Barça and the missing midfield


A shoe was thrown, a fullback came face to face with a lineman’s flag, a player was arrested on the way to the match, and Barça put a big match away without much of a midfield. Crazy days.

Rules are nonsense in certain situations, even as they provide behavioral guidelines in others. The danger, particularly when it comes to situations in which anarchy reigns, is in mistaken application of rules or when an idea that works becomes a rule. How else to explain the reactions by some during the Barça dismantling of Atletico de Madrid in the Copa quarterfinals.

“Oh, Lord, what’s happened to my Barça?”

Even before the Atleti match had ended, wagons were being circled with “Where’s the midfield,” “There is no match control,” “I don’t recognize this style,” and other statements aimed at hanging on to something that never was, which I humorously refer to as The Way.

Pep Guardiola was brilliant as he devised a tactic that suited the technicians that Barça had. Instead of big, strong, fast players the team had diminutive technicians and magic-makers. They could control a ball in a hurricane and play it on the ground around an octopus. It was beautiful, logical and a tactic. Not a style, but a tactic.

Over the years, Barça has played many different ways and scored all kinds of goals. But one of the most fascinating editions of the team might be manifesting itself this season, with its characteristics on fullest display against Atleti.

“Just win, baby,” is a base expression bereft of nuance. When the late Al Davis, head of the Oakland Raiders American football franchise said it, he of course meant that he didn’t really give a damn how his team won, just that it did. Barça is different. People want the team to win, but they also care how it wins. Many would even prefer losing with principles to winning without them. So “Just win, baby” becomes something different to consider, mostly as something to be avoided. “Well sure we won, but … “

Over time, football has been evolving. The midfield used to be everything. When Luis Enrique took over Barça, the early matches were something of a mess as the team looked like three separate parts: front, back and middle. Much was made of the team getting away from the Barça style, early and often, along with suggestions that Enrique is messing things up. Rules, even without considering just what a style is. Attractive possession football? Sure. Tell that to Ronaldinho as he made his bull-like runs. Tell that to Messi, who takes on a defense single-handedly. No rondos, no elegance, no messing about but rather a colossus of talent, bulling his way toward goal.

Opponents don’t care about The Way, except as a template for destruction. The longer a team plays in a certain style, the more time opponents have to dissect and destroy it. Adaptation becomes essential. More importantly, a tactic isn’t a style.

Think back to when Barça beat Rayo 4-0, but the biggest story was that Barça didn’t win the possession stat. For many who observe the club, that was the moment when the dogma jumped the shark and style took precedence over results. Martino flinched, and the team seemed in closer compliance with those style dictates even as it was less effective overall as a season was declared “lost” rather than tossed away on the ash heap of neotraditionalism.

Enrique took over, saying whenever asked that he doesn’t really care what anyone thinks. He flailed a bit and the team looked funky. For a while it all looked a mess until suddenly, signs were visible. Then Enrique came at PSG with a 3-4-3 and the Parisians didn’t know what hit them. The final was 3-1 in a match that wasn’t really as close as the score indicated. Enrique detractors scoffed that he was changing the team’s style to fit an opponent in a bizarre world where tactical flexibility from a coach is a bad thing, and a funny thing happened along the way. Out came the Guardiola quote that he played a double pivot during a match while at Barça because beauty be damned, he wanted to win. Messi became the false 9 as much out of necessity as genius. Barça had to adapt. “Just win, baby,” indeed.

The Guardiola quote also put into perspective what Enrique was doing in adapting the way his team plays to the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent. He wants to win. You change your team to win. Adapting isn’t bending to the whim of the opposition, but figuring out the best way to beat it. If you have an opponent who has given up 80 percent of its goals from set pieces and 2 percent from open play, what are you as a coach going to be trying for. You want the win. I can’t remember the last time culers celebrated a pretty loss. The gift of talent and talented players is that they are rarely as rigid as a team’s supporters.

“If you play over there instead of over here, we will win.” Tactical nous isn’t capitulation, and Barça isn’t some relegation side who changes how they play and puts 10 behind the ball in an effort to salvage a draw. But at the same time naïve would be to roll out, play the exact same way and expect it to work every time, against every opponent. It will until smart coaches adapt, and smart coaches always adapt. Then you have a problem.

Reassuringly, Enrique doesn’t care. It was clear how little he cares during the first half of the Atleti tie when Barca functioned without a midfield, essentially. The players were there, but the way that Atleti was playing, pressing in the midfield and fouling aggressively, the game was forced to the flanks and over the top, from back line to forwards. Look at the first goal, and the speed of it. Defensive header to Messi to Suarez to Neymar. Done. 12 seconds later the ball is in the net and a midfielder didn’t touch it.

"Dude! Where you been?"
“Dude! Where you been?”

Third goal: defensive rebound to Messi, run and pass to Alba who crosses to Neymar. Goal. Again, a midfielder doesn’t touch the ball.

A set piece split the two other goals, but that rumble of thunder was the universe being sundered as Barça scored three goals in which the midfield wasn’t involved. Weird and aberrant, even though you don’t really need to go all that far back in culer time to find goals that show that same adaptability. Txigrinski spanks a ball from the back line to Pedro, who scores is just one of them. It’s all about finding out the best way to beat an opponent.

In a larger sense, football is changing. It’s faster and more athletic, and is moving from the midfield to the wings, like it or not, and purists won’t like it. But Neymar, Robben, Messi on the right, Cuadrado, Bale, Ronaldo, all players who can change the game with a single run, are achieving pre-eminence. The midfield still matters as a possession battleground, and it always will. In the second half of the Atleti match the midfield returned to its Barça roots as keepaway was played vs an Atleti who by then had reined their ambition to do anything except foul. Again, that way of play was dictated not only by an opponent but by situational necessity. Time has to run, and Atleti can’t have the ball.

But is this really a glimpse of the future? Alba had the most passes on the team. A Neymar goal was incorrectly judged to be offside, but what was interesting about that non-goal is that it came via long pass from the keeper, Ter Stegen.

“Just win, baby?” Far from it. And we must be very careful not to make any judgments from this one match. That would be as erroneous as the people who made judgements from the early-season matches this team played. But there is an engaging (well, for me) tactical malleability in this team, a pragmatism that might see it surprise this season, and make liars out of the dummies like me who predicted yet another silverless go-round.

Bonus Neymar


Threats, taunting, fouls and brilliance was the story of Neymar’s match. He scored two wondrous goals, and wound up Atleti players in a way that had them making comments after the match, from “He only plays like that when he’s winning,” to “Something will happen to him,” etc. Juanfran held up seven fingers at him, a taunt referencing Brazil’s World Cup dismantling at the hands of Germany and worst of all, the Atleti players kicked chunks out of him. The fouls were so aggressive and excessive that Enrique said he subbed him for the player’s own safety.

Media in Madrid were, naturally, twisting the narrative. “Oh, that Neymar, bringing it on himself,” somehow suggesting, as did Celtic supporters when one of their players had a red mist moment with Neymar, that this is all linked to something he’s doing. And in a way, it is: He’s owning an opponent. To suggest that having chunks kicked out of him is attributed to his playing style runs against the lie of Messi, who suffered three yellow-cardable fouls by the same player in the first half-hour of the match. And Messi doesn’t say a damned thing.

Does Neymar play the game with attitude? Absolutely. Does he get riled up a bit and want to show up an abusive opponent? Yep. “You kicked me? Here’s a nutmeg for you.” He trash talks, battles and generally tries to get under the skin of an opponent. In many ways he is the modern player unleashed in terms of playing style and approach to the game. Iniesta doesn’t trash talk. Xavi doesn’t trash talk. Messi doesn’t trash talk. And they all get kicked anyhow. Against Atleti yesterday, Neymar never backed down. They kicked him, and he kept getting the ball, kept running at their back line, kept doing the work that he had to because his team needed him to.

Brazilians are often thought of as soft. When the spindly Neymar came to Barca, many weren’t sure how he would stand up to the wear-and-tear of the European game. Sure, he was used to getting kicked in Brazil, but this is Europe now, where bigger dudes kick harder. When he first came, he embellished, flying through the air in a way that called attention to every foul he took. He was called a diver, etc, and even during his first season you could see it all toning down. He began running through challenges and putting on weight. Now when he’s fouled, you can see some of the self-preservation of jumping into the challenge, or jumping so that his cleats don’t stick, taking the contact and going down. And he keeps getting kicked, in match after match after match, getting kicked when even Messi isn’t getting kicked.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic rebelled against the “schoolboys” at Barca. Neymar has assimilated, becoming part of the team but doing it in his own way, with flair and style. That style includes winding players up, and I don’t see anything wrong with it, frankly. He plays within the system, tracks back, puts in an honest shift and never shirks from his duty. But he also understands the psychological component of the game. An angry player is a rash player, who is a player more likely to lunge, which makes him more beatable off the dribble. When he was king of all that he surveyed, Michael Jordan was king of the trash talkers, for the same reason: it’s hard to see through the red mist.


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. Great article, completely agree on all points raised.

    BTW: Via BarcaStuff

    Atletico coach Simeone and captain Gabi went for Neymar during half-time of the game on Wednesday. Pique had to intervene. [sport]

  2. “That style includes winding players up, and I
    don’t see anything wrong with it, frankly.”

    But that doesn’t fly for me, Kxevin. So it becomes childish when you do that. You don’t make a dribble around a player, and then taunt him when you succeed. It’s all rosy until it precipitates violence.

    Picture a Ronaldo doing that, and we get a fit of derisive moans. Any player does that, and it doesn’t wash in the test of professionalism.
    It seems the same to me as in arts. Painting better than a rival in a competition and then taunting them because their brush strokes couldn’t match your beautiful patterns. It incites discordant acts.

    Watch Messi, see Ronaldo de Nazario, Ronaldinho. Iniesta. Hazard. But of course, he is within right to his personality.

    But it doesn’t wash for me.

    [Edit: Oh, and I enjoyed the victory. Enrique is pragmatic, and that is more romantic than The Way.]

    1. I don’t quite see why the fuss about Neymar. He did a lot pointless showboating when he was in Brazil but there has been comparatively little of that since he joined us.

      Of course, a player who possess such skills should utilize them the way the original Ronaldo and Ronaldinho did – only when it’s either necessary and/or when doing a trick advances the play in a way that would not be otherwise possible. It’s actually a lot more beautiful that way, I would even argue it’s only beautiful in such cases.

      The problem is that players who grew up watching them were fixated on the tricks and then wanted to replicate them without fully seeing the context in which they were used. That’s why we see so many players try to do them and it looks unnatural or just plain silly, and despite the mass proliferation of freestyle football, it’s been more than a decade since Ronaldinho burst onto the scene (and two decades since the original Ronaldo) and yet nobody has appeared who matches the same level of genius. Which is precisely the opposite of what one would naively expect given that millions of kids all over the world were copying his moves, but it makes sense if you understand the difference between those moves coming to you naturally and you trying to force the issue with one of them when it is not really required.

      Neymar was one of those kids, and a significant portion of his showboating has been of the pointless kind, but he has toned it down significantly, to an extent that should not be a problem. It’s probably the trash talking that pisses defenders off, but we don’t actually see and hear that so people are focusing on the moves, which may have less to do with why he is targeted.

    2. The thing is Neymar had only 1 successful dribble in the match. So clearly it was not his skills on the ball which wound up those players, it was definitely his tongue. And it is childish, as you say and for me too, to unnecessarily wind up players.
      It is very clear for every opposition that Neymar can be easily provoked, thats why he is fouled more.
      And very rightly, if it was Ronaldo who had taunted his opposition, most culers would have gone mad. I still remember the reaction when Ronaldo once asked Pedro – who are you.
      All this is unnecessary. Neymar has brilliant skills and he could do his talking with the ball.

  3. Ideally Neymar should be getting on with his game and discard with the trash talking. All it does is make him a targeted man because trash talking ultimately becomes a you and me affair. Its safe to assume that right now he is not the most popular player in the Atleti dressing room.

    Come the next game there is a likelihood of the Atleti players coming into the game with premeditated intentions.Can he handle the pressure then? We don’t want him being a marked man.

    1. If they concentrate on Neymar; who’s going to keep an eye on Messi & Suarez?
      Can’t mark all three 😀

      Besides, Everyone knows by now that Atleti hates neymar,
      They showed their hand prematurely. There are referees, ones from CL are rather good.

  4. Whenever they kick our midfielders to curb,
    Atleti kill potential gorgeous plays in their cradle; tying to disrupt ‘The way’….

    That’s why they play all those midfield destroyers,
    Gabi Garcia Tiago etc; who are not very good in creative aspect,
    So they just roll around and beg for Fouls & Penalties.

    It’s kinda poetic justice that we bypassed them with our ‘No midfield’…
    I wonder if it could’ve worked against J Martinez, Schweinsteiger.

    P.S. Best players dictate the style, It used to be
    now Its Neymar-Suarez-Messi..
    Maybe we’ll recreate the way with Samper-Denis suarez-Halilovic,
    that’d be fun.

  5. I am sorry but i am so mad about the ban of ronaldo that i have some questions:The bite accident in world cup and the FIFA ban was after they saw the vid of the game?What was the ban of sergio ramos in clasico of 2010 when he tried to destroy leo and then he tried to hit puyol face?What is the reaction of the big journalists in spain for the ban of ronaldo?What would be the ban if luis suarez make the same attacks?Why FIFA ban for youth players is only for us?How madrid can make transfers with such a huge dept?FFP is only for other teams and not for them?

    1. FFP does not really consider debt. As long as the balance sheet at the end of the season shows profit from club activity and not a sugar daddy, UEFA will not rock the boat.

      Barcelona was under investigation since 2013. Due to the presumed innocence, transfer activities cannot be restricted.

      RM is the government’s team, it’s widely known. The main media(MARCA, AS, Cadena Cope, Radio Marca, El Pais, TVE, Cuatro, Tele5, La Sexta, Antena 3) are based in Madrid, so by default they show considerable bias in favor of Madrid’s teams and particularly RM.

      To show you the level, there was a debate in MARCA about the number of games Ronaldo should be banned for, with the newspaper asking refs about their opinion.
      The result was that the majority of refs considered it to be aggression, so between 4 and 12 games, so MARCA added the opinions of its chief editor and another journalist to make up for the disparity.
      And this is MARCA, the supposed fair and balanced sports newspaper, and for the most part it is, when the articles aren’t about Real or Barça.
      They still deny Messi one goal(and this season one assist),despite the LFP, FEF, UEFA and FIFA all calling BS on that claim.

  6. Actually the bypass the midfield tactic was very suitable.

    Cholo had pure destroyers and one destructive creator in Arda in midfield, with both strikers dropping to press in midfield, while at the same time Juanfran often went forward to add to the bodies.

    Simeone had no option but to go forward, the result forced him. “My enemy cannot help but engage me, for I threaten a position he must succor.”
    I suppose in a way he expected that Barcelona would try to maintain possession and play from the back, the way Barcelona usually plays both defensively and offensively. That would result in a large number of turnovers in Barça’s half, thus creating opportunities, while at the same time asphyxiating Messi, Suarez and Neymar.

    But I think this time Simeone shot himself in the foot trying to stack the odds in his favor, the horrible state of the pitch being the tipping point. I think he needed to have a better pitch to ease the task of his players, who this time needed to pass. There was more than one case of Atleti players losing the ball due to losing their balance or the ball hopping crazily about, in direct proximity of Barça’s box, meaning the less experienced Atleti players needed fractions of seconds more to control the ball and pass it, receive it and guide it, which meant the defence could close them down.

  7. The strength shown in three straight wins over this opponent should not be understated. Others have failed to get one in in five tries 😉

    Midfield. My question is, if Rakitic is out, how do we balance it? We have three players Rafinha, Iniesta, and Xavi, but it is doubtful if two of them can play in a 3 man midfield at the same time, atleast against the strongest of teams. That leaves only Mascherano + Busquets combinations.

  8. Cuadrado to Chelsea for less than €32m.

    that’s from cash-strapped Fiorentina to Big Money Chelsea in mid-season, for a player whose profile we desperately needed. another example of serious failings on the transfer front on our part. what a missed opportunity.

    1. I have to say I totally agree BA, another sin from
      this board.
      He’s going to light up the prem with the space they’ll give and going from linking up to “meh” at Fiorentina to the stars at CFC.
      He can run for days and has more in his arsenal than Dani and Pedro ( Montoya doesn’t have tricks I’ve seen).
      This is assuming of course that he’d be the RM/RB in a future 3-4-3.
      Would we have lost out to CFC anyway? Maybe. But if we’d have planned for the future of our RB position better we wouldn’t have to rely on contract expiring Dani, still unfulfilled potential Montoya, and Pedro aka ” I run at least ?” .
      We better pray Adama pans out like everyone hopes he will.

    2. So 32 million and a player going in the other direction on a 18-month loan, down from the 35m that was his buy-out clause.

      Okay, so you are the person in charge of transfers in the summer. You spend 35m on Cuadrado. Now you don’t have money for CBs. Who are you NOT going to buy? Who are you going to sell?

    3. With the performance of Bartra in a difficult game at RB, more or less consensus coming round to us not needing two attacking FBs all the time and Alba’s outstanding form, I’m just wondering what on earth Barta has done not to deserve a run in the position to help make our minds up one way or the other. Longer we wait the more the ball is in Dani’s court.

    4. I haven´t really thought about it, but I suppose Lucho would rather have Bsrtra concentrate on improving his CB skills and understanding with the other defenders, because Bartra is still liable to lapses of judgement and focus. Maybe LE thinks that with Dani Alves not sprinting forward 24/7 and Rakitic having more freedom, the right flank is secure, what with Alves, Adriano and Monti all available. Don´t forget, a player on the pitch is a player that can get injured. No real need to expose Bartra as long as he is the only available CB sub(while Mathieu was injured).

    5. Could be for that reason, Peter, although I’d have thought that playing beside Pique in the backline he’d learn a lot about covering for your FB, where you hold the line, staying on your feet where possible etc.

    6. Vermaelen and Douglas together cost €24m. how about that for a start?

      face it, it was a misallocation of resources, both financially and in terms of the sporting project, to not get Cuadrado. even if we bought him on top of everything else; we’re FCB and we can afford it. we chose not to, despite the fact that Enrique, by all accounts, specifically asked for him and that we could undoubtedly use a player of his profile. that was a big mistake, at a crucial period.

      there’s no sense trying the usual knee-jerk defense of Zubi or the board on that one.

    7. Amen BA, and I’d have shipped of Pedro a long time ago and put that $ towards Cuadrado, there.

    8. BA, you really need to check your sources and this is more important, think in perspective. What I mean by this:

      The actual money paid for Douglas and Vermaelen so far is 14 million. The rest are variables, which in the case of Vermaelen are close to 9 million Euro, almost half of which payable only if Barcelona wins two times the Champions League in the three following seasons.

      That means you still need to find the equivalent of a Rakitic in order to pay for Cuadrado.

      Second, you should look at the associated costs. A player worth 35 million will have a much more substantial signing bonus, salary and the associated fees and taxes over that salary, since taxes on those salaries in Catalunya are higher than the salaries themselves.

      Next, you need to offload Dani Alves and his substantial salary in order not to fall afoul of the FFP regulations and to offset the hole in the budget caused by Cuadrado’s salary.

      “We are FC Barcelona and we can afford it” attitude is what made the last board spend close to 70 million on players(Henrique, Caceres, Keirrison, Chygry), some of whom didn´t even sweat a single jersey of Barcelona. Funny how people forget that.

      You know, money doesn’t grow on trees. especially that amount of money.

    9. I like to thank Zubi for the signing of 2 world class goal keepers, Neymar, rakitic, Suarez, masherano, alba,Alves, and alexis though he’s gone. These signings are job well done and for me covers for all transfer blunders he might have made. I wouldn’t cry over spilt milk or water under bridge like most of you fans like to do, not after Zubi is anyways gone. We should look to the future with what we have. If cuadrado is world class and is that good, where has he kept florentina on the Italian league table?

    10. Idk why you must take a dissenting view on everything remotely questioning the club Peter.

    11. Peter is very good at explaining the rationale for his positions. he doesnt just come out and say “X is Truth.” he is one of the more thoughtful posters in this space, i think. mind you, i dont agree with everything he says, far from it. but i do agree with some of what he says, and appreciate his well-thought-out posts. that’s what i see, at least.

    12. Because I want the supporters and the voters to be informed!

      You have to be informed to make an informed choice. AS Kxevin says, you have to question everything, you have to try and find all the relevant info, because if you don’t, you risk allowing your vote, which is potentially all a soci has, to be misused.

      Rosell fulfilled practically all the substantial promises he made – lowered the debt, froze the season ticket prices, closed the access to becoming a soci for most non-Catalans. He won by a landslide, the most voted president in modern times.

      Would he have won if people had realized that lowering the debt would mean fewer signings, a corporate shirt sponsor and association with Qatar?

      But the thing that insults me is that you think the people presiding over this club are morons. It insults me that you think armchair experts who have neither the know-how, nor the data base, nor the experience or education are actually better than people who have spent decades accruing exactly this sort of experience and knowledge. You think they are morons because you disagree with their actions or views.

      And that for me is unacceptable. Come out with arguments, not finger pointing. Come with the intention to find the truth, the real truth, not to assign blame. Everybody becomes a genius with the benefit of hindsight.

      Just the other day an English journalist that writes for Bleachers Report talked about Cuadrado and how Dani Alves should’ve been sold. A fellow culera, with whom I have clashed more than once due to our views, she asked him “Okay, we sell Dani Alves. To whom and for what price?” Who is going to accept him with his huge salary and at the same time be ready to offload a large sum of money for the signature of Dani Alves?


    13. Rosell also sold the shirt to a human-rights-abusing dictatorship, treated a beloved player with disdain, did nothing to forestall a 3-period transfer ban (unprecedented for a club of our size), possibly sent millions of dollars in illegal bribe money to sign another player, left huge gaps in the composition of the squad and resigned early in disgrace.

      what i find so tedious about your positions is that NONE of that ever seems to have sunk in.

      but to my original point: even if the figures you’re quoting are correct, and we deduct that amount from Cuadrado’s asking price; is there ANY commenter here who wouldn’t have snapped Fiorentina’s hand off for Cuadrado at €21m? Luis Enrique, i have a feeling, sure would have. but his vision for the sporting project was secondary to that of the now-ousted Zubizaretta and Rosell’s creature Bartomeu (now up for election).

    14. furthermore, this aversion to questioning authority; since basically what you just constructed there was a classic argument from authority, i.e. “the club’s officers and board know what they’re doing, don’t question them! even when their decisions and actions are patently absurd/illegal/shameful”; is something that won’t ever sit well with me. yes, as football fans we won’t ever know the whole story. but in place of access, we get objectivity. we can look at actions or results AS THEY ARE, or AS THEY APPEAR TO BE, rather than seeing back-room agents’ deals or cash-filled briefcases or balance sheets.

      to armchair quarterback is one thing; to point out some very obvious, public failings on the part of elected officials is quite different.

    15. “But the thing that insults me is that you think the people presiding over this club are morons. It insults me that you think armchair experts who have neither the know-how, nor the data base, nor the experience or education are actually better than people who have spent decades accruing exactly this sort of experience and knowledge. You think they are morons because you disagree with their actions or views.”

      Welcome to fanbase in EVERY SPORT in the world. Wow man, let’s just all roll over and smile with every move they male.

    16. BA, to reduce the debt that laporta incurred something had to give, call it abuse of dictatorship but I call it business, the same kinda business big clubs have been benefiting from. The diversification was a much needed one at the time in business terms. Whether we wear unicef or Qatar on our chests it doesn’t matter cos you can’t prove to me that it had any adverse effect on our performance on the pitch, rather the effect was positive as we could leverage on the pool of fund to reduce our debt and sign players too which even helped the squad win the champions league back in 2011 wearing Qatar. Dwelling on that issue and other issues in the past is living in self denial ccos those things ain’t coming back. Now you come and say “we are barca we can afford it”. How the hell do u think u can manage if you don’t think out of the box like rossell did? I think we fans should focus more on sporting issues leaving the administration of the club to elected delegates as we have no control whatsoever over their affairs

    17. If you don’t think we could’ve done better than Mathieu, TV, and Douglas… I have a bridge to sell you. Especially as he was seen as the “key” missing piece to Enrique’s plan

    18. water under the bridge guys. i’ll agree, im looking forward to the elections. at the same time, would we be the best defense in the league (by a country mile) if we had bought Cuadrado, shipped alves and or pedro, and/or not bought Mathieu (et al)? Impossible to say. and who knows what really went on behind the scenes.

      I agree it would be interesting to see some other folks in the RB spot…id say have adriano play some minutes there too, he’s not bad. on the other hand, precious little time for experimenting right now.

  9. An exciting game and as suggested here achieved largely without a midfield. Doesn’t appeal to me, either on as aesthetic or practical level but you can’t deny the results against AM.

    To put some context on the game they were at home, behind and short of vital players. I thought their defending was also appalling but I’m not complaining. The goals, apart from Busi’s effort were down pretty largely to Messi. He receives the ball on the right wing, not from long balls, tightly marked and yet creates something just about every time. However, last year you can bet you wouldn’t have found Juanfran as last defender sitting on the edge of OUR penalty area at the start of the move so a very strange game overall.

    With regard to the midfield, it worries me. We’re not creating chances from missing them out other than Messi is now easily found wide on the right and quite deep. From then on our speed has increased but nothing to do with our midfield. When we had the ball in the middle we couldn’t keep it so it came straight back at us. When we hit it long from the back we didn’t get it so it came right back to us. This is not something which sits easily with me. I don’t buy the diminution of the importance of midfield in general. We are fortunate that we have the best front three in world football but will still spend most of our time working out way through midfield. We have a great defence but against better teams ( and no this AM on this performance isn’t one of the best ) giving the opposition that much more of the ball unnecessarily could cost us. Anyway, we got away with it at the moment.

    What I am loving, and have no problem with, is Ter Stegen’s distribution and quick long kicking. That’ll keep teams honest once they get to grips with it. AM played a suicidally high line at times and paid.

    I said at the start of the season I expected silverware this year and I still do. We have too many good players not to be in the mix. For that to happen we need Masche out of the defence ( no need for me to enlarge on this after this game – surprised there has been absolutely no mention of it anywhere in either the article or comments, apart from Ciaran), Mathieu in ( and that’s looking unlikely as he is obviously getting hacked off with where he is in the pecking order – I sympathise), we need a midfield that can play with the ball. I’d give Busi a pass in this match but neither Ini nor Rakitic did nearly enough ( No point in giving Ini the Xavi role then limiting his position – and btw, how slow is Rakitic? Up front, we need Suarez to get over his lack of goals but he is probably the biggest difference between the team this year and large, even without the goals. These are not huge matters. Sort them and we could be looking at one of the big trophies. Some credit has to go to LE for the rotation and for somehow persuading Messi to play on the right. Not sure I’d go much further than that although there has been some work on set pieces. I’ll believe the improvement when someone other than Pique deals with one of them though. On that same point, congrats to Pique on the birth of son number two but we’d better hope that he stays fit and doesn’t need much time off.

    1. This is spot on. I would have mentioned poor performers by name, but this is not only more diplomatic, but also more accurate.

      I was not encouraged by this game. Except for the result, and our growing offensive awesomeness, I thought it was a bit of a regression overall. As you mentioned, We were shaky defensively and in terms of midfield control. Still, it might have been an outlier both for us and for AM. I expect to see Masch continuing to be more solid at the back, and to see Iniesta getting back to form. Champions League will tell all.

    2. Masch is a great player and is an incredible defensive player but he is not a centre back. For our system, there are many times that he doesn’t need to be a centre back, but there are times when he does.
      The delay in getting back in line after his bad pass led to the Torres and then foul for the penalty was stupid. the foul started outside the box but it was a foul.
      I would prefer to have Pique and Bartra or Mathieu in the big matches.

    3. After several rock solid performances and the obvious persistence of LE fielding him in every important game you guys still doubt Smash because of one bad pass?

      Don’t forget … RM has real centre backs and those also were fooled TWICE by Torres

    4. Wow, I was planning to log on and write the exact same comment as Jim. Great job.

      Every time I watch the team lately, it worries me too about how little control midfield has. Now we play like an ordinary team with extraordinary players, as opposed to the extraordinary team we had.

      Like Jim said, it’s sad to watch this team being pressured at the back and have them launch long balls that make it back to our goal within a minute. It’s almost as if the team has moved away from the focus and planning of that type of execution. And I don’t believe teams have ‘discovered us’ as much as I think we have lost the ability to execute.

      Why does it matter? Because down the road, we will meet tougher teams with better attacks, and giving such teams more control of games is simply giving them the ability to hurt or team. Let’s hope our extraordinary players will continue winning the games for us…

    5. hard to pass out of the back when the field is like a potato patch. i feel like ive noticed that our short passing game is more “on” when we are at home, and the pitch lets the ball move the way we want it to. i wouldnt say we were hoofing it up against PSG when we were at home, but i guess i would need to watch it again. i would agree with the general assessment though that our midfield isnt as strong as in years past. one reason: xavi older and not playing as much. hard to quickly replace the best passer in a generation… as kxevin has pointed out. no jim 🙂 im not saying Xavi’s useless and he might even be the best midfielder we have, but the fact is he cant play game-in, game-out anymore, which means in some games we will inevitably have less control, and its not completely LE’s fault…LE cant magically make xavi young again. two important elements of our midfield are still bedding in…rakitic and rafinha. i dont think we have seen the best of either of these guys yet. rafinha for one, his season has been slow to take off due to several injuries. but i think he has looked pretty sharp lately.

    6. Guys cool off, we have played athletico in all ways in 3 different games and we came out on top. Individual performances against such a foe that came out with so much venom shouldn’t be in the fore, no one dared hold the ball much longer than a second or two knowing a kick or shove will follow, the counter attacking strategy shows Lucho and his team are proactive, they saw what was coming and we’re well prepared for it. In the first game against them we won 3-1 dominating all aspects of the game that’s why I think this should pass without fuss. What’s d essence of keeping midfield and possession against a probable parked bus and end up with half your men injured without a result? This is a crucial month for us now,now is the time we need everyone to be fit as we gonna have more games to be played this term. All victories mustn’t be sweat less and aesthetic, at the e d when the league is won it won’t matter whether the victories are aesthetic or are taken on a case by case basis, each game demanding it’s own measure and tactics. If “the way” gets you nowhere against top foes what happens to finding other ways?

  10. I believe that if bayern face this season madrid pep guardiola will have two big defeats.He is a v good coach but against great counterattacking teams he dont have idea how to stop them.Many people want him back as a coach but i am afraid that the second time in life everything is worse;-)

  11. Oh and i know that we must not talk politics here but maybe next week my country will be out of E.E so a big tsunami of austerity will hit our world:(God help us

    1. I’m guessing you live in Greece? Well, you have my best wishes. Lovely place, lovely people. Can’t begin to imagine what the consequences will be over the next while no matter what happens.

  12. A rare visit, with a number of things:

    It’s worth repeating: we are not our ideas. We can discuss without attacking.

    agar asks Peter why he must take a dissenting view toward anything that questions the club. Yet the converse could be a valid ask, as in why do others question and criticize everything about the club? Both are a point of view. The question isn’t “Why don’t you see things my way,” but rather “Can we discuss this without things getting messy?”

    Then Peter has at it with an aggressive succession of insults taken, which takes what could be an excellent discussion off on a tangent. The fact is that we are ALL “armchair experts,” as nobody knows anything about what actually happened, except that players came and went this summer. Even the prices aren’t fully and objectively known.

    Who’s incompetent and who isn’t incompetent? All conjecture based on selective views of the facts. Douglas/Suarez, Vermaelen/Rakitic. Yin and yang of a transfer summer. If we keep Sanchez and buy Cuadrado, Marquinhos and Reus, is the team still 3-0 against Atleti? It would have been a dazzling transfer summer that would have left pretty much every culer except those who dislike Sanchez, as happy as clams. But for all the talk of Messi being decisive, there is precious little discussion of the difference that Suarez has made in all three matches, even as I find his presence in a Blaugraa shirt loathsome.

    But I and everyone in this space have zero idea what actually happened with Cuadrado except that the club didn’t buy him. And that’s that. The rest is conjecture and opinion.

    Why didn’t the club buy him? His buyout was the same, but what about the price Fiorentina was willing to sell him for? No idea. As we all know, a buyout isn’t as simple as walking up and ponying up. Did that price change over time as it became clear Cuadrado wanted to leave? No idea, no matter how strident my belief that the club should have just ponied up. Could it have just ponied up? No idea. None.

    And what of the role that the 82m spent for Suarez has in this equation? Again, don’t know. The club sold some players on, loaned some, and spent huge. Perhaps after the Suarez purchase, the club had to look for bargains. Or maybe they just outsmarted themselves by trying to bargain. Again. Dunno. Could the club have done better than Mathieu, Douglas and Vermaelen? Of course. Could the club have done better AND purchased Suarez? Dunno. None of us do, no matter how vehemently opinions are stated, which reduces it to arguing about why the sky is blue. Dunno. It just is.

    — BA is right. That’s why I will be flying to Barcelona this summer to cast my vote. Peter is also right. The board has done some good things. But they have also left a trail of reprehensible actions that would lead me to vote for a dead dog before I vote for this lot. That is my position, and mine alone. I don’t expect to sway anyone into agreement, no matter how vehemently I argue my point. But when both sides are essentially right, all it can lead to is an endless argument that eventually becomes personal, because that becomes all that is left to assail the other side on.

    — Snap judgments. Beware of them. Last season, this team couldn’t beat Atleti in six tries. This year, this team has beaten Atleti three of three times. So then we are reduced to being happy with the result, but not in the way that the result was achieved. I understand the logic, but in looking at it objectively, what should have been done? Stopping the ball to play the Barça Way, which gives Atleti a chance to set its defense, or taking what the opponent offered on a silver platter and putting the tie away. It’s a valid question. The players didn’t hesitate because players want to win. They are agnostic in that way. Style means nothing. They just want to win. Analysis is left to the folks like me with nothing better to do.

    But Rakitic was in the XI instead of Xavi for a reason, and that reason paid off. Again. Time and tactics march on. The old way and the players who represent it are up for grabs because they are no longer what they once were, and circumstances have changed.

    Enrique has said that he wants his team to be able to play many different ways. We saw that against Atleti, in the same match. They countered, and bypassed the midfield because Atleti was set up there, hell bent on destruction. Doing the traditional midfield thing would have played right into their hands. Enrique outcoached Simeone again, something few have noticed.

    Then in the second half the midfield assumed primacy again in a traditional-looking Barça style. You play in a way that beats your opponent.

    Last year, this team was excoriated for not being able to beat Atleti. This year, people don’t like the way that it beat Atleti. How can it win? What are the standards to which we hold the team and its players? For me, the challenge is always seeing what is there instead of what I want to see. The way that Barça played under Guardiola was exquisite, jaw-dropping and awe inspiring. But that time and those players are gone. So what do we have now? I deal with that, instead of what we don’t have any longer, and never will again.

    — Mascherano. Yes, that pass probably shouldn’t have been made. But in full dissection of the play, Messi could have moved to the ball more effectively, as well. He was easily outfought by the Atleti player, then just shrugged and walked along. This also contributed to the break. So yeah, Mascherano’s ball wasn’t perfect. But it wasn’t all on him. As for the foul, few neutral journalists believe it was actually even a foul. I don’t either.

    Objectivity isn’t theoretical. It’s a constant challenge that I and others wrestle with. Because it’s easy to look at that play and say “Mascherano screwed up.” But I watched that play three times in quick succession and came to the same conclusion: Mascherano’s pass could have been better, but if Messi moves to that ball and pings it to a mid, that goal doesn’t happen, either.

    It’s very, very complex. The game and its actuality is about as close to an objective chronicle as we have. It happened. We saw it happen. But what did we really see? That’s the challenge.

    We can discuss this club, this team and the way it plays with respect for ideas, even as we are not our ideas. I can’t tell anyone how to present their ideas. But aggressiveness just makes someone just shut down, and makes them more determined to shout the other person down. There are debates, and arguments, one productive, the other counterproductive. I know which one I prefer.

    Apologies for the length.

    1. Kxevin. You just gave the closing benediction. End of story, we won like the players like to, the opinions of people like us with less to do doesn’t matter to Louis and his soldiers. The icing on the cake being they can’t even hear us. Lol.

  13. Interesting discussions and very good comments all around. I haven’t commented in a while so here are some thoughts:

    1) I agree with Kxevin and Peter that the we should treat “Neymar is disrespectful” memes as they really are: distractions from the Madrid teams and press that want to take the focus off their own teams’ problems in the last few weeks. We are lucky to have a player who is most likely to be the next world’s best for the quite some time and it’s immaterial if his opponents don’t like it when he stands up to their thugishness his own brand of Brazilian swagger and toughness. It is clear to me that Neymar is the player that Messi always wanted to play with up front as his quick thinking, ball control, and talent is almost the perfect complement for La Pulga. Yes, Sandro Rosell might have been a skivey guy but he did bring us our two best transfers in the club’s recent history.

    2) The questions that many had over our important summer transfers are starting to get some preliminary answers. The problem as I see it is that we bought 3 players after their career best seasons that were in some cases outliers: Suarez, Rakitic and Matheiu. I still have hope for all of them but what I think they all share is poor ball control and passing in tight space. For these reasons, I don’t think that Suarez and Rakitic will thrive against teams that park the bus in their back third but appreciate the contribution and physicality they can bring to the team.

    On the other hand, both do much better in a more open game as we got from Athleti in our Liga match and the away match of the Copa in which Simeone may have been trying to reproduce the dominance of his second leg against us last year in the CL in which they attacked relentlessly and could have been up 3 or 4-0 in the first 15 minutes.

    3) While our transfers over the summer have yet to fully impress and Iniesta has been off form or injured, we have certainly profited from Neymar’s breakout season to superstar status, a reinvigorated Messi, and Pique and Masherano’s best form in years. I agree with Jim that Masch is still not a reliable CB against the best teams that will attack us in the CL, but he is certainly holding his own against everyone else and has done well in his returns to midfield, particularly his long range passing.

    4) The concerns about midfield and right back are certainly justified as Iniesta and Rakitick have not yet shown they are a formidable midfield partnership. However, with Messi now on the right, I don’t see a problem with playing Alves in a more defensive role. Hopefully with more time we will play in a way that gets the best out of our squad, but even if not I am optimistic enough to think that we can challenge for the league and go far in the CL.

    Even if we don’t get either I think winning the Copa will be a nice achievement as not winning any silverware this year could really be a disaster for the team at a time when it is in quite a fragile state.

    Whatever happens, it seems clear that the team has been newly invigorated after the disaster at Sociedad but unlike last year this mess at Anoeta might be the turning point for our team to get its act together and peak at just the right time.

    1. Hey, welcome back. I thought you forgot the password & were using inamess1 or something like that. Tc.

  14. Just to be clear, In my comments right here I am not defending Rosell.

    What I said is this – six out of ten socis who got themselves to the booths voted for him, because of what he promised. My point is that if those socis were aware of what he intends to do to fulfil those promises, it’s probable that far fewer would’ve voted for him.

    This is why you have to make sure you are as informed as possible before you make your choice, because you have to be careful lest your dissatisfaction is misused and abused by opportunists.

    This current board did good things, bad things and horrible things. They will probably go in the summer, because the socis are tired of the accountants being in charge, which could be seen as a good or bad thing. But we owe it to ourselves not to be swayed by the new guys just because they are new, just because we are dissatisfied with the old ones. Because we have to be very careful about the promises all of them make and what would be needed to fulfil those promises.

    Yes, this board did good things. Admitting that doesn’t really mean you are accepting the rest of the package. Far from it. It means you are showing what really is important for you, it means that you make your choice after seeing the good and the bad and the ugly. Because if you don’t, you are just blinding yourself.

    1. Let’s not forget.
      Laporta won back then because he promised Beckham in our shirt. That’s why socios voted for him, and if they knew that this promise wont be fulfilled…who knows how the things would have turn out.
      Instead, Ronaldinho came, and the rest is history.
      What i’m saying is, Rosell is gone, his successor is in charge now.
      Let’s see how we end up at the end of the season.
      What IF, somehow we win the treble this season with Bartomeu as president.
      How would the socios react to that?

    2. The Beckham story, BTW, is something I have hard time understanding. I have been a fan of the club since the early 90s, but even in 2003 there was nowhere near the same 24/7 detailed internet coverage of what’s happening around the club, so while I was aware that such a promise was made, I did not know the socios had bought into the idea to such an extent. With all the recent talk about identity, this is quite difficult to understand.

      The identity was taken to an extreme by Guardiola, but it was there in the early 00s too – Barca has been playing its own brand of football ever since Cruyff was the coach, and while the early 00s were a very bad time when we deviated the most from it, it was still the case that someone like Beckham was as foreign to the style and philosophy of the club as it gets. Remember that he was good at two things – long crosses from the right and free kicks. That was most definitely not the Barca way even at a time when nobody could have foreseen the future tiki-taka era.

      Ronaldinho was a much better fit, and not just in retrospect, the club had already spent nearly a decade being reliant on a series of Brazilian geniuses to create magic out of nothing.

      So how did anyone think it was a good idea to get Beckham?

    3. This was after Luis Figo went to Real Madrid and at the time Real Madrid were also trying to sign Beckham. The appeal of a sweet sweet revenge, apart from getting a top player must have been too tantalizing.

    4. As Peter says, this was after Perez won RM elections due to the promise he made. He will bring Figo to their town. RM members vent for that. Figo at that time was among top 5 players in the world. Later it was followed by Zidane and Ronaldo.
      As usual, this started to become a trend during the elections for a new president of a club, aka, promise a big signing.
      When Beckham signing was promised, he was already the biggest PR player in the world, not suitable to us, but anyway a star.
      A lot of people felt disappointed when we didnt sign him, but well, Ronnie made all that madness disappear.

    5. Reportedly we never tried to get Beckham anyway. It was a plan hatched by Rosell and Forentino Perez of all people to help Joan Laporta win presidential elections.

    6. I know the story about Rosell and Florentino, what I don’t understand is why the socios liked Beckham.

      Can you imagine that now?

    7. Personally I don’t think I would vote for Bartomeu even if I had the chance. I could be swayed, but it would take some convincing.

      Even with a treble. Still, it would be a tremendous boost for him, make no mistake about that.
      Truth is, Bartomeu could reverse a lot of the damage if the team wins a treble. He would have to cut ties with Qatar and maybe sign a new contract with a shirt producer, but with the current rates they could actually sign those contracts, point at the team and the trophies and say:

      “We already have the best team, but if we need, we have the means to sign the players we need in the winter window. Also, we won’t need to put a commercial name on Camp Nou, unlike those greedy sellouts in Madrid.”
      That’s especially important if they get some real professionals and real “human resource managers” in the board.

      In essence, there may be a reason why Bartomeu rushed the elections. But it’s a big IF, and hinges on multiple trophies, and right now Barcelona is in second place in La Liga, there are three matches to be played to win CdR and you can bet your ass Barcelona will get a top team to face if the team defeats City.

    8. I think many want to look to the FUTURE and acknowledge the PRESENT, someone COULD have been great and done great things but if they’ve done nothing but undo all the good why should it matter about the past?

  15. I think ciaran, peter, Jim are top dogs of this class at this moment; they’re all articulate and so full of sense.

    Since none of them are on Twitter & my life would suck if any of them get fed up and stop posting their views… (Kinda like our ex mods, they don’t show up much now & boy, it sucks.)

    So, I would like to request no personal attacks on their or anybody’s person. Thank you.

    Everyone has different views. But when you say, ‘Oh come on, stop defending them’;
    you are robbing the rest of us from some excellent comments. And I don’t think that is fair at all.
    Good day.

    1. Now you’ve got me worried , Yuvi. Are you aware of an impending attack ? Incoming . . .

      Seriously, ‘though, thanks for the sentiment but as other sites do deteriorate this one, imo, very rarely sinks to those depths and if it does it is often brought back on track by commentators before mods can get to it. I just wish Kxevin didn’t get so depressed with it as, in many ways, imo, it’s a shining light among Internet blogs and that’s largely due to his lead in terms of tackling the argument and not the person ( he’s still havering about Masche, ‘though. 🙂 )

      I’m not on Twitter because I actually think it’s worse – despite it’s amazing power in news development. – both in the personal interactions and lack of scope to develop any thoughts. Just as tone vanishes in an email in the wrong hands, so Twitter to my mind exaggerates this problem. Speaking as an English teacher (ex, now!) it has,however, as far as I can see conversely inspired some of my acquaintances to move from brief statements into penning more lengthy pieces on blogs etc. which can only be good.

    2. Im not in high school buddy, I’ll say what I want without separating internet commenters into “tiers”

    3. Thanks Yuvi.
      I’m not a fan of twitter, at least not in theory. I don’t have twitter but I find it hard to imagine that I would ever be able to say what I want in 140 characters… it’s not my style. I like to say exactly what I’m thinking with no restrictions.

      In terms of opinions, it’s always going to be difficult because every good conversation starts with differing opinions.
      I believe that Masch is a great option at centreback for matches where we only need 1 centreback and a couple of DMs. Against weaker, counterattacking teams Masch is the best defensive player in the game. He is the best tackler around and is excellent in one-on-one situations. He also makes incredibly rash decisions at times (admittedly less frequently this season) and his decision making isn’t good enough on the big occasions in my opinion. For these reasons I would play him or Busquets in those matches but have a genuine centreback partnership in behind.

      I also haven’t chimed in on the Neymar ‘showboating’ debate so he’s my two cents. I love it. Defenders intimidate attackers in practically every match by leaving their mark early on that players’ ankles. It’s considered a tactic. Let them know you are there I was taught even as a kid. It’s far more dangerous to intimidate an opponent with kicks and elbows than with tricks and words.
      Neymar gets under his opponents’ skin because he is ‘that’ good. He is the biggest difference maker in world football with the exception of Messi the extraterrestrial. By playing tricks and talking a little trash he is actually protecting himself.

      Finally, on the board. I am of the few that separates Bartomeu and Rosell. Every president we’ve had a f–ked up to varying degrees. I reckon that whoever we get next is likely to make as many mistakes. I just hope that whoever we vote in next is picked for who they ‘are’ not who they ‘are not’.

    4. Thanks Yuvi, but as far as I am concerned there’s absolutely no chance of me getting fed up. See, even when we exchange insults, I know that we are all culers, and I embrace the sometimes hotly debated difference of opinion. That for me is a sign that we care not just about the results on the football pitch, but also in the offices, in the mini-pitch as well, etc. This is why this is my club. We are all like a big family, in which we bicker, fight, stop talking, but woe be unto him, that comes from outside to try hurt one of us. 😀

      As for your wish for no personal attacks, well, when I for example am the first to insult you can’t blame them for responding in kind. Mea culpa, and I’m trying to keep it under control. 🙂

      I am on twitter, but not as active, mainly because you can’t say that much in 140 characters, and normally by the time I think of a witty comment, it’s too late. 😀

      Everyone else has already told their view about Ney and mere minutes after RM defeated Moyes’ Real Sociedad, MARCA
      had two articles, one about the fabulous skill of Bale that leaves defenders in embarrassment (no, not provocative at all), and another about the cute dance that Marcelo and James did after scoring the goal. Difference.

      Ney shouldn’t change at all. He has already changed enough for the “diver”/”actor” adjectives to get stuck sideways in the throats of his detractors. He runs back, he defends, he assumes responsibility in attack and his confidence grows every day. He is passionate about his football and I don’t know if you have seen it, but there’s a difference between the way he treated Elche’s defender and Juanfran/R.Garcia/Torres.

      BIG difference.

      Because Damian Suarez was not trying to injure him.

    5. hahahha ! that was brilliant ! I dont understand what they were saying but it was awesome to see what goes on between adversaries during a game. Neymar is 22 btw. Such awesomeness.

  16. I remember the game against Celta this season and how the world seemingly collapsed because of the “missing midfield”, even though we created more scoring opportunities in that game than any other.

    Lucho said at the beginning that he wanted us to become more unpredictable and to be able to win games in more ways than one. It seems like he’s succeeding.

  17. Wolsfurg 4 Bayern Munich 1. So what happened to Guardiola? They play high line,possession game no matter what which will make Guardiola look like another Arsene Wenger now. Another embarrassment is on cards for Bayern Munich in CL. Yes, it’s too early to call, but if Bayern stick to possession Atletico,Chelsea, Barca and Real can beat them easily. And last year there were some questions as who of Barca or Bayern keep more possession if they face each other. Now we know the answer ;).

    Btw Neymar has been absolutely brilliant. And we can excuse Suarez for lack of goals this season,(HIS FIRST SEASON). Been there, seen that. 😀

    1. Easy…. It’s only one match. They’ll be thereabouts at the end.

      Quick question for those who doubt the importance of a possession game. Why did Ancellotti, to my mind one of the best coaches around, with the best counter attacking side in the world, decide that he needed to move towards a more possession based, football playing model?

    2. For the exact same reason consecutive Barcelona coaches have tried to instill a more vertical way of playing. To make his team more diverse and less predictable.

    3. Hard to argue it was needed in their case, though, Lev, and he hasn’t thrown away their previous strength in trying to attain it.

    4. Neither has Louis enrique thrown away possession, you saw it in the second half of the game didn’t You?

    5. Not really counting anything against only ten, then nine men and us not really trying to do anything. We were up, they were tired and had lost the plot. The game was won with the sending off.

      I’m not arguing for either possession or vertical play. What I’m trying to say is we should have both. We haven’t been beating people because the team is playing vertically and long through balls catching defences unaware. Messi on the right is killing them at the moment. He’s collecting it deep, usually with the defence in front and making things happen. Both times he collected it in the last game nobody else would have escaped the defender’s attentions but he is good enough to. We won’t get the spaces AM were forced to give us in chasing the game against Villareal this evening. However, this front three will always do that. It hey are the vertical element in the team because they can all best players and move exquisitely. Tata had had this front three instead of Sanchez and Pedro ( or a first season Neymar) I reckon we’d now be holders of at least two trophies.

      What I’m arguing is that at the moment the midfield isn’t pulling its weight in terms of taking the strain off either the defence or the front three in terms of making them chase us. Improving that doesn’t lose us anything and certainly doesn’t mean we stop looking to get the ball to Messi or Neymar early. It’s not our midfield that are stopping attacks. They help with the press but it is our organisation and numbers at the back which is our strength. Neither Iniesta, nor Rakitic nor Rafinha – nor Busi – is hurtling around the field stopping attacks and they’re not holding the ball and moving it around either. What I don’t want to see is what happened to some extent in the last game that the defence think it acceptable to hoof long slow diagonal balls forwards. All that happens then is that good teams will lap them up and come at us – with better players. We need all parts of our team firing.

  18. Now that the transfer window is closed, It’s back to being left out of the squad for Montoya. Bartra out too which is really baffling. How on earth can these guys improve when they can’t even get some minutes here and there. We can definitely win without those 2 but for long term sakes they should be in the squad and getting some regular time.

    1. Amen to that. And/or at least give Adriano more minutes if it is decided that he shall be our replacement right back this season.

    2. Barca96 pls wait until they are left out for long before making it an issue. Their integration into the team isn’t bad thus far

    3. Left out for long? We’re halfway through the season now. The pattern is clear for all to see. And I’m also gutted for Xavi.

  19. What a game the final of australian open and what a player!!!!Novac jokovic is a computer,i dare to say he will break federer record!!!

  20. Jim, the game was won in the 3.5 minutes in which Barça scored two goals to turn a deficit into an advantage. This is when it was all over, because Atletico had to score three goals in the remaining 50 minutes WITHOUT conceding. Against a team which had already scored 3 goals.

    Simeone told the press that it was the sending off which killed the game, but that was for the benefit of the press and Los Indios. It was done and gone.

    As for the midfield: It seems to me that Luis Enrique is figuring out that most teams will either pack the bus and rely on the counter or press the midfield with bodies.

    In the first case the team doesn’t really need a controlling midfield as much as it does a “run and gun” midfield with creativity, but more importantly with the stamina to close down and press. Keeping possession is not the key element – recovering possession is. Recovering possession and destabilizing the defensive formation of the opponent.
    How do you destabilize a bus? One way is to give it a sliver of hope, give it an opportunity to go forward, because football in its essence is a game in which you go forward to put the ball in the opponent’s net. This moment, when the defensive formation needs to transform from reaction to action, when it needs to start moving forward and use the space, while at the same time leaving holes and space, the moment where there’s nothing but the idea of the attack… This is when the strikers and the midfield close down and recover the possession and use the space.
    Another way is to patiently stretch the opponent’s defence, lure it into a sleep mode, pass sideways with the metronomic precision of a pocket watch swinging on its chain. Of course, this is a more patient approach, which needs time to take effect, because both teams start with 100% stamina and full focus points.

    The opposite comes in effect when stuff like what Simeone tried happens. When the opponent decides to wrestle possession and starts throwing bodies forward, or simply packs its midfield with destroyers, whose task is to bully the midfield into submission… This is when the midfield needs to get rid of the ball as soon as humanly possible, or allow itself to be bypassed entirely. It’s not just because of the danger of turnovers, but also because the midfielders are under a lot of pressure, mental and physical, and you need their fresh unbruised legs and their fresh minds to last.

    So yeah, to tell you the truth, I’m not excessively worried about Barça’s midfield mid-life crisis or whatever. You have to beat the enemy in front of you, and those vary in player traits, qualities, tactical approach, surroundings. As a matter of fact I am glad we are seeing this “unrecognisable” Barça, because this means that they are learning new tricks.

    Possession will always be there, the quality of passing as well, but just like any useful tool it has its application, there is time and place and conditions for its use. You don’t use a screwdriver to hammer nails in oak boards, just like you don’t use hammers to loosen rusty nuts and bolts.

    1. Fair enough Peter but never underestimate momentum. At home with eleven players and the aggressive mentality you mention three goals are not impossible. You get one it can be a game changer but that’s only a small point as we’re in agreement the second half was a procession for whatever reason.

      With regard to the midfield why we’re seeing now is what a few of us have been saying since the start of the season: that once Suarez settles in we will have a front three capable of scoring goals on their own. We now seem to have reached that stage but we have only had three/four games of relative success so far. Our midfield dominance, leaving aside Pep’s years have taken us to a record points win in LA Liga and even last year within an ace of the three trophies. With our midfield and this front three I reckon we’d have won the league in a canter. We’ll still have to spend the majority of games playing through the midfield and camped outside opponents’ areas. I haven’t got a problem with us using this occasionally, as long as it’s what we’re currently doing which is finding Messi wide, deeper and earlier. Won’t work all the time though, especially once teams get wise to it. I’m still looking for more from the mids.

      Anyway, I’m not arguing with the results against AM. It was good to see us scoring goals against them. Here’s hoping we get some more tonight.

    2. I agree Jim, I wish we had more of a flowing mid ( maybe rafinha today provides something ?) and, really, we have freaking MSN up front… of course we’re going to score goals if we get the ball to them quickly… which is why Im hesitant to dub ENrique anything close to special yet

    3. This is a great comment. We have been trying to come up with ways to beat a bus on the road since Pep’s last season with varying success. Ironically, We were most successful under Tito in 2012-3 when our defense was at its worst. Teams then were tempted to go toe to toe with us in a futile quest to get all three points. The best example of this might have been 4-5 at Deportivo with Masch and Song at CB. Certainty a tempting duo for any home side to attack.

      This year our defense has been solid on the road and we are not giving up of set pieces, so the problem is that we have failed miserably to score on the road in many of our games. So far we have not scored in 27% of our away games and given our unconvincing wins away at alencia, Villarreal, and Almeria the conclusion for us is that we just have to find a way to score on the road preferably early.

      In contrast, RM have scored in all their away games this year so that is the difference in the league so far in a nutshell. Whether RM will slip up enough in the league for the rest of the season is out of our hands, but we must at least consistently score against our opponents away and hope that a win at home against RM later this season can be decisive.

      Neymar and Messi have been superhuman, but Iniesta, Rakitic, and Suarez have to step up their game. If they do then we have some great football to look forward to and I don’t see why we can’t beat anyone else out there!

  21. Barcelona line-up (official): Bravo – Alves Pique Mascherano Alba – Rafinha Busquets Iniesta – Messi Suarez Neymar

    Rafinha/Iniesta. Very aggressive against a strong opponent.

  22. Roller coaster… can’t blame the team for not offering excitement! Wonderful that we managed a very difficult opponent. Neymar had an odd night off, but a goal is a goal is a goal. Suarez? Starting to look a bit despondent; is guilty of many held up attacks, but also an assist! Iniesta looked better; brought stability rather than sparkle (with some exceptions), and that may well be his new role. Rafinha showed promise indeed. Team looked a bit sloppy overall, but there’s been some tough rides lately.

  23. I just wanted to happily eat crow and say that, at least tonight, and despite a few minor slip-ups, Dani had an overall excellent game, on both sides of the ball. Very nice to see.

    Rafhina was fantastic. So THIS is the guy everyone was raving about. Nice to see him show up. If he can keep playing like that, I think we have a future starting midfielder.

    Iniesta started invisible, but started contributing second half. Pique and Mascherano both very good, bar a couple of slight lapses. Neymar, funky but finishes. Suarez – sigh. I don’t think his “assists” made up for his poor touches. I guess we’ll keep waiting. And Messi, he’s back to a place (consistently) where it’s impossible to over-hype him. Just magic, again.

  24. At the risk of defending someone I’ve defended ad nausuem, Suarez had one very good shot that a very good keeper kept out. He whiffed one, but it was close, and he was behind two of our goals. Every striker needs a year at Barca before the scoring comes.

    This team is showing resilience this year. I don’t like getting behind, but the faith is back that we can come back.

    1. “Every striker needs a year at Barca before the scoring comes”

      -Couldn’t agree more. The time to assimilate, learn the player movement AND understand the expectations, he needs a season AND preseason to get it all together. Just like Villa did in recent times, and Henry.

    2. Agreed. It’s not so much the goals though, or even the assists, but the fact that he’s often seemed a half step slower than he needs to be, and his touch has been below Barca standards. These are not primarily a matter of adjusting to a new team. Still, I am confident he’ll come good sooner rather than later. In the meantime, those whiffs sure are frustrating though!

  25. Putting a different spin on the result, isn’t it ‘nice’ to see the team show some resilience and heart to come back from goals the last few weeks? shows some character and belief…a good sign of a good team is they still manage to win and get results when not playing their best day in day out.

    Just win baby!

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