Tracking one player, aka “The curious case of Adriano”

Eduard Omedes/El Mundo Deportivo

Here Adriano is, No. 21, celebrating with his teammates during the victorious Champions League outing against Arsenal.

But does he deserve to?

There has been a debate raging about just what the hell Adriano did, anyhow. One astute and respected commenter, Jim, demanded evidence of something that Adriano did that affected the match, besides his heart-stopping giveaway in the 87th minute, a gift that was, thankfully, rejected by Bendtner.

So, with Jim’s challenge in mind, and to give people an idea of what went into Adriano’s match rating, I decided to track Adriano and only Adriano for the entire match, to see what was what. The results were interesting, to say the least.

First of all, here’s his match rating:

Adriano: 8. I find it rather difficult to imagine how Maxwell must have felt watching this display. He was a left-sided Alves, something we haven’t had in some time, charging up the pitch on slashing runs into their box, intercepting balls in our end and stealing passes in midfield. Except for a couple of positional errors and that silly, silly pass that could have changed everything, an utterly convincing match.

I discovered that to chronicle every touch and move of Adriano, I needed 5 sheets of notepaper. I will spare everyone the blow-by-blow chronicle, just because it just ain’t worth typing it all out. But here are the relevant highlights:

–Adriano touched the ball, counting throw-ins, 85 times in this match.
–He had 14 defensive plays that turned possession, either interceptions, outright steals or plays that facilitated another defender stealing the ball.
–He had two crosses that deserved a better fate.
–He had one “What the hell was that?” shot.
–He also hit the post, on a shot that had more of a chance than people gave it credit for.
–He fed Afellay with a brilliant diagonal pass over distance, that only excellent defensive work kept from becoming a goal.
–In a 10-second stretch, he outran Rosicky, then Sagna to stray balls.
–He owned Rosicky on that side of the pitch.
–He had two giveaways, both in dangerous positions. The first led directly to the Van Persie red card incident, the second to the Bendtner chance.

In effect, he earned his 8 with an extraordinary match at left back, a match that found him going forward on the attack repeatedly, yet still being able to get back on defense. He outran Arsenal attackers to balls, and battled them for possession, also winning balls. I’d be happy to note the exact times if people feel that’s necessary, even though it’s a lotta, lotta typing.

Bottom line is that it’s very interesting to track a single player for the entirety of the match, and note everything that he does. What I usually do during my viewings, is that the first viewing will be the “What the hell happened,” and general impressions viewing, with some notes on player performance being taken, in preparation for the second, more analytical viewing. It is here that match ratings are solidified, and real impressions of a player’s performance become concrete.

This now the 5th time I have watched this match, and I wouldn’t change a thing about Adriano’s rating. He isn’t a full-time, starting left back for us, because we already have one and even if we didn’t, he isn’t quite there. He’s still a Swiss Army knife, who can fill in where needed. I will say that his pace and physicality, the ability to get up and back, make him a very interesting option, and one that I rather imagine will be around for a while.

And there we have it.

P.S. I paid special attention to the Van Persie incident this time, and it’s important to note three things: 1) In the 29th minute, Sagna was booked for picking up the ball and walking away with it, establishing a precedent that Busacca wasn’t going to allow time-wasting; 2) Nasri is off on a break with the stadium going nuts, and he stops as soon as he hears the whistle; 3) when Van Persie is breaking for our goal, the Camp Nou is quiet. You can hear the whistle loud and clear on TV, from a vantage point (for the TV coverage microphones) that is vastly inferior to that of a player.

Given that Busacca’s view on time-wasting had already been established, and if Van Persie really didn’t hear the whistle I don’t see a reason why he wouldn’t have kept on going toward Valdes and put the ball in the back of net, all lead me to believe that while the card was still harsh and stupid, it was within the context of how the match was being called.

Rock on.

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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.

203 Comments

  1. Jnice
    March 11, 2011

    Thanks for this, Kxevin.

    In the 29th minute, Sagna was booked for picking up the ball and walking away with it, establishing a precedent that Busacca wasn’t going to allow time-wasting

    I don’t know if I mentioned this on BFB, but I said this exact thing to my friend. Glad you noticed it too. Precedent had already been set.

    As for RvP, like I said before, I’m totally convinced he heard the whistle and I rarely believe strikers anyway. They are some of the worst liars.

    Also, when I spoke about Adriano, I forgot to mention how many times he intercepted or took the ball of an Arsenal player. He did well.

    • Miguel
      March 11, 2011

      the precedent was established, but like kxevin said, it was still a bad call. i’ll say it again. if vp wasn’t the petulant angry little b**** he was all match, he’d have gotten away with it.

    • March 11, 2011

      I’ll spare a long rant (I saved that for the mods), but Arsenal are now on par or just below the pericos on my hate list. Yep, they’ve pretty much lost all my respect.

      The post-match whinge from all things Arsenal was and is pathetic.

      • Helge
        March 12, 2011

        Yah, I completely agree.

        I even might be rootig for ManUtd in the EPL title race now… (although I actually hate them!).

        • soccermomof4
          March 12, 2011

          Can’t quite do that, but it’s getting very hard to keep liking them. It was a style of play thing for me, but that certainly went out the window on Tuesday!

  2. blitzen
    March 11, 2011

    Heh heh heh. You know what you have done, don’t you? People will now be demanding that you do single-player analyses for every match. Hope you have a lot of free time!

    I have three things to add:

    1. The two crosses you mention that “deserved a better fate”. Yes. They were good shots that Messi or Villa or Pedro or anyone should have been there to receive but for whatever reason didn’t make that run. No blame to Adriano for that.

    2. The post shot. I truly don’t think it had a chance of going in from that angle. Nice try, though.

    3. The first and last thing I will say on the RVP incident: He may or may not have heard the whistle, but IT DOESN’T MATTER. Whistle or no, the flag was up and he knew very well that he was offside. Everyone else certainly did.

    • Miguel
      March 11, 2011

      “People will now be demanding that you do single-player analyses for every match.”

      hey, shut up.

  3. Miguel
    March 11, 2011

    this is awesome! can this be a regular fixture in your reviews for say the top & the flop of the match? a.k.a abidal & bojan, respectively. 😉 maybe a follow up comment or something.

  4. March 11, 2011

    What’s even more interesting is that I think if we’d had a player such as this against Inter last season, we might have won that tie. Recall how easy it was to compress into the center against us, leaving Messi to make his Quixotic runs because the left wing was an attacking dead zone.

    His full-speed overlap with Villa, that led to the post shot, was seriously cool, and what the left side of our attack has been missing.

    • blitzen
      March 11, 2011

      Yes, that play with Villa was amazing (even though he hit the post) and speaks volumes about how well both of them have adapted to the Barca model. Can you imagine the Villa superstar of Valencia making that pass instead of trying to shoot the ball himself?

  5. March 11, 2011

    Whoa! Fabiano leaves immediately??!! I mean, he wasn’t going to play against us anyway, but dang. That’s a big cut for Sevilla, who I didn’t realize were shopping him. Heck, that would have been quite the winter buy for us in the window.

    • Jnice
      March 11, 2011

      Nah, Adriano’s time in European football was up. He hasn’t even looked close to the player he was in previous years. Combine that with his temperament and I don’t think he would be a good buy for us at all.

      • March 11, 2011

        Dunno, for 6m I’d still rather see him entering a match right now than Krkic.

        • March 12, 2011

          or we can just bring back our own Brazilan, you know that onw guy…Kermit???? Kalamari….Kkinkerton?……Ohhhh thats right Kerrison!!!

      • Miguel
        March 11, 2011

        yeah, come on. who else goes back to brazil in what should be the peak of their career? i’ll answer my own question: adriano(l’imperatore), ronaldinho, robinho, elano…really anybody that ends with an “o.”

        • mei
          March 12, 2011

          But robinho then went to play for milan! like… oh nevermind.

  6. March 11, 2011

    I’m working on my tactical review of the match (will be up tomorrow) and after having watched the match multiple times often in frame by frame stop motion there’s no question that Adriano was critical to this match.

    I completely agree with Kxevin’s evaluation – spot on.

    Just for example – got back and watch the context for how goal 1 was scored. There’s a reason why Fabergas tries to back heel the ball (outside of only poor judgement).

    That entire first goal sequence started with Adriano attacking off the left flank. That attack dragged Arsenal – who were trying to stay compact and narrow – completely out of shape.

    That sequence led to the very dangerous chance Xavi had which was ultimately blocked.

    When Arsenal recovered the ball they were completely out of position to build play. And given Barca’s press Fabergas tried to just get rid of the ball before he gets dispossessed.

    That was a great example of how Adriano helped made the pitch functionally “large” to thwart Arsenal’s ability to make the pitch “small.”

    And one of the key’s to that was Adriano’s direct style of play. He used the ball to make dangerous runs while Arsenal continued their tactics from leg 1 – which was to overplay the pass.

    He was immense that match.

  7. barca96
    March 11, 2011

    My God Kxevin. You really didn’t have to watch the match and use 5 sheets of notepaper just to evaluate his match just because somebody didn’t agree with most of us. That’s a lot of hard work although I didn;t really mind doing it as it’s not really “work”.
    Thanks.

    Why does Alves force defenders to make mistakes? Pressure.
    Why does Adriano force defenders to make mistakes? Pressure.

    • March 11, 2011

      It was actually something that I promised to do earlier. Jim’s comments just made me remember that promise. I guess that another aka title could have been “View to a rating.”

  8. March 11, 2011

    As i mentioned earlier, great write up, Kxevin. I was argeuing with a couple of posters on my board about how at Madrid we concentrate our play through the left, hence why Marcelo sees more of the ball than Ramos. Well, if i am not mistaken, this is very similar to you guys.

    With an attacking fullback like Alves, and with a team like yours that centers their play mostly around the right flank were Pedro and Messi roam a lot, it’s really hard for Adriano to make an impact on the game. That does not mean he didn’t have a good game though. As Kxevin notes, he had many interjections and many touches of the ball. Not to mention, with Alvez attacking the right so much, the gaps that are left at the back are to be filled by the 2 center backs and the left back. Yes Arsenal never had a chance, but that not due to inability but rather superiority.

    Anyways, I purchased this CL app for my iPhone, and despite thinking its expensive, i went through with it. So i thought i would share with you guys the statistics for the players during the game:

    http://yfrog.com/h0zdogqj

    Glad I’m putting my investment to use. I mainly purchased it thinking life wouldn’t be so cruel that it would let me buy an app for just one game! Hence, Real Madrid MUST go through 😀

    • March 11, 2011

      In the Madrid system, Marcelo functionally acts as an attacking midfielder in many ways. The ball is played through him so much because that’s the most direct way to create link up play with C.Ronaldo.

      As you note this is how Guardiola originally utilized Alves, though his role has evolved differently because of Messi’s free role even when he played on the right.

      In many ways this is the logical conclusion of the process which has seen players like Messi and Ronaldo – classic 10’s in the past who would have played in the center of the pitch – to the flanks to avoid the fortification of the defense through the center of the pitch (“destroyer,” “double pivot”).

      This is also why Ozil is such an appropriate player for the RM attack.

      In many ways RM have “emptied” out the advanced center of the pitch and periperhalized the dyanamics of the match. It’s a very interesting tactical innovation given the degree to which they’ve pushed the matter.

      By doing this RM have made the holding players for most clubs redundant defenders who don’t really mark important attackers.

      The trade off is that there can be vulnerabilities to build up play and defense in the middle of the pitch and a great deal of pressure is placed on Alonso.

      One note however on how Barca play – the thrust of Alves on the right is designed to balance the assymetric formation on the left. Iniesta plays center left and that’s where much of the build up occurs on the left flank.

      That was a major reason why barca became so right sided last season. In addition to problems at LW, Iniesta was injured which damaged circulation to the left flank.

      • March 11, 2011

        Agreed. I have talked about this many times. The reason this over dependence on the flanks, especially the left one emerged with the lack of a replacement to Zidane, who primarily used to rick the role that Iniesta plays right now. A false LW that drifts to the center and through which the play is originated and made. \

        Kaka was thought to be a replacement, but I never believed he fit a system that the team was building nor the spanish game. FloFlo played him once in his Fifa formation on PS3 and got convinced that he was needed. Both Kaka and Ronaldo require a place right behind the striker. If you see from the article, i call for a Trivote, in which Granero or any player can sit right above the double pivot (which creates a huge gap between the front four and back six), offering that extra option in the middle.

        Although, as you said, our system currently abolishes that oppositions “stacking” of the midfield, it does create a problem. The player that is on the other wing is usually gone missing. The lack of that man in the center makes it problematic for the team to switch from one flank to another.

        I was very intrigued with Messi being used as a False 9. It was a stroke of genius. A player of Messi’s abilities can do, and is doing wonders with a free role. It was also interesting to see Villa adjust to that left wing role. He rarely, if ever, played that role on the left with Valencia, and for him to start playing that right away with a new team is really impressive. I know Kev has been giving him low marks in rating, but he has been doing well adjusting. Lets not forget, to give freedom to Messi you have to take freedom from another player. I think in this case its Villa who is giving up. This is an example of the conservation of energy for you science nerds.

        I have always agreed with many of the people here on how important Abidal is. Not only is he rock solid at the back, but he plays a huge role in allowing Alves to run forward with that much freedom.

        • March 12, 2011

          FloFlo played him once in his Fifa formation on PS3 and got convinced that he was needed.

          First off – nothing I write can possibly top this sentence!

          Agreed that Kaka was very ill thought. He’s really a shadow striker as you point out. That was his role at AC Milan and that system was so particular hoping he’d work alongside C.Ronaldo was a major risk.

          For me you guys are in a bit of a quandary of sorts. Alonso is terrific at what he does. However, I think your team would be better off only playing one holding player. That would allow Ozil to play advanced left and then add a central midfielder to direct play in an advanced position.

          However, Alonso alone really isn’t a promising option for defensive reasons and pace. He needs another holding player alongside/ deep to him.

          You almost need a player like a Schweinsteiger to pair with Alonso. But those players are hard to find.

          I do like Granero. I like his passing. That said, I actually like Khedira as well. I don’t think he’s allowed to move forward enough in the current RM system, however.

          Thanks for the article. I’ll most definitely take a look.

          Also, if you’re interested I wrote a fairly extensive 4 part tactical preview prior to the Clasico. It was largely focused on RM as I wanted to give the readers here some detail on how you guys play.

          Below if the link for the 4th part. It contains links for the prior 3 parts. Part 1 and 2 touch on what we’ve been discussing tonight.

          Always nice to have you stop by. Very good tactical discussion.

          Also – Ozil is turning into a fantastic player. I watched Germany play Argentina in Johannesburg during the WC and his movement was remarkably intelligent. He’s been great.

          http://www.barcelonafootballblog.com/5215/tactical-preview-el-clsico-part-4-madrids-defense-bara-exploit-weaknesses/

          • March 12, 2011

            Khedira is limited in going forward due to instructions by MouMou. With that said, he seems awkward when the ball is with him. I have seen him play before, and he never seemed that way. I think his first touch is sometimes letting him down as it seems he puts too much effort into controlling the ball. I like Granero more there as he is one of the best in the team at holding on to the ball. Something that you need in a holding player/Central midfielder.

            To play Alonso alone, you need Ramos to stick to his position and not venture forward unless its smart to. Especially, as you noted, with the lack of pace from Alonso.

            Ozil has been fantastic for us. His stamina got in the way at the start of the season, but he is overcoming that and turning into one of our most important players. It will be interesting to see how useful is passing gets once Higuain comes back, who is becoming an expert at off the ball movement.

            I will certainly take a look at the articles. Always great to have a tactical discussions. It puts all the games that i watch into good use.

    • lea_terzi
      March 12, 2011

      “Sometimes you don’t need the taka because the tiki is so good.” 🙂

  9. Tom, Dick and Harry
    March 12, 2011

    /glass in hand

    To both sides, I am not sure focusing on a single game is a way to go about credible analysis.

    1. To properly evaluate a player one needs to look at the whole body of work. The ability that had been displayed (speed, dribbling, passing, tackling, crossing) over the period of time. This because the circumstances vary. ‘Our’ lineup, quality of opponents and the way they choose to defend.

    Adriano has superior skill set. Being as fast and comfortable with using both feet is extraordinary, I can’t stress this hard enough.

    2. Not always players have to do something. A player of certain skill set draws attention of the defender. By forcing the defender to ‘account for him’ is taking some defensive options away from the opposition.

    3. The two players, in this particular case Adriano and Maxwell, are not at the same level of development. Minutes played and the familiarity with the system. One plateaued while the other has plenty of upside left.

    4. As for questionable defending, remember how poor Busquets was. During his ‘learning process’ he gave away a bunch of balls. Shortsighted and less educated fans were calling Pep nuts for sticking with him.

    All in all, the way Maxwell plays is very good…if at Deportivo or Gijon. Not at this team though. A virtual zero in terms of offensive contribution. Adriano’s defensive flaws are offset by his offensive contribution more often than not and, as such, worth the risk.

    The said flaws can be easily corrected in a timely manner by giving him more minutes (confidence level and adjustment to ‘game speed’) and extra sessions in the film room.

    • Nik
      March 12, 2011

      “4. As for questionable defending, remember how poor Busquets was. During his ‘learning process’ he gave away a bunch of balls. Shortsighted and less educated fans were calling Pep nuts for sticking with him.”

      Good point. Another example was at the beginning of this season, when the topic of King Eric filling in at CB came up. Time has made those cries of revulsion that arose then seem pretty humorous.

  10. nzm
    March 12, 2011

    Using ESPN’s game analysis, (http://soccernet.espn.go.com/gamecast?id=310993&cc=3436), the average position of Adriano, when compared to Iniesta, appears that Adriano played a lot of his time behind Andres.

    In comparison, Maxwell often runs down his wing over-taking Iniesta, and invariably passes back to Ini who always stands behind Maxwell, forcing Maxwell to pass back. Without fail, 98% of the time, Iniesta will pass to the right – either to Messi, Xavi or Alves. In the meantime, Maxwell is making deeper runs further up the left sideline looking for the passes back from Iniesta which never come. The ball has gone right.

    I also noticed in the Arsenal game that Adriano came in to the center-field a lot more, thereby by-passing Iniesta, or forcing the #8 to go more central or to go left.

    You can see this when comparing ESPN’s individual heatmaps of Iniesta and Adriano. I really would like to see Iniesta pass back to Maxwell from time-to-time to create some left-hand plays.

    Maxwell is more than capable of beautiful crosses and goals. Among them, he scored a lovely goal against Ceuta in the early rounds of the CdR, and a wonderful cross for Messi’s header against Atletico Madrid which was denied by de Gea’s superb save.

    I just believe that he’s not supported enough when all the plays go right for Messi, Alves, Xavi and Pedro. Adriano is more of an individual play-creator in that respect.

    Which leads me to the next thought – maybe Villa is also suffering from no play coming from the left for him?

  11. tntyau
    March 12, 2011

    There was a conversation a couple of weeks ago, I think, about people traveling to Barcelona buying tickets through the official site, and I was hoping someone could clarify for me how the season ticket holders releasing their seats works? The ticket purchase page says:

    “Buy your tickets on the Internet and make sure you have your place reserved to watch the most exciting spectacle in the world. It’s the most comfortable way to choose your seat. Don’t worry if you can’t find the exact seat you are looking for right now, because as the game gets closer, the club will free up more seats released by season ticket holders, who can put their seats up for sale for a game and allow fans who want to watch the match to come along and see the Barca team.”

    When they say “don’t worry if you can’t find the exact seat now”, but seems to imply buy tickets now, does that mean I should purchase whatever seats are available in the section I’d like to be, and if seats are freed up later in that section and/or the same pricepoint, I could have them switched? I’m wondering especially because it seems most of the available seats are not together, so even though there seems to be a lot of tickets, the I can’t find a selection for two people together.

    And timing of tickets being freed up, that’s at random as the seat holder decides to contact the club, or does the club collect that information and then release all the freed-up seats at a specific time?

    Anyway, any insight would be much appreciated, thanks in advance!

  12. March 12, 2011

    anyone have any thoughts on Christian Eriksen, I guess he is the new Ajax phenow, and he is not even 20. He also said yesterday that he would reject a move to liverpool and would only leave ajax for us. Maybe Cryuff and Afellay can tell him to come. Forget about Cesc. Eriksen and Thiago along with Ibra are plenty!!!

  13. March 12, 2011

    Μy thoughts are with Japan…this is so awful..
    courage to them all…
    Even at these dificult for them moments, they are an example for eveybody…I can’t bare to imagine what would have happened if this has happened somowhere else..

  14. Helge
    March 12, 2011

    Wow, you really put a lot of devotion in the analysis of the match / players. I already was convinced of Adriano’s performance before this article, but now it’s even more clear. Thanks!

    When I was talking pre-match with my friends, I told them the only line-up that will make me confident is exactly the line-up that Pep gladly chose. They didn’t agree with me, saying that Maxwell is definitely the better option compared to Adriano. I guess Adriano is being underestimated by many people, and somehow they all thought that Adriano is too slow. To be honest, I think that Adriano is our 2nd-fastest defender (behind Abidal).

    • Jnice
      March 12, 2011

      Yeah, in terms of pace, Abidal>Adriano>Dani.

      • Eklavya
        March 12, 2011

        I think Adriano is faster and Abidal. We’ll have to see.

      • soccermomof4
        March 12, 2011

        Exactly! And although it wasn’t the league’s fault, we were forced to play for our CL lives this Tuesday after only two days rest (without complaining). We took risks with squad rotation on Saturday in order to do this (for goodness sake, Mou, you have tons of talented, expensive players for this squad rotation (Granero, Canales, Leon) play them occasionally and you don’t have to complain about the schedule). If you want to remain active in all three competitions, this is the price you pay.

      • blitzen
        March 12, 2011

        Nor do the stats suggest Madrid have had it easier. Over the course of the season, Barcelona have had to play after just two days’ rest 18 times. That’s twice more than Real Madrid. Barcelona have had to play three games in just seven days six times; Madrid only three.

      • March 12, 2011

        Never mind, that was with Chelsea. Lmao! I was flippin! Is my coach delusional thinking we played on new years day?

  15. Jnice
    March 12, 2011

    I kinda hate when we play on Sundays, but at least Barça B plays today.

    That extra days rest will come in handy against Sevilla, though.

    I know we’ve won 6 out of the last 7 meetings, but tomorrow’s match is a dangerous one. Madrid will have already played and our lead will most likely be cut to 4 points by kickoff. This has the potential to add extra pressure on the players.

    Sevilla is erratic, but since winter break, Sevilla have only lost once at home (to Espanyol). I hope our team shows the same energy we showed against Arsenal because I think we can score some goals against Sevilla. Especially if we win the ball back consistently.

    It would be huge if we can keep our 7 point lead until the Villarreal match (we have Getafe in between.) And keep in mind that not only is that match against the Yellow Submarine away, this match also comes after an international break, which usually spells disaster for us.

  16. xavi
    March 12, 2011

    @Kxevin’s
    “What’s even more interesting
    is that I think if we’d had a
    player such as this against
    Inter last season, we might
    have won that tie. Recall how
    easy it was to compress into
    the center against us, leaving
    Messi to make his Quixotic
    runs because the left wing was
    an attacking dead zone.”

    Maxwell was the one who assisted Pedro for the away goal though

    • Roz
      March 12, 2011

      Good point. But didnt all of their home goals come from the right flank? Going to have to look it up on youtube to make sure.

    • Tom, Dick and Harry
      March 12, 2011

      That was one of the actions he did(not) take. One needs to look at the whole body of work during his time on field. Offensively and defensively.

      If to judge a particular situation, the questions are:

      1. Has the player created the situation with his own skill or was it gifted to him by someone else’s mistake

      2. What would another player do in such situation? Would he be most likely able to achieve the same outcome (assist to Pedro) or would do even more.

      What had happened can be qualified as a defensive breakdown. Maxwell practically jogged into the box. The defenders have not accounted for him obviously thinking he is not capable of hurting them in a serious manner.

      Considering the amount of scouting The Clown’s teams usually put in, a telling sign about Maxwell’s value to ‘our’ team.

  17. Sheena
    March 12, 2011

    What scares me about the Villareal match isn’t that it’s after an international break, it’s that it’s only a few days before the first leg of the CL quarter finals.

    Infact, our schedule goes like this: Sevilla, Getafe, International Break, Villareal, 1st leg CL quarter finals, Almeria, 2nd leg CL quarter finals, Clasico (Liga), Clasico (Copa), Osasuna.

    ghdsigjskgiurgjkfjsijut40kfgijds

    • soccermomof4
      March 12, 2011

      If Puyi and Xavi go play for their NT with all the problems they’ve had this year….

      Actually, I’m starting to feel guilty about having tickets for the US V Argentina game. But if Messi is gonna play anyway, I might as well enjoy it :-D. Sadly/fortunately, I don’t think he will have to work as hard against us as he did in previous games. (BTW, I am hoping for a 4-3 win. That way I can be patriotic and still hope for a Messi hat trick(with Masche getting all 3 assists!))

      • Helge
        March 12, 2011

        Messi will definitely play, most-likely the whole 90 min.
        Isn’t the match against the US before the one against Costa Rica?
        Maybe Messi will get some rest against Costa Rica.
        Anyway, I just hope that nobody gets injured, because the matches right after the international break are sooo crucial!
        Even a minor injury could cost us heavily 🙁

        So I count on you to at least make sure that our Argies come back healthy!

        • soccermomof4
          March 12, 2011

          I’ll run on the field and drag them off by the scruff of their necks if I sense any danger to our guys! 🙂
          You bailing me out of jail if I run on the field?

          • soccermomof4
            March 12, 2011

            No really, I’ll just sit there and pray the whole time they’re out there. The US plays a much more direct style and can be more physical, and there are so many important games right after the break. I just don’t know what my reactions are going to be. I’ll be rooting for the US, but how am I going to keep from screaming my fool head off for Leo? sMache will “take care” of anyone who threatens our favorite flea.

  18. ak
    March 12, 2011

    He had two crosses that deserved a better fate
    He had just received a pass from our front line, and he proceeds to run forward and put the ball into the box. That was zero tactical awareness for me

    i am still not sold on adriano. he’s got a blistering pace but he needs to learn to dribble with his face up. Maxwell may not pose too much of an attacking threat, neither is he necessarily a better defender than adriano, yet his crosses, though rare, are way more accurate, his play much more precise

  19. Eklavya
    March 12, 2011

    This is awesome Kxevin! You rock!

    I think his shot that hit the post was pretty similar to that of Van Persie’s goal in the first leg. I think it sent out a message that they need to guard their right (our left) flank better this time around.

  20. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    i woke up just in time for barca b & the fa cup. i rock.

  21. Jnice
    March 12, 2011

    This field looks way too waterlogged. They should’ve called the match off like they were going to.

  22. blitzen
    March 12, 2011

    It’s all Barca so far, but they can’t control the ball the way they would like because of the wet.

    On the plus side, boys in wet shirts. Wish the picture was better. 😀

      • blitzen
        March 12, 2011

        The pitch for the Betis game was worse.

      • Miguel
        March 12, 2011

        the rain in spain…
        arsenal man utd looks pretty boring so far, although i only watch during lulls in the barca b game, to be fair.

  23. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    jesus christ! that was awesome. we’re so pretty.

    • soccermomof4
      March 12, 2011

      I missed that. Did we score off a corner? Can they teach that to the big guys?

      • blitzen
        March 12, 2011

        Nolito corner to Soriano, who was well back from the box. One touch to control, then smacked it in. Really nice. But a better team would have had someone covering Soriano.

  24. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    that should’ve been a goal for thiago.

  25. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    goal rafael. that is rafael, right? no, wait. fabio!

    • blitzen
      March 12, 2011

      Dang. Very nice one, too. Arsenal seemed to be dominating up to that point. Hope this doesn’t knock the stuffing out of them.

          • soccermomof4
            March 12, 2011

            Dunno. I like Rafael, Fabio, and Hernandez and it’s hard to root against them. Harder to root for Arsenal recently (gee, I wonder why!) too. I’M CONFLICTED!

          • Jnice
            March 12, 2011

            BTW, did you happen to look at the Inter offside the day we played Arsenal? Talk about hate… lol. You would think we were the ones who advanced to the CL final and not Inter.

          • blitzen
            March 12, 2011

            I like Chicharito, he’s got mad skillz, and Rio is great, but other than that I can’t stand ManU. I still like Arsenal, although I am a lot less fond of Arsene Wenger than I was, the big whiner, and I have always disliked RVP.

          • blitzen
            March 12, 2011

            And you all know my feelings about the Horrible Little Hobgoblin. 😛

          • March 12, 2011

            1) Inter and their fans can keep hating because everyone know that even though they won the CL, no-one gives a crap about them 😀

            2) I don’t like Man Utd, either TBH. I like them more than Arsenal right now though. Chelsea are still tops on the EPL hate list.

            Maybe I’ll just bandwagon on Spurs or something…

  26. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaahhhhh!

    guesso who’s back?!

  27. blitzen
    March 12, 2011

    JDS again! These boys have their shooting boots on today! 😀

    • Miguel
      March 12, 2011

      jonathan soriano should’ve had another.

  28. majatt
    March 12, 2011

    Soriano would do well with the 1st team I think, JDS has a bright future…jeez the B team is good.

    • Jnice
      March 12, 2011

      As well as he’s doing with Barça B, I don’t think Soriano would do well with us at all.

      • majatt
        March 12, 2011

        Not as a starter, but I think his finishing and movement would work better coming off the bench than Bojan.

  29. blitzen
    March 12, 2011

    Whoo! I thought he saved that for a second! This is looking like a goalfest.

    • soccermomof4
      March 12, 2011

      It’s time for a “B” manita!

  30. Humphrey Bogart
    March 12, 2011

    Wouldn’t it be great if Messi would win the Pichichi in the first and Soriano in the 2nd league?

  31. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    no. he was subbed off. walked off the pitch with a limp.

  32. soccermomof4
    March 12, 2011

    Time for Arsenal to concentrate on the league?

  33. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    soriano wants a third.

    rooney makes it 2-0.

  34. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    muniesa’s been off for me. lucky to only get a yellow.

  35. Jnice
    March 12, 2011

    Naive defending by Muniesa to get sent off when winning 4-0. Come on dude, you aren’t 16 anymore.

    That said, dude kinda flopped.

  36. Jim
    March 12, 2011

    Thanks, Kxevin. Interesting article and I agree that Adriano is worth giving more time to in the hope he can improve whereas Maxwell has had lots of chances offensively and still doesn’t seem to want to take it up. I did rewind and watch many of the events you mention and he did have a better overall game than I first thought.

    However, the bottom line remains, in this game only, that Adriano offensively had two crosses which didn’t reach anybody ( maybe their fault but if he had looked up he wouldn’t have attempted one of them as it was quite a bit ahead of anyone). He had one shot on target which had no chance of going in – he hit it from one metre short of the byeline for goodness’ sake – much better cutting that back. I liked the attempted pass to Affellay – that showed potential.

    Defensively, he had 14 plays that turned possession but this was against an Arsenal side that couldn’t keep the ball at all and had almost a third of their passes incomplete. Every one of those was a turnover for someone and the whole team helped each other to steal possession.

    I’m not sure that 85 touches is at all out of the ordinary in a match where we had so much possession. Even the much maligned Maxwell could claim a heap of touches.

    Agreed he has pace which is is biggest advantage if we can get a bit more order into his game.

    Finally, as you correctly state defensively he created two dangerous situations which is his bread and butter.

    He may have owned Rosicky but that doesn’t constitute an great feat – ask any Arsenal fan. We owned them all over the pitch. Rosicky was no attacking threat.

    I think I’m still where I was before. I thought he had a decent game but not a great one. No way was his contribution a 9 imo. That implies someone at the top of his game both offensively and defensively.

    His pace and energy are useful to us and if he can get more control about what he does he will only increase in this. We do need more threat from the left.

    • March 12, 2011

      His rating was an 8, actually, and you misconstrue this piece for advocacy. It’s a simple statement of what transpired, so you needn’t argue so vehemently against the value of what he did. Euler’s comments re: tactics, abovehere, argue more for the actual contributions of Adriano. I just noted what happened.

      Anyone can say that any player’s action was meaningless. Xavi has XXX hundred passes, so what? They were all easy, 3-meter balls to Iniesta, right? I leave the worth of Adriano to the group. The exercise was to track him for an entire match, and that’s what happened. The rest is up to individual interpretation of a player’s actual worth to the enterprise.

  37. blitzen
    March 12, 2011

    Almeria evens things up against Pathetico, 2-2.

  38. blitzen
    March 12, 2011

    Just out of curiosity, if Muniesa is on a red for the B team, is he still eligible to be called up for the first team? Or do cards count across leagues?

    • Miguel
      March 12, 2011

      good question. i wouldn’t think cards from the lower leagues would be taken into consideration.

    • March 12, 2011

      He can play for the first team, but he will still have to serve a suspension for the Barca B team. So the game he skips playing for the first team does not count as his suspension

  39. soccermomof4
    March 12, 2011

    Must say that it’s good to see Aaron Ramsey back.

  40. Jim
    March 12, 2011

    Sorry, meant to type 8.

    Btw, Arsenal are a pale shadow of where they were a few weeks ago. Sad to see for me as they were my other favourites despite all the whingeing.

    • soccermomof4
      March 12, 2011

      Very sad, and now Djourou (sp?) is very injured.

      • mardia
        March 12, 2011

        That just looks like an awful injury, truly. The worst part is how, even before the injury and Arsenal being down to 10 men, is that for me, they were all the cliches that everybody puts on them–lots of “pretty” football, but no cutting edge.

        Mind you, van der Sar had a great game, and there were a couple of Man United players who deserved a card. But still. Jeez.

        • ooga aga
          March 12, 2011

          Man U started 7 defenders against Arsenal. Does that mean theyll start 10 against us?

          • mardia
            March 12, 2011

            They just might, honestly! Although frankly, I don’t think their midfield can stand up to ours at all.

    • Jose
      March 12, 2011

      Since our first leg against them, they’ve quickly taken one bad step after another. Now Cesc and Wojo are out, RVP isn’t fully fit, and they’ve lost one of their best defenders.

      • soccermomof4
        March 12, 2011

        They invested far too much into beating us. They could have capitalized on Man U dropping points in the past couple league games but didn’t. They are so poorly managed.

  41. blitzen
    March 12, 2011

    2 minutes into the RM/Hercules game and Dive Maria is down already. They should make a drinking game based on him.

  42. mardia
    March 12, 2011

    That looks like an AWFUL injury on Djourou for Arsenal. What a way to dislocate your shoulder, wow. I’ve lost a lot of respect for Arsene Wenger, and I don’t like Arsenal as much as I used to, but to see them go out of the FA cup this way sucks. (There’s still 1 minute of regular time, plus injury time, but there’s no way they can come back now.)

  43. jordi™
    March 12, 2011

    Rosicky just missed a chance.RvP woulda scored that obviously.

  44. Helge
    March 12, 2011

    Wow. Arsenal is dead. When is the funeral?

    ManUtd tried to encourage them by playing a B line-up, but still they cannot win…

    To be honest, comparing them to us is a shame! Arsenal cannot win against tight defenses, and they only play attractive football against lesser opponents -_-

  45. Jim
    March 12, 2011

    I wonder if we’re actually seeing the last few weeks/months of Wenger’s time at the Emirates. I’m not thinking that he will be sacked but it must be taking a lot out of him year after year to come so close and end up with nothing. A shame if it was because he has the right ideas about how to play the game – just a thrawn streak when it comes to paying out money for the necessary class in certain positions.

    • mei
      March 12, 2011

      Close? They guy gets kicked out whenever a big team crosses arsenal during an important step of each competition…or not a big team at all sometimes.

  46. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    commentator just called oezil nemo. ha!

    • Miguel
      March 12, 2011

      & oezil was the architect of that goal. what a nice pass. beczema finishes it.

  47. Jose
    March 12, 2011

    In the span of this game, making fun of Arsenal has gone from good fun to just cruel… That was such a flaccid performance against the second choice lineup of their biggest rivals for the league.

    Uff.

    • Miguel
      March 12, 2011

      was my emirates cup joke too much? i made a tsunami joke yesterday & i still feel bad about that one, too.

      • Jose
        March 12, 2011

        jajaja, not at all… it’s just starting to feel less funny and more mean.

        • soccermomof4
          March 12, 2011

          I don’t think it got too bad. I’m one of the Arsenal fans on board and I didn’t take offense.

      • March 12, 2011

        Hmm, nah. I don’t think it was. It’s like EE and their annual Copa Vicente Calderon trophy. 😀

    • March 12, 2011

      I don’t think it’s cruel.

      I wonder how Wenger and the Arsenal fans are going to hide behind this one? Never mind, I have a good idea. Fabregas was injured or some shiznit like that.

      I do have a heart though, Djourou’s been their best defender, but I just don’t have a conscience. I blame being a football fan; no other sport can make your feel such intense emotions IMO…

      • Miguel
        March 12, 2011

        heart but no conscience? i’m stealing that one & claiming it as my own. 😉

        • Vj
          March 12, 2011

          Not before I do. You see, I have a heartbut I just don’t have a conscience. See? 😛

      • mardia
        March 12, 2011

        The thing is, while it sucks to have your best defender out for the season, I still can’t feel too bad, because Arsenal HAVE the option of buying quality players at the back. They have the money and the league standing to attract better players, but Wenger refuses to bring out the checkbook.

        The fact of the matter is, right now, Arsenal’s squad is almost as thin as Liverpool’s–and considering the state of Liverpool, that is REALLY saying something. (And believe me, I’m a Liverpool fan!) But at least Liverpool’s making no bones about admitting that we’re a rebuilding project that’s been mismanaged for the last two seasons. What’s Wenger’s excuse?

        • March 12, 2011

          He’s building a team for the future.

          The ref killed the game by not sending off Scholes.

    • mardia
      March 12, 2011

      I had practically zero hope for Arsenal going into this match, and when I saw United’s lineup, even I thought…okay, they have to have SOME kind of shot now, right?

      Nope. Watching them this year has been astonishing (all that promise pay out for nothing) I can’t imagine watching it for 6 seasons.

  48. hammeronmessi
    March 12, 2011

    ahem.

    with abidal playing as a CB,whom do u guys prefers more?max or adi?
    its worth noting that we have more than 70% possession in almost every game.so who will be your choice?

    • Artur
      March 12, 2011

      Definitely Mr Correira, I can see us using 3 defenders instead of 4 more and more and quiet frankly, except for that extraordinaire run and assist to Pedro first leg Inter last year.. Maxwell contributes nothing to attack. I can see him work as an impact sub for more stable back line, it’d be nice to see him play in second half with fresh pair of legs as he seems to get tired really fast

  49. blitzen
    March 12, 2011

    Hercules not playing too badly, but they are lucky to have held RM to a single goal lead so far. It would be nice if they can equalize in the second half and force a draw, but not very likely.

  50. blitzen
    March 12, 2011

    Djourou definitely out for the rest of the season.

    • Miguel
      March 12, 2011

      poor guy can’t catch a break. he’s been battling injuries since forever.

      • Vj
        March 12, 2011

        Oh he caught a break alright, a broken collarbone to be precise 😛

        On the other hand reports coming in say that his injury is not as bad as expected..

  51. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    that was nice. i’m happy for mr. misshapen head.

  52. blitzen
    March 12, 2011

    I take it back, Hercules is now playing atrociously. They seem to have completely given up defending.

    Benzema is much better when CRonaldo isn’t on the field, eh?

  53. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    who’s cristiano ronaldo talking to in the stands? 🙂

  54. Miguel
    March 12, 2011

    wow. zaragoza’s scored in the mestalla? i was only rooting for valencia because they were in the champions league. :/

    • March 12, 2011

      Mestalla? Zaragoza are playing at home. And methinks Los Che are still feeling the elimination blues…

      • Miguel
        March 12, 2011

        oops. it was a typo. fix that for me, kari. 😉

  55. Aruba
    March 12, 2011

    About Van Persie. It’s out of the question that he didn’t hear the whistle, or didn’t see the linesman. What everyone seems to overlook is his shot. He never would’ve hit it with such nonchalance with all the space and time he had. Please watch it again.

    • mardia
      March 12, 2011

      Yeah, it’s true, other media outlets have reported it. He’s got a knee injury that’ll keep him off the pitch for a while, but he’s going off to Brazil.

    • Diego
      March 12, 2011

      When they write OFFICIAL it means it’s true.

      It’s true, btw.

  56. Jim
    March 12, 2011

    Barcastuff reporting that we’re looking at including a player in any move for Fabregas in the summer. However, I’m more interested in the reception he got at the Camp Nou. When he left the field it seemed to me he got a pretty hostile reception from the fans. Didn’t sound like they expected to be welcoming him back any time soon – or was it just that he was an opponent? Can anyone that was there confirm or otherwise? How is he regarded by Catalans?

    • Eklavya
      March 12, 2011

      I noticed that too but my commentator said that weren’t booing Cesc, they were booing the (time wasting) sub. I agree with them…
      He got off the field pretty quickly.

      • Diego
        March 12, 2011

        He was substituted by Bendtner, meaning it was already 2-1 or 3-1, It wasn’t time wasting.

  57. Diego
    March 12, 2011

    Wenger 2012 : “Our Players have grown and they’re ready to compete and prove themselves, They’re not kids anymore, All The Referees in all the championships were bad and Other Coaches should congratulate them”

  58. Diego
    March 12, 2011

    So EE finds a new way to irritate me, Their first goal could have been offside, and I was waiting for them to show us the horizontal camera, but they didn’t.

    They replayed the goal with 27 different camera angles but not the horizontal one, which turned me from doubting to certainty, That was so unprofessional.

  59. March 12, 2011

    Warning

    Avoid BS.com aka Goal.com for the time being. There’s some malware warnings on the site.

    • blitzen
      March 12, 2011

      Yeah, I got that the other day and posted a warning too. You don’t even have to click on anything for it to be triggered.

      Be careful out there!

  60. March 12, 2011

    It’s been a rough two weeks for Arsenal, and the fans are beginning to turn on Wenger and his system, which is unfortunate, just like his club’s luck. Who knows what the source of their persistently bad injury luck is. Physios? Perhaps.

    Just brutal. I can’t imagine how they must feel. It’s interesting that Rijkaard got the sack after just two trophyless seasons. But I think that Rijkaard isn’t the icon for the club that Wenger is for Arsenal. The job is his for as long as he wants it, but if I were him, I would ring up Guardiola on the phone to ask where we got our physios. They are clearly making a difference.

    Notice how we aren’t seeing the same or as many muscular injuries. The injuries we have seen this year have mostly been aging player and/or overuse injuries. People attribute this to luck, but I’m starting to not believe that. Even Abidal hasn’t had his annual 8-weeker, thanks to quality backup at LB.

    I also think that it is the playing style. We aren’t a dynamic team, in that we rely on pitch-streching, full-lung runs, players running around and diving, or doing stuff that stretches muscles to the breaking point. It’s a series of short, intricate passes that move toward the opponent’s goal. Yes, Messi makes his runs, but that’s pretty much it.

    I’ve been thinking about this a little bit after watching the Arsenal/United match, so soon after watching our CL match, and wondering if playing style also contributes to a side remaining relatively injury free.

    • Jim
      March 12, 2011

      Agreed, Kxevin. I think it also helps that we move the ball so quickly that it’s often hard to actually get a tackle in on us for some teams. That must help. There seem to be very few 50-50 balls and Xavi and Iniesta have the good sense to concede these knowing that we’ll have other chances.

      • March 12, 2011

        I just can’t believe how Arsenal fans are calling for Wenger’s head. He had them in the running in 4 competitions this season, while balancing the checkbook (sort of). Crazy. Looks to me that they are 1 or 2 purchases away from making things happen, and fixing that injury bug.

        Of course, that might all change when Fabregas leaves this summer.

        • mardia
          March 12, 2011

          Kxevin, they are, but the impression I get is that none of the fans believe that Wenger will MAKE those purchases come summer, and instead will stick to his “developing young players from within” strategy. And I don’t think the fans have the patience for it anymore.

    • blitzen
      March 12, 2011

      I absolutely agree with this. Cesc was rushed, or rushed himself, back for the CL game and now he is injured again. Arsenal always seem to have one or two key players out with injuries that could have been avoided if the player was allowed to heal properly the first time around.

      Look at Puyol. I am sure that if it had been up to him he would have played in the CL game. Reports are that he is almost completely healed. But he wasn’t given the green light because he wasn’t 100% and we just don’t take chances like that. Not anymore, anyway. I would hope the club learned its lesson with Iniesta after letting him play against Chelsea and losing him to injury for so long after.

      And yes, I think the style of play makes a difference. Not only do passes tend to be short, so do runs. Pass, move, offer. With the kind of possession football this team plays, there is rarely the need for long dashes up the field. I suspect Xavi’s tendinitis is more a result of the short turns he makes than any running.

    • Tom, Dick and Harry
      March 12, 2011

      “and wondering if playing style also contributes to a side remaining relatively injury free”

      I have identified 5 key factors:

      1. How well players take care of their bodies

      2. ‘Wear and tear’ (age, games played and medical history)

      3. Advice and care they receive from the medical staff (in order to prevent the issue)

      4. Style of play (distance and intensity of running, depends on the position)

      5. Tackling by the opponents (ex. Ujfalusi on Messi). The style of play ties into this one too since our players are not static and holding on to the ball for too long making themselves hard to tackle in process. If one is out to get them, it will be painfully obvious.

    • Miguel
      March 12, 2011

      this was definitely in guardiola’s manifesto when he took over the club. he even has the team eating together before training. remember messi saying how hard it was for him to give up eating pasta being an argentinian?

      • Jnice
        March 12, 2011

        Yep, plus the red meat and the staying up late he used to do.

        Plus, Juanjo Brau never leaves his side when Leo goes off with the Argentinian NT.

      • barca96
        March 12, 2011

        I thought pasta was good for sports?

    • nzm
      March 13, 2011

      I think that Barca must do a lot of cross-training. They do have water-polo and hand-ball experts/trainers/players on the coaching team who contribute to technique and skills.

      • outerspacedout
        March 13, 2011

        Don’t let Arsenal/Chelsea/Madrid/Inter fans hear that! Or they’ll accuse us of practicing diving and handballs hahaha.

  61. March 12, 2011

    And of course the worst part is that if Arsenal continues its slide and doesn’t win the league either, what are the odds that we won’t be shipping a suitcase full of cash (and probably a player to ease the fiscal strain) to the Emirates for an out-wanting Fabregas?

    • mardia
      March 12, 2011

      Honestly, and this might be premature, but if Arsenal don’t win the league this year, after all the high-hopes, I don’t think Fabregas will be the only player exiting the Emirates come summer. Just a feeling I have.

  62. March 12, 2011

    Interesting comments (via Sport/ESPN Soccernet):

    Barcelona defender Dani Alves says he wants parity with the club’s highest earners and wants to feel valued at the Spanish champions before he signs a new contract.

    Alves, 27, has struggled to agree a new deal and says he is frustrated by Barca’s stance during recent negotiations even though he remains committed to the side while he is still at the Nou Camp.

    “I don’t feel the club have bent over backwards to renew my contract – it’s a feeling I have,” he told Sport. “I just want an agreement to be reached now, or within a few days. I don’t like the fact there have been so many rumours – I’m as committed to this project as anyone in the squad.

    “I won’t be a hypocrite – if the club want to replace me it could cost them dear. What Dani wants is for the club to value him depending on his importance and influence within the squad. If they do that, I’ll be delighted and if not, thanks for these years (at the club).”

    The right-back, however, stressed he would still give 100% while still a Barcelona player.

    “I will break my back for this team, even if I don’t renew,” he said. “It’s a dream to form part of this dressing room and whatever is said, written or protested, my name is already written in the history of this club.”

    • blitzen
      March 12, 2011

      I just don’t believe the part about wanting “parity” with the highest earners. All the recent news tidbits are that he and the club are close to a deal.

      YMMV

    • blitzen
      March 12, 2011

      From Sport:

      Se ha comentado mucho sobre si usted quiere cobrar más y estar en un segundo nivel salarial…

      Se han dicho muchas cosas que no son ciertas, cifras que jamás se han barajado. Dani no quiere ser más importante que nadie ni ser inferior a otros compañeros. Dani quiere ser uno más y que el club le valore en función de su importancia y peso en la plantilla. Si es así, estaré encantado. En caso contrario, gracias por estos años.

      Nothing there about parity, he just wants to be valued for what he contributes.

    • Miguel
      March 12, 2011

      dani talks of himself in the third person? i can see that.

    • barca96
      March 13, 2011

      Damn it man.
      WHy did you give a BS.com link?
      I forgot about it and clicked on it.
      They gave a warning already

  63. March 12, 2011

    Fear not, preview is coming. It’s a vicsoc, instead of an Isaiah. But fear not. There will be preview goodness.

  64. March 12, 2011

    Wenger:

    “I cannot fault our effort but things do not go our way at present,” Wenger said. “We have lost three big challenges in a strange way.

    “One in the last minute with a goal from nowhere, one under very strange circumstances in Barcelona and today in a match where we were not outplayed but were punished by a team that was more clinical than us.”

    Wonder if he means a moment of staggering genius by the current best offensive player in the game right now?

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