Post Mortem: Barça 4 – Malaga 1

A team victory

Well, well, well. That one certainly ended the first half on a positive note then. A true team victory against Pelligrini’s newly-reconfigured Malaga side where the rampant fervor of the first half was replaced with cautiousness in the second before a moderately exciting finish. It would be all pats on the back and thumbs up and smiles except for the injury to Dani Alves, which is likely to keep a normal mortal out anywhere from 10-15 days with a calf strain. So knowing Dani he’ll be on the training pitches running sprints and yelling at Pique today. But enough of that silliness, let’s take a quick look back while those of us in America celebrate the life and death and legacy of the amazing Martin Luther King, Jr (#respect #pouroneout).

From the outset, this match looked to have been predetermined. Movement, passing, and efficiency were out in full force with the defense moving high earlier than usual, and most of the action playing out in Barça’s offensive third. Abidal pushed forward and only narrowly missed the goal, hitting the side netting. However, there was to be no reprieve as Dani moved down the right, as Malaga played no one on their left to keep him honest or even close to defense. Iniesta set up in the center, just north of the 18-yard box, Alves played a wonderful square-in pass that Iniesta one-timed (after two snall hops, mind you) off the right post and into the net. Another Iniestazo for sure. Even though rules dictate that the other 83+ minutes had to be played, this one was all but over.

Oh, you want more? Fine: Xavi took a fantastic looping shot that only narrowly missed and nipped the cross bar, heading back into play. Then the definition of our “team victory” showed up. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great “Messi 4, Arsenal 1” victory as much as the next every living human, but this was something wholly different. After an errant pass, Malaga’s defense holds and takes a short pass in an attempt to get out of their end. At this point Busquets moved forward and took an excellently timed slide tackle to push the ball right into Messi’s feet. From there it was a simple pass to Villa who was running on, and a nutmeg of Sergio Asenjo coming out from goal and it’s 2-0. Another assist for Messi, another goal for Villa, and an excellent setup from Busquets.

A third was to come before the half, but not before Alves’ injury slightly marred the proceedings. A tough injury to be sure, but it wasn’t from harsh or wrongful play by Malaga, so that’s some positive. Adriano came on and tried to settle in, taking a few too-long passes, but Messi showed up in the middle again to start the scoring again. After receiving a pass, Messi in the false 9 rolls a perfectly weighted pass to Iniesta breaking in the box, who shot it right at Asenjo (a good save, not a great shot), but Pedro did that crazy run arms swirling thing he does, and slotted it home for his 10th goal in La Liga on the year.

The second half was more subdued, with Pep likely telling everyone to calm it down so that we don’t lose another key component before a Copa match midweek against Betis and then Racing on the weekend. Not much happened until Duda took a well-placed and well-earned free kick from 22 yards out that looped over the wall and into the net. Nothing Valdes could do but curse losing the shutout and a slight tick away from his Zamora Trophy chase (ok so it’s not that close: through 19 games Valdes has allowed 11 in the League, 0.58 per game; Casillas is next closest with 17, for 0.89). Actually the problem from reviewing the kick was Villa, who ducked his head in the wall instead of jumping, and the ball sailed inches over his perfectly coifed hair. A poor move by Villa, but he’d make up for it.

Or more correctly, he’d finish what wonderment Xavi started. Xavi takes the ball just past the midfield line and shows the speed he still has to move between 3 Malaga defenders. On the TV I was cursing, watching Villa wide open across on the left, waiting for a perfect pass. But as usual, Xavi knows more about these things than I do. He waits, Villa runs on, stays onside (thankfully), and Xavi provides him with a millimeter-perfect pass that Villa has to hang on to for an extra two touches because Asenjo rushed well, but Villa had enough touch and finish to send it just inside the left post, avoiding the keeper and defender to score his 14th in the League, give Xavi another assist, and finish this one up. Bojan and Afellay came on with 8 minutes left and both proved to be more than adequate in relief, with Afellay nearly getting his first for Barça, and Messi looking pissed because he couldn’t furnish it for him. That’s ok Lionel, we’ll take your 18 goals and 14 assists this year, we guess (le sigh).

So I guess it’s just ho-hum win because Madrid certainly didn’t drop points against Almeria. Still up 2 points in La Liga going into the second 19 matches right? What’s that you reply? No, Almeria did not draw 1-1 with Real Madrid. Certainly Mou, Mr. Park the Bus, could use all his knowledge to avoid an obviously inferior attempt to do so and lead his super scoring bunch to another lackluster win in the waning minutes. Oh, ha. I don’t give a good shit how Almeria did it, nor do I care to hear complaints about referees. Because when you get an unfavorable result and complain about the referees, it means you obviously didn’t play to win (except in 1 or 2 extreme cases, which I will not speak of here). The refs looked to make the right calls, and you should, you know, maybe score more before the last 15 minutes against a much weaker side. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

Final Thoughts

Team Rating: 8.5
It could be argued this could even be a 9.5, but losing Alves still has to come in here, not that it was anyone’s fault, but it still stings in the long-term, and that counts in the grade. Pep put out our best side and the victory was assured by the 20th minute. The first half intensity waned in the second 45, but that is to be expected in order to avoid further injuries. Pep made solid substitutions, so he gets high marks too. Trying to build Bojan’s confidence and giving Afellay more time in real game situations is what 4-1 games are for later on. No defensive lapses to speak of also go in favor of a very high score.

In fact, the only demerits against the team were squandered chances in front of net, Villa ducking his head (which he made up for), and a few errant passes from players who usually avoid such antics (Xavi, for shame, at least 3 giveaways, SELL HIM!). Final words here are easy: great match, a tough injury, and up 4 points into the second half with a 5-goal tiebreaker over Madrid for the time being. I’ll take it if you’re giving it.

Also, if you want to see some info from the first half, here’s a short fact sheet from the club’s website. Stunning numbers to be sure. 28 game unbeaten streak breaks a club record, 52 out of 57 possible points (La Liga record), etc. etc.

Breaking News: Thiago Alcantara to be made a First-Teamer in 2011-2012
Just this morning, the club officially announced that Thiago will permanently join the first team next season. This is excellent news because it will likely keep him here for a long time and he’s probably the most talented prospect we have in the lower levels at present. We will have a lot more on this to come later, but it certainly deserves a big note here.

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  1. OSBAG
    January 17, 2011

    Official, thiago to be promoted next season

  2. Kari
    January 17, 2011

    Hectored. I asked for it. Nice review, Luke. There was that one move in the 41st minute, where Villa got the ball on the run on the left, passed to Pedro!! who dummied it to Xavi, who laid it off to Messi, only for him to miss, was just incredible. Ray Ray and I had the same reaction (“Ahhhhhh! NOOOOO!”).

    This team is just so… Messi. 😀

    Awesome news re Thiago. Yes!! I’m not going to think about him, Afellay, and the potiential (more like inevitable) Fabregas transfer, but soak in the fact we get to see Thiago FULL TIME!

    Our boy allas14 has made an Afellay v Malaga compilation.

    -Messi misses training today due to a fever. Maybe that’s why his goalscoring was inhibited?

    – P!! has been “subtely” brilliant; in his first 15 games this season, Pedro scored 2 goals. In the last 15, he scored 14 goals and has 11 goals in his last 11 games [barcastuff]

    –Villa’s goalscoring is also impressive. I think he has something like 14 goals in 14 games. More importantly, his passing is improving by the boatloads.

    –Top goalscorers Barcelona in official games this season: Messi 31 – Villa and Pedro 16 – Iniesta 6 – Bojan 4 [barcastuff]

    –Over at EEland (and I mean the aptly named AS(S) and Marca), they’re moaning about their non-penalties. LLL has a stat they conveniently missed out: Barca has the least amount of penalties in La Liga this season (1). Real Madrid has the most penalties (6). 5 were scored by Thong Boy.

    • Nav
      January 17, 2011

      Thanks for the video Kari. Afellay is adopting very well, that throughball to Bojan and the overlapping run and almost assist to Messi was very nice.

      • Kari
        January 17, 2011

        No prob, Nav. The almost-assist to Messi was my favourite part, that through-ball too, as well as…–actually, the whole video was my favourite part 😛

  3. OSBAG
    January 17, 2011

    Lets hope he shines well and quell all fabregas rumours. Cant we just wait till his contract expires? We can get him for a steal then

  4. Kari
    January 17, 2011

    And let me just say, I love the way our crowd cheers whenever Ibi touches the ball.

    • Luke
      January 17, 2011

      Yes he’s really gotten a wonderful welcome so far.

  5. Helge
    January 17, 2011

    Hehe, clicking on the link to the report of Almeria-EE I just realized that Crynaldo is both, the fan’s Flop and Top of the Match 😀

    Watching Afellay, Thiago – I really wish Pep or Rosell or Zubi would publish an official statement saying that we don’t need Cesc anymore, because we have 2 players who are potentially as good or even better than him. But that will always stay a dream.
    How could Cesc justify a transfer fee 12 times as high as Afellay’s? He’d have to be 12 times as good, which is impossible.
    Thinking about this numbers, Afellay is the real deal. I dare to say he’s the best signing alongside Maxwell in terms of what he offers for the money we’ve paid.

    • January 17, 2011

      And note how Afellay started the break with an excellent pass down in front of our box, then was in position to make the cross at the other end.

      • Nav
        January 17, 2011

        Yeah that was brilliant. Afellay -> Bojan -> long as run -> Afellay -> Messi (who misses) 🙁

    • January 17, 2011

      we don’t need cesc for at least 4 or 5 years when his contract is up. absolutely no reason to waste our money, we have an insane midfield. we could use some more defenders but that is really all we need, oh and for bojan to turn into a man…like…now ; D but great game, i was praising the signing of ibi when it was first announced, not only for the price, but for the fact he is trained in our style for the most part, is fast as hell, young, and has pace galore. the depth he will bring next year will be awesome.

  6. Ryan
    January 17, 2011

    Whoa, Iniesta has started every league game this season, according to the official Barca site. What a difference from last season!

  7. blitzen
    January 17, 2011

    Big congratulations to Thiago! I hope he gets to start against Betis on Wednesday. I want a Xavi-Thiago-Mascherano midfield for that one.

  8. blitzen
    January 17, 2011

    Trouble brewing in Castle Greyskull:

    Valdano didn’t sound particularly happy in the post-match interview after the 1-1 draw (vs Almeria). In answering a question from a journalist about the club’s search for a striker, Valdano replied, “Well, we had a No. 9 sitting on the bench.

    “Ultimately, we are only spectators to what the coach decides to do. I hope Benzema doesn’t not stay on the bench for long. He is a good striker who can give us a lot of options. The situation surrounding him is unfair.”

    I’m willing to place a bet right now that Mourinho won’t stay at Madrid for another season. If he wins something he will say he wants to “move on to a new challenge.” If he doesn’t win a title he will blame the club management for not supporting him and say he can’t stay under those conditions.

    • Helge
      January 17, 2011

      Nah, that would be a huge surprise. Even if Real doesn’t win any title, I’m pretty sure that they will not sack Mourinho, and he won’t leave on his own either.
      Mourinho won’t leave because that would be a big minus in the CV of a person that considers himself to be a Special One. And Real… who if not José could lead them to silverware? To be honest, I don’t see a better coach that would join Real (there are not many better than him, imo only Pep and SAF, but they both will never coach EE)

  9. OSBAG
    January 17, 2011

    Nope that would be keita thiago and xavi

  10. blitzen
    January 17, 2011

    From La Liga Loca:

    LLL suspects what constitutes a perfect game of football for Madrid in the eyes of the club’s fanboy journalists is for the players to kick off, Angel di María to take his traditional tumble in the box, a penalty to be awarded and repeat, repeat, repeat for the next 89 minutes.

    I love it. 😀

  11. K_legit
    January 17, 2011

    I am plugging for a Thiago Mascherano Afellay midfield

    Ibi looks like a natural number 10

    • blitzen
      January 17, 2011

      Too soon for Afellay to start a game, especially against a difficult opponent like Betis. I want to see Xavi start and then Afellay can sub him out in the second half.

      • January 17, 2011

        Betis’ remuntada is going to be nearly impossible, I’d love to see Ibi start, this would be the right game if any, rest Iniesta, or Messi.

        • Jnice
          January 17, 2011

          Agreed, as long as we have Mascherano in with Thiago and Afellay, they should be fine. This is a perfect opportunity for Xavi and Iniesta to get some rest.

          I mean, we would have to concede 5 without scoring one for them to draw. I don’t think that’s possible.

          • blitzen
            January 17, 2011

            I’m just afraid his Spanish isn’t good enough yet to carry a whole game. Masch speaks English, though, and Maxwell if he plays, so that should help.

          • Jnice
            January 17, 2011

            I honestly don’t think it matters much. Especially not for this game. I’m sure he knows enough right now to know when someone is telling him to watch his back or what not. A lot of the times players just yell “hey” or something when they are making a run. Dani yells that all the time when he makes a run.

            As long as he passes and makes himself available for the pass, he’ll be fine.

          • Jnice
            January 17, 2011

            I should make it clear that the language matters in terms of fitting in with your teammates, feeling apart of the dressing room, and understanding tactics and instructions from everyone, but in terms of actually being on the field, he doesn’t have to know much.

            Only people that really talk a lot are Puyol and Valdes. The rest only really shout to warn players that someone is on their back or maybe to ask for the ball at times. Usually the ball does the talking.

          • blitzen
            January 17, 2011

            Heh heh. Puyol talks constantly on the field.

  12. blitzen
    January 17, 2011

    Here is video of the bronca between Casillas and Vargas:

    You know, I like Casillas, I really do. He is a decent person and an excellent keeper. But there is just so satisfying about seeing him get pissed off, I can’t explain it! 😛

    And I love how little Patii gets right in there too. he is so tiny, he should be playing for us!

    • Ryan
      January 17, 2011

      I think at 5’4 (?) he’s actually the smallest player in the league!

    • soccermomof4
      January 17, 2011

      I used to like Casillas, but lately he’s been a very petulant, sore loser.

    • Kari
      January 17, 2011

      The only EE player I liked was Kaka’, but now that he’s gone to EE… All I can say is the EE-Good Guys (that’s us) rivalry is something fierce; he was my favourite Milan player–I really wish he stayed *shakes fist at money hungry Berlusconi and Uncle Fester*

      –Now Piatti I have a soft spot for. He’s so cute (I almost never say that about anyone not named Messi) AND I saw him live at the ’07 WC!

      • outerspacedout
        January 17, 2011

        I like Higuain. How much the Real fans and media rip on him may be part of the reason (LLL and some other journalists seem to think that Marca/AS are under orders from the EE big-wigs to blame Calderon signings and never say anything bad about Perez signings) and it was shameful the amount of flak he got the whole second half of last season for one wasteful game against Lyon which suddenly made him ‘big game flop’ even though he rescued Real so many times and scored the goal that won them the Liga in a previous season, and ‘useless’ and ‘we should get a new striker’ and the like. And the flak actually made him get much less clinical on the pitch, which fuelled the dislike, and so on. He seems like such a nice guy, loyal to Madrid enough as in not mercenaries, more character than many of the others, and I was happy he missed the 5-0 cos that seemed to make people realize and appreciate him more. He’s a great player as well.

  13. Extreme barca fan
    January 17, 2011

    Good review Luke, thank you
    Now: Wow Wow Wow what a first half, one of our best this season so far, the 2nd goal is a work of art and a shining example of how team work should be, it had everything.
    Afellay played like we expect him and want him to play, he wasn’t stiff, moved a lot and made some good passes, i think he cooled down and from now on will start to enjoy the game being just simple.
    Also i expect a shorter recovery period for alves, he is that fit.
    The 2nd half puzzled me, was guardiola thinking of the betis game, and if so is he fielding our best 11??
    I would like to add my voice to that of many people here: DON’T BUY FABREGAS
    And finally EE drew,i didn’t watch the their game, but someone told me they weren’t great is that true???

    • ooga aga
      January 17, 2011

      not true. they were immense. trust me.

  14. culeZim
    January 17, 2011

    I think there ought to be a poll on the Fabregas matter.

  15. January 17, 2011

    I believe Villa is now the only second player in the history of La Liga to score at least 14 goals in 8 consecutive seasons. Congrats to him. He’s had adjustments to make but I think he’s getting more and more comfortable in the system.

    As Kari noted, his passing in particular is getting better. And that’s because he’s understanding how the other players around him move off the ball.

    Very impressive match yesterday. Yes the team did pull back a bit after going up 3-0 in the first half but by then the match was well over and it’s just impossible to try to play all out 90 minutes of every match, especially when you’re trying to win 3 competitions.

    The combination of Messi and Iniesta right now is just something to behold. Two guys with those kind of skills on the ball playing off each other in the same space is just a nightmare for the opposition. And that’s without even considering that both are supported by arguably the greatest pure passer in the history of the game.

    Watching the match for a second time yesterday all I could think about was the plight of the opposition manager. How in the world do you stop this machine? There are so many ways they can damage you.

    And it’s not like those players act on an individual brilliance. The problem here isn’t say a dominant number 9 who can receive long passes and still hold off 2-3 defenders like a Drogba. The problem isn’t a brilliant, classic 10 like even Zizou in his prime who creates everything for the rest of the squad.

    The problem with Barca is that there are just too many combinations to try to defend.

    And though it was brief, the problem for the opposition looks to potentially getting that much harder with the addition of Afellay.

    It was brief – but when he was inserted in midfield he took over much of the game for the 10 minutes he played. That position is one of the most demanding in the game given how much you handle the ball and direct play. And Afellay looked remarkably comfortable there.

    He looks to be blessed with outstanding touch. That’s arguably the most important quality any attacking player can have. But for Barca, a team that if forced to play in confined spaces all the time, it’s even more important.

    And not only was Afellay good on the ball – he was very good defensively as well. He made two great tackles to win back the ball high up the pitch and pressed very effectively.

    As good as his first through ball to Bojan was – the play where he starts the break at speed was even more impressive for the range of skill he demonstrated.

    One of the team’s few weaknesses coming into this season was depth at center midfield given Iniesta’s history of injuries and Xavi’s age/ accumulated minutes, particularly after the world cup. Iniesta now looks much more fit and solid. Xavi’s gotten over his achilles problem.

    And on top of that they’ve just added Afellay who has 7-8 years of experience running PSV’s one touch football attack and is seems to be very gifted in his own right.

    Think about it – Barca now have Mascherano and Afellay on the bench. Those are two world class level players on the bench.

    Barca can now play Masch, Afellay and Thiago in midfield if they wanted to as a second unit.

    That’s just ridiculous.

    • culeZim
      January 17, 2011

      And dont be forgettin Keita. He gives us more options against the more physical teams

    • Extreme barca fan
      January 17, 2011

      But Euler i think the 2nd half was more of conserving energy rather than anything else, because once malaga scored we got back to the blitz mode and ran them of the pitch.
      This way 2 early but i’m nominating my 3 finalists for the 2012 Fifa Ballon D’or, and they r messi, iniesta and ibrahimovich

        • Extreme barca fan
          January 17, 2011

          Yes soccer mom really he is almost single hand-idly carrying Milan this season

          • Eklavya
            January 17, 2011

            Yeah, he’s the best striker in Italy at the moment, no doubt.

          • soccermomof4
            January 17, 2011

            Sorry, but I can’t get over the “I can’t stand him” factor. You are better people than I.

            Which means: I can see your logic and I know you make sense, and I know he’s doing well but my little mind can’t wrap itself around a compliment for him right now. Most of the footballers I like have some degree of humility and are a little less derisive.

      • Benj
        January 18, 2011

        My prediction for the 3 finalists is Xavi, Iniesta and Messi……


        De Ja Vu?

  16. Jnice
    January 17, 2011

    I actually forgot about Keita when thinking about our midfield against Betis on Wednesday. I think it’ll definitely be Mascherano, Keita, and either Thiago or Afellay to start. That’s more than enough security.

    • Luke
      January 17, 2011

      I think Keita is gone after this year.

      • vicsoc
        January 17, 2011

        I’m going to disagree. If it was two years ago and Pep was in his first season as coach, and Keita was playing the number of minutes he is now, there is no doubt he would leave at the end of the season.

        Keita has a contract until 2014, so reasonably he will only leave if Pep decided he doesn’t count on him, or if Keita decides he wants to leave. I can’t see Pep wanting Keita to leave, as he is a great player to have on the bench. He is a hardworking player that gets out there and does his job well, and honestly he is the only player of his specific qualities we have on the team. Add in that he doesn’t seem to mind the more bench-centric role he has been playing this year…

        Meanwhile, Keita seems to be one of those players that Pep has collected. Sort of like Mourinho and Carvalho. That’s a cynical way to look at it, but it seems Keita buys into Pep’s way of doing things. He is getting old, and he may well like the atmosphere in the dressing room and his relationship with the coach enough to be willing to sit on the bench, provide his input when needed, and win trophies for a couple more years.

        Most signs do seem to point to him leaving though, I just have a feeling he will stay.

        • blitzen
          January 17, 2011

          I totally agree, vicsoc. I said this the other day as well. Pep values Keita very highly even if he can’t play him as much as he would like. He still has a lot to offer the team. As long as Keita is content to sit on the bench, I can’t see him leaving.

  17. Eklavya
    January 17, 2011

    I can’t say thay I’m sad about the Alves injury. This Adriano will get his reps and now’s the time to prove himself, like Maxwell did last season. I really think he has more to offer. He’s really fast and has a good shot from far. All he needs is reps.
    And then we have The Best Bench in the World.

    • vicsoc
      January 17, 2011

      I wish I was as optimistic as you are regarding Adriano. He just has never convinced me. Now Afellay on the other hand convinced me much faster than I thought he would – he may have bad games, but I know he has the necessary quality.

      • Eklavya
        January 17, 2011

        While he might not have a talent that really shows, let’s not forget that he’s 26 (25 when we bought him), so there’s still a good scope for improvment.
        If Maxwell could make it, I definitely think he can too.
        Infact, I think Alves should be subbed out more regularly during the end of matches. I believe that he plays much more than he should during the whole season and that’s why his season’s final quarters are always disasterous (see CL semis vs Chelsea and Inter).

        And Adriano has good crossing as well. I remember he was becoming a fan favorite in his first few matches at the start of the season because of his good showing.

        Reps, reps, reps.

  18. Josep
    January 17, 2011

    Of course Keita stays. You guys are forgetting the injury bug. What happens if Biscuits goes down for a while? Masch jumps in the lineup, and Keita becomes extremely important. Those names are all variables as well.

    It would be amazing to see a lineup of Biscuits, Keita, sMasch wouldn’t it? with Biscuits as the playmaker, hes shown he can do it.

    For the Betis match I’d love to see
    Adriano Milito Pique(still in that funk) Maxwell
    sMasch Thiago Keita
    Afellay Bojan P!!

    Muniesa? Dalmau? who can play LB?
    Rafinha 😀

    I haven’t watched the match yet :\

  19. Eklavya
    January 17, 2011

    Well I hope Pep doesn’t call up some first teamers and instead calls B-teamers.
    I want:

    Adriano – Milito – Fontas – Maxwell
    Thiago – Mascherano – Keita
    Pedro – Bojan – Afellay

    Messi on the bench (break glass in case of emergency) along with Puyol, Pique, Busi, Valdes.

    • soccermomof4
      January 17, 2011

      I like this, but do you really think that Messi will sit this one out (unless he still has a fever)?

      The first 30 minutes of this game were just too purdy for words. I kept on yelling, “did you see that, how did he do that, or that shouldn’t be possible.”

      I wish that Kxevin (no offense, Luke, loved the review) had done the review because I’m VERY curious to see the rating he would have given Villa!

      • OSBAG
        January 17, 2011

        You guys seem to be forgetting jeffren its definately bojan affellay jeffren. In front

  20. blitzen
    January 17, 2011

    Back to the game, I just wanted to point out how absolutely typical all the goals were.

    Two for Villa, from one-on-ones with the keeper, something he has always been very good at. He especially excels at those through-the-legs shots.

    A last-second mop-up from Pedro-on-the-spot, who has developed this uncanny ability to materialize at exactly the right place to catch a rebound. How many goals like this has he scored for us this year?

    And another golazo from Iniesta, who can control and shoot a bouncing ball with a single touch. Messi had a lot to do with this goal, as his forward run drew two defenders with him, leaving Dani acres of space to shoot into. And so typical–one second Iniesta appears to be just casually wandering around the midfield with no particular intention…but Dani knows just where to put the ball. Two steps forward, the ball bounces onto his foot, and BOOM!

    • Kari
      January 17, 2011

      Two for Villa, from one-on-ones with the keeper, something he has always been very good at.

      Not the early part of this season. Sorry, couldn’t help it 😛

      But yes, generally throughout his career, if Villa is 1v1 with the ‘keeper, I’d bank on him scoring it. He was a master at that with Valencia.

  21. vicsoc
    January 17, 2011

    “but Pedro did that crazy run arms swirling thing he does”

    It’s his secret whirling dervish move.

  22. January 17, 2011

    Off topic – but it does look like the knives are being sharpened, if not yet fully drawn, out in madrid.

    AS was extremely critical of mou mou today. And it wasn’t even just the draw and falling behind 4 points.

    Crujff in his weekly column criticized mourinho for not palying more youth players. Both AS and Marca wrote stories about Crujff’s column.

    AS also wrote a story about how mou has given 89% of the teams total minutes to only 14 players.

    This isn’t an accident. Mou keeps demanding new players and the implication of these pieces is pretty clear – you’re not even utilizing the players you have. It also points out how he hasn’t kept his promise to build the youth system as he said he would in the pre-season.

    Mourinho has elected to turn Benzema and the striker issue into a symbolic issue and in turn a power struggle between him and Valdano. Benzema may not be ideal for their system but they were much better yesterday with him on the pitch rather than C. Ronaldo in the center and Kaka on the wing.

    (BTW its ironic isn’t it – after all of the stories about how C. Ronaldo is “more complete” than Messi, Messi this season is demonstrating that he can dominate not only as a wing player but also as a central striker. C.Ronaldo continues to show that he is unable or unwilling to accept that role even when his team needs him to.

    I also think it’s ironic that for all the criticism Benzema gets at the personal level – it’s really a system issue. I could see him doing well at Barca.)

    AS and Marca don’t take their marching orders from Flo Flo. Last season Perez laid the foundation for firing Pellegrini through those papers. He’s clearly sending messages to Mourinho through them this season as well.

    • Extreme barca fan
      January 17, 2011

      Agree, i think benzema would be a hit in our system

    • vicsoc
      January 17, 2011

      It’s almost mind boggling how things work in the capital. You almost have to wonder when the Madrid fans will realize that it is the culture of the club cultivated by the Presidents that is the real problem?

      But then I think it might never happen with the way the Marca and AS attack the coaches. Then I also think the presidents must be partly fueled by the demands of the fans. It really is just a positive feedback loop of problems.

      I’d feel bad for any other club.

      • January 17, 2011

        You almost have to wonder when the Madrid fans will realize that it is the culture of the club cultivated by the Presidents that is the real problem?

        So true. And it’s funny – scoring goals is not RM problem. The striker depth is an issue for them but it’s not the make or break issue of their season. It’s a distraction at the magnitude it’s discussed there.

        They just aren’t a very defensively solid club. They play a broken system where the attacking players don’t defend and one of the holding players is a poor defender. And they aren’t that good at the back. There’s no way Mourinho can’t see that. But all the discussion is on a new striker.

        I almost get the sense that he’s setting this whole fake debate up as an excuse if they don’t win any trophies. He’s supposed to be the defensive, tactical genius and his team doesn’t defend particularly well.

        The focus yesterday for RM was about not scoring more. There’s a point there. But they never should have conceded either.

    • Kari
      January 17, 2011

      I feel a bit sorry for Benzema. He’s being used as a scapegoat in a childish power struggle between Valdano and Mourinho–he’s being so undermined, it’s sad.

      When he does well, it’s “see what did I tell you, we HAVE a 9” from Valdano’s corner, or like earlier in the season, “Mourinho is a genius; he’s resuscitated the dead!” from the EE papers.

      When he has a bad game, the “we need a nine! Look at ‘im, we can’t seriously win a title with this guy in the lineup” from Mourinho. Poor guy.

      But this is EE, so their implosion is amusing.

      –Let us remember the 07/08 season when we were in chaos at all levels as well. The conspiracies, rebellions, vote of confidence, guard of honor… Dark times, so let’s not forget how far we’ve come.

  23. Miguel
    January 17, 2011,17033,9405,00.html

    “After nearly two months of inactivity, the slumbering, blubbery beast that is Spain’s title race momentarily showed signs of life on Sunday night with an effulgent fart and a boisterous burp before rolling over to whack the snooze button and go back to sleep, perhaps to the end of the season if Barça’s astonishing form continues.”

    and i called the goal by dudu yesterday. ask my little sister. i also told her she’d have a crush on the justin bieber of barcelona, bojan.

  24. vicsoc
    January 17, 2011

    Another thing I learned from the Milito extravaganza: Pep’s clout is now huge. Think about it, Milito wanted to move because he wants to be certain he will play in the Copa America this summer. Pep basically said “Well, we want Milito to stay, and I understand he wants to play more, but I can’t promise anything.” The Argentina coach (I’m bad with names) said he would still play Milito even if he stayed at Barcelona and didn’t play many games. He values Pep’s training and work enough that he is willing to use one of Pep’s fringe players as a central part of his national team. That’s really amazing.

    It’s not the first example either. Mascherano being willing to move to Barcelona to be mostly a backup demonstrates Pep’s clout. The fact that PSV basically tapped themselves up to sell us Afellay also demonstrates Pep’s clout. I hope we see more of this in the future.

    • Kari
      January 17, 2011

      Good call, vicsoc. One of the things that annoyed me before and after El Clasico was how underrated a coach Pep is.

      When EE (or Inter or Chelsea) players have a good game, Mourinho is immediately praised. When we murdered them in El Clasico, the players were rightfully praised, but Pep was not given a single mention.

      The knock against Pep is that he can’t handle players with strong personalities, like Ibra and Eto’o. That may or may not be true (I’m firmly in the “may not” category), but he’s pulled off a masterclass after masterclass. Admittedly, Pep has even surprised me a couple of times as well, even with me knowing how good he is.

      But whatever, let people underrate him. We all know how much Pep has changed the club.

    • January 17, 2011

      Agreed. I was also struck by what Batista said and must have communicated to Gabi. Batista has said over and over that he wants the ARG NT to play like Barca. Perhaps he was saying that to get Messi’s support and in turn solidify his role as coach. But he has talked about it a great deal.

      It does seem very clear that Batista has a considerable amount of respect for Pep.

      Mascherano is Batista’s captain. Masch isn’t even playing much. Gabi is going to be a key defender for them given how bad they were at the back in the WC.

      Barca has a great deal of Batista’s future sitting on their bench. But Batista seems to think it’s not a major issue. They do poorly at the Copa and he very well could get fired.

      • vicsoc
        January 17, 2011

        Batista may think it is a worthwhile gamble to make, especially since it means Messi spends every day with Mascherano and Milito. Despite not playing that much, Mascherano is still playing well when he does play, I can’t see Batista being too worried about him. Milito is a slightly different story.

        However, I think Batista believes his best chance of success is to build a team that gets the best out of Messi (and he might be right). Having Milito and Mascherano playing everyday with Messi may be worth having them not get as many minutes.

        • Kari
          January 17, 2011

          What Argentina really need is Riquelme back, but I doubt that’ll happen.

          I was ecstatic when Batista was given the full job and not just an intern manager. He was behind their gold metal win and should have been given the job before Maradona, but we all know how inept the AFA is. Is there a competent FA anywhere in Europe?

          • Vj
            January 18, 2011

            I’ve been saying this all along.. No Riquelme, No win.. He’s their Xavi..

        • January 17, 2011

          Good thought. For his perspective, having those three players together in practice and perhaps more importantly, working in the same kind of system he wants to employ at the NT level, certainly has to have strong benefits.

          What Argentina really need is Riquelme back, but I doubt that’ll happen.

          That’s one way they could go. But I don’t think that’s going to fit with how Batista wants to play. Riquelme is too slow and deliberate. To get the best out of Messi you need someone who is going to be able to move the ball very quickly and make decisions very quickly.

          I think what Argentina needs to do is bite the bullet and play Pastore behind Messi full time and see where that goes.

          Messi, Higuain/Tevez, and Aguero up top with Pastore behind them. Masch and Cambiasso or Banega alongside.

          That’s a great squad.

          And that’s not even counting on what Eric Lamela might become by the next WC (the ones that get away from La Masia…)

          Their main problem in the near term future is their full backs.

          • outerspacedout
            January 17, 2011

            I was really impressed with Banega as a passing/defensive midfielder a la Schweinsteiger/Sahin/Alonso last season with Valencia. He should be a starter for Argentina imo if Riquelme doesn’t come back. Pastore as well.

            The closest I can see Argentina coming to our system in attack and midfield would be-

            Mascherano (DM)- Banega (Xavi position)- Pastore (Iniesta position, he seems to have the same knack of drifting around and floating over the pitch as Iniesta does, and is good with the final ball)

            Di Maria (Pedro position- he may be a diving prick but he is very hard working and seems to play extra well for Argentina)- Messi (Messi position, free role slash forward slash AM slash whatever)- Tevez/Aguero (Villa role- Higuain is injured and both of those players aren’t out and out centre-forwards).

  25. Diego
    January 17, 2011

    14 EE Players played 90% of the team’s matches. Mou doesn’t really believe in rotation or resting.

    I’d like to see Afellay, Thiago, Masch, Keita, Bojan, Jeffren and Fontas playing. Not Underestimating Betis, But they have to defeat us 5 without us scoring. Pep won’t probably do it.

    • soccermomof4
      January 17, 2011

      He probably would have tried that against us if he ever got to touch the ball.

  26. poipoi
    January 17, 2011

    Omg la cucharita de iniesta (iniesta’s spoon pass). that single pass is worth the ticket. And the goal, this is getting out of hand he is too good to be human. and getting better!
    BTW… do you see affelay more like a wingers or a mid, interior style. it’s gotta be the hardest to be the interior in barça and not look pale in comparison to ghostface 😛

    • Kari
      January 17, 2011

      not look pale in comparison to ghostface

      Oooooohhhhhh, I got that!!! Very clever, moc moc!

    • vicsoc
      January 17, 2011

      This is an interesting question. From the few matches he’s played so far, I get the impression he gravitates more towards the midfield. In his best match so far he was playing in the midfield, and he looked very comfortable there.

      However, if you look at the squad, we have a more pressing need for a forward/winger than for a midfielder. After Villa, Messi, and Pedro we have Bojan and Jeffren. I think Jeffren is going to find his way out of the club before long. So if Afellay could adapt to play in this position it would be very helpful to the squad.

      He is a great addition to the team, but if he can adapt to play as a winger in our system he would be an even greater asset. He strikes me as an intelligent player already, and I like that his head is always on a swivel.

      • January 17, 2011

        He hasn’t played much but I also noticed him drifting to the middle when he was inserted on the wing with Barca.

        Can’t say I remember him doing that for the Dutch NT which is where most of his experience on the wing comes from.

        My sense of that was that he still is completely new to the system and given his lack of familiarity may be drifting back to the space on the pitch where he’s most sure of himself.

        I think he’ll settle in on the wing with time. But it may take some time. At PSV he played in the middle and much of the attack ran through him.

      • poipoi
        January 17, 2011

        nop, not this time. it’s me and a friend we both have year tickets. I did a good action and left my ticket to my friend so he could go with his dad to watch the best team in history. he owes me one now, I want to go atleti de madrid with a “colchonero” friend of mine, when they come 😉

        • Batman
          January 18, 2011

          PoiPoi, you do a good action and lend me your year ticket for El Clasico next year, and i will owe you one, also – i could lend you my house by the lake for like 5 years. Do we have a deal?! 🙂

  27. January 17, 2011

    This season Iniesta is starting to remind me a bit of Zizou.

    I think he’s been that good – or at least close to that level.

    • Diego
      January 17, 2011

      Who’s that between Rafa and Thiago ?

      • Kari
        January 17, 2011

        Some Dutch dude. Don’t really know–maybe he’s a friend or some kind of comedian?

    • tutomate
      January 17, 2011

      Man, I wish I new arabic so i could read the comments.

      • Eklavya
        January 17, 2011

        Man, I also wish you new arabic so that you could right it and understand it hahahaha

      • Diego
        January 17, 2011

        The Video’s name (Look what this fan is doing)

        The Comments had some stuff like : (He’s probably the backup GK)

        (Better than Casillas)

        (Redbull gives you wings)

  28. Kari
    January 17, 2011

    Watching La Manita for the nth time, obviously I love ALL the goals and I can’t pick between them– 1st goal (The MIX combine), 2nd goal (Scored among choruses of “Ole!” with the best part being Marcelo fouling P!!, telling him to get up, which P!! does and subsequently outruns him to score), 3rd goal (MESSILLA!)…

    But the 4th goal is just awesome, the Messi pass (wipes off drool), and especially the Villa celebration. Looking at the emotion on his face… Man, you’d think he grew up in Barcelona and played here his whole life. Makes me smile 🙂

    –Re-watching Messi 4, Arsenal 1 later, (which I really need to get around to uploading), but Andy Gray and the other commentator (Richard Keys?) are such d*cks. I wish Kevin Keatings and the other guy who doesn’t like Dani Alves (Jnice knows who I’m talking about) or Gerry Armstrong as the color commentator would do our matches against Arsenal. Sigh/

    • Diego
      January 17, 2011

      One Thing in common between all our Expensive Purchases.

      They did the damage against EE. Even Hleb passed the ball to Henry who then gave it to Messi who the lobbed Casillas while injuring Cannavaro at the same time.

      • Kari
        January 17, 2011

        I’ll always have good memories of Titi. Some of the stick he got was (very) unfair, some of it was justified, but one thing that was undeniable was the way he carried himself throughout his sojourn here. Impeccable attitude. The Treble winning season was enough for me.

        1st and last season were meh (last season he really should have paid a season ticket), but the second season was incredible.

  29. January 17, 2011

    A few matters:

    –You’ll be seeing less of SoMa’s brilliance, as life (kids, seeking of advanced degrees, jobs, etc.) is reducing her role to contributor emeritus. That’s kinda what it always was, but rest assured that she isn’t gone, just reduced.

    –Villa. To answer SoMom4, based solely on my single viewing of the match (no replays, no slo-mo, no real analysis, which is the way most folks who do ratings watch ’em, right?), I would have rated Villa a 7. Was going to be an 8 but as Luke noted, he didn’t jump. Keepers set walls up based on the theory that people are going to jump. Get that hair gel mussed up, dude.

    It was his best match in the colors for me, by far. He scored a brace against EE, but wasn’t all that great aside from that. This match was very different. He is getting everything figured out, and the second goal was particularly well-taken, though you do wonder if Messi would have just curled it around Asenjo on the first touch.

    –In a previous post, I said that Keita, Milito and probably Maxwell will be gone this summer. Or maybe not. Whatever. I’m sticking to that, though with less certainty on the Keita front. As vicsoc points out, a consummate professional squad player such as he, who just keeps himself fit and plays when asked, is invaluable. But I also think that Busquets is going to have to get used to the idea of fewer minutes. Mascherano is too good to leave on the bench.

    Is Mascherano better than Busquets? Not in our system. The play for the second goal that Busquets made, Mascherano would never have made, mostly because he’s hardly ever that far up the pitch. But Guardiola is going to have to find more time for sMasch, not for ego’s sake, but because of what he brings to the side.

    –We should give Malaga some credit. If that first goal doesn’t come when it did, we’re probably in for a long, hard slog. They pressured, harassed and were physical without being chippy. The Malaga we saw wasn’t the same Malaga of the previous weeks in the Liga.

    The problem for them is just that we’re playing at such an extravagantly high level right now. If you look at all four goals, they were goals of the highest quality. Iniesta’s smack, the first for Villa (lovely finish, but the buildup), the amazing passes from Messi, the mop-up for Pedro!! that capitalized on some staggering football, and the Villa finale. All four were dazzling goals, against a parked bus, it must be noted.

    It was nice to see a team defend kind of like Inter did in the semis at our house, and to see us have an answer for it. That Iniesta blast was precisely the kind of pre-planned play that breaks buses, without a big, giant traditional 9. And think about this: Messi didn’t have one of his best matches, by his standard.

    –Damn, Afellay is pale. Not quite Ghostface, but there were times when I had to say “Oh, yeah. Iniesta doesn’t hold his arms out like that.” He’s also a stone-cold keeper, which is another reason that Keita is going to have to be very patient if he wants to stay.

    Expect Afellay to gravitate toward that left wing spot, giving Guardiola substitutional flexibility with both Messi and Villa. He comes in and Villa takes the point and Afellay the wing, or Villa comes out and nothing changes for Messi. And because he bossed that match in the midfield, it’s nice to know that we have so many options from one, 3m talent. He was owning folks for the Oranje on the left wing, with pace, slickness and passing/crossing, in a very Henryesque role.

    –I’m with Eklavya on Adriano. Give him the reps, and let’s see what we have. We can’t judge him yet any more than we could judge Mascherano on his first appearances, or Maxwell, etc.

  30. Lev
    January 17, 2011

    Wuuuuuuh for Afellay to become Henryesque he needs to start scoring a whole lot more goals, but yeah he is looking good for us. Keepy keepy. Like I said when we just bought him – it would be awesome if he and Ghostface could become a hybrid midfield / winger switching positions tormenting defenses…yeah i can see that.

    Speaking of whom he is really starting to add the Killer to his Ghostface, spanking in these shots from outside the box, isn’t he? good tings, good tings, if he continues like that it will bury any need for Fabregas, since the main thing that Cesc has which our midfielders sort of lack is scoring.

    Gotta hold my tongue though, cause I am still of the minority opinion that it would be awesome if he came home, but maybe not this summer and definitely not for Wengerish prices. Let’s wait and see how things turn out.

  31. Tom_Johnson
    January 17, 2011

    Amid another dominant display and the consequent lead increase, the Fabregas saga found its way into the spotlight. Like before, it doesn’t look like there is a shortage of opinions.

    There are two things of vital importance for this discussion.

    1. Pep wants him.

    The head coach himself. The one who has the superior information in regards to daily players’ routine and where this team wants to be in the future. He also happened to have an illustrious playing career at the position very similar to what Fabregas is playing on more often than not.

    The sporting director seems to share his opinion. The president is fond of Fabregas too and had made an effort, on more than one ocassion, to sign him. Although he might have some personal affection, he is clearly acting on instructions from technical staff.

    Bare in mind, these three are grown men of an (above)average intelligence and, as such, I am sure they are aware of the economic situation the club is in. They are also, most likely, aware that “our” roster includes Afellay and Thiago. A newcomer and a young yet-to-be-developed player of unquestionable talent.

    I believe there are no doubts about the competence of these three men in their respective fields of operation.

    2. Injuries

    Most of the readers here will remember that Iniesta was absent for quite some time last season. About a third or so.

    Without detailed information about the practices of the medical staff, team is assuming great risk in regards to injuries by maintaining the present roster.

    It might very well be that the forward line bares a larger portion of this risk. Like one of the contributors helpfully pointed out, we are one misstep/late tackle away from Bojan leading the attack. A quite scary prospect.

    But lets not discount the situation in midfield. The part of the team that is most important for the proper functioning of this style of play. Xavi’s age and achilles problem. Mascherano and Keita are wonderfull players but with limited passing ability. Busquets is a lot more creative but lacks experience playing closer to the goal.

    Having said that, I would like to expand a little bit on the relationship between the possible acquisitions and what the needs of this team might be.

    It was painfully obvious in the Semi-Final clash against Inter how much we missed Iniesta. Abidal’s availability was only partial. As a consequence, Keita started at left back. Arguably, the most important game of the season. The one we lost.

    Not so long ago, at the stage no smaller than the Champions League Final in Rome, the team started a midfielder (The Ivorian) at CB and had CB (Puyol) filling in at RB. Granted, Puyol had some familiarity with the position but his playing style (as opposed to what Alves is giving us at that position) had capped his level of contribution. The starting LB was seeing out the contract and was well into his thirties. The contribution he made up to that point in season was modest.

    Crippled, team got off to a bad start. Luckily, the goal came from the first serious action of the match and helped push the game into different direction. The one that allowed us not to pay the price for deficiencies.

    Notice the pattern here. Both matches were very important. Both came late in the season. Both where tough and largely open to the very end.

    Further more, it is no secret that “we” had struggled mightily against the EPL opposition. At home, the team was often unable to break “the bus”. Away, “we” would compound this by getting “pushed around”. Out of rhythm and allowing too many scoring opportunities to the opponent. It needs to be said, it took a lot of “luck” and mistakes made by the official to advance past Chelsea. A year earlier, albeit under different leadership, the team was painfully futile against Manutd.

    Notice the pattern here too. Two-legged ties, late in the season, defensive minded EPL opponent, away return leg, team had struggled to score. That is 1 goal (and what an extraordinary event that was) in 4 games. “Only” 2 goals in 2 games against Inter last year.

    In the said two-legged ties, team failed to qualify 2/3 times. The lone time “we” made the progress, it took an extraordinary set of events to go “our” way.

    What am I trying to say here is that these kind of games are where the real need is laying with. These are the kind of games where the team needs to evolve and become more competitive. An addition in terms of both depth and additional set of skills is required.

    a. The case can be made for how much different is what Fabregas would bring to the team in comparison to what we have at the moment.

    b. It can also be argued that the more physical presence up front is what would be more beneficiary to our efforts of “breaking the bus”.

    c. An equally important question is do we want to go into the aforementioned clashes with the likes of the players with limited experience of a newcomer Afellay and yet-to-be-developed Thiago. Or are “we” going to go into the battle with someone who has the quality and level of experience very close to Xavi’s and Iniesta’s.

    As always, just because Pep would like to make a specific addition, it doesn’t mean the player will be available. Available to “us” (in particular) and at the price “we” are willing to pay.

    As always, there is an opportunity cost of not making an addition at all or making one at a different position (mid-field vs forward). Pending the way injuries and suspensions occur, this cost might prove to be high.

    Speaking of Fabregas in particular, there are few other details to consider:

    – I would be very surprised if Fabregas doesn’t understand that he would be giving up a starting role at Arsenal for less playing time at Barcelona during the first season (or two). His admiration for Pep, the virtual guarantee of winning a trophy every year, and yes, climate/food/culture aspect of the story should be enough
    to compensate for somewhat smaller playing time. If needed, the Captain of the Argentine National Team is sure to offer an advice, or two, on the matter.

    – It is hard to attach a tangible value when it comes to emotions. It is no coincidence that Sandrusco and El Presi were pushing so hard to get Fabregas.
    Inspite of general consent on the lack of need at the position and the “balooning debt”, they had made an effort over and over again.
    To a foreign observer, this pursuit might look unecessary. But lets not discount the feellings of the Catalan people for yet another young homegrown player.

    – Some here noticed how Masherano seems to either improved his passing skills or they were “flying under radar” in the EPL.
    Couldn’t the same thing be said for Fabregas?
    Could he be a better player than some of you think of him and the EPL is, at the moment, limiting how much of his talent he can show off?

    – All this talk about acquiring Fabregas might do as good regardless of the final outcome. When “we” appear to be a not so desperate shopper, the asking price tends to be smaller

    The cost of acquiring Fabregas would consist of a transfer fee and his salary. While the salary is most likely to be in the Mascherano/Busquets/Villa range, the fee is yet to be determined. I do see that some readers here had upped the stakes to $50M from $40M just a week or so ago. But the truth is that the fee is unknown at the moment.

    Thus leaving a big question over the cost/benefit analysis.

    • momo
      January 17, 2011

      Good point about Pep’s public support for the fabregas chase. IMO we don’t need him now, although as someone here said “a season is changed with one mistep or hard tackle”. Meaning depth is a necessity, an with Xavi’s ankle and iniesta’s fragility, we might need to cash in.
      Question though, is Fab capable of playing defensive mid? My understanding is that Xavi, iniesta, and Fab can all play there.

      • ooga aga
        January 17, 2011

        i think he certainly can. i think he was groomed as a #4 in the cantera, and being the next Pep was his aspiration. I think he has become more of an offensive threat under Wenger. but again, he grew up as a #4.

    • January 17, 2011

      My fundamental issue with the Fabregas acquisition is price. At 20m, why not? At 50m, it’s madness. A number of things would have to happen for that price to come down:

      1. Wenger would have to lose his mind (He knows what he has, and that we want it.)

      2. The player would have to make life so difficult that keeping him is impossible (If Fabregas were going to do that, he would have done so last summer.)

      3. We would throw in a player to bring the price down.

      4. Um, I can’t think of a number 4.

      You’re right in that the best time to buy a player is when you don’t need him. Problem is that RoSELL still has Laportaitis, and is bound and determined to do what Laporta couldn’t. I also think that he soils himself in contemplation of an all-Masia starting XI. The acquisition of Fabregas would be huge in making that dream a reality.

      Right now, Arsenal is paying Fabregas somewhere around 6m per season. He will want a bump, probably to somewhere in the 7m per range, more if he can get it. Another big salary in the days of FIFA-induced belt tightening? Sure, if the crazy rumors are true that Fabregas is to be our last “big” signing because of the FIFA fiscal fair play rules.

      But 50m is still too much, and Wenger doesn’t have to sell, because he has another 4 seasons on his contract. Would Fabregas, vexed that he wasn’t sold, stay out his term and then leave on a free? He doesn’t seem to want to risk the rage of the fans, or he would have done so this past summer window, when he was really the man. Did he watch Afellay’s performance against Malaga and think “Uh, oh.” Who knows? But he is chicken (perhaps fond of hedging his bets is a better term). And Wenger knows it, so expect him to hold his player hostage for what he considers a “fair” valuation. Yes, “fair” is subjective.

      I don’t doubt his talent. I only doubt his value. For that kind of money we’re going to be forced to pay, I’m expecting someone to walk right into the starting lineup because their quality is unquestioned, or the talent is such that the lineup gets rejiggered to include him.

      Is Xavi worse off than we know, and he only has one more season in his legs? Maybe. Clubs get good at that sort of thing. But there’s still the Afellay/Thiago question. Afellay is easier to resolve, with his status as potential winger. And Thiago has a long learning period under his belt, one that would be the case irrespective of whether it’s Xaviniesta or Fabriniesta.

      My sole issue is with the price. Of his talent, there is no issue. His arrival might be an expensive planning for a future that we potentially already have planned out.

      This summer is going to be crazy!

      • momo
        January 17, 2011

        @Kxevin Not to mention he’s very injury prone. Not sure if it has to do with the “physicality” of the premier league but he sure seems to be out often and usually in important parts of the season for Arsenal.

        In terms of Ibi, I think there is a danger that we may be giving him more appreciation than he deserves. I mean he is obviously a quality player having been captain of PSV, but let’s not jump to conclusions and say he’s Fabregas replacement quality.

        Good point about Xavi’s situation with the injury which could very well be worse than we think (crossing my fingers it isn’t), and that may be why Pep is so behind this.

      • Tom_Johnson
        January 17, 2011

        “My fundamental issue with the Fabregas acquisition is price”

        I understand. The way I see it, there are two components there:

        a. A fair market price and a potential premium (affected by the forces of supply and demand) for a good of certain, in this particular case high, quality

        b. Amount paid to satisfy perceived “need” (necessity vs luxury)

        What most of us here are having different opinion about is how big that need is. How much weight to assign to it and how high the opportunity cost is most likely to be.

        In one of my previous posts I had expressed the ways to offset the potentially high transfer fee. Very much like you, I think player himself would need to actively participate (insistence on transfer and lower salary demand) and “we” would have to sweeten the pot. Once again, the Captain of the Argentine National Team would be a good example for Fabregas to follow.

        It was my understanding that Fabregas is under contract until 2013, no?

        I have no direct knowledge about Cesc’s character or the nature of his relationship with Wenger. There is no telling how hard he is ready to pursue this. The analysis is a bit crippled in that regard.

        I am glad that there are no doubts about his talent. Fabregas would bring great “killer” pass, above average long-range shooting and great familiarity with EPL (our greatest foe). A feat few players on the present roster posses.

        He would not bring athleticism (speed, height) or exceptional left foot.

        What had disappeared from my previous post while pasting it together was how lucky (for the lack of better word) this team was when it comes to injuries. Comparing to other teams of similar stature and roster composition, very lucky.

        Some of the examples would be Bayern’s foes with Robben and Riberi, Rooney’s fall and subsequent absence, injuries to players likeLampard, Kaka and most recently Higuain. That could have easily happened to Villa or Xavi. The wear and tear on those players is similar.

        “We” did get hit with Iniesta last year but other than that was well above average. Especially considering strain players are exposed to in “our” system and roster size.

        • January 17, 2011

          But I think that, into the third major injury-free season of the Guardiola regime, it’s time to start attributing that quality less to luck and more to the active role that he and the physios take.

          When he presented his manifesto, so to speak, for taking over the club, one of the top points was that he would revamp the team’s physios and medical approach from passive (“Uh, oh, he’s hurt. Now what?”) to active (“He’s been hurt here before, let’s try to fix that area and use preventive tactics.”).

          Their approach goes right down to player-specific diets and exercises.

          The other thing that Fabregas would bring to the club is instant comfort. He knows and likes the players, they know and like him. Sometimes, the acclimation process can be greatly enhanced when that is in place.

          But as I said, my only issue is price.

          • Tom_Johnson
            January 17, 2011

            Credit to medical staff for being proactive and to players for taking care of their bodies.

            That is, unfortunately, only half of the story.

            The other half, the one “we” can do little to control, is hard and malicious tackling. Exibits A and B, Ujfalusi/Ramos vs Messi. The kind of tackling that is only going to escalate the more trophies and “manitas” this team achieves.

    • barca96
      January 17, 2011

      Love your post and agreed with everything you said.
      If his price wasn’t so high, I’m sure many people would welcome him with open arms.
      There are a few things that you forgot to add though;
      -Cesc would add at least 5+ goals per season from midfield.
      -Reuniting him with Pique & Messi = happy locker room

      I remember before, EPL fans used to claim that Cesc was a better player than Iniesta because Cesc scores more. Lame reason but I wonder what they would be saying now hehe.

      • barca96
        January 17, 2011

        Was replying to Tom. I’m very slow in typing.

      • Tom_Johnson
        January 17, 2011

        Thank you for your kind words.

        I very much agree on Fabregas’ scoring ability. The better productivity in terms of goals from mid-field players (the better long-range shooting in general) is one of the things this team is lacking at the moment. Another tool “we” can use to help us “break the bus”.

        An upgrade in this area would cause the defenders to honor the shot and step out of their defensive shell more often. Thus, creating space for us to exploit.

        If not, there is always a possibility that goalkeeper would spill the ball or it would hit one of the players and change the direction on its way to the goal. Creating a goal scoring opportunity in process.

        The fact that Fabregas wouldn’t have to spend extra time on “settling in” and adjusting to teammates is certainly a plus.

        • January 17, 2011

          Yep. As I noted above, Iniesta’s shot from distance, set up perfectly by an Alves pass, is a bus-breaking tactic that doens’t need that traditional 9. Another Afellay attribute as well, by the by. Adriano, as an Alves sub, will also bring that to the table. And it’s also gift that Thiago has.


  32. barca96
    January 17, 2011

    This Henry is being such a kiss-ass.
    Now that he is training at Arsenal, he’s claiming that Arsenal can beat us.
    And on top of that, he is advising Cesc to stay at Arsenal. Sour grapes!

    • Ryan
      January 17, 2011

      That last bit is a good thing though! We don’t need him.

    • January 17, 2011

      In defense of Henry, he says that if any team could beat us, it would be Arsenal. And he’s right in that regard. They have the wing pace, the passing skills and the scorers. No harm there. He didn’t say that they would, however. And here are his quotes regarding the Fabregas transfer:

      “I would tell him not to listen to anyone. He is an amazing player, talisman and club captain. (True. The player should make his own decisions. Again, all true, right?)

      “If Arsenal go on to win the title, they will say he had an amazing season,” continued the Frenchman. (Again, true.)

      “Cesc is from Spain, but as an Arsenal fan I want him to stay at Arsenal. Right now you can see his commitment playing for the club.” (True. And note the “as an Arsenal fan, I want him to,” which is different than advising him to stay, all of which has been prefaced by him telling Fabregas to keep his own counsel. And it’s true, you can see his commitment is playing for the club. This is a good thing.)

      So I don’t see anything wrong with Henry’s comments. We in this space have been up in arms about comments by our players that have been misinterpreted by others. I’d caution against that same thing.

      • Eduard
        January 17, 2011

        I agree.. I saw his entire interview and it was 100% proffesional.

        • Lev
          January 17, 2011

          . don’t think anything is wrong with his comments either. besides henry doesn’t need to kiss-ass over there, he is a gunner all the way.
          i personally dislike the guy ever since his whining after losing the CL final…his attitude after handling Ireland also didn’t sit well with me. Will admit he had a great 2nd season for us, though.

        • barca96
          January 18, 2011

          The reason he is saying those things I believe is that because he is right there training with them everyday.
          He would be saying the opposite if he was with us.

          I know he loves Arsenal more than us(he is their legend) but he kinda let’s his love for Arsenal get in the way.

  33. vicsoc
    January 18, 2011

    My issue with buying Cesc is that the team has more pressing needs that it should be attending to.

    If Milito leaves next summer, we will have three center backs, one of whom is our starting left back. Are we going to bring in someone young for the long term? Can we promote a youth player as well?

    If Alves doesn’t renew replacing him is going to be our most pressing need, and most difficult to accomplish.

    Despite all of our big striker signings in recent years, we are really still could use another player up front, as Jeffren is struggling.

    Honestly, the signing of Fabregas is the last transfer I think about. Our midfield actually looks fairly strong in depth all of the sudden, while other areas of the squad seem a bit thin.

    • barca96
      January 18, 2011

      You’re right. We really need a quality back-up striker. Bojan just won’t do.

      I honestly don’t think we could cope with a big injury to one of our strikers or defenders. In CL that is.
      An injury to either Messi/Villa/Pedro and we are done.
      We all know that Iniesta isn’t effective on the wings.

      Or an injury to Puyol in the worst case scenario. Pique can’t lead especially now in his funkiness. Abidal is 2x the player he was at CB than he was last season but Puyol is immense to us.

      • culeZim
        January 18, 2011

        Are we really trying to sign Alexis Sanchez? He could come in as backup to Pedro/Villa, but I saw the story on so it is probably false.

    • Tom_Johnson
      January 18, 2011

      “My issue with buying Cesc is that the team has more pressing needs that it should be attending to.”

      Are you suggesting that the two are mutually exclusive? I haven’t gotten such an impression from the management’s behavior. More so knowing how many players are deemed as surplus and are on loan at the moment looking for potential suitors.

      While Pedro and Abidal are sort of overachieving and Mascherano took less time than expected to settle in, Bojan and Jeffren are underachieving. The Cosmic Justice some would say.

      It makes people wonder how wise was the decision to go with such a short roster.

  34. barca96
    January 18, 2011

    How Yaya & Adebayor are paid so much is really a no-brainer.

    Regarding Benzema, I never wanted him in the 1st place. I was so opposed to Laporta in signing him or Ibra in spring/summer 2009. I really don’t see the quality in Benzema.

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