Barça 5, Cordoba 0, aka “Does it matter how the chef stirs the pot?”


Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha (pant, pant!) bwahahahahahahahaha!

Whew! Now that I am composed, Barça put the hammer down on Cordoba 5-0, to roll into the holiday break with a bang. This was a match was either wasn’t very interesting or fascinating as can be, depending on what you were looking for.

Prima facie Barça did what it was supposed to do in stomping a relegation side in Cordoba. 5-0. So what. Couldn’t they score any more? They put eight past Huesca. Do these guys suck, or what?

What was interesting for me was that Cordoba had 8, sometimes 9 in the box, determined to prevent Barça from scoring. Once Pedro stamped that first notion with a giant FAIL, their plan B was to stay close and maybe nick one on the counter. Luis Suarez’s soft shoe nutmeg put paid to that, and the rest was history.

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

Barça continues to evince signs of a team getting it together, and it seems that more they do that, the more media and social media detractors insist that such signs aren’t there. But if you were to play “Guess the Score,” and told a culer that a team was playing with 8-9 in the box, there was slow ball movement for much of the match and to top it off Messi and Suarez didn’t play very well, that guess would be …

Probably NOT 5-0. Barça scored two goals off set pieces, something that made even the Cordoba coach say in his post-match presser, essentially “Whoa … WTF?!”

You probably also wouldn’t guess that it was Pedro who turned in an MOTM performance, playing not like the Pedro of old but rather the player he has always been when in his comfort zone. The Pedro Formula is if he requires more than 3 touches or 2 feints with the ball, forget it. Pass it back and reset. But if Pedro has space to take and shoot or take and pass, making the kinds of instant decisions with the ball that he is so good at making, he sparkles.

It’s a simple equation that also makes a lie of the results-based immediacy that buttresses supporter contentions. “I TOLD you he didn’t suck,” after a good performance by a once-maligned player, or a poor performance that would seem to justify negative perceptions. Yet things are hardly ever as simple as that. Players work in comfort zones, from the greatest to the least. Keep play in front of Pique and let him have the chance to move to the ball or see an attack coming, and he’s brilliant. Make him move laterally, or have to chase a defender and, uh oh …

Players and teams strive to keep themselves in a comfort zone so that they can give of their best. When Barça had a scoreless draw against Getafe, many things conspired to take the entire team outside of its comfort zone, from a resolute opponent to a cabbage patch of a pitch to post big-match fatigue to torrents of rain. Combine them all, and you get a 0-0 scoreline. And to find portents of doom you have to ignore the chances that were created, or Messi hitting the crossbar.

But if you look, really look, one thing you might see is a team that is finding tactical solutions to the most complex problem that a team faces, which is the parked bus. 10 behind the ball and 8 in the box is difficult to make space against, and a good team is never going to get that kind of space. Barça got an early break with a brilliant Pedro goal, but that only made Cordoba even more resolute in its determination to not let anything else happen, even at the expense of its own offensive efforts.

It is also a situation that in the past Barça struggled against, more often than not coming up empty, or nicking a goal somehow. But today’s goals were team goals, forged from sequences of passing play that found that lever to prise open a bus door, from Iniesta (who sparkled today, outside of the conditions that have been causing him complexities of late) slotting in a ball, to Xavi putting a pass right on Pique’s forehead for him to ram home. Montoya started and played mostly pretty well, a performance that allowed supporters and detractors to take from it what they wished. Supporters will ignore the backpasses and uncertainty, the ease with which he lost a marker and that man was off to the races. Detractors will ignore the solid overall qualities of his game, and the death/resurrection cycle continues.


But this match was huge fun as Barça looked for ways to thwart a resolute, defending and moving Cordoba side. When that success came, there were no moments of individual brilliance, no crazy, mazy runs or death-defying feats. Suarez broke his Liga duck. Messi scored two goals with his right foot, “Hey, looka this!” kinds of goals that found him in the right spot at the right time with the right tool, namely his suddenly fluent right foot. And something interesting occurred to me during today’s match, which is that Barça’s biggest struggle isn’t with opponents, but rather with itself and history, coupled with expectations. So in an attempt to put some things in perspective, let’s have a quick look at what happened, and what might be happening.


That current coach Luis Enrique has the hide of a buffalo and doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks will serve him well. Perhaps the slogan of this season would be, “Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening” as he seems to have taken a little something from each of his recent predecessors.

Enrique has played twentysomething different lineups in twentysomething matches, a shuffling of personnel that is something that has been rare in recent Barça seasons: rotation. That this rotation becomes in the eyes of many a sign of coach who doesn’t know what he wants, makes you ask about the reaction to a stimulus. Is it based on what we see, or what we want to see? The team playing different lineups as suits the attack necessary to defeat a team becomes a lack of tactical solidity that could also be perceived as a necessary tactical flexibility. Is everyone right, or is it simply perspective?

If I could change one thing in the Barçaverse, it would be the idea that anything that Enrique does is flawed. And not because of any need to paint rosy results, but because it stifles creative thinking by the very people who often have the most to contribute to a conversation about the team and how it’s playing. It isn’t just results, but results have to be part of the equation, part of the set of standards we consider as we evaluate what might be going on with the team.

Barça has won its Champions League group, is through to the next round in the Copa and is a single point (RM has a match in hand) behind a table-topping RM that is playing at an unprecedented level of success. Are results a signal or a trap, a measuring stick or a thing that deludes us into accepting something that we shouldn’t, because results aren’t everything.

Perhaps football matches have judges instead of scores, with scorecards that assess aesthetic and mission purity as teams wage war on a football pitch. It would appear so, as results don’t seem to come the right way, or good things are a consequence of other things instead of the converse, which for me is that the coach has responsibility for his team. When good things happen, he gets credit. When bad things happen, he gets blame. And his players share in that credit and blame.

At present, we occupy a complex world that ignores the seeming reality of a team appearing to find its way. Why the qualifiers? Because again, perspective. It would be just as easy to say, “Hmph. Another different lineup. Enrique still doesn’t know what he wants. A better opponent would have taken advantage of his tactical stupidity.”

And yet, parked buses have long been a Barça nemesis. “We need a Plan B, a different way of playing” has been the rallying cry of culers. But when he get a coach that brings different approaches for different opponents, it is taken as a lack of tactical nous. “We want to see how this team is going to play, moving forward,” but why would it play in a single way? Opponents don’t attack it in the same way every time.

Further, why would a coach not vary his lineups based on the personnel that he has at his disposal, with an eye toward not only the opponent and how he would like his team to play, but the reality of a long season in which his team is active in three competitions, in addition to the international breaks. Is that coach a fool or a pragmatist? Question everything.



It’s easy to understand the urgency of now in a fan base made impatient by a lack of victory parades. The question is whether than urgency should make us myopic, make us less capable of seeing what is happening or in extreme cases, even willing to admit that something IS happening. It’s a fascinating question that manifests itself in the performance against Cordoba as so many things happened that pointed to good things.

In the first half, the ball didn’t move quickly enough. This was execution, not tactics. In the second half the ball DID move quickly enough. Seems simple, right? Same personnel and tactics but better execution, to the tune of an additional four goals. Was it as simple as Enrique saying “Play faster, you assholes?” So how much credit should he get for the result?

Those who criticize often snuffle, stomp their feet and say “Aren’t we allowed to criticize? Just because a team has played well doesn’t mean that there aren’t flaws.” The answer, of course is that everyone sees the same things, but the difference exists in how people react to those things. What we need to do is avoid labels, such as “overly positive,” or “naysayers.” People who want to say “Yay, we won!” aren’t simpletons any more than people who say “We won, but there are still lots and lots of problems, such as … ” are worry warts. It’s two people reacting to a stimulus. What’s important is that both sides learn from rather than judging the other.

One person says that Messi on the right means that the coach is stupid. Another says that the right side for Messi is a starting point rather than a prison, and let’s wait to see what happens. Messi scores a goal from around the center of the pitch, and he is overcoming his stupid coach. Another view is that Messi was able to move into the space that he found as a consequence of starting from the right.

Different views of an event. Results aren’t everything, nor are they nothing. Events good and bad aren’t proof of anything in a sporting world in which nothing is ever as it seems, except for the final score. And yet football is entertainment, as I am fond of saying, millionaires in short pants scampering about for our amusement. There is a danger in spending so much time and effort analyzing something that the fun factor is lost.

If any of you have gone to dinner with foodies or chef types, it’s a lot of the same thing. You order 47 dishes, nibble at them all as ingredients are analyzed, preparation methods speculated about, brows furrow and opinions fly. And finally, some knucklehead says “This is some good ass food, is all I know.”


By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Not sure if anyone can create any new analysis of Pedro at this point tbh. He performs well because he can ” be what he is” against teams that allow him to be in his “comfort zone”, thus he racks up goals against lower opposition while being wholly neutered against top opposition. At least he still serves a proper role but the days of the United UCL ” Xavi to Pedro…. GOAAAAAAALLLLLLL” are long gone, who knows why. Back then I was confident every time he got the ball in a scoring position, now I’m 50/50 on whats going to happen ( maybe 70/30).

    I’m also not going ready to declare the team has solved the parked bus problem. There is a world of difference between lower opposition parking the bus vs. a top squad. There is little (if any) danger of the Huesca’s and Cordoba’s of the world turning a parked bus into hitting us on any sort of counter. I feel very little tension watching these last two matches, parked bus or not.

    It’s a great way to go into the holiday break, but I still think it’s far too early to declare that Enrique has a true grasp on what he’s doing, and that our squad is poised to go on some sort of epic run simply because we won out CL group and barely trail Madrid.
    I personally look at the performances, not the scorelines and standings.

    I still don’t see the solution of us beating the other TOP TOP teams of the world this year, namely because I havent a clue how LE would approach said opposition (343?, Dani? Bartra? Etc.) but maybe they’ll (hopefully) surprise me.

  2. thanks for the review kxevin. i enjoyed the match.

    great pass from rakitic, and control and finish from glad we have P! on our team.

    the game felt pretty comfy especially with suarez’s goal for the 2-0.

    cant wait for next year. gonna be fun.

  3. Bit quiet round here and tbh I don’t have much to add either. It turned out quite an easy game although it might have got sticky had we not managed an early goal. Maybe a tad slow moving the ball first half but it wasn’t bad. Our problems all come when we give the opposition hope through an early goal which is why I feel the key in the second half of the season will be keeping it tight at the back. I’m pretty sure our front three will score barrow loads.

    Lots of pluses in that confidence only improves when you score five without reply. Gets a bit of breathing space for LE – badly needed. We put Montoya in the shop window and he does fine. While Alba continues to tear it up the need for an attacking RB is diminished. When you look at yesterday the heartening thing for me was that none of our five goals relied on a marauding FB. They were all us trying to dismantle a bus in different ways. Goals from two set pieces can’t be bad either. Loved the way Suarez got his goal. That’s the sort of poaching goal we’ve been needing. Good to see Ini looking more confident as well. A good way to go into the break.

    Things to still think about ? My main issue is that I can’t fathom out what LE is trying to achieve at times other than Rotation for its own sake. Yet another new lineup. Okay, it’s not a top team and I appreciate he has a lot of players to keep happy but we have Bartra and Mathieu sitting in the stands wondering where they fit in. Mathieu in the PSG position on the left of three looked vulnerable just as he’d started to look good at CB but now Masche is back there, instead of at DM where he looked much better. Bartra had a pretty good game against PSG but now back to the stands. Does that mean LE thought it a failure or is he just trying to get a price for Montoya ?
    In midfield Rakitic is starting to worry me slightly. Great ball to Pedro, had a good shot but he spends a lot of time standing or jogging for someone who was going to add legs to the midfield. Quite a few times when we lose possession in their box he is pretty slow at getting back. Maybe I misunderstood what he was going to offer. As is Busi. He seems involved a lot further up now but I don’t like the sight of he and Rakitic lumbering back to defence on a breakaway. They shouldn’t both be on the edge of the opposition box and taken out with one short pass. Just a thought.
    Up front, he scored two but Messi was out of sorts for whatever reason. IT was almost as if he was smiling when he scored saying there you go I’m determined to be miserable and this is what happens ! Probably not keen on his RW starting position but who knows? I have to say I think we look better that way. He is taking a lot of bodies further to the left than they would like for their starting position.
    Anyway, the good points are definite, the niggles just things to keep an eye on. I’m pleased for the team that they can now go and enjoy the short break with their families.

    1. Nothing much to add? 🙂

      I like rotation but different line up every match is not really healthy and the rotation that I want is like key players being rested once in a while so that they don’t get injured or risk burnout by March but LE’s type of rotation is quite different. It’s mostly the CB spots. I like it though that he’s still trying to figure out the best CB duo because that’s basically what he keeps on changing. Hopefully when the season resumes he’ll let a pair of CB’s have a run of games together so that they can build a chemistry. It should just be between Pique, Bartra and Matthiue. No more Masch at CB.

      Rakitic looked more attacking last night. This was most likely because he didn’t have to worry about covering for Alves. And Montoya wasn’t so adventurous. Montoya is decent, not world class but at least he does his job decently. He is simply a better RB than Alves is at the moment. I’d be happy if he can get more games over Alves. Hopefully last night he played because he deserved it over Douglas and not to give him a last match in the Camp Nou as a token of appreciation after having spent at the club since very young.

      Im so happy for Pedro. Such a selfless player. Too bad there is a long break right when he just regained his form.

      Suarez’ goal was tough. His first touch had to be perfect to get it round the goalie. Messi’s 2nd goal was a beauty. I think I wrote it wrongly last night. It should be he makes difficult goals look so simple.

      I think it’s been quiet of late because of the holiday season Jim. That said, I would like to wish you and everyone who celebrates Christmas a Merry Christmas and to everyone else a Happy new year and Happy holidays.

    2. Montoya managed a very good cross on his very first attempt itself, was no mean fact when you compare to Alves. I think he is ok, may be just need some playing time and confidence from coach. I still dont understand, how come he started all of a sudden, ignoring Heusca, after all the bad talks recently.

      And its quite strange that Messi doesnt get enough credit for his inventive goal of the day. He made it look more than easy, but that was absolute artistry and invention all in a second. Even the commentators didnt acknowledge it, the same commentators who few weeks back was going bla bla about a back heel of CR7 near the centre circle.

    3. Montoya’s crosses are low which I think is more suited to our game and size. I don’t understand why Alves keeps on going for the high crosses. I thought it was just Tata’s tactics straight out of Moyeseh’s book but even under Lucho he’s crossing high. So I guess Alves is the sole reason behind this.

      As I was saying, perhaps Montoya got to play as a gratitude for his services all the years at the club since he was small to play at the Camp Nou in his last match. I hope that is not the case though.

    1. Nothing debatable there, Jim. Apparently, Liverpool.

      Such radical turn-around from last season’s fortune it seems they last came second in EPL in 1883. Not sure what the problem is with them, now that is debatable.


    2. Although only watching on and off it seemed to me Arsenal hardly got a touch in the first half. Still not sure what happened in that game. Even more puzzling is why Liverpool didn’t insist on a Sanchez for Suarez swap or have I got the timeline wrong ?

    3. Ooooh you’ve waved the red flag in front of the bull now!
      Haha it was a late game for us watching in Oz, but I was watching until the end. Even at 2am, 4 hours before I had to leave for work, still went absolutely nuts at Skrtel’s goal, but that’s emotional talk.
      Being realistic, this was a result that we needed, we dominated the entire game, played some really lovely football in parts and looked miles ahead of the team that has been taking to the pitch over the last couple of months. New signings like Lallana and Markovic did extremely well, our back 3 of Kolo, Skrtel and Sakho played better than they have been, Sterling looks lively, Coutinho was dominant, if a little wasteful.
      Arsenal were extremely lucky to finish the game with a full team as Flamini should definitely have been sent off quite early in the piece, and given Liverpools dominance, I dont think Arsenal would have been able to hold on.
      2-2 with some great goals against a top 4 side, down to 10 men when down 2-1, I’ll take that.

  4. I would like to echo your trepidation about Enrique’s rotation Jim. It’s one of the main reasons im still skeptical.
    If there was ONE game for all the marbles what would be our formation? Our style of play? Who would be in our first XI? Does anyone know? Does Enrique?
    This would especially be apparent in a two legged tie, if a plan A fails in one game plan B would be…?
    I don’t know how some people are so cheery at Enrique’s rotations, the best sides in world football. How can this team fully ” gel” if they don’t get games together? This team has enough talent to beat the minnows but can they beat top sides without having ” gelled” together yet…?
    This is why so many arent just focusing on results but the manner in which we play, because the cohesive team, the team that knows itself in and out, with a coach fully versed in multiple gameplans usually wins.

    1. either way, neymar and alves are injured, so we’re gonna see something different from our best XI no matter waht. and that has been the situation for much of the season. players not 100% fit or simply out of form has resulted in a variety of starting XIs. that said it seems like the highest amount of experimentation has occurred in the biggest matches. luckily, nothing is won in November.

      if messi needs a rest, put him on the pitch, tell him to walk around and draw the attention of 2 defenders, and let pedro do the running and scoring. sounds fine to me. 🙂

      meanwhile, RM have a more intense january than we do…a game in hand they will need to make up, plus the home and away against atletico…and i reckon their top players have accumulated more minutes than ours…the wheels have to come off a bit.

  5. Excuse me…
    I will be glad if someone can help me out to watch the fullmatch of UCL 2009 final otherthan torrent? I can’t get it in youtube. Thankyou.

    1. Lastnight I just check it out in eufa site and I saw it there. But I’m not sure it can be downloaded as videos except youtube are recently banned from our wifi. Anyway thankyou.

  6. Thanks Kevin for a great read once again, this forum has always been my time to spend after a match.

    Just a question to everyone here in the hindsight of Enrique being not savy enough or lack of tactical knowledge??. How was he when he used to be at Barca B? are we seeing the same as before or he is different now?

    PS: English is not my first language so apologies, if i have framed the question incorrectly.

    Happy Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all, Enjoy your holidays.

    1. Well, he was known for heavily rotation. in his 3rd season which is still B team’s best performance ever, he used 33 different players! Infact, he was so infamous for rotating 3 goalkeepers that he was asked question about goalkeeper rotation in his first press conference as first team manager.

  7. Btw I must say we, the readers including the writers except for you Kxevin are one lucky bunch of people. You said that you’re going to take a break but you still continue to do us favor by being active and writing articles. And this isn’t even the first time that you said that you’re going to take a break. I rarely agree with you since forever but I’ve always admired and think highly of you and wished you for the best in your cycling. Thank you Kxevin. God Bless you!

  8. Despite still not really looking too comfortable, Rakitic did take some initiatives that were promising, taking risks and moving the ball forward as well as taking a brilliant shot. We really need that! Overall, solid performance by the team.

    Thanks for keeping this space going, Kevin, always offering food for thought – happy holidays!

  9. There’s a side of Messi’s game that he is developing this season that many people aren’t taking note of. Am talking about shooting/scoring with the right foot, the weaker one. Out of his 15 league goals, 7 were with the left foot and 7 with the right foot with one a header. In his last 2 champions league games, he has scored four with the right foot. Good thing he’s always ready to work on himself. Does anyone has a stat on how many times we hit the woodwork this season? it feels like we hit’em every game.

  10. Sid Lowe on the Liga weekend, including this post-match rant from Cordoba coach Miroslav Djukic:

    “After one minute it was over. 1-0 down in a minute, there’s no story … There were few fouls, few bollocks, and that hurts me. I feel ashamed when I see – fucking great! – that [Andrés] Iniesta is more aggressive than we are. That hurts. With the greatest of respect to Iniesta, we all know he has other qualities .… Barcelona scored two from dead balls against us and they don’t [score from dead balls] against anyone … We went out there before the game to ask Barcelona’s players for their shirts. Turn off the lights, let’s get out of here. It hurts. I feel ashamed … I am sorry and they’ll be sorry too. The players who play will be the ones with balls. I’ll go down to the Second Division but with warriors, with players who have the knife between our teeth. They may not have a fucking clue how to play football but they’ll have the knife between their teeth. If we don’t have the knife between our teeth, there’s nothing we can do. In this shitty life, either you’re good or you’re a warrior, but you have to have something … I know that Barcelona is not our game but either we change things or we’re going nowhere.”

    1. that is fucking awesome from Djukic. good for him. hopefully they play that way against Los Blancos.

  11. Mm i know that if i say again my opinion about this i will have problems..ok i will other news another player who had cancer came back.Good news.

    1. Why’s that Luis? I think the lads and ladies on here have been pretty supportive of individual opinions, whether they agree with them or not. If nothing else, it promotes spirited discussion.
      Personally I think that Abidal only had one season where I would consider him to be a world class LB/CB, which differs from the opinions of a couple of the mods, which is cool. Tis the reason why this game is so enjoyable, the differing opinions and the discussions that these opinions create.
      Imagine a world where everyone agreed Leo is better than Ronny. It’d be nice, but boring. We need disagreement to create discussion and debate.
      Oh and I’m just curious to hear what this controversial opinion is 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kxevin. I was painstakingly translating my way through it for myself when you posted this !

      Great interview and usual Xavi. Never a bland interview. Good to hear, and I believe it if he says so, that Messi isn’t throwing his weight around and that he is happier this year. Just as interesting reading between the lines.

      Didn’t know his move was actually completed and that it was Bartomeu who stepped in at the last moment so fair play to him. I’d assumed it was LE who was leaving him out at the start of the season but he makes it clear it was his injury so I’m due LE an apology and lovely to hear him sound so positive about staying especially after how he must have felt at the tail end of last season being left out of crucial games and the anti- Xavi feeling which seemed to exist at the time.

    2. I am sure, like me, Jim, you will be also hoping Xavi is with us for one more season. A rested Xavi is still the best centre midfielder.

      I am wondering, how did this idea came out – that Messi bosses Barca dressing room. Not a single player in any of his teams or any of his coaches have never given a hint of anything like that, and all of them talks about him with love and respect – including Zlatan. But this is one of the most prevalent rumours in the world of footy.

    3. Without necessarily being a conspiracy theorist, fotobirajesh, I do think there are quite a few people, institutions and media outlets around who delight in making up stories to unsettle opponents. He has never really struck me as being anything other than a grown up kid who loves playing the game. Tbh, the Barca dressing room is such that anyone getting above themselves would soon be put in their place. I do worry what he’ll find after football to motivate him.

      And you’re absolutely correct. Can’t get me enough Xavi. I’ve even got our ( very!) low level game of old men on a Monday night valuing passing after playing with them for about forty years ( and remember this is Scottish football. We don’t do passing ! ) ! Like Xavi, I got quite depressed last season that the failures of Barca/Spain were being put into his shoulders when even a cursory glance at what happened would have told otherwise.

  12. Rumor this morning is Sergi Roberto on loan to Stoke. Negotiations ongoing, but player is said to be in England and proceeding.

    1. Remeber when Lucho said we didn’t need Kroos because we ” believed in Sergi?” LOL good times. Glad to see he’s going to a league and team that meshes well with our playstyle… lol again.

    2. Did Lucho ever say that? My memory isn’t quiet good but I don’t remember to say him something like that. Or may be he was referring to other Sergi – Sergi Samper.

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