The challenge of watching and enjoying a football team is to always focus on the…
There was much irony in the two goals scored by Athletic Bilbao, moments that will…
What an extraordinary match of football, one that for me was most interesting in the way that it tested the mettle of this Barça side.
It’s easy to scoff and say that “It’s only Villarreal,” but this was a team that today suffered only its second road loss and was unbeaten in its last 10 before coming to the Camp Nou. It’s also a team of talented, intelligent, well-coached players that will be a handful in the coming Copa semi-final tie.
The challenge for a team is always, “What will you do when you’re punched in the face?” In 3 matches against Atleti, the last most notably at their house, and then at home today, Barça was punched in the face via a pair of goals that were a comedy of errors more than any sort of indictment of the defense, even as culers were waiting for the defense to concede, for Pique to make an error so that the shouts of “A-ha!” could begin, in a world in which even good things are suspect, failure masquerading as success.
A shoe was thrown, a fullback came face to face with a lineman’s flag, a…
Do you know how mad you have to be to throw a shoe at someone? Think about it. You’re at work, and something happens. Let’s say someone or thing has been vexing you for most of a workday. What does it take to finally, finally get you to snap and … off comes the shoe.
Arda Turan’s moment really typified what was a bonkers football match today. He threw his shoe at an official in a fit of pique (rather than Pique, who was sublime) over a call not made during a match in which Barça attackers were the equivalent of foot pinatas. Turan’s gesture was about futility, about an acceptance that this was it, and yet it was so much more.
Credit is a weird thing, because even when it would seem clear to someone where it’s due, worldview can affect a lot. In this vein, a comment in the Atleti post was fascinating and inspiring, so here it is to get things started:
Kxevin, its quite unfortunate that you are hell bent on crediting every barca victory on paper to Enrique, our turn of form and consistency has been as a result of that feud.
You might not see it but Enrique does not have a system, its funny you even think Enrique’s barca could beat athleti without him trying to tweak a thing or two. We have certainly reverted back to the old ways and system, no more tweaking to fit the opponent.
Players might be rested or subbed or not included in the matchday squads by Him but this transformation and how we play now doesn’t relate to Enrique’s genius.
Let’s play around with that a bit, shall we, and try to deal with today’s match without even considering anything that Enrique might have done.
You can learn a lot from a simple match of football. For example, you have to be really, really smart to be dissatisfied with the way that Barça played yesterday as regards the esoteric minutiae of today’s hyper-enlightened fan. Positioning, formations, heat maps … ordinary dullards struggle with looking that deeply, preferring to marvel at the fact that … Barca beat Atleti again. What. The. Hell.
And Barça didn’t just beat Atleti. It beat the best Atleti. Last match there was no Miranda, nor was it their top choice at RB that Messi was tormenting. But at the Camp Nou it was different. A great many things were different and yet the result was the same: Barça won. Even more interestingly, a top-level opponent had to react to Barça, rather than the reverse, yet another Enrique myth put to bed.
What an extraordinary match of football. I rather imagine that neutrals had a great time because this was a battle royale between two teams who probably realize that this tournament is their best real opportunity for silver.
The pace was absurd and the pressure unrelenting. We know what Atleti is because they are unchanged from last season, a vibrant fist of a team that is improved this year. They’re scoring more in addition to being able to attack teams in the same way defensively, even as they are now understanding what it’s like to get an opponent’s best game.
We also knew that their coach, Diego Simeone, would make adjustments from the last time the teams met, which resulted in a 3-1 drubbing that really wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
But I wonder if culers are fully aware of what has transpired over these last two matches.
The reference. Yesterday’s Depor post didn’t deal with Sergio Busquets because he warrants a much…
Depor is no longer Super Depor.
In a trip to an opponent wallowing around the bottom of the table near the relegation places, the visit to La Coruna wasn’t really on anybody’s list of important fixtures, even as it was a huge one for many reasons.
Barça’s home form has been formidable and away form dodgy, to be generous. Fraught and uncertain, road woes have been the tenor and tone of this season, from a scoreless draw with no shots at Malaga to a pair of losses. The most recent loss against La Real in January was also the one that set the “crisis” bells ringing, in a match result as overblown as it was unsurprising. The team always struggles at the Anoeta. Why would anything more be expected from a group its supporters expect so little from?
All of this made the Depor visit crucial for the first team, particularly in light of all the Liga title rivals having already won. That Barça pasted Depor wasn’t as noteworthy as how Barça pasted Depor. In addition to the half-speed drubbing, it was clear in yet another match that this was a team with a system, a way of playing. After all the snarling that Enrique didn’t have a clue and didn’t have an XI, he repeated a lineup:
Bravo, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic, Neymar, Suarez, Messi
This is weird.
Yesterday’s fascinating Copa match came in the wake of a recent conversation that in the here and now of 140-character blasts, self-curated football knowledge bases and the YouTube immediacy of the modern game, a patient, long view is not only unrewarded but unwanted. (As an aside, this piece by Seb Stafford-Bloor on that very thing, is essential reading.)
Back in the day, someone could call for patience and there was no choice, really. So when events transpired to make that person seem like a seer, it was cool. Today, nobody wants to admit they don’t know, so everyone acts like they know.
And as I was watching the away leg of the Copa tie vs Elche, a dead rubber in which Barça already had an insurmountable lead and even the Elche coach said before the match, “I know what I’m supposed to say, but this is impossible,” I got to thinking about the long view and its unrewarding nature.
Appreciation is an odd thing, as are assessments. Neglected it seems in all of the…
The post-mortems have started coming in about the best Barça performance that anyone has seen…