barca 10/11: the review [better late than never edition]

Some scattered thoughts on the season just gone, which like a good adventure movie had its highs and lows before the uplifting, happy ending.

the boardroom and the locker room

For all the talk of a steady transition, the election of Sandro Rosell bought about a revolution in the board room at the beginning of this season. While football affairs at the club continue to be held in the grip of Cruyffistas, the Rosell regime has shown a remarkable determination to dissociate itself from its predecessor in other areas.

I say remarkable, but of course it’s not surprising that Rosell would repudiate his old friend turned enemy Joan Laporta at every opportunity. What has struck me is the extent to which the club has become a tool to further the vendetta between the two men, a trend clearly demonstrated by the extraordinary lawsuit filed by the club against Laporta for alleged financial mismanagement during the latter’s presidency. However you feel about Laporta and Rosell, it is more than arguable that the legal dispute has had a divisive effect upon the entorno and general fanbase.

Rosell’s big policy changes have proven no less divisive. I understand that many fans support the move to restrict membership. I’ve also heard that opposition to the shirt sponsorship deal isn’t quite as staunch as it might seem amongst the online fanbase. Be that as it may, I remain opposed to both policies, and having spilled copious amounts of ink explaining my opposition (on shirt sponsorship and on membership) I won’t go on again.

Given the above, the reader is entitled to take what I say next with a grain of salt. The only thing I can say is that I try to evaluate each aspect of Rosell’s performance independently, with as much objectivity as I can muster. Right after the Osasuna travel fiasco (remember that?) an article appeared in El Pais questioning the public role Sandro Rosell had played that day and in the immediate aftermath. Namely, almost none, and nothing was forthcoming until Guardiola none-too-subtly called for more institutional support during his explosive post-match press conference.

If I have one major complaint about Rosell’s work as the public face of Barca as an institution, it’s that at crucial times this season, he did not step into the limelight and say what needed to be said. (The Busquets saga, for example.) There’s no doubt that Guardiola is a brilliant spokesman for the club. But that’s not his job.

horse race: extreme edition

As all involved with Barca are no doubt keenly aware, the chief enemy of a team operating at optimal capacity is complacency. Therefore, we have Real Madrid to thank for these past three years. Their Herculean efforts to topple Guardiola’s team have pushed the latter to the limit and allowed them to show their true measure of resilience under enormous pressure.

In 09/10 these efforts mainly manifested themselves in Galactico-style spending. Pellegrini’s team did almost everything right, only to fall agonisingly short. It was inevitable then that Florentino Perez would turn to the only coaching Galactico in world football.

The coming of Mourinho heralded a return to the most paranoid days of the Real-Barca rivalry after a few years of relative calm. Barca players will tell you that being questioned and provoked was an added motivation, and maybe they’re right. Certainly, the level of unity bred by a siege mentality can be a powerful weapon, as most top class managers well know.

However, I don’t think you’d find many Cules who truly enjoyed the Clasico series near the end of the season. Four games in 20 days was never going to bring out the best in all involved given how toxic the atmosphere had become.

clasico madness

Having said that, there were some unforgettable, wonderful moments amongst all the muck, too. Like Leo Messi’s wondergoal, the one uplifting moment in a game best left on the cutting room floor, the kind of dazzling, did-you-just-see-that-how-the-hell move action replay was invented for. And of course there was that astonishing, brilliant, and deeply satisfying 5-0 victory.

It was Mourinho’s first Clasico on the Madrid bench. Many expected it to be close, scrappy, an attritional battle. What happened instead was a slaughter. As Jonathan Wilson quite aptly said:

This was an indelible night, one that, whatever happens in the rest of the season, will echo through football history.

The manita has a special place in Barca’s history – especially Barca’s history against Real Madrid – but I dare anyone to think of a 5-0 to top this one in terms of performance. Just like Johan Cruyff’s team winning 0-5 at the Bernabeu and the Dream Team’s own 5-0 at the Camp Nou, it will be looked back upon as an era-defining game, one that underlined this Barca’s particular brand of dominance.

At the same time, as the great Cesar Luis Menotti pointed out, the trauma of the 5-0 defeat dictated Madrid’s tactics for the 4 later Clasicos. Some have argued that the improvement yielded in results vindicates Mourinho’s aggression. That however unpalatable, his team’s aggression on the pitch and campaign off it succeeded in breaking down Barca’s game.

But here’s the thing. Leaving morality aside, the main problem with that theory is that it didn’t work. The 1-1 draw effectively cost Real the league, and for all the fire and brimstone of the Champions League Clasicos Barca were the ones left standing at the end. The only time Mourinho’s tactics arguably worked was the Copa del Rey final, and even then it was very, very close.

Given Real’s resources and Barca’s sloppy run of form from April to the beginning of May, a more adventurous approach from Mourinho might well have yielded better results. That was certainly what this particular Cule was worried about, given Barca’s injury problems in defence and shaky form up front at the time.

Anyway. Enough about that. It’s over, and we all have to live with the results. (I have more to say on the ugly side of those games, but that’s another post.)

to endure and to enjoy

This was not always the most sparkling of seasons but it was the hardest; before Christmas they had been graceful, smooth and precise, after Christmas they showed the competitive spirit that is too often overlooked. They had spent the year being constantly attacked and had withstood some of the bitterest and wildest of accusations. – Sid Lowe

As usual, Sid Lowe nails it. This was always going to be a challenging season. The coaching staff were worried about the physical and mental effects of a squad coming off a World Cup (many of them having played in the final) and two seasons of great success. The omens weren’t good. Two of the greatest Barca teams of the past (the Dream Team post-94, and Rijkaard’s team post-2006) had crashed and burned in post-World Cup years.

There were moments of doubt, times when alarmist critics alleged that Guardiola’s team had come to the end of its cycle. The fitness and injury problems caused by hectic schedules appeared right on cue. While Barca were very lucky indeed with no major injuries sidelining crucial attacking players such as Messi, Alves, Iniesta, Villa, and Pedro, persistent injuries across the defence led to a season of uncertainty at the back. Not that showed in the number of goals conceded, and the remaining mainstays of the defence deserve great credit for that.

Furthermore, the two players who represent the brain and heart of this team both had a season blighted by injury. The loss of Puyol, who only played 28 games (as opposed to the previous 6 seasons, in which he never played less than 45) was huge – he was missing for every single game Barca lost during the season. On the other hand, Xavi’s persistent achilles problems didn’t stop him from racking up another 50-game season, but his absences were keenly felt, and the need to secure the midfield succession must feel ever more pressing to the technical staff.

And then, as Dr Lowe pointed out, there was the exhausting media war, fought on two levels. The first being Mourinho’s own increasingly outlandish conspiracy theories about everything from the fixture list to Barca’s opposition not trying hard enough to biased refereeing to, well, UNICEF; and the second being the far more insidious and frankly appalling allegations aired by Cadena Cope accusing Barca and Valencia of doping. Allegations which the radio station – under the threat of multiple lawsuits – claim to have received from a Real Madrid director. While the Barca-supporting media no doubt relished slinging mud right back, everything the players and the managing staff have said indicates that they found the attempts to taint their achievements exhausting, irritating and sometimes downright enraging.

But all of the above pales into insignificance when compared to the moment Eric Abidal was told he had liver cancer. The effect on the locker room was devastating. Without Abidal’s remarkable spirit, which drove him to reassure and comfort his team mates when he was the one facing surgery, it would have been even worse. His amazing recovery is the greatest prize of this season, more than any trophy.

standout performers

Leo Messi: the greatest compliment I can pay Messi is that he improves by leaps and bounds every season, even though the season before might have made such an idea seem impossible. His greatest competition in the current generation is his own shadow, and if such an idea doesn’t rob him of motivation (and it hasn’t so far) we’re in for something miraculous in the seasons to come.

Xavi: even carrying a chronic injury, he’s still the best midfielder in the business. The level of control he exerts over a game only seems to grow each year. If I may steal a Dani Alves-ism, the rest of us live in the present. Xavi can see the future.

Eric Abidal: I need to make one thing very clear first. Abidal’s place on this list has nothing to do with his illness. Even given his absence for six weeks, his committed and composed performances at centerback and leftback for the rest of the season has earned him a place. It’s not easy to fit into the Barca system as a defender, especially a non-homegrown one, but he does it with aplomb.

Gerard Pique: a controversial selection, I know. Allow me to explain. Pique’s performances this season have divided Cules into two camps. While I acknowledge that he has made some mistakes, he has also been the glue holding a constantly changing Barca defence together. I dare anyone else to go through a season with so many different partners at centerback, some of whom were never meant for the position and whose deficiencies he had to cover for, and come out having accomplished as much as he did.

Still finds time to make important contributions in attack, and despite all the tabloid attention, I happen to think he takes up his role as a representative of the club in the right spirit.

Victor Valdes: this coming season will be Valdes’ 10th as Barcelona’s number 1. Time sure flies, doesn’t it? It took many years for the average Cule to go from barely tolerating the hot-headed, erratic kid to embracing the brilliant shot-stopper with feet so good he could play striker. These days, it seems hardly credible that the Camp Nou crowd used to boo Valdes for making the occasional howler. After all, he’s the man we count on to do everything right, especially when the rest of the team are doing everything wrong. And that’s what he does, every season.

Runner-ups: Pedro, Mascherano, Iniesta, Alves

in and out

Given the transfer business conducted so far, I strongly suspect that my transfer wishlist doesn’t look a thing like the one drawn up by Andoni Zubizarreta and Pep Guardiola. For one, mine didn’t have another winger on it. However, Alexis Sanchez looks like a great prospect, and if he can relieve some of the burden on Messi and come in when the likes of Pedro and Villa are off-colour, he’ll be a successful signing.

As for the other name on Guardiola’s wishlist, I will endeavour to be very brief. While I am very fond of him, I am not convinced that Barca need Fabregas. The funds required to buy him would be much better spent on other areas of more urgent need. (The defence, for example.) Furthermore, given Thiago’s rapid development, it is highly possible that he is indeed ready to step up whenever Xavi’s chronic injury problems force him to miss games.

Others have argued against signings in defence on a similar basis. While it would be nice to see more La Masia-produced defenders in the first team, I haven’t seen enough of the current crop of prospects to feel safe relying on them as backup for Puyol’s creaking knees. Having said that, the versatility of the defenders in the squad right now is reassuring, as is what I’ve seen of Fontas.

A very fond goodbye and good luck is due to first team departees Bojan Krkic, Jeffren Suarez, and Gabriel Milito. The three leave under very different circumstances. Bojan is essentially on loan, out to prove himself and perhaps await a glorious return in a post-Guardiola era. While still very promising, Jeffren has run out of opportunities due to his persistent injury problems, and is now a little too old to be a mere promising prospect at Barca. Gabi Milito is no longer a first team regular after suffering a string of horrific injuries, which robbed him of his pace. All three have played their part in the successes of the past three seasons.

(On a completely different note, in case you forgot, Alexander Hleb is still here.)

the triumph of pep guardiola

“Guardiola has put a target on me, in classic fascist style.” – Eduardo Inda, editor of Marca [a little background]

This past season has seen the advert of unprecedented attacks by the Madrid media upon all aspects of Pep Guardiola’s character. Inda may have accused Guardiola of fascist activity, but at least he didn’t point the finger of blame at Pep for inciting violence against journalists, like a certain Madrid-based TV station (Telemadrid, as mentioned here). It seems that diplomacy and careful humility was no longer enough to forestall negative attention, the extremity and ferociousness of which will have come as no surprise to a man used to the complexities of the Barca-Real rivalry and not above hitting back when pushed.

Guardiola conducted himself with habital care this season despite the change in circumstances, at least until late April. His response to Mourinho came at the riskiest time possible, and without the backing of the club, who had urged him to keep silent. Even Barca fans wondered if he had finally snapped under continuous provocation. In fact, it had been nothing of the sort. The entire ‘rant’ – including the Catalan nationalism tinged, Lluis Llach quoting bits not mentioned in English press coverage – had been planned.

He is not a man who enjoys confrontation, but in the absence of another voice at the club, he is also not one to shrink responsibility. Anyone who remembers Guardiola as the club captain who screeched up into a ref’s face and accused him of playing with the emotions of an entire country (Catalunya, of course) should have realized that there was steel hidden underneath the velvet gloss of civility and respect.

“Allow me to have faith in my players. They have achieved too much in a short space of time for me not to have faith in them.” – Pep Guardiola [Arsenal 2-1 Barca, post-match press conference]

The difficulties encountered this past season took their toll on Guardiola’s health. He often looked exhausted, stressed, much older than his 40 years, and was hospitalized for a herniated disc. Players have since admitted that Pep’s insistence on attending training and games while he really shold have been resting in bed was an additional motivating factor during a crucial stretch featuring games against teams such as Valencia and Arsenal. In the greater scheme of things, it may be a minor detail, but Guardiola has built his success on mastering minor details.

Compared to the thin, tired figure of earlier, the Guardiola we saw talking effusively in the post-match press conference at Wembley seemed a man rejuvenated. Having come through a season in which he had been up against a domestic rival of unprecedented strength and finished it with a game in which his vision had played out almost perfectly, it is the fond wish of this particular Cule that the experience has refueled him. He has often stated that he will walk away when his passion for the job fades. Hopefully that day is still far away.

the ultimate grace note

Make no mistake, this has been one more extraordinary season in an era Cules will be talking about for years to come. When we come to reminisce about the highlights, it’ll be hard to go past the day of the Champions League final. Wembley was a blessed day, a day where everything went right.

Most important, it had this: on 17 March, Eric Abidal had a tumour removed from his liver. Barely two months later, he was lifting Big Ears as captain in the royal box at new Wembley, having played the entire 90+ minutes of a thrilling final.

Allow me to quote at length from Abidal’s recent interview in GQ Italia (which you should read in full, because it really is wonderful):

An hour before the game against Manchester United started, he didn’t know yet he was going to play.

‘Guardiola showed us the last videos, gave some last-minute advice, read out loud the players’ shortlist. No one looked surprised. No one but me, obviously.

I sought Puyol out, I walked up to him and asked “Why aren’t you playing? Did you know he was going to leave you out?”

He looked me in the eyes and said “I’m not important right now. You are what matters; don’t worry about me.”

Do you have any idea what a fucking badass we have as captain? Do you? Champions League final, they tell him he’ll be warming the bench, and he’s the one comforting me! This is Barcelona.

And of course I didn’t know I would be the one to lift the cup, everything happened in a blur, I could hardly grasp what was going on. Do you have any idea…? I had cancer, I had surgery, I played the CL final, and I lifted the cup, all in the span of three months. What more could I ask?’

What more could any of us ask for?

‘if we are remembered in 10, 15 years time…’

From Wembley to Wembley Barcelona has undergone an extraordinary process of maturing…There is no better defence of an idea than victories, but there is no better victory than the fact that the stability of a club does not depend exclusively on a final result, but on a route map. That is the greatness of this Barça, which, make no mistake, will also be the principles that will enable them to vaccinate themselves in defeat. – El Pais

Personally speaking, it has been a privilege to experience this past season as a Barca fan. Whatever the future holds, I’m convinced that we’ll look back on this team with pride and gratitude.

Bring on the next season.

[Note: crossposted from my blog with permission. As always, if you wish to be bombarded with my Barca-related musings in handy 140-character format, I’m on twitter @blackwhitengrey.]

Categorized as Thoughts

By Linda

20-something Chinese Kiwi Barrister. Enjoys short walks on the beach, Argentinian players and Pep Guardiola. @blackwhitengrey for hot takes on all three.


  1. A very good summary of last season Linda, thank you for that.

    really loved the extracts from the Abidal interview, thank you for the links to the interview, i just finished reading it, really fascinating.

  2. Bad ass review!!

    Perhaps in the future you guys could do a monthly or bi-annual or quarterly review. What do you say?

  3. what a breath of fresh air and wonderful article from a non-male perspective. its a nice summation of the season and i share your views on it having been a privilege to watch. i don’t know why villa isn’t included. yes, we expected him to score more goals, but his performance in general is too often overlooked. also, your analysis of rosell is spot on. i was getting carried away with the shrewd transfers he is pulling off, but you’re no doubt right that the biggest criticism is his silence during crucial times and i hope he starts showing more guts. he must defend barca more.

    1. On Villa: it was touch and go for me on whether to include him. I definitely don’t think he had a bad season. At times he was frustrating to watch, but it was always apparent that he was doing his best to adapt.

      on Rosell: I recognise that it’s a difficult line to walk between being too aggressive (which we don’t need) and too quiet, but yeah, he needs to strike a better balance this time around.

      Thank you so much!

    2. nothing wrong buddy.
      yet too much of something can get boring.
      which is why linda’s article comes as a breath of fresh air.
      for the record i maintain a “high testosterone” barca blog of my own. cheers

  4. Fabulous article, Linda! You should post more often.

    I have to disagree strongly with you on one point, however: How on earth could you consign Iniesta to the runners-up list? As far as I can see, this was his best season ever. He was consistently brilliant, often carrying the entire midfield when Xavi was at less than his best. He was healthy through the whole season!!! He scored a record (for him) eight goals and set up numerous others (Xavi vs RM, Messi vs Arsenal, to name two of the most important).

    For me, Iniesta was one of the top 5 Barca players last season. I think my ranking would be:

    1. Messi (because he just keeps getting better and better)
    2. Iniesta
    3. Xavi
    4. Valdes
    5. Abidal (pre-injury, this was his best season ever)

    Runners-up: Busi, Pedro, Masch (best signing ever?), Keita(consistency, thy name is Keita), Adriano (hit it out of the park once he got the playing time).

    1. Iniesta was pretty brilliant, wasn’t he? It was touch and go for quite a few places on that list – but you’re right that I did overlook the important assists he provided. Hopefully he’ll have another fully fit season.

      Thank you very much, and I’ll try to contribute more in the future (once I’m done with postgrad – one month to go!)

    2. hah I was going to say the same thing on her blog about Iniesta when I was there but got busy.

      the problem is the team is so good, and so consistent that it becomes a chore to chose the 5 who performed to their best.

    3. Must agree with Josep *scary*. It’s like picking from a box of chocolates. Which one is better than the others? Well Messi of course, but choices 2-5 become harder.

      Great read, Linda. Write more often as time and your education allow!

      Won’t be around as much for a while. The kids soccer seasons have started; therefore, I have no life of my own 😀

  5. Linda! Haven’t heard from you for a while! Good read, hope to read more from you more often! 🙂

  6. Going back to the last post regarding Ajax..did FDB really play Blind at CB?!

    I couldn’t wake up on time to watch, but I’m looking forward to their season. The only problem is the extremely early start times..

    Did Ebecilio start? I like that kid and I think he has some potential..but they’re a selling club and will be for a while. It’s a shame, I try to watch clips of their old matches from time to time.

    1. Ajax has been my second favorite team since I became a big Barcelona fan. They are always exciting to watch, but I can’t deny the history between the clubs has always been a large factor drawing me towards Ajax. I can’t believe I missed a discussion on them!

      I like a lot of their players. De Jong and Eriksen are developing very nicely. Even though we already have a bunch of young ball players defenders I’ve thought about seeing Vertonghen in the blaugrana many times.

      If only their games weren’t on at 8:30 am on Sundays!

    2. I won’t lie and say I’ve always watched Ajax, that’s exactly the reason. Out here they’re on anywhere from 5:45 to 7:30 on Sundays.. I do watch them in the CL or if replays are on ESPN3.

      I’m excited for the new season for them, I’m going to follow as much as possible.

  7. Nice post, Linda!
    could you tell us what nationalist quotes Pep used during the press conference? I never picked up on that.

  8. I have the day off and I was having a craving for anything Barca, and nothing good was out there today, then this piece shows up together with a re-run of barcelona vs Panathinaikos CL game on FSC. Great job Linda. Love reading your pieces.

    I agree that Iniesta should definately be on that list. He kept the chains moving while providing delightful pieces of skill. I think he might still be tentative about taking too many risks considering his injury record, but he was still a class above most players sans messi.

    In the game I’m watching, Villa doesn’t really seem to understand the plays fully. He makes a lot of bad passes that are either wrongly weighted or not accurate at all. He also takes too many blind shots at goal with very little chance of actually going in, he is offside in situations that he didn’t really need to be… and then he pops up and scores a sweet goal. Story of his life at Barcelona. Can he improve? Good question.

    On Bojan, I think a lot of people will be surprised at how good the kid actually is. His only problem is consistent game time experience. If Enrique gives him the chance to work through the kinks in his game, by next season, people will wonder why we let him go. We are going to see spectacular plays and goals from him.

    Oh yeah, Messi was as dominant as any player could ever be. His touch is impeccable.

    1. Thank you very much! My main complaint about Villa is that he is offside too much. That may be a function of his style, or a sign that he was still settling in to Barca. We’ll see how he starts this season.

      And on Bojan, I think if he doesn’t let the move to a foreign country faze him then this could work out very well for all involved. Still time for him to develop into the type of striker Barca use.

  9. Riverola just scores a very nice goal to put Barca up 2-1 against girona in the copa catalunya. Nice to see him score. Looking forward to how he does this season.

    But the goal itself was deceiving. Riverola really just put it in the net.

    The goal was truly created by the light feet and deft touch of Carmona!

    And afterwards Carmona dedicated that assist and all of his creative flair to Jnice and Kari – his true sources of inspiration.

    1. You know it Euler.

      Maybe if I transfer some of my hatred to Armando, it could inspire him into a sudden metamorphosis into a great defender.

      But seriously, our midfield is calling out for Espinosa.

    2. Yes. They really should have Espinosa out on the pitch. He’d help alot. Their build up through the middle hasn’t been great.

      On a positive note – Deulofeu looks very bright. He’s far from a finished product – his game is not perfect.

      But for his age – he’s really impressive. Extremely explosive off the flank.

    3. that last sentence is the best thing you’ve ever written here.

      none of that bullshit on tactics that you clearly makeup on the spot, that was a well thought out, and stinging sentence!

    1. I read that when he was younger he would wear wedding bands to detract from the fangirls.

    2. Kudos to Messi that he’s able to hide his privacy better than any other celebrity.

      The last rumour that I’ve heard about his personal life was that he split up with Antonella, but his grandfather denied it some days later (that must already be about 1 year ago).

      If they are engaged or married now, congratulations! Anyway, Messi and Antonella should stick together, they are a perfect couple. Both natural beauties – Messi in his style of play, Antonella from a physical point of view (I think she’s hotter than any of the b*tches that CR has had sex with^^). And they know each other from childhood, don’t they?

  10. Thers a Request for a writer for barcelona@the offside as pedro and brandon will be leaving them…who cares????

    1. I care, for one. They’re a brilliant blog and they’ll have plenty of people lining up to write for them.

      No need for the remark, Olufestus. You’re better than that.

    2. The number of comments at the barca offside may not be as large as it once was, but the high quality and tone of the blog never faltered under Pedro, Brandon, Ade and the gang.

  11. Poor Madrid, they were made to re-live the classico terror of midgets flocking all over them…


  12. wow Linda, just Wow!
    that’s one brilliant writing… you can give sid lowe a run for his money with that..

    anyway, you’ve pretty much mentioned what i feel about this club.
    Thank you Barca!

  13. So should we start talking about the Super Cup game? It seems to me that most people aren’t even interested in it. Am I wrong? It’s against Madrid!

    I’m not even sure if Guardiola took it seriously… Clearly our players aren’t fit enough. I’m not sure who will play on Sunday, but I’m sure it won’t be our strongest team.

    Yeah, it’s a meaningless trophy, but I’d like us to win.

  14. Great review, thanks! It made me relive a great but sometimes agonizing season. Thank you.

    Meanwhile, I have a question. From @barcastuff:

    Guardiola: “It won’t be possible to promote Jonathan dos Santos. The problem is we already have many players at his position” [via laprensa]

    Assuming this is true… why play the guy out of position for five or six games, make him learn something he hasn’t done and isn’t immediately comfortable with, if you’re not going to use him afterwards? I thought when they kept playing JDS at right back — I had thought it was just the summer, but he did it in May versus Depor as well — it was because they figured they had too many midfielders, but he could break into the first team as a backup right-back. Seems like a waste of time… The only thing I can think of is this was a trial for him the last couple months, and he hasn’t succeeded.

    1. Pep means at central mid, which is JDS’s usual position. He likes JDS and is probably trying to find a position to incorporate him. That’s why he’s experimenting at RB, given the fact that Abidal will be moved to CB with Puyol out and Adriano will therefore take LB with no-one to cover for Dani.

    2. I don’t know if this is right, but I’ve seen some coaches play young central defenders at RB and LB. Maybe Pep keeps playing JDS as a RB for him to gain more experience defensively but with minimal risk.

    3. Kari, everything you say sounds sensible, and in fact that’s what I thought was going on. That’s why I was confused by the Pep’s statement “It won’t be possible to promote Jonathan dos Santos.” Unlike that’s out of context, it sounds like the RB experiment has been deemed a failure.

    4. Now we have JDS, Keirrison and Soriano who don’t have a chance at all.

      -I can understand with JDS, because there are too many midfielders already and with Cesc adding to the mix, there is simply no space for him. I was thinking maybe as a 3rd RB, but he will never get any playing time and Dalmau looked very good against GIrona and on top of that, you have Montoya. So it’s very unlikely.
      JDS was imo the best player on the pitch vs. Girona.

      -Soriano really deserves to be in the 1st team. Even as a squad member is fine. Strictly for #9. But they could really use him at the B-team. Goal scoring machine!

      -K9. Poor guy just wants to train with the B-team and is already told that they don’t even want him there. What a way to treat a human being.

    5. For me, the RB experiment with JDS has not been a success. He is competent at the position, but he will never shine there the way he can in midfield. He doesn’t have the pace or aggression to be Dani Alves, or the defensive intelligence of a Puyol or Maxwell. I just got around to watching the friendly with Club America, and I saw him beaten by attackers several times.

      I frankly don’t think JDS is ready to be promoted this year anyway, no matter what position Pep plays him in. He needs plenty of playing time to develop his confidence and skills, and he wouldn’t get that with the first team. A loan spell might do him good, but that doesn’t look likely now. I expect Pep will give him lots of call-ups for Copa games, though.

  15. -@Euler
    I was thinking along the same line when Carmona made the pass.
    Take that Jnice and Kari!! Hahaha

    I wanted to mention Ebecilio since last summer but I didn’t expect anyone here to follow Barca. I love him too!!

    -On the match
    They were so good in the 2nd half. So much different with the 1st half where they were rushing things. Espinosa didn’t have a good match imo. In the short time that he was on, he lost 2 balls. Why did he get to play only 10mins? I thought he was one of the most talented kids around?
    Dongoo didn;t get to play too. Was really looking forward to those 2 and Rafinha and Deulofeu. Rafinha didn’t have a good match either.


    Why are they using such a long straw to drink that? I don’t drink and never see that sangria in my life before so I have no clue at all.

    1. you mean ajax? 🙂

      Didn’t they get vertonghen and alderweild from germinal? Do they have like a setup with that club or something?

      Ebecilio is dope. He’s a great FDB player just an out and out winger, I think he can develop pretty nicely. Which unfortunately means, be sold in 2-3 years.


  17. Havent read the article yet.

    dont know has anybody posted this?a look on barcas against corners.

    1. Eklavya: The last paragraph got jumbled, probably an accidental highlight and move. It reads-

      dont know has anybody posted this?a look on barcas strategy against corners.

    2. thanks outer.u r a genious.

      @ek.i get it why everybody wants u for a handful of peanuts.

  18. Excellent excellent piece Linda! It captures all that we have felt and takes the issues and puts them into context. Beautiful. I have an issue with you for not writing more here and depriving us of your beautiful writing and balanced, measured opinion.

    As a bonus, I’d like to share another review with all of you:

    Excellent review of the season, month by month, by another cule.

    1. Thank you very much! I will try to be more present for this coming season. Being free of postgrad should in theory help. 😀

  19. Gareth Bale placed insanely high in the 50, but this year’s list has actually been rather good compared to what I’d expect from them.

    Barca players featuring:

    46. Valdes
    (45. Fabregas a possible arrival)
    37. Puyol
    29. Busquets
    22. Villa
    20. Alves

    And with very possibly Sanchez and definitely Pique, Iniesta, Xavi and Messi set to feature in the remaining 18 spots. Assuming Abidal (most likely) missed out because of his long spell out, 10 players in the current squad (nine from last year, one new arrival) among the top 50 is quite impressive.

    Among former players, Yaya is 41 and Ibra is 21.

    Guessing the remaining 18 players will put I would say: Sanchez, Cavani, Thiago Silva, Rooney, Pique, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Ronaldo, Oezil, Sahin, Falcao, Tevez, Nani, Eto’o, Vidic, Suarez and least sure on this but I am guessing van der Sar. Top four being Xavi, Iniesta, Ronaldo, Messi. Iniesta was mindblowing this season and finishes ahead of me, no way isn’t giving Ronaldo a top two spot.

  20. A little off-topic but I wrote this in response to the Stats app at fourfourtwo, would love to feedback from you guys:

    Basically I started by thinking on how Barca’s game and their dominance could be measured and visually represented. Xavi and the switching of our forwards represented the main obstacles which led to me some ideas.

    It’s a very useful app and after the CL final I was thinking on how stats available with people like Opta may be best used to give a concrete idea about a match and visual representation of data to make it easier to understand.

    I have 2-3 suggestions to make:
    (other than bring this app for La Liga!!11oneone)

    1. A match overview in which gives you and idea of the major possession areas, major passing lanes, general formation – avg position or otherwise and incorporate that with with your “player influence” meter.

    For an example looking at the passing stat for Barcelona:

    Which looks like a kid went happy with pen and compare that with this:
    Which clearly tells me ‘how’ both the teams played in one image. I think here the size of the circle is passes received + passes given while the size of the arrow is passes made. More meaningful representation I’m sure you’ll agree.

    But ofcourse a problem with that graph is apparent as soon as you look at Man Utd’s passing chalkboard.
    which shows that most successful direct passing (route 1) took place out wide. So it serves as a reminder that while one is a better overview yours can be a better indepth look.

    2. Secondly if you look at heat maps, passes recieved/made graphs esp. for clubs like Arsenal Barcelona and players like Xavi, Cesc or Carrick it’s quite confusing. So I would really like alot of the stats like: % of passes received/made, possession and % of time spent in area etc. to be in a simple 3×3 format which divedes the pitch horizontally and vertically in 3 parts: defensive, midfield, forward/attack and left, center, right respectively which would again simplify alot of the scribbles and the blob type heat maps.

    It could be made further useful interesting if we name the boxes: LF, RD, CM etc. for Left-Forward, Right-Defense, Centre-Midfield kinda like chess squares. Using this and perhaps entire season stats one can measure how a person/team plays. Say, passes from one box to another: Long-balls from the defense (CD to CF), shots from the midfield third(from CM), crosses from LF, LM to CF areas. etc. and fans can even counter Carrick Denilson etc. criticisms on horizontal/back passes and substantiate their argument with solid season-wide numbers.

    As an example of what I mean here is some stuff from the WC final:
    All these stats (and even more detailed ones) can be simplified and put in the terms of a 3×3 graph being more clear and simple to read.

    3. Two minor points:
    a)An interesting thing to note is that most stats don’t focus too much on off the ball movements and in my opinion this is the biggest difference in watching the match on TV and in the stadium. Separating movement stats (heat maps, runs and the like) by with the ball and off-the ball would be interesting as would be the formation/avg positions etc when a team is with possession and without.

    b)Another interesting point to note with these chalkboards, graphs etc. is that one never gets to see the offside line in them and in my view that is a major thing to miss out on. A pass may be a decisive through ball (but not an assist, hence not represented so) or ordinary pass depending upon where the defensive offside line is. incorporating this esp. with your timeline analysis would add great usefulness. Not to mention confirming whether someone was truly offside or not would settle many pub arguments.

    Finally, I think the timeline was an excellent addition as fluid players especially forwards switch positions and this takes that major flaw and fixes it.

  21. Hi ya’ll fellow Cules.

    I agree completely with you about the Rosell matters, the membership to be more precise.

    My situation is as follows:
    I’m a lifelong Barca fan from Bosnia&Herzegowina. ever since i began to watch footy, i loved the blaugrana colours and my love for the club has just grown bigger and stronger over the years. but when I was younger I never could afford the membership, and my father didn’t have the resources to sign up. BUT, about 8 months ago, I got my first employment. I was buuzing for the first paycheck to come so that I could become a MEMBER OF FC BARCELONA, the love of my life. when the day of my first pay-check had come i was literally running home from work to sit on my computer and sign up the membership documents. when it hit me!! :O by that time i didn’t know about the new regulations of membership Rosell had made. I felt so terrible, worthless, like crap… it looked like Rosell shat directly into all of my jerseys bought over the years, all the shirts, all the FCB-bed sheets, toothbrushes, etc. and most importantly all the emotions I have felt over the years for the Blaugrana colors, nerves, delight, shocks, joy,…. thank you Mr. Rosell

    1. @barcelonista.

      Same situtation here.was planning to apply 2010.but due to my laziness i didnt do it and that seller did that horrible regulations.

      didnt know anything about catalan people?but r they 2 xenophobic.

  22. @linda.

    just finished reading the article.while kevin is very good,he is too verbose for my liking.but u r simply brilliant and the way u quote el pais,sid lowe,pep,abi simply touches the heart.wonderful, wonderful read.

    and u r spot on ROSELL.he likes to hide when its time to show up.laporta for all his fault always backed barca.

    and your standout performer is your personal choice.but if u ask me mine will be.


    hope u pass the post grad with flying colours.
    again thanks for a fantastic review.

    1. I’m too verbose? Awe.Some. You do know that I have never written a post that long here, right? Just checking. 😀

      P.S. It’s okay to praise one person without slagging someone else. Really. I swear.

    2. Kevin has a passion behind his writing I seldom see elsewhere, I love it, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with what he’s saying.

  23. I really have to agree with you regarding Rosell. He has made a lot of controversial (at least in my eyes) decisions. Selling the shirt, restricting membership, attempting to sue Laporta, etc. To be fair, he has handled transfer dealings, contract negotiations, and most economic issues well. Despite all of these things, my biggest complaint is that he goes into hiding when the club needs him to be visible and vocal the most.

    How many times has a key decision by the club been announced by one of his vice presidents? Maybe I should ask how many of the key decisions by the club Rosell has announced himself? I honestly can’t think of any. He has continuously shirked responsibility for his decisions and leaves his vice presidents to be the spokesmen of the club.

    This is markedly different than Laporta, and it’s possible that it’s a good thing that we’ve transitioned from Laporta’s more paternalistic rule of the club to a more communal running of the club where all the board members share responsibility. I personally believe that Rosell has swung too far away from Laporta’s style.

    This issue with Rosell’s lack of public presence was that last season there was no one in the club hierarchy publicly defending the club as Real continuously attacked it. It eventually fell to Guardiola and he handled the responsibility fantastically – delivering a press conference that served as a rallying cry for the players. However, this isn’t Guardiola’s job and I have to ask who in the club is protecting Guardiola? I’m not worried about losing Guardiola because Rosell won’t buy/sell the players Guardiola wants, I’m worried Guardiola will eventually feel overburdened because Rosell is unwilling to stand up and publicly defend the club and protect Guardiola.

    Rosell has made some controversial decisions, but my biggest issue with him is that he seems unable to play one of the central roles of his office: to defend the club’s interest and act as a public spokesman for the club.

  24. this comment on guardian bout how to beat barca cracked me up.

    Manager: God
    GK: Noah (to stop likely goal flood)
    RB: Perseus
    CB: St Paul (the rock on which the team is built)
    CB: Flash Gordon (to mark Messi)
    LB: Job (persistence and patience crucial)
    DM: Beckenbauer
    CM: Jesus (creative silent meek iniesta sorta style)
    CM: Holy Spirit (if they cant see it then this midfield has got a chance)
    RW: Moses (should be good at long throws into the box thx to tablet throwing)
    LW: Maradona (God wanted to play too)
    FWD: David (for the final slingshot)

    1. Love the Beckenbauer choice. Reminds me of the Monty Python Philosopher Football Match skit.

      “Beckenbauer a bit of a surprise inclusion here”

    2. ‘But the Germans are disputing it: Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics; Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination; and Marx is claiming it was offside.


  25. A MADridista just ‘suggested ‘ to me that Athletic’s Javi Martinez is preferable to Busquets in that Volante role../facepalm

    Busquets is so much better at reading the game and positioning in defense than the players out there..He is stunningly and ludicrously underrated

    1. Javi Martinez did pretty well in the Euro U21s, and he is already a key player for Bilbao.

      He has amazing ball control, when I saw him play for the U21s I thought he was just like Busquets but just a tad slower. I’m sure Del Bosque has Javi down as second to Busquets in the spanish NT.

  26. @barca.

    planning to go to malaysia with my wife within 2 months.

    suggestions of places,hotels and a standard budget for say 8 days.

    u r right now in malaysia. m i right?

    1. Which parts of Malaysia do you wish to go to?

      Kuala Lumpur has many good hotels in the city..The cheapest ones are the Tune Hotels which served very well for me when I was backpacking..but there are many other good hotels there for all budgets..

      You should buy yourself a ‘Rough Guide’ for Malaysia from a will be very helpful

    2. thanks,k legit.if i were to go there alone i wouldnt think of planning ahead.but with wife u know with great pleasure comes great responsibility.

      i havent decided yet which part.also planning to visit indonesia.any recommendations on both countries

    3. Didn’t get a chance to go to Indonesia sadly but I could tell you something about Singapore if you want…
      Malaysia is wonderful..Great food, great people and a very vibrant of my favourite countries..if only they could ban those damn motorcycles absolute nightmare they are

    4. K_Legit is spot on about Tune Hotels.
      The location is not that great though.

      You want to shop or explore the city and country?
      What is your budget (per night)?
      I think it’s better to mail me @
      I would love to help you out.

  27. So I did finally get to watch the Barca/Club America friendly, and I have a few thoughts (which I’m sure no one cares about at this point!):

    –as I mentioned above, the JDS as RB experiment isn’t working for me. He is just not aggressive enough for the position, either in attack or in defense.
    –Thiago did very well in the False Messi position. I can see Pep playing him there anytime the real Messi can’t play, or even with Messi, the two of them switching positions from centre to wing as the game demands. Or a Villa-Thiago-Afellay front line would be great too. So many combinations!
    –Villa had a terrific game, and not just because of the goal either. He was active, positioned well, made great runs and seems to already have a good understanding with Thiago. I loved the cheeky little shove he gave the Club America defender.
    –Pedro was much improved. Hopefully he can get both his excalamation points back in time for Sunday.
    –that Cuenca is fast!
    –Deulofeu was trying a bit too hard, but he settled in, and what a great bit of work that was for him to get the assist! He did that through sheer determination. I have to remind myself that this kid hasn’t even played a proper game with the B team yet. Let’s not get our expectations up too high, he has lots of time ahead of him.
    –I replayed Keita’s goal half a dozen times just for the sheer joy of seeing him grin like a loon. That never happens! 😀
    –what were Busquets and Keita so upset about with the ref? I couldn’t tell what the problem was, but Busi should remember this was only a friendly. Villa seemed pretty pissed off with the ref too at times.
    –why was the crowd whistling Valdes every time he touched the ball? I know Mexicans are notorious for giving stick to goalkeepers, but was there anything personal in it?
    –Iniesta continues to be, for me, the standout player of the preseason. Yes, Thiago has been amazing as well, but Iniesta is just so consistently brilliant that you almost don’t notice it until suddenly you do.
    –Fontas has been very impressive so far, he reads the game well, has great positioning, but he lacks the 100% last-ditch “I don’t care what happens to my body, you are NOT getting that ball!” commitment of Puyol. And Abidal had to bail him out a couple of times when he was just too slow. Fontas/Busi together at CB is a really bad idea and I wish Pep would stop doing it.

    1. – Villa’s best preseason game by far. I think the air-conditioned stadium helped. He told SPORT that he was feeling horrible against Man Utd, even dizzy at times. I’m not making excuses for him; just saying.

      – Iniesta has been boss for a while now. He’s finally on the Messi training regime. Now, if only we could get Muniesa on it too…

      – The GK whistling is something they do. During the U-20 WC the Mexican fans did that to the keepers too. It makes more a nice atmosphere. 😀

      – I saw Villa’s b!tch face come out in full force too. I agree Busi needed to calm the heck down. Just a friendly, man. But I guess that competitiveness is what you need to get to the top.

      Also Chamakh was way harsh on L’Equipe earlier. In a telephone interview. I toned it down a lot on Twitter, but let’s just say it’s not going so well for Wenger re: Fabregas and Nasri :

  28. Buzz is that Inter and United have agreed on terms for Sneijder. The new club and player are now haggling out personal terms. Damn! If true, that’s quite a signing for them, that makes them a whole lot better, kinda right now.

    Also, check out this brave piece by Homey, over at the Arsenal Offside:

    Suffice to say, for those familiar with the genteel blandishments of too many Arsenal fans, he’s getting a bit of stick over there.

    1. If this is true I’d be very interested to see how man u lines up next year. it gives them
      chicarito (striker)
      rooney (striker, but best playing as a support striker, almost as the head of a 4-5-1)
      berbatov (striker)
      Young (winger)
      Nani (winger)
      Valencia (winger)
      Sneijder (best played behind strikers)
      Giggs (unclear if he can be a holding midfielder in a 4-2-3-1)

      How can they fit them together?

      Options as I see it

      1. sneider behind rooney and chicarito, playing a 4-1-2-1-2 with nani and young out wide.

      2. 4-2-3-1 with snjeider in the middle and rooney on a side of the 3

      3. a 4-1-4-1 with chicarito up top and rooney/sneijder partnering in the middle

      4. A 4-3-2-1 with rooney and snjeider forming the 2

  29. Fabregas named in Arsenal squad for Champions League qualifier next week.

    Your move Barcelona…

    1. Nasri named as well, though rumor is that he has notified the club that he wants out. Citeh is the only horse in that race, though.

      Arsenal have to plan ahead. It just means that if we want to not buy a Cup-tied player, we have less than a week to get ‘er done. Latest rumor was that we were going to make the 29+6 variables all cash at 35, and see where that leaves us.

    2. Does mean much because Bendtner and Eboue (as well as Almunia) who are on their way out, were also named. Doesn’t mean much in that sense, but if we don’t get it done by the end of the week…

  30. And how about that crazy-ass Eto’o rumor, that he’s going to a Russian club for something north of 100m? Moratti (Inter president) calls the proposal “Intelligent.” Which is probably a paraphrasing of him turning cartwheels while singing, “I’d sell my mama for 100m!”

    If Eto’o thinks the racism in Serie A was bad ….

    1. With Armando by his side. Good work, Eusebio. At least Rafa, Espinosa and Deulofeu, and Cuenca too, are there. :/

  31. Missing the game, but I better not read anything about Armando fudging something up. I swear if he does… Saul isn’t safe from me either. And if I see a Carmona for Espinosa sub, Eusebio better watch his back… 😀

  32. @kxevin,

    I’m too verbose? Awe.Some. You do know that I have never written a post that long here, right? Just checking.

    P.S. It’s okay to praise one person without slagging someone else. Really. I swear.

    i do say that u are very good,but 2 much verbose for my liking.u r quoting me out of context just like the britpress.LOL(dont know how to put those emo faces).

    1. P.S. if it feels any good to you,i have learned many words from your writing which prepared me very well for my GRE exam.

    2. No, just observing that I can’t be too verbose if I have never written anything as long as a post used as an example of an alternative to my verbosity. Linda’s post is excellent. That’s why I encouraged her to cross-post it. But my logic sensors went off with the “too verbose” comment.

      Who are you kids going to have to beat up on with me planning to write a lot less this season? 😀

    3. Noooooo.that will hamper my GRE Preparation.

      and btw where does this snijder manu come from?from twitterverse?

    4. Your comments in this thread on this subject have been extremely rude and completely unnecessary. In order to complement one person you felt the need to disparage someone else. No need at all. Very disappointing. And this silly GRE snark doesn’t help.

    5. don’t worry bro, we’ll just send our complaints to the tribune :p

      for real don’t stop writing! your reviews rock.

    6. Nice one, smart guy. 😀 Nothing of any import, just have to take the training to the next level. I was thisclose to a national champion’s jersey this season. Now to fix the stuff that was missing from the equation, and finish the job. But as a consequence, I am going to be time constrained like a mo-fo.

      And this doesn’t even take in the fact that wifey and I are (probably) about to buy a house that will require a bit of work. Madness, I tell you!

  33. This Copa Catalunya has been remarkable. Barca is basically playing their Juvenil A team from last year against Espanyol.

    And they are more than holding their own.

    Deulofeu – what a run. Very nearly scored. With some more experience that’s in the net.

    1. Crappy Anaalogy approaching but:

      I feel like Deulofeu plays like someone using ronaldo in fifa 11 for the first time, lots of straight runs at full speed, but once they (he) learn how to use the speed to create space for themselves it becomes such a magnificent weapon.

      also grimaldo is amazing, to be 15 and playing grown men and holding your own is a stunning achievement.

    2. Agree. Gerard is trying to figure it out. He’s extremely explosive. And you can tell he’s just used to being able to blow by defenders. At times he seems almost surprised that he hasn’t beaten his man and then runs out of ideas.

      That said – none of that is surprising. He’s only 17 and hasn’t even played a B team game yet. And compared to that first appearance he made on the US tour – he’s getting better each game against the much older competition he’s facing.

      As I said below – the focus of the attack is being run largely through him. It’s remarkable.

      And agree on Grimaldo – he’s been great and I’m really surprised he’s been able to compete at this level physically.

  34. This Copa match so far has been really surprising and interesting.

    Barca is basically directing the thrust of their attack along the flank through Deulofeu. It appears to me to be a very deliberate tactical decision by Eusebio.

    That’s just amazing – he’s 17. He’s supported on the left flank by a 15 year old full back and an 18 year old central midfielder.

    And Deulofeu is playing very well. The entire squad is – against what’s Espanyol’s first team.

    Grimaldo has been very impressive. I thought he’d have a lot of trouble out there. And the espanyol attack is not taking it easy on him despite his age.

    Espinosa has been terrific. He has a world of talent.

    And Sergi Gomez also is impressing once again. I could see him getting some first team call ups this season.

  35. And in the end, with all of the boys on the pitch, Barca finally concede because Armando can’t defend. Just horrible.

    1. concede twice. THen again coming into this game when the lineups came out it was pretty clear Espanyol was gonna win, to me it is more about seeing how some of our youngsters perform.

  36. With espinosa out of the game Barca has lost cohesion and control in midfield.

    And that lack of control in midfield is exposing the backline more. Armando is just not good.

    There was almost no chance they were going to win this match. They’ve played extremely well.

    Dongu just on. He’s 16.

    Can’t get over how impressive Grimaldo has been. Never thought he could play this well against this kind of competition.

    1. Arsenal needs a CB, no? We should give them Armando. He’s a youth team player. Reverse Hlebbing. YESH.

      And Carmona came on for Espinosa? You better watch your back, Eusebio. (I totally called this. Hate that it’s so predictable. Why are our “experienced” players so bad?)

    2. Well, both Nolito and Soriano were brilliant last season and carried the team at times. Unfortunately one is gone and the other injured and the rest well…the lesser said the better, especially regarding Armando. Good golly what an awful player. I was surprised that he wasn’t off-loaded in the summer. I would rather have any youth-player, even Rosell who hasn’t played a official Barca B match yet over him.

  37. @Euler.
    in a mudfield everybody gets muddy.

    i will just say that u r wrong.completely wrong.

    PS maybe gre is silly to u,not to me.

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