Archive | Thoughts

The Neymar deal is done, so now what, aka “Give hair a chance”

"They paid HOW much? Wuuut?!"

“They paid HOW much? Wuuut?!”

It is very safe to say that not since the arrival of Ronaldinho has a player come with so much weight.

As many of you know, then-president Joan Laporta was running on the “bring Beckham” platform, even as that deal never had a chance of happening. Ronaldinho was the one, and boy, did that work out. And now we have another Brazilian, who is describing a very different path from Ronaldinho, one fraught with complexity.

The question now is, what does that path mean, and what does it mean for the club?
Continue Reading

Posted in Analysis, Thoughts, Transfers173 Comments

Between a Rock & a Hard Place: The Abidal Dilemma

WP_ABIDAL_eng.v1365427677

It’s the end of the season, and the club will be making some tough decisions soon. One of the toughest of all is whether to offer Eric Abidal a new contract. Over the last three seasons we have shared his struggle with cancer. We wept for joy when he overcame it to lift the CL trophy at Wembley, then wept again when we heard he had suffered a relapse. We celebrated when a liver donor was found, and rejoiced when he stepped onto the pitch to play his first minutes in over a year. Now, finally, Abidal is fully recovered and eager to take up his position in the team. In a perfect scenario his contract would be renewed and a 100% fit Abi would play for Barcelona for at least another year or two before retiring and moving on to the next phase of his career.

Over the last couple of weeks there have been rumbles from Abidal’s agent (and maybe from Abidal himself, although I’m not sure if those quotes were confirmed) that they are disappointed that the club hasn’t yet sat down and talked about renewing his contract. According to his agent, Abidal requested a meeting with Rosell as far back as February but got no response. After these quotes came out, the reaction was immediate outrage, at least in my twitter TL. Why haven’t the club offered Abi a new contract? How could they leave him in limbo like that? Don’t they owe it to him after everything he’s been through to let him know, so he can plan his future? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and there are serious questions that need to be asked. Even if Abi had been granted the meeting he requested in February, there is nothing that Rosell or Zubi could really have confirmed at that point other than that he is important to the club and that the coaches will be the ones to make the evaluation at the end of the season.

Before the club can even consider renewing Abidal’s contract, they must be convinced of two things: 1) that he is 100% healthy and fit to play, and 2) that he can be counted on to play consistently at the high level demanded by a team of Barça’s calibre. The doctors have passed him fit, and we have no reason to think that his health is still compromised. In the four games he has appeared in this season, he has looked almost like his old self. In fact, I would currently consider him our best defender by far. His speed, positioning, reading of the game, and assurance on the ball have all been top-notch. However, he has only played a total of 175 minutes, and just one full game. The last game he started he had to be subbed off due to “thigh discomfort”, although there was also a suspicion that he just ran out of gas. There is also the fact that Abidal is 33, and will turn 34 in September. I’m not one of those who thinks a player has an automatic expiry date of 30 years, but he is certainly not getting any younger. Taking all these factors together, it is understandable that the coaches are taking their time to make a final decision. With only 25 first team places available and a clear need for new signings, can the club really afford to offer a place to a player who may not be able to rise to the challenge? Then again, can the club afford not to?

This is a very tricky situation for the club. On the one hand, we have the feel-good story of the club standing by Abidal throughout his illness, renewing his contract when there was no question of him playing, and giving him all the support he needed to come back and rejoin the team. Mes que un club, right? A happy outcome, and tons of great publicity for the club along the way. We’re the good guys. But if the coaches, or the Board, or both have decided that Abi just can’t play at the highest level anymore, or for over the course of a full season, how do they let him go without looking completely heartless? Rumours have abounded that club wants to offer him a job on the coaching staff, or as some kind of goodwill ambassador. This would obviously be a good solution for the club, as it would be seen as taking care of a family member, but Abidal has stated that he wants to continue playing for at least another year or two. If he can’t play at Barça, he will certainly look for another club. Apart from the sadness of losing a very talented and beloved player, there is the danger that if Barça lets him go and he ends up having a brilliant season somewhere else, we would look awfully foolish for parting with an excellent defender just when we are most in need of one with his exact profile.

Personally, I would love it if Abidal stays. I think that his talent, experience, and thorough knowledge of our system would compensate for him needing more rest between games or starting on the bench. He could surely play more minutes for us than Carvalho has for the last 2 season for Real Madrid. I think the club should offer him a year renewal, with an option for another year based on number of games played. If at any time his health becomes an issue the contract could be cancelled by mutual agreement. Sadly, it seems more and more unlikely that this will happen. I am afraid that we will have to bid adieu to our French greyhound at the end of this season. I very much hope that I am wrong.

Posted in Barcelona, Thoughts, Transfers/Transfer Rumors125 Comments

A View From Your Defeat

Reader C. H. wrote in after the team’s loss to Bayern and it’s as appropriate a commentary on our world now as it was when he sent it in the hours after the defeat.

After I watched us lose to Bayern Munich, like a lot of your readers I was feeling pretty down. Not only did we lose, and deservedly so, but I had to go play a pickup game with four madridistas on the opposing team (come on, Dortmund!). However, when I got to the pitch I saw something that always puts a smile on my face and I thought I would share it with you.

Brief context, I write to you from the Dominican Republic, a country primarily interested in one sport: baseball. Being a kid here in the 1980s, it was hard finding kids to play football with unless you knew someone of foreign descent or went to a school run by foreigners. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s that football became a mainstay on television with the arrival of ESPN Deportes (today we have several channels with a decent offering).

As the audience for the sport grew, I watched as people joined several bandwagons. I support AC Milan! Manchester United! Real Madrid! I’ve loved them all along, they claimed. I don’t have to tell anyone who reads BFB that in the past several years our beloved Barcelona has created many, many new fans (welcome! I always say). Will they be here tomorrow? Next year? Is Bayern the new club now? Whatever happens, I would like your readers to know that Barça’s influence here has not been meaningless.

During my lifetime, I have noticed that our game generally consisted of two types of players: box-bombers (that’s where you bomb the ball into the box and hope for the best) and tricksters (ball hogs who think they know what they’re doing). Today, if you walk around any football pitch in the country (unfortunately not many) you’ll see many more kids actually making an effort to play in a collective way. One of the most common insults you’ll hear kids say is “pasa, idiota pasa!” (pass, idiot, pass). Ball hogs are verbally punished. To be fair, the Spanish national team derserves a lot of credit as well.

I know this is purely anecdotal, but I can see it damn it! I can see it! Maybe some of those kids start wearing (Bayern/Real/Borussia) jerseys tomorrow but their game was influenced (forever?) by what our team has been doing over the past several years. That makes me smile.

PS., After last year’s final, the kids didn’t start buying Chelsea jerseys.

Posted in Thoughts53 Comments

It isn’t the defense …. it’s everything ELSE, aka “Risk equals reward, and more risk”

abilevante

This isn’t a Bayern preview, because Isaiah has banged one out for your enjoyment.

Something fascinating just rolled across Twitter, that deserves a post of its own. There is a Club Perarnau breakdown on why the Barca defense has seemed funky this season. Essentially, it comes to the conclusion that the more vertical style means that the press is much less effective. Pasting direct references to it from Twitter, via @zerospeak:

In the past, each Barca player averaged 80 sprints of 5-10 meters or 2-3 seconds per game in recuperating the ball. And usually in a group. The change in attacking methodology has lead to more sprints for each player & over a longer distance, rendering their press ineffectual.

In other words it ain’t the defense …. it’s everything else. Might have to join that Club Perarnau.
Continue Reading

Posted in Champions League, Thoughts212 Comments

Whither thou goest, confidence, aka “I need my No. 10 blanky!”

psgmessi

So Barça advanced against PSG. It wasn’t luck, as some suggested in the aftermath, nor was PSG the better side. The better side won the tie, and it won the tie without playing at anything approaching its best over two legs.

As the semi-finals approach, with the draw being held later today, that level will have to rise, but people should be proud of their sprites, even as once that semi opponent is known, too many will spend time drawing out the ways that we are going to lose, instead how we are going to win. As with PSG.

“Defense is bad,” “Offense is bad,” everything is bad. But our team gutted it out against a serious opponent with quality. But that opponent just didn’t have the absolute quality that we did, and that was the difference. They have Maxwell, we have the starting LB for the Spanish NT. Position for position, we are a more talented squad, and we advanced to a staggering to contemplate SIXTH Champions League semi-final in a row. That is absurd. Magic times.

But there were some troubling things in yesterday’s match that are worth commenting on.

On the weekend, Barça laid a manita on Mallorca at home. No, PSG is not Mallorca, and not just because of the price tag difference. They are stronger, faster and more aggressive than us. The difference is that in the past that didn’t matter, as that was true of almost every opponent that we played. The difference was in confidence, in teammates and in the system. There seems to be a lot less of those qualities now, and it isn’t just me that is noticing this. Iniesta admitted to Messidependencia in the pre-match presser. But it has gone from charming, something that we could all josh about, to something significantly more troubling for this cule, who wants the absolute best for the club that he loves.

Zonal Marking on the match

Excellent piece from Lee Roden on the match, and Bartra.

Sid Lowe hits the nail on the head.

Finally, some very astute observations from Miguel Delaney.

These pieces all say essentially the same thing, even as they draw different conclusions from that thing: Messi has become psychologically essential for Barça.

Having the best player in the world is one thing. But for me, being fundamentally unable to play to your capabilities without that player against a quality opponent is something else altogether. There were many other glaring deficiencies in yesterday’s match, on an individual and team level. But the best players in the world don’t stop being the best players in the world without their No. 10 blanky. That they seem to be now is distressing, and an ongoing bit of the psychic laziness that crept in as that last Guardiola season wound to a close.

Does opponent quality have something to do with it? That is, is our quality is so high that nobody in La Liga is capable of preparing us to face a strong European side? Some say that. I don’t think so. That quality gap has always been there, and it hasn’t troubled us before. Time and injuries contribute. None of our players, save Messi, Iniesta and Busquets, are the players they were when this run of excellence started (restricting this evaluative to players who were with us at the time). But it’s more than that. Preparation of successors is a factor, specifically in the cases of Thiago and Bartra, but it’s still deeper than that, and even outside of the match analysis from yesterday, there are problems. Against PSG at home:

Villa spent too much time standing around like a disinterested has-been.

Xavi had a 100% passing percentage to precious little effect. He is clearly not 100%, but we have no option in that spot.

PSG very intelligently attacked us in a way that isolated Busquets. Same as at their house.

Lack of pressure meant that PSG could run at our defense, which infuriated Valdes, the man who saved the day for us. Look at their goal. If you pause it when Pastore gets the ball, he is already behind the two players with the best chance to stop him. Alves and Adriano are chasing back, but it’s already too late. A more traditional team probably doesn’t concede that goal, because its defenders are closer to the box, but Barça isn’t a traditional team. Always risk. Pedro’s stray pass caught the whole team out.

Iniesta became the New Messi as the PSG defense switched its emphasis to him.

Alves had a dull match overall, but was not helped by being unable to take advantage of the space he was given because Villa and Pedro were too easily controlled by the PSG defenders.

The whole team played as if scared of something, snatching at shots and misplaying passes, including Villa’s first-half miss.

The players seemed afraid to shoot, as if they didn’t want to take responsibility. I can only speculate that overall timidity contributed to poor technical form, which is why so many shots went into orbit.

Fabregas’ companion was having a kid. During the match. He should have been with her physically. His head was.

The more time that Bartra gets, the better he looks. His play yesterday was very significant in the final result. The defense looked more assured and in control, and Valdes’ stress factor went down.

Despite all the problems, the team advanced because that is what great teams do. PSG played an excellent match, and we didn’t. That we still advanced speaks to the quality that this club has. But the loss of confidence when Messi isn’t on the pitch is at some point going to bite this team in the butt. Maybe akin to imagining everyone in the audience naked, as an aid to get over public speaking difficulties, we should imagine all future opponents in Mallorca shirts.

Was the difference between PSG and Mallorca as simple as saying that Sanchez should have started? Some say. I do think there would have been more movement to trouble the PSG defense with Sanchez as part of the XI. But that still doesn’t address the overall issue for me.

We seem like a bully who has a bigger bully waiting in the wings, when Messi isn’t playing. We can whomp on Mallorca just fine, and play the system and all. But when a bigger kid comes to the schoolyard, it becomes “Oh yeah? Just you wait until Leo comes in! We’ll fix your wagon.”

It is also absolutely true that while I am pointing out the dark side of Messidependencia, there is also the “Uh, oh ….” side that works on opponents, who have reverted to the psychological “The witch is dead” mode, who must now make the mental change. PSG didn’t, and the combo of Messi up front and Bartra at the back made a big difference.

It must also be said that Messidependencia isn’t Messi’s fault. He’s just doing what he does. It’s everyone else that is getting used to having him around, so much so that, as he becomes a more significant part of the team’s overall approach, seems to leave a Messi-less mess. This isn’t how the system is supposed to work.

To be sure, the system works better with a complicit opponent, but it doesn’t require complicity from its opponent to work. It does, however, require competence from its instruments. The spaces were there yesterday. Execution would have done the trick. It was like ultimate belief was lacking, and don’t kid yourself: belief is crucial at the highest level of athletics. Looking at a tennis player such as Andy Murray as an example, he has had the tools to beat the top players for some time. But now he has the belief, and his game is different because of that belief.

Overall, it struck me against PSG that our belief in the system seemed lost, as if so many moments of individual genius from one player has people thinking that it needs those to succeed. Messi is an awesome force who will go down in history as the best player ever. But he shouldn’t have been needed yesterday, and I find it very troubling, long-term that he was. Is some of it a coaching staff issue, as they said “We have this great thing, now let’s build around it?” Absolutely. But it is the dependence upon that great thing that can also be a hindrance.

Yes, you should want to have the greatest player in the game on the pitch. But players of the quality that we have should be able to function well enough to beat a quality side, without that player. The draw was a surprise. I was expecting a 2-1 win, but I will take it and be happy.

Now the team has time to rest, and heal. Messi shouldn’t play for two weeks. Neither should Xavi. Busquets could also use a break. Because whoever we draw in the semis (I would prefer Bayern) will be a handful. This team can win the Champions League, and I still think that we are the favorites.

But short of emergency therapy sessions, and I confess to not ever thinking I would say this, my ultimate confidence that our players can get this done even without Messi, is shaken to the core.

Posted in Champions League, Soap Box, Thoughts100 Comments

Dani Alves, as he opened his mouth

So I ended my review by saying that I was happy that our coach and players don’t complain about the referees too much, right?

Up steps Dani Alves who, when pressed by a journalist, let slip:

“When referees get put under pressure, it influences them incredibly much”

He wouldn’t mean Mou now, would he?

“It all started because of who started it. It rubs off on everybody.”

Attaboy! I hate when players always complain about the referee, but when you do, oh please go all the way:


“It’s not possible that a two-meter offside is not seen, so…maybe that is normal here…but we can’t protest too much because later people will say we are cry-babies and that we complain a lot. We don’t complain but we aren’t retards because then others will do whatever they want (ed. cheat to win) while we put on a happy face…”

 I’m not gonna put on a happy face like the others, not me. The others can put on their happy face, I won’t, when I am upset I am gonna let you know about it just like when I upset others (ed. they let me know)”

“We have to perform two or three times as well to win so that those things don’t effect the result of the game… Whatever one does, when you are on top it causes envy. When the envy is positive, that’s ok. But when it is negative it ends up contaminating everybody”

“We can’t complain, because in the end people will hold it against us. But the ones outside (the dressing room?) are the ones that have to go out and protest.”

dani alves

“I am not putting on a happy face”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So where do you stand? Do we have more dubious decisions going against us or not? If so, should we shut up and get on with it? Or should the board protect us more and lodge official complaints?

Also, do you think Mourinho’s constant pressure has influenced (some of) the referees? Do we indeed have to play twice as well to win because of the amount of games that are unfairly officiated? And what the hell is he wearing?

Discuss, and I will join you in the comment thread!

 

 

 

 

 

*additional source: http://www.sport.es/es/noticias/barca/dani-alves-acusa-mourinho-provocar-mal-arbitraje-stark-paris-2355217

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Barcelona, Quotes, Soap Box, Team News, Thoughts55 Comments

Welcome Back Tito: Dreams or Tickets Out

A short little video recorded Tito Vilanova’s return to Barcelona early yesterday morning, accompanied by Jordi Roura, Aureli Altimira and their wives who had flown to NYC as a thank-you for all their efforts and to escort El Mister back home. Continue Reading

Posted in Barcelona, Supposition, Thoughts102 Comments

The Alexis Sanchez problem, aka “Nature vs nurture”

So. Look at the player in that video. When talk was going around about Barça being about to plump for Serie A player of the year Alexis Sanchez, who didn’t watch that video and say to themselves, “Boy howdy, are we going to have some fun. Him AND Messi running at teams? Stand back!”

But that glowing promise has become a frustrating reality for the player, the team, its coaching staff and cules. Let’s have a look at what happened.
Continue Reading

Posted in Thoughts, Transfers/Transfer Rumors239 Comments

Supporting your club, aka “Without belief, it just ain’t as much fun”

Mosaic

Just had an interesting discussion on Twitter that made me think of a sad story from my past.

A friend of mine was bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t find love in a successful relationship. He told me that he always held something of himself back because he’d been hurt before and didn’t want to go all in and risk getting hurt again.

I replied with the obvious: By holding back you are dooming your efforts, and you will never find happiness.

So it is with life, as it is with sport.
Continue Reading

Posted in Champions League, Thoughts59 Comments

Barça 2, Deportivo La Coruna 0, aka “Signs, signs, everywhere signs”

deporpuyol

First things first. It was “only” Depor.

That is a phrase that vexes me for so many reasons, not least of which is that it dismisses an opponent that earned its way into the Liga, even as it is most surely doomed to the drop. This is, despite the absences of a couple of players, the SAME Depor that we needed 5 goals to beat in their house.

But most importantly, people forget how much opponents (particularly keepers, sigh ….) are inspired to play when they come into the Camp Nou. So squash that “it’s only Depor” nonsense right now, and start looking for portents, for there were many today.

Was the way that Barça played today good enough to get past Milan? No. But Barça wasn’t playing Milan. It was playing Depor in a match that was something of a hassle for both teams. Depor didn’t want to drop 3 more points, and Barça didn’t want any injuries or fatigue to key players.
Continue Reading

Posted in La Liga, Thoughts64 Comments

Knowns, Unknowns, Supporters Sections, and Ultras

Today has been an interesting day in club news, and not because of anything on the pitch. Reports came out today from Catalunya Radio, that were expanded upon by ARA.cat, linking club president Sandro Rosell with a released 2010 document that alleges to be evidence of a pact between the club and various supporters’ groups, prior to his election. This is video from 2010 of Rosell categorically denying that any such thing existed, when the rumors first popped up:

Those skeptical of such denials wonder about the powerful voting bloc presented by the support of strong groups of club supporters, many of whom are also socis, and what that could mean to someone running for president.

But let’s begin at the beginning.
Continue Reading

Posted in Team News, Thoughts35 Comments

RM 2, Barça 1, aka “It has to come from the players”

classictrio

For years, Barça has had all the answers, for pretty much every question. But now, after having lost three of its last four matches, we are left with more questions than answers.

Feels kinda weird, doesn’t it?

I didn’t care whether we won or lost this match, and even predicted a 2-1 loss. But I most emphatically cared how we played it. For what it does to the standings, the loss is no biggie at all. For what it does to the psychology of a damaged team, the loss is immense for the simple reason that the wounds are self-inflicted.
Continue Reading

Posted in La Liga, Thoughts173 Comments

Page 10 of 36« First...89101112...2030...Last »

Readers Online




Barca Shop