February 4, 2015 / / Messi

It’s the “black hand.” When in doubt, calling upon a conspiracy can be effective.

Conspiracies are quite useful because they can’t be disproved. Even if nothing happened, believers can still say “Well, we just don’t know that something didn’t happen.” It’s what makes them so effective. Conspiracy theories have something for everyone, and everyone will ultimately believe what they choose to believe. Beliefs give us comfort. It’s their principal virtue.

Look at the recent social media storm when Marca said that RM was looking to sign Seung-Woo Lee, the bright, shining star of La Masia and the player allegedly at the root of the transfer ban when envy from another club made someone rat on Barça. That certainly might have happened, but had the club’s business been correct the snitch could have squealed to the heavens, to no avail. Anyhow.

People went nuts in social media, claiming that there was a sniff of veracity to the rumor, citing a couple of allegedly solid sources, etc. The board is that stupid, after all they sold Thiago, blablabla. People like me said, essentially, “Y’all cray. It’s illogical.” Then the player came out and said through his representatives that he isn’t going anywhere. And people breathed a sigh of relief that something that was never going to happen, didn’t happen.
Read MoreIs the “black hand” at Barça wearing blaugrana?

February 1, 2015 / / Analysis

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.
Read MoreBarça 3, Villarreal 2, aka “Is that all you got?”

January 29, 2015 / / Analysis
January 28, 2015 / / Analysis


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.
Read MoreAtleti 2, Barça 3 (agg. 2-4), aka “The Shoe Olympics”

January 27, 2015 / / Copa del Rey
January 24, 2015 / / Analysis
"Next, let's help the shoemaker!"
“Next, let’s help the shoemaker!”

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.
Read MoreElx 0, Barça 6, aka “The elf power edition”

January 23, 2015 / / Analysis


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.
Read MoreBarça 1, Atleti 0, aka “Growth program”

January 19, 2015 / / Analysis


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
Read MoreDepor 0, Barça 4, aka “The revolution continues”

January 14, 2015 / / La Liga


These days, the State of Messi is absurd. It is the worst part of the entorno as a player becomes, depending on who the person blabbing:

— Someone headed to England, just you wait …
— Like a bauble nobody deserves, so everyone worries about losing it
— An avatar for the Revolution
— A self-centered brat

Every statement is parsed. The day after … the VERY day after he said on Barça TV that he has no interest or intention of leaving Barcelona, he responded to a question posed at a Ballon d’Or event, a query about his eventual future with a reply that featured some existential uncertainty … and it started all over again, most dimwittedly of all, from many of the same culers who breathed sighs of relief after his Barça TV declarations.

Meanwhile the player himself, fresh off a performance that should have left precisely zero doubt about his happiness and commitment to the team and city, had to again explain what he meant. All Messi wants to do what he always does, which is strive to play the game of football better than anyone else alive, even better than himself.
Read MoreStrange days, aka “Legends goin’ cheap. Get yours today.”

January 12, 2015 / / Analysis
January 11, 2015 / / La Liga


In retrospect, we all should have seen this coming.

The vileness, infighting, backbiting, rumors, nastiness and savagery, a fanbase turned on itself in seeking something or other all conspired to create something extraordinary, something that to repeat, we honestly should have seen coming. In a post from earlier today, I wondered which team would show up and I guess it was the latter, a unified, angry bunch who will for the first time this season face the team that kept them from so much last year.

As a team comes together a lot of things have to happen, from players understanding what their coach wants to the coach understanding how to deal with the players under his command. Through it all, supporters need patience, the kind of patience that has been sorely lacking in every way. #LuchoOut hashtags fly around Twitter, people express vehemence about notions of Enrique staying on as FC Barcelona coach, saying that he is over his head, fit for a mid-table side, etc, etc. Some even said that they wanted Barça to lose today, to force the departure of Enrique.

What all of the stuff, all of the … crap … seemed to do was unite a football club in that “us against the world way” that in this case is actually true. It isn’t just the Madrid-based media that is turning on Barça. It’s also the Barcelona-based media, club supporters, everything that comprises a vile entorno that wants to rip and tear at this football team. Sprites can only take so much, after all.
Read MoreBarça 3, Atleti 1, aka “It’s family, and it’s personal”

January 11, 2015 / / Analysis

To say that today’s match against Atleti is huge would be an understatement. Is it even bigger than the last time Barça faced them at the Camp Nou, with the Liga title at stake?

Quite possibly, because there is more at risk than a championship here as you get the feeling that the club is tottering on the brink of an abyss. A loss to Atleti is the absolute last thing the team needs right now, as well as the last thing that the club needs right now.

Diego Simeone is relishing the challenge.
Read MoreEverything to play for