David Villa and a plea for cule patience

Lordy. Barely halfway into David Villa’s first season, and people are wanting to trade him in for a goat. Now, I will say for the record, that if you haven’t had goat’s milk ice cream …. boy, howdy! Now I’m not sure that’s worth a striker, though there are a lot of guys I’d happily trade for some of that goat’s milk goodness. Just sayin’. But David Villa ain’t one of them.

And for the record, I’m a journalist. I work with words. I chose to work with words because they promised me that no math would be involved. And yet, here we go, with numbers.

As I said in the Bilbao Copa match review comments section, we have gone through this with Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and now David Villa. Let’s have a look at just what we’ve gone through, shall we, and where Villa will potentially sit.

First-year numbers for Thierry Henry

Matches started: 27 (Liga), 10 (Champions League), 7 (Copa del Reig)
Shots (total): 108
Goals (total): 19
Offsides (total): 55
Assists: (total): 11
Shots against the woodwork: 3
Shots on goal: 52

First-year numbers for Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Matches started: 23, 9, 1
Shots: 136
Goals: 21
Offsides: 70
Assists: 9
Shots against the woodwork: 3
Shots on goal: 68

First-year numbers for David Villa
Matches started: 16, 5, 1
Shots: 106
Goals: 13
Offsides: 53
Assists: 5
Shots against the woodwork: 5
Shots on goal: 47

Samuel Eto’o, by the by, though the club didn’t keep the extensive statistical archive that it does now, had 29 goals from 67 shots in 45 total appearances in 2004/05, his first season with the club. For those wondering, Messi has 24 goals from the exact same number of shots as Villa. No, Villa ain’t Messi. If he were, we couldn’t have afforded him.

So in looking at David Villa’s numbers, any reasonable person would conclude that he is going set club records for shots and offsides, right? Where’s my goat? And with 25 total matches left (that we know of, more Champions League and Copa to come, presumably), he is only 6 goals off of Henry’s first-year total, and 8 off of Ibrahimovic’s total. When he was signed, I said that he was pretty much going to end up with the same numbers as any of our first-year strikers. This is looking to be fairly accurate.

Strikers miss sitters. Eto’o, during his last season with the club, missed more sitters than than a room full of sugar-buzzed kids playing a game of musical chairs. Ibrahimovic missed his share and so did Henry. What Villa is going through is normal. It’s the second year in a system that a player comes into his own, and what augurs well for the future is his shots on goal number. Almost 50 percent of his shots are on target. Yes, many of them should have been finished. That’s life.

I dug up these numbers in the hope that they would make a little bit of sense to me, and they do. Villa is on target to be a typical Barca first-year striker in his numbers of goals. Unless he shows an astonishing amount of restraint, he is almost certain to outstrip Ibrahimovic and Henry in numbers of times being offside.

All of which means what? That patience is required. In his best year for Valencia, 2008-09, he had 30 goals in all competitions. David Villa is never, ever going to score at the rate of a freak like Eto’o. And he is going to miss sitters, because that’s the nature of the beast. He is also going to facilitate our play with his movement and passing in a way that is worth considering as a real benefit. One of the laundry list of grouses against Ibrahimovic was that he was static, and bollixed up our play. People grumbled about Henry that he stood on the left wing and didn’t do enough to get involved in the offense. Now Villa misses sitters.

Patience, my people, patience. David Villa is one of the world’s best strikers, plopped into a system in which he is no longer the man. The ball moves more and faster, the players move more and faster and quickness of thought and action are paramount. Nobody is that quick a study. Right now, he’s pressing, and trying to play too fast, trying too hard as if sheer effort will solve matters. Again, this is just like Henry and Ibrahimovic, and the latter was benched in favor of Bojan Krkic. Could anyone see this happening with Villa? Don’t think too long. No.

He’s ours, and will be for a while. So let’s settle in, and see what this relationship brings, shall we?

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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. Eduard
    January 6, 2011

    typo, Math for Match second paragraph.

    I like Villa’s movements, goals aren’t important, attractive futbol is

    • January 6, 2011

      Ha! Like Villa, I was trying to play too fast. Fixed. I really like his shots on goal stat, and what I see during the match, which is that he’s there. He’s in position, which means that he’s doing the right things. The rest is only a matter of time, because he’s a proven commodity.

      • Eduard
        January 6, 2011

        As always, 100% agree.

        I think the most important thing you said is the “quickness of thought”. After the first season, that wont be an issue. It will just be “instinct” the type world class strikers have.

    • Iniesta
      January 8, 2011

      If the Nasri rumours are true, then both Villa and Pedro are in trouble. Bojan wont have to worry coz he’ll be at Arsenal.

      PS- Am I the only one who thinks Arsenal are a very very lazy team? If they’d played Atl. Bilbao last week, they’d have lost 5:0. Cheers and great site this.

  2. ML6
    January 6, 2011

    I love Villa, his form will be back i promise. He has to be top 3 striker in the world, just look at the days were he was kicking our asses for Valencia.

    Everyone should give him time, not call to sell him at immediate dip of form like Ibrahimovic, especially Pep and Rosell. Trust me, this guy can win us titles.

  3. Jnice
    January 6, 2011

    i don’t know, maybe I’m totally wrong, but like I said before, I’m not talking about Villa adapting to the team or anything like that. I’m talking about pure golden chances to score. Like I said in the last thread, Villa has had more of these chances than Ibra and Henry because we create way more chances than the 07/08 season when Henry first arrived and last season when Ibra was here.

    A player of Villa’s quality should do better when through on goal regardless of what team he is playing on. I’m not even talking about offsides, the ball bouncing off his feet at times, his tendency to stay static for awhile, stray passes, etc.

    He will still get his goals because of the number of chances created, but he could and should have so many more right now.

    • Helge
      January 7, 2011

      My words!
      He’s already had so many one-on-ones with a keeper, and it doesn’t make any difference for which team you’re playing in that moment. Nonetheless, he missed not only an awful amount, but also a very high percentage of those opportunities. Luckily, he found his old scoring ability against Real, but where has it gone in the majority of our matches?
      He was THAT clinical at Valencia, it’s inexplicable how many times he failed to convert such golden chances for Barca!

      I am convinced that Henry and Ibra didn’t nearly miss as many sitters as Villa does. I can’t come up with numbers, because I would have to watch about 100 matches again. But Villa has already failed to score about 15 times, in half a season, where he usually would only have failed about 5 times. That’s as good as a fact, to me. And it cannot be excused by lack of adaption or whatever.

  4. Víctor
    January 6, 2011

    I’m all for having patience with Villa (as well with Adriano, Afellay, Mascherano and perhaps Maxwell), but he does need to work to regain his accuracy and be a bit more effective. As well on blending with the system, which, in my opinion, he is doing fine at the moment. (Aside from the offsides, lol)

    I cut him some slack, though, as I do think that he has had a bit of “bad luck”. Remember those posts back in September and October? He just needed a little bit more of precision on those.

  5. cliu
    January 6, 2011

    I didn’t watch the game yesterday, so take my opinion with a pillar of salt: I think Villa is choking at critical moments. He is getting tight instead of executing. No one doubts that he is a top striker with great chops, but he simply doesn’t have the looseness and confidence one needs in front of the goal. He freezes up and actually loses his technical skill when it most counts. I don’t think this was the case with Ibra. The adrenaline of playing for Barca is actually working against him. He scored in the EE game when the pressure was off. He could relax and bring his best game. So…I’m for Villa. He does enough to draw defenders out of position and works for the team as a whole. He is living under a microscope — if I were his coach, I would definitely ban him from reading the fan criticism and drill him hard in one on ones. Maybe Jnice knew he wouldn’t score because Villa is failing at the high pressure moments when the team most needs him to score. This could be an argument against him, but I think there is too much that is positive in his total game to sacrifice him to the angry gods who rule over strikers. He needs to get in the zone. That said, I should probably shut up and watch yesterday’s game, if I had the time and could find it.

  6. January 6, 2011

    Apparently Milito wants a 6-month loan, but we’re saying “If you want out, you want out permanently,” according to EMD.

  7. Luke
    January 6, 2011

    I find it odd that Kevin is writing this post, I probably should have written it, since I believe Villa is getting the worst possible kind of commentary from a lot of fans. Somehow he’s always in the wrong, even when he creates. Sure he missed some chances against Athletic, but at least he got into space to have those chances. Other wingers didn’t do so much during that game (Pedro).

    Villa is doing what he was brought in to do, score and create. Don’t know what else he has to do. If his name were something else, we’d have people cumming on themselves to proclaim his greatness.

    • January 6, 2011

      Well, I think that as with all of our players, Villa was brought in to be a complete Barca player, including the tracking back that he does as well as creating chances, scoring goals and assisting. It’s no coincidence that Henry had his best season when he was fully involved on both ends of the pitch.

      I don’t think that people think he’s always in the wrong, though. Villa has gotten about 1/10th the stick that people were giving Ibrahimovic. And there was the looong stretch where he was like Henry in that he was over there on the left, being ignored. 😀

      • BA
        January 7, 2011

        that’s because Villa, whatever anyone may say about him, WORKS.

        Ibrahimovic to his great detriment didn’t. cules believe in and get behind players who are A. talented and B. work themselves into the ground for the shirt. Villa has both. Ibra has the former, and it was only when Henry lost the latter that we turned on him.

  8. jaymin
    January 6, 2011

    zlatan 1-nilled it when it counted, and titi, well…


  9. January 6, 2011

    But wait, there’s more:

    –Levante beat EE 2-0 today. Too bad they rolled into the Copa return leg with an 8-0 deficit.

    –And now that they couldn’t disrupt our game and win with a craptastic pitch helping them, Bilbao is changing the lawn.

    • Víctor
      January 6, 2011

      I think that no team rolls over Barcelona or Real Madrid. I mean, take Sevilla for example, they lost 5-0 to us in Camp Nou, but gave hell to Madrid at the Bernabeu. Levante was the exact opposite. I think that every team tries their best to defeat Barcelona and Madrid, but alas… sometimes their tactics don’t work and sometimes their tactic works somehow.

      • blitzen
        January 7, 2011

        I don’t think Kxevin is saying that Levante rolled over for RM, that was just a figure of speech.

  10. January 6, 2011

    I am all for patience with Villa, from watching him with La Roja, and Valencia previously, he has the potential. Villa (like Bojan) feel the weight of the shirt, its not easy to play for Barça, not only on the pitch, but in general, if Villa missed a sitter for Valencia no one gave a damn (well the ches did, but who cares) he misses it with us, he makes headlines amongst the cule world. He just cannot allow it to get to him, and I dont believe he has, he had an “ok” game vs EE compared to the rest, and still managed to score twice. Villa will manage the stand out with Barça for the right reasons at the end of the season, and will continue with us. Unlike Ibrahimovic, Villa is more humble and could take a benching if it came down to it.

  11. chaospheory
    January 6, 2011

    “Patience, my people, patience. David Villa is one of the world’s best strikers, plopped into a system in which he is no longer the man. The ball moves more and faster, the players move more and faster and quickness of thought and action are paramount. Nobody is that quick a study. Right now, he’s pressing, and trying to play too fast, trying too hard as if sheer effort will solve matters”

    Very well said. I personally am tired of the attitude that big money players have to perform right away. Sure, we’re paying for that extra bit of competency or flair, but the Barca system is unique and exceptional. Couple that along with finding yourself all of a sudden next to some of the world’s best players, and I would imagine that the chasm would get a bit wider. No longer the sole go-to guy, but burdened with similar expectations, surely a losing proposition.
    I think Villa actually does an good job at defending (for a striker) and really puts himself out there. Does he sometimes handle the ball with the same grace as a high-school prom date looking to score? Absolutely. Does he have the same desire to score as said prom date? For sure, that’s what makes him a striker. +1 for patience!

  12. January 6, 2011

    Barca fans criticizing Villa is madness. He was brought in to be a second scorer. He is doing that. Has he missed chances? Sure. The team also happens to be atop La Liga, topped its CL group, is in the quarters of the Copa, and is universally described as the best side in the world. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the last three years have spoiled people beyond belief. I’m not saying players never deserve criticism, but some context would be nice. It’s madness.

    Anyway, on a different note, this is potentially a huge weekend. My view is that after Barca, Villareal have been the side to play the best football this season (a different statement from saying they have been the second best side in the world). I think they can take points off Madrid, no question. I do know that going into the “halftime” of La Liga with a little bit of breathing room would be nice.

    Also, someone on the last thread said teams play hard against us but not Madrid, and cited Athletic as an example. If I recall, they beat Madrid at San Mames last year.

  13. Nik
    January 6, 2011

    I seriously question the sanity of anyone that is calling for Villa’s head or deeming him a failure with the club after only half a season.

    That being said, I feel that people take criticism the wrong way. Criticism over a player’s form in a particular match is (to me at least) not a judgement on their future with us or an overall rating. If Xavi has an off game one day (not that it will EVER happen)that deserves a 3, then I’d give him a 3. That doesn’t mean I think that he’s a 3 in terms of skill, nor that I hate him, nor that I think he’s a complete failure.

    I think Villa will do just fine as a member of Barca and look forward to seeing more highlights from him. However, he’s definitely not reached his peak potential for us yet in terms of output. It’ll come in time.

    • January 6, 2011

      “I feel that people take criticism the wrong way.”
      Couldn’t agree with you more.

    • blitzen
      January 7, 2011

      True, but if Xavi has an off game, no one says we should trade him for a goat. 🙂

  14. mardia
    January 7, 2011

    If anyone is seriously doubting whether Villa should be at Barca, especially considering that we’re only half a season in, then I agree with Nik, they’re out of their HEADS.

    Personally, I’m okay with Villa’s performance so far this season. It’s not perfection, but he’s made some important goals, generally links up well with Messi, and I’m eager to see what he brings for the rest of the season and beyond. I also think the personal aspect shouldn’t be ignored–this should be taken with a pinch of salt, but at this point I think it’s safe to say we don’t have to worry about the ego/personality clashes that came with Ibrahimovic, and that’s a good thing for the team overall. (Not to mention the fans that won’t, in all likelihood, need to deal with the most ridiculous quotes coming out from Villa and his agent every week in the press.)

    One thing I’m curious about is this–I think, from the evidence stated, that any proven striker is going to have problems settling into Barca during their first season. Is this a problem that’s particularly going to hit new strikers, or is this a problem for any new player, regardless of the position they play, during their first season with Barcelona, and we’re just noticing it more with Villa/the strikers?

  15. January 7, 2011

    Villa’s main issue is that he keeps pressing and forcing the game rather than letting it come to him.

    On a number of these 1 vs. 1 situations in particular he’s trying too hard and over thinking rather than letting his natural skills and athletic talent take over.

    You could see it on that 1 vs. 1 yesterday. Rather than reacting and putting in a decisive shot he just looked like he was thinking about what to do and wanted tried too hard. In turn he just blasted the ball – right into the keeper.

    This is an issue which is going to change and get better as he feels more comfortable on the team. Remember – Villa has never played for an elite professional club.

    Club football is not the same at national team football. They involve very different dynamics, sets of expectations and pressures.

    Sporting Gijon, Zaragoza, Valencia – that’s Villa’s club pedigree. Valencia has been a fine club over the past decade but they simply are not close to the Barcelona level. For example, how many career CL games did Villa have coming into this season?

    The technical issue which will improve with time is his off the ball movement. Villa played on the counter a lot at Valencia. The Spanish NT is not Barcelona. Barca plays at a much more rapid, aggressive fashion.

    • January 7, 2011

      “Villa has never played for an elite professional club”

      Yet more arrogance. I don’t believe what the last three years have done to normal, rational Barcelona fans. Valencia is an elite club. It is consistently one of the four best sides in one of the top leagues, year after year. It won 2 La Liga titles in 3 years, and a bunch of other trophies. In 06, they finished 1 point behind Madrid, and Villa scored almost 30 goals. Last couple of years they played us as well as anyone.

      And they have reached as many CL finals as Barcelona in the last decade.

      • Cesc Pistol
        January 7, 2011

        I don’t think the difference is in the stature of the club but the standard of players. And that difference is immense.

        It is not difficult to realise that Villa wants to be twice the player he was for Valencia and missing chances like that he beats himself up over it. Those adapted into the team have a calmness that if they miss one chance they can do better with the others that come and hence, keep a cool head.

        Although to a degree Euler is correct (and it is NOT arrogance) the fan and media pressures at both EE and Barca are far more than at Valencia. Any reasonable observer of La Liga knows that.

      • January 7, 2011

        Let me clarify. I made my remarks late at night an quickly.

        By “elite” team I was referring to elite at the European or world level. The level of team that is amongst the 5-10 best in Europe over an extended period of time.

        To me that’s one of the biggest differences in the scale of what Villa has needed to do at the club level before and now. It’s the CL dimension. It’s the implicit goal of not only being at the top in La Liga (which Valencia has clearly been successful at in terms of competition) but also to simultaneously be the best team in all of Europe.

        Valencia is a wonderful club that has done fantastic things across it’s history. But that has primarily been within La Liga. Their success in the international club level has been limited.

        The fact is over the 5 seasons that Villa was at Valencia he saw CL football twice. That’s it. That’s not “elite” international level of club play.

        It’s not the scale of what Barca is trying to operate on now. Especially due to the immense financial difficulties Valencia has encountered recently. Operationally their club has been focused on staying out of bankruptcy rather winning the treble.

        The level of expectations are likely going to be different. And I think that’s reflected in Villa’s play now.

        The main point I was trying to make is that Villa is simply pressing and trying to score by force of will rather than by patience and skill. And he’s used patience to score wonderfully throughout his career.

        Villa himself has talked about how happy he was to come to Barca and described the team as being the “best in the world.”

        To me he looks like new players frequently do when they sign new contracts and go to new clubs. He’s unnecessarily trying to “prove” his worth and is just pressing too hard to score when the opportunity presents itself rather than doing what he’s been doing for years – score through a range of skills including composure and patience and guile.

        He is undoubtedly one of the world’s elite players. He is going to get better and better as he spends more time with the club.

  16. Jnice
    January 7, 2011

    All of a sudden Villa isn’t allowed to get criticized? All of a sudden if you criticize him, it means you are calling for his head?

    Honestly, some of you are way too overprotective of your precious Villa. We’re supposed to be fine with Villa missing great chances? “It’s okay, he will adapt, he is a top 3 striker in the world.” Sure he will adapt, but that’s not even what I’m talking about.

    Strange, but whatever, I’ll keep my criticisms of Villa to myself from now on. Who cares if he can’t dribble around the keeper and put it into the net, he’s David Villa.

    • y2k156
      January 7, 2011

      I am with you Jnice. As fans, we have total right to be critical of anyone in the team. Others can come back with arguments. This is discussion forum:).

      I think Villa has performed quite ok but he has also missed a his share of chances. I think that he will have to up his game as Guardiola is quite ruthless when selecting teams in last half. Only exceptions he made were for Ibra and that backfired spectacularly.

      On our team, as expected we have started slowly. Which is to be expected. I expect us to slowly start getting together again and start hitting the peaks from mid feb onwards.

    • mei
      January 7, 2011

      I wouldnt take it as a personal think Jnice.
      Everyone is free to form his own opinion ,and as long as there is a basis for it I think people in this space will listen to it.
      I take this space as a golden opportunity to share and read other people insights without that being a popularity contest , and not being obliged to agree with someone “or else”.
      So , I would say that keeping things to yourself would make me uncomfortable , since I like reading your comments.
      Liking them or rejecting them is irrelevant , the important part is that they should be shared.

      Anyway, the way you use to describe some people strikes odd.
      Why are they overprotective of their precious villa?
      Some might say , hey Im just as protective with villa as with any other player of our squad.
      Some others like this post may say , that we are protective towards villa because we wrongly werent patient enough with other players , and particularly with this one we are supposed to do so anyway since his profile , and stance requests so.

      • Jnice
        January 7, 2011

        It just seems that anytime Villa is criticized, people get angry or defensive. All types of excuses come out anytime his name is mentioned, and some people think you want to sell Villa, not treating him fairly, etc. I honestly don’t feel like reading the same comments anymore, so I’ll just keep my thoughts on Villa to myself. No harm.

        Anyway, Marti Riverola is going on loan to Vitesse till the end of the season. I don’t know why I didn’t hear of this till now, but I hope he does well. I know Chapi Ferrer will play him.

        • Jnice
          January 7, 2011

          I should make it clear that I’m not taking it personally, I just find it annoying to read, so if I don’t complain about him missing chances, I should see less of those comments that forgive him all the time.

          • January 7, 2011

            I wouldn’t worry about it, Jnice. Note that I was the first to complain about his feet, and his inability to finish the easy ones. That crap drives me crazy. One of the things that made Zidane so great, and that makes Messi great is the control. Control gives you all day to make the play. If you need to get the ball under control, in that time keepers shift, defenders shift and suddenly, the available window is compressed.

            Note that in the World Cup, Villa got balls in tons of space. With us, he’s getting a pass while running into the box, accompanied by one defender and running toward 1 or two others. That’s a whole different ball of wax.

            I think that the offense is going to have to adapt to Villa’s skill set, as it did with Ibrahimovic and Henry. So you will see a lot more of Villa setting up off the shoulder of the defense and making a burst, a la Inzaghi.

            But I think that though some have overstated their opinion, discussion is the point of this space. And self-censoring ain’t part of that deal, sir. 😀

        • Diego
          January 7, 2011

          Jnice, Who of Our attacking youngsters are ready to make the 1st team Jump in a couple of years ?

          Rochina, Tello or who ?

          Exclude the older ones “Benja, Soriano, Vazquez,etc”

          • Jnice
            January 7, 2011

            I’m not too sure about Rochina or Tello yet. I need to see more of the both of them. Tello has looked good at times, average at others. Rochina hasn’t seen too much time on the pitch, so I’m not too sure.

            I think if Deulofeu gets stronger and can curb his tendency to over dribble, he may make the jump in a couple of years because he has more talent than either of the others.

        • chaospheory
          January 7, 2011

          Don’t do that! Good criticism is good critical thought! Please continue, it is what built the great team that we love, as well as this blog that we enjoy. That, and a healthy heap of blustery opinion, I think.
          Myself, I believe that I am sensitive to the criticism of strikers here as a lingering effect of the whole Ibra mess. I mean, if they were willing to unload a world-class striker at ridiculous cost (as far as I can tell), then who is really “safe” in their position? I would like to see a player get a fair shake, if they demonstrate that they are going to play with the team.

  17. Diego
    January 7, 2011

    But I already sharpened my pitchfork!

    I Agree with Jnice, Villa should be criticized when he does wrong. We’re not complaining about his offsides, dribbles, or shots. We’re not saying his static or holds the ball too much. These aspects of the game will improve each time he plays with us.

    We’re talking about his goalscoring and finishing ability, Bojan is a great talent and a natural striker and it shows when he is in front of the goal. He may be pushed around or not so confident or tries too hard. We say those aspects will improve by time.

    Missing a sitter isn’t like missing a 1v1 , A Sitter means that you’re going through a rough patch or the ball refuses to get in, A 1v1 means you’re a striker and should finish. Villa’s chance was even more critical because it would have finished the game. Not 5-0 and he’s trying to add the sixth.

    Villa shoots the ball at the keeper, While Pedro, Messi and even Vazquez shoots away from the keeper and into the net. Messi chooses his angle so good that he basically passes the ball into the net.

  18. Eklavya
    January 7, 2011

    What inspired this post Kxevin? As far as I know, no one was wanting him to be sold or be traded with a goat.
    People were only analysing his performaces.
    I don’t know if the point of this post was to compare the numbers with other strikers but the part about patience and people wanting to sell him was unnecessary (at least at the moment).

    As for Villa himself, I’ll confess to not being worried. Infact Villa is least worrisome of our strikers for me. At the beginning of the season I was more worried about Pedro’s performances. I was afraid his second real season wouldn’t be as good as last season’s. 23 goals in his first real season is a lot and he could have become like Bojan. It is only in the last handful of matches that he has started to score constantly again.

    Villa will come along, we just have to keep on scoring until he finds his inner Zen.

    • January 7, 2011

      The need for a new post, and the necessity for elaboration of my contention that Villa isn’t any different than any of our other first-year striker acquisitions. People have been saying “Oh, he’s so much better than (insert name here).” I wanted to see if that was true.

      In the case of Pedro!!, he is still improving. He will be better still next season, which will be awesome. Villa can change, but I don’t know if he can improve in the same way that a player who is still growing, colt-like, such as Pedro!!, can.

  19. January 7, 2011

    Villa will pick things up. Just hope he gets no injury now as it is a killer timing.

    As I mentioned in the previous post (and this comment is partially a respond on the feedback received there as well), Pep is doing well keeping him on the field the longest period possible for as many matches as possible. Even though, there could be another selection that could be structured with Villa being a game changer rather than a starter (for the immediate affect), but it makes things worse for the long term. Because we need Villa to gel and settle for the selection -with him starting- to get even stronger and more lethal.

    Against Athletic, Pep tried to overcome the weaknesses noticed in previous games (First leg against Atletic included)and he picked the perfect selection for that. Never mind the “Abidal cant play as a CB, Keita defect team performance and iniesta cant play in the offense line” argument. Maybe Iniesta in Villa’s place would have been better -considering current form and outcome, but as I already mentioned, Villa need playing time now more than ever. So little sacrifice worth the long term return Pep is looking for. Especially that Villa is still delivering enough quality to serve his case.

    One example of many from the match: there was an excellent synchronizing tactical scheme between Messi and Keita in the final third. Keita was moving forward depending on Messi’s movement in the midfield. Thats a pure tactical instruction as it stamped the match. I applaud Pep for this trick and though -as anything new- it needs time and more games to mature, I do believe this is the way forward taking in consediration the offense line/midfield we have. The only lacking so far is that players on the flanks are still demanding the ball to feet rather in the space, and the midfielders are still slow to pick a direct diagonal cross while busy with usual possession and buildup (We had that same problem last season). I saw an upgrading prospect that may yield good outcome for the future. Certainly, not for all matches, but this is an option that will be needed sometimes. This match was a milestone for Pep and it shows a tactical staff that is working hard for continuous improvement rather than being settled to “Well that’s what we have, it works sometimes and it doesnt some other times, but this is the best available”. Not true. We can add more diversity to our system to be less predictable. I liked what Pep was trying. Give credit where due*.

    Such things help Villa as it put the system outcome and improvement at pole position for everyone to contribute rather than counting on individuals standalone qualities.

    And as I mentioned before, Villa is more “likable and containable” than Ibra. That’s more important for the team than the qualities and attributes, if you take Pep’s pros and cons in consediration. So I can see him contributing to this team on the long term more than Ibra did, especially if he does what he can do best, rather than being responsible of providing what the team lack most.

    *We already saw the first option (Including Iniesta-Xavi partnership) lacking the cutting edge many times already. So assuming that having that standard midfield is just enough to get a result is absurd to say the least, especially with the type of players they have around them. There is a trend that when the team fails (with Iniesta and Xavi in the midfield) it is either luck, or the other team’s fault because they played a style they shouldnt, shame on them, or maybe the stock market impact. When it works and the team win its:”See? Iniesta+xavi means pleasure”. In the other hand, when (Xavi+Keita) work, it is because of Messi, Rosell, or the golden duck. When it fails it’s Keita’s fault. Or Pep’s fault because he should use Iniesta+Xavi all the time.

    Is Xavi+Iniesta in the midfield the best partnership for Barcelona? Well, isn’t it the best midfield partnership worldwide? So, no brainer. Yet, is it the best partnership all the time? Regardless of the popularity of the golden Duet, the answer is:No.

  20. blitzen
    January 7, 2011

    Those are some pretty impressive stats, Kxevin. He has started exactly half the matches that Henry did and is only 6 goals short of his total, with almost the same amount of shots. That looks pretty good to me! Not to mention that he is much better at tracking back and defensive duties than either Henry or Ibra were. And his communication with Messi is terrific….most of the time.

    For the record, no one is saying Villa shouldn’t be criticised. If he has a lousy game or misses a sitter, it’s fine to say so, obviously. It’s just that, for me, sometimes this board gets hypercritical and pores over every Villa error in a way that doesn’t happen for, say, Pedro. Or Iniesta. Or even Pique. It’s understandable, because he is new and we have high expectations. I just think sometimes people focus too much on specific errors and don’t acknowledge the greater picture of everything else he is contributing to this team.

    Again, this is just like Henry and Ibrahimovic, and the latter was benched in favor of Bojan Krkic. Could anyone see this happening with Villa? Don’t think too long. No.


    • Eklavya
      January 7, 2011

      I don’t if Villa tracks back more than Henry did. Henry did an epic job of defending.

  21. Barcathegreatestever
    January 7, 2011

    Villa already has a handful of highlight goals for Barcas 2010. Missing 1 v 1s are so frustrating especially in nail biters like Atletico but he is in elite company when it comes to his finishing. I thought the ball popped up on him a little bit on the Atletico 1v1. He came to Barca as a pure finisher from a team that plays wide open. The spaces are so much tighter now for all the reasons; until a team has to come out, like Real Madrid in the second half. Then he is deadly.

    His assist to Messi against AC Milan in the ? Gamper trophy (a series of one twos where he forced the last defender to set his feet before playing Messi through) was I thought at the time so brilliant and a harbringer of total world destruction. He hasn’t been that yet and its a curiosity. Mainly I think its the mentality to take his first touch first decision first movement to the hole no matter the risk or probability involved, pure striker mentality. Versus Iniesta who questions the defender to come and try and win the ball first and then take what space or lane is left open. Adapting into a playmaker deep on the left is the work in progress. I have high hopes he will become that.

  22. Barcathegreatestever
    January 7, 2011

    Keitas runs into the box early in the Atletico game is something we have seen more of from the attacking mids. Huge dividends when it has payed off. Iniestas World Cup final goal. (such joy) Xavis opener against EE. And it attests to the continued growth of Busquets as a single holding mid. When the right and left backs are also pressing forward Barca is extremely open to the counter. The goals from Inters come from behind win came from plays right through that space.

    • poipoi
      January 7, 2011

      I love villa and what he brings to the team. it’s more the cinco-zeros it’s not only the stats. Besides he is doing more than well with numbers. AND the paycheck should be one stat also.

      • poipoi
        January 7, 2011

        Doing it from my phone, I must have clicked your “reply” :'(

  23. Barcathegreatestever
    January 7, 2011

    The other question is what is Pep asking of him. Is Pep saying we have enough playmakers I want you to be the dagger at every chance? He has said something of the sort in the past about wanting a certain striker to be more selfish. That force to be reckoned with creates advantages in space for Messi.

    • Víctor
      January 7, 2011

      Well, from what I have seen… Pep does seem to want Villa to play somewhat like Pedro. Move back to defense, contribute in Tiki-Taka, open space, but also… I do think that Pep does want Villa to contribute with some spontaneity… to try something different when games are tight and goal scoring chances are almost non-existent…

  24. January 7, 2011

    On a completely unrelated note, it would be much appreciated if someone could direct me to an English download of the 06 first leg against Chelsea (the del Horno one). It’s pretty hard to find, but I’m hoping someone here as come across it somewhere.

  25. Tom_Johnson
    January 7, 2011

    I would like to add few details to this analysis.


    – The number of high probability goal scoring opportunities each one of them missed (is as important, if not more, than the number of goals). A parrot I know would say that 21/48 is not as same as 21/35

    – Number of times each one of them was fouled (reasonably close to the goal) and how many times we scored after the set piece was taken


    – Number of balls recovered and deflected passes


    – Transfer fee
    – Salary

  26. xaviniesta
    January 8, 2011

    show me the goat that want to sell a guy who killed off the EE and won the game for us in less than 2 min.

    like the 2nd goal of villa was a sitter…remember robben against casillas in the wc final?

    villa is the reason we’re the same as 08/09!

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