Athletic Bilbao 1, Barca 2, a.k.a. “Gaze all ye, in wonder at P!”


The face….the steely gaze that says “I will score”….the magic.

Ladies and gents, it was all about He Who Was Formerly Pedrito today, as he and Xavi combined to bail out what was really a desultory side today, with a few exceptions. Yes, it was the first, away leg of the SuperCopa but really, it was still pre-season for us and boy, did it show.

Guardiola rolled out a starting XI of: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Pedro!, Henry and Krkic. It was a semi-serious lineup that said “Hey, I’d love it if we could win this thing, but a draw would rock my world, as well.”

And things started out great, with lots of possession that, truth to tell, was a lot of the wrong kind of possession. Rather than triangles that dance about with evil intent, we got a lot of clunnky passing and the lads poncing about as though it was a practice session. Which is fine, because as I said, we should still be able to beat Bilbao with that side.

And so it came to pass.

There were a few things worthy of note in this match:

1. We will have to work on how to play when our backs get pressure. As Hector pointed out, pressure means that rather than playing the ball out as we love to do, they have to long pass it to midfield.

2. We’re getting better at integrating new blood into the lineup.

3. It’s still pre-season for us, folks, make no mistake about it.

4. We’re better at set pieces (so far), which will help a significant defensive weakness.

I’m just not sure what the cause of the desultory play was, but even Xavi gave away a couple of balls, and The Yaya wasn’t his usual commanding self, as his lost possession led to the Bilbao goal that was a rather scrappy one, coming as it did off of Alves’ leg. Worst of all was if he doesn’t make that stab, Valdes has the shot covered.

What was more vexing was the goal ruffled their feathers and suddenly we were on the back foot. The elegance and time of possession weren’t there for us, as Bilbao pushed up the pitch and applied pressure. Not much of it was of any real significance, but our fundamental tenet is if you don’t have the ball, you can’t beat us. We have seen opposing coaches try a few different things this early part of the year. Man-marking The Yaya, man-marking Xavi, putting pressure on the backs.

Cross-pitch passes alleviate stress and create working space, to be sure. But it’s the comfort that our players have with the ball at their feet, that makes the machine go. And after a rotten start to the second half, magic arose from nothing, and we got to see a glimpse of the future, Xavi to Pedro!

Pedro! took the pass, did a little dance and as elegantly as can be, rolled a perfectly weighted pass to Xavi, who smoked it past the keeper on the near side. Suddenly it was 1-1, and seemed to have the same effect that the Eto’o goal did in the Champions League final, another one that came when we were kinda struggling to get on the right foot. We started getting more possession, fighting back and pushing them back into their end.

But the second goal was pure magic, as Pedro! took a pass from Xavi and again, created a little space for himself with a slick little (dare I say, Messi-esque) move that led to an unleashed curve ball that the keeper missed by mere inches. But miss he did, and it was 2-1 good guys. From this point on, despite their efforts, there wasn’t any real danger, and the scoreline could have easily been 4-1 as we had some great chances, particularly Alves’ stunner that banged off the crossbar.

The other great thing about the Pedro! performance is that it kicked off just as some of us were noting that not only do we have to play the ball to him, but he has to make himself available for said balls. Dancing out onto the wing and waving your arms is not going to do it. Constant motion is the answer, movement linked to the efforts of Xavi. Once that began to happen, we really started to see what Pedro! can do, and why his promotion to the A team was a no-brainer.

He could be this season’s Giuly. If you consider that our starting front will be Messi, Ibrahimovic and Henry, Pedro! can come in as that firestarter, with all of his movement, energy and effort, not to mention a very quick shot that he gets off. We saw him shine against lesser competition, but the real question was how he would do in a match that mattered, against real competition. I think we have an answer.

And now, the points (sort of, since I was taking notes, but without replay, things get a bit more difficult):

Guardiola: 7. He rolled out a solid lineup, and had the tactical awareness to change our style of play, based on the midfield-clogging, back-pressuring efforts of Bilbao. If either of those Henry passes are completed (and they will be as the season rolls on and form is found), that match is a rout. Busquets and Jeffren were astute substitutions, that kept our energy up without disrupting possession.

Team: 5. Full credit for the fightback, but everybody was off today, except for Pedro! Passes were short, long passes were abnormally inaccurate, everything was kinda messy.

Valdes: 7. Couldn’t have done a damned thing about the goal, and knocked about a couple of horrific clearances/passes that could have killed the side. But every save he had to make, every ball he had to grab–including one with a Bilbao player right on the doorstep–he did.

Alves: 6. He played to a higher score, but I am going to start subtracting a point whenever the “Alves Tuck -N-Roll” is implemented. It’s a shameful thing that detracts from his very good play today, including a shot from distance that would have been one queen hell mother of a golazo.

Pique: 6. Off on his passes, let some Bilbao players loose in and around the box, but was very solid, for the most part. Unfortunately he was playing next to Captain Caveman.

Puyol: 7. El Capitan is ready, folks. Pre-season? Early season? What’s that? It’s time to get in some ass. Hell of a late block of a very dangerous Bilbao effort.

Abidal: 6. Our French Greyhound transitions too readily into Wreckless Eric, as he was giving and taking away. Strong offensive effort and his usual indefatigable defensive effort shone, but then he’d clunk it up with a pass or make a control/clearance more difficult than it should have been.

The Yaya: 5. Hmmm. It’s early season for our Mammoth Man, and that’s okay….sort of. He took a step back from the excellence on display in the pre-season friendlies.

Keita: 4. If I seem harsh on him, it’s because I didn’t have benefit of a match re-watch. He’s often better when you watch the match a second time, as you can see the little things that he does. But from my seat he was pretty invisible, though helpful once we regained control of the match, in keeping possession.

Xavi: 6. Yes, he got a goal and an assist, but he should have been playing with Pedro! more and earlier (though some of it was the fault of P!), and his passes didn’t have that usual effortless precision. Which is fine. It’s still early days for him, as well. Killer shot for the first goal.

Pedro!: 8. Simply put, he was the difference-maker today. If he learns that he can’t be played as effectively when he moves constantly, stand back. Destruction is going to ensue when he enters the pitch. He always plays with his head up, and he understands the Way We Play. And it goes without saying that P! is Man of the Match.

Krkic: 4. The Kid was pretty worthless out there today, uncertain in possession and making the reception of passes more difficult than it should have been.

Henry: 5. He’s been better. If he wasn’t 100% he shouldn’t have been out there. And even if he wasn’t, he simply has to do better with the chances he was given. A+ for defensive effort, however.


Jeffren (for Henry): 5. Final Fantasy made some nice moves, but showed a tendency to play himself into trouble. We don’t give a player the ball, then say “It’s yours. Make something happen.” If something isn’t there, send it back to Xavi for a re-set, then try again.

Busquets (for Xavi): incomplete. I know he was out there running around, but damned if I recall any real evidence of his presence. My notes don’t mention him at all.

So. First review of the season. It’s pre-season for me, as well. I might be off a bit on some ratings, might not. Dunno. I do know that I am excited about this season. That was a rotten grinder of a match that could have easily gone the wrong way. But we didn’t let it happen, because of pride and hunger. Yes, it was an….um….measured effort, but it all worked out in the end, which is what counts, right?

And now, for some really cool news. Hopefully (not sure if he took notes this time) this season, Isaiah, Hector and I are going to be triple-teaming y’all. Isaiah will preview, I will review and Hector will make the world make sense tactically. Is anybody else as geeked about this last bit as I am? Yes? Thought so.

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Written by:

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. Gibbzz
    August 16, 2009

    How did pedro perform in the first half !!!! I saw from various sites he had an indifferent 1st half, but well, i am so thrilled to see this guy play in the future, could be our hidden gem just like Iniesta !!!

  2. Kari
    August 16, 2009

    Nice review!

    Am I the only one who saw shades of The Yaya ( in the Copa final) in Pedro!’s goal? ….Deja Vu..

    Anyway, I think the team (esp. The Yaya) has one eye on the Gamper. Maybe that’s why The Yaya was putting Citeh on a false sense of security…so he can Yaya-crush them in the Gamper.

    On the subject of the Gamper, Ibra and Iniesta are supposed to play, right? And if we add Messi to that.. :O

    Someone get the police ; it’s gonna be a massacre

  3. hamzawi
    August 16, 2009

    barca played agood game.i think u was harsh on keita and bojan.however it is an encouraging start to season. we r all thrilled for the real action to start. congratulations on the new blog,we r waiting for more analysis.

  4. Kxevin
    August 16, 2009

    Is Messi playing the Gamper? Hope so. I want to see what the world will see and quake in terror of, dammit! My guess is that we will have an array of HQ feeds, from La Sexta to TV3, from which to choose.

    Gibbzz, Pedro! didn’t have an indifferent first half, as much as one where people weren’t quite sure what to do with him. And that’s Xavi and Alves. He still had effort and energy galore. Once they got it all figured out, the awesomeness ensued.

  5. Gibbzz
    August 16, 2009

    Kxevin thnks a bunch !!!! congrats on ur new blog, lookin forward to readin ur reviews and Hector’s tactical analysis is makin me pumped up !!

    btw i think Jeffren shud stay keepin in view of Henry’s fitness issues and thin midfield as well.

  6. August 16, 2009

    My first post will hopefully be up tomorrow if it passes the Board of Editors 😀 .

  7. Aeneas
    August 16, 2009

    I’m glad it’s finally time for full fledged reviews. Transfer season is dreadful and hopefully back in the closet. I really hope Bojan gets out of his funk.

    Great news, Hector. I hope the article is lonnnnng.

  8. Jnice
    August 16, 2009

    Nice ovation Xavi got from the Bilbao fans.

    I thought Keita stepped it up in the 2nd half. It was he who crossed it to Pedro who then passed it on to Xavi for our first goal. And he recovered plenty of balls in the 2nd half as well. I just wish he would take advantage of his space and stop playing as if he is in the DM position. Yaya would kill with the space Keita has to go forward.

  9. messi_fan
    August 16, 2009

    I agree with MOST of what you said. But I have to disagree on Keita. Apart from his (extremely) wayward shooting, I thought he was pretty good.

  10. poipoi
    August 16, 2009

    We didn’t play very nice, beggining of the season. We started well and then missed too many balls but in the end we won thanks to xavi and a couple of pedro! moments. The team was imcoplete (messi iniesta and ibra all top 10 of the world at least) but the players pep had to choose from show how limited the list of players is (( Valdés – Alves, Piqué, Puyol,Abidal – Touré, Xavi, Keita – Bojan, Henry, Pedro! ))= pedro and bojan ok but keita isn’t playing well.
    (( Pinto – Maxwell, Fontàs, Muniesa – Gudjohnsen, Sergio – Busquets, Jonathan, y Jeffren ))= maxwell, 6 kids from la masia, guddy and the keeper. We changed the 9 and bought maxwell, I hope they sign someone good.

    Pedro! looked a bit lost in the beggining of the game but in the end it was his day 😉

  11. Eduard
    August 16, 2009

    i saw the game in a little box on my laptop screen. Anyone know if they’re replaying the game on tv any time soon.

    Bojan did good early on(maybe you forgot about that). He had a cracking shot that had intent written all overt.

    Also, do any of you know which national team Pedro! is going to play for?

  12. August 16, 2009

    Spain for sure. He’s from Tenerife (I think). Jeffren is the question as he was born in Venezuela but raised in the Canary Islands as well.

  13. Kxevin
    August 16, 2009

    I’ll accept that, messi_fan. As I said, Keita is the one player who gives my DVR the biggest workout. Because watching in real time, it’s really difficult to see what he does. But every time I have watched a match the second (yes, or third) time, I’ve had that :Ah! Keita!” moment.

    No TV for the game, Eduard. Fox Soccer had BarcaTV last season, which would always re-play the previous matches. It was great for seeing Copa matches, and the like. But they don’t have that deal this season, so it’s unlikely that this match will see the light of day on proper telly.

  14. August 16, 2009

    Some Pep quotes from his press conference:

    On Pedro:
    “Without being exactly in tune, he was good. Pedro can even play as a midfielder (Hinty-Hint-Hint apparently). He dominates in tight spaces and advances quickly. He’s helping us and will participate much more for sure. I am happy with him.”

    On the game:
    “Its a good result but we must do much better than we did tonight. We had a relatively good first 25 minutes, with chances, but we rushed our attacks too much and that is not effective. You have to slowly cook these things.”

    Also, Pedro! is humble:
    “I am happy despite not having played well (wtf!?). At least at the end I got that goal. The ball took a good bounce and I managed to get off a good shot.”

  15. Luke
    August 16, 2009

    I concur with messi_fan, Keita had a solid game. He almost never shows out in the technical sense or in real-time, but when re-watching, he’s a beast who can take away half the field if need be. Keita can control or he can be the conduit when Xavi or Iniesta are out.

    I look at this game as a tweener game: Barca came out, held serve, game up an unlucky goal and then got two back in the 2nd half for the win on the road. Honestly, Bilbao could have scored 1 more and Barca could have scored 7 with better bounces.

  16. messi_fan
    August 16, 2009

    I was a bit disappointed by the service Alves provided. It seemed like more often than not, he’d go to pass/cross a ball, but hit it straight into the defender. And I’m not talking about cases where a pass was on and the defender got in the way at the last minute. These were cases where someone was in the way of the pass, but he tried to make it anyway.

  17. BA
    August 17, 2009

    for being an old distinguished club from the tough, rugged Basque; Bilbao sure have been a bunch of big whiny gits the past few times we’ve played them. rolling around, crying over every contact not instigated by themselves. sapped all the positive energy from the game.

  18. Anna
    August 17, 2009

    Okay this experimenting has been great and all…but SPF45 needs to get on back. Soon. Now would be nice.

  19. ballbeav
    August 17, 2009

    pep also said:

    with regard to the standing ovation for xavi:

    the gesture “demonstrates what kind of fans Bilbao have. They applaud Xavi for his trajectory, for how he dignifies the profession, for his behavior, for the respect he always demonstrates towards his rivals, for the correctness of his declarations…it makes me very happy that he has had this recognition from fans like these.”

    with regard to having Yaya as an attacking (“interior”) mid, which he played when xavi came out for busquets:

    “i have the sensation that he can play interior. he plays well in close spaces and when he makes a run he does it with force. i want to see him in this position. In this way we can give rest to xavi.”

  20. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    YESS! I like that bit about Yaya. Makes me happy.

  21. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    Pep also added that Yaya could play Xavi’s position in the Gamper match

  22. Mher
    August 17, 2009

    I honestly need more people to start talking about our set piece dilemma (OFFENSIVE and defensive). Hector, can you include some talk of it in your tactic post? just a suggestion. I think Pep (god smite me) doesn’t pay enough attention to our offensive capabilities when it comes to offensive set pieces. Xavi and place the hell out of the ball and when it comes to our back line we have Pique and El Capitan who are ridiculously great aerially. I think we need to use free kick more wisely than let Dani, who i love sooo much, kick the shit out of it hoping for a goalie fuck-up. That is our main weakness on that side of the field and we have the capability to perfect it. some please agree with me for the love of god.

  23. ElShowDeJason
    August 17, 2009

    I agree with Kxevin on Pedro!’s performance.

    early on, its not that he was playing badly, its that he needed to demand the ball, and Xavi and Alves needed to use him.

    In the second half Xavi’s processor (read: brain) crunched some numbers and figured out how to best utilize P!, and P!, in return did a better job of getting open and becoming an outlet. these are just things people need to get used to.

    As the season rolls on and Pedro! gets more acquainted with the squad, he will just get better and better. Well, he is already immensely talented, so, maybe i’ll change that to “he’ll get more and more effective”

  24. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    And I also think that the more Pedro plays, the more respect he will get from players like Dani. Sport said what I was saying earlier, Dani was ignoring him. There were several times when he was OPEN on the wing and Dani said “fuck it, I’m gonna put this in the box.” He will give him the ball more next time, though.

  25. Isabel
    August 17, 2009

    Great review! I was a little surprised at the low scores the guys got but maybe it was because compared to Athletic, they were doing really great.

    I was really conflicted watching this game (as I always am whenever two of my three favourite teams play each other) and I ended up cheering for De Marcos, Xavi and then Pedro’s goals.

    Alves’ diving was frustrating (clearly he’s a graduate of the Sevilla School of Acting and Diving) but to be fair, he was on the receiving end of some harsh patadas from Koikili and Xabi Castillo.

  26. Alexis
    August 17, 2009

    @ Hector,

    I cannot remember where, but I read that Jeffren was actually born in the Canary Islands. His brother was born in Venezuela though.
    Which version to trust? The truth must be out there 🙂

  27. Alexis
    August 17, 2009

    Has anyone read Alfredo Relaño´s article today?
    It says something like this: Barça looked good (good football and character when needed) despite the absences. Madrid was on the spotlight during the transfer season. It will be much harder now that the ball is rolling…

    Now that is a sign that merengues are trembling despite the 300 million Euro spent, and the big names like “my-house-is-full-of-Bibles-Kaka” and “my-house-is-full-of-tanning-rooms-Ronaldo”.
    This last comment meant no offence to Catholic people.

  28. Vj
    August 17, 2009

    I don’t think that Thong Boy comment was much of an offense 😉

  29. Alexis
    August 17, 2009

    Well, that is why I did not apologise to those tanning artificially 🙂

  30. Alexis
    August 17, 2009

    But some people with Catholic beliefs might have found Kaka’s offensive. Nothing against religions. But it seems he is a freak of his… 😉

  31. Ramzi
    August 17, 2009

    Hey Hector!

    It will be nice to see where we concur and where we differ. My initial plan is to publish today my first article of a series of tactical observations warming up for the season. But may be its smarter to delay it till tomorrow, so I steal some of your ideas and publish it in mine 😀

    Pedro was not the best performer in the game. But in such a not-so-impressive game, no one can complain if he earned most of the credit after assisting one and netting another. It will boost his confidence so we start to see more of the same.

    But the challenge now is to become more consistent and involved through out the whole game, not just a sniper. Something Bojan has to achieve as well.

  32. Cesc Pistol
    August 17, 2009

    I think Pedro’s first half is down to the team (specially Dani) not trusting him and not playing to his game than Pedro’s own fault. They found him when he was marked and ignored him when he was free.

    The same thing I said about Gai. Such a shame, his talent was ignored because of other’s faults.

  33. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    I read that article, Alexis.

    I’m glad the Madrid people are coming back down to earth and realizing that we still can play football. But had we lost or drawn, they would have said we still have Messi dependence and a new found Iniesta dependence. Fuck ’em.

  34. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    Exactly, CP.

    I love Dani and rarely get mad at him, but he was pissing me off with the way he was blatantly ignoring Pedro. We can say that Pedro has to demand the ball, but when your wide F’ing open, the ball should be played to you. Xavi passed to Pedro more than Dani did. Dani had a monopoly on that right side and decided he would rather play balls into the box every time instead of passing to Pedro. I couldn’t believe it.

  35. Cesc Pistol
    August 17, 2009

    Did I mention that Keita was actually really good?

    I feel that Henry will be subbed early every game. It will allow him to give his all for the time he plays and change our dynamic when someone new comes in.

  36. Cesc Pistol
    August 17, 2009

    @Jnice: i believe a certain amount of humility is expected from young players so they can’t demand the ball much. It is the job of the seniors to play them. I’m sure it was one of the things Pep pointed out at half time as there was a real change in attitude after that.

  37. Hawk
    August 17, 2009

    I agree with you Mher. And god will smite you for your comments against pep lol.
    I do agree though that we do need to work on AT LEAST the defensive side of set pieces. If you do remember we have scored a bunch of set piece goals. A few Marquez headers (whom you forgot to mention as an awesome air threat) that either he scored or flicked on, a few Puyol headers…. etc.
    Not to mention the clever things pep came up with for set peices like taking it quick or passing it off…
    Trust in pep!

  38. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    Wow, you guys will really like that mini movie special I posted. It’s amazing.

    I guess because it is a youtube vid, it is caught in the spam thing and is awaiting moderation. So once Isaiah or Kevin hop on the site, I assume it will be released.

    If you type in, Especial Barça – GOL Television in youtube, it should be the first link.

  39. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    Great point, CP. And too, do you know how mean Dani is on the field? Pedro is probably like “fuck this”, I can’t ask him for the ball. LOL.

  40. Ramzi
    August 17, 2009

    Cesc Pistol, its the same thing you here every time a player do not perform:

    “the team (specially Dani) not trusting him and not playing to his game ….They found him when he was marked and ignored him when he was free.”

    – We both agree that non of the players has bad intentions toward the guy. Good to note this first.

    – He is the new guy in the town, he has to learn the new language and not the whole town need to give up their language to learn what he understands. (I am new guy in a new country and I can tell you that 😀 ).

    Which means that phrase turn more appropriate when we reverse it this way:

    “He was not fully confident he can click with the rest of the team, so he wasnt playing as the group style requires. He vanished when he was needed, and was available when /and where he was not useful.”

    Hm…it feels more realistic this way. It was the same problem with Henry before till he learned when-where-and-how.

    Regarding Pedro-Dani equation. Its simply the reason why Messi is not roaming on the right wing anymore. For pedro to click with Dani, he need to cut inside more often evacuating the flank and linking with him from inside, not by hugging the line. Opening on the flank while Alves is running there seems like me standing on the train path offering my help to pull the train forward.

    It doesnt work.

  41. Helge
    August 17, 2009

    I don’t think Abidal deserves the same note as Xavi. That’s not in relation to the importance and quality of Xavi’s game, actually Xavi is my Man of the Match besides Pedro. And I don’t think that San Mamés applauded Xavi just because they like him and/or Barcelona 🙂
    I can assure you that we would have had problems to get a draw from this match if Xavi hadn’t played. If a player has such an importance for the whole team, it should in my opinion be considered and affect his note. Plus, Xavi scored one, got an assist and could have scored another one. Compare it to Abidal, I don’t remember any crucial tackle from him. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I’ve never been his biggest fan, on the other hand I think you’re quite a fan oh him, Kxevin 😉

    About Pedro: This guy is definitely on fire. It will be his season rather than Bojan’s regarding a break through to the A-Team. Every time I saw Pedro yesterday you could almost feel his confidence and will to succeed, whereas Bojan was surrounded by an aura of anxiety and uncertainty. It’s not only been the case yesterday, (almost) everytime I see Bojan’s face during a match, I don’t see the spark in his eyes. I think Bojan has to work more on his mentality and self-belief than on his skills as a footballer, because the skill is evident.
    Back to Pedro: Why can’t he be a left offensive winger ? If Pedro was a left winger we wouldn’t have to worry about a replacement for Henry. It will be Henry’s last season and I fear Henry has to suffer this season already. Pedro would be his perfect successor if he played on the left. But on the right, Pedro will always be 2nd choice behind Messi as long as Messi is fit and with us. That’s actually a waste for a guy of his quality, maybe that’s why Guardiola wants to give him playing time in the midfield?

  42. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    Helge, Pedro can and will play both wings. He is ambidextrous, which is also handy and I’m sure he will get plenty of time on the LW. Pep has started Pedro on the wing against Seattle in the 2nd half when it was him, Eidur, and Jeffren. And from there he got a goal and an assist.

  43. yogi
    August 17, 2009

    Bojan does need a dose of confidence. He started the match well but then faded. And his body language is not good. Hope that the Kid passes this phase. For him, it is always added pressure now that Pedro is playing so well with Jeffren waiting in the wings.

  44. Cesc Pistol
    August 17, 2009

    The team is not like a town. A new member is very important. There’s only 11 on the pitch, if you don’t play for each other then the whole team is much weaker. Responsibilities lie on both sides equally.

    You can call Pedro’s movement in question but sometimes he was in a better position, it was a better idea to pass to him but he was ignored. I don’t think there’s any justification for that.

    We are only nitpicking here and being our first serious game there were bound to be miscommunications. Our tempo and control of the game was severely lacking in the first half, that is something the team is to blame for and not Pedro. That was not our style at all.

    Anyways, that’s all behind us and I hope Pep keeps pushing Pedro through the team every match if only for 15 mins. He’s probably gonna start against Gijon and gonna get some time in the Gamper as well. So a good start for him to prove himself. I feel Henry will likely be substituted early alot so he can have a high workrate while he’s there and we can have a different dynamic with an early sub.

  45. Ramzi
    August 17, 2009

    “The team is not like a town.”

    Some people believe football represent life in all its aspects.

    “Better position” is not the same as “Being available” Cesc. sometimes, playing the ball to an “available” player on the flank means walking into the defensive trap where your offense flow get squeezed in the corner rather than enjoying multiple options where there is more chemistry between the players. When you are not securing a result in a game where you can win silverware, you put the team over any other consideration. Its not a friendly so you cant really offer any individual favours, there is a job to be done.

    The 11 players need to be responsible equally to click, no doubt. But again, if 10 of them are clicking and the 11th is out of the tone, the responsibility is not equal. If you go back in Theoffside posts few months, you will see the same argument with henry name instead of Pedro.

    You hit the nail when you mentioned that Pep fixed the problem in the second half. The best two pedro moments came when he was inside, not while hugging the line. Its obvious.

    Now of course by no mean I am putting the responsibility of the less-entertaining performance on Pedro shoulders. Actually I am accused to be over protective toward youth by demanding that they must play out of any pressure while finding their way into the first team. Its Veterans’ role to carry the game while the youth get advantage of that.

    Pedro is a talent to count on, no one can doubt that. I am just analysing the point that, not only in this game, but for as long as Dani is our Right back, any player on the right need to learn when to cut inside and open the path. Again, Messi?

  46. August 17, 2009

    Ramzi- I can’t wait to see your articles. Also, I fully expect for you to correct me and set me straight early and often 😀 . My first one is a little 2 part series on the intricacies of ball pressure, and then I have an Ibra post in the works on what he brings to the table due after his scheduled debut in the Gamper.

    Here’s a few comments on a few players-

    Abidal- Started out great. I was about to give him serious props after about 30 minutes being his usual solid defensive self and venturing forward more than usual but then he started giving balls away like crazy. Bad Eric!

    Keita- He was good out there. He had good runs into the box and did a good job of supporting Henry. His defensive contributions were also good. Its just the Stealth Keita effect. He gets it done with a minimum of flash.

    Xavi- We all love the Prof here. He scored a goal and had an assist. However. I am very, very sorry but he was not his usual self for large stretches of the game out there. He missed a sitter but that happens to everyone. The part that had me disappointed in him is that he lost control of the tempo for a long stretch at second half of the first part and first few minutes of the second. As the 4, his job is to control the tempo and he lost it. Credit Caparros for having the cojones to press high but a logical adjustment would have been for Xavi to track back and help out the CB’s which he somehow did not do until Pep made adjustments at halftime. By Pep’s own admission, we were rushing the attack too much. Maybe it was not Xavi doing it directly but as our “#4” and coach on the field he had a long stretch where he went AWOL.

    Alves/Pedro- Ramzi hit the nail on the head as usual. Alves is like demented crack fiend running up and down the right wing. Messi loves this because it means he can cut in and play off of Alves from there. The key is not running into each other and closing each others’ space Every now and then they do the opposite. In his Sevilla days, as a primary playmaker, Alves frequently cut in himself. Pedro! and Jeffren are natural wingers. Sticking to the wing touchline is what they were taught. Pedro! either has to cut in more when playing with Alves like Ramzi said or improve his communication with him so that Alves is the one cutting inside. Dani’s crossing was good for the first 30 minutes but then for some reason it seemed all his crosses and passes were deflected.

  47. August 17, 2009

    BTW, Pedro is naturally right footed but ambidextrous. I’d like to see more of him on the left to see what he brings to the table on that side as well.

  48. Ramzi
    August 17, 2009

    Hector, I feel more relaxed now to be honest with you. Your article subject is not something I tackle in my article; I would have hated to write about the same thing you mention in your first article. So I am looking forward for it. Especially that it will inspire me for the following parts of my series.

    I always demanded more diversity in the Messi-Alves game. Pedro was may be the victim of Alves runs on the flank the same as Alves was the victim of Messi potentials while cutting in. Messi need to open to the flank more often when he is tightly marked to open a hole for Alves to cut in and take his shots. We’ve seen more samples about it in this game than in a whole season. In that mean, Pedro was helping Alves (with or without intention) Opening a tunnel for him to cut in to the box edge and take his shots. The only problem was when Alves opened to the flank, Pedro didn’t synchronize. I would have considered it as an Alves-mistake, but when you see that Bojan, was able to linking more with henry on the left, and keeping in mind that when alves cut in he penetrate between pedro and Xavi, that leave him with no option to move the ball to the right where there is only one player to lick with, instead of keeping the offense fluidity where the teamwork is taking place more efficiently.

    But again, we can’t demand them to click in their first game playing together. Which means there were no bad intentions, neither bad decision making. Its just the fact that some fruits need time to mature. This increases its quality, and not the opposite.

  49. eklavya
    August 17, 2009

    LOL Have you guys seen’s ratings? They gave Keita 8.

  50. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    Naaah, not a fan of Abidal, though I do think that like Henry, he gets excessive scorn for his errors and hardly any credit for his good work.

    A play typified his match when, in the second half, Puyol was trapped by two Bilbao defenders, trying to figure out what to do with the ball. In zoomed Abidal, to provide an outlet for Puyol. A nice 1-2, and the clearance was made. Puyol acknowledged his effort with a thumbs up (? I think, memory is hazy).

    He made more offensive forays, including a play that really should have resulted in a goal. He broke up attack after attack and always made himself available for the outlet ball to re-set the attack. Yes, Wreckless Eric reared his head. Bummer about that.

    Xavi wasn’t Xavi yesterday. He was still good. I think he got the standing ovation because he’s Xavi, from a world that is finally starting to really appreciate him. If he’d played like the Xavi that he will be playing like (soon, very soon) the crowd would have stormed the field and kissed his toes. :

    I saw a team rounding into form, and learning how to play at an effort level that is good enough to win. The value in that, over a long season, is immense. Unlike us, I don’t think there was any doubt in their minds that they were going to win that match.

    But it’s clear that the fitness and sharpness aren’t there. Frankly, I’d be worried if they were. Bilbao is playing for the league, and they would LOVE to snag the SuperCopa from us. That’s it. So they were a lot more ready than we were.

    The fluidity will come, as P! gets more time, and boy, will he ever. But he moves differently from Messi, and Alves/Xavi will have to learn to compensate for that. I’m pretty confident calling P! the New Giuly (still one of my favorite Barca players).

  51. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009 might not have been too far off, eklavya. As I said above, Keita confounds me, because he is usually a lot better than he looks live. Watching live, if you don’t watch for him specifically, you miss a lot of what he does.

    I almost didn’t rate him for that reason, but that would have been a cop-out, so I judged on what I noted. His reality is often a point or two higher.

  52. Achraf
    August 17, 2009

    True keita was tireless out there perhaps ran the most but what I really likeed about him yesterday was his positioning sense he was at the right place at the righ time at barious occasions and always provide an outlet whether in defense or offense. Also he played a

  53. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    And Pedro! is being humble. He’s supposed to be. But the simple reality was when they integrated him into the offense, we became a threat and scored goals, both of which he was involved in.

    It’s sort of what I mean about Krkic. He doesn’t influence a match. As someone said earlier about the seasoning that comes with more B-team time that we’re seeing in Pedro!, perhaps that’s it. But I want Krkic to impose his will on a situation the way that P! or Jeffren do. He has the talent, I’m just not sure he has the confidence.

    And unlike others, I’m not falling back on the “Oh, he’s just a babe” contention. This is his third year with the first team, and second full year. He’s there for a reason, so play like it.

  54. Kevo
    August 17, 2009

    Just a thought…
    I know we missed important people like Messi, Iniesta and Ibra in our lineup but the good thing is that the team did manage to win a match that were down by 1 goal. What i mean is that even that we were missing our ‘small/big artillery’ we still manage to keep our composure and win the match.

    I liked Keita, he seemed more confident with the ball and he was even pushing the ball up and distributing a bit… he should improve on his long shots.

    And it seemed to me also that we are trying some long range shooting as well, Alves tried and hit the post, Keita shot to kill a bird, Pedro!’s goal was a rocket and i think Yaya wanted to do a replica of Copa del Rey’s goal.

  55. Hilal
    August 17, 2009

    I thought Keita was one of our best players yesterday. Kxevin I know what you mean when you say its hard to pick up on in live games. I was specifically looking out for him though cos in general i have noticed a much better Keita in preseason so I wanted to keep an eye on him in this game.

    He does nothing spectacular so in that sense he will never ever stand out. He is not an Iniesta. He is not going to wow with skills or ability. What he does is priceless though. He really does work his freakin ass off, especially yesterday, he was absolutely everywhere and he was unlucky not to score off the back of a nice little run. He is really starting to understand how the team and the system works and he is going to play a very crucial part this season, I have no doubt about that. He is our silent workhorse. Its a shame there are some fans out there who don’t see or appreciate his contribution. Have read quite a few comments (mostly over at peps place) saying how useless he is, but Guardiola certainly knows what he does and how he contributes and im sure all the other players do as well. Hopefully he starts to get a little more recognition…

  56. Achraf
    August 17, 2009

    Personally I agree 100 percent. Keita will never shine but he is priceless and the important thing is the man who matters knows that so expect keita to get the minutes in this season under guardiola

    And the commenters on pep’s blog come just ahead of commenters in my opinion is it just me or does everyone think that the quality of the comments here is so much better then at other blogs/sites

  57. Cesc Pistol
    August 17, 2009

    @Ramzi, first of all, stop being all zen like, it’s silly 😛

    I won’t elaborate on how a team is not like a town etc. and btw I thought you would assume I knew the difference between “better position” and “being available”. That was not what I was pointing at, at all.

    Now that we have that cleared (don’t pick it up again!) I’d like to state that I agree with most your points and there were clearly things Pedro did wrong and probably will continue to do so in the near future. Obviously the chemistry with Alves is not there but the fact is Pedro is a different player to Messi and has linked up with different fullbacks than Alves. (Sometimes he even played in a traditional 442, very unlike our system)
    While Pedro should adjust to that so should Alves. I didn’t see much effort from either tbh.

    The crux of what I’m trying to say can be better understood with a different player: Zlatan.
    He is very different from what Eto’o offers us. Ofcourse it remains his responsibility to change alot of his game to suit the team and it’s needs.

    However, this being the key point, that if the team does not adapt to how Zlatan plays and his movements, we are in for a disaster. Since it would be easier for the current team members to modify their game (as their understanding with rest of the team being at a higher level) I place more responsibility on them.

  58. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    Achraf, the quality of comments here is exceptional. It’s like a self-sustaining community in that everyone who comes and is new, has a template of knowledge, respect and coolness that has already been established.

    The rest is easy. I’ve said it before and will say it now (and again and again): Thanks to all of you, it works.

    So true, Hilal about Keita, Hilal. So true.

    ALERT If anyone knows of U.S. television for the Gamper match, please post it. ESPN overseas is showing it I’ve heard, but not ESPN Stateside. Nothing listed (so far) for Deportes or GolTV. We won’t see it on Fox Soccer, because that’s first day of Champions League.

    La Sexta is showing it live, so we’ll be able to pick up that (very high-quality) feed via the Web, but I want my own, DVR-able copy, dammit!

  59. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    Good points, CP. It’s why I noted that Pedro! has to make himself available. Same with Henry, and all of the other attackers. It’s what makes our attack work.

    It’s also why I say that people can’t judge Ibrahimovic based on how he played at Inter. He wanted us as much as we wanted him. He will do what he has to do to fit in. The allure of goals and glory will make that happen, which is why I’m not at all worried about his work rate or willingness to integrate into Guardiola’s system.

    But I do imagine that Guardiola will throw in some wrinkles to take advantage of Ibrahimovic’s strengths, as well, because of that two-way adaptability that you reference.


  60. Kevo
    August 17, 2009

    I like Athletic fans, they are so freaking passionate about the game and team and oddly enough, Barca.
    When Henry was substituted he was applauded, he didn’t do what he does he didn’t gave a bad time to Athletic players and yet he was applauded. And Xavi, well it looked like they were about to throw fireworks when he was substituted.

  61. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    Some of it, Kevo, was they were probably hoping that Xavi coming off would give them a better shot at an equalizer. 😀

  62. Achraf
    August 17, 2009

    With the copa del rey 75 percent ours im expecting a full strength lineup in the gamper game. Since everybody’s available by then we well be able to see our best possible lineup be it only for 45 minutes. And all my eyes will definetly be on Ibra and not on his personal performance and how many goals he scores but on the link ups and chances he manages to create with other team members. Ill be wa

  63. Achraf
    August 17, 2009

    With the copa del rey 75 percent ours im expecting a full strength lineup in the gamper game. Since everybody’s available by then we well be able to see our best possible lineup be it only for 45 minutes. And all my eyes will definetly be on Ibra and not on his personal performance and how many goals he scores but on the link ups and chances he manages to create with other team members. Ill be watching his runs and his calls for the ball. And also how others are able to react to this. If only one of these relationships works we are golden. Xavi-ibra iniesta-ibra messi-ibra and even henry-Ibra.

    The succes of these ingame relationships will be vital tothe progress of Ibra’s barca career.

    What do u guys think?

  64. Kevo
    August 17, 2009

    hahahaha! Good thinking Kevin… that sounds true. A big sigh of relieve!

  65. Hilal
    August 17, 2009

    Does anybody know if there are going to be any high quality feeds for the Gamper game on Wed? Sky arent showing it here in the UK and as useful as Rojadirecta is, the quality is not that great. It would be nice to be able to tell who the player on the ball actually is! Also this is the first time we are going to see Ibra play, it would be nice to be able to see the finer things (touch, movement, etc). Stuff that you cannot really judge on a rojadirecta feed 🙁

  66. Corrine
    August 17, 2009

    yeah i just saw that! was a bit shocked to see pique there since la liga defenders are rarely recognized but not surprised at all. i still think vidic has a better chance though, since he was more consistent through the whole season (and because manutd’s clean sheet run), while pique only got awesome at the halfway point. but i’m still cheering on our boy!

  67. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    Hilal, La Sexta will be showing the match (I hear). I would imagine that TV3 will also air it, them being the home broadcast team and all.

  68. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    And sheeeit, they had to recognize Piquenbauer.

    Speaking of Ibrahimovic, it occurs to me that I’ve been calling him our big ass Swede for some time now. Should we call him BAS for now, until something better comes up?

    It is, however, doubtful that anything approaching Final Fantasy will arise. 😀

  69. Achraf
    August 17, 2009

    BAS will do for now but we need to come up with something better perhaps his performance next match will strike our imaginations for a new nickname for him.

    And how did final fantasy come up for jeffren kxevin

  70. Eduard
    August 17, 2009

    that’s a lot of nominees. Is that normal for a campaign? Also what coaches are nominated?

    glad to see Piquebaur on the list

  71. SC
    August 17, 2009

    Ok, I went to the other blog and was like what… the… ???

    Kxevin, Isaiah and (now) Hector: I just want to send you all a big congrats and best wishes on this new project. You know, I used to wander the streets of Chicago in my Iniesta shirt (before anyone else had noticed that he may or may not burst into flames upon contact with sunlight), just a lonely cule, and I am so grateful you have created a home for me and others who love the beautiful game to come and (respectfully) geek it out. Also, I think the idea of putting up ads to generate $ for FCB charities is so freaking awesome and directly aligns with our values as cules. Good stuff.

    Also, I’m happy I made it through the transfer window without having to take too many Hector pills.

    Quick comment on the UEFA nominees— anyone else notice that with the exception of Eto’o, we have all canteranos on the list? Pretty cool, huh? 😀

  72. Helge
    August 17, 2009

    Wednesday will be a great day for football fans! There is CL quali, PremierLeague, Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid (100 years BVB anniversay game) and Gamper! 7 matches on TV, 1 on internet for me – yes, I’m kind a addicted to football, but Barca is my only true passion, stronger than my hometown team Arminia Bielefeld 🙂

    And I really hope that we show these new-rich Citizens what true football is about! It would be twice a joy to beat ManCity, just as it was twice a joy to beat ManUtd in the CL final (Arsenal, for instance, wouldn’t have been such a great feeling from my point of view). Is there anything official about the return of Iniesta, Messi and the debut of Ibra for Wednesday?

  73. Helge
    August 17, 2009

    Eduard, as far as I know there is no coach nominated. The coaches elect the best player of each position and the best player overall. Maybe they are not allowed to elect themselves^^
    Nevertheless, we all KNOW the answer, no doubt Pep Guardiola has been the best coach last season and I bet it’s not only us who think so.

  74. Hilal
    August 17, 2009

    Ok thanks Kxevin, and do they stream directly off their websites? So if I go to La Sexta website will i be able to stream the game and is it decent quality?

  75. Carles P
    August 17, 2009

    Sounds like Wed will be a busy day for Footy! Always good. Hope BAS (AKA Ibarcamovic) gets on the scoresheet.

    Did anyone else notice that Pep is adding long shots to our tactical plans (at least more of them)?

    Atleast it seems that last year we were hesitant to take shots from the outside, while this year (at least in the first real game) it seemed as though we were being given more free reign to take a shots from deep. I like the idea, because it gives teams one more thing to worry about.

  76. Alex
    August 17, 2009

    I visited the Sexta web page and they have a site that has shows on demand, what isn’t clear is if they stream live……………..

  77. August 17, 2009

    Rojadirecta usually has La Sexta streams. You just have to find them. The supercup was apparently not on La Sexta hence the scarcity of good streams. Its not all grainy transmissions, some of them are actually of good quality. Some of the users I’ve used at various times in the past are Bad TV, Rambo_es, muchodeportes, or Fenix_TV (or any thing resembling that). I find Ustream a little better than Justin TV but it depends on the stream. If you want something higher quality, download Sopcast or TVU player.

  78. Alex
    August 17, 2009

    Sopcast and TVU are PC only, correct?

  79. Ciaran
    August 17, 2009

    Vidic’s agent said that he would love to come to Barca but it’s unlikely that Sir Alex would sell.
    We’d have to pay €30million for him I’m guessing. Better than €20million for Chygrynskiy I suppose.

    I would love if we tied up a deal for Javi Martinez as well. A central midfielder is more urgent than central defender methinks

  80. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    Last time I used them, I streamed directly from La Sexta. It was an excellent feed, good enough to run full screen (on a 22″ HD monitor).

    Correct, Alex. And they were seriously lagging for the SuperCopa yesterday. It was weird having some folks come on with a “GOOOOAL!” 15 minutes after the rest of us had moved on. 😀

    The long shot is something that we all noticed. It’s a good thing. Alves almost nabbed one, Pedro did nab one. Ibrahimovic shoots well from outside, and so does Messi.

  81. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    Oh Good news for those who ordered them–the treble t-shirts are (finally!) shipping.

  82. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    Alex, TVU is also available for Mac.

  83. Alex
    August 17, 2009


    I can boot up in Windows with my intel mac, if I use sopcast I can connect directly to lasexta and get a good feed????

    Or are you talking about connecting from la sexta web page?

  84. Alex
    August 17, 2009

    Is TVU any good on mac, i.e. has anybody used it to stream games?

  85. Kxevin
    August 17, 2009

    I’m talking about connecting directly from La Sexta’s page. It’s what I used to watch the Copa final last year.

  86. Alex
    August 17, 2009

    So do I need sopcast or TVU to connect to there page? Or does la sexta stream it live on their page?

  87. August 17, 2009

    I would like to note that the liveblog itself would sometimes hold up comments for a while and then randomly publish them 10 minutes later. That wasn’t necessarily anyone’s feed, but in the 2 hours the liveblog was running, we had over 1,300 comments, most of which were during the goals.

  88. Jnice
    August 17, 2009

    Alex, if you can boot up windows on your mac (like I can), that is better than using TVU on your mac because TVU works better on windows. And Sopcast is good, too. But if Kevin is saying he can watch directly from the page, that is what I’ll be doing and it seems the best option. In my experience, those direct streams work best.

  89. Alex
    August 17, 2009

    Ya, if la sexta has a live feed, that will without a doubt be the best option, it may even be in 720p, as they are pimping that on their website for the section.

  90. Ciaran
    August 17, 2009

    Another thing in transferland, Real Betis have announced that they are willing to sell most of their first XI if there is a decent offer.
    I still think if we are looking to sign a rightback then Nelson would be a cheaper option than Eboue or Cicinho and would accept a bench role more readily.
    Not a fantastic defender but very good going forward. A centre back can cover for defensive formations (especially with Maxwell on the other flank) and Nelson can cover in more attacking formations

  91. ElShowDeJason
    August 17, 2009

    call me bias… but…

    Valdes, Pique, iniesta, messi for awards…

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