bit worse than Villa’s and he almost screwed the first goal up, too.

      • poipoi
        January 3, 2011

        worst cross ever! was it two or three guys waiting for the ball standing there all alone? OMG

    • Jim
      January 3, 2011

      Yeah, not sure what happened there. Did the ball bobble up just as he was hitting it?

      Still, lots of positives there as well. Alves looking to make the right pass, Villa still running and thinking late in the game and, best of all, not going into a huff because of the duff pass but rather going over and giving Alves a pat to say never mind. Class on his part and confirmation of lack of ego.

  21. Jim
    January 3, 2011

    I can’t get worked up about the lack of snap in our play. We are going to have games like this and I wasn’t seeing lack of effort from anyone. I think it can look like that when our pattern of play goes wrong and it only has to be off a little. I think it did show how much we need Messi – the one thing we lacked up front was someone to threaten their setup with pace allied to control. That creates gaps. Xavi and Iniesta were reduced to having to find the perfect ball. It might have been very different if Iniesta’s early effort had gone in. We’ve been spoiled recently by getting early goals. Even with our full team we don’t look as good without that.

    We do have an imbalance though on our two wings. Alves plays his part offensively very well. Yes, he is frustrating with his use of the ball but at times yesterday he appeared early and at others late and this must have been very hard for Levante to deal with. On the other wing Maxwell isn’t getting forward as quickly as he should nor, as I keep saying, is he taking on the responsibility of running at defenders. He has the close control to do this. Don’t know if Pep has asked him to stay back or if he’s just in his comfort zone but we need more out of him offensively. Where I would take issue is with criticism of his defensive qualities. Not sure what being a “turnstile” is but I’m assuming it’s not a compliment and I’m curious as to where the examples of this are. I can’t remember the last time he contributed to us losing a goal or even allowed a forward to get the better of him. What I see is a player who positionally is very sound, possesses great technique and who judges well when he has to tackle and when to leave it. I’m puzzled.

    All in all, ‘though, a winning start to the New Year without our first choice defense or our best player. We never looked like losing that game and that’ll do me for a first game back. Despite the fact that it isn’t such a prize, I’m more interested in how we do on Wednesday night which might be our first real defensive test of the season in a hostile environment.

    • mei
      January 3, 2011

      We wont be winning all games by a huge margin ,like we wont always finish most of our chances, there will be some tough fights.
      And I would prefer these ones to be when they are most probable to happen , like after long holidays!

  22. gv
    January 3, 2011

    Anyone got a DL link for the game?

    I was sleeping like a baby and totally forgot about the game.


  23. poipoi
    January 3, 2011

    oh no, dios maldiga al captcha! I lost my long comment 🙁

    anyway… you’re right, abi dribbling is so cool. he humiliates his attacker when the roles are inverted. “abi dribbles YOU, you don’t dribble abi. now go back home and think about it” 😀

    and on P! we did not play that well but he still keeps getting bigger and bigger everyday, and constantly bringing surprises… the control/dribble with the left foot and hard shot with the right in his 1st goal are fire, impossible to defend. And still classic kick-ass moves no thongboy circus stuff 😉 viva P!

  24. Hilal
    January 3, 2011

    I think (I hope) that Afellay is going to be a great addition to our squad. In a game like yesterdays where we needed a bit of flair and pace (sans Messi) a player like Afellay would have been perfect. We all saw what Thiago added and Afellay is a far more direct player. I cannot wait to see him get some reps for us. I just REALLY hope he doesnt end up another Hleb, not getting the chances to prove himself.

    As for Villa, like Ibra and ANY OTHER striker we get, he needs time. At least a full season to see the best from him. Be patient. He will frustrate more than he will please this year, but I am very confident he will come good in the end. He is a top, top quality player (just like Ibra was). He just needs the time. I really hope he gets it.

    Bojan is another story. He has had the time, he has the chances, he has been pampered and coddled. Enough is enough. It’s time to pay the piper. Either play like your the no 9 in the best team in the world or go somewhere else. I think Pep is starting to lose his patience too, judging from his very telling comments post match.

    The rest of the team can be forgiven for being a little funky, as we always are after these breaks. 3 points is what matters people. We cannot and will not blow every team we play out of the water.

    One last thing. I completely agree with Ramzi about lacking a centre forward. So far it hasnt bit us because we have the best player ever filling that role, but if Messi gets injured for any extended period we will get found out. Forget Cesc, we have Thiago, what we need is a proper CF. There are several names that come to mind – Djeko, Lukaku, Lorrente. Any of those guys would fit the mould. However I have a feeling that come summer we will go for Torres. I know that Rossell has some ties to Torres via Nike and I have a feeling that he is going to take advantage of Liverpools current implosion. Now, whether or not Torres is the right player for us I cant be sure. He certainly has all the attributes of a pure CF and on his day I have seen him play out of this world. He does seem very injury prone though. Only time will tell I guess. I would certainly feel a lot better about spending a lot of money on him than on Cesc. Thiago looks the business.

  25. vicsoc8
    January 3, 2011

    On a somewhat painful second watch, I think that while the winter vacation certainly led to the players being a bit rusty for this match, it was compounded by the lack of Messi on the field.

    Without Messi the team seemed to lack direction in attack, they lacked a focal point around which to base the attack. Xavi is the engine of the team, but over the last couple of years Messi has been taking over the steering when we attack. Without him the team seemed a bit directionless, especially in the first half.

    This isn’t really surprising, as Messi is such a phenomenal player that every player on the team has to alter their game slightly to play with him. The proof is in the tactics – Messi is carving out a previously unknown position and playing in a previously unthinkable way due to his combination of skills. Pep has adapted his tactics to get the most out of Messi, which only makes sense considering Messi’s immense skill.

    The difficulty with this is no one else in the world, not even on the Barcelona team, can play the position Messi is playing with the same efficacy. Pep tried Iniesta there in the Bilbao game, and while Iniesta can play the playermaker half of Messi’s role, he isn’t able to seamlessly transition to the striker role. Likewise none of our forwards are able to drop and play the playmaker role the way Messi does.

    Some would say this is evidence that Barcelona is dependent on Messi for wins. I disagree, it is just the inevitable result of playing a formation that puts such an emphasis on getting the best out of the best player in the world. Guardiola’s true challenge this season isn’t to find a plan B, but to find a slight formation shift that will play to the team’s strengths when Messi is missing.

  26. January 3, 2011

    Just a few things:

    It warms my heart that people are finally noticing what I have been saying about Villa all along: He doesn’t have good feet. He is best when he gets the ball in plenty of space, as he did during the World Cup. Our offense is more demanding than Spain’s, however.

    But what we have is what we have.

    –If we buy Fabregas this summer, we’re crazy. By the time Xavi is done, Thiago will be more than ready. Is he better than Fabregas right now? No. Bbut he’s close enough where we’re safe banking that 45m.

    –All of this “false 9” businees points to the fact that we NEED a real 9, much more than an overpriced Catalan sub for Xaviniesta. Citeh is said to have a 27m deal done for Dzeko, so x him from a “to do” list.

    –No idea what to do about Krkic. If he starts against Bilbao, Guardiola is insane. Some point to his play toward the end of last season, but please don’t forget how dire he was prior to that. The answer is usually “With more time, he will be brilliant.” Every now and again, I wonder….

    • mei
      January 3, 2011

      Many people stating here the lack of a true “9”.
      I only got one question :

      Name a player that fits the standards and will work well in our system(press,movement,passing ability).

      Also, if I get it right someone must be sold from the first team in order for someone else to come along and play regularly, since no true “9” that fits these characteristics will be in his right mind to become a bench player ,carrying such qualities.
      Even at barcelona.

      Two things to notice :
      -first of all theres harmony in the squad right now , and we must have that. When in the past hell broke loose in the dressing room chaos followed in the perfomances as well. We are not a club doing well without that for some reason.

      -The team is doing great.We are smashing record after record, and playing better football that the sextaple year.We are complaining about the lack of a true nine , that was spotted while comfortably beating an opponent after the holidays.

      Maybe the tradeoff for having the perfect team on paper(having a true 9) is a burden we cant manage.
      Drawing the perfect team in theory, doesnt guarantee that it will work like that in practise, and its not even known if any club in the world can summon all these players together to begin with.

      • Tom_Johnson
        January 3, 2011

        (since I am too lazy to type a copy-paste it is)

        Tom_Johnson says:
        January 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm

        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).

      • vicsoc8
        January 3, 2011

        Other than his young age, I’d love to see Iker Muniain join the team.

    • Jim
      January 3, 2011

      Can’t agree on the not having good feet, Kxevin. You can’t dribble like him and score so many goals without having great control of the ball. To me, his dribbling style is a difficult one to carry off, ‘though, as he does tend to keep the ball almost under himself as he moves which can lead to problems. Its a bit like Iniesta’s ( although not as good) whereas Messi, although he keeps it close, always has it in perfect position just ahead of him.

      I’m still wondering why it is essential for us to have a big “9”. I think it’s unlikely that anyone will give us more than at present without having serious drawbacks as well. Even playing not so well, as yesterday, we had 20+ shots at goal, 12 corners, 80% possession etc. Both their shots on target came from inch perfect passes. Given the likely sums involved, I agree that with Thiago we can afford to wait at least another year before deciding on Cesc but he may well have a bit of the “missing” piece of the jigsaw in that he very often finds himself ahead of his forwards coming from midfield. This is exactly the kind of run which our midfeld can pick out – and he can finish and he is only 23 !

      • poipoi
        January 3, 2011

        Does pep want a nine anymore? A big nine again? I don’t know.

        What we needed was a sharp shooter, specially after watching titi shoot for some years 😉 and a guy to run upward even though being offsides at times. Villa is one of the best shooters around, he scored a lot in the world cup and the euro playing in the left and has always scored in valencia playing in the center. I love his shots to the angle, we needed someone like that, someone that garantees a good number of goals per season. messi-pedro-villa (40+15+20=75 goals estimated) is a really tough offensive line to match, besides they are all free run fast and can really score, player by player all of the 3 are good scorers. It’s good in some ways to not have a pure 9, it brings movement and unpredictability IMO (right spelling?). I think pep likes that also, very cruiff-like. Even though it was johan who suggested the ibra swap he stated time ago, when still being an official coach in FCB’s payrole 😉 that he would like to play football with no 9.

    • Victor
      January 3, 2011

      I also don’t agree with Villa not having good feet. Granted, he is not as good with ball control as Xavi, Iniesta or Messi… but he does have skills… take a look at this:

      And that’s one reason I wonder why is he having a hard time with ball control. And that’s one thing that should be addressed. That can’t be blamed on Villa ‘adapting to the system’…

  27. blitzen
    January 3, 2011

    A few thoughts and questions:

    –Apparently Mascherano did not train today and has a fever of 39 degrees. This may explain why Pep subbed him yesterday.

    –I think we all agree that Villa’s play was much better in the second half than the first. Two things helped this, first Thiago coming on revitalized everyone and allowed Villa to play more on the wings. Second, Bojan coming off. The fact is that Villa and Bojan just haven’t “gelled” in the same way that Villa-Messi or Villa-Pedro have. They don’t seem to read each other’s movements very well, or trust that the other will get to the right spot when needed. This may just be because they haven’t actually played too many games together. Or their styles of play don’t complement each other.

    –Jeffren wasn’t even on the bench for this game, anyone know why? Wasn’t he pronounced healthy recently? I hope he gets a chance to prove himself soon, or he might not get one at all.

    –Thiago certainly proved that he is ready to play with the big boys, and how! Great game from him, and I was thrilled to see how well he worked with Xavi and Iniesta. Not to mention Dani, I can see those two playing off each other very well in the future. This kid is brimming with talent and confidence, but how are we going to find enough minutes for all our excellent midfielders???

    –I agree that Abidal had a great game, but he also had a couple of moments of miscommunication with Valdes. Nothing came of it, but this has happened before, and one of these times it could cost us.

    • vicsoc8
      January 3, 2011

      I think that Villa and Bojan are too similar in how they want to play. In my eyes they tend to get in each others way and because they are too similar they don’t complement each other well. When you have Messi in there putting distance between them it can work, but it’s just difficult for players who are so similar to work together well.

  28. January 3, 2011

    To all who said Xavi had a bad game or a bit off: we are seeing a different match.

    He was spectacular to me. He made the most passes, sent dozens of inch-perfect balls to Alves, including the sublime cross to the same guy to make the first goal happen, spin around 360 after 360 in midfield to protect the ball, provide the tackles we needed when they tried countering, and in general controlling the tempo and speed. He might have a not so good first half, but his second was a total domination just as like Abidal’s. Watch closely! Xavi deserves standing ovations in almost every game.

    Thanks for the review Kxevin.

    I’d said that Thiago will replace our need for Cesc way back, and it showed in this match.

    What more can we praise about Abidal now? Besides,maybe, not scoring goals?

  29. Roz
    January 3, 2011

    Video complation cliveee? Pleaseee. Agree with those who said we need a #9. Anyone notice how many corners we had? Its funny(and cute) seeing every jump and not even get close. But srsly its a scary thought.

    • January 3, 2011

      Thiago vs Levante has been done! what am i gonna do?

      If I were to do another one, it will only be Abidal…

  30. blitzen
    January 3, 2011

    Offtopic: Royston Drenthe is refusing to train with Hercules over unpaid wages and will not play in their game tonight vs. Malaga.

  31. Victor
    January 3, 2011

    Serious question: do we really need a real 9? I mean, sounds like bragging, but Barcelona is the team with the best offensive at the moment.

    • January 3, 2011

      Yes we need a 9. Not necessary an automatic starter but the need for a striker who can serve as a focal point for offense and create spaces is a certainty.

      Now of course there will be the same old argument about so called “Failed attempts”. First, I have my own understanding for it and dont see it as white and black, and secondly we tried for years to get a right fullback with enough quality to contribute in the offense from Belletti to Zambrotta to Alves. Some failed, but when we found the right one, the outcome was epic.

      So I dont buy the “we are destined not to perfect the system” argument.

      Barcelona is the best team at the moment with the best player in the world scoring and assisting like a freak. Lets not mix “offense” and “Offense line” as those are two different things.

  32. January 3, 2011

    To make my point clearer regarding “Thiago is better than Cesc”:

    First of all, Thiago for me is a term, more than a player. That term includes Thiago, JDS, Sergi Roberto and the whole Queue of young midfielders waiting in the line. None of them is a guaranteed future, but it is safe to assume that at least one of them will end up flourishing his talent in the first team.

    Secondly, Thiago is a Better “Option” than Cesc. And dare I say he is already a better option right now, not a pending option.

    Yes Thiago is not ready yet. But will Cesc join the club next summer and straight forward find his place in the selection? I doubt. If he will need one more year of adaptation, spending time shining Xavi’s and Iniesta’s boots, it means he won’t be essential before two seasons. I do think the possibilities that Thiago’s quality exceed that’s of Cesc in two years are good enough to go for it. Two seasons from now -when we need a midfielder- we can have a player who is 40 Millions cheaper and 40 months younger. That’s a better option, right? Yeap!

    Regardless of what Arsenal fans say now, but hleb was as essential for Arsenal as Cesc. The proof is how much they struggles after his departure. Midfield quality in Spain is not the same as in England. What Cesc does brilliantly for Arsenal regarding passing and possession and turn the EPL fans heads around, our boys does it with a socks in La Masia bedrooms. Really. So the certainty that Cesc is a guaranteed option is irrelevant. He is not even the best player at Arsenal currently. His injury record is worrisome as well. Yes he has qualities. But we have much more of the same. Especially if Afellay proved success.

    Then we come for the boring cost benefit analysis: Will spending 40 Millions on Cesc improve the Squad more than spending 30 Millions on Llorente for example? Thats also a question to ask.

    But I do believe Barca will sign Cesc. Not because he is a quality. But because he is Catalan, and Catalans want him back. And he is not doing a bad job gluing himself to the most powerful players in Barcelona’s squad like Puyol, Messi, Xavi and Pique. He knows what he want, and you have to give him the credit for that. Yes, some of them were his friends in La Masia and still they are. But Puyol and Xavi werent. And one can only wonder if he keeps the same Passionate relation with his old La Masia friends who are no more Barca players. Another good question, and it answer another question I mentioned long time ago regarding that Barca-Cesc-Arsenal chaos: Who is tapping who?

    “Thiago is 40 Million times better than Cesc”

    • Hilal
      January 3, 2011

      “and it answer another question I mentioned long time ago regarding that Barca-Cesc-Arsenal chaos: Who is tapping who?”

      EXACTLY! I have always felt that way. With all the complaining and talking about Barca tapping Cesc I have always thought it was the other way round. Besides all the fake interviews with Barca players all the noise comes from Cesc’s camp, from his father and the rest of his entourage. He wants to come to Barca so badly but Barca dont need him and wont pay what Arsenal are demanding for him. I really do hope that the addition of Afellay and the growth of Thiago prevents such a potentially wastefull transfer..

    • blitzen
      January 3, 2011

      “And he is not doing a bad job gluing himself to the most powerful players in Barcelona’s squad like Puyol, Messi, Xavi and Pique. He knows what he want, and you have to give him the credit for that. Yes, some of them were his friends in La Masia and still they are. But Puyol and Xavi werent. And one can only wonder if he keeps the same Passionate relation with his old La Masia friends who are no more Barca players.”

      That’s a pretty nasty implication, Ramzi. You can debate the merits of Fabregas as a player or his usefulness to Barcelona all you like, but I really think implying that his friendships are based on ulterior motives is going too far. You should remember that he plays regularly with Puyol and Xavi on the national team, and has known them a long time. Sorry, but this comment really irks me.

      • January 3, 2011

        I am guy with no emotions, blitzen. Thats the thing 😀

        That statement is not the complete truth, but it is a part of it. And I reached this conclusion by following Cesc’s (and his father) behavior for many years now. Sorry if you don’t like it. C’est la vie!

        • blitzen
          January 3, 2011

          I just don’t think we need to take the conversation down to that personal level. It makes me lose respect for you as a commentator.

          • January 3, 2011

            I don’t wear gloves. I say it as it is or at least the way I see it. Simple as that.

            Your opinion-and anyone’s opinion- about what I SAY is valued and worth discussions. Your opinion about ME is for you to deal with, it is not my concern.

  33. poipoi
    January 3, 2011


    thiago and affelay are more agressive with the ball in their feet that cesc or typical masia mids IMO, me likes that. I’d also put JDS in that typical “masia-made, possesion-holding, non-dribbling midfielder” category, and not thiago I think. Thiago can do more dangerous things. The old xavi-iniesta dicotomy 😉 and cesc-just-out-of-the-equation! thiago can be better than him, besides he is too expensive for a player that was already ours.

  34. Mike
    January 3, 2011

    People on this blog are spoiled and delusional. Bitching about certain players for a poor game after Chrismas break? Each and every “fan” who did that deserves ridicule. And Thiago better than Cesc? Do you guys have any idea how ridiculous you look in front of other, educated fans? You are giving Barca fans a bad reputation.

    • January 3, 2011

      Educated fans stay away from this blog. This one is only for us the weirdos. So dont waste your time and move on.

      Thiago is better than Cesc.

    • vicsoc8
      January 3, 2011

      Thank you for the “educated” and insightful reply.

    • Jnice
      January 3, 2011

      Thing is, Bojan’s play was the same before winter break, some of Villa’s deficiencies against Levante were the same before the break. A break doesn’t explain why Dani couldn’t play a simple ball across the box or why he didn’t take the shot with the goal at his mercy. Does it explain why Villa takes so long to shoot in the box?

      Do you want me to point to the instances where all of them have done the same things in matches prior to this one? Not hard at all.

      I could care less how I “look” in front of other educated fans. Because we joke about Thiago being better than Cesc or look at the benefits of keeping Thiago rather than signing Cesc we give Barça fans a bad reputation? Please, spare me your silly logic.

      • Tom_Johnson
        January 3, 2011

        “Because we joke about Thiago being better than Cesc”

        “Joke” being a key word.

    • January 3, 2011

      We can agree to collectively disagree, Mike. Name-calling helps nothing, including the possibility of people taking your comment seriously.

      I assume you’re suggesting that after a two-week vacation, we should be lucky with what we get. That’s fine, but the performance must be analyzed, all contextual caveats aside. So for this match, player performance is a topic of discussion. Nothing wrong with that.

      Perhaps you’d want to enlighten us about what makes discussions of player performance, irrespective of context, “spoiled and delusional.” That’s of greater value.

      Also note Ramzi’s explanation for his “Thiago better than Cesc” supposition below. This is an open space, and all viewpoints are welcome. But it’s hard for anyone to take you seriously as a presumably “educated” fan when you lack the basic common sense to not stomp into someone’s house and urinate on the walls.

      • Tom_Johnson
        January 3, 2011

        I think his beef is not with the fact that one person posted something like that but that there are people actually taking it seriously and agreeing with it.

      • Mike
        January 3, 2011

        I said spoiled because so many “fans” on here were complaining, swearing and bitching about alves, villa, and the entire team during and after the match. Sorry, but after a 10 match winning streak during which the team played some of the best football anyone has ever seen, it is spoiled to complain, swear at players, and bitch after just one not so great game. Even more so because it is game right after the Winter break, and even more so because it was a win FFS. That is spoiled, no ifs, buts, or maybes about it.

        Said delusional partly because of the Cesc-Thiago comparison. And again, because of the bitching, swearing, and complaining after just one not so great game. During the 10 match winning streak, the team recorded multiple wins in which they scored 5 goals, even an 8-0 win. On top of that, two of the games in which they scored 5 was against RM and Espanyol, THE biggest Barca rivals! Not only is the complaining, bitching, and swearing spoiled, it is also delusional. Because they clearly imply that they expect the team to play marvelous football every game, even right after the Winter break!

        I understand you are moderator here, and respect your obligation to defend your readers. But I promise you if we were to get neutral perspective on this, most would agree with me.

        • January 3, 2011

          Well, I’d say there’s a difference between complaining and analyzing. I think that a single match, no matter when it comes on the calendar, is fair game for evaluation. I think everyone here knows that the first match back from internationals or holiday breaks, we always have the stank.

          So I think that extended complaining, as in “He sucks, sell him,” isn’t valid or realistic. Anyone taking that tack would be as spoiled and/or delusional as you claim.

          But attempting to analyze a performance to a level more than “Well, it was vacation, so what do you expect,” is okay by me.

          And apologies for making an assumption that might not be true, but my history here would tell you that I have no problem going against the stream and calling BS on something, when warranted.

          As for expectations of marvelous football, I don’t think anybody expected that. And had the entire match been played like the second half, there almost certainly would have been even fewer observations and analysis.

          Finally, I think that as overreaction goes, I think that this blog is on the calm side of things, based on my Web roamings.

          Thanks for the commentary, and clarifications.

  35. January 3, 2011

    One last thing…It seems people have a certain idea about 9. Something like being spoiled static poachers with low workrate.

    I will only say: Marco Van Basten. Gabriel Batistiutta. Or at least, Llorente.

    • mei
      January 3, 2011

      not really ramzι;i was only stating the requirements for a striker of the type that would fit your reasonable claims and our system.batistuta and van basten are not around.would lorente,an up and coming star welcome a bench role,even for barcelona?

    • poipoi
      January 3, 2011

      all great, inmense players but with a tendency to be the starting role in the attack. imagine lionel messi working just to get crosses to batistuta’s head? no way. or pique kicking long balls a la british to llorente’s chest? wouldn’t like that either… don’t know about marco though hehehe

      what I see is samuel eto’o working for lionel messi, lmfao

    • Tom_Johnson
      January 3, 2011

      That is exactly right.

      Since the objective is to score against a team that had “parked the bus”, an alleged slightly lower work rate is an acceptable trade-off (especially since the defending team doesn’t have a desire to go forward in numbers hence our pressing is not as important) for the option of actually crossing the ball higher that 6′ off the ground (to either front or back post) and feeling confident that your forward is going to be able to hold on to the ball inside (or around the box) instead of falling down to the ground like Bojan and Villa have managed to do oh so many times.

    • MA
      January 3, 2011

      or Zlatan Ibrahimovic :),but its a shame that he couldnt get along with pep,imagine picking 3,from ibra,messi,pedro,villa,we could have been the best football team ever

  36. Jim
    January 3, 2011

    Sorry, Ramzi, but you’re stretching my imagination a bit here. I suspect you’re just baiting us here, looking for good discussion 🙂

    Your Thiago “term” includes three players who between them haven’t played more than a handful of minutes in the first team. Any comments on their ability are based on performances in the seconds which is way different. Although i thought Thiago had a decent game yesterday our improvement could just as easily be put down to Pep’s half time talk. We have usually improved in the second half after listless first half performances. JDS to my mind has been underwhelming in his fleeting moments in the firsts and Roberto I don’t think I’ve ever seen so can’t comment on. We are talking about producing players capable of enhancing the best midfield in the world. We could have no complaints if none of the three ever made it to that level. In one sense it would be absurd if we were ever lucky enough to find another Xavi or Iniesta immediately after having them. I sometimes think that we take away from the players when we imply too strongly that it is all down to La Masia. Xavi and Iniesta would be world class players in any side because they have world class talent. It merely flourishes more in a passing side.

    As far as your second point is concerned I agree that the amount involved should make us hesitate. However, as I said in a previous post we have been pretty lucky recently in avoiding long term injuries. What happens if one of Xaviniesta picks up a long termer? I’m not sure I’d agree that Arsenal struggled after Hleb’s departure either. Arsenal for the last three or four years have lacked a decent keeper, a decent CB partnership and a good leader ( which Cesc isn’t). Much of their lack of success is down to Wenger’s refusal to put out decent sums to rectify this. He also has been keeping faith in his youngsters but they keep failing at the top level. Last season Fabregas scored 19 goals and had 19 assists from midfield in one of the world’s top leagues. That’s impressive in anyone’s language.

    Hleb’s play at Arsenal was the same as when he was here. Good on the ball but to little purpose. How often will he fail at clubs before the blame is laid at his door?

    i agree that Cesc’s recent tweets etc are bordering on him tapping us up rather than vice versa. He’s not covering himself in glory over this whole affair and nothing would please me more than to see Thiago come through. I’d certainly not jump this summer – we have time on our side. If Arsenal win nothing this season he may well try to force a move and coming towards the end of his contract the price comes down. It’d probably also be a good time for Pep to have a quiet word with Pique and Puyol about the need to be circumspect in their tweeting. Am I the only one that’s finding this really embarrassing?

    Sorry for the long post. It’s still a bit post New Year-ish here and not much happening.

    • blitzen
      January 3, 2011

      Thanks for the link to the Hleb article. I can’t blame the guy for wanting to get out of Birmingham, but if he thinks Arsenal are going to want him back he will be sorely disappointed. It seems to me that his problem is less about talent or skills than about attitude and work ethic. It looks like we will stuck with him again at the end of the season. Where should we send him next?

      And if Cesc/Pique/Puyol’s tweets bother everyone so much, stop reading them! They are just being silly and having a good time. What’s embarrassing about that? None of them has said anything controversial, unless you believe those murky “Spanish sources” or “someone close to” quotes, which have nothing to do with their personal tweets.

      Can’t believe the amount of Fabregas hate in here today. No wonder all those Gooners get their feathers ruffled.

      • January 3, 2011

        There is no Cesc Hatred. If Xavi retires today, I will demand signing Cesc tomorrow if it is not possible to do it earlier. The problem is that -unlike many- I see Cesc as any other player outside the squad and match his qualities with our needs. I will take Nasri over him anytime, just as an example. He is a world class quality that we dont need. Just as many other amazingly talented dudes.

      • Nik
        January 3, 2011

        I haven’t seen the hate you’re referring to. Criticism, yes. Hate? No.

  37. Euler
    January 3, 2011

    As terrific as Barca has been, the squad is a center striker short in terms of depth.

    But fixing that problem is going to be difficult. Any big name player they bring in e.g. Llorente, etc. is going to cost a fortune. Strikers are the most expensive and least efficient players to buy in the transfer market. A quality striker will carry a large price tag. That player will not only expect to start but his price tag will demand it.

    In turn however, getting a true “9” will require moving Messi out of the false 9 position. That might be the right move to make overall, but I’m not certain. We need to see over the rest of the season, but Messi’s current hybrid position may be where he’s best. And it may be the position where he delivers the most value to the team, especially against teams that “park the bus.”

    So going after a player like a Dzeko, Torres, Llorent, etc. not only requires thinking about the price tag for that particular player but the opportunity cost of moving Messi out of the false 9.

    I suppose if you could find an extremely mobile 9 he could be stationed on the right wing and leave Messi as the false 9. That would be the ideal situation. Then if Messi is hurt that player could shift over to the central 9. But finding a true 9 who is that mobile will not be easy at all and could turn into a disaster.

    The alternative would be to find a 9 for the bench. But there are just very, very few quality 9’s who are going to be willing to sit on the bench.

    Finally, I wouldn’t count much on Llorente. If Bilbao decides to sell him, Madrid is going to go all out to buy him this summer.

  38. Humphrey Bogart
    January 3, 2011

    I don’t know about Llorente. He is a phantastic 9 but it is clear that he is courted by the EE so why should he choose to come to Barca to sit on the bench as a plan B. Apart from him I see no one how would meet the requirements: technique and workrate to fit into the system, but to be content to sit on the bench

    Any ideas?

    • Jim
      January 3, 2011

      Peter Crouch ?? Just an idle thought that crept into my head. Actually has decent technique for a beanpole.

      • blitzen
        January 3, 2011

        1st thought: Ewwww!!!!!

        2nd thought: Might be worth it just to seem him standing between Pedro and Messi in the lineup. 😀

        3rd thought: He’s a dirty prozzie-shagger. Pep says, He doesn’t embody Barca values.

        Verdict: NO!

      • Humphrey Bogart
        January 3, 2011

        Yes his technique is for his frame and the EPL decent enought, but hardly enough quality for our team. And he seems to have a taste for the same girls as Wayne Rooney.

  39. tutomate
    January 3, 2011

    Thor is awesome. Even if I don’t agree with everything ( I agree for the most part ) it is still great to watch (read) him wield that hammer.

  40. Tom_Johnson
    January 3, 2011

    “but Messi’s current hybrid position may be where he’s best. And it may be the position where he delivers the most value to the team, especially against teams that “park the bus.”

    1. Are we trying to find a way for team to be more productive or where Messi alone is the most productive?

    2. How has that (messi’s hybrid position against the “bus parkers”) has been working for us so far?

    • Euler
      January 3, 2011

      My priority is for the team to be as good as it possibly can be. That’s what I was referring to with the phrase, “delivers the most value to the team.”

      I think there’s a real chance that having Messi play the false 9 is what’s in the team’s best interest. As I also stated in my comment, we need more evidence before coming to this conclusion however and we’ll need to see how the rest of the season plays out.

      Even before the Ibra chaos occurred it seemed like Pep wanted to play Messi in the false 9 position so Pep may see it that way as well.

      I also think Messi in the false 9 position has worked very effectively against teams that “park the bus.” Teams have defended in numbers, played deep and tried to maintain shape against Barca over and over this season. Despite that Barca is off to arguably their best start in roughly 50 years and are scoring goals in droves.

      A certain tactical approach on how to defend against barca has been mapped out over the past two seasons and it’s now something other teams can look at and copy.

      Messi in his current hybrid position forces defenses to lose shape even when they try to defend in numbers. Coupled with his ability to pass the ball even small miscues in shape result in devastating through balls, runs and opportunities.

      El Clasico demonstrated this very well as did the matches.

      But as I stated, we need to wait for more of the season to play out to marshal more evidence. That’s my impression right now.

      • Tom_Johnson
        January 3, 2011

        “But as I stated, we need to wait for more of the season to play out to marshal more evidence. That’s my impression right now.”

        Thank you. I hope I see a sentence like this more often around here.

        It is certainly debatable if the team is really better off then last year against the “bus parking” teams now that Messi is playing as a “false 9”. Recent game against Bilbao comes to mind. Yes, I do realize he came off the bench.

        I would like us to try something new. Why not switch to 3-4-3? Allow me to explain.

        A more robust striker up-front, two wingers (villa/affelay left and pedro on the right), keep Messi at “false 9” directly behind striker but behind provisional spots of wingers and have tri mid-fielders form a triangle behind (lets say iniesta left, xavi on the right and mascherano behind them) with more physical approach in the back of Milito (left), Abidal (in the middle) and Puyol (right)?

        This can be adjusted:
        -for width (Alves for Xavi at RM)
        -finess vs physicality (busquets vs mascherano, pique for puyol or abidal)
        -just a different look (xavi at false 9 so he can use his great passing at the spot closer to the goal, in this case Messi replaces striker or switches to either wing)

        Talent and physical conditioning of our players makes me believe we can pull it off.

    • Vicsoc8
      January 3, 2011

      The Inter matches last year showed that Barcelona is better able to cope win parked buses when they use more mobile, harder working forwards who can love the defense out of position than when they have a classic, tall number 9 to cross to.

      Statistically, and possibly stylistically, this is the best Barcelona team under Guardiola yet, so I’d say Messi in the false nine position is workin extremely well. Notice that the two recent games where we had trouble with a parked bus Messi didn’t start or play many minutes. I doubt either of the games are as difficult with him on the pitch.

      • Victor
        January 3, 2011

        Just throwing this possibility out there… let’s suppose that the Winter Break affected a little (or nothing) to the team’s performance… if that’s true… then it is somewhat worrying that the team is quite different when Messi isn’t on the pitch.

        In that sense, I can see why Guardiola wants Iniesta or Villa to take on that role when needed.

        • Vicsoc8
          January 3, 2011

          It’s understandable though. When you play a tactical system that makes large allowances for a player such as Messi’s calibre (while simultaneously placing large demands on that player) and you remove that player from the equation the tactical system will obviously suffer.

          I’d much prefer a shift in tactics when Messi is out instead of trying to have someone else play there, as I don’t think anyone in the world is currently capable of filling that role with more than moderate success.

  41. January 3, 2011

    It’s also worth noting that Llorente has a pre-agreement with EE, the buzz is. We need someone who doesn’t mind sitting, waiting for an opportunity. The Messi false 9 deal is created partly out of necessity, because we don’t have a proper 9. It could also be argued that we had one, and it cramped Messi’s style, which again argues for a high-quality sub.

    If EE does go for Llorente, who’s odd man out in that deal? Benzema, most likely. If the price was low enough, it’d be worth a shot, I think. (No, I’m not kidding.) It’s hard to think of who’s out there who meets the needs (patience, skills, not expensive) and is available.

    • MA
      January 3, 2011

      Romelo lukaku,but anyway i beleive that if we can go for llorente,offer a bit more than madrid,we will get him,it looks that he is going to madrid though,no indications of a possible barca interst and EE need a striker

    • Hilal
      January 3, 2011

      Agreeed. Players like Llorente, Torres, Djeko and even Lukaku are all starters, not subs. We dont need a starter, our Plan A is fantastic. What we need is a Plan B, what we need is a Larson, not an Ibra. A quality player, in his early 30’s, nearing the end of his career, willing to spend time on the bench but brings experience and goals when called upon. Any ideas…

    • Extreme barca fan
      January 3, 2011

      The answer i guess: HULK of FC PORTO, only if he is coming cheap

      • Vicsoc8
        January 3, 2011

        Not a bad suggestion, I’ve been impressed when I’ve seen him play, and my understanding is that he is capable of playing on the wings as well.

      • jordi™
        January 3, 2011

        I like Hulk , hes been tearing it up for Porto this season, but Porto like Lyon don’t sell players cheap, its how they remain sustainable.

  42. January 3, 2011

    When I favored giving the chance for Pedro over buying Arshavin, he was more or less in the same position as JDS and Thiago now. They played enough in the preseason, wimbley cup against the likes of Tottengham, and with the first team in the cup +some games to show what kind of players they are. They are still work in progress, but the yeast is there. No doubt. Its a game of probability for me. Buying Cesc throw them all out of the window. I see more probability for one of them to serve the club on long term than in one 40 M bought player who may catch everyone buy surprise and disappoint.

    As for Hleb, I believe Arsenal missed him dearly in the midfield. The performance differed a lot after he left (though they had more or less the same players). Especially with Rosinski (Spelling) unable to heal from injuries. Now they have better player in Nasri.

    “I suspect you’re just baiting us here, looking for good discussion”

    If I admit it, the plan fails. And as long as I dont, you will never know for sure. You have no choice but to take my words seriously 😀

    • Hilal
      January 3, 2011

      All good points Ramszi.

      Also, there is no guarantee that Cesc will come and flourish at Barca. He has yet to really show his best for the national team so who is to say he would flourish in our team? He could be one of those players who has to be the centre, who has the be the man, he wont even be the 4th “man” at Barca. Can you imagine the phychological impact of being the talisman, the captain of a team, to have every player on the pitch look to you and then all of a sudden be sitting on the bench waiting for your turn. Being behind the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, knowing that barring injury you are a squad player. Why risk it for 40-50m when not only do we not need him, but we have a player who could end up even better. I will be very dissapointed is we spend a lot of money on Cesc and it is at the expense of Thiago. Cesc made his decision to leave, that he now wants to come back is his problem. Thiago chose to stay, regardless of the fact that he has to break into the best midfield on the planet. He deserves to be rewarded.

      • Jim
        January 3, 2011

        That’s a bit harsh, Hilal. He’s not shown his best for the NT as he can’t get into it for Xavi and Iniesta. He’d be a shoe- in for any other NT in the world imo. I’m not sure you could find a team anywhere that plays closer to our style of football and he is a major part in that so, no , we can’t say for sure he’ll fit in but it’s as likely as anyone else and more than most. Lastly, I also think he’ll end up spending time on the bench if he comes here – he’s not daft either, so what’s in it for him? Either he believes he is good enough to replace Xavi or Iniesta ( and if by some chance he is, what a player we get) or else he realises that at the moment, until Xavi retires he will get limited time.

        Ramzi talked about the two year wait by which time Thiago will be holding down the position. Well, he may but that same time frame also gives Cesc a non-pressure time to integrate with the system by which time he would be 25 and still probably short of his prime. Although its a whack of money we’d be buying a player that could be with us for 8/9 years. We’re also buying someone who scored 19 and had 19 assists. Thiago isn’t in that league. Look at his scoring record lower down.

        I’m not suggesting we go out and buy him but it’s a valid discussion to have as one of the world’s top 10 midfielders wants to come to us, was raised in the system and plays our type of football. As Blitzen said, there’s a lot of anti-Fabregas sentiment here for whatever reason and I can’t see why. Btw, Blitzen, I still think he hasn’t acted very well over the last six months. He did everything to manipulate a transfer but didn’t have the guts to table a transfer request and stick to his guns and it may just be naivety but there’s something I don’t like about the cosy implications that he hopes they’ll all get the result they want this year etc. He’s an Arsenal player atm and shouldn’t be indulging in public utterances that show his future commitment as being lukewarm.

        Well, what started as a need to post now that Captcha is gone 🙂 has turned out a bit longer than i thought (again). NY resolution. Be concise.

  43. Euler
    January 3, 2011

    A quality player, in his early 30′s, nearing the end of his career, willing to spend time on the bench but brings experience and goals when called upon. Any ideas…,

    Don’t know if it’s possible, but if Hercules is really having serious financial difficulties, Trezeguet would be a terrific addition.

    • Hilal
      January 3, 2011

      U know I was thinking exactly the same thing. Either that or a player like Klose.

    • vicsoc
      January 3, 2011

      I’ve thought about this before as well. Isn’t he friends with Pep as well?

  44. Tom_Johnson
    January 3, 2011

    (this one is running a little bit late)

    A “lot” has been said here about Bojan. There is no question his display was sub-par. Some are suggesting that he didn’t deserve those extra 16 minutes he got in the second half and that Pep is, apparently, playing favorites.

    Pep had no problems benching players in the past. To paraphrase the author of this article, Henry should have paid us the season ticket fee in his last year. When the season was on the line, Zlatan ($70M + $12M/yr guy) had joined him on the bench. Another player that is seeing more bench than playing time happens to be The Captain of the Argentine National Team. Adriano is not getting nearly enough reps even though he appears to be a more of an offensive threat than Maxwell. Pep had no problems seeing out Hleb an Caceres.

    So this is what I would like to know. Why would he be now “playing favorites” with Bojan? What is making Bojan so special to warrant this?

    Or is it as simple as that we don’t have a viable alternative?

    Lets look at potential scenarios if Bojan was indeed taken out for Thiago:

    a. Pedro and Villa up-front supported by somebody unfamiliar hence uncomfortable with “false 9” role and full-backs pushing forward

    This might sound familiar to some of you. You are right. “We” have tried this, not so long ago, against Bilbao. Two forwards supported by Iniesta (of all the people) both full-backs pushing up (putting too much strain on DM to close the gaps perhaps) feeding a tremendous amount of terrible crosses.

    What has this approach yielded for us? Zero goals and few (if any) clear-cut scoring oportunities.

    Now, with 10 days to study the tape and with beatdown still ringing in their ears, how smart would it be to attack Levante with the same weapon?

    b. Iniesta moved to LW where he has been “tremendously productive” on more than one ocassion in the past and trying to score another goal (a must in an attempt to control the game in its true sense) against a tightly packed defense with limited passing ability of player like Mascerano (we saw how that worked out in the first half)

    Now lets look at what had actually happened on the field.
    -the team had scored a crucial second goal
    -Bojan was involved into scoring that goal (first properly weighted pass then a properly fast and timed run to the box to draw defenders) allowing him to at least take something positive from this game rather than sitting totally disapointed on the bench
    -the team appeared more potent in front of Levante’s goal
    -Levante had not increased their offensive threat (on a steady bases, no pattern of events)

    Not only Bojan was involved in scoring the second, Thiago himself was very productive for the remainder of the game ultimately allowing his teammate to hit the crossbar. These two are the facts.

    Meanwhile, some would like you to believe that had Mascherano been in the game he would for sure prevent Levante from scoring. An that the reason Levante managed to creep up to our box in first place was solely because Mascherano was taken out of the game. A speculation. And a bad one.

    All this being said (what happened on the field and facts vs speculation angle of the story), how can anyone say that “The Sub” was bad (not neutral but bad)?

    • vicsoc
      January 3, 2011

      In the past Guardiola has been accused of playing favorites, it’s nothing new with Bojan. To counter your points though, Pep has always been accused of playing favorites with youth team players and especially Catalans. People said Pep was favoring Busquets over Yaya because Busquets was a youth player and because Pep played with his father. The notion was that Pedro go minutes over Henry because Pedro was a youth player. The thing is, Bojan certainly fits in this category. At the same time, the high profile players he benched did not fit the youth player profile, so they aren’t really good course points.

      I personally don’t hold this opinion, I’m just putting another viewpoint out there and playing the devils advocate. Personally, I think Pep knows what he is doing so I’m generally content to be patient and see how things turn out long term. I mean look , the team is actually better with Busquets and Pedro than we were with Yaya and Henry!

      • Tom_Johnson
        January 3, 2011

        “To counter your points though, Pep has always been accused of playing favorites with youth team players and especially Catalans. People said Pep was favoring Busquets over Yaya because Busquets was a youth player and because Pep played with his father.”

        I understand what are you saying. That is a fair point.

        But I think you fail to realize that in both cases, there was an alternative available.

        a. Busquets. Are we going to go with proven contributor in Yaya or we need a better ball movement with Busquets but sacrificing some other things (physical presence, maturity). It took time for Busquets to develop. Pep decided it would be wiser for us to suffer in certain departments for some time (and allow busquets to develop) rather than to go with what Yaya had to offer.

        Same goes for Henry vs Pedro.

        In this case, I am afraid we don’t have a viable alternative for what is expected from Bojan playing as CF. Not with Messi out of the lineup.

        It needs to be said, has Pep saw an improvement in practice in recent days with Bojan and his contribution in Catalunya vs Honduras game and decided to put more faith in him?

        • vicsoc
          January 3, 2011

          I’m actually in agreement with you here. My main point is that we’ve seen accusations of favoritism against Pep before. Looking back these accusations seem a bit myopic, as Pep’s choices have paid dividends for the team in the long run.

          • Tom_Johnson
            January 3, 2011

            Thank you for clarifying your position.

            Note: The post wasn’t meant to accuse you of being “wrong” or condemn you for disagreeing with me. It was an attempt to show why would such a logic (suggested by you or anybody else) be flawed.

          • vicsoc
            January 3, 2011

            No worries, it was a good discussion and I didn’t feel accused in the slightest.

    • poipoi
      January 3, 2011

      my biased view: iniesta as false 9 vs bilbao.

      keita played that game so it does not count 😉 he and masche don’t help xavi to serve iniesta balls. no service from midfield plus bojan in offense that game does not count for conclusions other than bojan and keita should find a proper team to play in. put iniesta there with proper teammates and you’ll see some magic happen.

    • Nik
      January 3, 2011

      First off, I’ll agree with you that the idea Pep playing favorites is a bit silly. He most definitely did not keep Bojan in there just because Bojan’s smile warms his heart.

      However, that being said, I still don’t understand yesterday’s substitutions. At the time the first substitution was made, the team looked a bit lifeless. It was obvious that we could use an offensive injection on the pitch, so Pep decided to throw in Thiago. That part I agreed with.

      The part that confuses me is that he took off our holding midfielder who was playing a very solid game up to that point, instead of the attacker who hadn’t done much besides falling down or attempting to dribble away from the goal when he did manage to stay upright after receiving the ball. In my mind, you sub off the ineffective player for an effective one, not an effective player for an effective player.

      • Tom_Johnson
        January 3, 2011

        “The part that confuses me is that he took off our holding midfielder who was playing a very solid game up to that point, instead of the attacker who hadn’t done much”

        Would you agree that Thiago is more creative and has better ball-handling and passing skills than Mascherano? At the same time his defensive skills are worse than Mascherano’s.

        If so, could have Pep judged (standing right by the field of play, after hours of studying Levante’s tape and looking at what have happened in the first half) that Levante is not very dangerous going forward?

        That it would benefit the team more if we had another creative midfielder (along with the striker to tie up CBs to himself, this would in theory open the space on wings, note: look at the second goal) in the process of looking for that (crucial) second goal against the opponent defending with numbers?

        “In my mind, you sub off the ineffective player for an effective one, not an effective player for an effective player.”

        It is understood that Bojan and Thiago play at different positions (once in first team) and have done so for time periods not equal. Right?

        • Nik
          January 3, 2011

          Obviously I understand that Thiago and Bojan play in different positions. If Bojan came off for Thiago, I would have expected Iniesta to slot up into the front line, which is exactly what happened when Bojan went off later on.

          Yes, it would have helped us to have a creative midfielder on the field. That’s why I said Thiago was needed. However, in taking off Masch, he weakened our defense. My point is that we could have strengthened our offense while not harming the defense by yanking Bojan off. Let’s face it: the kid did nothing yesterday and should have came off earlier than he did.

  45. Nik
    January 3, 2011

    To our BFB overlords: congrats & good job on the registration implementation. The registration process was very smooth and easy. Hopefully, this can keep the spam bots at bay.

        • Jim
          January 3, 2011

          I’ll admit it. I was tempted to pinch Ramzi’s username 🙂

          • blitzen
            January 3, 2011

            LOL! I was thinking that too–better register quick before someone steals my handle!

          • mei
            January 3, 2011

            ill steal kxevins and start posting “me loves bojan” and “me loves villa” stuff 😀

  46. poipoi
    January 3, 2011

    omg.. is this 9 talk for real? He have won like 5 or 6 games in a row by 5 or more goals, EE and Espanyol included WITHOUT A 9. WE have trashed ManU in the final WITHOUT A 9.
    Messi and villa can play there, plans A and B, that leaves bojan as plan C. why buy a worse ibra? self-annihilation?

    remember we screwed up last year with the best 9 in the market p-l-e-a-s-e!! and not the best according to or the best ACCORDING TO MR CRUIFF HIMSELF we played badly only won la liga with that kind of legendary team and now again some tank striker talk? Klose, Crouch, Lukaku, wow. We are FCB not Borussia Dortmund.

  47. mei
    January 3, 2011

    Goodbye captcha!I WONT miss you. 🙂

  48. Roz
    January 3, 2011

    Ah sweet sweet registration. Thank you everyone.

  49. mei
    January 3, 2011

    Totally offtopic , its kinda hilarious that in player reactions after the game , everyone bitched about the condition of the pitch yet some accompanied the frustrations with a “we dont complain about that” kind of comment.

  50. Kari
    January 3, 2011

    Success! Thanks Tarun! (I know it was you who did it 😛 )

  51. mega_tajh
    January 3, 2011

    yay!! Registration was so easy!!!
    BTW with this new system that means we may hardly see outsiders commenting???……

    Not complaining or anything just I like to see the others who comment on here like say the GOOD, REASONABLE Arsenal fans who leave comments to discuss.

  52. January 3, 2011

    Um, looks like Tarun is kicking out the jams. I went to lunch, came back and registration was up and running. Um …. whoa! Okay. No turning back now, right? So off we go. Any questions, post ’em here. Any difficulties, please send a note to

    People who are logged in, please post Web links, so that we will know that is okay.

    And thanks for the patience and support.

    • mei
      January 3, 2011

      Oh , I know ill be asking too much , but is there a chance youll be making a mobile version of the blog kxevin?

    • mega_tajh
      January 3, 2011

      Yeah Kxevin posting web links still require moderation unless you guys left it that way..then we can’t really complain cause the registration is still a step forward.

  53. January 3, 2011

    Please put the link to register on the homepage..

    BTW, nice..

  54. Kari
    January 3, 2011

    The owner of these…. size 40 shoes. *

    The mystery goes on. Pique’s given 5 names (Puyol’s in on it as well):

    Mascherano, Keita, Dani Alves, Villa and Bojan

    But Bojan (Puyol: “surely not” Me: Damn! But he’s a model so I guess it’s impossible for him to have such taste.) and Keita have since been ruled out. Villa wants the game to go on so he refuses to tell. So it’s:

    Mascherano, Dani Alves, or Villa.

    I’m gonna go for Dani. 😀

    [all info and translations via barcastuff]

    • Kari
      January 3, 2011

      Mascherano has been ruled out.

      Villa or Alves.

      ‘fess up, Dani! It’s yours!

      • poipoi
        January 3, 2011

        if dani wears size 40, he’s longer than taller then. how come he falls to the ground so much? 😀

        • poipoi
          January 3, 2011

          longer than tall? makes sense? 🙁

          • Kari
            January 3, 2011

            Unfortunately, I got your point 😛

      • mardia
        January 3, 2011

        I’m putting my money on Villa. The stuff that guy’s worn in public…I’m just saying, animal print can’t be too far off.

      • blitzen
        January 3, 2011

        They have Dani Alves written all over them.

  55. Culer_Than_Thou
    January 3, 2011

    Ahh, registered myself before somebody took my username.

    Now i can go back into hiding.

  56. January 3, 2011

    I posted a link and its awaiting moderation.. I thought it wasn’t needed anymore if we were registered?

  57. mardia
    January 3, 2011

    *newbie posting*

    I only caught the last twenty or so minutes of the game, so I can’t comment on all of it, but what I did see just makes me glad we got the three points, as it clearly was one of *those* games. Anything that keeps the pressure on RM is good news as far as I’m concerned.

    As for the Fabregas situation–I’m one of those Cule fans with a soft spot for Arsenal, and at this point, I’d prefer it if we didn’t sign him this summer. He’ll cost around 40-50 million and there is absolutely no way he’s coming in as a starter for at least 1-2 years. Plus, and I think this is the biggest issue–he’s been playing at Arsenal for years in their/the EPL’s style of play. If he comes in he’s going to need at least the same period of adjustment as Villa, maybe even more so. (I’d also argue that to a point, we can afford to take our time with Villa/incoming forwards more, since Messi is such a rockstar. Not saying I don’t want to see Villa improving, because we can’t depend on Messi for every game, obvs.)

    As for the personal attacks on Fabregas…really not getting where they’re coming from. My impression from the whole transfer mess was that *nobody* covered themselves in glory there. Fabregas had his part to play in that, surely, but to set him up in the role of some Twitter-Machiavelli is a bit much, I think.

  58. mega_tajh
    January 3, 2011

    testing to see if my Gravatar works

  59. hammeronmessi
    January 4, 2011

    finally able 2 post something.

    waited about 15 damn hours 2 get the password.

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