Flawless Team Is Flawless (Even Without a Proper Defense)

This team is special. Put aside all the envious vitriol from other people, and repeat after me: this team is special. It’s a once in a lifetime team. A historic, unrepeatable, almost unbeatable team who has special talents coming out of its youth system, and around Europe, fitting in seamlessly. Just think about that for a second.

And now take in the golazos.

1-0 http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lpe9noQtwO1qfok7b.gif

2-0 http://i.imgur.com/fiLlT.jpg

3-0 http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lkbgo0FR0P1qdshoe.gif

4-0 http://i930.photobucket.com/albums/ad146/ohsofierce_x3/Gifs/tumblr_lg0anptEFW1qzehrh.gif

5-0 http://i930.photobucket.com/albums/ad146/ohsofierce_x3/Gifs/tumblr_ln3l7on8kb1qgg8dm.gif

Perfect Pep is perfect.

And flawless team is flawless.

So just sit back and enjoy. I know I am.

By Kari

Just your neighbourhood Barca fanatic


  1. Here’s the thing that people forget about the way that we play: Without the ball, you are not going to beat us, and we aren’t going to give you the ball. So our defensive statistics might make someone think that we have this batch of brilliant defenders. No. They’re very good, but if we didn’t have so much possession, we wouldn’t concede a lot more goals.

    Recall that one of the BS.com writers foretold this, when he noted that Guardiola could almost roll out an all midfield/attack lineup. Who knew?

    Arsenal had good chances against United. Spurs had good chances against Citeh. Villarreal even had a couple against us. Those chances are going to happen. But a keeper like Valdes helps a lot, as well as (in our case) having the ball all the time.

    But here’s another thing: We started the season with gaudy scorelines last season, but the reality of fatigue and a looong campaign crept in, and the 4-0s became 1-0s. 3 points is 3 points, right? As I said on Twitter, find me a league with true parity, and I’ll find you a league that doesn’t have a shot at lifting the big ears trophy.

    People shouldn’t let anything that people say bother them. We’re the club that people love to hate right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, so get used to it.

  2. The amazing thing about Sanchez’s goal was that after he is put through with the keeper he has the presence of mind to take a look towards the middle of the field and see if he has a better positioned player to pass to. He doesn’t so he takes it himself.

    He really is an unselfish player. He didn’t score that often at Udinese, but if he works hard he is going to find himself in much better positions with us and he will take those chances.

  3. What an incredible performance to allow the critics who speculated that Fabregas and Thiago will rot their talent away on the bench to put their foot in their mouth. This game has electrified me about Barcelona’s upcoming season, not just because of the breathless interplay between players like Messi, Fabregas, Iniesta, and Thiago but because of the tactical possibilities that we now have. Whereas in previous seasons we could only really tweak and slightly modify our usual 4-3-3 system, we’ve already seen two or three serious tactical options that we have including today’s 3-4-3 or 3-1-3-3. Pep once more proves his tactical acumen; this is a direct answer to the loss against Inter Milan in 2010 and the recent stalemate against Madrid’s trivote.

    And who knew signing Mascherano, much more than a replacement for Yaya Toure, was going to be such a prescient move?

    Zonal Marking has a decent post up on this very subject already, finally giving some credit to Pep where it is due. I thought this was on point: “The future โ€“ hopefully, for reasons of tactical interest โ€“ is a hybrid between this system and the usual 4-3-3. If Pique and Puyol returned to the defence and allowed Mascherano or Busquets to step forward, Barca could switch between the two systems, with a forward-playing centre-back able to drop in when he likes. Ironically, that might be the best way to stop systems with a false nine thriving, if that becomes the tactical norm.”

    1. I am not sure whether you can play 3-1-3-3 formation against RM. You cannot use this against a team which have two good wingers and a natural ball distributor in the middle. yesterday Rossi and Nilmar tried to play that but they didn’t have anyone in midfield to play the ball wide when they win it. An also if we are using this formation then we hould have a back three of Masc, abidal and Puyol. Slow CB like Pique could be a liability. The 3-1-3-3 formation gives an edge to our midfield but if caught in possession, it will be a hell for our defense – there was an instance yesterday, Abidal gave away the ball and suddenly Masc has to deal with two Villareal players.

    2. you’re right, and also to express reservations about the possible weaknesses of the 3-4-3. i didn’t mean so much the 3-4-3 against madrid in particular as the overall versatility of the squad and the different options at our disposal. i think introducing a player like fabregas (and having iniesta replace pedro or villa) would be a good way to have another player in the midfield to counteract the trivote, for example. i think the 3-4-3 will come in handy in breaking down defensive teams.

    3. The 3-4-3 formation does do one thing which could very much act in our favour. It takes out the predicatbility. Now teams across Europe will be a little worried about what formation we will be using also. As you said against any team which sits deep or simply put park the whole bus in their penalty box, this is the way forward. I would even say we should use it against RM if they sits back like the way did in UCL last season. But we should not play the diamond midfield rather we should try a normal midfield with Busquest lying deep and Iniesta, Fabregas and Xavi playing in the same level. A diamond in midfield could be too narrow. But if RM is going to play us like the way did in Super Cup it’s always better to stick to 4-3-3 as that gives more cover when under pressure.

  4. La Liga is worse than the SPL. Cesc benched Xavi already. Mascherano & Keita are little rays of sunshine.

  5. Match downloaded. Beer in hand. Preparing to be awestricken.

    Saw this in my twitter timeline:

    Guardiola: “We only had one defender, Abi – besides Andreu – so we decided to play this way, with a lot of ball circulation.”

    Legend. This is Total Football Guardiola-Style. Even Cruyff wouldn’t have gone out with this lineup and such absolute belief in his players.

    1. They’re about to replay it in Catalunya’s 3 Sport channel. Think I’ll have to watch it!

  6. BTW – 2 individual records tonight:

    Valdes equal Zubizaretta’s number of games as goalkeeper = 410

    Messi scored his 100th home goal.

  7. It’s still early and I don’t know what kind of preseason or match fitness preparation Villarreal have had, but I was a little sad to see my second favorite team in La Liga go down so easily and be reduced to playing on the counterattack. Last year, Villarreal worked much harder to press our players and play a high line, whereas today they were content to sit back and engage in zonal marking. Part of story behind the gravity of their loss was the difficulty accounting for Barca’s tactical system, to be sure, but surely the loss of Cazorla and the difficulty replacing a 35 year old Marcos Senna was a factor as well. We already know that the disparity between the top two and the rest in La Liga has increased yet again this summer, but this was a really tragic demonstration of that fact…

    1. They were also without #1 GK Cesar tonight, as well as Mario Gaspar, as both were carded out at the end of last season.

      The team has just come off a couple of tough CL qualifying matches as well.

      To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of them so early in the season, but they were simply outplayed and out-pressed tonight.

    2. I think the disparity between the top two and the rest of Europe has increased yet again. On top of that, against attacking sides we tend to do very well; it’s vs. the very defensive teams that we sometimes falter, and even that is becoming rarer.

      The ESPN3 announcers were railing against the Yellow Submarine players for not “getting stuck in,” but all that would have done was reduce the players on the pitch and make it even more of a goal fiesta.

      Here’s hoping Villarreal find a way to cope with the loss of Cazorla though (who already opened his account with Malaga with a great FK).

    1. –Pre-Match–



      — FIRST HALF —

      — SECOND HALF —


      links courtesy of crpmx of fbtz

    2. TBQH, it’s better if you wait for Pakman. I tried the first half (using filesonic) and it was…glitchy and weird. I might have to re-download it…

    1. Thiago assist better than everyone else’s assists evah!!!!! Wow, what a game. ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. First, thanks Kari for posting aprรฉs match, because I was all jumpy to come here and be all wow dudes you know too cool. Also, for the Dani picture because it’s my favorite, although the last time Dani and Messi’s captions were switched. See, I do remember!

    Match time here matches Spanish meal hour so I’m usually shouting ‘What just happened?’ from the kitchen while preschoolers re-enact the last play with a Nerf ball around my legs, so my understanding is much limited to what the Hunky Soccer Husband mutters at the telly. This is what I’ve managed to get into the grey matter thus far:

    Euler’s provocative, “How will Pep arrange for a dearth of traditional, positional defenders?” seems to have been answered: “Play with a reduced number of defenders.” Audacious!

    Which solves a practical issue (no Piquรฉ, no Puyi, no problem) *and* allows Guardiola to experiment with Cruyff’s philosophy, Total Football (I think the terms should be meshed: “Total Phootball”).

    The HSH kept muttering about Cruyff, this is how Guardiola used to play, with Koeman in defense and numbers up front. When the team controls possession, almost all play unfolds in the opponent’s half. The key factor, then, is possession.

    But if Barรงa maintains 70% possession on a slow day, I asked, what’s the risk? The risk (HSH sighed as if he always has to explain *everything*) is that a single through ball or mad dash can leave Valdรฉs excruciatingly vulnerable, since everyone is all smushed up front. And then you can lose. You can lose, like 7-0.

    But that’s so … sad, says I.

    Soccer is suffering, he reminded me.

    1. I just saw your comment predicting a line-up ful of midfielders, on the last article…nice!
      I saw the first half with my older sister, and I was explaining about the pressing, and how they got the ball back so fast, and she told me it seemed like a philarmonic, everyone knew what to do in the precise moment. It was beautiful football, and coming from Pep, the one that said goodbye to Barรงa “cause the way he played was dying, and football was becoming first and foremost physical” is so perfectly ironic. He’s such a genious that revived that gorgeous way of playing, there’s a couple of great articles in Zonal Marking explaining what happened this decade.

  9. The Zonal Marking piece is lovely, and the comments space there is a delight.

    –Wonder what Rossi was thinking today?

    –In the last 19 Premiership seasons, the title has been won by United 12 times. Sorry, whose league is lopsided?

    1. I bet he was thinking “damn that Alexis’ has got somebody on him” .. No seriously he looked really irritated. i heard him shouting and saw him kicking in the air because the ball almost never made it to him.It was always either too short or too long.

    2. And even then, just 4 teams have won the Premiership in 19 years (United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Blackburn), while 5 La Liga sides have been crowned Spanish champions in the same period of time.

    3. Ouch, Kevin, you hit me right in the empathy with the Rossi remark.

      To the best of my knowledge (and of course as I am not personal friends of these people and so I make no pretense to there being much accuracy to what I know) he was hoping for a move to FCB, but the board wouldn’t budge as hard as Sanchez was throwing a hissy fit to get here, right? Could’ve been worse I suppose… Sanchez could’ve towel-whipped him with his shirt after his goal >_<

      Seriously I felt bad for Rossi

  10. Do you guys also sometimes feel like crying when you realize that someday this team/cycle/generation will end or is it just me?

    I was at the Camp Nou tonight and I just couldn’t believe them. I was really lucky to catch that one live. Gracies equip and gracies el “filosofo” for this night!

    1. I’m so jealous!

      It’s honestly a life goal to see this team play at the Camp Nou before this cycle ends. And TBQH, football is ruined for me. I don’t think I’ll ever see a team better than this one in my lifetime.

      But all talk of the ending of what we’re seeing is strictly prohibited!

    2. Like all great things, this too shall end. I’m lucky in that I came to the club during a down phase. So for me, I love every second of this, but am aware, as I saw it happen time and again, that teams have cycles. I don’t know what new and new-ish fans are going to do when the cycle turns, though.

      It’s why I always say, cherish this. I make DVDs of every match. or a half-hour highlights package. In a decade or so, when people don’t believe that there was such a team, I will be able to fire up the DVR and say “Oh, yes there was. And look. One defender.”

    3. You better hurry then. It’s already their 4th year on top of the world!
      And yes for no more talking about it ending!

    4. This team is nowhere near its end. Pep is only in the mid stage of his revolution. They are in a unique position of having a manager with an exceptionally strong vision, a legendary development system, and the ability to pick and choose in the transfer market only for those players that potentially fit the vision. The real danger is that Pep may walk away because of club politics.

  11. Brilliant, brilliant football.

    I admit that this morning I had a bit of a wobble, thinking we might not pull this one off with our shaky backline.

    Then I saw Pep’s crazy-ass lineup, and I just knew in my gut that everything was going to be OK. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I cannot express how much I love this team.

  12. Watching it again and thought I’d note Thiago’s clutch defensive header around the 40th minute to take the ball away from Nilmar. He was basically a CB!

  13. I knew Cesc wasn’t going to be underutilized at Barca! That was a prominent opinion here consistently! Unbelievable interplay. BTW, who is the man in the final picture in the post?

    1. Yup. A lot of people here (myself included) are eating a huge piece of humble pie and drinking some Cescy Koo-laid. (Tho it should be said that in Pep I trust. He wanted him for a reason… It should also be said that the first sign of weakness Fabregas shows… ๐Ÿ˜€ )

      The boss in that picture is Manuel Preciado, Sporting Hee-hon’s coach. I love that man.

    2. Cesc “adaptation? puh-lease b*tches, what adaptation?” Fabregas ๐Ÿ˜›

      I love that Preciado picture, very much.

    3. Gijon’s record at camp nou and the beu last season. 1 draw, 1 win.

      Manuel Preciado is my hero. He got into verbal fight with Mou and seemingly got the upperhand, and then later gently hand Mou his first ever home defeat in his 13 years of coaching history. Enough said, huh?

      If there is only one coach who could find a solution to Barca’s football, that will be Manuel Preciado.

    4. and while all the EE fans are saying Mou finds the solutions to beat us, i always go back to the match which we played Gijon last season. Tight space, well-organized defense, hardworking players, fearless tackles, lightning counter-attacks, and last but not least, great finishing.

      Gijon got it first.

  14. must admit I was worried coming into this game 3 days after Euefa Super Cup, and without 3 injured defenders + 1 suspension.

    and that WTF-are-you-doing-Pep line up gave me a mixed feeling.
    I can’t remember a team only play with 1 pure defender (a LB) against a strong opposition.

    but my oh my, this is a very very special team with a very very special coach.

    and what makes us cules even more satisified of course, is the goals come from our “new” players. Thiago, Cesc, and Alexis.
    the game really show the doubters that Fabriago can play together and do amazing football.

    I think that line up surprised Villareal. it ruined their game plan. they didn’t know who, when, and where to mark or press.
    if they played against our usual line up, maybe they will look stronger because they had a game plan.

    oh, this kind of line up not only great for rotation, but also to keep everyone happy.

    this epic game need an epic review from Euler, that’s for sure. ๐Ÿ˜€

  15. Five reasons why Evil Empire will win La Liga

    “After seeing his side kick off their season in sumptuous fashion against Zaragoza, Goal.com suggests why this could be the year Jose Mourinho’s men topple the Catalans.”


    I say after seeing Barcelona’s side kick off their season in (insert your favourite word here) fashion against VILLAREAL, to be fair they also need to make list of 50 reasons why Barcelona will win La Liga. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. lol, it didn’t bother me at all, trust me.

      it’s just funny to me, after they made buzz about how the mighty EE beat Zaragoza 6-0, we smashed Villareal 5-0. ๐Ÿ˜€

    2. That’s why I though tomorrow’s performance was brilliant to warn all our rivals not only is Spain but also in Europe. How many of you saw Jonathan’s chipped ball to Thiago in the box, brilliant. I am certain now that Guardiola will use him mostly as a RB but will not let him go.

  16. I think it was a very interesting defensive line up by Pep – Pedro and Alexis (he started for his defensive ability) strongest back tracking forwards, EPL level tackling from Fab, + the Keita-Busquets gauntlet in the middle. With Masch and Abi wide and Busi in the middle, + Keita and Pedro/Alexis at any given time we had a 6 man two lines of 3 back – very, incredibly smart…throw in Andres and Thiago roaming and we were virtually impenetrable – what distracts from this is that they are equally, if not more so attacking and slapping a manita on a very good team.

  17. On reviewing the first half one thing stands out for me:

    Cesc’s limited play convinced me that he must be on the field as much as possible. Of course he was not going to replace Xavi or Iniesta in the starting XI, so I assumed that Pep must switch formations to accommodate both Cesc’s prodigious talent and his familiarity with the system. Further I made the assumption that the forward line would be the line to sacrifice a nominal player to make way for Cesc, Iniesta, Xavi, and Busquets to be on the field together, so I surmised that Villa would be the player relegated to the bench.

    Euler pointed out to me the problems this posed in three regards: 1)Moving away from a 4-3-3 sacrificed width on the forward line limiting Messi’s effectiveness as a false nine and 2) it would limit their ability to press and 3) it would help the opposition to compact their defense.

    It never occurred to me to make room for another attacking midfielder by doing away with a defender. As I watched the first half again, I was stricken by the way playing 3 in the back line led to more effective pressing as there were more players committed forward. Also, because there were still always two players playing wide and forward (3-4-3, 3-1-3-3, whatever, it was too fluid to tell), it served to keep the back line stretched across the width of the field. The wide players must be respected so the defense could not compact, meanwhile there were 3 attacking, exceptionally gifted, midfield players that could attack any space this stretched back line exposed. Further, Abidal and Adriano made runs forcing Villarreal to adjust, so even within this exceptionally aggressive system, the defenders are attacking players.

    Is this formation vulnerable? Absolutely. Yet Villarreal are one of the few teams capable of exploiting this vulnerability and they were overrun.

    I am not suggesting that Pep will adopt a 3 man back line as his preferred formation but rather that the versatility of this team allows gives him the option to do so.

    Further, this team seems short on both defenders and forwards, but incredibly deep in versatile midfielders. This cannot be by accident.

    1. Abidal and Adriano made runs forcing Villarreal to adjust,

      Adriano wasn’t playing, remember? I think you mean Sanchez.

    2. No, Sanchez effectively played the right wing. I mistakenly typed Adriano because I was thinking about how much he would bring to this kind of attack. Keita is the other player that occasionally forayed forward. My apologies, I was thinking and writing quickly.

  18. First off, wow! what a performance by the team. I don’t know a lot about tactics but to play a game of this significance with only one real defender was really something else. However a small part of me is questioning whether Villareal were good or bad in this game. It was probably a combination of Barca being super good and the opponent weakened a bit.
    A lot of people are saying that La Liga is not competitive enough and judging by the first matchday performances I can’t help but feeling the same. I think the gap is widened and just hope that people who run la liga will do something about it. People are saying that TV distribution should be more equitable and I do agree with that. Plus, there is a huge potential for the league to expand to other markets like in the Americas and Asia. I just hope they take advantage of the popularity that Barca and Madrid have attracted and try to find more global broadcasting outlets for other teams. Maybe they should try to realign kick off times that would be more suitable to other time zones. I was just wondering do people in Spain talk about this problem of the league being a two horse race? And if so, are they making any changes?

  19. Recalling what our mosaic reads in Wembley : “We love Football”. Yes we do love football this way, and this is the football we love.

    Truly masterful tactics. Great execution. The goals followed the passes like its the most certain things to happen in the end of a story, and the celebrations buried in the chants. Ole! Ole! Ole!
    Words can only serve so little when we saw a match as epic as this. We see a lot of things, a lot of details, but as the game went, they all blended into one, total football. When defenders attack, attackers defend, midfielders cover centerbacks, centerbacks move along with the wingers… we saw a team of players who watch over for their teammates, who work the work which is left off. The determination to keep the ball and win it back from you took my breathe away.

    When we perform like this, the details become minor. The system crushes everything that comes up against it. It makes opposition look helpless. I can’t explain this orgasmic football all that well, or when football is played so beautifully, sometimes it really feels like suffering like SoMa said? I don’t know anymore.

    1. Amen. Total football is being displayed here and now, and eventually the details will be academic. This team is reaching new heights at exactly the time most pundits are predicting the closing of the gap between EE and Barca. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Barcelona is widening the gap with their talent, their versatility, their tactics, and their heart. Jose’s team is already peaking, like all teams peak, as an expression of their manager’s vision. History will show that Pep’s team is still far from its peak.

  20. and I wish there will be sponsors for Villareal and other La Liga teams!

    I want to see other teams have money to strenghten their squad and give a tough competitivness to La Liga.

  21. Frankly this is getting a bit stale.
    of course, as a cule, one can never get tired of these manitas and these kind of wins are always a joy to behold. futhermore yesterday’s game gave us all a glimpse into what total football really means. Pep is breaking all conventions and we are indeed lucky to witness such strategy and innovation in game play.
    But one starts to wonder from these skewed scorelines, if its down to barca’s brilliance or the opponent’s enormous inferiority and submission at some level. I am sure its a bit of both, but this is villarreal, who play excellent football, with top strikers, getting completely demolished by an experimental Barca team filled with midfielders.
    EE’s 6-0 wasn’t a surprise. This 5-0 was, even though we are fully aware of the extraordinary talents our midgets possess.
    I am not saying EPL is more competitive. It simply is not, given the victors in the past 2 decades. But its a fact that the Liga is getting increasingly less competitive for the big 2. For gods sake the yellow submarines don’t even have a shirt sponsor. Anyways, here’s to another rocking season. I am sure the gap between 2nd and 3rd is once again going to be 20+ points. Hopefully Bilbao, Gijon, Malaga etc can take some points off EE.
    And us too. Or atleast give a stern test.

    1. Let’s hope that Bilbao and Malaga reach a higher point – Bilbao could only draw with Vallecano, and Malaga lost to Seville. ๐Ÿ™

  22. Bow to the master that is Pep. Nobody but nobody saw this coming! Oh they can’t be feeling good in the Spanish capital. They must feel like scientists who discovered a cure then find that the virus keeps mutating and this strain seems resistant.

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