Barca 3, Racing Santander 0, aka “Betis? What happened there? We were sleeping.”

Look ma, no hands!

So it was about 947 kinds of awesome how we lost our first match in 28 of ’em, a meaningless impossibility against Betis, and everyone started wondering about our invincibility, do we secretly suck, etc, etc. And in rolled Racing Santander, a side who our own Guardiolus gave full-time credit to, saying they play like Betis, only they’re actually in the Primera, so we’re as worried as a long-tailed cat at an ax convention about these dudes. Really. Fo’ sho’. Aieeee!

And it took about 90 seconds minutes for the club to put those worries to bed, which was about the time it took for the Messi/Villa/Pedro!! combo platter to gut the Racing defense and bang in a goal that (yes, it did) had just a sniff of offside to it.

From that goal, the match was ovah, done and put to bed, because Racing were doing the usual: defending in depth, playing turtle and hoping to cadge something on a counterattack, but that wasn’t going to happen now, was it? So it didn’t, and we won even after cutting back to about 3/4 speed by halftime.

As much as I like to natter on, there really isn’t a whole lot to say about this match. It isn’t that winning is becoming routine. I, and hopefully you all as well, enjoy every second of watching this amazing side create beauty on a football pitch. They do it at high speed, they do it at low speed. They get from end to end with 4 passes, or 24 passes. Sometimes goals are scored, other times just “Oooooh!” moments that you wish were goals, so that you could relive them for eternity on YouTube. And this doesn’t even get into the moments of individual brilliance, through balls, passes, episodes of control that make you marvel. Of this, my favorites in recent memory came from Xavi, who rode challenges from two different Racing defenders to spin, keep the ball and continue on and Iniesta, who at about 65 minutes into this match, just destroys a cadre of Racing defenders with control so sublime, the mind boggles.

The lineup was a serious one, as Guardiolus chose Valdes, Adriano, Puyol, Abidal, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro!!, Messi and Villa. The objective was to take nothing for granted, while honoring the pace-y counters of Racing by having Abidal in the center of the pitch, where he can bail out everybody and their mamas, which he proceeded to do.

So let’s marvel at some goals, shall we?

1. Messi dribbles, makes a little run and slides a pass to Villa who feeds it back to Messi, who lobs a perfect pass for the chest of Pedro!!. Pretty simple, right? Then you look, and realize that there are 9 Racing defenders plus their keeper in the box. So the passes that happened had to do so at a full run, and perfectly, because any time spent controlling the ball would have a defender on top of you, or in the way. So as with a practice pitch dare, that’s what happened. Messi runs, lays the ball to Villa whose return pass is in the exact spot that it needs to be for Messi to continue his dart to the end line, and scoop the ball with a running motion, toward P!!.

2. For those who might forget, we have a defender on loan to Racing Santander. Some refer to him as Henrique. To me, he’s Gone Adriano, because we have Here Adriano, playing at right back. So G.A. recently said that he has progressed to a point where he is ready to compete for a spot in the side. And that may well be, but he’ll have to do it naked, since David Villa undressed him with a series of moves that culminated in a “now you see it, now you don’t” ball drag that found Henrique tripping Villa in the box, and earning a penalty kick that Messi promptly converted. And admit it, after the Betis blowup, you were a little worried, weren’t you? Not to be. He even planned on scoring, using a traning top that would cost us mere mortals some EUR40-50, to say hi to Mommy.

3. Yet another goal in which Villa was involved (yes, that’s all three of ’em), as he darts up the left, slides a pass to P!!, who does the only thing that he possibly could to get the ball there with a minimum of stress, a delicate backheel to Iniesta, who spanked a shot that took a deflection past the keeper. What made this goal so lovely was not only the speed of the attack, but the fact that we such a direct team. You don’t often think of back heels as being direct, but if it’s the most effective passing option, we take it and deal with the showboating accusations later. Only they rarely come, because everything makes sense as it has to happen at speed.

But our defense had to show up as well, and so it did. Adriano was continuing his stand-in role for the injured Dani Alves by ladling on a cauldron full of frustration. But no matter what happened or where it happened, our French Greyhound was on the case. He bailed out Puyol, he bailed out Adriano. He intercepted balls, took long passes on his chest, pillowing the ball to his feet where he calmly played it to safety. And he leapt.

The club throttled back, for the obvious reason that Racing, at 0-2 down, were playing as if they were protecting a similar lead. It isn’t even that teams want to keep us from scoring these days. They seem to want to keep it from being embarrassing.

And to be fully fair to Racing Santander, they played hard, working like dogs at trying to control Xavi in an effort to keep him from picking their side apart. They were reasonably effective at this, which freed up Iniesta to destroy with through balls, movement and pinpoint passing. When they decided to keep Ghostface from killing them, Xavi took over and the machine continued.

Do I think that this team is unplayable? No. Teams have done it this season, most recently Bilbao. But you have to resolve to not score anything, committing everyone to the defensive task, to keep us out. And still, it rarely works. So now what? Good question. Ratings, for one thing:

Team: 7. Mostly powerful and convincing, with some moments of weakness that allowed Racing more possession than we usually allow teams, almost as if they weren’t taking this one as seriously. But when the motor was running, it was beautiful.

Guardiola: 9. This would have been a 10, but you forgot how many subs you’d made? Come on. Really? Getting the side ready to play after a loss seemed to be an easy notion, because the players were hungry. But keeping from trying too hard, getting too tight and making the right subs, you had to do.

Valdes: 8. Brilliant in his role as sweeper keeper, including bolting out of his box to keep what could have been dangerous balls from becoming nothing more than a passing exercise. And quite the amazing reflex save off Adrian’s header. The only thing keeping him from perfection is that he didn’t have much to do.

Adriano: 3. Not as bad as the Betis match, but note that the right side of our offense has ceased to be a place of productivity. Static and in the wrong spot, with absurd shots and the wrong shot when right on the doorstep. I know he isn’t Alves, but at least be the best Adriano he can be.

Puyol: 5. Solid, but beaten like a drum for pace on more than a few occasions. He usually solves this with superior positioning, but that wasn’t happening today.

Abidal: 8. Ye gods, what a match. Took a gamble on the steal of a Racing pass that didn’t pan out, and put the side in danger. Aside from that, he was in monster mode, making the continuing argument for a slide into the center, once his wing pace diminishes.

Maxwell: 5. Better, but still not convincing. I like his positional sense, and he was more involved in the offense today. But for too much of the time today, he played like a newcomer to the side, tentative and uncertain.

Busquets: 6. Good match overall that featured some distressing, “Bad Busi” moments that gifted Racing possession in the wrong end of the pitch, namely our end. But so strong defensively, coupled with that wondrous sense of where the ball is about to be.

Xavi: 7. Despite some uncharacteristic looseness, and stopping play in expectation of fouls that never came, a fine match from our metronome. He didn’t dominate the midfield, but he did with his mere presence. And whenever he slipped his shackles, it was to devastating effect.

Iniesta: 9. A healthy, fully functional Iniesta is an absolute marvel. This is his second goal off a shot from distance, again off a ball rolled across the box to take advantage of a packed-back defense. The force field is down.

Pedro!!: 7. As involved as he has been in the fluidity and creativity of the offense, rather than taking full advantage of the end result of that offense. And suddenly it’s more more attacker who is immensely dangerous, as capable of making a perfect pass as shooting for goal.

Messi: 6. Man, he lost a lot of balls today, and created a lot of brilliance, and evinced quite a bit of selfishness as he seems to get focused on scoring goals. And he wasn’t always his usual leonine self when it came to getting it back. It’s most obvious when Messi throttles back.

Villa: 5. Yes, he was involved in all three goals, but his moments of bad control, not making runs or the wrong run, frustrated. It was a one step forward, two steps back kind of day for Villa.


Pique (for Puyol): 8. Easily his best performance in some time. Simply put, he owned. Any ball that came near him, he stole. Any long pass that floated his way, he headed away. Where has this dude been all season?

Keita (for Xavi): 8. Brilliant, and with more time would have played to higher rating. This is exactly the use for Keita, human backboard to reset offenses, anticipator who understands where the ball is going to be, and security blanket for Busquets.

Krkic (for Pedro!!): incomplete. Thankfully, this appearance was brief. In but a few minutes, he was horrible. Bad movement, loose control, he was where good attacks went to die. Guardiola said that if Krkic’s teammates had gotten him the ball during his last outing, he would have had three goals. So they got him the ball today, and he either turned the wrong way, stumbled over it or got fouled. Awful.

The busy period continues, folks, with a midweek Copa encounter with Almeria, then the return match away against Hercules, a date that is guaranteed to be circled in red on everyone’s calendar. And until then, how about a midget high five?

Claudio Chaves/El Mundo Deportivo

By Kxevin

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


  1. You did a better job than I. Mine was shoot from the hip. I’m a little worried about this Messi isn’t happy unless he’s scoring thing. Too much pressure trying to keep up w/ CR????

  2. I’ll quickly reiterate, as I see you just posted your review.
    Noticed that Villa seemed to have had extra practice time with Messi this week in training. You could see from their positioning that they had mapped out a plan. Messi would hang out near the wing by Villa, make a quick pass to Villa, who would then make a pass into the box into open space where Messi was running into. It gave Villa the opportunity not to “over think” the play and position himself where he could quickly tap it to a Messi. Unfortunately, the rest of the time, Villa had a very poor first touch on the ball. It’s almost as if he masters one skill and he forgets the other.
    Agreed Bojan was/is awful. He has one move and that is to wait as the last forward and then have a footrace with the defender. Usually, he gets knocked off the ball but if he happens to get through he takes a selfish shot no matter who else is open. The longer he plays poorly, the more selfish he gets and it just snowballs.

    1. Maybe the pressure is getting the best of Bojan. Then again, I do think that a bad game happens to everyone. Krkic had one bad game (and when it was already solved). It happens.

  3. This team’s capacity to not only win – but to thrive against teams that play try to defend is numbers is really extraordinary.

    Teams have often played Barca in this fashion in the past. But that strategy is meeting less success this season.

    Even last season – when the team was just tremendous – they seemed to struggle more against teams that defended in numbers. They could at least be contained and somewhat frustrated.

    This season – it’s just amazing. They really should not be able to score all of these goals against the density of defenders that crowd the box.

    But the off the ball movement, controlled passing through numbers all across the pitch, and brilliant touch are just something to behold.

    This week Pep had a terrific quote. He called Iniesta the “transfer of the season.” And by that he meant that because Iniesta was injured for so much last season it was as if the team this season was adding him as a new addition.

    Iniesta has simply been astonishing this season. Not only is he back as an integral cog for the team, he’s grown as a player. Given his outrageous talent with the ball there was never a reason for him to not be a better scorer. And now we’re seeing it.

    In particular, we’re seeing him expand the scope of the team’s attack with his shot from distance.

    Iniesta may have the best touch in the world. His dribbling, ball control and passing are phenomenal. And now he’s added that shot.

    His presence and improvement are an enormous reason for why this team has become more successful playing against teams that defend deep and in numbers.

    1. Iniesta’s first touch is instant control.
      A marvel to see, and an impossible task for defenders to stop.
      I mean you are basing defending , especially when the ball is up in the air or simply not yet having reached the intended target, on the idea that the player will take some moments of him controlling it and that it will actually be a challenge.
      Not the case with iniesta.
      He seems to be first touching/controlling/dribbling at the same first move that he makes.

  4. I love that picture of Abidal! It looks like the Racing players have their arms raised in prayer!

    A healthy, fully functional Iniesta is an absolute marvel. This is his second goal off a shot from distance, again off a ball rolled across the box to take advantage of a packed-back defense.

    This is what a healthy Iniesta looks like, people! Get used to it. We are SO not worthy! But I think you mean third distance goal, not second, have you forgotten the goal he scored against Racing in September?

    I think you are a bit harsh on Villa (again). He stayed onside, he made beautiful passes, he assisted 2 goals and forced a foul for the PK. He is never going to have the ball control of Iniesta or Xavi, deal with it. He has other skills, and he used them very well in this game.

    And in Puyol’s defense, apparently his knee was bothering him. He still did pretty well. Glad Pique had a good showing for a change!

    And Kxevin, I hope you saw that quote from Pep about Keita being untouchable as long as he is in charge! Selling him this summer, indeed, tut tut! 😛

    1. I do agree on that, I think that a 5 is being harsh on Villa. I mean, sure, he wasn’t the best and he def needs to improve his ball control… but he’s getting more involved in build-up play and understanding the system… just because he didn’t score doesn’t mean that he was that bad. A 7 or well… maybe a 6… might be more appropriate.

    2. When you don’t like the person even before he came, it’s easy to find faults or deficiencies in that person( Villa being the case here).

  5. I also wanted to comment on Abidal. He was just great again today.

    Barca’s high backline is a requirement for the team to play their system. They can’t do without it. But it’s a calculated risk of course because it’s an area that the opposition can exploit.

    Having a player with outstanding pace at the back, particularly at CB, is a great advantage for Barca. That pace makes them more secure at the back with the FB pushing up so high and the CB playing that high line.

    Abidal’s tactical solidity and pace have thwarted so many risk opportunities the opposition have had and corrected for mistakes other defenders have made.

    For me, Abidal has been the best defender in La Liga this season. He won’t get recognized at nearly that level. But he’s been the best. He’s playing at a world class level.

  6. I have to disagree with Adriano’s rating here, I thought he did Way better than the Betis match, and he’s not as attack minded as Alves, so cannot hold that against him, maybe against Guardiola for ‘making him’ do it. I thought he was covering his defense much better, that goal he missed Alves would’ve too, so I think to be fair to Adriano and with the lack of minutes he’s had, he’s improving with each game AND he’s getting the job done so at least a 5 for him instead for the awful shots sure. I think if Adriano got more playing time, got more used to Messi’s use of those Alves runs, then we’d all want to keep Adriano and send Alves away and get a ridiculous amount of money from Citeh or some other rich ol’ team. Upset no Afellay today, could’ve used the playing time since Bojan is just a waste of them, fine don’t score goals kid but control a ball, playing at Barça should at least require that.

    1. I think if Adriano got more playing time, got more used to Messi’s use of those Alves runs, then we’d all want to keep Adriano and send Alves away

      There is no world in which this could possibly be true.

  7. Something Xavi’s mom says in that 550 special:

    A boy who was 24 at the time was being considered a cancer at Barça like he was—

    Can anyone shed some light on this? I wasn’t following Barca at the time, so I don’t know what the issue with Xavi was. In the special his father talks about “factions” at the club, and I assume Xavi became a symbol of some kind, but I don’t really know the background.

    1. maybe theyre referring to the situation at that time , with xavi feeling disjointed about the comparisons with guardiola , the shared playing time he had with him , and the fact that milan offered some serious bucks for him while the club was not in a healthy financial position.

  8. Iniesta had great control and everything… was pretty eye catching.. but never did he play a nine.. for that u need to have something more to show than a few moves with great endings and couple of goals.. and Xavi.. 7 ?? Too high.. Agree with the rest though.. does anybody feel we are playing too relaxed footie…

    1. Not sure I understand Mani. if neither Xavi nor Iniesta played well how did we come to dominate the game ? Who in your opinion made the difference?

      If either of them is missing we see a huge difference in the team performance, imo.

    2. The whole team played as one.. i didn’t feel anyone stood out in the match except for Abidal. Everyone pressed well and that’s what Barca are known for.. Iniesta had a few good touches, but nothing that made him a 9. For an attacking mid fielder to be a 9 i expect goals.. and assists.. not just a goal..and few flashes to wow football… that’s just my opinion though..

  9. Figo’s recent comments are really disturbing. He is acting as if he was never part of the club.

    1. He’s bitter because he left and now he has no “legacy” at a club which doesn’t win any titles as of late. He has to find a way to get into the ‘scene’ because he’s irrelevant.

  10. thanks for the review kxevin
    However how could the first goal have a “sniff of an offside”?
    Wasnt it a parallel pass?

  11. Just got to know there where two new posts (i was still hanging on the last one ). I agree with all of the ratings except for villa. Dude had a hand in all goals that already earned him MOTM. Yeah he misplaced some balls but his performance was belo average. It seems kxevin marks villa over 7 and not 10.
    Kxevin, u wrote 90mins for the first goal instead of 90 seconds.
    can’t wait for saturday. Match against hercules would be tough?

    1. Forgot to mention this review was quite early- good-
      malloca drew us at home and EE at theirs, can laudrup pls repeat that today

  12. i was watching Manyoo play. there was a long ball frm the keeper to Rooney and he brought it down decently. I was thinking ‘Iniesta or Alves would have done better’ but the Sky guys felt it was impossibly good and they kept replaying it. Someone should get those guys to watch a reall football match just once!

    1. Hahaha please find a youtube video of it.
      I don’t watch EPL and not bothered to watch the repeat of that match just to watch that 2 second piece of magic(supposedly).

    1. Food for though, Lev. Put Iniesta (or Messi for that matter) in the stands of Camp Nou seated amongst 99,000 other adults. Take the average American sports fan (a Steeler’s fan perhaps :-D) and tell him, “go ahead, pick out the world-class athlete.” Chances are that Iniesta or Messi would be among the last people picked. I like that bit of irony about our team.

  13. “A healthy, fully functional Iniesta is an absolute marvel.”

    Wrong: A healthy, fully functional Iniesta is a weapon of mass football destruction, a fully operational footie deathstar.

  14. Muhahahaha! The force field is down!!! Beware! 🙂
    BTW… how many balls did p! recover, he pressures more than etoo. This team is heaven even with keita in it. 😛

    1. Hey, Keita did well yesterday and is always (except for the Betis v. Sleepwalking Zombies game on Wednesday) solid. Don’t knock the Keita 😀

  15. -I dont think that Villa deserve that 5,his last 2 games were better for me but yesterday his moves were quite frustrating,missed some chances but he is getting better after the winter break and he shall be in a good form soon
    -Adriano covered the whole wing the way Alves does but his damn last touch is very poor including crosses,passes in the final third,shots,even if he is 2 footed,he dont use his feet in a good way
    -Abidal!what a monster,I think our record with clean nets is better with Abidal centrally,he adds some pace to the backline centrally and gives more freedom to Maxwell as he is an awesome coverer
    -Andres:is it just me who think that he has been Barca’s player of the season so far

  16. Iniesta is my favourite player so I’d be happy to agree with that assessment, Mido, except that there is a bit of me that says the real centre of the team is Xavi. He brings a calmness to everything we do and his skills are sometimes easy to gloss over as the opponents don’t seem to get near him because his turns keep them away from him. Iniesta is more swashbuckling, a kind of “look out I’m coming at ya” type of player.

    Maybe the way to look at it is this: you have to lose one for a game – who would you accept the loss of first, then who? For me, it wouldprobably (reluctantly) be Iniesta first, then Messi and lastly Xavi.

    Ok, I can’t make up my mind. Post over. But we are less if either is missing and to me they (plus Messi ) are head and shoulders above even the other top players in the side.

  17. Way late but I just saw that I had liked this picture from a photoplasty contest enough to have saved it and realized that while probably long overdue, this is the most badass Manita graphic I know. Along with the symbolism of ‘thats what Barca did to Madrid!’ and the five fingers.

    It’s from the ‘Hand Art More Badass than a Turkey’ photoplasty contest.

  18. So far Iniesta has 7 goals this season (5 assists). There are still potentially 18 + 3 + 7 = 28 games left in this season. He has played precisely 28 games so far this season according to Soccernet- 20 league starts, 2 cup starts and 1 sub appearance, and 5 CL starts.

    If he keeps up his recent scoring form, considering that he has scored more in his last few matches than in the earlier stretch of the season, he could very conceivably score another 10 or so in the remaining games. I would be absolutely delighted if he can hit 20 goals, its possible, but for now 15 would probably be a more realistic and still very impressive target.

    (Just for those interested, according to the Soccernet stats page, the stats for the other players are- Xavi has played 26 games with 3 goals and 5 assists; Villa has played 27 games with 16 goals and 5 assists; Pedro has played 30 games and has 17 goals and 8 assists, which I note as particularly impressive; Messi has played 29 games and scored 33 with 15 assists; Alves has 26 games, 2 goals and 8 assists. All except Messi’s stats are without the two Supercopa games)

    We could conceivably end the season with four twenty-goal-plus players. Messi already has 33, Villa and Pedro will almost surely break the twenty-goal barrier, and Iniesta needs 13 goals in 28 games (or less, if we get knocked out of any competitions early) to do so which is a bit of a stretch but very definitely possible.

  19. Puyol is expected to miss the next couple of matches. Milito should fancy himself to get more chances starting with the match against Almeria midweek.

    Now this worries me – Barca’s only league defeat of the season came against hercules with Puyol missing. Are the footbaling gods conspiring against us?

    1. Give Milito his time against Almeria and let Pique and King Eric rule the backfield against Hercules. Abidal played CB in the first Hercules game but had not yet established himself as the confident CB monster that he is now. I don’t think that they can catch us off guard a second time around.

    2. I dunno if it’s a good idea to play Milito against UD Almería. They are on a great run recently and Milito was, truth be told, aboslutely pathetic against Betis. A backline consisting of Milito and Adriano can easily backfire against Almeria. And I would like to win the first leg convincingly, so that we can rest some players @ Almería. If we only win the home match 2-1, that would be very risky.
      I prefer to rest players in the 2nd leg because the following playday in la Liga, Atletico Madrid visits us. You might think they are in the worst shape ever, but they’ve also been on a bad run before beating us 4-3 (in the Calderon). Plus, our away record this season is far better than the home record.
      It’s a tough decision to make, whether to rest players against Almeria now, next week or not at all. But I’d go with the best possible team this Wednesday, that is in particular Piqué and Abidal as CBs.

    3. On second thought, I think your right. The man needs time but we should try to get a lead going into the second game of the tie. I would feel better with 2 starters back thereduring any given day. They all can rest when Alves and Puyi get back.

  20. From barcastuff:

    Racing president Pernia has asked for a loan of Barcelona B player Thiago. Guardiola will decide. Final answer in 3-4 days. [diariomontanes]

    Now this is interesting! I think it’s a great idea as long as Racing guarantees he plays plenty of games. He gets to play against other Liga teams, and Rafinha gets more time with our B team!

    1. There was an article in Sport that says that Thiago is in the 3rd phase of his development which is to star in the B-team.
      The plan was laid out by Pep when he first took over.

      Here is my take, I would love for Pep to let Thiago go to Racing but on the other hand, he might not get a lot of playing time whereas he is sure to get a lot of minutes at Barca B.

    2. Well, that’s what I’m saying, he should only go if he is guaranteed a certain amount of playing time, otherwise there is no point. And only if they take Bojan too. 😛

      Seriously, though, this is a great opportunity for him to play against teams like Villareal, Valencia, or maybe even Madrid, which he likely wouldn’t get to even when he comes up to the first team next season. And it will give Pep the chance to see how adaptable Thiago is to another team’s system. It is easy for him to excel with the B team as he knows the style and his teammates inside out. With Racing he will have to think on his feet. The more I think about this, the more I like it. Except that I will now have to find time to watch all of Racing’s games too.

    3. I was hoping they’d take Bojan. Them or another smaller side that plays open football. Gijon would be nice. The guy needs playing time and confidence.

      As for Thiago going on loan yeah I like the idea, for the reasons Blitzen mentioned above.

  21. Btw, big thank you to the BFB team for doing some upgrading works on the site. I thought it couldn’t get any better, I guess we just have to wait to see the improved site.

  22. Awesome. “Oh, mean Kxevin is being too hard on widdle Veeyuh!” Awe.Some. 😀 And this comment, from barca96, is priceless:

    When you don’t like the person even before he came, it’s easy to find faults or deficiencies in that person( Villa being the case here).

    So. In the past, comments such as that one would have vexed the dung outta me. Now, I can’t be bothered. So for newcomers, lurkers and the record, here ya go:

    1. I didn’t care one whit about Villa before he came, because he played for Valencia, a team I didn’t care one whit about, even when they played us. I follow France’s NT, so I don’t care about the Spanish NT (true even now). So David Villa, prior to our purchase of him, would have needed to climb a ladder to reach “Don’t give a damn” status for me.

    2. I don’t care if anyone agrees with a match rating. You aren’t supposed to. One person says a 5 was too harsh, another person says a 5 was generous. That’s how it goes. We all watch the match in different ways. If you watch a match twice, freeze-framing, slo-mo and frame-by-frameing pertinent parts with your notepad in hand, Deu love ya. Then you do watch matches like I do, in which case you probably think my 5 for Villa is spot on. But it. Doesn’t. Matter.

    3. My task with match reviews is to, as accurately as I can, evaluate the entire performance of our players. Villa was involved in every goal, which is cool. But his entire performance included moments of ineptitude and bollixing things up that aren’t worthy of his big price tag or salary, things that if another, not-so-loved predecessor had done, would have had folks all over him. I get that, and I don’t care. Because my task with match reviews is NOT affirmation.

    4. Every player starts from zero, and works his way up. That hasn’t changed. Villa isn’t going to get a head start because some think his goatee is adorable, or that he’s been working well at times in the side. Same deal as everyone else. And in this match, he earned a 5 from me. Goals aren’t everything, which might be what is mixing some folks up, and don’t forget that Villa didn’t score a goal. Pedro, Messi and Iniesta did.

    Now, this won’t be the last time that I’ll be accused of being mean to somebody. Usually, it’s Krkic. And I won’t care then, either. 😀 Fo’ sho’. As for the accusation of bias existing in the comment that I quoted above, people who have been here long enough know better. People who believe that there is bias will never stop believing that there is.

    Either way, I have a site to help run, and am too busy to let that stuff bother me. Hope this explanation helps people get a handle on things.

    P.S. Nice to have the site back! Big cheer for Tarun, our IT whiz, who made this all possible.

    1. Pls Take it easy, you are sounding like a general. I think every one is entitled to his or her opinions even as some of us (like me) do not have access to replays, pausing and co. Moreover, people voicing there opinions on the rating isnt an act of disapproval rather than one of stating ones point of view.Congrats to Tim_Johnson. Well done on upgrading the site. Are there any new features.

    2. Oh, I am taking it easy. OSBAG. Most definitely. Just explaining my worldview on the matter, as clearly as I can. As I’ve said before, ratings are a part of the post-match debate, and should be. But there are people who think that ratings come because I like or don’t like somebody, so that explanation is for them, and to make clear how ratings happen.

      In this space, everyone’s opinion is valid. That will never change. But what’s also important is understanding precisely why an opinion is the way that it is.

      If someone says “I would have given Villa X rating and here’s why,” we can chatter about that, and both sides will understand what the other is thinking, and thinking about.

    3. You were already saying things like, he wouldn’t fit in our system, he can’t lead our attack and all that.
      And why was I not surprised to see you always find mistakes in Villa and turn a blind eye on the good things.

      It is a different story when it comes to Ibra, sMasch and Ibi whom you both were very excited with before they signed with us. You hardly see any mistakes in them even when they actually do make them.

    4. Recall that my attention turned to Villa when he entered our radar. And at that time, I figured that he would fit into the system because of the Spanish NT stuff. I did say that he can’t lead the line, and he can’t. He couldn’t at World Cup, and he can’t for us. Messi leads the line for us. And when Messi isn’t in and Villa has led the line, he hasn’t been able to cut it. His performances have spoken for themselves in that regard.

      Recall, by the by, that a commenter, Bill, went back in the review archives to try to find evidence to support the accusations that I “liked” Ibrahimovic. He couldn’t, and admitted as much, which was nice of him to do. I was accused of liking Henry, yet when season aggregate numbers came out, even in his great year for us, he was mid-pack.

      Afellay and Mascherano are no different. Afellay hasn’t been perfect. Far from it. No 10s for the lad yet. Same for Mascherano, the record will show. Has there been more good than bad with Afellay? You bet. When he sucks, he’ll be evaluated accordingly. Nobody gets a head start or a break from me.

      The story is the same for everyone: They are evaluated on their entire performance. That’s how it’s always going to be.

      Ask yourself if people who think that my rating of Villa was generous or spot on have that same pre-existing bias. No, they just watched the same match that I did. Not everyone does, and that’s okay.

    5. Well, I have to agree that Villa’s overall performance was far away from perfection.
      I initially only saw the highlights and thought “Damn, Villa is finally at his best” but after watching the complete match (after downloading it) I had to erase that positive picture from my head. I can agree with your rating.

      But anyway, if people publish ratings of players, there will always be controversy among fans. Ratings will always be subjective! You can try to base a whole rating on statistics and numbers only, as the guys from Castrol do – but still some people won’t agree with it and I even think that a player performances cannot be rated on numbers of succesful passes, shots on goal, blocks, balls recovered, balls lost and if you want add 10 more aspects. Each of this aspect deserves a coefficient to weight its importance in the rating. Even then, there is still a discrepancy between a pass and a pass 😀
      Yoo could come up with some more coefficients for the passing from area A to B, when being surrounded by X opposing players etc. but it will only get complicated and still, not everybody would agree with the final result.

      Anyway, I sill like the discussions about ratings as long as they are in a friendly, or at least not insulting tone.

      When it comes to publishing controversial ratings, Kxevin is a cautious writer and one should not argue too much about his ratings.
      If you want to see some truly controversial ratings, take a look at Carlo Garganese’s articles about 100 players that are better than CR (, that’s tough to digest for all the CR fanbois 😀

      PS: I agree with Carlo Garganese, but that’s also because I hate CR. Publishing it on the world’s most read soccer website, knowing that half of them are CR supporters, that is MEAN!!!

    6. Anyway, I sill like the discussions
      about ratings as long as they are in a
      friendly, or at least not insulting
      Thats is the point.
      Carlo’s article would nearly kill CR7 but as a commenter mentioned i would like someone to publish one for messi and xavi doubt if they would count up to 100.

    7. I’m gonna address two points in here:

      1.- You said that “things that if another, not-so-loved predecessor had done, would have had folks all over him.”, well, you’d be wrong. I’m one that thinks that Ibrahimovic was a very good player for us. I was against him going out of the club.

      So, had it been Ibrahimovic instead of Villa, I’d say the same, he deserves a 7 or a 6.

      2.- I do think that it’s somewhat harsh, I actually think that Villa played better than in the game against Madrid. And he got a better rating than there (a 7, I think), now he gets a 5. Granted, he didn’t score, but still… just because he doesn’t score doesn’t mean that he played bad.

      Finally, you also said that we should be patient. =P

  23. From barcastuff
    Barcelona are considering to sign Grenoble left back Atila Turan (18) and let him play at the B-team for 2 or 3 years.

    and agent of Turan says: “I continue to be in contact with Barcelona. In fact, we had a meeting on 3 January.”

  24. And we will be adding some new names to the posting mix (I hate the word moderator, because this site runs so well that moderation just isn’t necessary), so everybody please welcome:

    –Tom_Johnson, who has distinguished himself in his time coming out of lurker status, with knowledge, insight, tactical and business acumen (stuff that makes my brain hurt) and long-windedness 😀 We actually added him to the team mostly because scrolling through his comments were giving me carpal tunnel on my smartphone (kidding! kidding!). We’re glad to have him, and are confident that he will kick out the jams, just like Luke, Vicsoc, Euler and SoMa.

    1. Andre the Giant plays Fezzik in The Princess Bride. So I’m not the only one who is scared by Tom’s gravatar LOL

    2. Welcome, Tom. I disagree with you a lot of the time, but your comments are always worth reading…and reading…and reading…seriously, brevity is a virtue! 🙂

    3. Note how both he and Luke have the simian thing going. Just sayin’. Nothing can be inferred from this. In fact, monkeys scare the crap out of me.

  25. In team news, Guardiola is confident that Alves will be renewed, saying that he will be Barca player for years to come. Wow. I still don’t trust anything until it actually happens, but that’s the best news yet for our Energizer Bunny, even though I’m still torn on the idea of shelling out huge bucks to keep him as a philosophical notion. This is what Cruijff had to say:

    “Barca are a sensational team with or without Dani Alves. Is it better to have him with us? Sure. Manchester City are interested though and it may be better to sell him than wait for his contract to end next year and leave on a free.

    “If he goes, negotiations will be simple. We will say: ‘Thanks, goodbye and good luck’. But it is exactly the same as the case of Yaya Toure. Guardiola wants Alves to stay, as he did with Toure, but what cannot be, cannot be.”

    And Guardiola says:

    “Alves will be a Barca player for the next few years. As far as I know, negotiations haven’t broken down. I don’t think the situation will distract him either, though if that does happen we will all help him, but his form hasn’t dipped at all since he began talking with the club about this.”

    –Busquets himself was quoted as saying that he will be signing his new contract very soon, so no worries.

    –Guardiola has asked the club to renew Abidal. It is expected that Greyhound will slide to the center of the park.

    –Rumor is that Mascherano will be moving on this summer, quite possibly to Arsenal, as a makeweight for Fabregas. I think it would be a loss if it happened, but you know how I feel about rumors.

    –Puyol is getting a couple of matches off. The reps should help Milito, assuming that Guardiola doesn’t make the Racing back line his grouping of choice until Alves returns, at which point I wouldn’t mind seeing Adriano at left back rather than Maxwell.

    –Alves took part in (partial) training with the group, and might actually get some time vs Almeria. Krkic was out of training with an upset stomach, which must mean that he finally got to see tape of the Racing match. (Bwahahahaha! Thank you, I’ll be here all week!)

    –Finally, we’re facing 8 matches in about a month, matches will determine how all three of the main campaigns (Copa, Liga, Champions League) are going to go. That’s intense.

  26. I read on isaiah’s twitter that we could play EE 5 times in 15 days in April if we both get drawn together in CdR and CL. The psychology pressure from such a run of fixtures could kill both coaches and the players while we fans would get one mighty kick out of that. Personally i think twice a year should be enough to know who is the better of the two but i wont mind the CL tie as well. Guardiola would be out for revenge while moanrinho would want to prove he is the best. Whoever wins gets fifaCoach of the Year

    1. I wouldn’t like that. Somehow five in a row would dilute the huge anticipation and weight that a Clasico carries.

      Then again, it being like a series of five might even increase the anticipation and hype and interest surrounding it. Sort of feel like basketball series where they play seven games. But that’s assuming the matches wiil be tight-fought even contests hanging on a knife-edge, with a few draws or very close games in the first legs where the results would be hanging.

      But then if it’s not, and if we’re anywhere near as superior as we were in the last Clasico- even 2-0 or 3-0 level of superior- the sheer slam psychological effect if we beat Madrid five times in a row in a couple weeks. It’d be like a sledgehammer to their collective pysches. And stunning.

      And since I fancy our chances were we to meet up with Madrid- our starting eleven clearly beats their starting eleven as of so far at least, and while my old worry, tiredness or lack of depth, used to apply now considering the troubles Madrid are having whenever they rotate their supposedly deeper squad doesn’t have that depth advantage anymore for me. Our subs may have sucked against Betis but let’s be honest, that game was not because of the personnel, it was because of the attitude, and the likes of Mascherano have performed when called upon- I would actually like that. A five-game series over a fortnight. Would be fun, a momentous sporting event (and a chance to beat Madrid in ten out of ten attempts) and if we win one or two convincingly and win all five whether narrow or wide margins, I would be delighted. I was so happy after the 5-0 I couldn’t sleep til 10am the next morning (the game began at 1am here) and I can’t imagine the joy that would be.

    2. I wouldn’t like either, I mean you make great points on the winning and all that, but I feel as Real Madrid has no class after losing the first 2 they’d just start kicking so they might have a chance at the other 2, and all of the controversy of ref calls and the media. It’d just be too much, so I feel Madrid will probably lose to Sevilla intentionally, it’d be fitting for them to just go after the CL.

    3. Yeah true. Must’ve been a mistype. Somehow didn’t really think about it. Either way yeah the general point being meeting em multiple times in a row.

    4. Why would Pep be looking for a revenge? He beat Mourinho 5-0 already.
      But imagine if we do play them 5 times and we beat them in all of those matches, another reason to throw our hand up in the air(5) to a Madrista.

  27. Also I will be so happy if Sky fire Andy Gray and Richard Keys, which is possible regarding recent news

    1. Haha Im sure you were sick of listening to them when watching CL.
      THank God ESPN South East Asia doesn’t use SKy anymore.

    2. I don’t know if they’re still on now, but I remember having seen them occasionally in CL games and some EPL games (I used to follow the old Man United side in the EPL when they played some nice stuff, though I didn’t support any one side or even am not predisposed towards any one side- I only stopped watching about a year ago, the quality of the top games have dropped enormously with a limited but resilient United, an awful Chelsea, a sometimes dazzling but frustratingly gutless and clueless Arsenal, a godawful Liverpool and so on and so forth.. guess it’s too ‘strong in depth’ for my taste now. And the amazing football we see with Barca is just spoiling us too, maybe).

      But either way it was as much their comments in the media and their continent-bashing viewpoints and statements during games as it was their annoying commentating on games.

  28. Disgraceful that Leo Messi might be sanctioned for wishing his mother a happy birthday and might get suspended for 1 to 3 games..what a farce!

    1. He would only get (possibly) suspended if he did it again. Hopefully there are no more family birthdays coming up!

      And yes, it’s ridiculous.

    2. Is a ridiculous rule overall. I don’t see why the need to forbid players sending that type of messages through celebrations.

  29. Guess what came in the mail today~?

    My Barca: Making History book~! 😀 Haven’t opened it yet, but man am I excited!

    And welcome to BFB, Tom_Johnson! Your comments were posts anyway 😉

  30. Messi took a post Balon d’Or mental vacation; you could kinda see him looking around through some different colored glasses. Iniesta was lit up, Xavi a bit deflated. But Villa was all business. He worked his ass off. His movement was absolutely superb but when you put it under a magnifying glass and then run it in slow mo you lose perspective.

    Iniesta is my all time favorite player and his genius is certainly a big part of why we have won so many games comfortably and why the possession has gone from a stratospheric 60 plus percent to mid 70’s this year. ( Has any team ever done that?)

    Villa is a big reason why team goals are going to go through the roof. Top rate clinical finishing. Much higher rating on maintaining possession than Ibra last year and therefore more effective in a balanced buildup especially stretching defenses to the left. Tremendous work rate second only to Pedro 10 years younger. Excellent balance in attacking defenses and combining with other forwards all done at incredible speed of movement and speed of decision making while under full pressure and a round ball on the end of a foot. ( deleted Ibra comments here)

    The goals Barca are putting up are insane. While the mids are knocking the ball around 360 degrees (which is by no means a small feat), the forwards business is to press every inch of a one in a million chance. Because of course the rewards are great ( a goal) and the punishment is little ( loss of possession). I don’t think the ratings reflect this difference or give credit when it is due. cont.

    1. Not to quibble, but 16 goals from 119 shots is hardly “Top rate clinical finishing.” And is anyone really going to compare Villa’s work rate to say, Messi, Abidal’s or Puyol’s? Or Xavi’s, who often runs more than anybody on the side? When Villa tracks back on defense it’s noteworthy, not a matter of course.

      In 08/09, Eto’o had 181 shots for 34 goals. Villa would have to notch another 18 goals in 62 shots to match the clinical finishing of Eto’o, who had a rather un-clinical season his last year with the club. He left a lot of goals begging.

      This season, Iniesta has 7 goals on 35 shots. Clinical? Certainly a better strike rate than Villa’s. Pedro!! has 17 goals on 59 shots. Now that’s clinical. And then there’s Messi, with 125 shots for 30 goals. Again, that’s clinical finishing.

      Villa already has lost, according to stats at the official site, 67 balls this season. Ibrahimovic lost 107 balls last year in total. Again, this doesn’t argue for a “much higher rating on maintaining possession,” as Villa would be on pace to lose 120+ balls over the entire season.

      And many of Villa’s balls have come from an uncertain first touch, which is to be expected from someone learning the system, same as Ibrahimovic. The player is thinking instead of reacting.

      Villa worked hard, but he also had some silly 1-v-3s, lost many a ball and didn’t make runs, as well as making runs. Did he track back? Good question.

      A big reason why team goals are coming so fast and furious is that we have a full-pitch attack, and a healthy Iniesta. We have rediscovered the left side of the pitch, thanks in big part to Iniesta, wno plays to Villa a lot more than Xavi did to his left-sided predecessors. This gives Messi and Pedro!! more space, hence we are scoring more goals. Villa helps, to be sure.

      I’m all for supporting the home team, but endowing players with superhuman skill sets that aren’t supported by statistical reality is another matter altogether.

  31. Very Nice. Stats can be so interesting in how they are so powerful yet so blatantly misrepresentative of the truth. I would have sworn that Ibra had lost 107 balls in three games let alone a whole season.

    Finishing stats are a garbage bag that I think need to be cooked first. Throw out the tap ins. Throw out the picking up the garbage goals. Throw out the PKs and set plays. Throw out the feeling good and “have one” chances from 30 yards. Now you’re looking at higher quality chances 50;50 30;70. One on ones and just goalie to beat. Villas quality here is equal to the best in the world and as I’ve mentioned he already has a handful of highlight goals for the season and in big games.

    The Racing game he was indomitable and he caved in the left.

    Another way to see it is from the right. Alves, irreplaceable, one of a kind right back capable of making Barca reconsider their entire wage scale. Messi worlds greatest player and Xavi worlds greatest center mid. Pedro operates in the middle of this kind of support.

    On the left is Abidal or Maxwell or both. Iniesta when he hasn’t drifted over or Keita. And Messi. Different situation all together where Villa takes on way more responsibility to hold the left together.

    Another way to see it is this. Etoo was a peacock and a beautiful handsome one at that. Ibra was a hyena, vain and prissy but still a worthless monger from day one.
    Villa is one of those incredible mutts that come from nowhereville. Part wolf part pack dog gonna fight to the death for his mates. And that is worth something.

    That is worth a lot.

    1. But statistics cut through the fandom, and reduce performance to numbers that can be dealt with. So rather than having to liken players to animals that reflect how we feel about them, we can look at shots, and the accuracy of those shots, balls lost and recovered, and goals from shots.

      The adage says that there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.” This is often true. But even if you use your standard and rule out the “garbage” goals, how many difficult goals has Villa had this season? What then, of his value?

      It’s why subjective standards are so complex, because they can be governed by like and dislike. It’s why I’m not a fan of any player. So Eto’o is a peacock, beautiful and handsome. Villa is an incredible mutt that will fight to the death. Ibrahimovic is a hyena, vain and prissy and a worthless monger. But recall the times that our hyena rushed to the defense of Messi or other Barca players after hard fouls or during on-pitch tempests.

      Fandom makes memories selective. That’s when statistics come in handy, even as they often fail us. Krkic’s goals are a good example. How many important goals has Krkic scored for the side? Now this is in part a consequence of when he enters matches, right? So if someone says “Krkic has X goals,” can that number be valid, or make him worthy of comparison to the likes of Eto’o, Villa or even Pedro!!. Good question.

  32. You’re right on there. No doubt. But I’m not willing to let Villas incredible contribution to the team go unsupported. Just as Alves’ one of a kind contributions to Barca have lifted them to another level, Villas has put Barca back up to the level I’m in ecstasy over.

    Henry started slow and he and Iniesta even subbed each other. When he peaked Barca undressed teams like never has been seen. Awe inspiring. Legendary.

    The reason Ibra was so villified was because Barca dropped down to just really good status and that was while riding Messi’s back down the stretch. Kind of like how Madrid is still holding on. I, we, were just sick that management was going to erase the best soccer ever witnessed. I was gonna see Messi chopped into pieces and Iniesta retired with ankle replacements. Which is exactly what Rooney is going through.

    Villa allows Barca to play their penultimate style. Total undressing. No one is put in the unnecessary position of getting needlessly injured. We are not riding Messi.
    Left forwards are as rare as attacking right backs, maybe a slight exaggeration.

    You give the dues to Iniesta. That warms my heart. He is a gem. But I claim Barcas performances are getting legendary again and Villa is making a really huge and as yet unrecognized impact.

    1. “Villas quality here is equal to the best in the world and as I’ve mentioned he already has a handful of highlight goals for the season and in big games.”

      Be careful not get carried away here. I would advise you to go back and watch every game again, take notes and see how many high probability opportunities he missed. Quite a few.

      To the point, the couple he missed against Bilbao could have easily cost us advancing to the next round. Making the dream of winning 6 trophies again disappear and even though it is not February yet.

      Truth is his level of play and contribution has gone up in recent times. Hopefully, he will be able to sustain it.

      Few weeks ago I had graded him not so high. The key categories being:
      – finishing (number of opportunities converted and missed)
      – ball handling (dribbling, passing, reception with BOTH feet)
      – movement (to open the space for someone else)
      – timing (staying onside and putting himself in the position to score) and
      – pressing

      He scored high on pressing and above average on movement. Timing was still off but it is understandable since such things come with time and repetition. The number of appearances for the National Team should help speed up this process.

      He scored an average grade on finishing and ball handling. Arguably the two categories that weigh most in evaluating a striker in ‘our’ system.

      He rarely uses his left foot to begin with let alone do something productive with it. He rarely dribbles to the left making it easier for a smart defender. His touch can be clunky at times (a la Eto’o). It often happened closer to the goal ‘helping’ him waste the scoring opportunity.

      Credit to him for having a powerful, yet fruitless so far, long distance shot. Something this team needs to do more.

      The thing that makes me grade his performances up to this point even lower is his price tag. Not only ‘we’ had to pay $40M+ for a transfer fee, he is at the ‘Level II’ in terms of salary. What had Villa has been giving us so far and is capable of doing in the future is not worth this much money. More about it some other time…

  33. You’re out of your mind man! Villa Messi Pedro and Bojan have all missed great chances. The miracle is that they score. Score one its a party, score two its a manifesto, score three its time to buy lottery tickets, score more the other team is in the wrong division. Only they’re not.

    Two years ago Ronaldo broke all previous records for goals scored ever. Then Messi blows it away. What these guys do is so rare. There is a reason Villa is in Fifa’s starting 11. What he does is rare. Celebrate it! Don’t pick it apart!

    I enjoy Abidal as much as anybody. Watching him defend a fly ball into left field is a thing of beauty but it is not even in the same galaxy as the play by Villa and Messi for the first goal. Lose a few balls so what. miss a few chances get a life. See what you were privileged enough to see in high def against Racing is something future generations will envy. Celebrate it!

    That flick by Messi was one of the most outrageous goals that has ever been seen. That he did it at the end of a full out 15 yard sprint give and go with Villa in traffic is mindblowing! Erring on the side of hypercritical smacks of I just don’t know.

    1. “There is a reason Villa is in Fifa’s starting 11”

      But on a more serious note, what have you guys been smoking up there?

      I want some!

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