A Thank You Note: Barça 5 – 0 Betis

Photo by Miguel Ruiz Àlex Caparrós

This isn’t about what you think it’s about. It’s about stones. Cojones the size of casas. It’s even about balls of the bullion persuasion. Just not those ones. It’s about the ones that came clad in green and white stripes and ever let up for 90 minutes, even when it was obvious their temerity would be severely punished with a mighty Messi-led manita. Take a moment and digest the stupendously serious nature of Real Betis’ clangers twixt their legs. Perhaps that’s not your favorite thing to imagine, but every now and then it can be a good thing to get out of your comfort zone and this is perfect opportunity. Betis came in looking to play, to get us with a version of our game, and to make us pay attention. It’s my heartfelt belief that had Achille Emana been on the field, the final score would have been 5-2. Maybe even 5-3.

Goddamn I’m jazzed about what just happened. Sure, that’s why no one plays Barça like that, but wasn’t it amazing to watch? Wasn’t it just utterly enjoyable? Wasn’t it heart-pundingly fun? That’s F-U-N. It means, roughly, something that puts a smile on your face. Been a while, huh? The clásico was great, of course, but fun? Too tense, too emotionally invested for whatever this “fun” you speak of is.

So Thank You, Real Betis, for that match. Thank you for putting in a performance worthy of a draw with us. I’m sorry the final scoreline, I really am, but a certain “undeserving” Argentine wasn’t going to be denied his glory. And Ochocinco wasn’t going to be denied the true Barça experience.

But of course I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss a few things about that team in blaugrana. You know the one. But again, it won’t be what you think.

Ibrahim Afellay came on in the 80th minute (he was listed as “Afelley” on ESPN’s broadcast) and the best way to describe the way he looked out there is tentative. He wasn’t sure what to do and he wasn’t sure where to stand. He replaced Pedro, who is an overly active player and perhaps that’s what made him stand out as especially tentative, but he really didn’t move well or, perhaps, at all. He only got the ball in one dangerous position and he attempted an awkward cross with the outside of his right foot. From the left wing. It was duly smashed out for a corner, as will happen with sloppy passes in La Liga. It would be silly to judge him at this point, of course, with just a couple of minutes under his belt, so I won’t do that, but I will judge his fashion: you’re Dutch and you have to wear long sleeved UnderArmor (probably Nike ProCombat or whatever seeing as it’s Barça) in Barcelona? Really?

It’s interesting. David Villa seems to have the yips in front of goal. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Bojan. That’s right, the little Bojangles that couldn’t quite. What I mean is, one of the best strikers in the world, who has 12 goals in 17 league matches, is having issues with the pressure. This isn’t a knock against him, but rather a knock against the fan base that demands perfection at every step. Yet it’s perfection that depends on a goldfish memory. Messi misses 2 gimmes in a Copa match and he’s remembered for the hat trick he got. Villa misses 1 gimme, hits the post once, and has a magnificent freekick palmed off the line and he’s got the yips. Goddamn. And that’s exactly what’s happening to Bojan. If you fail to score, you’re shite, little man. It doesn’t matter how good your runs are, how many opportunities you create for your teammates. Don’t score and you’re shite. It’s all nonsense.

Jeffren, then: He’s trying to hard physically. He’s pushing himself into unwinnable situations against defenders who have position and more strength. And he runs into them. Hard. And he injures himself why? Oh. Stop doing that and you’ll ease into your talents, young man.

Pinto: His saves were tremendous, but his mistakes showcase why he’s #2 between the sticks. Sure, he’s got that badass air, but come on, you’ve got to distribute better than that. And I still don’t like his cornrows. Probably mostly because I don’t like anyone’s cornrows.

Oh and Xavi was absolutely stunning in this match. Watch it again and look at what he does. I don’t care what you say, he’s the best player in the world. Yeah you freakin’ heard me. I’m just so glad the other 2 I’d even consider for that title play with him. Oh how lucky we are, eh?

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. Look at the ball in the picture above. Looks like it has a smiley face. Soccer balls are happy when Messi kicks them.

    OK, I’m going to bed now. Anthropomorphizing soccer balls is a sign that the mind’s going.

  2. Another manita 🙂

    Guys a bit off-topic.
    Why wasn’t Messi’s goal against Zaragoza away voted for goal of the year?
    That was one of the best solo goals ever!
    And Im sure there are at least 3 more goals of Messi worthy of a nomination.
    Since that goal wasn’t voted, I’d prefer the 2nd or 3rd guy, where he controlled the ball on his chest at the edge of the area and brought it over the defender and volleyed it home.

    Anyways what’s up with Kxev saying it the previous post that Villa isn’t a finisher?
    What do you have against Villa, that you are singling him out?
    There are 10 other players on the pitch 😆

    1. Oh and why is there no mention of Alves & Pique incident Isaiah?
      I’ve only watched it on youtube. It actually looked like Puyol was lost. But perhaps because he was trying to cover Pique who had to cover Alves’ guy. I don’t know.
      Hopefully they patch things up. It didnt look good at all

    2. Because it was not even nominated, they nominated a goal against Valencia which was way less spectacular!

  3. Beautiful game, yes quite FUN ! I did not watch it live so for me the pressure was off in “come on score already!!” but the fun came in the form of just admiring the way they moved the ball today, we didn’t score sooner in the first half because we just got unlucky, and so did they unfortunately, I think if Betis had scored 1 the ultimate scoreline would’ve been smaller, but we wore them off, but like courageous men that they are, they pushed on, had they scored they would’ve believed in a “remuntada.”
    Messi insulted anyone who doubted his deserving of the Ballon D’or, we’re lucky to have him with us. That third goal was a front row seat for Villa, Messi gave him a little clinic mid game and said “It looks like you forgot how to do this, let me remind ya! Goal!!!!” but besides missing those goals, i thought Villa was much much better than he’d been in previous games in terms of his movements, can’t say anything of his offsides, Pedro had ’em too.

  4. Props to Betis for putting on a good fight. That’s why I don’t blame teams for parking the bus against us. You come out to play you’ll loose.

    Xavi and Messi are different players, they’re both the best(at how they play the game)

    I’m watching the game now so I can’t put my two cents on the Pique/Alves incident.

  5. Did anyone notice us playing with 3 cb’s? that’s right 3. not only when bringing the ball forward from defense but defending too. Busquets was parked between Pique and Puyol. Alves and Maxwell pretty much played as wingers, while Xavi/Iniesta/Messi took care of the center of the pitch.

  6. Briefly:

    Pinto: Strong saves, ditto what Isaiah said about being No. 2.

    Alves: Talk about having the yips in front of goal. A little too much offense, not enough attention to defense. Pique seemed to be saying “Do you job, little man!”

    Maxwell: Best outing in some time. Nothing like some Abidal magnificence to shake a dude up, yes?

    Puyol: A few moments, but mostly a monster match, and he was needed. For sure.

    Mascherano: Oh. Wait. He should have been in for a match such as this one. Instead,

    Busquets: Too erratic for me, and done for pace on more than a few occasions.

    Xavi: Baaaaad giveaway that led to a Betis attacker smacking the crossbar just before half. He’s been better, he’s also been worse.

    Iniesta: Insane. Otherworldly. Astounding. At about the 11:30 mark of the first half, there is as absurd a moment of close control as you will ever see. Whoa. And that alley-oop to Keita? As one hoops announcer would say, are you kidding me?!

    Pedro: The funk continues. He’s lost his exclamation points for a while.

    Villa: Dude! Come on! There have to be other places to shoot than directly at the keeper, or post.

    Messi: Worked hardest, did the most, scored the most, just plain the most. Crazy good, and could have had 5 goals. Visibly tired late, but MOTM with a bullet.

    Jeffren: Still a driverless Ferrari.

    Keiteeeee!: You can’t go there. I’m in the way. And give me that ball, too. Thanks.

    Afellay: I think that stiff is the way he plays. He played the same way in Holland. Showed some sleek touches and wonderful control. Looks to the manor born already. Yes, he got the ball smacked out on that baseline move. So did Villa, and Iniesta, and Pedro, and …. He’s going to be a keeper. Already is.

    Meanwhile, in a Copa match, a field that used to be his playground, Krkic didn’t even make the bench. Ouch. Guardiola will cite rotation, but is a message being sent?

    1. This was a comment from that article:

      It’s not a lifetime achievement award – and was last year Xavi’s best year? Probably not.

      I think that Iniesta and Xavi fell into the trap of the best supporting actress category at the Oscars. When two go in for the same movie, their votes are divided, and they cancel each other out. Thus Messi won with 20 something percent. But it must be said that you do see them as members of the supporting cast – Messi is a lead.

      If you look at stats alone, there is no question that Messi should have won.

      Spain was a lackluster winner of the World Cup. Spain is like Barcelona, only without the magic. We all know what the magic is in Barcelona. He’s the guy that won the award. As he should have.

  7. The comments are amazing. Quite a few people saying that Bale had a better 2010 calendar year than almost any other player and that he should have made the top 3, one guy saying that Joey Barton now has no weaknesses in his game, and one guy saying that if Bale had been in the WC he would have won it and just cos he didn’t play doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have won.

    Not to mention the people seeing no point in Xavi’s role and one comparing him to Mikel. Not being able to get possession based football in English footballing culture is one of the reasons why they are so godawful in tournaments.

    And the overhyping and thinking everything about them is amazing- I mean come on, BALE the best player in the world or the top three in the world? I mean I like Bale and think he’s a great player actually. But honestly how people can say he was better in 2010 than Robben, Sneijder, Schweinsteiger, Ronaldo, Villa, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Milito, from names off the top of my head. If you’re so convinced you’re amazing, how’re you going to a) decide to work hard and improve, b) not be overconfident and underestimate opponents, c) realize that something needs changing and overhauling, as in more focus on technique in youth teams or whatever.


    1. The comments are pretty funny there 🙂 I read through it yesterday and I couldn’t believe some of that stuff either.

    2. I read that part about Mikel too. I almost cried.
      I mean c’mon!!!! That is just the tip of the iceberg comparing one of the greatest midfielders to a mediocre at best midfielder.
      Xavi has had an amazing career and won a hell lot of trophies and to be compared with an average player who has achieved nothing in over 5 years of his career is just horrible.

      And Bale?? There are at least over 20 players who are better than him.
      EPL fans are just bitter that none of the players plays in the EPL and that La Liga was voted as the strongest league.

    3. I was crazy enough to read through the comments, and found gold: that Barcelona players are average when not playing for the team, and Spain was basically carried through the world cup by Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos. Sergio Ramos!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I don’t know why I didn’t stop reading right there.

    4. The horror.

      Seriously though, Joey Barton a midfielder with no weaknesses in his game? Bale the best player in 2010 and someone who would have won a World Cup had he played? No difference between Xavi and Mikel? Etc.

      Even comment threads on the likes of Goal and Soccernet seem more knowledgeable than these, they have commenters from all over the world and all and many of them are clueless but still nowhere near that much. Is football knowledge and media in England really THAT blind to the rest of Europe and football other than the typical English style? (not saying all of them, but a lot of them, from a lot of English media who seem to resent Spanish club and international swashbuckling style and success by dismissing it as tippy-tappy pointless fairy unmanly boring slow unnecessary etc and so many EPL-tards who troll on and on about La Liga being a Scottish league)

      On that note, isn’t it funny how most of the EPLtards trolling La Liga don’t watch La Liga at all and admit it, while many people who follow La Liga actually watch it and also see some EPL (easier TV timings esp for Asia where Prem games are 6-11pm ish and La Liga games are around 11pm-3am, more widely shown on TV, marketing, etc)?

      Also on a slightly different note, does Diego Forlan remind anyone else of Matthew McConnaughey?

    5. I live in England, and was sitting next to a guy I go to university with. He proceeded, within thirty seconds, to announce that Messi had won the Ballon, that he is overrated and didn’t deserve it, and that he needs to play in the premier league week in week out (not only play teams during champions league matches, I assume) in order to prove himself.

      I was so dumbstruck I literally didn’t know what to say…and then our teacher walked in so I couldn’t say anything.

  8. Ah, well, i have stopped reading comments on quite a few websites nowadays. There are some recurring themes. Soccernet always brings on the worst kind of commentators. Guardian always brings out the guys who compare La Liga to SPL no matter the context and the need for people to prove that some or other is as good as Messi or Ronaldo.

    Coming back to the match. I was surprised to see almost first 11 on the pitch. It does make sense and everything but still. I think Pep definitely wants another Copa.

    First of all, kudos to Betis who really played well. It was a enjoyable match. They made it difficult for us and could have scored a few themselves.

    We on other hand had chances galore. Messi himself could have had 5 or 6 goals. I specially like the second one from Messi. Maybe it was fluke but i like to think that Messi knew that the defender had over committed and hence decided to place the ball gently in the net. It reminded me of the third goal he had scored against Valencia last year. The finish, i like to think, was subtle, like a fine wine.

    Alves was all over the place yesterday.

    Iniesta was again amazing. What difference he makes. We have to keep him healthy. His assist was thing of beauty.

    I do not have any expectations from Afellay this season. Next season he will have to prove. He does look too tentative. He is young though. I kind of appreciate even more how quickly Mascherano got the hang of our system. I can arguably claim that we have the two best holding midfielders in the world in Busi and Smasch. What wouldnt Mou give for even one of them:).

    Now will look on how dear old pathetico implode in match tonight.

    Messi now has 31 goals for the season and entire half to go. I hope he atleast breaks the 50 goals barrier.

    1. I hope he at least scores more than this cocky douchebag from EE 🙂

      Because it Messi scores more goals than CR and if we win more titles than Real, I don’t see anybody else / anything else that could stop Messi from winning his 3rd consecutive Ballon D’Or.

      I think Pep fielded the best eleven due to 2 reasons:
      First of all, many players were rested in the last league match, and the next league match is not against a top-class opponent, so maybe we could even use a slightly weakened line-up against Malaga. Pep didn’t know that we’d score another Manita, but now he can easily afford to field a complete B line-up in the 2nd leg (which he won’t, but he could^^).
      Second reason is that I believe there is no greater motivation for Pep, and for all the players, the club itself than to beat Madrid in as many competitons as possible. And to be honest, we all know that Atletico will certainly NOT stop the, even Sevilla/Villarreal shouldn’t have a bigger than 20% chance of advancing against them. So I guess he simply wanted to make sure that Barca reaches the final, which will be played in the Camp Nou!
      Pep also said that we’ll need to set up a new points record in la Liga to win, and I think so too. If it wasn’t for EE pushing us that hard, we wouldn’t have won as many points so far.
      Imagine this situation: Barca wins la Liga after beating Real in the Bernabeu, Barca wins the CdR after beating Real in the Camp Nou and Barca wins the CL after beating Real @ Wembley. If that happens, I would probably die from an overdose of happiness – and I wouldn’t mind 😀

  9. btw, Arsenal lost 1-0 to Ipswich, the team that has been beaten 7-0 in the FA Cup by Chelsea last weekend 😀
    Remind you, Chelsea has won 1 of their last 10 games prior to this match.
    Vermaelen will be out for Arsenal for an unknown period of time, his problems seem to be chronically.
    I feel the matches against Arsenal might be as F-U-N as yesterday’s!

    1. Ah Arsenal and Wenger. They are inconsistent though. For sure, those matches will be fun. I do not think that Arsene has players to play spoilers and with our current team, i would not be worried about playing football with any team, current or from past:).

  10. I am not sure but i kind of think that whenever we play our first 11 or close to first 11 this season, we score a manita.

  11. @ Isaiah

    Its interesting that you point out that our forwards have more pressure on them than other strikers, which leads to their missing lots of chances.

    Because while watching the first half yesterday, i was thinking the exact opposite thing. I mean, do you think it is possible that since our team creates a bagful of chances every match, they actually don’t have that pressure to score in a one-on-one ?

    I think that there certainly can be a case made for this scenario. When you are in that position as a striker, you have a split moment to decide how you are going to finish. If you have that strong motivation, that sheer desperation to take that chance because you don’t know if another one will come knocking on your door, you try the perfect option to put in the back of the net instinctively. (Rather than shooting it straight at the keeper which our forwards are doing right now)

    Also notice how the players finish in big games like the Clasico when they have that extra motivation.I even remember Guardiola mentioning the missed chances earlier in the season, stressing the need to finish them. That shows the coach himself wants to put pressure on the strikers, because he thinks they don’t have enough motivation.It wouldn’t be the case if he thought they already have enough pressure.

    I hope Guardiola finds a way to motivate Villa,Bojan etc. to finish their chances. But i guess its not as easy as it sounds, also made harder by the fact that the team still find a way to score a boatload of goals almost every match.

  12. I cried while reading through the comments on the Guardian the other night. I was going to help Ramzi in the comments, but then I think he became amused as well.

    As for the match, I was Dani’s harshest critic in the first half, second half he went into beast mode. Imagine how the Betis left back felt seeing Dani make those runs time and time again. And go look at Pedro’s goal again, look how happy Dani is Xavi spotted him and how he immediately gives him credit after the goal.

    Eduard, I also noticed in the second half we started to play with 3 CBs. Busquets made quite a few stops back there and at times Puyol roamed and went after the dude with the ball, almost like a defensive midfielder.

    Villa missed his chances, but I agree with Stephen, overall he looked better this match.

    I thought Maxwell started the match well, but in the second half he was pretty poor for me.

    Xavi had that horrible giveaway, but the through balls he was playing to Messi, Dani, etc were outstanding.

    And Iniesta was outstanding.

    Sky Sports links are in the previous thread, by the way.

    1. by the by, does ftbz.com also post links to Sky Sports highlights? Or do they only post complete matches?
      I’d like to download highlights only from this match, because my internet connection isn’t the best.

  13. I had the infinite pleasure to attend to Camp Nou for the first time since I was 12 and Cruyff came to play with his new team (Cosmos), and I couldn’t feel more excited!

    It was an incredible experience in the sense that everything was soooo different from what can be seen in tv. You can see, not only where the ball is, but all the movement off the ball; also the spin of the ball when moving in the air, the perfect placed and weighted passes (and the ones not so perfect), the runs made but not seen… and you can learn why Busi is called “el pulpo de Badía” (the octopuss from Badia) because his long legs intercept balls otherwise impossible to intercept. I had goosebumps when Iniesta assisted Keiteee and all the Camp Nou was like “ahhhhh!!!”. I missed tv repetitions, though!

    Sorry for the naivety of the post, I just had to share it!

    Oh, and yes Isiah, Betis played with a pair of cojones! They looked like a primera team and always dangerous.

    1. They do seem to be running away with the Segunda. I would’ve loved to see Barca B win the Segunda but that seems very unlikely, but they are currently in what would be a promotion play-off spot (6th) and have been hovering around those positions for the campaign. Of course they won’t be able to compete in play-offs or actually get promoted, but it’d be awesome if they did manage to show they were good enough at least by finishing in a promotion spot.

      Currently it’s:
      1. Betis 43 points
      2. Celta Vigo 39 points
      3. Rayo Vallecano 37 points
      4. Cartagena 32 points
      5. Xerez 30 points
      6. Barca Athletic 28 points
      7. Villareal B 28 points (but behind us in the table on GD)
      8. Numancia 27 points
      9. Granada 26 points
      10. Elche 26 points

      18. Alcorcon 21 points

      Villareal B are also doing very well, which is great cos I really like Villareal.

      As for going to the Camp Nou that seems so so cool. I would love to go to the Camp Nou but by the time I’m old enough to and have enough money to, this era will probably be over, and I want to go and see the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, and MESSI in action. Hopefully I can make it in about four years, when I’m done with university (haven’t even begun it yet) and I hope against hope that Xavi still plays then AND that we are still this sort of mesmerizing, jaw-dropping, beautiful level of football. Though history suggests that as all cycles do our cycle will end eventually. You are so lucky you got to see this era and this side live.

    2. Just realized the way I wrote it makes it seem like Alcorcon is bottom. Nope there are 22 teams, I just mentioned Alcorcon cos they’re Alcorcon.

    1. Thanks, Jnice. I said this above, and nobody listened. Must be the cule rush to judgment. 😀

      But that is just how he moves. When his name was associated with us, I started paying attention when his club’s matches were being shown on Deportes. Don’t look at his torso, look at his feet. The way that he retained possession against two Betis defenders looks like it was taught at La Masia. Dude’s going to be just fine.

      I imagine that he is a little star-struck, but the way that he passes, moves and receives is far from stiff and tentative. I’m reminded of watching the great cyclist Sean Kelly, who looked so ugly on the bike from the waist up, but absolutely impeccable from the waist down. Not sure why Afellay does the Frankenstein arm thing, but it must work for him.

  14. wasn’t alves horrible yerterday? but it’s still ok, even when he plays worse he gets an assist. he moves a lot but boy could he have done more in offense yesterday, IMO.

    and the team, we suffer like we haven’t in a long time and we win 5-0 it’s really weird 🙁 musho beti! manquepierda!!!

    1. I wouldn’t say he was HORRIBLE, if you look at the first half he’s most of the time in an open pass position, he didn’t have a bunch of those miserable crosses he’s had past game, and he didn’t try to take long shots. He was I’d say descent, not horrible.

  15. As somebody who lives in London and deals with EPL fans on a daily basis I can safely say that none of you should waste your time trying to reason with them. 95% of them dont even watch La Liga or any other league and yet they claim to know that theirs is the best. It is pure ignorance and it is mainly a result of the way the sports media in the UK shamelessly promotes their league as “the best”. They do it constantly, in articles, in football shows, in games while commentating. Every chance they get to claim the EPL is the best they do it. If there is an exciting game that ends 2-2 its only because “you are watching the best league in the world”, as if there are no exciting games in any other league. Only in the EPL can a team come back from being 2-0 down to winning 2-3. It is as sad as it is pathetic, but unfortunately the people here lap it up.

    Tbh though I have given up caring. Let them live in their ignorance. As long as we keep beating their teams then frankly they can say whatever they like.

  16. A few other things:

    –Above, barca96 claims that I said Villa wasn’t a finisher, and why am I getting on him when there are 10 other players on the pitch, yada, yada. Well, it’s simple. First off, Villa is obviously a finisher. His annual goal tallies make that clear. I just don’t believe him to be the lead-pipe cinch, clinical finisher that everyone else does. He’s proven my point time and again this season.

    And as with Isaiah above, Villa is being singled out because he’s the striker, and when you put the ball on your 40m striker’s foot in the places that Villa has been given the ball, you should have a reasonable expectation that he is going to turn the chance, and hit it somewhere instead of directly at the keeper.

    –English footy fans will always feel the way they do. They invented the game, after all, and never underestimate the feelings of superiority that such a thing spawns. We don’t, and never will play the English way, which makes our successes and our players flawed for perpetuity.

    It’s easy to scoff at Xavi’s short passes in the midfield until you realize that that’s how we play defense. But to a lot of English fans, defense isn’t preventive, and doesn’t begin until you enter the final third of the pitch, then “Let’s see how you do against our hard men, boyo!”

    They don’t understand (collectively), and they never will. Some do.

    –It’s important to note that we are riding the crest of a wave right now. Humility is important. It would be misguided in the extreme to think that this wave of brilliance is going to continue, or to forget the ineffective seasons that this club had, and will have. Trying to convince someone else that we are as good as we think we are is futile. The results will either speak for themselves, or they won’t.

    –Finally, hats off to Betis, again as Isaiah notes above. They probably figured that no matter how they played the odds were against them, so they probably had a better shot playing how they play against everyone.

    1. -Thanks for replying.

      Every striker misses chances. Didn’t our legend Eto’o miss a lot of chances when he was here? I’ve always felt that he missed too much.
      Same with Villa. I do think he misses a lot. But that is normal.
      As long as they get into positions to create chances then it’s still fine to me as the goals will come. You score some, you miss some.
      There is no striker out there with a 100% scoring rate( all chances converted into goals).

      The big problem is when a striker doesn’t get many chances; the main problem we had with Ibra last season.

      -I thought those EPL fans would shut up after no single player from EPL was/were? nominated for the Ballon D’or or even in the first XI.
      Or when EPL wasn’t voted as the best league in the world.

      -The different outcome of a Madrid youth playerand Barca’s;
      credit to Sport and Barcastuff

    2. There are any number of strikers who you could put in Villa’s place and get the same, quite possibly even better output. Alexandre Pato comes to mind. Heck, for the way that Villa plays, just off the shoulder of the defense, flirting with being offside, I’d trust those kinds of chances to Inzaghi.

      Points in Villa’s favor are that he is tracking back more and more, and making the nice pass, which rules out a guy like Inzaghi. But Villa has to finish his chances, and I don’t think I’m a bad guy for saying that. When Ibrahimovic was fluffing chances, the masses were clamoring for Krkic. And we got Krkic.

      Problem now is that Villa is fluffing his lines just as Ibrahimovic did, but does anyone in their right mind want Krkic? So now what? I’d love to have a striker on the bench so that we could sit Villa for a while, but that isn’t an option.

      There aren’t strikers with a 100% scoring rate, this is true. But for 40m, Villa has to finish his easy chances. He isn’t being asked to curl balls into the upper corner from distance, or flick backheels across the goal. That chance that Maxwell gave him was as easy a chance as any striker will have this season, and he blew it. Another easy one, and he popped it right at the keeper, in consecutive matches now.

      Ibrahimovic got into positions to score, and then he didn’t. And it wasn’t alright with anybody. I won’t apply a different standard to Villa. It wouldn’t be fair.

  17. Xavi has given the most assist to Messi in the latter’s professional career: 15. Alves is second with 14.

    Makes you think about Alves’ contribution.

  18. From barcastuff — Messi: “Bad relationship with Xavi and Iniesta? Press can talk, we get along well and we shouldn’t explain ourselves to anyone.”

    I never would have imagined this was ever an issue. Why would this even come up? Is this the working of Marca since Messi didn’t give them a hug at the gala?

  19. I have to admit I don’t feel any confidence in Bojan, and i was surprised he got the contract he got recently. My honest thought was that this: “Really? They believe in him that much he’ll be on the team for another 4 years? Ugh.” I feel horrible for admitting this about Bojan, but I think he’s been given plenty of time with Barca, but he’s proved he’s not up to snuff, and maybe that contract wasn’t such a good idea? Look at Pedro. Pedro WON his starting position by getting better and better. Bojan has played well at times, but never with any consistency and he has definitely not improved his game the way Pedro has.
    Bojan reminds me of a baseball player who gets all of his hits and homeruns not in clutch situations – bases loaded, a hit will win it – but always when it doesn’t matter, like a solo home run in the 9th inning after they were already down by 11 runs. The guy may have a .300 avg, but in terms of helping his team when it counts his avg is .230.
    I know it may not be right to bag on someone who does score – even in the 85th minute after we’re already up by 4 goals and he’s only been on the field for 5 minutes – but my over all memories of Bojan are his bad passes, his not making the correct pass, not being where he should, flubbing a sure goal, having the ball stripped, and whining to the referee.
    I think Villa will be more than fine. Messi will give him so awesome passes soon, he’ll score, and be happy and confident once again. He’s not used to being 2n banana and this has got to be tough for him, but I think he’s doing great.
    (Please be gentle in your defense of Bojan. It’s just my little ole opinion and really means nothing. It’s Barca’s decision to keep him, not mine, right?)

    1. “and i was surprised he got the contract he got recently”

      Not sure how much faith left in Bojan Pep and management has but, if I “lost faith” in him I would still have locked him into new contract just so I can ask for a larger transfer fee come summer.

    2. Egg-sactly. It’s always easier to sell a guy under contract. No pressure as with Alves who, if we are going to sell, will have to be moved this summer, or it gets messy.

  20. Good game. Fun to watch.

    Messi is the best finisher in the world right now. Maybe Villa is a bit intimidated playing next to him.

    I imagine many Barcelona players are tired of all the press that Messi gets. Not that they have a problem with him, but with all the attention he gets. It’s got to be annoying after a while.

    Busi…wtf are you doing with your back heels in traffic outside the 18 yard box. Great mid when he plays simple passes and keeps the ball rolling. Mascherano does a better job with simplicity, though Busi is the better passer.

    Pinto will give up one to two goals a game on his distribution and decision making if he every plays in CL knockout round. His reaction time is about even with Valdes.

    Striker is the most difficult position in the world. Not because of skill required, but rather the what have you done for me lately mentality.

    Players who are now crap: Huntelaar, Torres (now), Rooney, Pato, Benezema, Van Persie, etc.

    Players who were crap: Drogba, Anelka (at Madrid), Higuain, Torres (at atletico), Eto (at Madrid)

    Being a striker is full of ups and downs. And what looks easy from the armchair of our respective couches is very different when running at full speed with defenders right behind you and a professional keeper in front of you.

    Messi finishes best from 12 yards, before the keeper closes the space. The way Villa plays means that he is often in the 6 yard box with the keeper right there. Not easy.

  21. @Kxevin

    “First off, Villa is obviously a finisher. His annual goal tallies make that clear.”

    True but the vast majority of those goals came while playing for Valencia and National Team. Valencia plays in a different way than Barca does. When playing for the National Team, Villa’s responsibilities are different than what the case is when he is donning an Azulgrana jersey.

    First and foremost, the amount of energy he spends tracking back/participating in pressing. Huge factor! Anyone who played position at somewhat competitive levels will confirm this.

    Depending on the physical conditioning, this takes toll. Worn out and “losing breath” it then becomes difficult to concentrate and think fast when you need to finish.

    In addition, he plays more to the left than in the middle. Using his left foot sparsely, a lot of times he is forced to open up his hips when getting ready to shoot. A maneuver that requires an additional time and is revealing to an experienced goal-keeper.

    And yes, there is always a level of confidence oh so critical to every striker. The level that fluctuates based on the number of opportunities missed and goals scored.

    This is not a “case for Villa”. Just helping put things into context.

    All this being said and looking at the (not so)recent history of players acting as strikers in our system, more and more I am of opinion that “we” need to stop paying big money and look for cheaper options.

    Someone of low profile, good work ethic, considerable experience and maturity to his (her?) game and athleticism. Someone who understand his limitations and is able to finish simple and in a timely manner. Something like Pedro just more robust.

    Notice how he didn’t hesitate at all yesterday when scoring. While Alves was fighting and defense scrambling, he just sat there and was thinking, at least a second before it actually happened, “if the ball comes my way I am shooting it first touch straight in front of me with the inside of my right foot”.

    Similar thing happened to Messi during the first goal. Pass was made and upon reception ball bounced off the ground a little bit. Messi quickly realized it is not going to glide and shifted himself in a manner to allow him to chip the ball over the keeper as fast as possible. It came out so natural and smooth only cause he is so brilliant.

    Now, had that been Villa…

    1. All I can do is agree, Tom. It’s the “Ibrahimovic factor,” in that those missed sitters are a lot less painful if a guy cost 20m, than 40m.

      Offensive players can’t think. Krkic is thinking. I’ve been watching all the matches from this past season, and it’s been interesting to see some trends developing: Krkic getting tighter and tighter, Villa getting tighter and tighter. Both of them are just thinking too much. A first touch that isn’t dead solid doesn’t help. When Messi gets a pass, he doesn’t even think about controlling it. It just happens. When a ball falls to Pedro, he’s shooting without even bothering to control. His one-touch control and shot off a moving ball is probably his greatest attribute.

      Villa thinks. Just watched the 1-v-1 in the Valencia match, months ago. He tried to round their keeper, instead of just chipping him. He wants to be absolutely certain. Sometimes, you have to just shoot.

    2. “…that those missed sitters are a lot less painful if a guy cost 20m, than 40m.”

      Definitely. Looking at the bigger picture, it looks more and more like there is not a guy out there who will be able to do everything that the system is asking from him. Villa and Zlatan most recently.

      Eto’o too had “a personality” and would go through a drought period every once in a while. If memory serves me right, his name was not on a scoring sheet for a good month leading up to the Final in Rome.

      Mind the horrible touch (while receiving the ball) he displayed for the better part of his stay. God knows how many times I wanted to hurl the remote at the TV set.

      Not to go too far back, obviously “we” can’t have it all. The key would be to find a guy who can give “us” the most of these things at the cheapest price possible.

      Other option would be to go out and pay premium hoping that specific skill set (height, athleticism, head ball handling skills) will yield outstanding results. That and sales of jerseys to offset the cost.

      “and it’s been interesting to see some trends developing: Krkic getting tighter and tighter, Villa getting tighter and tighter”

      Speaking based on personal experience, it is either:
      a. Confidence (lack of)
      b. Conditioning (poor)

      Or both.

      It needs to be said, Bojan was unusually sharp at the end of the campaign last year. Crucial games against Villareal and Sevilla away from home. He, then, evened things out by missing the great opportunity (the header from about 6yds out) against Inter.

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