Barça 4 – Real Valladolid 1: Music Minus Messi

The cover

All right. Let’s not waste any time today. Record breaker Tata shuffled through his vinyl collection and selected the following tunes: Valdes, Dani Alves, Bartra, Piqué, Adriano, Song, Fàbregas, Xavi, Alexis, Neymar and Tello. Yes, his favorite hit single no.10 was scratched, which, if it doesn’t get fixed any time soon, might not only effect the Argentine’s unprecedented four-year run at the top of the Billboards, but could actually rob our band of its best lyricist. However, let’s not mind the tango* for now. Today is about samba*.

Gerardo Martino: all about the music
Gerardo Martino: all about the music

The twelve inch version

In a first half that was quite open, Real Valladolid hushed the crowd after fifteen minutes of play.  Both Tello and Ney struck upon a false key and left it up to the Chilean Steven Tyler to seek rock star immortality by scoring an absolute screamer. After forty-five minutes in which Barça riffed back and forth with their guests, both went into the dressing room with the score level. Only one team came out of the dressing room to take over the show however, and with Neymar playing the lead guitar, Barça offered up a beautiful performance. Well rehearsed interplay of Xavi y Los Culés saw the band leader put the home team up by one and, backed by Song’s steady bass line, another two hits were soon added to the repertoire, courtesy of Lex and Ney. That’s all she wrote, folks, four to the one. And although the spectators in the stands who had their five fingers raised were left hoping in vain for an encore,  they surely must have gone home satisfied after witnessing a gorgeous concert in which our team hit pretty much all the right notes.

The standout track (1)

Two goals and an assist for Tocopilla’s most famous son, Alexis Sanchez, certainly makes him joint MOTM in my book. His first goal, an unstoppable nuclear strike from outside of the box, was possibly the finest he has ever scored in our colors and his second was taken with the precision of a poacher. I personally would have preferred him to go for a hat-trick instead of assisting Neymar for the fourth goal, if only for the fact that he was in a better position to score than the man he passed the ball to, but oh well. Some might notch it up as a “team-building” assist and he did end up getting the Brazilian wundermeninho a much deserved goal for his performance. I guess I can live with that.

Last year I criticized Alexis heavily for not scoring. Some did not agree, calling attention to all the positives he added to the team. People also argued that he had never been a scorer at his previous clubs. They were all valid opinions, but in my view very much beside the point. First of all despite rythm-interrupting injuries he scored 15 goals for Barcelona during his debut season, showing us that in a system which affords him plenty of opportunities to do so, he can definitely put the ball into the net. Secondly he just missed way too many chances during that first half of his second season, a simple matter of lack of confidence which I was reasonably sure he would overcome.

He now has four goals and three assists in ten appearances (note: not starts, appearances). By comparison, last year he did not score a league goal until February. Quite a difference.

Alexis Sanchez: jugadorazo
Alexis Sanchez: jugadorazo

A new voice

Did you notice that every minute he spends on the pitch, Marc Bartra pinches his arm to make sure he is not dreaming? He has now started three consecutive matches in the center of the defense and the world has not ended. I am not quite sure why his minutes feel so unexpected, because since the only thing we can reasonably expect from our defenders is that they get injured, Marc was bound to get his chance sooner or later. And while our defense did not get tested all that much by any of our last three opponents, he has certainly performed well as far as I can tell. The young defender looks more confident than last season and he has the support of the Camp Nou, who cheer him on whenever they can. I am still not sure whether he will be a future starter or not, but I certainly feel better about our defense knowing that Bartra is part of our squad.

The sleeper hit

Despite an underrated first season at the club, many culés (myself included) are not convinced about the need of Alexander Song in our squad and would have preferred that money to have been spent on someone else. So ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, the following Fact with a capital F. According to our Cameroonian midfielder had 110 touches of the ball and a 100% pass completion. Let me repeat.

100% pass completion!

That right there deserved its own paragraph and exclamation point and there is not much that I can add to make this any more noteworthy.


The remix

Myself to BFB team, by e-mail, a little more than a month ago:

 “I’m really into the idea of using more video material, something I will get better at as time goes by … I’m thinking of a video comparison between Xavi’s horizontal passing and Cesc’s vertical passing, for example.”

This was right after our game at the Mestalla, where Cesc ripped Valencia apart in the first 40 minutes by attempting an assist almost every time he got the ball. What happened to that great idea, some might ask. Well, apart from unexpected time constraints and very annoying technical issues**, Xavi Hernandez has gotten wise to the idea that not every ball has to be passed to the left or the right. His style, in concurrence with the team’s philosophy, has gotten a whole lot more vertical. That’s right, with a “Daddy’s got a brand new bag full of passes” remix, one of the oldest members of our squad, whose game has looked in steady decline for two seasons now, is enjoying himself like a young dog out there, ready to bite any sleeping defender into the hind parts. I will even go as far as saying that when Iniesta came on it was our captain who seemed to play the most forward role of the two.

The standout track (2)

I saw Neymar play as a false nine several times for Santos last year and was left thoroughly unimpressed. His talent was plain to see and it was obvious I was watching a player of guile and vision, but it was a player who made wrong decision upon decision, which put his team at a steady disadvantage every time I watched them. Was I happy that we bought him? You bet! I had seen (and heard) enough of the player to think the Robinho comparison needlessly facile and too easily employed by the legions of haters out there. Here was a young man with genuinely special talent and the apparent will to make it at the club we all love. But I did not think that he would quite lead Brazil the way he did at the Confederations Cup. Not at his age. Or that he would not only integrate so seamlessly into the Barça line-up but already be one of our consistently best players this early into the season. I honestly did not expect that much, that fast. Surely all the Brazilian ex-superstars who kept telling us O Ney was the greatest thing since sliced bread were just hyping one of their own…

It turns out that even those of us who wanted him to come did not realize how right we were. O Ney led the attack and then some. His dribbles and passes electrified the crowd, who expected the unexpected every time the young Brazilian received the ball. He was directly involved in three out of four goals, which could have been seven or eight. And more often than not, positioned in the center of the attack, he made the right choices.

Some hours after the game I texted a merengue friend of mine that if it weren’t for their incredible luck, they would have already given up their league hopes this season. He answered: “tenemos Ronaldo. El Unico” (we have Ronaldo. The Unique One***). I laughed to myself, because as special as Cristiano Ronaldo is, something only a fool would deny, I secretly wondered whether Neymar was already a better player than the Portuguese superstar who scores more goals than he plays games. The fact that the very question entered my mind, at the start of the 21 year old’s career in Europe, helped me realize how lucky we are to have him at our club.

Worth every penny
Worth every penny

Parental Discretion Advised

Speaking of which, had Neymar worn a shirt the color of toilet paper he would have been awarded two penalties. I’m just saying…

The man behind the band

Gerardo Martino has now started the league with eight consecutive wins. Another year, another record. He has intelligently brought Neymar slowly. He might be the first to get the best out of Cesc (well, other than Wenger) and he has Alexis Sanchez brimming with confidence. His team averages more than 65% possession yet seems a lot more direct than its previous incarnations. We seem to concede less counter goals, although Victor Valdes’ excellent start of the season might have something to do with that as well. He also appears to rotate more than Tito or Pep, which leaves a lot of us scratching our heads as to why Xavi Hernandez still plays so many minutes. His stroke of true genius, however, is to make our opponents think they can score from every corner. Our weakness has officially become weaker. No coach in the world will ever worry about an offensive gameplan that focuses on anything else than F.C. Barcelona conceding corners. After all, any reasonably well taken cross will result in a goal. And then, six months into the season, all of a sudden and without any warning whatsoever, Tata will spring the mother of all surprises and position a player at the first post and another one at the second post to defend the corner kicks. Opponents will know neither what to do nor how to score. Genius, I’m telling you, the man’s a genius.

The encore

So we annihalated another opponent, only this time without Lionel Messi. Strangely enough, I believe it makes for the ninth straight match (correct me if I’m wrong) that Barcelona won without the Flea. Are we better without the Best? Are defenses more focused with Messi on the pitch? Does he press / track back that much less? Are Neymar and Alexis more comfortable without the Argentine superstar stifling their movement or creativity? Or is it all just a coincidence? My short answers are no, no, yes, maybe but they shouldn’t and yes. We are not better without Messi and any professional soccer player is focused when facing a team of Barcelona’s caliber regardless of its line-up. I think Messi still presses and tracks back less but I am willing to make that trade off – when it comes to pressing he chooses his moments more carefully than others and as for tracking back I would prefer him to be fresh when he receives the ball. A lot has been made about how Sanchez plays better without Leo and this might be true – his best performance last season was the 2 goal, 2 assist game with Fab Four hat-tricking from the false nine position. However I believe that Alexis has been playing with more confidence, period. As for O Ney and La Pulga, we have already seen how in a short time they have gotten to understand each other on the pitch and this should only improve. Ultimately I think it is up to the team to work together, and I think we are lucky enough for our stars to understand just that.

"You always miss Messi, for everyone's he's the best player on the planet. The center forward position is his." Neymar Da Silva Santos Junior
“You always miss Messi, for everyone’s he’s the best player on the planet. The center forward position is his.”
Neymar Da Silva Santos Junior

*To people who realize that not even in South America does time stand still and that yes, the 21st century has reached the shores of this wondrous continent also, this should actually read: let’s not mind the cumbia, today is about funk.

** Really, Adobe Premiere can’t handle .mkv files? And Windows Movie Maker shuts down every two minutes? What’s up with that?

*** Ronaldo scored M*drid’s overtime winner earlier that afternoon. I replied that he was an excellent player and certainly among the top five in the world right now. I think my friend lost it a little.

By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. Brilliant post, lev.
    Quite funny.
    Toilet paper guys – the best part.
    Some potshots at Bayern too, please. Seems like we need it.
    Thanks )

    1. Idk, of all the blog’s contributors I’m already the most frustrated one, mentioning EE at every turn, lol. For potshots at Bayern you should maybe check a Borussia Dortmund blog.

    2. I did try.
      But believe me, Mods easily outnumber the commenters there.
      Sad little world )
      It seems their newly spawned supporters have moved on.
      I remember pep’s german tutor is a dortmund fan and won’t allow him to watch their matches.

    1. I have to disagree with one thing in that otherwise excellent video.
      Celtic still had the best chances in the game before we scored, so saying Martino outmaneuvered Lennon is a stretch, I feel. In fact, I thought we were heading for another loss in the British Isles precisely 30 seconds before Fabregas headed the ball in.

      Last season I think we created vastly more chances, hit the post twice and shut down the Hoops to only two chances, which they took excellently. I see no differences between this year and last for the games in Scotland, except for the result. The same sterile passing remains against the defense en-bloque. Any cule will tell you that results are misleading on occasion.

    2. Yes, I enjoyed the video but the “Martino outmaneuvering Lennon” comment made me chuckle, too. Given the wide gap in class of players, Celtic did quite well against us and gave up very little chances, any clear one of which came only after they were down to 10 men.

    3. Actually, this year as well they had two chances: the shot from distance that Valdes saved, and the header that was pushed wide of an open net.

      I have to say that at no time did the Celtic match feel like anything approaching a loss. I could see a 0-0 draw, but in no way, shape or form did it feel like a loss was looming.

      In limiting opponent chances you also increase the likelihood that you are going to, at worst, draw. With more than 80% possession, that can only point to very limited scoring opportunities for an opponent.

      As for the “misleading” result, it is doubtful there will be an asterisk next to it in the UEFA statistics, denoting “could have been a loss.”

      What fascinates me is how Celtic was supposed to be a test, until that test was passed, then it wasn’t a test. Milan and RM are the next tests, unless, I imagine, the team wins those matches. Then it will be “Wait until we see Bayern in Champions League.”

      Bayern drew on the weekend. “Oh, but Leverkusen is brilliant, they would kill us in Champions League also, so they are still much, much better than Barça as well.”

      I kid around a bit, but Martino did indeed outmaneuver Lennon. Celtic had no answer for Neymar except to foul him. That was going to bite them in the butt, and eventually did. It is very difficult to maintain shape and full focus for 90 minutes. All it takes is once. I was watching Fabregas ghosting in at the edge of play, saying to the screen, “Don’t look left! Don’t look left!” They didn’t, Sanchez delivered a perfect pass and Fabregas delivered a perfect header.

      The ongoing narrative that we fail against a “defense en-bloque” got its legs after the Chelsea CL loss. But if even just the Fabregas opportunities had gone in at Stamford Bridge, never mind the Busquets, Messi and Pedro ones, that tie would have been over before a foot touched the Camp Nou turf.

      But over time, it has become “Chelsea packed it back and beat us.” Scoring opportunities are rare. What a team does with them defines its narrative. Look at Inter in that semi-final: two bad calls and missed chances by us led to a deficit at home. Then Krkic pushes his header wide of an open net, and the Toure Yaya handball is incorrectly judged. Boom. Narrative is that Inter successfully packed it back, rather than missed scoring chances.

      It’s a game of inches and narratives.

    4. I’m glad you brought up the last Chelsea semi, ’cause I’ve gone back and watched extended highlights of both legs, and darn if 85-90% of the highlights reel wasn’t Barca attack Barca attack. We played some wonderful football, but for whatever reason we just couldn’t finish. Chelsea’s goals were clinical and well-taken, but like you said, if we’d buried a fraction of our chances we would’ve been off to Munich.

    5. I have to agree with Kxevin. At no point during the Celtic match did I feel like we were going to lose. A draw was possible, but I felt like we had more control over the match that last year. And the goal was bound to come late in the match… They were just too tired to keep up with our players. I think it would have happened even if they had not had a man sent off, but this is just speculation.

    6. Agree whole heartedly that results usually colour our perspective of events. So many times narratives are changed over wins or lack of them. Personally how we bowed out to Chelsea the year before last was not something to be ashamed of. On the contrary it was a reminder that football is part of life and sometimes in life certain events are sometimes pre arranged for how can one account for those many chances at Stamford bridge ALONE. Nay not even one of them could find the net.

      For me Barcelona has always been about control. We control the tempo of the match impose our wills on our opponents, punish them until they submit. It heartens me greatly seeing this band of little defying common wisdom that you have to be strong to play the game. Of course you have to be strong but not in physique. You play the pass when it is right. The ball has to be treasured so possession is key. If you treasure something then you keep it and not dish it needlessly.

      That is why the games post Rayo have greatly lightened my mood because we play with swagger and intelligence controlling our game and that of the opponent. Against Celtic we were very much fine. The two chances Celtic created are part and parcel of the game because Celtic were in it to win it also albeit via different means. Even catenaccio has to be breached now and then. What was unsustainable was the porousness we witnessed in the Rayo game and prior to that game.

      As long as Barca play well i am quite sure the wins will continue rolling.

    7. Completely agree w/Kxevin on this one. At no point was I worried about us losing in Glasgow. Like Kxevin, i thought a draw was possible, but even before Celtic were down to 10 men you could see some intelligent one two’s and runs that were getting behind the defensive wall Celtic put up. I thought a goal was coming. It’s been mentioned by Kxevin and many others, but if we would’ve buried 1 or 2 of the chances we created against Chelski, the tie would’ve been over. Messi missing a penalty kick? C’mon. I really believe in forces in the universe and predistined outcomes. How else do you explain that tie and then Chelksi going on to beat Bayern at home in the Final despite pretty much the same game unfolding. If Bayern had buried any of their chances the game was over and we wouldn’t be talking about Chelski as the worst team to win the CL in recent memory. If “if’s” and “but’s” were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.

  2. Speaking of which, had Neymar worn a shirt the color of toilet paper he would have been awarded two penalties. I’m just saying… 🙂 too funny sadly, true.

    Now Mou has got into the Ney “dived” v Celtic brigade. This fellow just can’t get over Barca no matter where he is. He also called himself the best coach EE has ever had. I think he lost it.

    Anyway, this was a brilliant post. We saw Ney lead and ‘Lexus’ take the reigns. Bartra is becoming more confident and Song had stats Xavi would be jealous about. Would like to see Pedro add more to the team than km stats. Although it’s true that without Messi, Barca are a different team, they have won a lot of games without him as well. ATM last yr when he retired injured, Barca actually came back and won that match 1-2. I think teams are more open when Messi doesn’t play.

    The team is improving defensively after last year. Pique as well, I don’t see why people are always mad with him. Hopefully we can continue with the improvements and when the whole team is fit, Tata is going to have a hard time leaving people out.

  3. Great post, I am too actually starting to wonder if Neymar isn’t better than C. Ronaldo, he obviously is the more skillfull player, if he can improve his shots to goals ratio, he would no doubt be the better player out of the two. I was impressed of the way he took over Messi’s role in this match, and how good he was at it.
    Alexis was also very good, as usual this season, but he even managed to score a brace, so in this match he fixed the problem he had since the beginning of last season, finishing off goal scoring oppotunities. Hope he can keep this up. TBH, if this team continues to get better and better as the season progresses, I can see a treble wining season with record breaking stats. Let’s just hope things will keep going in this direction for us, I really don’t like when everything looks great and then the unforeseen comes and bites us in the a** 😀

  4. Neymar is a talented player. But he has a loooong way to go before even the most devoted culer would declare him to be even as good as, never mind better than, Ronaldo.

    Why? Neymar influences matches. Ronaldo can, like Messi, take over and single-handedly decide a match. Neymar has the potential to get to that level, and I predict that he will. But Ronaldo would be the best player in the world, were it not for one diminutive Argentine. Take away Messi AND Ronaldo, and people still wouldn’t claim that Neymar is the best player in the world, even as he is one of the most talented players in the world.

    1. Just for the record, I agree that Neymar is not as good as Cristiano Ronaldo. Oil Can does not get the credit he deserves round these here parts, but truly is an amazing player who has the incredible misfortune to play in the same age as Lionel Messi.

    2. i think we all agree Ronaldo is a very good player, he is physically gifted, has great power and …add what you wish, and yes he can decide a game by his own.. a shot, a tap in as is mostly the case.. but can anyone tell me one or two great combinations he was part of? some amazing trick that followed some amazing team combination… ah you all know what i am talking about… as we have seen in Levante game he is more then regular nothing amazing… in a few seasons no one will remember…just a guy that made many tap ins …

    3. Surely you jest? Ronaldo not remembered? Umm, I don’t think so. He will be, after all, Real Madrids all time leading scorer after this season or next. That in itself speaks volumes about his ridiculous talent. I loath him. I really do. He stands for everything I don’t like about the modern footballer, but I will not deny his talent and incredible work ethic. He’s one of the best players to play the game. Period.

    4. In my opinion, Neymar is better than Ronaldo in most aspects of the game, except the most important one: goalscoring. He is a better dribbler, a better assister and an overall better teamplayer. I also think that he CAN single-handedly decide a match. Just not as often as CR and Messi. Yet. Ronaldo is a goalscoring machine, and that’s why he is considered 2nd best after Messi. But he is not in Leo’s league in any other important aspect of the game. While Neymar seems to have the potential of getting really damn close. I agree it’s too early to tell, but all the signs point to this direction.

    1. I wonder if it’s angry, or thoughtful. He strikes me as rather like a subject I once interviewed, who was very smart, and very focused. If you didn’t have the right questions, or questions deemed worth his time, the interview was over. Martino strikes me in that same way, impatient with anything that doesn’t involve thinking about and coaching his team.

      I think that is also why he speaks so well, and from the heart. He doesn’t have time for anything else.

    2. Oh I know, I’m kidding. It just seems like he is frowning in all the pics, certainly during the games themselves. Crack a smile, Tata, we’re supposed to be having fun here!

      Maybe his cereal is cold…

    3. he reminds me of a university teacher 🙂 one that was very expressive in his body language 🙂

    4. He is from the school of Bielsa. They all have the same traits. Pep, Tata maybe AVB to an extent, kkk but, they are not as el loco as the original teacher.

  5. Interesting post and thanks for that. Interesting view points also. Does the team play better without Messi? We can’t really say because the sample size of matches is small. Since we generally prevail against smaller teams it would really take some top end matches to see if we can swim without him.I think we would generally struggle.

    Is Neymar better than Ronaldo? Its an iffy question because Neymar is young and unproven in Europe, comes across as a bit hyped and so it means that he has to really really turn people around before they recognise his talents. For me that maybe a bonus actually.

    The thing about Ronaldo is that he excels so much at the end it matters most. In a debate of this kind he always has one trump calling card: his goals. Levon you summed it perfectly: HE SCORES WITHOUT PLAYING MUCH. Our game is what it is but if you were to judge footballers putting importance on other metrics other than goals i bet you he would not feature that prominently. It might seem a bit harsh and unappreciative of his talents but for me when we talk of footballers i would not put Ronaldo there. I would put him in another category of Goalscorers.

  6. Nice post Levon.

    I’ll reinterate what I said last post. Very happy with the way the team played today. The only hard part was who gets MOTM; Alexis of Xavi?

  7. Alexis has always had a rifle for a left foot. But I think that is about the first time I,ve seen him shoot from outside the penalty area. Martino obviously told him he was top dog without messi and had to be more selfish.
    Very interesting that Alexis seems to have had a rich run of form at the end of last season after Barca told him he was part of their plans and wasnt going anywhere.
    Are teams now more nervous about committing to the counterarrack because Barca,s counter-counter-attack is so dangerous.

  8. Wonderful.

    “THE MAN BEHIND THE BAND”part was really really great.

    To have Messi or Not??

    The sample size is little and we still didn’t face any Elite Team without Messi(Bar ATLETICO).So we really can’t judge?can we?

    However i simply can’t fathom how this particular question arises?
    Is he a ball hogger?Yes.
    Does he unjustifiably hogs the ball?Sometimes.
    Does he slows the play down?No.
    Does he subjugates others?From his plays for Argentina it doesn’t seem the case.On the other hand for the past 2 seasons at Barca he had an Below par Villa,Pedro and Sanchez with him,while Tello flourished.
    Does everything funneled through him?Yes(for the last 2 seasons for reason stated above),in this season with Ney that doesn’t seem the case

    The joy of Sanchez has nothing to do with Messi,rather it lies on the trust of Tata.for a guy like him To have the confidence and Trust upon him is a big issue.Moreover Tata’s verticilidad plays also a huge role on this.Watch him play for Chilie you will get the Idea

    Thas was not his best goal BTW,that belongs to the gorgeous goal he scored against EE.

    Neymar and CR7

    CR7 can decide matches but he can’t influence matches,thats what sets him apart from Messi.He regressed as a footballer at Real,but progressed as a phenomenal scorer.There is a reason why he is not mentioned in the top 30 of all time let alone top 10.

    Neymar from what i have seen has the potential to influence a match.Yesterday’s game was a prime example,he was involved in everything and he was involved in 3 goals.

    From the early looks he is the best transfer any team has made and i for one thanks RoSSell for that(see i can praise RoSSell)

  9. Against Celtic Barca did what they should have done in the bernabeu for the last few seasons – sat back in their half for the first 20 minutes and absorbed the pressure, with plenty of bodies behind the ball, even if that meant conceding possession. Instead, they tired to play out from the back and gave away cheap goals. Now, if the opponent is pressuring high, valdes hoofs in long to a winger, not caring if Barca loses possession.
    This is a very encouraging sign for classicos this season.

  10. Thanks Levon, great review – good thoughts.

    Great performance from our TEAM… especially Lexus, Song and Bartra stood out to me.

    Are there any news about Messis recovery? Hope our superstar remains happy with that many scorers on the team. Obviously he demands a lot from himself and is used to score 2 goals per game. I have a lot of faith in Tata in regards to superstar-management nevertheless Messi could be a special challenge.

  11. You guys should check out Alexis brilliant over at total barca. What a lad!!! Quite funny too

  12. You guys should check out Alexis brilliant interview over at total barca. What a lad!!! Quite funny too

    1. Interesting:
      MD: There were rumours that you were playing in a limited role because you always had to give it to Messi, is that true?

      Alexis: It depends on our positions. If he is in the right position, or I am sometimes, I can decide to go for it myself or lay it off. But if I decide to go and it doesn’t end well, it’s my responsibility. I know if I pass it towards him he will set up a one-two or he will pass the defender himself. I know that that play will end up in a goal because he is the best player in the world. But the decision is always mine.

      So, it’s not that Messi demands the ball, exactly, but everyone knows he’s the best bet in the world to score from anywhere, and it obviously affects the gameplan and in-game decisions.

    2. yeah, that was nice. he also mentioned how Tito showing confidence in him, towards the end of last season, improved his form. It had nothing to with Messi not on the pitch.

  13. Hi Levon, I have to ask about the Tata part, I don’t understand what you mean by it. It could be read as veiled criticism of the fact that the opponents still score a lot of goals from corners, or it can be read as a praise that the corner defence has become better and that the thing that’s stopping Barcelona from not conceding is that there are no players to guard the posts.

    1. We have already conceded from 3 corners this season and have given up scoring opportunities from a good number of others. You be the judge.

    2. You really don’t want me to be the judge, because I don’t really agree with you. Teams will probably continue to score against Barcelona at least for some time, because the Barcelona squad is shortish and the tallest player still has no friggin idea what to do. The coach has apparently given him a free sweeper role, but he seems to have no idea whatsoever what to do. Personally I think Bartra needs to assume the role of a free double-teamer, whereas Pique gets to mark someone, but I’m not the coach and I can’t see the way they’re training.

      In any case, you can’t ask the coach to produce miracles when the players have to cover opponents that have ten to fifteen cm on them. I have asked, putting springs or rocket boosters in the players’ boots isn’t allowed. And yes, I believe that when Puyol comes, he will be the free player and he will be arranging the defence, at which point it will not be that porous against most teams. Besides, the team has had to learn a totally different tactic in defending corners and they will have to practice more to get it right.

      Last and this is actually important, the corner goals seem a lot, but that’s because the defence doesn’t allow a lot of goals to be scored.
      This year Barcelona have received 7 goals in 12 matches.(counting all goals)
      Last year Barcelona had received 13 goals in 10 matches.(not counting the 4 goals in the Supercopa vs Real)
      In 2011-2012 Barcelona had received 6 goals in 10 matches(not counting 4 in Supercopa vs Real)
      In 2010-2011 Barcelona had received 8 goals in 10 matches(not counting 1 in Supercopa)

      Even though it’s useless we could also compare the results of each respective match in the previous year, the only difference is I’ve changed Almeria with Deportivo La Coruña, which occupied the same spot(relegation). The results are: this year 28-6; last year 24-9.

    3. I’m not what sure goals that do not come from corners have to to with anything, but yes, it is possible that, like you say, they simply need more practice to get this new corner defending tactic right.

      However, if Tata implements a new tactic, especially a set-piece one, which is relatively easy to practice, one can only hope (expect) to see improvement. So far, given the amount of headers (and goals) conceded from corners, we are not.

      Also, I for one do not count on Puyol making much of a difference, because 1) I don’t count on Puyol remaining fit and 2) I don’t count on Puyol starting over Mascherano, who is really too vulnerable during set pieces

    4. Also just because Piqué is given a freer role when defending corners does not mean that we can expect him to head clear every one of em

    5. This is not what I said, Jim. I am talking about a corner version of the libero. You know it comes from Italian, meaning “free” player, in the sense that the rest mark the opponents and he’s free to move around. I believe Tata is using Pique at the moment in this role, to read where the ball is going and double-team the guy it’s been directed to. In theory this should help a offset the relative lack of height and body strength of the Barcelona defenders in the moment, because there’s only one ball, so if the “corner libero” reads it well, he can add his strength and size to the marking of the opponent. If that’s the case, then Pique is failing miserably. I believe Puyol will be better at this task, because he has about ten years of experience on Pique.

      On the other hand, Pique may be there just to guard the center zone and clear the balls away. I don’t think it’s that, because the opponent would just need to bypass that zone to neutralize him. I have to check other corners, but in the three goals that have been scored Pique was free in the center and wasn’t doing anything.

    6. I’m not sure thats what’s happening. It seems to me that Pique has been asked to guard just inside the edge of the six yard box nearest the corner kick, as if guarding against the flick on. Goodness knows why. It’s easy to take him out of the equation then as you say. You can’t really ask someone to double team whether a ball goes short or long. There’s not much time to move, never mind time a jump.

    7. Ha. This question is gonna make lev very happy.
      Hey, we do appreciate brilliant posts. Cant thank you guys enough.

    8. Quite simple for me. If you’re likely to lose the first header ( and we are ) you put people on the posts to prevent an easy goal.

  14. once again, another nice post, we barca fans are mightily spoiled, first we get to watch the best team play, then we get to relive the experience by this highly creative group of bloggers, lol i’d like to donate my house!

    i think the reason alexis is exceling this season is because we no longer lay emphasis on tactical width, last season and the season before that pep as well as tito pawned him in an almost stagnant position where he has to leave all the ball playing to the more centrally placed players, a position which tello would excel and many a times alexis was overlooked in the attacking third as for a large part of last season only messi and fabregas traded assists and most of his runs were completely ignored. but with the emergence of tata as manager and the acquisition of neymar the tactical width has been tossed to the bins….wait, someone has already made this point…darn it!

    truth is i’m wary of pedro and ini’s adaptability, when pedro came on he stationed himself in that ol and now forgotten pep’s LW position and he was reluntant to get involved centrally. just saying…..

    i dont think the pique subsitution was just a rotation stunt, i think its about playing song as DM and busi CB, i think we are going to be seeing alot of that change as tata would want to keep building busi’s CB skills. plus the way bartra is playing this season i dont expect masche to easily oust him from that position…worry times for pique…

    trust barca not to get a CB in january(hell, i want that!). viva barca!!!

    1. …worry times for pique…

      Good to have competition for places but I really don’t think Pique’s spot is in any kind of danger. Would like to see rotation when Puyol returns but we need time for Pique and Puyol to get used to each other again as we’ll need them for the big games at the end of the season.

  15. Neymar has been a delight to watch and exceeded expectations in just about every area, but the scary thing is, he can and should get much better. Read any interview by our players, they all say he has a lot to learn. Scary. Contrary to our expectations, his buildup play and assist-making are ahead of his finishing at the moment. We saw him as a unstoppable scorer in Santos and Brazil shirts, and I don’t doubt we’ll eventually see it in Barca. On the positive side, he’s on a steady diet of three shots a game, and will probably take more if he starts scoring on a regular basis. Not to rush things, though.

    Alexis-Neymar in the Liga this season: games 6-7, minutes 432-489, shots 13-20, on target 6-12, goals 4-2 (barcastuff).

    In the games I’ve seen, Neymar’s shots are a bit conservative and easy for the keeper. As he gets used to the new surrounding, more confidence and audacity, as well as experience breaking organized club defenses, should do the trick. If he continues sprinkling magic, playing with intelligence, tenacity and purpose, and creating chances galore, he’ll get all the time he needs to figure it out. Great improvement for Alexis in his third season, but the way!

    1. Oh, and great post as usual, Levon. Barca football is an art form, no doubt about it.

  16. Anybody noticed Guardian doesn’t follow any of Barca’s league games like last season, not even zonal marking ?
    Just the CL games.

    I’m so pissed, hope barca kicks some serious ass in Europe this season.

  17. Neymar may be a solution to breaking the parked bus for us this season. His unpredictability, ability to beat his man and goal threat bodes well in such games. We need to be cautiously optimistic and see how things develop and how far he has grown in facing defenders who team up against his side. The bonus for him is that as long as Messi is on the pitch he (Neymar) will be relatively free.

    Depending on results after the international the Classico may provide a sterner stuff because if we both win our games EE may play it cautiously, hitting us on the break and packing defence in a bid to preserve the status quo. Away with the speculation and lets enjoy Neymar. If his progression remains on this trajectory we may well be headed for some heady times if the Flea were to shake off his injury worries.

    1. You know what’s funny? Real haven’t been all that potent on counterattack since their roster shakeup after the preseason. With both Bale and Ronaldo in the side and the way they’ve been drilled by Mou, fast counter should be an obvious weapon. But Ancelotti is trying for a more patient, possession-based approach with personnel that’s not quite right for it. They are struggling with speeding up play, passing accuracy and just willingness to pass in the final third, and they do miss Ozil.
      It all might change when they face us, though – there is a lot of talent on that roster. Should be a fun game.

    2. But you could see that, in that last 10 minutes or so against Levante, they (EE) did try well. They passed well in the final third and there were many balls into the box, inspite of Levante having 8 players around. It was very disappointing they didnt manage to hold it. In DeMaria, Modric and Isco, they have 3 players with excellent technique to do something in between the lines. Then there is Marcelo too (cant recollect well, if it was against Levante or in a previous game, Marcelo was subbed in and suddenly EE started creating more chances). But they still lack the right tactics and a kind of cohesion, that we have.

      Atletico is also passing the ball very well. Atletico though, is playing mostly with the same group of players, no idea, how long they can hold it this way.
      I felt sorry for them about one player though – Villa. He missed an absolute chance. In a previous game too he missed one simple chance. Even that 3M is looking expensive for Villa (just my opinion). Villa got injured too.

  18. Great review, Lev!

    But how on earth did you miss the chance to rename Gerardo Martino to George Martin? 😀

    1. Aaah ok. Yeah I remember now. Meaning that I remember reading about him once. My parents loved the Beatles. I love “I am the Walrus” although I am at a total loss as to what the song is about.

    2. The song was John Lennon taking a post shot at people overanalyzing and looking for too much meaning in The Beatles’ songs.

  19. Good news, Messi and Masch dropped from Argentina for the week!

    Anybody know Masch’s ETA for return from injury? Alba’s?

  20. Humor is a Neymar attribute, apparently: (from a Dermot Corrigan column for ESPN)

    Speaking to reporters after the game, the former Santos player said that both penalties should have been given but he accepted the official had been mistaken.

    “Both were clear,” Neymar said. “But everyone makes mistakes, that is part of football.”

    And my favorite:

    Valladolid coach Juan Ignacio Martinez said in his post-match press conference that Neymar was a magnificent player, but with “just one defect that I am not going say”.

    Neymar’s response, however, was characteristically innocent, saying: “I do not know what [Martinez] means by that, but I hope it is something good. If it is I will listen closely to what he says.”

  21. Mourinho’s comments – copying from totalbarca.
    “Observe how, Jürgen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund coach, was sanctioned for four games for talking with the referee or with the fourth referee. What’s up with Neymar and Balotelli?” said the Portuguese. “This is something that corresponds to the football authority. I am no one, I only give my small opinion. If nothing is done, next week they [Neymar and Balotelli] will do it again”, he added.“Of course, my players know that they’ll have a problem with me if they dive. I have told them many times that I hate it, it’s very bad. Looking for another player to get a red card is a shame. If one day I win a game and I feel that it happened because of a wrong act from my players, I will critique them strongly”

    It gives me a good laugh.. DeMaria, Marcelo, Ronaldo, Pepe…

    1. I wonder how many people take mou seriously now.

      Every dog has it’s day. In this case, the day is up.

      Excuse my language y’all.

    2. I don’t know. Much as I hate him I’ve a feeling they won’t be far away at the end of the CL – not winners but capable of an upset or two. They have too many good ball players not to. He’s struggling at the moment imo because he’s not used to having a load of small talented midfielders. Bit of irony in there somewhere.

    3. He’s capable coach,
      But his charisma (??) is on the wane.
      People don’t seem to swoon over his every word anymore.
      Only my opinion, jim.

    4. Yeah, no problem. I’d actually love to be wrong. I do think at the moment he has a problem on his hands but you think of Hazard, Mata, Lampard, Ramires, Oscar plus a decent defence you have to think he should be able to sort it out.

  22. ok , because el classico is so soon and yes we were so close to be 6 or even 8 points ahead already … and here’s for 8 points in 3 weeks 🙂

    and because we have to thank athletico…and because we did have the same couch… this link is a great Serbian song saying lets love each other 🙂

    i doubt the toilet paper team color will even catch the second place :)))

    1. The season is long enough for all our dreams to go down the toilet. Having said that, I hope we will flush them on Oct 26

  23. Gab Marcoti monday musings, he mentioned Rosell finally admited Ney’s final fee was 88 mil euro. YIKES!!! That’s a whole lot more than 57 mil. Too early to say money well spent but, it seems like a good deal so far.

    1. 88 mil. DOLLARS, not Euro. It’s 57m Euro for Neymar + 7.9m for first options on three promising Santos players*. As a matter of fact the total package includes one more match between Santos and Barcelona, knowledge and experience cooperation between the two clubs and a further 2m Euro if Neymar is short-listed for Ballon d’Or, which Marcoti hasn’t

      But this has been known for months, it’s only the tabloid media that wants to milk its uninformed audience. People refuse to believe that Barcelona, known for buying expensive and selling cheap, has managed to land such a coup. But it’s understandable if you actually consider the fine print.

      Neymar gets 7.5m Euro net salary from FC Barcelona, but he gets to keep ALL profit from his image rights. At the moment that profit is supposed to be in excess of 20m US Dollars per year(call it 15m Euro). Most clubs share their player’s image rights revenue 50:50, which means that in order to compensate Neymar for his lost revenue and offer him a better contract than Barcelona, Real would have to give him at least 15m Euro – which would trigger Ronaldo’s “trishte” mode immediately, not to mention that the rest of the dressing room would resent the highly-paid new kid on the block.

      * 7.9m Euro for first option on three players. The thing is that this money is considered also prepayment for either one, two or all three players. Say, if one of the players is up for sale and his transfer fee is established at 9m Euro, Barcelona can decide to renounce its rights on the other two players, pay 1.1m Euro and get this one player. As such I don’t think that money should be added to Neymar’s fee. On the other hand, the 2m Euro if he’s shortlisted for Ballon d’Or in the next two years are a variable that for me at least has a high chance of being paid. The match between Santos and Barcelona to be played in Brazil, valued at around 4m Euro, should also be added to the transfer fee, although it’s not like the majority of Barcelona’s players won’t have to be in Brazil anyway. Neymar, Adriano, Dani Alves, Messi, Mascherano and if all goes well Valdes(depending on the date of the match), Pique, Puyol, Bartra, Alba, Cesc, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro, Alexis and Song will all be there with their national teams.

    2. That’s what happens when I write something half-asleep and then post it the next morning without checking it.

      Marcoti hasn’t included the estimated value of the match between Santos and Barcelona and the variable of Neymar being short-listed for Ballon d’Or.

      P.S. Sorry Leckan1, I didn’t see your post.

    1. I wanted to say that the extra 7 million euros was for those three players the club has a first option on.

Comments are closed.