Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife: It’s the El Clasico Liveblog

It’s me, back from the realm of oblivion to host an (even more) politically charged Clasico!

Our official lineup (hope you’re sitting down and not eating anything): Valdes – Alves, Mascherano, Adriano, Alba – Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta – Cesc, Messi, Pedro

Barcelona bench: Pinto, Montoya, Bartra, Song, Sergi Roberto, Alexis, Villa

Mascherano surprisingly starts at CB while Adriano retains his position in the defensive line. Iniesta! That is all.

Them: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Xabi Alonso, Khedira; Di Maria, Ozil, Tristiano; Benzema.

Their bench: ???, ???, Lady Edith Modric, ???, Higuain, The man formerly known as Kaka, ???

Let’s see how this goes.

Kick off is at 1:50 pm EST, liveblog starts when my pizza comes. Yup.

Posted in La Liga, Liveblog148 Comments

All Good Things…

I had thought about writing this in a semi-formal way, to make it seem real eloquent, but then I realized that would take more brain power than I’d like so I dropped the idea. Then I thought about  making it super informal, to make it seems more casual, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it so I dropped that idea too.

Anyway.

To cut a potentially long winded preamble short and cut to the chase: I won’t be writing for BFB anymore, even with the new Run of Play-esque format we’ve got going on. Don’t worry, I’m not leaving the site; I’m just demoting myself from a mod to a simple reader.

Why? Well, it’s the oh-so-cliché ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ kind of thing.

Time is one of the reasons. I’m in school and it’s not easy making time to blog about football. But that’s not a really a big issue – if you really like something you’ll make time for it. And that’s just it.

The main reason I’m stepping down is blogging about football isn’t at the top of my priorities anymore. Unexpected changes in life have made it so.  While I love watching Barca and really enjoy their games (and football in general), I don’t really feel like writing about it. And it’s this lack of passion that is the problem. Having a writer that doesn’t write is pretty pointless isn’t it?

When I think back on my BFB blogging experience, I only remember fun, fun, and more fun. I really enjoyed writing nonsensical things (that were actually pretty bad now that I go back and skim through it, lol) and sharing my thoughts with you guys.

I’ve never blogged or wrote about anything before so it was such a great learning experience too. I learned how to gauge things better; what to focus on and expand on, and what to be brief about. I learned what writing style is most effective for whatever topic I want to discuss… It was a really fruitful and enjoyable experience and I’m glad I took the plunge and decided to try blogging out. I even got to record a podcast! (That was frightening and cool at the same time).

To me, BFB is the best Barca blog on the internets and one of the best on the Net, period. To write for the site was such an honour. As for the writers – they’re the best. And when I say the best, I mean that. As writers, they are intelligent, engaging, hilarious, and fun to read. Although I don’t know them personally, as people, I’m sure they’re even better.

So to Isaiah, Kevin, Calvin, Euler, SoMa, Luke and Linda: thank you so much for letting me be part of your team.

To be quite honest, I’d only step down a site with such writers when I was sure I wouldn’t contribute much.

As for you guys, all I can say is I’m writing this post for the sole purpose of letting you guys know (rather than pulling a Hector and disappearing). I can’t say how grateful I am for your taking the time to read the posts I wrote. This community is really something special. It’s really difficult (next to impossible) to find such respectful fans and readers on football blogs nowadays. (Which is a sad thing indeed).

So to the readers of BFB: thank you very much for reading and commenting. If I ever feel like blogging again, a glorious return to BFB would be at the top of the list.

If you’ll allow me one parting message: enjoy this team. I’ve said it ad nauseam but it really bears repeating: enjoy this team.

I say it because I don’t believe Barca fans truly are. They are far too caught up in an utterly ridiculous perceived notion of bias embittered fans, players and manager(s) have invented in their sad attempt to discredit the achievements of a fantastic and historic team. They post more enraged comments addressing the nonsense than they do about the actual game.

“But it seems like everyone believes it and talks about it!” they complain. Well of course they do — we’ve dominated and embarrassed a lot of freaking teams. Arsenal, Madrid, Milan, Manchester United…

But the shame is on them. If they don’t want to recognize the great achievements of this team and want spend their time writing bitter and baseless comments about something that isn’t true, fine. It’s as unhealthy as it is pathetic.

But the real tragedy is if you spend most of your time addressing this nonsense. How can you enjoy watching and supporting Barca when you’re busy focusing on referees and their decisions, conspiracies and other things? The answer is an easy one: you can’t. Which is exactly what those embittered individuals want.

The whining is pure jealousy. No matter how logical and factual your arguments are, you won’t change beliefs that are born from inferiority and envy. So why bother? Their opinions are irrelevant in the grand scheme. Addressing idiocy gives it value.

Barca has become a dynasty and people hate dynasties. Rather than fight the inevitable backlash and hatred that comes with being that team, it’d be much better and infinitely healthier to just embrace it. You want to hate us for being too good? I’m down with that. Make the focus on the players, tactics, and those things; laugh at everything else. It’s more fun and you’ll enjoy supporting a team more.

Does it this mean acting overly superior and ultra blasé to what other people say is the answer? Not really. But sometimes it’s clear which opinions are worth engaging.

Supporting a historic team should be really fun. If it isn’t, something’s very wrong.

….And that’s about it. You can follow me on Twitter (@officialkari) if you’d like, but I’ll still be commenting on BFB like usual so you don’t really have to.

See you in the comments guys!

Posted in Barcelona50 Comments

A Note on San Siro’s Pitch and UEFA’s Standards

Before I say what I want to note, let me first say that if they stay within the regulated standards (i.e. don’t break any rules) home teams can do whatever they want with their pitch. Many teams morph the pitch to suit their game. For example the grass is cut shorter at Camp Nou than most stadiums so it suits our playing style better. Some other teams like to let their pitch’s grass grow a couple of inches more than usual. If it’s within the rules, okay.

Having said that the state of the San Siro pitch yesterday was, simply put, disgraceful. If that pitch meets UEFA’s standard, then things will have to change in the future.

Should it be blamed exclusively for the draw? Absolutely not. There were other, more important issues. Is that field historically bad? Undoubtedly. It’s been relayed 75 times since 1990 and the fact both Inter and Milan share the stadium compounds the problem.

But the thing is, the pitch wasn’t just “bad” – it was extremely dangerous. To the point where there was a conscious decision taken by Barcelona to not get injured. Blaming the disastrous state of the pitch on it being “historically bad” is, sorry to say, a lazy excuse. I saw the pitch against Roma at the weekend, it wasn’t as catastrophic as that.

Therefore it’s logical to assume that Milan was trying to hamper Barca and their playing style with that field. Which is not surprising (and within their right) considering it’s what home teams usually do and they did a similar thing against Arsenal in the first leg of that tie. (Who really should have complained about it because it was so blatant. Had they done it, it would have put more pressure on UEFA to look into the issue).

That's legal.

But it’s one thing to have the pitch to your advantage and another to have such dangerous conditions. In their attempt to handicap Barca, they created a pitch that was probably worse than some relegation threatened teams in administration. It was the extreme example of what can happen if pitches aren’t held to a certain standard. And it’s UEFA’s job to make sure they uphold that standard. If no one’s going to hold Milan accountable, why should they change anything?

Now, as I see it the word ‘complaint’ carries the connotation of childishness and pettiness. As if the one complaining is whining about something immaterial. There are some who are saying that by lodging an official ‘complaint’ Barcelona are whining about something irrelevant and blaming it and nothing else on the draw. That’s off-base.

What a complaint means in this context is: “A statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable.” In this case the situation is the pitch. Does anyone (besides Madridistas and Milanistas) believe the San Siro field was satisfactory for a game of football in any way? I sure didn’t. I don’t think Robinho does either.

To lodge a complaint is well within the club’s rights; they have to defend their interests and that interest is doing their best to ensure their players don’t get injured. In a meeting before the game Barca and Milan had agreed the pitch was dry and it needed to be watered. Milan didn’t do it. Had they not asked UEFA to get Milan to release an official explanation we wouldn’t have known that. It gives us real answers rather than assumptions.

If Messi twisted his knee as his cleats dug into a tearing turf and tore his ACL, how many people would begrudge Barca for asking UEFA why it was in that condition? How many people would be outraged after it was revealed Milan broke the pre-agreement to water the pitch? Or angry at UEFA for allow a field like that in the first place?

It would be worse to make a whole media storm about it and not do anything to address the root of the problem which UEFA’s standard of what is an acceptable pitch. Barca didn’t kick up a fuss; they just submitted a complaint – a legitimate one. This is the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League, the best football competition in the world. Expecting a playable pitch is not unheard of.

By officially ‘complaining’, Barca are also questioning the standards set by UEFA for allowing such a field. That’s important. I would have been annoyed at Barca if they didn’t lodge one, because it was just terrible. There are people who call it whining or whatever, but what they say is irrelevant to me. As stated before, a Club protects its interests and that field was a serious injury waiting to happen. I don’t see any problem with letting UEFA know that.

And it should be noted that Pep has been calling for better pitch conditions for some time. It’s an ongoing issue. At the latest event at Elite Coach Forum, Pep was backed by both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger (of course). This pitch just gives him more ammunition in that saga.

That all said the first leg is over. Milan executed their game plan very well and for that, you have to commend them. (Good ol’ Seedorf’s still got it!) The pitch isn’t the reason we couldn’t finish, nor the reason Xavi was so determined to play through the middle. But it wasn’t an non-issue either. In the future, if UEFA continues to allow such fields to be played on — we’ll see some serious injuries. That’s the real complaint.

Posted in Champions League, Thoughts124 Comments

Barca Thwarted By Plucky Milan

You know, it was deeply frustrating and immeasurably annoying to wake up and see the result of the Milan game again. A nil-nil draw? What is that? Madrid scored three goals away against APOEL and we couldn’t even muster a single goal against AC Milan? C’mon Barca.

I know it’s a quarterfinal away from home. I know the field was pretty bad. But it was just so disappointing to see the players lacking hunger and spirit. The only ones who can hold their heads up high are Mascherano, Pique and Puyol.

Our forward line was so depressing. They had so many shots on target but did they really want to score? No, really. Milan were there for the taking. No Thiago Silva, no Pato, no Abate… They fielded two 30-somethings for goodness sake! Not to mention they were just playing on the counter. We could have scored so many goals if we just went at Bonera.

Leo, what happened? You scored five against Leverkusen, how could you regress so fast? You couldn’t even dodge Nesta’s karate kick like you usually do. I’m worried.

Iniesta, ‘Ghost Face’ is just your nickname, not your state of being. Where did you go? I missed you. You should have never played on the left wing.

Alves, you were just falling all over the place. I mean, there was that time where you fell when no one was around you. You’ve been at Barca too long to have those kind of nerves.

Alexis, I don’t really understand what you brought to this game outside not getting a penalty and missing a one on one which was unacceptable. You have to score those easy chances when you only have one defender and the goalkeeper to beat.

And I could go on and on. It was embarrassing to see how soulless we were.

What was Pep thinking? Puyol was already at left-back, so what was the point of Keita? More defensive cover? But Busi was already playing! And Iniesta on the left wing? We had Tello!

Okay, I get it. It’s been a long season and they’re tired. But why were we so defensive at San Siro? Milan isn’t Inter so it’s not like we would have lost 3-1. The pitch was dangerous but we still should have had more than enough to beat them anyway.

The fact is, the Barca of yesterday let us down. We weren’t true to our philosophy or our principals. We should have gone into the game without any fear. They may have won the CL seven times, the Serie A last year (and are currently leading it now) but it’s not what it once was.

I think the pressure’s gotten to Pep. He was so scared that Puyol would get a yellow card that he played Keita? Did he lose faith in the our captain’s ability to defend? And why didn’t he play Cesc and Thiago? They would have caused an old Milan fits with their youth and energy.

Milan are celebrating a 0-0 for good reason. Pep may have just ruined our season. No, really. All Milan have to do is draw and we’re out of the CL. We won’t catch Madrid in the Liga and if this is how Pep reacts to tough opposition, Bilbao will probably beat us in the Copa too.

Posted in Soap Box14 Comments

Milan, Tactical Improvements, and the Vision of Pep Guardiola

(MESSI IS OVERRATED

Now that I have your attention: if you wish to participate in the BFB book giveaway, please post your predictions on the previous thread/post and NOT this one. We would like all predictions to be on the same thread. Thank you.)

Aww, yeah!

It would be unfair to skip Mallroca game and go straight to the Milan one, so some thoughts:

– Yay! Three points!

– Wonderful game from Barca under a lot of pressure. Every game is essentially a final and we were left back-less against a team who got 78% of their wins at home.

– Pique says hello to all his critics. For what it’s worth I think some misgivings were justified — his lapses in concentration and judgment could have been very costly for us in the past — but most were hyperbolic IMO. And I’m not saying this in hindsight, mind you. Absolutely crucial goal at a time where he really needed to step up his game, like champions do. Keep up the good form, Geri!

– Busi.

– That pitch was a cabbage field. Players slipping and sliding like Bambi on Ice. Poor Iniesta miscontrolled more footballs this game than in his entire career, I bet.

-That said, Andres and Messi never hide do they? Thiago sent off and both demand the ball, try to make things work under pressure. Love it.

– Mascherano.

– I’ve done Mallorca a bit of a disservice. As most games featuring Mallorca were tight, one goal games, I had expected a bit of a dirty game from them with overtly defensive tactics. I admit it. But they had some real flair going forward with nice interplay between forwards. Their transition offensive was particularly impressive. Luckily for us, their end product left much to be desired. I’d say that’s the reason why they’ve scored so little goals – their finishing, not for the lack of trying.

Onto Milan

So I was rewatching the November Milan game at the San Siro (that’s what I do on my Sunday afternoons) and I originally wanted to tweet my thoughts about it, but it would have been far too long for 140 characters and flood everyone’s timelines so I’ve decided to put into a post.

I don’t consider myself a tactics buff, though I certainly enjoy reading such posts. In fact, it sort of scares me as there’s so much I don’t know, understand, or see. The below turned out much more tactics heavy than I originally had in mind, so if there are any mistakes I’d love it if you let me know.

Getting to it

It’s been awhile so I’ll give you some context coming into the Milan match:

– We still had Villa.
– We didn’t have Iniesta due to a hamstring injury.
– Alves was suspended due to accumulation of yellow cards.
– Adriano was injured. The sky was blue.
– Alexis was coming back from the injury he suffered against Sociedad.
– Barca only needed a draw to advance.

Naturally, the formation we used was heavily influenced by the above. It should be noted that Pep and the team were still experimenting with and re-introducing the 3-4-3. [Interestingly enough, it was also the match before that loss against Getafe.]

Our lineup was a 3-4-3 at the beginning of the game: VV – Puyol – Mascherano – Abidal; Busi, Keita, Xavi, Thiago; Cesc, Messi, Villa.

Something like this

Cesc was at false 9 while Messi was moved to the right and Villa was on his usual left wing.

As you remember, the result of this was very much mixed. Offensively, we could have scored at least three goals in the first half alone; there were a lot of chances created – so no problems there. The main issue was defensively where the team struggled to space itself properly on the pitch. The starting eleven included a lot of players who were used to playing in the centre (or middle) of the pitch.

Watching this match, it was very clear how much trouble Barca has when Alves isn’t on the pitch, or, worded another way, how much Alves brings to the team. Cuenca wasn’t promoted at this point; as noted earlier Iniesta was injured; Alexis and Pedro were both just returning from injury and started on the bench. (Full bench by the way: Pinto, Pique, Maxwell, Fontas, JDS, Pedro, Alexis). This meant we had no player to play off the right wing to spread the pitch and create additional width. In the end Messi was stationed there, like he used to be during the 08-09 season and the seasons prior.

Now Messi will create danger no matter where you put him – he’s that good. However as he is developing now, putting Messi on the right flank (on the wing in general) hampers his ability to influence the game (vs. playing him closer to the middle). Specifically against Milan, because so many central players played in the starting XI, play went through the middle for the majority of the game, especially in the first half. Messi, seeing this, pinched in centrally.

This left Barca without a man on the right flank (defensively or offensively) outside Puyol, consequentially giving Milan a lot of space to attack from and virtually no threat to defend against. Big problem.

For much of the first half and a good chunk of the second, what ended up happening was Villa was doing his job and staying wide on the left but that effectively took him out of the game, as Messi and Cesc pinched in and were playing through the middle like the rest of the team. And because there was such an overload in the middle, Busi in particular was unable to contribute much.

What should have been something like the formation above ended up being something like this:

Barca Clustered in the Middle

And that spacing issue was what lead to Milan’s first goal. Seedorf took advantage of the space on right that had Puyol having to to defend both Seedorf and the significant space in front of him.

Image Courtesy of Euler

Ibra intelligently got between Puyol and Mascherano to score.

Image Courtesy of Euler

So why are you being such a Debbie Downer? What the fudge?

The great news is the above has largely worked itself out. Barca has learned to space themselves on the pitch significantly better. That’s the whole point of this post. It was so surprising to see the contrast between this game and the game we played yesterday.

Not only is our form better but with the way we play 3-4-3 now, the defensive system issue that we had against Milan — slow transition from offense to defense when we lose the ball (aka transitional defense) — is minimized as we’ve learned to space ourselves out better. This is not to say we’ll suddenly score a manita against Milan on Wednesday or anything along those lines; I’m merely pointing out the massive improvements the squad has made over the course of the season.

And while a lot of it is down to the incredible players we have, just as much is down to Pep Guardiola.

In a lot of ways, you can see the vision that Pep has. When Mascherano played right back against Valencia, to many it was a move that made no sense. Why experiment a DM-cum-CB at right back in such an important fixture? It had me baffled at the time as well.

But now as the season has gone on, it has become clearer – in a 3-4-3 there needs to be a player that plays at right side of the three man defense. As it is, only two players have that ability in the current Barca side: Alves and Puyol. While the former is ultra reliable in terms of fitness and form, the latter has sadly become more injury prone in the last season and a half. Fittingly enough, the same can be said for the left backs of the team [former being Abidal, latter being Adriano].

The complex part comes here: with the unfortunate situation with his liver, Abidal is out for the season (and possibly for duration of his career). This is, of course, incredibly saddening from a human perspective but it’s also a big blow tactically. Abi is most likely the most important defender tactically for Barca with his ability to play both LB and LCB (incredibly rare in itself, rarer still to find real quality).

The good thing for Barca is that Adriano is still there as a back up and a fantastic player to have but he is of course injury prone. Still in the Barca squad, Puyol can play LB as can Fontas.

Though injuries are hard to predict it is probable that Pep had thought at the beginning of the season: In a situation where we need Puyol to play on the left side of a three man defense, who will be able on the right? Mascherano indeed has the intelligence, positional sense, and skill to play there — but he needs to be played there and have the time to gain experience and adjust against quality opposition.

And there lies the beauty of this Barca team: The talent of Mascherano is such that he doesn’t need a large sample of games to get a hold of it – the greatness of Pep is that he can see the potential and have the gumption to do it.

Adjustments and Improvements.

You can see Pep learning from his experiments, how he makes his adjustments to the issues that arise from those experiments. That is the most underrated part of Pep for me (putting aside how underrated he is in general). He does things so he can learn from them. If something fails, he doesn’t just ditch the idea – no, it’s revisited, analyzed, and adjusted so it can work next time. Masche didn’t excel at right back, but he returns as a more capable defender on the right side of a three man defense.

Team in La Liga and Europe have constantly been adjusting themselves to better compete against Barca. That’s to be expected. Pep’s main test was to readjust – to keep the gap between us and everyone else. Because if you stand still while you’re ahead, others will catch up and pass you eventually.

As aptly noted by Euler on Twitter, Pep starts with a initial idea that becomes more refined as the season goes on. This is true for both formations (which have become more flexible) and player positions (which become more refined). For example, Cesc’s best position isn’t at false 9. That was obvious against Milan in the November game. But it was important to play him there so that becomes clear and adjust his position on the team accordingly. As you experiment and adjust and readjust players in different positions, you’re left with a significant improved draft, or in some cases, a finished product.

A big problem with a 3-4-3 is there is no spare defender, which a 4-3-3 obviously has, and that leads to problems. By experimenting with multiple formations early on in the season, Barca is now able to seamlessly shift between them over a coarse of a single match without a substitution. Which is remarkable. (Something they had trouble with early on in the season). It’s especially impressive to note they’ve been able to limit the effect of the trade offs that come with those formation changes. Against Mallorca there were two formations the team changed between that I saw: 3-4-3 and 4-3-3. Busi operated as another CB or a sweeper in front of the defense depending on the situation.

On a similar note, to me, Pep’s tactics are as flexible as his players. It’s why he’s constantly searching for players that can play multiple positions, rather than just sign a single player for a specific position. If you sign flexible, intelligent players, it makes it easier to readjust. Different formations and positions can be introduced and those players can adapt to those formation changes. It was for these reasons that Cesc and Alexis were signed – they’re not just great in one position, but good in many. (This principal has its own trade offs of course; we’re feeling the effects of one this season).

And inside the squad, though the season is not over, it’s particularly important to note how much Keita has improved in the DM position. It was said earlier in the season that Keita being able to play DM and play it well would have a significant impact on our season. For one, it would allowed Busi to gain time and experience at CB. He’s stepped up and done it. Hats off, Keiteee!

Other Talking Points:

– I only highlighted one issue we had against Milan. Fatigue was a large issue then as well, one that we still have now.

-Lack of pace at the back might also be a problem on Wednesday too. It’s extremely likely we’ll see Puyol at LB, though how flexible and improved the team is, it doesn’t really seem to bother me as much as it probably should.

Alexis in particular will have a large impact on Wednesday’s game. When he came on, he caused Milan fits. And that was when he was just coming back from his Sociedad injury.

– Milangate Part 2: it’s been noted many times but the team won’t be able to return to Barcelona until Friday because of a general strike in Spain. At least there’s no volcano and it’s after the game this time.

-On a youth team note: 16-year old Jean Marie Dongou scored his first –and the winning — goal for Barca B yesterday. Remember that name.

Posted in Tactics, Thoughts80 Comments

Leo Messi: Greatest In My World

“I don’t even want to compare Messi to anyone else – it just isn’t fair. On them.” – Xavi Hernandez

I cannot count the times where I wish I were eloquently verbose. I wish I had the skill and the vocabulary to aptly describe the things I see. I wish I had such mastery of the English language that I could do some kind of justice to the greatest player I will ever see on a football pitch: Lionel Andres Messi. That I could write some kind of eulogy or homage that will give people just a glimpse — a taste — of amazement and joy he brings me every time I see him play.

I truly wish I did, but it will remain just that – a wish. As much as it depresses me I just can’t. I don’t hold any hope that I could do any kind of justice to the great man, so I won’t bother. I have a sneaky suspicion that even if I could, there are simply no words currently available in any language that could hope to accurately encompass the pure joy, wonder, excitement, feelings of watching Leo Messi play football. Simply the best at what he does.

You could swear, you could scream, you could frantically text a friend/relative/significant other, you could just simply hold your head in your hands… but somehow it still just isn’t enough.

Lionel Messi is the reason why I’m a football fan*. Why I bother to go out of my way to intently watch grown men kick a ball around for an hour and a half. Why I bother staying in fandom (so I can share and fawn over it with other people). To me, he is and will always be the greatest. I thought so last year, three years ago, six years ago; and I will think so twenty years from now too. That my first ever football kit is Messi’s 07-08 one with the #19 on the back is a massive source of pride.

[*If you’re interested, I wrote an embarrassingly long post about how I became a footy fan when I first became a mod of BFB. You can read it here but make sure you have a lot of time on your hands. When I say long, I mean long.]

I want to see him play live. Badly. The result of that game doesn’t even matter. I want to say one day that I saw Leo Messi play. Live. In the flesh. But you know what? Even if that doesn’t work out, I feel honoured to be born in the era of such a great. That I can watch a living legend make history in front of my eyes and say, “Yep. He really was that good.”

I watched this game against Granada in the living room of my house where my mom and a guest were talking about whatever they talk about on the others side of the room. When Messi scored his hattrick, I tried to explain to them the significance and the — forgive me — the utter epicness of what just happened.

But I couldn’t. I was literally at a loss for words. Nothing I said seem to be enough. So I tried to gesticulate, to move my hands frantically in all directions, as if I could palm my feelings into them, but…nada. They didn’t really understand; my mom is well aware of my football obsession, but they didn’t get why a short guy putting a ball in a net was such a big deal.

You know what my mom said? “Well, that’s nice… I don’t see what the big deal is though. Weren’t you talking about that guy this weekend*? Didn’t he do the same thing?”

*[in reference to Messi’s nutmeg chip goal against Sevilla where I called her down from upstairs and just pathetically pointed to the screen during the replay]

Cue the “No, Mom! He did do that great thing but this is another, completely different, greater thing that is just so…great” but then I realized that to some it’s just…meh. Typical. Ordinary. Routine. That to the casual viewer Messi scores goals like this all the time. That’s crazy.

You know the craziest thing is?

“[Messi] doesn’t just score lots of goals, he scores lots of great goals. And he does it every three days.” – Pep Guardiola

And it’s not just the goals too. It’s not just the goals. I could give you a crap load of insane statistics (54 goals in 55 official games this season (and counting); 192 goals in 204 official games under Pep; involved in 75 of Barcelona’s 148 goals this season: 53 goals scored and 22 assisted; first player in history to score 54 goals in a single Liga season) but that’s just supplementary.

It’s the way he play the freaking game of football. His runs, his positional sense, his workrate, his vision… In so many ways, he’s actually underrated. If it were just about the goals, Pippo Inzaghi and other such poachers would be the best ever. With Messi, a goal is like another memory. (Forget who said that, but it’s apt).

I know that stats are just another way to try and encompass greatness but to me they are just inadequate; lacking. You can’t put the way he plays football — the feelings you get when you watch him go on one of those dazzling runs or an inch perfect through pass in traffic — into a stat. It’s impossible. You just can’t put feelings into a stat and that’s unfortunate. Just as I wish I could put it into words, I’m sure statisticians are hoping to put it into numbers.

And it’s just not enough, dammit.

Getting this out of the way, no, I’ve never seen Maradona, Pele, Cruyff, etc. play. (Which is unfortunate as they are greats of the game). And I don’t care if he never wins that thrice damned World Cup. He’s the best I’ve ever seen and even if someone new happens to emerge in the future he’ll always be the best in my eyes.

Forgive the shameless fangirling put into post form, but Dios mio. And it’s not just because he became the all-time top scorer in Barca history too. I could have written this five years ago and it would still be valid.

Lionel freakin’ Messi.

“It is clear that Messi is on a level above all others. Those who do not see that are blind.” – Xavi

Now watch some clips.

[by fcbarcelona]

[by WizardofOx]

[by Leboakatio]

——————–

– Barca is kind of awesome too. We’re coming into great form.

– Temporarily at 5 points in the Liga for those who care. (2 points for the extremely cheeky ones. :P )

– It’s a pity that Adriano is a Robben (read: a talented glassman). Out for 10 days, so that means more Pique – who, as I’ve said before, is not as bad as people think but has these inexplicable lapses in concentration that could be costly. He’s the most decisive player with regards to our CL hopes. If we’re going to continue in that competition, we need Gerard Pique, the World Cup winning centre back. Is it because he’s missing Bojangles? Or it is because he has Cesc now? Totally relevant questions, for sure.

– Glad Puyi, Alexis, Keita and Thiago all got some time under their belts too. Busi was rested too!

But enough of that, watch some Barca videos.

(Old video but still good by Lenny)

And just one more (by Leboakatio):

Posted in Messi, Thoughts94 Comments

Sergi Busquets: Football Pragmatist

There is one in every team.  A player everyone loves to hate, sometimes including their own fans. They are not afraid to do the unseemly (i.e. embellish) to help the team win and never assume that the other team will play fair. They take matters into their own hands, even if it’s the unpopular way to handle things. Deep down, everyone knows they are one heck of a player and that just makes those critics unhappier.

Sergio Busquets is that player.

“I am not a cheater,” he says simply, in an exclusive, completely fallacious interview with Barcelona Football Blog, “I’m a pragmatist.”

When people think of Sergi Busquets, they think a lot of unpleasant things. A lot of people call you a stinkin’ cheater, amongst other names.

Sergi Busquets: Well, that’s their prerogative to be fair. I can only continue playing football and trying to help my team win as many trophies as possible. Maybe their opinion might change along the way.

Do you believe you act dishonestly to gain an advantage sometimes?

Football is an interesting sport. There are rules and there are guidelines. Some people believe the rules are guidelines and break them with abandon. If someone violently tackles you with no consequences, you could do the same; but then it would become a bloodbath with people trying harder to break legs in retaliation than play the game.

So the alternative, more realistic option is to try to get the attention of the one who enforces the rules and either show or let them know such acts are happening. Maybe the transgressions will stop and the game will be safer to participate in.  If you gotta grab unrelated body parts, roll around a bit, stay on ground long than necessary, scream in fake agony, then so be it. It’s unseemly but you gotta do what you gotta do.

So basically you’re a cheater.

I am not a cheater, I’m a pragmatist. You try to break my face with your elbow, I’ll let the turf hear what I think about it. ‘m not gaining an advantage out of that, more like trying to put a stop to something that shouldn’t be happening in the first place. It’d be great if the referees could see that, but they’re just three people. They won’t see everything so you got to be realistic.

But only a coward would bring gamesmanship to a man’s game

Only a romantic moron would bring ideals to a football match.

What’s that supposed to mean?

Football matches are a lot like a cat fight. In the beginning there are the usual spoken and unspoken rules of engagement (no hair pulling, scratching, etc) but the speed of that going to hell depends on the stakes and how much of a jerk the other is. The higher the stakes and Jerk Factor, the faster the claws come out.

I’m sure all teams would love to win with no dirty tackles, professional fouls, dives and the like, but when there are victories, titles, money and/or football immortality at stake…

That’s a pretty cynical outlook for a person who has Messi on their team.

Look, it would be all well and good if Leo could go through ninety minutes without getting hacked and Iniesta scored every game but it just doesn’t work out that way. No team would ever win a football match, though to witness their utter destruction would be glorious, and in Andres’ case there are hospitals to consider. It’d be difficult to find a place for all those babies.

Two years ago, there was that ‘peek-a-boo’ incident…

…and four years ago I was playing in the third division. Things change, people change. If one incident is enough to give you the reputation of a serial diver, well, that’s just how it is. Never mind that it was a yellow card in the first place.

You seem quite convinced that teams will play dirty against you.

If teams play fair, we beat them nine times out of ten. So that’s not much incentive for them to play fair, is it?

Hmm…

You have to defend yourself if no one is. Take Iniesta. He’s such a sweet guy; eats his ice cream, casually carries his baby in public, and meditates with bears. Underneath all that, though, is a fierce competitor that can punk off the best of ‘em if he has to. Just ask van Bommel.

Do you worry about fans hating you?

Why? It means the fans I do have respect my football and I’ll never have to worry about bandwagoners. I’m okay with having Vincent of the Forest and Pep as my fanboys. It’s the potential hipsters I’m afraid of. [shudders]

————-

And that concludes BFB’s random interview with Busquets.

Stay tuned for the next interview with…

Xavi: Football’s Proprietor

(Sneak peak below as I haven’t thought of anything else and don’t know when I’ll ever post the full thing when I finally sit down to think of it. Reminds me a bit of Villarato Corp.)

“I’ve got 99 problems,” he quotes, “but terrible football ain’t one of ‘em.”

Do you have a guilty pleasure with regards to football?

Xavi: You know, sometimes I like to watch truly terrible football matches. Games where there are no tactical innovations, defensive mishaps galore, and a lot of goals.

Excuse me but the irony is too much.

Just hear me out, okay?

Watching a truly sh*t football match is a lot like watching a three-legged dog energetically hobble its way down the street, trying to dodge passersby and obstacles, in order to reach a fire hydrant to relieve itself on. You have much better things to spend your time on than watch this dog. Your brain deserves to be devoted to much better. And yet you stare transfixed at this dog, from the second you first notice it to the moment the last drip falls. It’s inexplicable really. The allure is hard to explain.

(It really is hard to explain.)

(Also, weren’t Busi and Xavi just incredible today?  They deserve their own posts in some way. And what a goal from Messi too. Don’t have time to embed it but it deserves a couple of hours on YouTube. Well, I’m entering Ninja Calvin mode…)

Posted in Nonsense93 Comments

The Illusion of Objectivity in Football + The Ref Thing

If I say this is shocking, am I wrong?

[Hi guys, I’ve been out of the loop lately. School, sickness, and all that fun stuff. I was on Twitter earlier and I was surprised to see some of the things I read. It’s not a big deal but it just reminded me of a host of things that I wanted to rant about, so I’ve thrown it all together in some kind of coherent fashion (lol). I decided against splitting it but you can take it in two parts (as seen in the title) It’s controversial I guess, and so I apologize if anyone is offended beforehand. I’m not saying I’m right about anything; it’s just an amalgamation just some opinions and observations I have. I dunno if I’ll be able to respond to any comments as I’m still busy but I’m not ignoring you. Just short on time. Sorry in advance for that]

Generally speaking, the opinions of neutrals or a third party are sought in disputed events. If someone gets into a car crash, there is the perpetrator and the victim. If you ask one, both would say the other was at fault. Therefore you’d need a bystander or a person who has no bias toward either party to see the truth, the reality of what really happened. Which makes sense.

Objectivity itself is a wonderful thing and the ideal state of being in pretty much every scenario. It is something that should be strived for.

The problem, in my opinion, comes when you try to apply that same notion to football where I believe it’s almost impossible to be truly objective. Every person has at least one team they have a soft spot for, or a style of play, or even a player. There are views on what constitutes physicality, cheating, and the like. And so there is no bystander in a car accident in my mind because everyone is biased towards something no matter how subtle.

As such, I think sometimes the ideal state of objectivity becomes more of a case of trying too hard to be unbiased to the point where the reality of what happened actually isn’t said. I believe it’s one of two extremes, the other far more common one being that there are those who are so biased that they do not acknowledge the factual events.

Being a typical fan has two parts: 1) full-time fanatic; 2) internet warriors who wield keyboards in indignation at things said about their team. With the latter, depending on your power and/or experience level you can be somewhere between the two extremes: caustic troll and disillusioned hipster.

When something happens in football, more often than not the actual subject doesn’t really get discussed. For example an event happens where two players are going for the ball and in the aftermath someone -– a commentator is the best example here — says, “That was a dangerous tackle worthy of a red card,” and goes on to discuss it. And more often than not the first thing said will be something along the lines of:

“Are you a fan of (insert club of victim)?”

And later on the opinion of that commentator may morph into something like: “Well, it was a dangerous tackle but both players were sliding in so…” as if to prove that no, they aren’t and shift that initial opinion to suit that point rather than they believe actually occurred.

For a real life example of the above, take the Francis-Fabregas event yesterday:

And it demands the question: Does the club you support, or don’t support, determine the validly of your arguments? There will be people who read this and may recommend it to someone. Does my being a Barca fan make what I’m saying less valid?

I ask because I believe that in the sport of football some people feel that they need to morph their opinions to make them into one that they feel is more objective (when in reality it may not be). That by doing this it would make them more valid in some way. Because being seen as biased automatically means that they are wrong in some fashion and so they shy away. Not only that, but there is a general idea that being objective means being equal in condemnation and praise. That when discussing teams it has to be five criticisms for one team and five criticisms for the other for it to be valid. Which is fair if that is the case.

But I believe that sometimes that’s not always the case. If one is more criticisable (for lack of a better word) than the other, then so be it. It should be said. I don’t think both sides should be equally culpable if they aren’t. Otherwise you’re in danger of painting a very blurred picture, one that no amount of PhotoShop can fix. You’re not being objective, you’re being misleading.

If saying Racing should have had at least two sure fire red cards and the referee absolutely made a hash of that match by allowing violently physical play makes me biased, well damn. Take a letter head and stamp Miss Bias on my forehead. I’ll wear it like a badge of honour. But that doesn’t mean what I’m saying is wrong because I didn’t sugarcoat my words. I think tact, respect and context are all important and just shooting off criticisms won’t make for a strong argument (again, you’d fall into the other extreme of too biased to argue); however an argument shouldn’t just be dismissed because of the person’s supposed football allegiance.

And that happens to a lot of journalists and bloggers, as well as fans in comment sections, in a lot of articles, blogs, forums, etc.

“Ah, there are some good points, but he’s a Roma fan.”

So what? Why does that matter? Debate the point, not the club allegiance. But of course people know that; the thing is they don’t want to because they know if the conversation continues they’d be shown to be wrong and internet warriors can never be wrong. Therefore they engage in the common practice called distracting. That is to say, you say one thing and they say something similar which seems on topic but in reality has nothing to do with the topic at hand. It is usually said with the hope that the initial point, to which they had no suitable rebuttal, would be forgotten about.

“…therefore two plus two equals four.”

“Are you a mathematician?”

There’s a stark inability to admit to when they are wrong. Another common practice is when two fans are debating whether or not a certain event was a penalty. Rather than say, “Yeah, I think that was/wasn’t a penalty” they would say:

“I watched the game with so-and-so who are Arsenal (or) Newcastle fans and they said it was a penalty.”

Why is it necessary to bring someone else into the discussion and include club allegiance? Does them being fans of another unrelated team make it more legitimate? It’s just another opinion based on what one saw. You have eyes and you know the rules: what do you see in front of you? Do you really need someone to see things for you? Or it is a case of the club you support rendering you unable to see and determine things yourself? That you only see things through the lens of that team and are selectively blind to certain events? If so, there’s a problem.

I should be clear here: I’m not saying people striving to be objective are frauds, more like debating what constitutes objectivity in football. Do you change you opinion based on the accusations of bias (what other people say) or do you stay true to what you believe is the truth?

Objectivity in football to me is being able to recount events as accurately as possible while minimizing your bias. I think to some it is recounting events that suit the fancy of internet warriors rather what they feel is the true reality.

Moving on to the next topic

I didn’t get to talk about the referee issue, mostly because it’s a dead horse, but I thought I might as well give my 2 cents.

But before I get into that I’ll just get this out of the way now: despise is a strong word. If you haven’t dissed my mom or threatened my family then it’s all good. However if I had to choose between supporting the Evil Empire and painting my backside with cow manure, I’d take the latter all day long. (Let’s hope it never comes to that). I can’t stand them. I really can’t. So I’m not objective in the literal sense of the word. Despite what I said above, I won’t be offended if what I say below is taken with a pinch of salt, though I think I did my best to see the whole picture.

Now considering the nature of the environment (at least on Twitter) I’m assuming the thing with referees has gotten some momentum. I actually wrote a post about this a couple of months ago that I never got around to publishing so I’m just going to stick it here:

The referee issue

There is no conspiracy. I’m saying this point blank now. There is no conspiracy simply because an utterly inept organization that cannot even determine what time a match will be played until a week before couldn’t possibly have the coordination, subtlety, mental fortitude and foresight to even think of a conspiracy, let alone carry it out. It’s pretty hilarious actually.

A combination of idiocy, ineptitude and a lack of a backbone are different subjects however.

The head of the refereeing committee said they act based on media impact. Putting aside the absolute stupidity of that comment, consider the following:

– The most vocal media contingency in Spain is Madrid based.

– The most popular team in that area has a coach whose specialty is media, the so-called “puto amo of press conferences”.

– The media respond heavily to his statements and echoes them.

– Through the use of these press conferences this coach regularly puts ref under pressure after games. This happens relentlessly over the course of a season.

– The following season that team gets many favourable calls.

Given the above, a hypothesis can begin to take shape; “This season referees in Spain are under intense media pressure and, fearing for their jobs, make certain decisions to avoid being publicly lynched by the most vocal media contingency which negatively affects their ability to perform their duties to an acceptable level.”

Is the above hypothesis an utterly outrageous one given the context which includes quotes? Because that’s what some Barca fans are saying.

That argument of a conspiracy is in fact an incredibly prevalent straw man going around. For those who don’t remember a straw man is when you talk one argument (x) and change it to a flimsier, much more shallow argument (y, aka a straw man) so that it is easier to refute. There are people who, unconsciously or not,  are changing the argument from “many Barcelona fans believe that this season referees in Spain are under intense media pressure and make certain decisions to avoid being publicly lynched by the most vocal media contingency which negatively affects their ability to perform their job to an acceptable level” into “many Barcelona fans believe that this season referees in Spain have conspired to deny Barcelona a fourth Liga in a row, are actively favoring Real Madrid any way they can while harming Barcelona in the same way and this is the sole reason why Barcelona have dropped points and are x points back” making it easier to refute. And it will be refuted easily because there is no conspiracy and Barca have been very poor away from home. But the subject was never about a conspiracy -– it was about media pressure and the consequences of it. So it’s a form of distracting from what the actual topic at hand was.

Now what do I think?

Well, I can only go by what I see. I’m not in the mind of any delegates or officials. I wasn’t a fan in 1998 when some referee screwed some player out of a decisive penalty; nor was I born in 1976 or whenever when a referee screwed over Barca at some tournament. I can only go by what I see and what I see is there are times when Messi gets poleaxed in the penalty box and gets nothing, and times where Fabregas misses an open net.  When Atletico got hard done by not too long ago  and that these things even out at some point. That sometimes circumstance affects the call rather than what it should be and I feel the verbally abused man in yellow sometimes thinks, “If I make this call, what will happen” and knows at the back of his mind the FCB answer is: nothing. We, that is the players and coach, doesn’t feel the need to because whether you give us this call or not, we’re still going to win.

Also the media scares us (and Messi) so we like to make the pressers and interviews as painless and controversy free as possible.

I haven’t watched any Madrid games this season. When Messi or Alexis get bundled over, I don’t think “Dive Maria  got a penalty for that so we should have gotten one too” but rather “that was a foul and it was inside the box. Therefore that is a penalty.” Because I’m already opening up a jar of gummy worms here’s some food for thought:

Xavi and RoSELL (and Messi apparently) came out before the first leg of the Valencia tie and complained about referees for the first time since …. a while (how they got Pep’s permission is beyond me) and lo and behold, Pinto obviously handles the ball outside the area with the forearm. Forget red, yellow or a free kick, no call even happens. Did the pressuring of the ref make this non-call happen? Who knows. The linesman could have just missed it, but it is curious. And I think it’s fair to say that Liga refs are easily susceptible to pressure.

Pep himself has two choices regarding refs:

1) Take the easy way out and lay some blame on them for the team’s failures, causing MD and Sport to explode in self righteous anger. This will extend to the fans who will look to do the same.

OR

2) Ignore them and be a great sportsman who can own up to his mistakes. If things go well, it’s down to us. If things go bad, it’s also down to us. No excuses.

Guardiola of course chose the latter. Barca don’t need refereeing decisions for things to go its way. It’s not “We didn’t win because of the referee” but “We won despite them”. And that’s how it always should be, until there is a change in how the refereeing committee is handled and run.

But I think Pep chose this route to cultivate a healthy mentality not just among players but especially among cules. Sure, it might not get us the calls sometimes, but it’s infinitely better than the alternative, and one I’m so much more proud of. You can see the stark, and frankly shocking, contrast between both sets of fans in the latest Copa Clasico below (via elchapinx08):

There are some crazy things like Mourinho waiting outside a ref’s car (hahaha) and then said ref will apparently never call a Clasico again. Or crazy statements like the ref’s spokesperson saying, “What Mourinho did (the parking lot incident) and what Casillas said (told the ref to celebrate with Barça) in the latest Clásico isn’t comparable because it had no impact (in the media).” and when the judge didn’t suspend Pepe because Messi didn’t lose two fingers.

Our club has one spokesperson in my view and that person is Pep Guardiola. He and the players have already taken the stance against talking about refs and for the most part they’ve honored it. To talk about them now just defeats the purpose of taking that stance in the first place, make us seem hypocritical and, let’s face it, a couple of sore losers. I don’t think there is anything wrong with fans talking about them. That’s, well, part of what we do. It’s when the club itself takes on the whipping boy routine that it gets ridiculous. The RFEF and the referee committee are already doing a bang up job making proper fools of themselves; the club is bigger than that and doesn’t need to get involved.

That all said, what do I think us fans should do?

Well, I can’t speak for anyone but myself really. I think there are two ways of going about it:

1)  Continue to point out the double standards, misconceptions, injustice, false equivalency and become an internet warrior leaning toward caustic troll. Or continue to prove there is no conspiracy, similar things happened before you were a fan (but of course you wouldn’t know), share the plethora of insight experience has given you and become an internet warrior leaning toward disillusioned hipster.

OR

2)  Endure it, talking about only when you can be bothered to, and just focus on the football and the absolute joy of an irreplaceable team you have now. Just because you’re ignoring or don’t talk about doesn’t mean it’s not happening; it’s just that you have priorities, and that priority is immortalizing Barcelona.

And, well, that’s what I think people should do.

In the future, I want everyone to know that this was a Barca team that played magical football, that never felt the need to publicly lynch a referee, that knew how to lose and who strove to make sure its legacy was never in doubt. Don’t remain the perpetual victim, even if you do feel hard done by. It’s tough, I know, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing it out, but there are more important things.

I want people to discuss the joy of a football match. Like when something goes wrong, they say, “Aww shucks! But hey, wasn’t that fun?”  And they don’t feel the need to collect .gif like this and this and scream at injustices, or have a crazed look in their eye when they watch a game, remembering reffing mistakes instead of glorious plays. The time we tied a Bielsa-led Atheltic Bilbao in torrential rain at San Mames and it was just seven levels of epic. Or the time where we were kinda crappy away at Osasuna but we picked up our game in the second half and almost nicked it at the end.

Or those crazy team goals we score last year (via mastermind9682):

To those who are myopic, this might seem hypocritical after every thing that has been written, but reffing decisions add a certain edge to the game. Like you got shafted and everyone else know you got shafted, but you battled through it and won anyway. The Liga standard is far too low right now to be anything other than frustrating, but darn, when you see the team battle against and adapt to the Racing physicality, it’s hard to think of anything but, “man, what a team! Kick us, go ahead, but we’ll still play the way we want and kick your butts with flair.”

We have a scandalously good team. We’ve won Ligas through the blood, sweat, tears, hair loss, and questionable hairdos of our players, coach(es) and staff. There has never been room for doubt about the legitimacy of our triumphs, the way we won them will be remembered forever …. what more can you ask?

Yes, Barcelona is always expected to win. That’s a given. And we could still win the Liga. Why not? But what I’m trying to say is: we’ll be back next year. And the next. And then next. This squad isn’t going to disappear if we don’t win this year. The pressure isn’t as intense as it was four years ago. Missed one Liga out of four? No pasa nada. If Madrid win, congratulations. You achieved better results over the entire course of the season and are the deserved winner. But we’ll be back for our crown next year when Alexis and Thiago are fully integrated, Cesc finds a niche, B-teamers get minutes and we discover the greatest thing since Tello since Cuenca since Thiago.

I don’t want Barca fans to become the Madridistas in that Cuatro video. I want us to be less tense and more relaxed because dammit if you can’t fully enjoy watching this team, when the hell will you? Who cares what people say? In the future, us either getting or not getting favourable reffing decisions won’t be remembered; the football will. And then you can be an obnoxious hipster about it to your grandkids, when they’re ooh-ing and ahh-ing about Benjamin Aguero and you can say that you saw Messi score five goals against Leverkusen in a CL game.

Watch Barca games for the joy of watching Barca games.

You know that of course. But sometimes a reminder is nice.

———-

I feel this deserves its own space in a post. Maybe someone will write up something specific about it, but it’s nice to have this piece of information out in the open so to speak.

MESSI IS NOT LAZY! Reader Dani_el has graciously translated a Marti Perarnau SPORT article explaining why he sometimes walks on the field:

“Messi had suffered a series of grave muscular injuries, especially in February and march of 2006 that kept him from the Paris CL final, but also in December of 2007 and March of 2009 […] so when Guardiola came to the first team, there was an extensive plan of prevention and health care for Messi. Food, hydration and fixed rest were joined to a thorough preventive work. Juanjo Brau became his shadow, not only in Barça but in any trip with his NT. Each day Messi works during 45 minutes before training, and 30 minutes after, moving articulations, relaxing muscular tension, and working his lower limbs. People in the dressing room stress the importance of Messi’s dedication in the taking care of his own body. What was a serious problem, had become a procedure, taking in consideration a lot of daily effort.

It is also important to note the evolutionary process as a player. What in 2005 and 2006 [Messi] was a winger who ran 90 minutes at full speed, maybe in offensive plays, or maybe in keeping track defensively, has changed -– by explicit decision from Guardiola -– to an attacker that runs lightly and even walks for a lot of minutes, placing himself in central positions as a starting point, with short length associations with Xavi and co.; and that reserves his well-known accelerations and change-of-pace dribbles a few times per game: the chosen ones. That wild, intense Messi during an hour and a half, only gives himself away on the necessary moments: he has learned to choose those moments. This measurement from the technical staff show a significant decrease in explosive physical efforts that the player does per game. As a result, his muscular fatigue has been limited exponentially and now he is capable of facing 60 games per season, with reduced injury risk, contrary to the situation 5 years ago. As a matter of fact, and in the merging of trauma injuries and knocks in the game, only an overload in the “recto interno” in August of 2009 and an elongation in the “abductor” on November of the same year, has been accounted as muscular injuries for Messi, in these 3 and a half seasons with Guardiola.”
Martì Perarnau, published in Sport 25-II-2012

Posted in Thoughts107 Comments

Sometimes There Are Simply No Words

Posting from the afterlife because I’m pretty sure this goal gave me heart failure.

Couldn’t find the Valdes saves but to anyone and everyone that tries to claim or seriously argue he is not one of the best goalkeepers in the world, I have one video for you:

Also this:

[Videos courtesy of videoFCB, allasFCB2, Bound4Earth]

Posted in Videos39 Comments

Xanatos Gambit: The Fan Edition

XANATOS!!!!

Going with what Kxevin was saying the previous post, I am temporarily back from obscurity to bring the quality of the site down the site to greater passions….?

Anyway.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while but I never had enough free time to actually go about doing. Do you know about TV tropes? No? That’s okay. You can Google it.

[To save you time, it is a wiki that “catalogs the tricks of the trade for writing fiction” (their words, not mine).]

The inspiration of this post is the absolutely brilliant Xanatos Gambit. Have you watched the cartoon Gargoyles before? No? That’s not okay. Watch it on YouTube or some obscure website that is totally legal and doesn’t have viruses.

The basis of the Xanatos Gambit is the strategy you choose is such that all paths lead to your victory.

The namesake of the trope David Xanatos is quite possibly the most badass antagonist in cartoon history. Revel in his suave villainy below.

So anyway, I wanted make a Xanatos Gambit for football. It would have been very amusing and very fun to write up.

But then I realized that football is a very broad subject that divided into a lot of parts: managers, fans, players, even journalists. Which actually wouldn’t have been that difficult; there were more options for me to take. The problem, however, is you can even divide those parts into more parts; for example, fans can be divided into Barcelona fans, Arsenal fans, Roma fans, etc.

The players can also be divided into either ‘stereotypes’ or roles; The Quiet Genius (Messi, Iniesta), the Magnificent Bastard (subjective; Xavi for Madridistas), the Self-proclaimed Rich and Handsome Bastard (Cristiano Ronaldo), Respectable Veteran (Seedorf), etc.

The managers are most interesting I find. You can have the classy winner archetype (Pep, Pelligrini), the no-so-classy winner (Mourinho). But you could also have the perpetual failure (insert your own here), so-close-yet-so-far (Ranieri), how-the-hell-do-you-keep-getting-a-job (too many to name).

Interesting, indeed.

However, like I said I had no time to pursue this endeavor so I ended up putting the idea on the back burner. Until today.

I had some free time (thank you Family Day) so I went to MS Paint and drew up a crappy Xanatos Gambit for fans internet warriors.

The idea: “no matter what the outcome of the game is, I still win the pointless argument online battle.”

(If I find more time, I’ll do one for managers).

/shuffles back into obscurity.

Posted in Nonsense183 Comments

Je Ne Sais Pas: Osasuna vs Barcelona Liveblog

Too sick to think of anything clever.

Starting XI: Valdes; Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Abidal; Thiago, Mascherano, Sergi Roberto; Alexis, Messi and Pedro

Bench: Adriano, Cesc, Xavi, Iniesta, Tello and Cuenca

Going for a direct game today. Just look at the pitch we’re playing on today.

Let’s go.

Posted in La Liga, Liveblog95 Comments

Someone Will Get Hlebbed: Barcelona vs Real Sociedad Liveblog

Win, lose, or draw.

I’m excited for the game today. You should be too.

Kick off is at 4pm EST, 6am in Tokyo, 11pm in Beirut, 3pm in Tegucigalpa, and midnight in Minsk HLEB CITY. Liveblog starts whenever I feel like it. (Probably half an hour before)

FCB Lineup: Valdés, Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano; Fàbregas, Dos Santos, Thiago; Messi, Cuenca Tello

Bench: Pinto, Xavi, Alexis, Pique, Busi, Abidal, Sergi Roberto

Posted in La Liga, Liveblog117 Comments

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