Betis 1, Barça 1, aka “Double robbery”

La Liga. Played by geniuses, run by jackasses and officiated by buffoons. If only the first was true today.

Like Atleti, Barça played a midweek Copa tie and ran into a buzzsaw of an energized opponent in Betis, who were spoiling for a fight. A team that is on the turnaround after getting a new coach, Betis fought as if their lives depended upon it, pressing, putting Barça in danger time and again and finally grabbing a goal that was the payoff for their hard work, tireless effort and creativity. Hats off to them.

But Barça is better than that, has been better than that and should have been better than that. It was, to be generous, a desultory effort from the team today that pulled a draw out of the lackluster stroll in the Andalusian sunshine thanks to some late Messi genius.

The talk of the match will be a contentious sequence in the Betis box that should have resulted in either a goal allowed for Barça or a penalty for the neck takedown of Neymar. Neither was awarded, which was ridiculous but typical of the refereeing standard in La Liga. It’s easy to point to conpiracies but the simple fact of the matter is that Liga officiating is dogshit, compounded by being self-righteous dogshit. How many times have we witnessed in matches, and not just Barça matches, a bad call accompanied by the fool puffing his chest and aggressively defending his error?

Week after week in match after match it happens. If you only watch Barça it’s easy to think that it only happens to us, but everybody, every week in almost every match, gets jacked. Barça had as clear a goal as you will ever see, disallowed. Not only was the ball over the line, but the man who cleared it in that frenzy of activity was halfway into his own net. When the late goal from Suarez came, it was easy to scream about how this should have been the full points, and the team getting a reward for a thoroughly crap display.

But Barça was lucky to be in that match, and only were thanks to a sterling day by Ter Stegen, who made three match-saving chances. One early with an aerial dive, another when he just got fingertips to a blast from distance and finally, with Betis up 1-0 and headed for a match-clinching second, he rolled out from his line and stonewalled the Betis attacker. Clear MOTM.

Ter Stegen conceded a goal, which is worth a look. Betis played it really well, putting the set piece ball in close to the goal mouth, with a big man to harass Ter Stegen whose punch could have been more aggro, even as a case could also be made for a foul/obstruction. Ter Stegen is still learning, and one thing he will learn is that keepers will always get the call if they go hard for a punch. Go through the defender’s head if you have to, just clear that ball.

That said, Ter Stegen got the ball away from net, but directly to a Betis player who was standing there, unmarked for the tap home. It was 1-0 to the home side, and it was deserved. From that point Barça mustered a little bit of a response, but were still playing like tourists, taking a stroll in the afternoon sun.

Luis Enrique opted for a rotation XI of Ter Stegen, Vidal, Pique, Mathieu, Digne, Rakitic, Suarez Minor, Turan, Messi, Suarez, Neymar. It should have been enough to win. Betis is 13th in the table, but playing better than their league position dictates of late. Barça still had a gulf in quality, which was negated by Betis playing like demons.

This was the first match of the Busquets absence where he was clearly missed. Rakitic was significantly poorer today than he was against Eibar, but Eibar also didn’t play with the same energy and effort that Betis did today. He was a step behind play for the entire match, in a crucial position for Barça that dictates the attack as well as match control.

Another key absence was Umtiti, whose presence in helping Ter Stegen get attacks started is, again, not to be underestimated. Mathieu would move into space, but rarely presented himself as a viable option in terms of linking play, which Ter Stegen is thinking of. Pique was being pressed by Betis, with his attack facilitating role in mind. That left Ter Stegen having to play more longer passes to static mids and attackers, which helped Betis keep and turn possession.

The team had a unique opportunity to apply and keep applying pressure to Real Madrid and Sevilla, who they are chasing in the title race. Dig deep and find something, something more than the effort that cheated them as much as the officials did. Players have off games. Players shouldn’t have games where they act like they want to be in bed.

Suarez was where attacks went to die, as he played almost every second he was on the pitch as though he had cinderblocks for boots. Messi was … low energy. Neymar flagged after working hard on defense, which cost him on offense. He had the best chance for Barça to score in the first half, but was thwarted by some exceptional keeper play from Adan for Betis, who needed every fraction of his 6-foot-4-inch frame to stop that shot. Neymar should have done better, but don’t sell the effort short from Adan.

The match got to the half, and it was unusual because everything happened the way that it was supposed to as Betis clearly tired. You could even see the point where Barça usually takes advantage of that and puts the knife in. But misplayed passes to stationary teammates, easily picked off by Betis players combined with midreading of movement, bad touches and overplaying the ball. The team played too slowly to stress the Betis defenders, who took full advantage of it.

There are many questions to be asked, including did Luis Enrique underestimate his opponent in picking his XI, thinking they would sit deep rather than coming out to press and play? Given the subs that he made to correct that error, almost certainly. But that doesn’t excuse the lassititude that permeated the team’s display today. On a day during which Roger Federer showed the example of resilience and leaving it all on the court as a striking contrast to the grim Barça effort, the difference was striking. Barça was physically and mentally unprepared for what they got today, and never really responded to it. The blame for the result lies with them.

Digne was poor in buildup play, giving away passes like Caga Tio. Rakitic was at sea, as well. But it all stemmed from movement, pace and speed of play. Everyone will have their favorite goat. Some will say Luis Enrique, others will say Ter Stegen, others Mathieu, etc, etc. But as Luis Enrique said after the match, the team was way below its level and Betis took advantage.

Was Barça victimized by bad officiating? Yes. But the team gets crap calls all the time. They just don’t matter when winning 4-0. We can’t excuse officiating being crap with, “Well, that’s just La Liga.” The head of the league, Javier Tebas, said that goal-line technology is too expensive. For a league that saw almost a billion-dollar TV deal this season? Worth a bit of a dig.

When MLS, the American soccer federation, was considering the technology back in 2014, intial cost was about $260k per stadiun, plus an additional $3900 per match. The Premiership managed that cost by making each team contribute 15k to the technology effort, to defray the initial cost. At around that same time, Michel Platini, asked about the same HawkEye technology for UEFA, also cited cost, claiming that it would cost more than 50m to equip all of the stadiums. For a league with more than 2bn in annual revenue? Hmmm, okay. But even if you just put an official on the goal line, it’s about EUR700 per match, by Premiership salary standards (it would shock if Liga paid officials as much.)

After the match, Luis Enrique said that the official need help, a comment that pointed out the terrible call while also calling for goal-line technology of some sort. He was also clear to point out that his team was crap. Both can be true. As so many culers rush hither and yon to claim being the victim, this can be true. It can also be true that the team victimized itself by being crap.

Is the Liga over? No. There are many matches be played, and teams can go on streaks. Look at the current Real Madrid form. Anyone saying the Liga is over need only look at last season, and how Barça had to, in effect, win it twice after a series of poor results made things more exciting than they should have been. If Real Madrid drops points to Celta Vigo, things are right back in play. You count this team out when the math says it’s impossible, not our paranoia.

The larger question is one of personnel. Luis Enrique can rotate everywhere except where it really matters. We can’t write off Paco Alcacer, but we can wonder how poor he must be when Luis Enrique plays a way out of form Suarez over Alcacer, even in a match such as this one where there is rotation. Turan can deputize for Neymar, but there is no answer for Messi, who is forced to self-manage himself in matches so that he can get through them all. Because short of injury or a legit minnow, Messi will start. That’s hard. He was way off today, and that lack of energy reflected in a team that takes its cues from him. But it’s hard to imagine how he has to feel, knowing that he will have to play every last match, that he is essential.

This rules out the larger question of does he, really? Luis Enrique isn’t going to consider resting and rotating him, reducing that query to one that is merely academic. But rest must be found for the triumvirate dubbed MSN. Their fatigue cost Barça a shot at the treble last season. Might it do so again?

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. I think the management of Neymar and Suarez has been okay lately. When it comes to Messi, however, I am worried. The last time he saw the bench was in December against Hercules, and it’s hard to see him getting any until maybe the home game against Leganes. It would have been nice to give him some minutes off in either of the Eibar and Las Palmas games when the team had already won, but Lucho opted for giving the minutes to Suarez instead. Hopefully Lucho has it under control. The club does invest a lot in technology to stay on top of the fitness aspect after all.

  2. Was going to rewatch the match but cheated by only viewing the highlights and moving onto my recording of the Australian Open. Emotional isn’t the word but more of that later as it also clarified something regarding Barca for me. Apologies again for the length but you’ll have figured out by now that Sunday is a slow day for me !

    While watching the match this morning ( God only knows what time it was for you lot across the pond ) I was reasonably content with the lineup ( given absences) and to be honest not too upset with the first half as Betis played really well. We had problems, as Kxevin says, getting from TS to the defence and defence to mids but we spent a fair amount of time round about their penalty area and I expected them to tire second half – except I’m not sure what I was basing that on. We had high possession stats but none of it was doing anything other than asking them to shuffle slowly left and right. They weren’t struggling to contain us or having to quickly shift side to side. There were two main reasons for this. Our passing involves our defence too much because even when we get it out to the mids it keeps coming back because they can’t keep it there, even with Messi. He’s the only one that looks comfortable with a defender in tow, turning this way and that until he is prepared to part with it. Our mids the longer they keep it the more worried they look in possession. The other was sloppy taking in of passes, lack of body turning in advance all of which slowed movement.

    So, they didn’t tire, played better than us, prevented us getting the ball to the front three and deservedly got a goal. Before talking about the goal could I say I thought TS had a great game ? As Kxevin says with a few more years’ experience he comes off his line like a bulldozer going through anything in his path instead of the wussy attempt at a punch. He still gets a pass from me for his passing under pressure and saves. The main issue for me is with SR. If you have a look it is his man that gets between TS and the ball and that happens because at no point in the build up is SR goalside of his man. Very poor marking I’m afraid and another sign that his days at RB may be numbered. He’s just not a natural defender. Doesn’t have the toughness required.

    After that I thought the CB pairing was pretty good. I hear what you say, Kxevin, about Umtiti’s better passing ability and agree but Mathieu’s passing looked good to me apart from one in his box where I was shouting at him for a poor pass out to Rakitic until I watched the replay and discovered that Rakitic attempted to dummy it by letting it go through his legs ! I like him but I’m not sure what extra Umtiti would have given us as the main problem for me were the static mids. He may have been able to hit a few better longer balls but that’s about it.

    I can’t blame Messi as I’ve been one of those saying he drops too deep too early. He didn’t do that today and the front three suffered big time as nobody could step up and create ANYTHING ! He is literally all we have at the moment in terms of creation. Today he hung about just outside their box and hardly saw it. Neymar worked hard but he’s still tilting at windmills for me. I’d like to see him beat one then use a wall pass while he’s flying. Not easy, I know. Suarez, second half especially, was isolated again. Not sure Denis was the best to take off as we chased the game. He has many flaws but at least he gets ahead of the front three into the box at times.

    Our goal spoke volumes for the above. It had to be them that created our chance. When they did Messi struck with another sublime pass to Suarez who with little time and nothing to aim at placed it in off the post. Great finish. I’ll watch it again, Kxevin, but I just can’t think off hand why Suarez deserves the criticism. Was it missed chances or work rate ? It’s stretching it a bit to slag the current leader for the pichichi for not scoring enough and I love watching how he stretches defences. I honestly don’t see a lack of effort from him, given its his job to stay up front as an out ball. He only comes into it if we can get the ball into their box.

    Back to the Australian Open for a minute. I was fortunate enough to watch Federer in the Wimbledon QF against Mario Ancic in 2008 I think. Only six rows back from the baseline I could watch Federer glide back and forwards, feet barely ever landing on the ground and that day I knew I was seeing something extraordinary. Well, almost nine years later I saw the same thing again today: class, elegance, balance and confidence with the best hand / eye co-ordination I’ve ever seen. Actually reduced me to tears at the end after that rally in the last set eighth game. I’ve been lucky to live at a time when I’ve watched him, Connors, McEnroe, Borg, Nicklaus, Seve, Tom Watson, Dalglish, Best as well as the best Football team the world has known.

    What has this to do with today ? Well, I sat after our game annoyed at the lack of effort and again the lack of a decent midfield. However, as I watched the tennis quality soar higher and higher, pressure put on and dealt with on both sides and best play delivered at vital times I got to thinking about our current crop of players. How many of them are really at a level high enough to cushion the ball in an instant, have the vision to know where opponents are and turn as you take the ball in, strike a pass with exactly the right weight ( any one of Messi’s passes ! ) drift past an opponent, create a chance with imagination and do all the above while under pressure ?

    The honest answer is that I don’t think many of them ( Vidal, SR, Digne, Rafinha, Denis, Gomes, Rakitic, ) will ever have that. I keep hoping for Turan and he did have a decent first half when he actually put his foot on the ball and changed direction quickly a couple of times showing confidence but maybe I’m clutching at straws there. So there’s really no point in assessing them against the standards I think a Barca first teamer needs as they’ll always fall short. Each of them has one or two of the necessary attributes but you need them all for our midfield to work well and we saw again today what happens when they don’t – or can’t. (I’m also, however, not prepared to accept this quality from the midfield of the best team in the world. )

    So I’m left with only a feeling of annoyance that we can step it up when we lose a goal but didn’t see fit to do it before then ? Rotations mean that tiredness is only a plausible excuse for the front three ( and maybe Pique? Who, btw, we need to ask to step up and start running the back line with a rod of iron. I liked his snarling face at times today when someone didn’t do their job. )

    What I’m getting at is that what we need in a mid is rare in this world so when you see it you go and get it. The only complete one is,as we’ve said before, Thiago. I personally would add Samper although I appreciate his defence won’t be as good as Busi’s , at least initially. What he does offer in that role though is a supreme ability to take in, control, pass or carry a ball that would immediately help playing out from the back. He is also constantly changing his position to offer himself for a pass ( not that that does him any good at Granada). I don’t watch enough world football to know any others who might fit the bill.

    We’ve been told that with a front three like ours the team’s job is to get it to them adapt. That’s great when it works but what’s Plan B ?

    1. The qualities you ask from a Barca midfield are a bit too ambitious, I think. Firstly because there might be maybe fifteen midfielders total in European football who can do all that on a consistent basis, and second because – whether we like it or not – the role of the Barca midfield HAS changed a bit during the last few years, and partly prioritizes other qualities, though not to say it would hurt to have the ones you mention.

      From your list, I agree with you on Rakitic, who was brought to the team for other things but now has a hard time doing those. Vidal and Digne are wingbacks with some different requirements. I have some faith that both Suarez Minor and Rafinha will be able to do these things at a high level if they get regular playing time for a season (but maybe I’m seeing something that isn’t there). And Gomes is still in training season, though I agree he doesn’t look promising at the moment.

      This midfield (even without Iniesta) has provided both control and creativity against strong opponents for the last few matches. They haven’t done it today, but they have shown that they are able to. Bring back Thiago? I’m all for it, but I fear that ship might have sailed unless Bayern become spectacularly worse. And I would very much like to have Samper as well, and hope that either Enrique or a different coach brings him back before he leaves the club for good (it was disappointing that he wasn’t brought back from a relegation club in January).

    2. I’d be delirious if I thought there were that many options, Georgejorge.. I was thinking maybe three or four.

      I’d agree the role has changed but I’d argue not for the better and not through necessity. It has come about through the players we purchase. It’s interesting that the only two I can think of are both from La Masia ( there may be others I know ) but they come with our style hard wired. Settling in would be minimal and potential rewards great although I think you’re right that it would be hard to get Thiago back unless Bayern go through a bad patch.

      Everything is skewed just now because of our reliance on Messi for both creation and scoring but once that freak of nature plus Iniesta are gone I’m not sure where we stand. It’s only opinions but I can’t remember Gomes, Suarez, Rafinha or Rakitic creating much ( anything ? ) clear cut in the last half dozen or so matches. I remember Messi, Suarez – and I’d like to remember Neymar but not much else.

      Tito, I know what you mean and I’d like him to score every time he touches the ball but it’s not like that wiith strikers. With Suarez we also have a creator of goals and he gets big ones. How many good chances did he get today ? Removing emotion from it he has a better goals per game ratio than Messi ( think about that ) he was pichichi last year, leads it this, led La Liga last year in assists ( 20! The year before ) along with Messi . . . . What more are we looking for ?

    3. JIm, that match was magnificent. It;s precisely why I mentioned it above. Federer knew what he had to do, and did it. I can’t imagine playing like he did with a damaged adductor. Note how he kept shading the wide forehand side to keep from having to expose his weakness, and started striking the ball with more force and precision as a response to being wounded. What a match, and what a competitor.

      Per your Umtiti query, he and Rafinha are linking players. I like to call them circuit closers. It’s particularly important with a static midfield such as we were burdened with today. You can count on the fingers of one hand the time a player moved to a pass. This made the Betis press much more effective. The whole team was lackluster.

      Compare that with RM, who took care of La Real. You do what you need to do to become champion. The team had chances to dispatch Betis, and didn’t do it.

      Turan was good today. He had the best overall first half of any performer, for me. The weird thing about Turan is that he and Rakitic kinda do the same thing, which is defend and facilitate. Suarez Minor fades in and out, and as you note, needs many more reps before he is ready for his expected role.

      Man, Rafinha would have been useful today. That dude has the worst luck. He’s the exact kind of industrious midfielder who can solve the problems the team faced today. Every time he gets into the side with any regularity, he gets injured and is gone for a month or so. What is with those Alcantara muscles and tendons?

      But he would have been able to fill that need that you cite, to keep the ball moving and get it from place to place. Denis Suarez isn’t strong enough on the ball. Gomes isn’t physical enough.

      Good eye on the goal marking. I didn’t really do an in-depth breakdown of what happened, and why that Betis player was just standing there, but he shouldn’t have been. I would imagine some film and training work will be done on what to do with situations like that, though I can’t imagine the players don’t already know what to do.

      That XI was good enough to beat Betis. It is wrong of us to expect them to sparkle every match, and to play like gods. But this season, it seems that the extremes of performance have broader swings than in previous seasons. That’s an odd one that I have zero idea about the source of.

  3. Luis Suarez gets the criticism because it seems that the writer does not like him… mainly because of sh@t he did in the past. Not saying that Suarez has been exceptional, but he has played OK so far this month…

    1. Actually, “the writer” has moved on from his past, which has never been a part of the evaluation process of Suarez’s performance. As you note, he has “played OK” this month. When Suarez is playing OK, he isn’t sharp. Today, he wasn’t sharp. Recall the play where he received the ball at the top of the box, stumbled over and gesticulated in frustration? When he’s on form, he turns on that ball, and creates something.

      His first touch is erratic. Always has been, and the team knew that when it got him. I don’t “like” him because I don’t really “like” ANY Barça player. I’m not supposed to when evaluating the team. I look at what they did to help or hinder the situation. His late goal was huge. The team was lucky it’s overall crapitude didn’t have the match already done and dusted.

      But the larger question is how many goals would an in-form Suarez have tallied today, or had a hand in creating? Watching the match, I’d say, conservatively, two or three. But when his touch is off, he’s a mess. Then he seems to get frustrated. You dont have to dislike him to see that and point it out. It’s clear to see.

  4. Im not advocating Kevin when he writes about Suarez, just that i think he sees the same as i see sometimes. The problem with Suarez for me is his first touch and control of the ball. Often enough due to lack of that quality an attack cannot be finished and many times it leads to a missed oportunity. He had this all his playing career and it wont change with us.
    He does though, surprise me with some pass but he oftenly frustrates me when he just have to control the ball and pass it and he cant.
    But as Jim noted, we tend to compare all of them with Messi’s standard which is not fair. Sometimes we just expect too much.

    1. Tito, I compare Suarez with his own standard. Every player has his own standard. Comparing anyone with Messi’s standard just leads to madness and perpetual dissatisfaction.

      When Suarez is sharp, he is attacking, creating and raising hell from the center circle in. Recall the goal that he created from pressing, then stripping a defender before finishing himself. That is sharp Suarez. Or the pass that he laid out over distance for Messi to finish.

      A person on Twitter has dubbed Suarez the worst best player in the game, which is accurate. He will do something astonishing, then is unable to complete a 5-meter pass. I’m not sure I will ever understand what makes his game tick.

  5. Bravooo we found the problem in this team!Luis Suarez!Lets find another number 9 in the world that can do what Luis do in every game!Whatever people said if we did nt had that number 9 from 2014 we could nt won what we won!Gulf in quality with a midfield of Turan Rakitic Denis?Mathieu is good for China,Digne good for a midtable liga team and Neymar cant finish chances because GKs are very good!

  6. It doesn’t really matter which striker you bring into the team… he will be criticized for not having the quality of Messi, Xavi or Iniesta… happened to David Villa…

  7. And not i am not mad if we dont win La Liga,we won so many trophies but because Lucho decided to rotate in Liga and risk it for the Copa Del Rey!What a stupid plan!

  8. Villagers, douse those torches. People are rallying to the defense of Suarez, and I suppose I have graduated from hating Messi to hating Suarez. I guess that’s progress.

    Jim, my issue with Suarez today is only clear if you see the whole match. There were more than a few incidents where he killed attacks via a poor touch, bad pass or indecision. A couple of them were balls where when he is sharp, he creates danger and scoring chances, as he has done in the past. Today he stomped around like a mastodon.

    Victor thinks ‘the writer” hates Suarez, and Luisthebeast believes that he is being singled out for blame in a piece that sahs the whole team was crap. This is why I am not a fan of any player. It obscures vision and makes you like a sentinel, alert for any slight to yojr hero. Suarez was off today. It doesn’t belittle his overall contribution to the team to point that out.

    I also noted that Rakitic was poor. But because he has no defenders, there is nobody to scream that I hate him. Pique got roasted today, but again, there is no one to say I hate him.

    These pieces that I write take a wholistic view of a match.. I have neither the time nor the patience for vendettas. For as long as I have been blogging, I have loved or hated a long list of players, dating back to Henry in the Offside days, which predate most of you. My response now is as it was then. I don’t care. Because I care aboht and evaluate the team.

    Note the critique of the XI selections. No? Or that Neymar should have done better with his scoring chance. Naaah. Easy to miss when you are only looking for one thing, which is ammunition for indignant comments. Read what is written. Not what you want to see. That is important.

    I respect all critiques and debate. But debate is a lot easier if based on the entirety of what is written, and the overall idea expressed. In this case, the team sucked. It let itself down by punking ojt when a lesser opponent got in its face. That is the crux of my contention.

    1. Woa, woa… first, let me clear something up… when I said “the writer”… that wasn’t meant as a snide remark nor anything offensive… I just meant: the one who wrote the article. Nothing more.

      Now, addressing your post: yes, you also pointed out how poor Rakitic was… and I also have read articles where you criticize other players (even Messi)… but I get the impression that you criticize Suarez more than any other team player.

      Sure, not saying that Luis Suarez hasn’t deserved lots of criticism, he has had several games where he was totally poor and (like you wrote on the article) the place “where attacks come to die”,,, but I still get that impression, even moreso because IIRC: you were one (of many culers) who was against Suarez’s signing back in mid-2014.

      However, LE has proved to be a very good coach (how is there lots of Barca supporters that want him out is something that escapes me… a treble and a double in just two years is truly something remarkable) and I’d rather think that if he decides to maintain him most of the time is because Suarez is doing what’s he’s supposed to do… even when he doesn’t have the ball control of Messi or Iniesta; and there are games when he doesn’t even track back. (Something that he should work to improve… but I’m guessing that won’t happen)

  9. I didn’t watch the game because I didn’t wake up early enough, but I saw the highlights. It was a tough game against a very high pressing opponent. Mathieu the poor guy, just doesn’t have what it takes to be a Barcelona CB maybe it’s that missing meniscus. It seems to me like the team was just hungover from the Sociedad game and the early kick-off certainly didn’t help. I agree with Kxevin though, and I think he’s fair in his criticism of Suarez. The man does have a touch of stone at time, and so did Eto’o at times. It’s just part of the game. It would be nice to be sharp 100% of the time but it doesn’t happen. CR7 has been very poor lately, specially against Celta in Vigo, but today he had an assist and a goal, which made me very sad. I was hoping he was going to continue that barren run of form he was on, because when he is awful Madrid play with 10 men because he doesn’t press. La Liga isn’t over. Real Madrid has to go to Vigo next weekend, and we all know that everyone struggled there LOOKING AT YOU TER STEGEN, but in the highlights, I did see Ter Stegen’s wonderful perfomance. He closed down Ruben Castro perfectly, a better strike would have chipped him, but not everyone is Messi. Vidal wasn’t very good today, he’s fast but not strong defensively and neither is Sergi Roberto as much as we love him. I dont know why Luis Enrique doesn’t start him at DM or even Masch, Rakitic was poor that was very evident. Something is wrong with our Croatian, because he’s usually very good, maybe he is low in confidence. All I know is that Sevilla lost, and that was beneficial to us, but we have to keep on pressing RM. They’re gonna buckle, everyone does we just gotta make sure we are there to ream the rewards. I honestly believe we are shooting ourselves in the foot by not buying a world class RB this transfer window, because against the Bayerns, Juventuses of the world, we are going to struggle. They are going to ride our RB like no other, because its an obvious weak point. I’m sure missing Mister Good Crazy in The House . a.k.a Dani Alves 🙁

  10. It has been a pretty rough weekend stateside, so I was really looking forward to the game as at least a temporary distraction, despite the 2 AM kick-off time on the west coast.

    Well, that didn’t quite go as I had wished. Frustrated is what I felt afterwards, and a lot of it has already been dissected in Kxevin’s post and the comments. I will just pick on one guy, who many of us (myself included) are usually quite protective about around here, because I just have to get it off my chest. Neymar, for God’s sake, what is going on with his finishing? I have never seen him make so many poor goal mouth decisions one after the other like he is doing this season. Narrow angle on both sides, goalkeeper stationary with spread legs? Nutmeg!!! Or chip? Why go goalkeeper’s strong side, at a weird height? And it is just the latest one of many that have left me scratching my head.

    There is something going on in this guy’s head. Overthinking, self-doubt, or God knows what. And he really needs to sort this out. He is, believe it or not, one of 6 players in the history of football who have scored 300-odd professional career goals before the age of 25. The guy with most Puskas award nominations. Goalscoring IS indeed a big part of what he brings to a team, even if he is more than his goals. He needs help. Barca need his goals.

  11. It is very unfortunate we keep talking about the players.

    Does anyone even remember we have a coach.

    One thing that has been consistent in barcas poor form this season is the poor midfield. We have a 6 attacking midfielders that can offer 6 different things to the team but we keep having the same problem. Don’t you think it is time to question the coach’s ability to use those different qualities to our advantage.

    One thing I have noticed about kxevin is his bias towards defending the coach. This is perhaps the only article I will see him mention anything about the coach. For Gods sake coaches are the one that gets sacked and not the players.

    We have a team that appears poorly drilled on the most basic aspect of a Barcelona teams play which is to play the ball from the defence and game after game this same problem is evident without any sign of improvement.

    We have 6 attacking midfielders and not a single one apart from iniesta can hold onto the ball against a single opponent let alone 2 or 3. We now have to depend on messi to drop back and create for the front 3 that includes himself. Yet we claim to have a coach.

    We have the most dangerous front three in the world and we have a coach that can’t even make his midfielders get the ball to them in dangerous places yet we wonder Why Suarez has been poor lately. We wonder Why neymar couldn’t score for almost 3months. We wonder Why paco alcacer has not scored a single goal for the team in a competitive match.

    We have a beast in suarez yet he is struggling to get clear chances created for him. Neymar is one of the best finishers in the game but he is playing too far from the post. Why? because he has to combine midefield role of holding. on to the ball and creating play or starting an attack.

    We keep saying messi has evolved with his recent midfield roles but actually he is doing it out of necessity for the team to win. Just because we have 5 other midfielders apart from iniesta who are drilled by the coach to just recover balls and play to the defence rather than initiate an attack.

    Of the 15goals scored by Suarez in the league, can Kxevin please tell us how many was created by a midfielder. I don’t know the precise number but am very sure it is less than 5.

    On the issue of the title challenge. it is too late already forget the mathematics and read the roulete form. If real Madrid with the mountain of injuries plaguing the team can still dispatch real sociedad easily and barca with a nearly full team are struggling with a 16th placed real betis while still having this Russian roulette kind of form, you can imagine what will happen with a fully fit Madrid team in late February onward.

    A serious team don’t fade in and out of form and a good coach knows how to stabilise it.

    I always say it LE is a fluke who just happen to find himself with a group of great player and at a great club. ever since the departure of xavi from that midfield, it has been downward spiral from there.

    Liverpool has missed the presence of sadio mane in their team. Going on to loose 3 games consecutively. now imagine if Suarez was also in that Liverpool team let along the combination of MSN.

    When I look at this barca team play, i see a disjointed group of players with no synergy of team play.

  12. Can people just say what they think without having to assign motives and intentions to what Kevin has to write?
    Because he made it clear that he doesn’t care about individuals and he thinks LE is not a fluke, so he gives him the credit and trust that a Treble winning manager deserves. Isn’t that straight forward?

  13. Two more things.
    I did not see a pressing from us until the last 15 minutes, dont know why, maybe they were

  14. Jim, me too am kind of supporting Kevin’s view here on Suarez. First of all, yes, if you create 4 or 5 balls for a no.9 and he scores 1, then that is fine for him (This is what CR7 do, 89 minutes of nothing and 1 min of a goal he is best player in the world!). That is what a no.9 is supposed to do and true, he has to be served by his midfield and the wingers. Am completely with you about our midfield, he is not really served. But the thing is Barca always dont play that way, right? We have a kind of all participating passing game in which the no.9 too has to participate in some extent. Remember the Zlatan days, when the moment the free flowing ball reached him, the flow stopped (mostly). Kevin is on point here that, Suarez either makes a Meesi/Iniesta kind of feather touch once and for the rest of the 9 times he completely destroys the move (not always, sometimes passing the ball all the way back to the centre when he had other options). I still consider him as the best no.9 in the world, unless Messi play in that role.
    Like Kevin says, am really worried for Messi. what must the man be feeling now. Even if Barca midfield is not as bad as Argentina’s, everything seems to depend on him now.
    And we also need to look at Neymar with a different glass, like Mishti points above. His defensive rate is brilliant. But he is one of the best goal scorers in the world, and if he cant keep up that characteristic with us because of his defensive work rate, then is it the players mistake or coaching staff’s???.
    (I remember supporting Pedro here, many years back, saying Pedro cant find the right energy inside the box, because he is doing too much defensive work, but Neymar’s goal scoring talent is much superior to Pedro’s. Pedro was kind of our work horse)

    And even outside goals, Neymar is now playing like, if he gets the ball, he doesnt want to release it without dribbling at least one player. Please dear Neymar, you dont have to do that. Look at your friend the Messiah. If only Neymar dont try to dribble all the players in front of him and just pass the ball couple of seconds earlier, we would be looking at lot more good moments and we would be even talking about Neymar as a much better player, someone with lot of intelligence.

    Am still hopeful of the liga as RM are going to lose points unless they will get the same kind of calls like in 11/12, and hopefully this would be our only lose of point for Feb.

    1. RM has a brutal stretch of matches coming up that includes Celta away, Villarreal and Sevilla as well at Atleti away. They will drop points. The question is can Barça do its part?

      Your Neymar observations are spot on. But a lot of the time, he has to hold the ball because he doesn’t have anywhere to put it, which makes him have to dribble. Rare are the times when Neymar will choose to dribble when he has a passing option in the box, even to the extent of forcing a pass to either Messi or Suarez.

    2. We haven’t hit that consistent button and that is a worry, if we will hold up to make use of any RM lose.
      Yes, there are times when Neymar doesn’t have options, but the times when am more worried about him holding the ball is actually much before he reach the box.
      And based on some others comments on LE, am not on the binary regarding LE, but I have to say his subs in the second half were really good. Arguably, the best changes we saw from him this season. Both Roberto and Vidal on the right , we might see that more I think.

  15. Yesterday I managed to catch the 2nd half of the game .My biggest disappointment was that we didn’t seem to try and trouble the Betis gk for a large part of that half, it seemed like we had forgotten what was really at stake up until Betis scored .We may have drawn that game but I am mostly happy about how we searched for a goal. LE might have something to take as a big positive from that game , I loved how he tweaked the team with the introduction of sergi Roberto .The way the right side attacked confused the betis players with vidal overlapping together with Roberto .Roberto drifted into the mid when he deemed necessary and drifted out when he needed to.LE can use that as a weapon in the latter stages of the season and I am confident we will kickass with that as our weapon

    1. Strangely enough, in that whole article I can’t find any numbers about the games in which he did play in (W/D/L). Without that, or some analysis of the different opponents in these games…well, not much to say.

      I am a big believer in Umiti being exactly what the team needs though. In a team where almost everyone takes at least half a season to adapt (just ask Turan or Vidal), he has impressed almost from the start. The only big flaw, as you yourself have pointed out, is his inability or reluctance to produce precise long balls from the back when under pressure (not that Mathieu can do that most of the time though). He seems to prefer passing it back to Ter Stegen. But it will come.

  16. I thought that after 24 hours, my assessment of yesterday’s performance would be more balanced and less judgmental. No such luck. Our play was DEPLORABLE and plain INEXCUSABLE. I have no idea what LE’s game plan was. Most of the time, it was Pique & Stegen against eleven (no rhyme intended). If his instructions to the players were “Take it easy guys, we have a more important game on Wednesday… La Liga is lost anyway”, he should have rested MSN and rotated to the maximum. The disharmony between the 3 lines was obvious and the team was struggling to build, relying instead on luck (Betis hit the post twice), on a moment of genius from Messi and on the referee doing his job.
    Whoever has played football long enough would know that to develop the right team dynamic and those precious automatisms, you need to play the same players at the same role as often as you can. Stegen does not have a steady set of players at the back with whom he can build. Umtiti is not Mascherano, Pique is not Mathieu and Busquets is not Rakitic. Neymar pairs better with Alba than with Digne. Variety and change can be good, but they can create confusion and frustration for players who have to move into different roles each game.

    1. That opinion stands, that you should play your best eleven week in week out in order to get the best result.
      BUT, what will your 30 or 40 million euros back up players say? They are not there to warm the bench and have a game here and there.
      So, you want quality squad, but then everybody must have his fair share of play. Or you have rebellion.
      Another thing is that we dont have continuity in play and results, but im sure it will come.

    2. I see your point, but I have to agree with Hamid on too much rotation at certain positions. Busquets being injured can’t be helped, and Piqué is desperately in need of rest at intervals. But the midfield – except for Busquets – hasn’t even been close to a bit of stability.

      Gomes, Turan, Rakitic, Rafinha and Suarez Minor have been changed between so often that there has been no chance for developing stable relationships at all. As I said in a previous comment, Suarez Minor has a good game and the next is replaced by Gomes, who has a bad game and is then replaced by Rakitic, who disappears a bit and Gomes is given a chance again, then maybe Rafinha…

      Versatility and depth are good to have, but surely there are tactical notions for a Luis Enrique midfield, and some players better suited to those than others, so he should give those players better opportunities to really get there, and have the others come on as subs or when someone is injured only. Getting to know new players and giving them equal chances, fine, but I feel that has gone on for a bit too long this season.

      The other explanation is that Luis Enrique is very close to some commenters on here and doesn’t think any of our midfielders save for Busquets and Iniesta will ever have what it takes, so he changes between them in a desperate attempt to still find one of them to fit in.

    3. I guess he might be trying to do too much at once – desperate to integrate them, maybe? Rotating the hell out of the midfield, but rarely touches the MSN. Perhaps you need fresh legs constantly to cover for the forwards (Neymar’s tracking back did not happen all season, did it?)… I don’t know, maybe it’s the club’s previous failure to act in the transfer market that’s coming back to haunt us now; too many new players with not enough star quality (except Umtiti). Not replacing Puyol, buying Cesc, (which led to) losing Thiago, and having such a ridiculously good first eleven that nobody wanted to come… We’ve discussed it before. Perhaps there was nobody else on the market to buy, perhaps the club thought they’d be better, or hoping Iniesta would avoid injuries…

      We knew there would be a reaction, sooner or later, and we’ve gone seasons without silverware before (Tata). Just hoping the team will come together to support one final burst from Messi. There are positives, too – Ter Stegen improving, Umtiti solid, Samper, maybe. Some of the mids might be good enough to, if not run, then at least complement on the mid. So many questions and aspects. It is hard building a team in the shadow of greats.

  17. Kxevin, I suspect the link to ‘Umtitidependencia’ was at least partially tongue in cheek, but that kind of ‘analysis’ makes my teeth itch. It is the worst kind of spurious ‘correlation’ mistaken for causation, and utterly utterly reductive. Blech.

    1. It was, DL, but there are bits of truth even in mirth. I am of the opinion that the reason the team has such a record with Umtiti in ths XI is because of how he plays and interacts with Ter Stegen. The “analysis” in the link is kinda goofy.

      But the more I watch the team (and Pique) with and without Umtiti the more I feel that he is becoming an essential player.

  18. Caught a few minutes of Las Palmas-Valencia. We should really not lose sight of Lemos. Looks very promising. Halilovic played some minutes without impressing; does not seem to develop properly, but he is still young; does not look like a world-beater in progress as of now…

    1. We tried last summer and he didn’t want to come because he felt that he wouldn’t get enough playing time. Rumor is that he has never left Robert’s radar and the club is going to take another shot at him.

  19. Lot’s of great points by Hamid, GeorgJorge, Davour, Tito and all. I think it’s clear to all of us long time football watchers that rotation is a double-edged sword. You need in this era of 60-70 games a season, but sometimes it will blow up on your face when the chemistry does not work the way you envisage, or the players underform, or both. Against Betis, it was a case of both. Lucas Digne seems to get the least amount of scrutiny for some reason, but in my eyes he has been only marginally better than Paco Alcacer among the new recruits. Pairing him and Neymar in particular has been pretty much a disaster every time I have seen it. In fact he reads Arda’s movements much better than he does Neymar’s. Similarly, Arda and Neymar together were quite strange too. Arda had a lot of presence in the first half, was strong in carrying the ball forward, but quite a few times he was not on the same page as Neymar in terms of anticipating each other’s passes/movements and in terms of using the LW, and he even seemed to ignore Neymar on occasions where both Neymar and the team expected the ball to go to him, and other players were positioned expecting a Neymar run to the touchline. These are just examples of bad chemistry of players who don’t often play together in their respective positions, regardless of their individual performance levels.

    And if we talk about underperforming, boy oh boy, almost everybody except Ter Stegen and may be Arda, was guilty of that to some extent. Rakitic had a stinker in particular. His yo-yo form is now almost inexplicable to me. I wrote a whole comment picking on Neymar. I am with Kevin and others about Suarez. He had a bad game. But then he is Luis Suarez, he scores. But that does not obliterate the fact that he killed many other attacks on the day.

    I DO NOT LIKE Pique and Mathieu as CB pair, period. Umtiti provides the balance for both Pique’s and Mathieu’s tendency to get dragged out of position. Seriously, this guy at 23 has so much positional sense as a defender that it boggles my mind. Much better than his older and much more illustrious defensive partner. I love Gerard Pique for many reasons, not the least because he is (usually) the best one-on-one defender in the team. But boy does he get dragged around the pitch easily. I know, high line and all that. But I never bought that argument, and never will, for a defender. They are called defenders for a reason. In any case, I think CB’s are to be evaluated as partnerships, and I don’t like Mathieu and Pique as a partnership, because they seem to exacerbate, rather than cover for, each other’s deficiencies. By the way, if someone is interested, look at some replays of the Betis goal. Luis Suarez and Mathieu together pull off some astounding feats of doing utterly stupid and inexplicable things within seconds of each other. Amazing.

    Anyway, I started writing this wanting to put some perspective on this whole rotation issue. When I saw the eleven, I actually liked it. Based on recent performances by Rakitic, Arda and Denis (although I am less enthusiastic/convinced about Denis’s overall game than most people), I thought the midfield would be just fine. I thought Luis has finally hit form, Messi will be Messi, and Neymar would surely finish one or two chances, right? I was worried about Digne, and Pique-Mathieu, but if we score enough goals, who cares? I was wrong. It turned out one of the occasions when bad chemistry got compounded by bad performances. Plenty of blame to go around. Both to the coach and to the players. Surely there was a game plan, but it was not the correct one/was not executed properly on the pitch. I feel LE and the team underestimated Betis and their current style of play. I was most disappointed by the fact that after halftime, Barca failed to step up, but Betis did. Resposibility must fall on both the coaching staff and the players. No one is exempt.

    1. Good points and observations on chemistry. That is a huge problem when you build a system depending on individual brilliance (nothing wrong in itself), where the players must have a solid understanding to make things, very difficult things, happen effectively, Even as we rely on Neymar’s individual quality to take on defenders, the others must still be aware of patterns, runs – “if you go there, you can trust I go here, if you want to use me, otherwise you know I’ll drag a defender out of position”, etc, etc. Arda, as I think most of us agree, looks best on the wing, even if he has improved as CM, and perhaps he is slightly confused when in attacking position?

      Of course, it takes time to establish this chemistry, as it is seldom something that just occurs, and the heavy rotation makes this harder, since the mids shift between left and right and centre and are playing with different FBs and CBs as well as midfield partners. Perhaps more set partnerships (rotation in pairs) would have helped, hard to say. So, the eagerness to integrate the players overall, to get them used to the Barca context, perhaps collides with the notion of chemistry? Others might be more observant, but I have spotted few patterns in the rotation scheme.

    2. I felt the same way about Arda being slightly confused when distributing the ball in the final third. To some extent it is understandable, given that he does not regularly play this role with this cast of characters around him. It is also partly question of the level of players. It is about the way players intuit the game and what is happening at a particular moment. As for two players to be on the same page, there are different ways it can happen. Either they see/intuit things in a similar way, or they get drilled into each other’s way of thinking by playing together a lot. Just as an example, in case of Messi and Neymar, it is the former (some of their assists/ passes to each other I cannot explain with logic alone, and that’s the magic of the trident, they intuit each other) , and in case of Arda and Neymar, it probably has to be the latter. Hence the onus on the coach to know whom/in-what-combination to rotate. Because as you mention, we have at least three separate and somewhat conflicting goals here: keeping everyone healthy, building chemistry, integrating everybody into the team. Something’s gotta give. There is a trade-off. Too much inconsistency right now can make having healthy players at the end of February rather irrelevant. I am not saying it is an easy job to get the balance, but that is how Lucho’s job is cut out at the moment. And I am sure he knows it better than anybody else.

    3. The point you make about players playing different roles all the time is also very important. It is not only players taking turns, but they are actually taking turns in different parts of the pitch in different roles. That looks like trial-and-error to me at this stage, on top of just rotation. I don’t get the sense Lucho actually likes what he gets out of the midfield at the moment. As someone remarked here, no coach would like to have the job of trying to replace Xavi and Iniesta. Lucho is the only one having to do it. And you are right. Lack of a timely succession plan has a lot to do with the current situation.

    1. It doesn’t, really. I saw it yesterday when it was first posted. It’s more of a screed than anything else. Quite typical of Sport these days.

  20. The officiating decisions cost us the game as much as the effort of our team. When any team is grinding out a season it needs calls in games where it’s struggling to be made correctly. The fact the ball was a yard over the line and not one official saw that is atrocious. If goal line tech is to expensive(although comparative numbers Kxevin gives show the minimal investment), then for any question of whether the ball passed the line on a particular play should be subject to challenge and review. I’m not a fan of instant replay or challenges, and the evidence should be considered conclusive, but that would’ve solved the debacle in under 1 min. Ref mikes up to appointed ref in replay booth and ref in booth verifies. Simple. As much disturbing as the non-goal is the non-penalty call for Ney. I can’t count on TWO hands how many penalties he’s earned and not been given. I don’t want to hear justifications about his “reputation”. A penalty is a penalty. A foul is a foul. Get it right. I bemoan the quality of referees at high school level in the states. Liga is as bad, which is sad.
    Missing Busi & Ghostface for extended period was always going to be tough. You can’t replace them. However, we need players brought in to step up. The other fact I’m disappointed in is Lucho’s rotation at CB. Umtiti hasn’t played every game bc of early trust and injury. Why does he need a rest? He & Pique together are our best CB pairing and it’s clear. Jeremy is aging. He has never had the speed that’s required to partner Pique. He is an adequate L or R back cover for injuries. I’m glad we have him, but this was not the game he needed to start to provide rest to a player who doesn’t need it! Umtiti is Young! Hasn’t played every game and could play the rest of season in all comps and not need a breather.

    1. I think Mathieu gets a bum rap. His biggest complexity is that he is too conservative in patrolling his area. The reason that Puyol (and now Umtiti and also Mascherano, even thought many might disagree) worked so well with Pique is that he roamed with discipline.

      El Capita understood that when Pique roamed, there would be space he needed to cover, and he did so. But he also recognized that Abidal always had his back.

      There is a lot of talk about the midfield, etc, etc, but rarely is there discussion of the massive loss of a galaxy-class LB such as Abidal, and how that necessitated a difference in the team playing. I’d almost argue for a back line of Vidal/Pique/Mascherano/Umtiti, to see how that worked.

    2. One reason for the lack of discussion that you mention about losses in defence I think is that focusing on the level and quality of actual defending done by a defender at Barca seems like an anathema to many, if not all, Barca fans. Defenders are valued for their ball playing, for their contribution in the attacking third, for their role in building play etc, everything except for their actual defending. And I have often heard it argued that this is mandated by the ‘way’ Barca play. I never understood that viewpoint. Barca play with a high line, and with pressing. Sachchi’s Milan wrote that textbook, and was buttressed at the back by possibly the best back line in the history of football. Their trick? The offside trap. Pep and others brought the high line pressing game back to life in the last decade. But major difference between the 80’s and now is that the offside law has changed. High lines are breached much more easily in many more ways. Hence, a team like Barca actually need to have better quality defenders, compared to teams that play a more defense oriented system and defend in numbers. Simply because their individual quality will make a huge difference when the high line is breached. And the line will be breached, no matter how maniacal the team gets about possession. And those are THE situations that a Barca defense will be called upon to deal with in most cases. Simply because there will be very few cases where Barca will be dominated in possession. So the most relevant measure to judge a Barca defender is actually to ask how well he does when his team mates screw up in possession. How they deal with unexpected situations. Because that’s why they exist. They don’t exist to play Catenaccio. Or any other system that is not predicated on having possession. So if an Iniesta loses a ball once in a million years, the defence has to be able to deal with this. And if that does not happen, then the ‘system’ is flawed, because one part is not complementing the other. Period.

      We regularly skewer players for missing their chances at goalmouth, and that is justified, because no matter how much of a ‘system’ or positional play we have, ultimately someone has to put the ball into the net, and if he misses the shot, it’s not his teammates’ fault. Similarly, at one point the defender has to execute an individual decision/skill at a critical moment, and if they fail to do the right thing, it is not their teammates’ fault either. Players play at different positions because they have different comparative advantages. So, in my mind, the fact that Neymar tracks back so much these days is less of a cause for celebration, and more of a sad fact that he needs to cover for Jordi Alba to the detriment of his attacking game. It is not ideal use of resources for a so called attacking team. But most likely I am in a very tiny minority on this issue.

    3. Spot on, Mishti. When Henry ran around like a demon it was to augment the team press. Neymar does it because Alba is a weakness defensively. I care less about him on overlaps and more that his man is always allowed to take his pass unmolested. So pressure builds from there.

      We tend to consider our defenders as attackers. But Pique, Mascherano and Umtiti are also top class defenders. The day Barça get a world class fullback is the day people stop taking about stuff such as midfield control, etc. So much of that relates to overall control. Barça could have match control with Abidal and Puyol because nothing was allowed to happen. This is different now.

      The other big difference is the press or lack thereof. But that is another story.

  21. Tebas direct quote, saying that all major leagues in Spain will have goal line tech by 2018. Back a man into a corner, and he makes the correct decision.

  22. Ok, second time typing this as electrician came to the door and iPad battery ran out while I was talking to him !

    First (OT: bear with us oldies rambling about one of the greatest sporting achievements ever ) Kxevin, I’m with you 100% on that game. I was disappointed to read elsewhere that someone thought it wasn’t up to the standard of previous encounters. For me, yes Nadal is leaner and his topspin won’t have quite the same bite due to the ridiculous grip and wrist weakness but I didn’t see anything wrong with his shotmaking or movement. You’re probably right with Fed shading the forehand. I hadn’t noticed before. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him hit his backhand with such venom and confidence. Incredible game from both. Puts footballers’ moans about tiredness into perspective. Only played one long game on holiday in the baking sun and I was wasted for days.

    Anyway, just rewatched the first half for a flavour of some of the comments . Second half may change things so out of interest I’ll have look later but will save you the eye strain of reading anything.

    In short (ish) :

    CBS. You ( in the general sense) can think what you like about Mathieu but I’d be keen to know what you thought he did wrong in the first half. For me, it was flawless and exactly what we need. A stay at home CB. Kxevin, I would argue that that’s why Umtiti works with Pique as well. CBs need to stay close to each other wherever possible. Mathieu’s passing was flawless ( and I’ve often said that’s the weakest part of his game !).

    Messiah10, I’m not sure where you get the notion that Mathieu is too slow to partner Pique. I’d rate him about second or third quickest in the squad. He’d certainly have time to beat Masche over twenty yards, light a fag and read the first few pages of L’Equipe ! I actually think he’s quicker than Umtiti as well but that’s not provable. I wonder if they keep a record at training of times over distance ? He looks ponderous but isn’t when you see ground covered. Not seen anyone outrun him. To be clear, I’m still supporting playing Umtiti over Mathieu due to age. We need a pairing for the next few years.

    Only flaw in the first half CB wise was Pique’s booking. Clumsy but I suppose he didn’t have much choice, even though Mathieu had that man covered. What I am hacked off at is the lazy attitude of Vidal. Watch his reaction when the long slow ball is hit into our half and its two on two . He jogs all the way back and still nearly gets there. RUN ! And help out your CB.

    With Suarez I’m still not quite seeing it although I can now understand what Kxevin is referring to which I’d missed on first watch. He lost the ball once on our halfway line trying an improbable left footed hoof over to the other side of the field which didn’t come off. It is what it is but Only Messi pulls that off. Suarez also lost the ball three times in similar situations. He has back to goal, CB right behind him ( and nudges him on one of the occasions) players around and on two occasions the pass is intended for Messi. Suarez is trying to turn the ball round the corner first time ( bit like the Suarezminor’s goal ) . If you’re doing that you need to concentrate on the ball coming in as you’re probably gonna get pushed and you don’t look at the intended target .

    So you’re dealing with old info. Suarez plays the ball to where Messi was a second ago but Messi being Messi is off like a whippet and the ball is played slightly behind. To me, that’s not a heavy touch. It just happens sometimes. On another occasion Messi feints to run but stays where he is. I can see it’s frustrating for us but for me at least that’s not lack of touch. It’s what happens back to goal. Never been able to play there so I respect anyone who can. Btw, Neymar made exactly the same mistake n the first half in a pass to Suarez with his look to the east play to the west trick. Can’t accept he’s not razor sharp. Watch how his mind works on his shot at goal where he pulls away behind his marker. Heading towards goal when deflected. Look how he sprints to get the ball for a quick throw in only to be stopped by their manager. Look at his anticipation for our goal right at the end. This is one sharp football brain, maybe gets a bit too imaginative at times but clunky ? Not for me.

    Don’t want to talk about the midfield as it depresses me but will only say I wish I knew what was in LE’s mind about his purchases. I can see why someone mentioned that maybe the rotation is because there is no standout and he’s giving them all equal time. I can see that he thought he was purchasing better players than they have turned out in our situation, and, if we’re honest, with our expectations. While I don’t know his mind I think it’s a bit harsh to blame him entirely for this. Choosing someone to replace Xavi would be every manager’s nightmare but only he has faced it. He’s managing Iniesta’s time well and has publicly explained that ( is anyone else worried that feeling a slight strain and taken off as precaution has turned into a still not back situation ? ) I don’t know if LE will stay. A clear out has to happen this summer if we’re to bring in what we need and I’m curious to see if he realises it. It’s not really convincing me so far with long contracts for Masche and Rakitic but Pique/ Messi not tied up but strangely I have a fair amount of faith in Unzue and the defence is better than it gets credit for. Pique/ Umtiti and Alba are all first class. Great player though he was, I’ve never been as big a fan of Abidal as some ( ducks ! ) To be honest he had the same plusses and minuses as Alba in defence except he was much poorer in attack. Better stop there, methinks. . . .

  23. This inconsistency in the performance of the team is frustrating to no end, And i emphasize the world “performance”, Because in the last 2 years we had our stretch of inconsistent RESULTS, But it didn’t give me impression that were outperformed to a large degree, Nor did it last for 5 months.

    We lose to alaves in Camp nou in a shocking start to the season, Only to rebound with a smashing win against celtic and sporting, And everyone cheers that the team is back on track…….only then to be defeated by celta 4-3, With a first half from hell….., Then the team again rebounds with a great win against depor and a historic result against manchester city, Yeah this time is real, the team is really back on track we said…..only after a short while we slide down again to bottom, And hit the floor with a match against la real that without exaggeration, Was the most terrible display from barca i saw in this entire decade, The team then starts the year promisingly with again a smashing win against espanyol and knocks of atheltic, Only again to draw against Villa real, Followed by a 5-0, 4-0, 5-2, Raising our hopes again, And then smacking us in the face……………………………..again.

    When discussing about individual matches, Yes the players and the coaching staff are all involved and guilty almost to an equal degree, But when we start to zoom out on the timeline, and evaluate tens of matches, The coach will start to be held more accountable, Because let’s remember it’s his primary job to organize and manage the squad to ensure the best results over an entire season and that’s what we’re looking for, It’s not a matter of,coming up with a formation or a tactic for a single match.

    When a few weeks ago i said the league was over, It wasn’t a knee jerk, Nor was it me showing lack of belief in the team, It was just a logical deduction from my part, The crucial aspect of any league winning team, Is consistency, And we’re bankrupt in this department, We can talk about RM tough stretch that is coming their way all day long, But their 40 lossless run, Showed that they posses what we lack, And they managed to accomplish that with many key injuries for extensive periods of time.

    As for suarez, I felt kevin was a bit lenient with him actually, Suarez has for the most part been below average this season, With the occasional stretch of dreadfulness, Sometimes it feels we’re playing with 10 men with him in the line-up, Bad first touch, Failing to link-up, And sometime misplaces short and routine simple passes, A Against betis my wife told me that this is the first time she ever saw me this angry in match, Probably because for the most part i was shouting at suarez, Made my blood boil.

    1. Against betis, Midfield presence was non-existent in defensive transition, Looked to me that most of betis attacks builds from the middle of the pitch, And they looked quite comfortable picking their passes forward, Specially when you compare how much of a hard time they gave us to build our attacks as they pressed aggressively every time we tried building anything won the ball consistently from us,
      Also, Big gaps in the mid between our players, Not enough haste or aggressiveness is what made ter stegen a shooting practice for them, No major surprise, When Our mid consisted of arda, Denis and raki, With only the latter having a measurable defensive contribution on paper, And even he failed to deliver on the pitch.

  24. Can we get a grip here ? How many strikers in the world wouldn’t swap their goals tally over the last two seasons for Suarez’ ? How many players in the world wouldn’t swap their number of assists over the last two years for Suarez’ ? So, what exactly are we having a go for ? What’s he in the team for ?

    If we want to swap poor touches from that first half I’ll see your Suarez and raise you a Rakitic or a Neymar. You don’t get either of these tallies by having a poor first touch. He has a sublime first touch – just not all the time.

    Ok, that established let’s have a real go at this amateur CF 🙂

    1. Please don’t straw-man jim, The criticism on suarez is purely on his performances in THIS season, And I’m sure this applies to others criticizing him, I even included the phrase “this season” in my original comment just to be clear, Trying to generalize the criticism to include the previous seasons, Or trying to compare him to rakitic as if we are over-reacting over a single lackluster match from him Is straw-manning from your part,
      Suarez was in the top 3 players in past two seasons without a doubt, Which what makes his current state stick out like a sore thumb, Specially when having messi and neymar around him,, He improved slightly over the past 6 weeks than earlier in the season, But still no where near the bar he sit in the last 2 years with lucho.

    2. Sorry, Rami. I tried to reply last night but my comment was flagged as awaiting moderation. Wasn’t sure if Kxevin had dropped the big hammer on me or if it was a glitch but it made me feel like a disobedient schoolboy again 🙂 Ah, those were the days . . . Anyway, I’ve included it again below plus another couple of points.

      First of all I was referring to this season and last not the last two complete seasons. Suarez is leading the pichichi again despite our average performance this year as you and others have mentioned. He’s also upsides with Messi on assists. That’s not bad.

      Mishti, a couple of points. First of all, you won’t hear me belittling CR7’s performance over the last few years. He has an outstanding record and he doesn’t have to do badly for us to do well. Best in the world or,contributing to the team is another matter.

      On the point you make about the corner I was going to answer it above but my post was already long enough. In short, at corners basically, we seem to play a mix of zonal and man for man. Our tall players are assigned positions and the rest have man marking duties. So typically we will have Suarez outside the front post for the near post corner to prevent flicks on and along the outside of our six yard box we have three players whose job is to mark positions rather than specifically men. In this last game this might be Mathieu just inside the near post outside the 6 yd box, middle of the goal Gomes, behind him Rakitic and at the back post Vidal.

      Again, I’m not privy to their instructions . Sometimes in zonal it can be to keep your position for the second phase sometimes it’s not. With regard to Suarez there is no doubt in my mind that his instructions are to wait until he’s sure there is no short post corner and once it is over his head to sprint out and offer TS a quick outlet going forward. It has to be. I’ve watched three or four of their corners and he does the same each time. There is no question of him being able to cut anything out as when the ball passes him it’s about nine feet above him !

      Mathieu is a more difficult one and without knowing his instructions it’s hard to say if he should have followed his man. There is certainly an argument for it. What he does make sure is that the guy is getting nowhere near the ball coming over. The guy sets off on a hopeless run and jump designed to distract more than anything. The ball is still about six feet over his head. Mathieu has a look at the ball flight and decides to stay where he is as the guy is out of it for any play other than the unlikely one which resulted. Mathieu clearly looks at him then stays where he is. The most likely result should have been a header or punch away but the least likely was what happened. It’s not that Mathieu makes a half hearted attempt, it’s that he deliberately stops. As you say, inexplicable if his job was to follow the man but that’s not one of his weaknesses. You could argue both ways but it should never have come to that guy.

      Pique is obviously given free license to get his head in the road of anything he can but had to cover the peel off to the back post and anyway TS was in his way .

      Whatever, the goal doesn’t happen if we had adopted the good old Brit method of putting a man on the front post. I’m not a great fan of zonal at the best of times but maybe given the lack of big players we have no option.

    3. Not sure what makes WordPress flag comments for moderation. I have a look from time to time, but if anyone had a comment put into moderation, know that I don’t do that. It’s the bots.

    4. Jim, my CR7 comment was mostly banter. I am totally with you and would be the first one to say that he is great at what he does. Does he get credited with things he does not do? That’s a different matter. The point is about the criteria we are using. His stats in a match often has little correlation with his ‘performance’ in that very match if we judge it by what is expected of Barca players. And Suarez this season has had quite a bit of that.

      I cannot agree more about zonal (or worse, this mixture of zonal and man marking) on set pieces. Precisely because on set pieces, particularly corners, there are really no ‘positions’ that are exogenously defined, other than the two things that are by default stationary, which are the posts. Players wriggle and move and look to do exactly what Mathieu’s mark did. So whether it was the instructions, or his reading of the situation, or both, it was pathetic. Go full Brit (or full Italian) and mark the posts and the men. Cleaner, more intuitive than this ‘if I go here, you go there’ nonsense. I don’t even know what marking positions on a corner means. Everybody is everywhere for God’s sake!

    5. If we really go into statistics vs performance, then I have to ask aren’t we the ones constantly berating CR7 for only having statistics? He indeed has incredible statistics over the past 7 years, Luis is no patch on that. Now, have we established that we would have been better off with CR7 than Luis? 😀 😀

      On another note, you marked out SR being at fault for letting a man obstruct MATS. To that I’d add Luis Suarez ( who was on near post duty, marking the man who nods the corner down right after Luis abondons his post for some inexplicable reason), and Mathieu, (who was marking the man that actually scores the goal after being allowed to just freely drift into position while Mathieu is rooted in his spot).

      Just to make the point, no one really had a good game. Lots of screwing up at very vital moments. And for marking on corners, the blame goes to the coaching staff too.

    1. Nobody knows much about him, or the young defender the team bought, who has a “profile similar to Pique.” Google was burning up when the two deals were announced. Even the Twitter hipsters who claimed to have watched a player in youth days were like, “Huh? What?”

  25. Accusations of bias usually reveal more about the accuser’s slant than the writer’s, which is why I have learned to not care about them. The challenge with assessing Barça is this: Getting out of the way of expectations, favoritism and liking anything. It’s why I am such a fan of EUMD. They don’t care about how loved or hated a player might or might not be. It’s a journalist, calmly assessing something.

    Barça has issues that it has to work out. Anyone who blames only the coach is wrong. Anyone who blames only the players, or a particular player, is wrong. Anyone who lays it at the feet of a certain aspect, say midfield, is wrong. A successful team is a symbiotic collection of links. If any of those links is broken, the organism suffers.

    No midfield? It’s worth looking at the back line and how it plays out, starting from the keeper. In the midfield glory days, it was Valdes to Puyol to Busquets to Xavi. Villa and Henry were scampering around, playing connective passes.

    Against Betis, notice Ter Stegen looking around, trying to figure out where to move the ball as everyone stands in place, waiting for him. No midfield? Maybe that starts at the back.

    The team is wholistic. People try to break it down by pointing to their thing, but it isn’t that one thing. People try to blame a loss on a coach, but all that a coach does is put the lineup out there, whether Luis Enrique, Sampoli, Mourinho or Guardiola. The players have to do what they do.

    Tactics are something that are theoretical, again based on player performance. When they work, the coach is a genius. When they don’t,the coach is a moron. That’s just how it goes. I have, will and will always advocate a wholistic view of a match and how it worked. I think that’s important.

    I have been watching some matches from back in the day, and today’s complexities have as much to do with players, their interlocking roles and that function as anything. It’s also player quality. You can’t remove a Xavi from a midfield and expect it to work the same way. You can’t take an Abidal from the LB position and expect things to function. And that one player can have an interrerelated effect on the rest of the system. You can’t say “Lucho out” without understanding the effect of players, how they perform their jobs and what domino effect that has on the outcome, says about how a match goes.

    It’s everything, all at once. That’s how I look at the game.

    1. My observation is that, somewhat like the 60s New Wave in films and the ‘auteur theory’ of directors that it brought about, we are now living in an era of the ‘cult of the coach’. Hence the exeggaration in blaming or praising the coach for what is actually a very complex symbiosis between a lot of components and factors. For me, all philosophy, vision, tactics as seen on a coach’s whiteboard are meaningless till it is actually implemented on the pitch. What happens on the pitch is what I sit down to see, that’s where I derive my enjoyment. On a whiteboard, you can have an LB darting forward to augment a move, but on the pitch, whether it is a Jordi Alba or a Lucas Digne doing it makes the world of difference. On top of that, Alba playing versus Digne playing will impact how Neymar plays, and so on, and shape the overall play of the team. To make things more complicated, so would an Alba on his off day versus an Alba who is his sharpest self.

      Ancelotti recently gave a wonderful interview which had many gems in it. At one point he says, coaches are ironically judged by the thing on which they have the least amount of control, which is the results. They perhaps have more control over the actual performance, but that is mostly via the channel of preparations ahead of a game. The most interesting point he made was about in-game subsitutions and their perceived impact. He said you don’t actually see the game as well as people think you do from the dugout. You make substitutions because you had planned it beforehand, or sometimes just try out things and hope for some luck. And by God, if one of your substitutes pull off something useful, you come out looking like a genius.

      He talked about how in his younger days he resisted buying Baggio because he thought Baggio would not fit his system. Now, he says, he would buy Baggio and find a way to make him part of the system. For me personally, the old adage “Between a great coach and a great player, give me the great player” holds a lot of truth. Because by God, a system with Baggio in it surely has the potential to be better than the one without it. Genius is the coach who can make it work. But that’s because Baggio is a genius too.

  26. I watched a youtube vid of new signing 18y old Santiago Bueno and i was impressed.It seems Robert is doing an excellent job trying to find young CBs for the future.My wish is we sign Mina and Malang Sarr and Theo Hernandez.Marlon must leave next season for a loan in German team.It seems that loans in Spain teams dont work so well.Next season we must have a younger squad and with talented players from transfers and Masia.Samper must come back and maybe Munir.The club must make smart moves and buy best talents.You pay now 10m for a 18y old and you save the 70m that you have to pay for him in some years.

  27. About pressing.We saw that the only big chance we created at first half started with Digne.How?Betis pressed high,Mathieu passed to Digne,him passed one touch to Turan,he made the move and Turan passed to him one touch.Then Digne had the space.So to break the high press you need:Good positioning,movement and one touch passes.Sometimes u must dribble.It s easy?Not for every team.But in a team with Barca quality it must be.What we lack now?Movement and good positioning.Against Barca,for me,pressing high it s a risk.If we were at the level we must be then it would be easy to break that and have space and the 3 upfront can kill every team.

  28. On the other hand against Betis our defenders were sleepwalking.Vidal cant defend like a real RB and many times average wingers dribble him easily.Pique is great but going back every time an attacker is moving to him is not always the answer.We are not enough aggresive to our defensive duties and that for me is the main problem this season.

  29. Offcourse that was our 8th game in 25 days and its normal the team to be a little tired.If we had nt draw games against Atletiko and madrid and we had nt that loss against Alaves then now an away draw would nt be a bad result.But the gap dont leave space to the team to relax

    1. For his Betis match? I got nuthin’. In general? Nobody has any issues with him in general, even as he will always be the worst best player in football.

  30. well, i think we can all agree at the half that this is going better than any of us would have or could have hoped. After the 0-1 we went into energy conservation mode, still got a second goal and the yellow cards are coming as well for Atletico, Savic, for one, misses the next match.

    I didnt even know Griezmann was on the pitch until about 30 minutes in. Very good.

  31. Neymar won’t be on the second leg… they already scored one goal… things still look very much to Barca’s favor… but need to be careful…

  32. We’ll take the win. A decent first half with some brilliance to put us ahead. Masche and Raki doing well defensively, Gomes still let’s go of the ball too soon, or hold on for too long. Neymar might benefit from a day off, though who will they kick now?

    Apart from Messi, who was immense, Umtiti was magnificent – proof that not everyone needs a season to adapt. This was a great result, but team still not looking particularly good. Rafinha looked promising, though – keep that up!

  33. The second half was dicey, but you know that Simeone said at the half: we’re out of the Cup in 45 minutes if we dont do something. We had chances to score a 3rd, but no luck. They could have scored another as well.

    All in all, a good first half for us, a good second half for them…if someone told me we would win in their house without Busquets or Iniesta, I would have taken it without a thought.

  34. I actually thought the team did very very well in the first half. It’s Atleti in their own house, that’s never to be underestimated! Allowed little and kept possession well. Suarez, what can you say…clumsy touches in buildup a fair amount of times, then a run like this one in which every touch is where it needs to be, and a goal that very few players in Europe can score.

    They got too close to the second goal in the second half, dominated the midfield at will for large portions of that half. Messi had to defend at the edge of our area, that hardly ever happens these days. But both teams had their fair amount of chances to score another goal.

    I don’t think Atleti will score two unanswered goals in the Camp Nou, Neymar or no Neymar. I just want to see a referee who doesn’t give the players the first thirty minutes of the game to kick their opponents at will without showing a card.

  35. Barca twitter is the worst by far.No other fanbase like that.I must admit that i enjoy every thrashing City suffer this season and i was so happy that Guardiola didnt reach CL final with Bayern.After Pep left us i really didnt care what he will do but reading so many people all this years talk shit about Lucho every day i start to really want Pep to fail.They talk about Messi FC people that say Pep is a genius and they forget that if not for Leo,Guardiola maybe now he would coach Getafe.I critisize Lucho but i respect him.But for those that disrepect him i can say only a big FO.

    1. People love Pep Guardiola for many reasons. Not all the reasons are related to his success with Barca from 2009 to 2012.

      People like me appreciate his commitment towards the philosophy of football he believes in, for his commitment to principle based football rather than win-however-you-can football. People who admire Pep (people like me) don’t admire him just for the sake of trophies, that is just a validation that his philosophy worked and a reward for the risks and pain he was willing to take. Even if he didn’t win anything, his teams would still be admired for playing a complete game.

      His willingness to risk everything to instill beauty in his team-play is worth applauding. And for this reason, I wish he wins everything, but I would still support him and want him back in Barca (where his skill-set is best utilized) even if he gets relegated with the City team.

      Success is not everything, there are better things in life, like a beautiful team play which ends without a goal.

      To end this rant, if you are influenced by someone to the point of actively wanting someone like Pep to fail, the problem lies with you.

      Coming to LE, LE is LE, he is honest in what he wants to do and what he does. But if people (like me) think he made a mistake, then they will say that. And that need not mean that these people are saying it just because they love Pep. Pep has nothing to do with LE as things stand.

  36. Great comment, Raj.

    I’d admit to a small part of me wanting him to succeed over there just to shut up the press there who keep wittering on about the English game being totally different and how you can’t play Pep’s way when it’s obvious that his squad is just not up to the job. If anything I admire him more now sticking to his guns with an inferior squad than when working with Xavi et al. How many of the current City first team would make it into Barca’s on a regular basis ? For me, none, well maybe De Bruyne ? Put Pique, Thiago, Iniesta, Messi, Suarez and Neymar there and they’d walk it, especially as defending in the EPL isn’t what it was from what I see. Still slightly worried about a raid on our squad at the end of the season. Talk of a clear out at City to provide part of a war chest for some big signings.

    Interesting thought. If you had enough money which two players from Barcelona would you grab in his position ? Me ? Pique and Neymar who I’d play as a 10. Id make Pique captain, tell him to run the team and tell Stones to watch everything he does, from the sidelines if needed. I’d also scoop up Samper, hopefully for relative peanuts.

    1. Pique is not leaving Barcelona methinks, but Neymar to Man City next summer could be a real possibility. They are one of the two or three clubs that can afford him, and there seems to be mutual admiration between the coach and the player. Although they apparently made this ‘advance agreement’ for his move to Barca in 2011 right after Santos won the Libertadores, by the time he arrived Pep was gone, and Neymar has said that he would have liked to play under him. Now Gabriel Jesus is there as well, so that will be a readymade 9-10 pair.

      All this, of course, would be very painful for me, Barca being the love of my adult life and United being my childhood club 🙁

    2. Nice comment Raj.

      And Jim, I smiled thinking of you on the Suarez goal. That was Suarez at his best.

      And I cant remember Messi making a more powerful shot (watching in a stupid stream as the fecking Indian channels are not showing copa), correct me if am wrong. But even without the goal he was like a colossus in that match.

    3. And any idea why Denis was brought in for Rakitic, any one? That looked a bad sub to me. Rakitic till then had made some real good interventions, I thought. forgive me if it was someone else, from the horrible stream I felt it was Rakitic.

    4. I wasn’t sure about the Suarez sub. It def wasn’t a like for like. I was berating Rak the first 10 min of game for some poor passes. Then he makes the vital sideways/leg behind him/Kung foo clearance by intercepting a ball near the half way line, that had it gone thru would have spelled big trouble for us. He picked it up big time. Maybe it’s not a coincidence we lost control of the game when he came off the pitch. I thought Gomes had a good game. He’s trying to get forward more and that helpful. He’s not going to replace Busi and what he brings which is why I liked that LE put Masch in DM.

    5. You are correct on both account: Messi was magnificent, and it WAS Rakitic. Bar fatigue or intention to rest him for next game, I don’t know why he was subbed, and especially not for Denis, who’s something of a light-weight (maybe LE hoped he could provide some control in possession?).

  37. That first half was something extraordinary, except for our to be defended right side.
    We will suffer there later in the season, especially in CL. It is our weakest link for the moment.
    But, to go at their ground and show them a class like we did last night in the first half particularly, it was a night to remember.
    Denis for Rakitic was strange.
    And how the hell did Moya caught that free kick shot from Messi, i already jumped from my seat as i thought is a goal.
    This game only showed what this team is capable of doing when they are really up for it. There are times (like Betis game) when they walk around like it doesn’t matter or the positive result will come on its own.
    it’s up to the coach, they must understand that regardless of all the titles and games won through the years, every next game is a different story and it requires a full concentration.
    It’s too bad, because we have all the quality in the world that most of teams around Europe can only dream, but the players need to put effort in every game.
    I wont mind if we let La liga slip this season and we get CDR and CL. I wont mind that at all.

  38. El Pistoleros goal was of the highest quality. I would argue there’s only a handful of players in the world who could make that goal. We have one of them on our team thankfully. Not only the vision and tenancity to put the ball into open space(which is really his only option there) & chase it down, but his ability to ride the tackle & shrug off the defender while still getting shot off is amazing. Then he tops it off for me by going opposite corner with a controlled outside of boot toe poke. Upsurd! He can frustrate the hell out of me sometimes with the missed open chances we’ve seen, but his movement, work rate, & willingness to do little things like chase lost causes is why he’s the best striker in the game. His passing ability ain’t bad either. Look at his assist ratio. The dink pass to Messi on a platter for Messi to be Messi was top class.

  39. I believe we are witness to one of the best seasons by a player in history. Messi is doing something that hasn’t been seen. He has 30 goals! 10 assists – how many more that have been wasted chances? At least another 10. That is ridiculous by anyone’s standards. Even his

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