“Have Barça lost their goal hunger?”
Yes, it’s not the same anymore 54% – No, they’ll recover it 46%
El Mundo Deportivo Poll + Results After Copa Del Rey Loss
The sad thing is, I’m not even surprised.
I’ve been meaning to rant about this for a long time now, but I unfortunately have finals to study for and write, so I’ve been pressed for time. However, I feel this is something that needs to be addressed now.
There is something about culés, something I hadn’t been able to put a direct finger on. Kxevin calls it The Way of the Culé, someone else calls it The Culé Complexity (although it could be Kxevin who said that as well. Fancy on-the-spot journalistic bonbons. Not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the central idea remains the same, and it’s one our enigmatic Linda touched on: culés are perpetually the victims and are almost always the underdog.
This was especially true during the trophyless seasons, 1999-2004 for the older culés, and ’07-’09 for more recent times. I can’t speak of the first drought, but I can talk about the second.
During the final year of the Rijkaard season, there were many issues, on and off the pitch. Rijkaard had a (in)famous coaching style of giving players more freedom. He liked to be friendly with the players, acting like he was just another one of the guys. To be fair, when the team was fully functional, this was considered a stroke of genius. Ronaldinho was bamboozling players and fans left and right. Puyol
was drop-kicking forwards while getting the ball first had the defense on lockdown with a fit Rafa Marquez. Deco was part of a midfield of death with Xavi and Edmilson. Eto’o was still insane bagging in the goals. And everyone and their mothers were happy.
However, as you can imagine, giving players too much freedom can have an adverse effect — it’s just asking to be abused. Soon, players were partying harder and come home later. The team started conceding goals at the end of the games, losing leads. Then, they came late to training or didn’t even want to train anymore, and losing leads became losing matches. Control in the dressing room was slipping, cumulating to a sort of mutiny, when Eto’o actually refused to come on during an away match at Betis, and publicly called out the coach. Ronaldinho always had some kind of injury — “calf” or “hamstring” –and rarely featured during the ’07-’08 season. And the media, of course, was going postal on the team. During this time, Xavi, Iniesta, and Puyol were the model footballers, trying to lead by example, but it was a sad, sad time. Full of moments like these too*.
Why am I bringing this up, you are probably wondering. I have spent many-a-season trying to repress these memories, you insensitive jerk.
The answer is simple: you’d think our team is in the crisis described above right now.
A draw and a loss against our fierce rivals, after beating them five times in a row with the last being a 5-0 beatdown, and suddenly it’s “not the same anymore”, “we’re dooooooomed”, “Pep’s lost the plot”, “we need to change our style if we have any hope of getting anything out of this season”, “Actually, I just hope we can get La Liga, but I’m not even sure we’ll win that given EE’s form.”
Our best player is clocking in 50 goals and counting. All three players in the running for World Player of the Year were from our team. We have the Liga record of most away wins. The World Cup winning squad had 7 of our players in the starting eleven in the World Cup final. We are one of the few teams this decade to get to the Champions League semis 6 times in a row. We are closing in to our 5th Liga title in the last 10 years, our third in a row.
And this is without sitting back with 10 men and hitting a team on the counter.
I have said earlier that I believe culés suffer from a superiority and inferiority complex at the same time. When we lose and our rivals seem more comfortable and score more goals than we do, anxiety rears its head in the form of damning analysis, full of absolute statements as if it were the most obvious thing in the world (“We will simply never win a trophy as long as so-and-so is on the team,” or “We have no chance at winning this match because so-and-so can’t score and take their chances”), or backhanded compliments (“Not bad, for a team that cost nearly half a billion dollars. How much did our starting XI cost again?”). When we win, it’s as if thinking otherwise was the most ridiculous thing in the world (“Well, of course we’d beat them. We’re the best team in the world. I mean, c’mon”).
But putting psychological analysis aside, there is something that needs to be said:
Believe in FC Barcelona.
You’d think this statement would be obvious given the joy this team is giving and football this team is playing, but it’s not. Believe in our team.
When has this team ever let us down in the face of adversity? We played a Champions League final with a 37 year old at left-back, Puyol as a right-back, and a defensive midfielder/monster at CB. We rolled into the Santiago Bernabeww having a once 12 point lead cut down to a mere 2. We were playing with 10 men against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge needing a goal at the 93rd minute.
Remind me what happened then? Exactly.
Putting Thong Boy’s goal aside, the last time EE scored against us in open play was two years ago, the 2-6 in 2009. They had to defend for 45+ minutes and hit us on the counter, with us playing with a back-up goalkeeper and a DM at CB, for them to score. Am I trying to discredit the goal by saying this to make myself feel better? Not really, because that’s just a fact. Credit to them for taking advantage of our lack of height at the back, but in my honest opinion, Captain Caveman plays and TB gets Puyol’d to oblivion (…that means Puyi wins the header).
Our team deserves our full belief. Adversity tests loyalty, and nothing builds character like a loss or being between a rock and a hard place. Victories taste that much better when you understand how sweet winning is — and you can quote me on that.
I think some of us have forgotten the joy of winning a game, instead, focusing on the details of Villa being offside too much, or Messi dribbling instead of passing, or Maxwell’s trotting instead of running. They are all valid complaints, and that’s what fans are supposed to do. But there are also many, many positives that are being ignored, as if addressing them means not focusing on the “real” issue.
The bigger picture is, our team is historic. We change the way teams defend and pave a new way for teams to attack. We force our eternal rival to go Football Manager and fork out something like 390 million Euros on the best available players, just for them to defend and hope they can nick a goal.
We won’t always beat a team 5-0, or tiki-taka our way out of our own penalty area away from home, but we will always stay true to our style and we will never sell our souls to win a trophy.
“We have a game philosophy, and we intend on continuing playing it. We are distinguished by the style of our game, no matter who is in charge. It is the biggest asset we have, our greatest pride, and that’s not going to change tomorrow, win or lose.”
—Pep Guardiola before the 5-0 victory in the first Clasico
The day we play anti-football and deploy players to do things like this and this for the purpose of doing whatever it takes to win, I will call myself Ms. Hypocrite for a month.
When If we beat EE, I’ll call myself XavIniestAbidaLeo, because I feel like it.
This isn’t the same Barca that beats a team 5-2 at home only to lose 4-0 in the return leg — this is Pep’s Barcelona, who won a treble in its first season and is on its way to win its third Liga. We don’t give up on this team. It’s given us too much happiness for us to do that.
The last time some team beat us in the Copa, this happened:
And remember this is what our team is capable of:
Please don’t think I’m arrogant, but I think our team’s a special one. Win, lose, or draw: Visca el Barça.
Other Talking Points:
Pep Quotes [all via @barcastuff on Twitter]
“It seems few people are still behind us but I believe in the strength, the spirit and the honour of this team.”
Goes nicely with what I was blabbing about above.
“I’ve seen next season’s calendar and it’s crazy, because of the Euro. We’ll see if we have to make extra signings.”
Pep says it in public and you just know we’re after people. …I mean that in the least suspicious way possible.
“Villa is a key player for us. He’s crucial, irreplaceable.”
Nice to read that. Boss is behind el Guaje. (This quote was before Villa scored).
“Mascherano has been a spectacular transfer. It’s priceless to have him in your squad. As a centre-back, he’s a gem”.
Even more valuable at left-back? *says this while eating more humble pie and sipping some Kool-aid**
Adriano is out for 4 weeks and Maxwell, who I didn’t want to play anyway given his lack of pace, seems to have injured himself (it’s a confirmed groin injury, length of time out depends on the development of the injury). According to Pep, he’s “very doubtful for the next game.”
[On the subject of Maxwell, I also think we should stop calling out reader Jim simply because no-one likes to have that around their neck. Kxevin had the same issue with Henry when he was here and then
The Jackarse Ibra last season. I used to do the same in good fun, and I don’t think Jim minds having a good discussion, but he’s a fan just like the rest of us and wants what’s best for Barca. It’s not like it’s his responsibility to defend Maxwell. I don’t mean it to be nit-picky but I’m just saying.]
“We’re going to train at the Bernabeu on Tuesday so we can adapt better to the very tall grass.”
“Referee for the CL semi-final could be Portuguese? If that’s confirmed I’m sure the coach of Madrid will be very happy”
Don’t really want to start this, and I’ve been repressing the memories of the first leg at the San Siro, but it’s pretty dumb if UEFA do this. All the hoobla this will create, as well as giving conspiracy theorists more ammo… it’s just not smart.
PS. We are the best team in the world, and if people say otherwise, show ’em my gravatar:
*I admit to doing that many times that season as well. Poor Frank 🙁 It was pretty awesome seeing him do that though. 🙂 If you were wondering what brought that bit of RAGE on, the full clip is here. I’d RAGE too, if I were Rijkaard. Our defending was that bad back then.
*I did not know that the “drinking the Kool-Aid” saying originated from that.