September 27, 2014 / / La Liga
Photo courtesy FC Barcelona
Photo courtesy FC Barcelona

Two tales from life, both having bearing on this post.

1. One of my bikes was making an odd, cricket-like noise. This brilliant mechanic checked everything, even pulling the bottom bracket. We scratched our heads as a much less talented mechanic said, “Hey, a chainring bolt is loose.” Voila.

2. My training week is Su: hard; Mo: rest; Tu: very hard; We: long moderate; Th: long hard; Fr: easy; Sa: moderate. On Sunday or Thursday, nobody can beat me. On Friday, my Mom can beat me. It’s the cycle of a training week, and the effect that it has on an athlete.

Which brings us to a pair of matches, and their effect on culers and analysts.
Read MoreBarça 6, Granada 0, aka “What a difference two days make”

September 25, 2014 / / La Liga


A football game is in every way, shape and form, about time. It starts with the first kick of the ball. Great players seem to compress and expand it — depending on whether you are the tormented or tormentor — it as their skills play with chronology. It slows when your team is hanging on, speeds up when your team is losing. And when you face an opponent such as Barça faced in Malaga, there is never enough time just as there is too damned much of it.

The team drew, for the season’s first “negative” result. A sixth clean sheet fell by the wayside, an accomplishment more to be scorned than celebrated, perhaps because culers realize that the myth of a poor defense was precisely that, a macguffin crafted to obfuscate reality: against certain systems at certain times, the magical ones can’t put the ball in the opponent net.
Read MoreMalaga 0, Barça 0, aka “Enrique era over before it started?”

September 21, 2014 / / Champions League
"What did that Dutch guy say about us?" "Dunno."
“What did that Dutch guy say about us?” “Dunno.”

There is as much danger in being overly pessimistic as there is in getting overly excited, but it’s very safe to say that there isn’t a culer who, even in a most optimistic moment, would have thought that after 5 matches Barça would be perfect: 5 wins and 0 goals conceded.

Last season Barça delivered the best start in the history of the club as a Christmas present, before fizzling to a trophyless conclusion. Whether you want to place the blame on the loss of Valdes, heartache, fatigue physical and psychological or whatever is up to you. Maybe it was all of the above.

Yet it isn’t misguided to suggest that this season feels different, even if the future might yet make this gaudy start a fond memory. Let’s have a few looks at feelings and why they matter:
Read MorePerfection, Barça and notions of stability, aka “Foundations are important”

September 8, 2014 / / History/Culture


A favorite Twitter commentator brought something to mind this morning in posting a very good editorial about the club and its stance, or lack thereof, as the September 11 pro-independence (or pro-choice, dependent upon whether you like waffles) day looms.

Many people come to Barça for the football. I would reckon that most come to the team for the football, and think of the club and team as one, rather than the former being a representative of the latter, an umbrella that encompasses everything from many other professional sporting teams to charitable/human rights efforts and other enterprises. And if all you care about IS the football, stop reading now.
Read MoreIs “mes que un club” just a slogan, aka “Multinational corps don’t have politics”

September 6, 2014 / / La Liga
"Hi, Mom! Am I famous yet?" (Photo by Miguuel Ruiz for FC Barcelona)
“Hi, Mom! Am I famous yet?” (Photo by Miguuel Ruiz for FC Barcelona)

Football is a weird, often absurd thing that makes us forget what it in fact is, which is entertainment.

As young people caper about a flawlessly manicured lawn in a quest for an inflated sphere, the next fat paycheck and maybe, just maybe, glory, supporters forget all of that. We clutch our replica shirts, scream invective or exultation after the result of an athletic clash which is nothing more than an entertaining game. Yes, football is life. But it is, at its core, a game.

Within that game things happen, moments of magic that elevate via that weird, vicarious thrill that makes us live through the athletes or teams that we support. Sometimes, like an electric shock an athlete jolts us into life and because of how the sporting world exists now, via 140-character blasts that vie for attention like newspaper headlines in massive print, there is hype. And where there is hype, there is scorn and cynicism, sarcasm and calls for calm.

It has happened before and will happen again, just as it is happening right now to Munir El Haddadi.
Read MoreCelebrating without wrecking: Munir El Haddadi, aka “The next nothing”

September 4, 2014 / / Analysis
Photo by Victor Salgado/FC Barcelona
Photo by Victor Salgado/FC Barcelona

Even though it’s early days, it is safe to say that that man in the middle of this image, Andoni Zubizarreta is, along with folks like Ed Woodward and Jorge Mendes, one of the winners of this summer transfer window.

I know … he finally did something, right?

Wrong. It’s because in grading the Barça transfer window, my vote is for a B. What keeps things from an A … two things, actually:

— Vermaelen risk
— Douglas who?
Read MoreThe Andoni Zubizarreta Show has ended, aka “Now we wait and see”

August 24, 2014 / / Analysis
August 22, 2014 / / Thoughts
"Wait ... what ... really?! So happy right now!"
“Wait … what … really?! So happy right now!”

It is safe to say that few transfer rumors in recent history have caused a greater stir than that involving Douglas Pereira dos Santos, aka just call me Douglas.

After a season of Cuadrado, and this spendy player and that spendy player, and what is Enrique planning, all of a sudden the name Douglas popped up and the reaction was “Who? What?”

Then frantic research began as well as anecdotal commentary, and the general consensus is that he sucks, and would need GPS and a telescope to even get within taxicab distance of Barça quality.

The player’s eventual fate is unknown, but this situation does spark some rather interesting thoughts about the transfer market, rumors and how supporters deal with them.
Read MoreDouglas, scouting and risk, aka “The parade of incompetents”

August 20, 2014 / / Supposition


The expected happened today as FIFA, the organizing body that handed down the two-window transfer ban to FC Barcelona for violating youth player strictures, denied the club’s appeal. So the transfer ban remains intact, affecting player movement in the winter and summer 2015 transfer windows.

The club’s next step will be to (again) head for CAS and an appeal.

Typically, the club issued a huffy statement full of dudgeon and indignation:

“FC Barcelona cannot accept an affront to the spirit of our Masia, a world renowned example of academic, human and sporting education.”

Read MoreAn example is made, aka “Baby can’t go shopping? Now what!”

August 18, 2014 / / Gamper Trophy


Is it that time already? The Gamper Trophy match, the traditional festivity that is also a Friendly That Matters, is a herald for a new season at FC Barcelona. Liga starts next week, but the Gamper shows off the squad and its new signings, sets up a festive atmosphere and has, of late, rolled out a patsy for the boys to beat up on.

This year, it is expected that Leon, a club out of Mexico, won’t put up too much of a fuss. Nobody is expecting the 8-0 that Santos took last year, but let’s be serious about this whole friendly business — what team wants a friendly in their home stadium that has the potential of leaving egg on faces?

It also gets away from the point of the Gamper, which is a celebration. At this time of the season, right before footballs are kicked in anger, it seems a perfect time to take stock of what has happened.
Read MoreAnd here we go again … Gamper Trophy time, aka “Much ado about … what”

August 17, 2014 / / Barcelona
August 9, 2014 / / Analysis
Iniesta only comes up to here on me. No. Really.
Iniesta only comes up to here on me. No. Really.

The most fascinating debate of this summer and its transfer window, has been the debate raging about our two centerback signings, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen. A respondent on Twitter said to me that Vermaelen was fine, but that he was expecting a “spectacular” signing.

So of course, precisely because I am guilty of thinking too much, I started thinking about Barça, defense and conceding goals. Then I started looking around at goals that the team conceded, and came to a rather surprising conclusion: if the system is working, it pretty much doesn’t matter WHO is playing at CB. Stick a dead dog or a squirrel out there, and off ya go.

The reasons why this is so are fairly obvious: the elegant possession game that the team plays minimized opponent possession. No possession, no chances, no goals. Couple that with an effective press and your keeper had better have excellent powers of concentration, for the 1 or 2 times per match that he might actually have to do something.
Read MoreA case for the defense, aka “Not just any old defender, but almost”