Market opportunities and being agnostic

Money and football. Nothing sets supporter tongues wagging like money and selling to buy. A transfer — the thing that makes the Next One the one that will be The One That Makes Everything Great.

Ivan Rakitic is in the news right now, sort of. This is a player who loves Barça, and wants to stay at Barça. This is also a player that has allegedly been told by the club that his contract can’t be revisited because we have to pay essential players. So his extravagant wages can’t become more so. More crucially his buyout clause, set at 125m back in those crazy days when money meant something, is now — 125m, a pittance.

Rakitic is also 30. “125m for a 30 year old who can be replaced? Sign me up!” It’s fascinating.

What makes a player valuable? A lot of it is perception and how supporters view him. Iniesta is irreplaceable. We wept when he flitted off to Japan where everybody is his size, he gets kicked a lot less often and can go back to scoring golazos for fun. Irreplaceable. If you look at the fundaments of what Iniesta could and couldn’t do, he wasn’t irreplaceable in his dotage, rather than in his pomp. But it’s Iniesta. Bite your tongue, blasphemer.

Rakitic runs, helps defend, babysits wayward right backs, enables Busquets, plays box-to-box when the situation demands, scores goals in and outside the box, takes shots from distance when opportunities present, helps with possession. Rakitic has also been singled out for derision in parts of the social media fanbase for not really being about What Barça Does. For many, the day when he leaves will be a happy one, and with ten days left in the window, the idea of PSG coming in with 125m for a 30-year-old player has tongues wagging. Replacements such as Rabiot are offered. A poll by TotalBarça mused about a straight swap, Thiago Alcantara for Rakitic.

Here’s a fun test: look at every player on the roster and decide if they are irreplaceable. Look at what the player does. Not perceptions, or ideas of what he can’t do, but what he in fact does. The template is how much would the team suffer if that player went away, and can the system shift?

Most lists would include Messi, Busquets and Ter Stegen. Messi because duh, Busquets because his understanding of what Barça needs is fundamental, his skill in executing those things nonpareil. Ter Stegen is the best net minder for the way Barça plays, and objectively one of the best keepers in the game. Could Cillessen, given enough time in net, be as useful? Is there another keeper out there who we aren’t considering because Ter Stegen is perfect for the style?

Now what about a market opportunity? Ter Stegen’s clause is (only) 180m, which seems crazy low now. Gulp. PSG could pay that. What if they wanted to? The reaction would be automatic. No. Hell no. It’s Ter Stegen. Rakitic? People would bite PSG’s hand off.

Busquets’ clause is now 500m. What if someone offered it? That’s 500m for a 30-year-old DM. Market opportunity. Busquets is essential. Has been for every Barça and national team coach for almost a decade. But he’s 30, soon to be 31. Gotta start playing without him sometime. What about now? Is he irreplaceable? “Of course he is, you fool.” How long will he be able to do what he is doing with the facility that he does it, and what could be done for the 500m that his moving would bring in?

His transfer is inconceivable because we look at players through a number of lenses. He is Busquets. He’s of the club, a tie to the glory days, of links from lower divisions to the first team. The way he plays the game is sublime and if you want to play Barça football, you need Busquets. But 500m, right? For a 30-year-old DM. It’s the constant challenge to the way we think about players, a notion with echoes of my 2014 question about whether someone would consider selling Messi for 250m, and buying Jackson Martinez, Marco Reus, Oliver Torres, Kun Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan. My mentions still light up from time to time as someone resurrects that old Tweet. And now that we know what Messi has become, what those five players have become, that question is crazy in 2018. But in 2014 people were talking about whether it was time to sell Messi and whether it was possible. And talk about players, even with crazy clauses, will continue because the Neymar transfer made any and everything possible.

We look at players and their value through things other than that actual value. There is emotion in there, and aspiration. Look at how giddy the Arthur transfer made supporters, because he is a player who plays The Barça Way. “Xavi” escapes lips in reverent tones. The idea of having someone to do all of that other stuff, the scut work, while players such as Arthur or Puig make us slide off our seats in orgiastic frenzy, isn’t significant. “Lots of players can do that.” Can they?

We talk about Xavi and Iniesta as essential but rarely Abidal, the man who made so much possible. “Pfft. He doesn’t get forward enough. Alba is a lot better.” We saw what happened in a system where Busquets had to cover too much space, and how much the team suffered. Ah. “Stupid coach should change the system.” Nelson Semedo is another one. “He’s pretty good, but … ” The “but” concerns things are are systemic. Some players get a pass, others don’t. Players who are deemed replaceable don’t get a pass, even as the pass isn’t solely related to play.

Looking at what players do and their value to a team is difficult because even the way we see a match has nuance. A 4-0 win is disgusting because Rayo had more possession. A 2-1 win against a vicious rival is flawed because, “Where’s the midfield?” As we evaluate players and what they do, it’s so hard to strip everything away from everything else and look solely at the job and its context. That situation is also, of necessity, coach-related. Was Busquets as essential for Luis Enrique as he was for Valverde, or Guardiola? What then?

Here is one possibility: In a brutal world, where an evaluative template of legitimately essential is applied, might the only Barça player to be deemed irreplaceable be Messi?

Non-essential players are discarded for market opportunities. A gangly Colombian never-gonna-be for 35m? “125m for a 30-year-old? I’d bite their hand off.” “500m for a 30-year-old? Not if it’s Busquets. There isn’t enough money to buy him!” We know that Semedo lacks things that Sergi Roberto has. In that context he is always going to be lacking. But often, things that one player does, exist in an incumbent or idealized context. “He isn’t good because he can’t do what so-and-so does,” is quite often what it comes down to. In that universe, where a player defines his own standard, how can we ever evaluate players? It is probably impossible, in the here and now.

Rakitic is replaceable. The system would have to shift to account for his absence, but he is. The cruel part about football is: So is Pique, Umtiti, Busquets, Alba, etc, etc. In discussing essential players, we just point to Messi. Everyone else? A system can adapt, or there are players close enough in skill set where things can be accounted for.

Markets are crazy. Rakitic might well be sold, even as FFP makes the likelihood of that impossible, even if the player wanted to leave. And the team will adapt. Because coaches, systems and players do what they do, as does money. But this is true — true for any player except Messi.

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Written by:

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. Frank Stain
    August 22, 2018

    Great analysis! It’s hard to disagree in the abstract that every player except Messi has a value (even if that just means a *very high* value which few other world class players even will meet). The problem with selling Messi is that there no other players who can singlehandedly replace that value, so it has to get split into a number of parts. And if those parts can’t work together, the whole thing begins to fall apart. What makes Messi invaluable is that there is no other ‘commodity’ on the market that can do all the things he can do.
    But another problem here is that football transfers are not a perfect market. So while it may be true that there maybe a handful of world class midfielders comparable to Rakitic who could replace him and complement the squad,, Barca are unlikely to get anything done before the window shuts in 10 days time. Maybe it makes sense to say to PSG ‘Wait until January, when we will be able to sign a replacement’.

  2. August 23, 2018

    Excellent analysis..
    For me, in the current eleven, I would also add TS, Pique, Alba, Busi, Rakitic, SR and Suarez as those who wont have replacement. Except TS,Pique, Busi and SR, the others are not the Barca DNA players, but still they have got so experienced and incorporated into our system, selling them outright would not be my choice.I would rather have under studies for each of them and let them work together and then sell after a season or not.
    Hell, we are not good in selling our players..So even if we wait another season to sell a player, there wont be big difference in what the club make..

    And obviously there is no discussion about Messi. Some days back read an article which discussed a hypothetical situation of bartering players to have Messi. There were very interesting thoughts from fans of different clubs. Even if am offered a 25 year old Maradona plus a 22 year old Ronaldo (the original one) plus the young Gerd Meuller, I will not give away Messi.

  3. mvarfi
    August 23, 2018

    It looks like we know two things for certain. One, the current version of ourselves will cease to exist, one day. And two, Messi is irreplaceable. Everything else is open to discussion, including which Barca player is more, or less replaceable. It’s all very moot.

    If Messi is a constant, then who surrounds him must affect the team’s output, – just ask the Argentinians. How many outfield players and system shifts has the Argentinian national team gone through? How has Messi fared through all the adaptations? Yes, it’s not an entirely fair comparison, but we are indulging in hypotheticals here. It follows then, that we could assign values to Barca players based on how they affect him. I’m not entering that labyrinth, but good luck if you do.

    I can see, intellectually, the benefit of adopting Kxevin’s detached point of view, if only to purge oneself periodically of all the dramatic buildup. Emotionally though, I doubt I could sustain the attitude for long, and only every now and then. Afterall, isn’t the most fun part of being a cule getting emotional, and with abandon at times?

  4. squeen
    August 23, 2018

    The appeal of Braca, for me, is the “identity”. An ethos and style of play and dares to go against the grain of individualistic, showy, and overly-physical football with a more nuanced approach. We it works, it’s because and special precisely because it is different than most.

    We I look at the “value” of a player, it within the context of: “do they play a beautiful, intelligent, team-oriented, football?” and, “do they play with honor and humility?”.

    I start this season feeling a bit disconnected from the team, in part, because there are so many new faces—“outsiders”. It’s hard to know if the collective identity will endure, or like so many beautiful things, fade into the median.

    • squeen
      August 23, 2018

      Aye! Too many grammatical errors.!

      Sorry, my brain must still be at the beach.

  5. patatas bravas
    August 23, 2018

    As a long-time reader, first time poster, I want to say: This is a great blog, and the latest post is another good analysis. I agree with the main point: few players are utterly irreplaceable, and so nearly every player has a price, albeit sometimes very high. But it’s worth saying more explicitly what was implicit in Frank Stain’s analysis: to calculate the price correctly in the case of Rakitic, we have to look at the realistically available replacements, and, most particularly, the options for a replacement *now*. Is 100 million or so a good deal for someone Raki’s age? Sure. One could, by the end of next summer, make a better investment in the future. But should we damage our odds this season for the future? If the Irreplaceable One were a lot younger, I might say “why not?” but he, too, is on the wrong side of 30. So the window for winning a UCL with him will close soon, and few teams will ever have the kind of opportunity that he provides . To answer “How much is Raki worth?” you have to factor in “How much would you take to lower our chances to win UCL this year.” Given the dearth of replacements, losing Rakitic now would be a big hit to our ability to compete across competitions and, especially, to winning UCL this year. So what might be good business in a long term sense would be, to me, bad business in this instance, given the age profile of the team and our substantial chance to win big this year.

    • squeen
      August 23, 2018

      Keep Rafinha as Rakatic’s replacement?

    • patatas bravas
      August 23, 2018

      Well, if Rakitic is going, there’s now way Rafinha should, too. We would rue the lack of depth later. But although I seem to be higher on Rafinha than the average culé, I’d rather not consider him a Raki replacement.
      But because I am high on Rafinha, I’d say that, even with Raki here, I’d prefer not to ship Rafinha out. Of course, if he wants to go due to lack of playing time, and the team gets a reasonable offer, then I think he deserves the chance to leave. But I don’t think the team should be seeking suitors for him, either.

      (I am agnostic on Rabiot, not watching Ligue 1 and so not knowing his game enough to have an informed opinion. Not sure how signing him would affect all of the above reasoning.. Depth–a bench stacked with stronger players than we had last year– is crucial, but there’s also such a thing as too many midfielders. Still, my bottom line remains: keep Rakitic this year.)

  6. PPos
    August 25, 2018

    I really hope we don’t sell Ivan Rakitic. There’s no one in the market with his skills and that knows the system, and that isn’t injury prone to all you that are gonna say Thiago. It’s far too late in the transfer window to go and get Thiago. Rafinha is going to Betis and Alcacer is going to Dortmund. What we need to do is buy a 9 to give Suarez some competition because unless Munir goes super saiyan, he isn’t going to do it.

  7. Femflexi
    August 25, 2018

    Good morning everybody since we’re talking about transfers I read a piece of and it was talking about signing a replacement for suarez so everybody I would like us to look at options that are available in the transfer market right now really great goal scorer a little bit physical car track back a little bit can also look up well with his teammates will looking at someone that is a little bit of a bad boy like suarez we are looking at the cost also should not be too expensive ultimately a good player not superstar or at the same level with the likes of suarez all ronaldo is age is also good to be a factor you should be between the ages of 21 and 27 so guys looking at all these criteria that we are looking for in a striker or a player who do you think will be able to play in the current barca squad that will probably be willing to wait maybe a year before you enter the first eleven so I have some list here in my head because a striking position I need that the number 9 position is really a position that we should look about looking into because it’s very very visible thats suarez is in a rapid decline so this is my list
    *timo werner
    *Arkadiusz Milik,
    *Jann-Fiete Arp
    Abel Ruiz
    This is what i can come up with and that i think we can pull off this late or in jan
    Pls if you have additionsyou can include them looking forward to seeing your views

    • mvarfi
      August 25, 2018

      If I may, I suggest the use of some punctuation. I was a bit out of breath after reading your post. It’s not very conducive to thinking.

    • Adekay
      August 26, 2018

      why is no one talking about Mariano Diaz

  8. Jim
    August 25, 2018

    Off to the golf and won’t be back till just before our game but I’ll be curious about a few things, most of which will fill in a little bit about what kind of coach EV will be in the longer term. Nobody needs rested already so that’s not an issue.

    First of all, he’ll not get away longer term with the 4-5-1 of last year at home so I reckon we will regularly see three up front at the Camp Nou but away from home might tell us just as much. Will we see a notional three up front regularly and, if so, will Coutinho start to feature as a forward? Malcolm will at some point need a chance up front, was Messi’s more advanced position in the last game ( which I liked) just coincidence or something he sees working ?

    In the middle if it’s just a three where does the creativity come from ? Could Coutinho provide that and the defensive qualities ? Hmm, . . . Did Arthur do enough to merit a starting place ( for me probably) and when is Vidal going to appear ? IscSR going to get another chance in midfield ? Valverde tends to make his mind up quickly on things ( not necessarily a great quality) so did SR do enough last time to merit another start ? Busquets will start all the important games at DM but tell me we won’t be using both he and RAkitic there for any but the hardest CL away ties and even then we invite another Roma onto us.

    In defence I’ll be curious to see if EV sticks with Semedo at RB ( as I think he should ) or whether he goes with the currently better performance of SR there.

    And if all that’s going through my mind for just the second game of the season what’s it like to be Valverde ??? Not easy being coach.

  9. mvarfi
    August 25, 2018

    Is it August 31st yet? I want it to be very badly.
    P.S. Looking forward to our first away match. Visca el Barca!

  10. Jim
    August 25, 2018

    Hmm, given the state of that pitch I’d probably settle right now for a goalless draw and no injuries. Despite that we are making a decent fist of its. Good movement plenty of pressing but no end product yet. I’m liking us using Alba’s speed to cover the CBs and Dembele’s trickery although his final ball isn’t great so far. The worry has to be that it is affecting our game more than theirs and that someone is gonna make a passing error due to the pitch that will cost us. I’ll say it now. They’ll get a pass from me. When you can’t rely on your standing foot to stay where you put it it’s a nightmare.

    Totally hacked off at a Eleven Sports. My sound is constantly juddering and giving me a headache. Not sure why. I’ve fibre broadband . Nobody should have to pay for this.

  11. Hristo
    August 25, 2018

    I can’t wait for Kxevin to admit our Coach is as much as an idiot as he is a coward.

    • Rivaldo
      August 25, 2018

      LOL… good luck with this. Apparently Valverde is a genius in these parts.

      The big players he can’t touch – Suarez, Roberto etc. What’s funny is that the most logical change was the one he makes is Semedo was playing RB.

      Could’ve subbed Suarez and pushed Messi in the middle wiyh Malcolm on the left. And finally Busi could’ve been subbed – S.Roberto across.

      But sadly, the pitch will get all the blame- the other team plays on air.

  12. georgjorge
    August 25, 2018

    I hope there’s something to be learned from this game from Valverde, though I don’t know what it is except don’t play on a pitch that looks like a plowed field.

    The opponent was not of the highest quality, but they played their hearts out and made it very difficult. Credit to them. They made for a very tight game, decided by the slightest margins – the header from Sergi Roberto being just this far inside the field, the two goals (one from Suarez, one from them) being just this far offside. But the whole team was a bit off today, from wayward passes in the final third (pretty much everyone had one in the first half) to a lacklustre performance from even Messi and some strange defending. Positives to take away are the evolution of Démbéle and the confidence he will take from his goal, and Ter Stegen never seeming to take on the nervousness from the others even in very tight spots. Oh, and three very hard-fought points.

    To Hristo above (won’t bother replying afterwards) – those insults and attacks contribute nothing at all to a positive discussion. You could write some sentences on what you think the coach did wrong today or the whole of last season (maybe without insulting Kxevin at the same time), but this is just making this space a bit more toxic.

    • Hristo
      August 25, 2018

      How is that, ive insulted Kxevin?
      Suarez is still playing crap yet is on the pitch. Bench? Never. Maybe u think his pass to Sergi should count for too much? He over hit that ball quite a bit.
      Roberto assisted for the goal but was utter crap at the back. He was beaten and out ran and out smarted one too many times.

      Why is he taking Dembele out? He is giving “the ball” to the opposition. Without Dembele we aren’t dangerous on the counter. Once he left the pitch we went to defend once again, keeping score. The might team of Barcelona are keeping, protecting 1 to nil score line. This is a tendency.
      His low level mentality in games and especially away games is so frustrating.
      Playing Vidal on RM in 4-4-2 is stupid.
      Taking out Malcom for Coutinho. So he is subbing lesser player to do the same job? Brilliant.

      We have been playing boring football for 14 months.
      He uses Vidal the same way he used Paulinho.
      We don’t have a team as cohesive unit. We have great individual players such as Messi, Coutinho ans on occasion Dembele scoring individual brilliant goals.
      We are mess. Rakitic is still unclear what is his best position. Coutinho play CM and LW in same game. Dembele gets substituted for scoring yet again. And we are again pinned down for sub our most dangerous counter attacking players.
      Why is Rakitic playing? He is safe passing the ball over and again. He is good at defending and good at attacking but really he isn’t brilliant in either of those.

      In Neymars last year we had no Right side because Roberto would cut inside, Rakitic would cut inside and Messi would drop deep, effectively clogging mid and overloading the left. This being very predictable teams wouls shut the middle and put two on the Left, while sitting deep.
      Did you see this same thing in this game?
      In the preseason we saw Semedo playing very well with winger, that is, Malcom and Dembele.
      Instead of setting Semedo up with winger we revert back to the old days.

      I understand Roberto is thr better passer but he also a major reason for our problems as well.
      His lack of pace ans ability to overlap makes the game very narrow and predictable.
      We have the players to play scintillating football.
      I cannot accept that a team with Coutinho, Messi, Suarez, Dembele, Busi and Malcom cannot play attractive and efficient football. We are Barcelona. We are not Cordoba.
      You are welcome to address the points I’ve written a out.
      Another Roma games is coming and is frustrating that fans are unwilling to believe the obvious. Like a ☄ cometh, it’s coming and you know it will hit thr ground.

    • ooga aga
      August 25, 2018

      Scintillating football, on that pitch? Are you kidding? How bout this, after a season in which we won a double and only lost two matches all year, give the coach a handful of proper matches with all of his new pieces before throwing your hands up.

      You did criticize Kevin, if not insult him indirectly, and you also insulted the coach of the team you support, who has done nothing but win, even after having to pick up the pieces last year after Neymar’s unforeseen departure. (Oh yeah, and after punching above his weight for many years at Bilbao.) What is your football resume?

    • Rivaldo
      August 25, 2018

      I don’t ever do this BUT…

      When and how did he insult Kxevin?

      Have we really gotten that soft?

      Guess what, I also don’t like what I see thus far either. So far it all seems same old, same old for me. Just because you gave Valverde the benefit of the doubt in regards to the pitch doesn’t mean we have to – to me that was just a difference in analysis.

      Also there is a reason that most don’t remembers the last season as “The one of TWO lost matches”. As incredible as it was, it will always be the season of “the TWO missed opportunities/big errors”, and I am fine with judging it like that without hating. I didn’t want Valverde out, I just saw a manager last season “saving his bacon” far too many times.

      I remember saying he reminded me of Mourinho in his approach – picks the starters each and every game and doesn’t know how to develop players. I also said that was fair given what he lost in Neymar and the fact that he had an impression to make – This is the season that will define him.

      If one notices traits that one thinks he/she has seen before it is ok to be concerned.

      Ultimately I don’t want Barca to fail whoever is coaching or playing. I am not one of those but, I have seen things I do’t like from Valverde – can he “grow a pair”? I do hope so.

  13. mvarfi
    August 25, 2018

    Two down, thirty-six to go.
    Absolutely thrilled that no injuries occurred on that fucked-up pitch.
    The game I watched confirmed yet again the maturity of this Barca and its coach.
    I love this team.

  14. Dracko
    August 26, 2018

    Last time I checked, the words “idiot” and “coward” aren’t pleasant or complimentary adjectives to use in qualifying people. What I like is if you have the guts to throw insults then also exhibit the guts to claim it. Opinions are personal, but will always be subject to critiques. Heck! Nothing isn’t–from beautifully strung works of poetry to moot academic conceptual discourses; opinions vary and may not necessarily attract uniform acceptance. But you don’t criticise the writer; you don’t slag him like we are in some kind of propagandist campaign. That is proof of loss of emotional grip (albeit momentary) and not a sign that commenters or posters here have gone soft. As a fact, the calmness and maturity in this blog is its allure. I agree that football is an emotional sport but its essence remains to entertain and refresh, not to score cheap verbal points premised on insultive remarks. It’s good that in your adjunct comment you did what you ought to have done initially, but you should apologise to Kxevin.

    • Hristo
      August 26, 2018

      “I agree that football is an emotional sport but its essence remains to entertain and refresh, not to score cheap verbal points premised on insultive remarks”
      We have done none of that for the past year or so. Don’t you see the problem?

      I wont apologise to Kxevin but i think he should apologize to us. For his eloquent writing, poetic point of view is rather soothing when it must not.
      I’ve already seen regrets creeping in his writing in the past year.
      His unwillingness to engage with the problem and encourage solving it for as long as it takes has lead us to a place where we briefly mention the issue and move on, waiting for another catastrophe. And another benevolent article.
      His article about Vidal is clear indication that he is losing it

    • Rivaldo
      August 26, 2018

      Let me get this straight….

      So he must apologize to Kevin for calling the coach an idiot and coward? Man this is some major bullocks.

      I agree that any personal attack on Kevin is not a way to go, but not being allowed one to “attack” LOL or debate someone else’s opinions – Dictatorship anyone?

      I hope I get what Hristo is trying to say – for me it’s my same argument with JIM. We all have biases, those two guys because of their writing skills and grasp of the english language are able to get over their arguments very eloquently often times diminishes another writer even though they at times may be dead wrong.

      Kevin doesn’t think we should’ve gone after Vidal or players like Suarez, only “squeaky clean” players – If this were the case in life I wouldn’t have gotten where I am …. Its not how you started, it’s how you finish! Jim thinks Xavi should still be playing and that Pique is the best defender in the world, Mascherano wasn’t good enough, doesn’t rate Rakitic etc, and it doesn’t matter what his eyes saw/sees he interprets it differently. But let these guys write about it – man people be licking garbage out the the bag – that said, I am not diminishing their contribution but just saying THAT EACH CONTRIBUTION ESPECIALLY WHEN SOMEONE GIVES YOU THEIR WHY, IS VALUABLE!

      I still think Valverde is a “safe coach”, but he has time to sway me. If he manages like last year and even if we get the same two trophies we should look for a new coach/manager in my opinion.

    • Hristo
      August 26, 2018

      To Draco
      Since you’ve swept away by authority, here are some words for you:

      “And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know….

      No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

      I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers–I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.

      Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy.”

    • Hristo
      August 26, 2018

      Now Draco, you can safely elude to a place of no contradiction, criticism and stifling comments.

  15. Dracko
    August 26, 2018

    On the game: context is everything. Surely the players didn’t just go from being, at least, good against Alaves to being totally whack against Valladolid in the space of a week of season’s start? Or did it?
    THE UGLY STATE OF THAT PITCH BEMOANED HERE IS NOT JUST AN EXCUSE. Some times during the play, the pitch got Valla players frustrated too. Last week Mello was subbed on to retain possession and spread play, but this term Vidal was thrown in for defensive solidity and to stiffle the midfield. Two different games and approaches conditioned by two different sets of on-pitch realities. PRAGMATISM. I ‘ll take the win for what it stands for. Does that mean the team or its coach is perfect? No. But the win –and all its positives/negatives — will still be a win, even if the result had went in favour of the other side.

  16. TITO
    August 26, 2018

    My thoughts:
    For insults and that stuff, i think the only ones that deserve an insult and ocassional bad mouthing are Real Madrid, Espanyol and to some extent Sergio Ramos.
    Everything else should be left behind, especially words toward Kevin who is managing this place. I dont always agree with his opinions, but thats it, just an opinion. In the end, if i dont like how he is managing or writes, then me, or everyone else are free to leave this place, and thats it.
    For the game. You cannot deny that you cant play football on that pitch. You cant.
    Individuallyz Suarez is still crap, Messi was crap except that pass to Dembele, Coutinho was close to crap,and EV takes the blame for me for still sticking to his favorite eleven.
    If he continues like this, similar to last season, im affraid that the same fate is waiting for us in the CL. If a player needs to be benched, bench him, i dont care about his status. I like Malcolm, try him a little more, and Arthur as well, they seem like players that will blend in quite quickly. Vidal, as i see, too cautious and affraid not to make a mistake. It will take some time.
    Anyway, chill out, we did win last night.

    • Hristo
      August 26, 2018

      ” would win 5-4 than 1-0″ Cruyff.

      But like the tune you are signing. Keep going just the same way. If not us fan than there is no chance the board, coach and team will be under pressure.
      We are ugly. We are boring 85% of the games.
      We must have played 60 games under Valverde and we have been crap in 50 of those. Still winning. Of course, we shall postpone the issues because its better to be living in illusion than face what actually is. We are ugly.

      Messi is doing what he wants. He has no positional awareness. He has been left to do and go wherever he wants. We don’t need a coach to drew over him but to coach him. To tell him what to do and why. And Valverde has done just that. He has managed to convince Messi to defend for dear life, defend scores.
      We will know a lot more when an autobiography comes out from of the current players.

    • TITO
      August 26, 2018

      That Cruyff lost 4-0 from Milan, and did not managed to score 5 in his best days as our coach.

    • Grindelwald
      August 26, 2018

      Don’t mean to be rude, but Cruyff team scored 5 against Madrid though!

    • TITO
      August 27, 2018

      You missed my point, but anyway…

  17. squeen
    August 26, 2018

    I think HRISTO and others who think it is important to rail against team complacency, are giving themselves too much credit in the ability to influence the club or its managers from an English language fan blog. I believe its a fallacy to think we need to unite and express outrage (here) in order to ward off some perceived future tragedy—an illusion of efficacy. Perhaps there are ways to move the Barca needle a bit (after all, this blog was quoted by Ray Hudson last season!), BUT TYPING IN ALL CAPS HERE IN THE COMMENTS IS NOT ONE OF THEM (imho).

    Anyway, thanks to Kxevin for again taking the time out of your day to write a piece of prose for us all to digest and comment on. It’s a blast, and I feel as if the match-aftermath is not complete without it. Be kind to and appreciate our patrons—good things seldom last long.

    • Hristo
      August 26, 2018

      I like what you wrote. Radical change in society will never be brought up by collective effort. That’s a fact. And i also very naive to think so. The main motive for his is fear. Fear of being alone.
      The individual is the collective. The individual is an actual representation of society. To think any else is fallacy. So everyone must do it for oneself not for me or another. I definitely do not seek a following or some lost idiot who will agree with me and join hands .
      Yet, life has no meaning without relationships. Keeping it all fot myself is just silly and irresponsible.
      You mentioned “complacency” so I’ll like to invite you to take a closer look at it.

    • mvarfi
      August 26, 2018

      I can only imagine, but it must be exhausting being in your shoes. While you wait in agony for Kxevin to come around to your way of thinking, it might be worth contemplating the true culprit of your tormented, irritable soul. I’ll give you hints. It’s not Kxevin. It’s not the players. It’s not Valverde. And it’s not other people’s skewed perception of his Barca either.
      P.S. I don’t remember asking you to speak on my behalf. Your notion that “Kxevin should apologize to us…” is ridiculous, and that’s putting it kindly.

    • Hristo
      August 27, 2018

      Unfortunately i had left the browser on my phone was it was many hours. I click on it this morning to find out this page ia still opened. And so I’m remanded of something long forgotten.

      Fortunately for me by brains wipes everything out at the end of the day. You try to be civil in your comments because if you avoid adjectives unlike myself you’d be diffrent. And why are you defending Kevin, he is not child, does not need your defense.

      And about the rest of your comments…
      “whatever you see in others exists in you”.

  18. mvarfi
    August 26, 2018

    On self-righteous weirdness
    You can try to ignore it, but it persists. You can try to understand it, but it’s too far left-field to compel serious thinking, though it does elicit some sympathy. You can try to reason with it, firmly, but it doubles down. It’s a curious thing until it becomes very annoying.

  19. Grindelwald
    August 26, 2018

    I’d rather not have this space devolve into the hundreds of blogs ranked with unnecessary rants and illogical statements. Hostility shouldn’t be condoned in this space, I hope this issues get settled soon.
    We’re allowed to have differing opinions on the same issue, ability to tolerate the said opinions is the hallmark of the civilized.

    • mvarfi
      August 26, 2018


  20. mvarfi
    August 26, 2018

    Apologies for my last two, thoughtless knee jerk responses.

  21. georgjorge
    August 27, 2018

    I fear my response Hristo opened up a can of worms. My bad.

    Just a (hopefully) short clarification:
    – I have no problem with someone thinking Valverde is making mistakes, or even that he is unfit to be a Barca coach. For me, that’s very different from calling someone a “coward” or “idiot”, the difference being the lack of respect
    – The insult to Kxevin I perceived was the constant (this is not the first post about this by Hristo) demands to him to admit to his “errors”, to stop defending the coach, in short: to write things that some commenters saw differently. Again, it’s about lack of respect for a guy who takes a lot of time to write well-thought out things on here for absolutely no pay. We can disagree with him, and say so, but coming to this space time and time again just to tell him he’s wrong is a bit like camping in front of your local charity organization and denouncing them for not supporting someone else who deserves it more

  22. August 27, 2018

    So it was another liga match, fucked up by joint efforts of Liga and facebook. Hardly watched 15 minutes of first half – broken minutes – and another 15 minutes in the second half. . The second half 15 minutes were less broken and it was mostly towards the last 10 minutes.. Should I also mention that I tried this time on a borrowed 7 inch tab, as I dont use smart phones. So may be facebook gave me more viewing (hardly 30 mins instead of 5 mins for the first liga match) as it was a tab, not laptop.. So are we all supposed to watch football in smart phones and tablets now????

    Am I right in understanding from those 10 minutes of second half that Barca was nearly parking the bus against a newly promoted liga side, protecting a one goal lead..Please someone tell us we were not defending hard against Valladolid. If we were, I must say that is a bit embarassing for Barca.

    • August 27, 2018

      May I reiterate that am not very sure about my thought about park the bus. The quality was terrible add to which the breaking of image.. I can see Dembele with the ball, just outside the p box. then it shows the buffer ring, when its back. ball is with TS.

    • mvarfi
      August 27, 2018

      This was the third competitive match after a non-existent preseason for a number of key players. The game was played on a Halloween pitch, and while Valladolid had to deal with the same nightmare, they didn’t win. We did.
      Generally speaking, the quality of football was poorer for obvious reasons. But the focus and patience to play on such an unsafe ground was on display throughout the majority of the game. This last point can’t be stressed enough, even though it may be taken as an excuse.
      Professional athletes learn to be in tune with their bodies, because they have to. It prevents injuries. The pitch was deemed dangerous, so I can understand if players backed off either deliberately or instinctively. It would have been unwise for Barca to have kept plowing away, literally, oblivious to the ground shifting under its feet, literally, in eager pursuit of free flowing football and a multitude of goals.
      This was a freak curveball that was thrown at Barca. It managed, just about.

  23. Khing_prince
    August 27, 2018

    Obviously The Pitch Is Going To Get All The Blame,but Don’t Get Me Wrong,Damn That Pitch For Looking Like It Was Meant For Beach Soccer Instead Of The Actual Thing,but It was The Second Time We Have Been either Outsmarted Or Outmuscled This Season and We Have Only Played 2 Matches,against Alaves It Took Us a bit of Magic From Our Skipper To Get Us going.Permit Me To Say But Barca Is Starting To Look One Dimensional And A Bit Boring,…P.S: This Is My First Time Commenting,kudos To Kxevin And The Guys,y’all Are Doing A Great Job

    • Hristo
      August 27, 2018

      Lets look at Valverdes profile first.
      Valverde come to Barca from Atletic. He did well to get them above the mid table. He did exceptional job in that regard. If I’m not mistaken even managed to qualify them for CL.
      Valverde adopts high pressure during homes games. Valverde knew he can’t challenge the top teams on every game, or, in his case, weekly basis. So Atletic only applied pressure high up the pitch during homes games, while their record away was well below avarage for a team in top6.
      In away games Valverde played conservative, defensive football based on defensive solidity.
      A perfect example was the Super Cup games against Barca where Valverde managed to grab 4-1 win. In that games we made mistakes dur to thr constant pressure. Our team had little preparation and it showed. The second games was..boring…

      Our record in the CL away games is awful. Very similar to that of Atletic during Valverde years. We have NO AWAY wins again low level league teams.
      The Rome games is such and example. Where we pressed them relentlessly. Away we were awful yet again. Valverde success ar Atletic was due to his team ability to press relentlessly in homes. This kind of press is not sustainable on a weekely basis for a team like Atletic was at that times. They had poor bench. So Valverde rightly so decided to make sacrifices. High pressing fast paced games in homes games and Conservative, organised system in away games.

      What we see now is exactly the same. FC Barcelona got trashed by RM in last years SSC.
      It seemed that this inclined Valverde to consider 4-4-2 as an option. The problem with that is that we were shutting the middle for the opposition but also shutting The middle for ourselves as well. How so?
      4-4-2 does not require wingers, and we really didn’t have proper pacy RB(Semedo) so we played Sergi as RB and Rakitic as a… I dont know… Pseudo RCM/RW/RWB/Cover RB.
      What happened is that the players would naturely fall for their predominant pre-existing patterns of play. Rakitic would drift centrally, Roberto would drift centrally and Messi would drop deep to get the ball. This influx of wide players coming inside clogs the middle and counters the oppositions attempts to penatrate through the middle as they forced to go through the flanks. We were often bamboozled on our right flank. This overloading in middle meant that teams cant really slice us through the middle but we can’t either. So we are forced to extend our play to the left. Teams of high quality know this so they shut the middle and the left by doubling up on thr flank at whoever is the winger. We become predictable and easy to counter because our midfield suck at keeping possession.

      This season nothing has changed. We refuse to play Semedo with a winger and instead double him up with Roberto and Rakitic. Last season it became apparent this down work. So we revert back to Sergi as a RB. This is okay against low level teams but against top teams we are torn to shreds on the flanks. In last games Valverdes decision was to ask of Alba to stay behind and cover. He did that. He did well against Valladolid.
      We were constantly attacking through the LW because we had no pace on the right. We became easy to defend. Dembele was forced (like Neymars last season) to dribble past several players on the flank. He often could not find a way so he crossed the ball.
      The pitch was bad for both teams but that didn’t stop Valladolid to dominated the game for 20min in the second half. What happened?

      Well…while Dembele lost the ball quite a bit he was the most difficult player to stop on the pitch. Valla were forced to stay deep and prevent space for Dembele to run into. So attacking through the LW became hardly possible for Valla. They revert counter the right flank were Alba would cover. Because Alba would stay back and cover our back. We saw this several times.
      So… Went Dembele was subbed out Vallas RB was free to push forward for there was no such threat on the wing. Most people dont realise how impossible Dembele is to stop when left 1on1.
      We lost out ability to stretch the play wide on the right and on the left.
      I came Vidal. Vidal was played as RM.
      Now Vidal has almost never played at this position and naturally does not suit his game.
      He is included to player deeper as Box2Box player. He can also play as AM if need be. Breaking up play is what he does. I felt he was running like a chicken on that right side. I had my own observation about Vidal but i wanted to ask fans of Bayern for their input. Then, i was explicitly told that Vidal cant and must not play as RM. This threat in on FC Bayern forum from today if you wish to check it out. I rely on my own observations but i always like to check them out. Its common for me to go to other forums and share info about players and teams.

      To understand our current and future situation we must first find out about our coach;who is he, what he likes, he does not like, his motivations, is he proactive or reactive. Once we know this we can foretell much of whats about to occur.
      We also have to take ibto account our team’s identity. Together and individually.
      Our coach is a man who Does not Want to Lose. He ideas about football circle about keeping things at least as they are(nil-nil, win). Not losing to him means – not conceding). This is why we often see Conservative approach to the game. One that is relying on shutting passing lanes and defending. And this can work if the team, all players defend together. But Messi can’t do it. Suarez can’t doing and Sergi is awful. This leaves Umtiti to play out of this world, along with Busi and Rakitic. Busi and Umtiti can do so many things at the highest possible level. Rakitic can’t. He can defend well and attack well. But if he does both things each is suffering too much. He is too slow to come back and too slow to bring the ball forward. He natural game of long passing and euns from behind wont work because Messi really cant jump that high, Suarez would rather fall. If Rakitic attempts to make late runs in the box we are exposed in the middle. So he does not. Too slow.

      At Atletic Valverde had trained his team to play without the ball. He relied on exceptional organisation of his team. Atletic does not posses the players to keep the ball under pressure. But they can be taught to press zonal if they have to.
      So Atletic relied in away games on counter, long balls to Aduritz and what not. They played without the ball. Ans they could play well without it.

      Lets look at our team.
      Once Pep said that “we were terrible without the ball…so we tried to do our best to get back ASAP”.
      Our team is built around play with the ball, around attacking incessantly. When we try to sit back and protect the score we are inviting trouble as out players have pkayed exactly the opposite way. We finish games off by scoring more, not preventing a goal but sitting deep, and without our best attacking player.
      Against Roma we sat back and cleared the ball but we are really Awful when we don’t have the ball for long periods of time. Valverde fails to understand that our teams cannot defend or keeps the score without the ball. Last season we had MATS play his best season ever. In my opinion he has a strong case to have been the best GK in the world that season. Umtiti was just out of this world and Messi was magical. This saved us when we didn’t deserve over anad again.
      I see things changing only Suarez keeps playing bad and the team losing few games. This will give Valverde enough external validation to bench Suarez. Until this happens we wint see changes.
      We can do well with a midfield of Arthur-Busi and Rakitic.

      By player Coutinho on the LW and Dembele on the right, along with Semedo as RB, we shall stretch the play wide, force their FB to drift away from goal and their respective CB to cover for them. This will create space for Messi as well as Suarez in the middle. It will also lift pressure of Rakitic so can make those runs inside the box as he is so good that them. 4-3-3 with proper wingers will force most systems to play almost in all areas of the pitch 1 on 1. And our optimal eleven is unrivaled in that regards in most positions.

    • NJ_08
      August 29, 2018

      HRISTO’s comment here is bang on!! When Dembele was subbed out i was so pissed. In came Vidal, he was running like scared chicken running around.
      I observed even before subbing out Dembele we switched to 4-4-2. WHY ?? Are we a team who is happy with 1 goal advantage against a newly promoted team. HELL NO !!
      I want Barca to play like a Lion and not like scared chicken without ball. We are to keep possession against any team (even Pep’s team) that’s our game, that’s what our identity is.
      We are not Atleti who goes back after 1 goal. I can understand its just second game of the season and worst playing conditions for our game, but man EV should change his tactics from last season.
      It worked last season coz Atleti and Madrid was shit in early season not this time.
      What we lacked last year was pace on the wings, we have a fully fit Dembele and Malcolm. I hope he changes his mid table manager attitude and go for kill and not defend 1 goal.
      Thats just loser attitude (I can understand if its against a might of Bayern or Man city for now ) but Valla no way.

      Lets give him benefit of doubt this time ( just coz of pitch condition), and hope he change his approach, excited to see next game

  24. Dracko
    August 27, 2018

    Welcome Khing_Prince, hopefully we ‘ll hear more of your thoughts and ideas here. The pitch surely does, and should rightly get much of the blame. I won’t compare the Alaves match with this one. Barca’s play isn’t as one dimensional as fans claim. We ‘ve witnessed tactical variations again and again. I reckon the one dimensional play fans see is a consequence of their not wanting to admit the other ways the team adapt football to win games over a lengthy season, and it’s because those extra dimensions it icorporates are deemed boring, defense oriented and totally un-barcally.
    Meanwhile, this team surely remains a work in progress–especially when you factor in the required bedding in time for our new recruits, a lack of pre-season for worldcup returnee veterans, an off-form Suarez and a tactical switch to our trademark 4-4-3.

  25. Dracko
    August 27, 2018

    Hristo & Rivaldo:

    1. I never said don’t critique. I said don’t criticise. (note; those are two operationally different terminologies).
    2. I never said don’t opine, I simply said try to uphold and maintain the standards of respect and decorum set for this blog when you air your opinions.
    3. I never said Kexvin’s, Jim’s or your views are either 100% right or wrong. I simply said the jury is always out on every analysis, and painstakingly pointed out how divergence in acceptance or rejection of any analysis is a universal occurrence. Expecting us to swallow any view hookline and sinker is akin to indoctrination.
    4. I am troubled by your assertion that Kexvin ought to apologise for misleading us. Perhaps you ‘d have prefered to find at the end of every post a DISCLAIMER: “All posts is the opinion of the writer.” Common! I believe we are all responsible for taking or discarding others’ views.
    5. I still maintain that there are better and more decent ways we can say what we think without sounding insultive.

  26. Khing_prince
    August 27, 2018

    Thanks Dracko,but if those dimensions are not barcally like as you said.What then does “mes que un club” stand for.We are not just any run of the mill club and I refuse to lower my standard of how I expect barca-ball to be played,why should you?

  27. Dracko
    August 27, 2018

    Why should I? Because the game continues to evolve and the expectation to win all trophies continues to get crazier. These expectations define the success of coaches, seasons, and so ultimately the modern game bodes down to winning.

    Furthermore, unlike the overdemanding fans I alluded to in my earlier comment, I don’t think the extra dimensions are un-barcally. Historical evidences show that barca have a somewhat forgotten tradition (mostly forgotten by fans of this new dispensation of course) of grinding out wins, even as recent as Pep’s era.

    No I’m not lowering my standards. Barca right now is embracing other aspects of the game, which means becoming more complete. Picture it like this: FOOTBALL is like car driving. Imagine Barca has fully mastered how to drive in certain gears and within certain speed limits, but it must now master how to drive with the remaining gears in order to fully become the complete driver. I expect the team to get more unpredictable, win more games and that is mes que u club.

  28. Víctor
    August 27, 2018

    I don’t see Kxevin, Levon or Isaiah saying that Valverde “is a genius”. In fact, their opinion on him vary quite a bit.

    Levon is not so fond of Valverde and I think he is giving him another chance just because he managed to win a double, but the Roma game still puts a big question mark on Valverde.

    And, as I see it, Kevin has a more favorable view of Valverde, while aknowledging his short comings. Valverde… despite all the criticism for the UCL knockout and the conservative approach to games, you gotta admit that Valverde managed to do well considering the team he got and the mental state of Barcelona after Madrid winning La Liga and UCL in 2017.

    Of course, the Roma fiasco is the big mark on the last season… and I’d say that Chelsea away game should be as well… Barça didn’t deserve a draw over there… we got it because of a rival’s blunder and a Iniesta’s moment of genius… but in case that didn’t happen and Chelsea managed to nick the 1-0 win over there… then there was a big chance (let’s say 60~70%) that Barcelona wouldn’t have gone through…

    Valverde’s big challenge this season is to make Barcelona play great those UCL away games and retain La Liga title… we deservedly won La Liga last season, but we also got a bit lucky that Madrid and Atletico were a bit crap at the start of the season… sure thing, not our fault and Barcelona would have been idiotic to not take advantage of their silly start, but let’s not count on that happening again…

  29. PPos
    August 27, 2018

    I really don’t understand why Valverde doesn’t use Semedo and Dembele on the right side. The speed on that wing would be frightening to deal with. I think he doesn’t trust Semedo’s defending, and since he’s kind of a defensive oriented dude that tends to play it safe. His subs this weekend were definitely trying to contain the game and just ride it out, which I can understand but I don’t particularly like. Why not just keep the ball? We got saved by VAR and that’s because at the end Valladolid were pressing like crazy and once you get in that defensive mindset of oh ill just hang on. It’s so hard to break out of and be able to get back into the offensive. Barcelona isn’t Inter Milan 2009. We can’t defend without the ball. We need the ball to defend. If Valverde doesn’t deliver the CL, he’s out.

  30. Dracko
    August 28, 2018

    Here’s the fixed mindset of the culeverse: Barca is crap without the ball.

    Here is how EV sees his Team: Barca should be great with the ball and without the ball (from all indications).

    What the former connotes is that the only way to dominate an opponent, shut down the game or protect a lead is by hurding the ball. So, our only weapon becomes possession. This is not taking into account the fact that the sport is catching on with our total attack strategies, and of course continued hurding of the ball rules out our chances to hit opponents on the counter.

    The latter –EV’s picture of his Barca — is a two prong approach that gives Barca a lot of options; makes them flexible, more innovative and more unpredictable especially in tough battle turfs like Zorilla. Barca, thus, becomes a monster on the ball, unplayable and dangerous to stand toe-to-toe against, which explains why we got Arthur, want Dejong, Rabiot and Pogba. On the other edge of the knife, barca becomes a defensive and counter-attacking machine.

    • Khing_prince
      August 28, 2018

      I love your optimism Dracko, but I’m a realist. How do we get dynamic and flexible when all our attacks follow the same pattern, if it’s not GIVE THE BALL TO MESSI, it is give it to Alba to square ball(this is annoying sometimes) or give it to Coutinho outside the box. We make it easy for the opposition to defend against us because we are predictable and those slow build ups from mid-field ain’t helping either. We want to be a counter-attacking machine yet we don’t press them hardly enough. You want us to be a counter-attacking machine when your clunky striker seems to kill any and all attacks dead, I think it time for a reality check. P.S: my greatest desire is that Munir would somehow magically become our version of Firmino( I Love This Guy), they seem to have the same characteristics but i stopped believing in the tooth fairy a long time ago to hope on that.

    • Hristo
      August 28, 2018

      You don’t have enough evidence to support such hypothesis.
      I’ve written super long analyse of Valverde and the team above.
      What you want from Valverde he has never exhibit in his entire career. Never even attempted it. He teams are very similar.

    • squeen
      August 28, 2018

      I do agree with Dracko and think Valverde *wants* us to become a team that’s good at defending without the ball. There were games last season that surprised me that we were able to weather an attacking storm. So much so, that I thought we’d withstand Roma’s attack as well. Surprise! We kind lost it and the end of last season and started leaking goals again—our defensive stats kinda fell apart.

    • Khing_prince
      August 28, 2018

      Simply put we should lose our FUN FACTOR. Oh my! Cryuff( Bless his soul) would be rolling in his grave. I don’t have a problem with EV but how I long to watch a barca match and get an adrenaline orgasm once more, to here the commentator say “wow!!!…That was fun”.

    • Hristo
      August 28, 2018

      Valverde expect our core of player, who have played in La Masia, who have taught to have the ball and when they don’t to get the ball ASAP, to change after 15 years of playing with that philosophy? These playera are at the end of their career. Andres Villas Boas all over.
      What a duschbag.

  31. mvarfi
    August 28, 2018

    What is the conventional wisdom regarding how many games into a new season one has to wait before they can realistically convince themselves and others that “things are not looking good”?
    Technically, this is Valverde’s second season. But, it’s his first in a way too, given the substantial additions made to the squad, as well as the fact that both Dembele and Coutinho look far more comfortable on the pitch than they did last season. So, how many games should this Valverde’s Barca play before we gather enough evidence to be either optimistic or skeptical about the rest of the season? Is it 2-3, 7-8, 10-12 games?

    What Valverde did in Euskadi and Greece matters little, for the simple fact that the quality of the players a coach has at his disposal conditions everything, including his flexibility towards different schools of thought on the best way to win.

    My favorite rowing coach, Ethan, used to use the “elevator” analogy when he would stress the importance of setting future, benchmark goals based on your current performance/fitness level rather than an arbitrary desire for improvement. He’d say, once you press the elevator button, you have to wait, patiently. It will make its way to you eventually, but it can’t skip, it has to go through other levels first. Pressing the button maniacally won’t change that reality. In other words, you have to let your body adapt gradually. It’s the only way to avoid injury and crushing disappointment.

    We are two games into the new season and the pessimistic fidgeting has already begun. Instant assurances of progress are demanded after two games in. Two. Honestly, my only reaction to that is a sigh.

    • Hristo
      August 29, 2018

      You are talking about different philosophies here. Kudos to your coach but he ain’t Valverde. Don’t u see thr many similarities. Don’t you see the lack of press in away games? Don’t u see the lack of positional footbal but the presence of Attempted organised football that is defensive? This is a philosophy. He can alter it but the core ideas are still. It will not work because our squad is too old to change this drastically. Its not a matter of time.
      Our core players are molded into something different to the rest of the world. That is why we bought Coutinho, Athur… for their ability with the ball, not so much without it.
      The board is trying to buy players who complement Barca philosophy and our coach is attempting to build something contrary to the players natural tendency. How can you not see this. Its obvious.
      “Get Your Head out of your *** Marshal”

  32. Dracko
    August 28, 2018

    Will Valverde ever win? He is not Pep. He is not Cryuff. He is not… Spoiler: Pep’s City was constantly owned last season by Klopp’s ‘Heavy Metalic Rock’ team.

    Valverde at Bilbao didn’t have the players with the kind of skillset his Barca players have, so comparisons don’t really hold water.

    To think our players can’t learn and unlearn is lame; learning in itself is a continous process and these guys are professionals who constantly adapt to different coaches, new signings, tactics etc at an alarming rate. Also, sometimes certain players with required complex abilities to facilitate new setups are specifically signed to assist the others in catching up with new innovations or to act as stand-ins in the meantime e.g Paulinho, Vidal and Rakitic who was initially signed as a workhorse.

    Our problem last season was squad depth and maybe the fact that the coach was still finding his mojo; i.e trial and error, learning the ropes in his new team. This defining season presents a fine chance to fully evaluate him.

    • Grindelwald
      August 29, 2018

      I agree with you to some extent, where I have some minor grievances is your word on learning & unlearning, as we all know that learning is a continuous and ‘gradual’ process that takes long period of time before it can become fully effective (esp in a high pressure game like footy).
      The core players of Barca have been playing this way for 95% of their entire footballing careers, suggesting relearning – Pressing, counter attacking, positional play is far easier than learning another thing entirely – How to defend without the ball, soaking up pressure and all. I see the job EV is trying to do, but what he failed on observing is that he should be the one tweaking his style to suit the players strengths, not the other way round. It’s not a coincedence that Barca are struggling to play the ‘EV’ way when overwhelming majority of the players are suited to another style, even Pep had to tweak his style to a more counter attacking and slower transitioning at Bayern & city respectively.
      The season is far too long to start panicking atm, but I do hope things change for the better.

    • Hristo
      August 30, 2018

      I’ve been point at those same facts.
      Not only have they plaed 95% of their careers this way but most of them at their end

  33. christembassykapo
    August 28, 2018

    Truth be told, very few barca fans would be happy, with the way we play, we almost drew the match while trying to defend a goal. There is a style of play you know chelsea for, Madrid has their style, and so those barca.
    I heard when fabio capello coached Madrid, he was sacked after winning the trophy, largely because he was changing their style of play. And it was losing its attractiveness.
    (Can’t say if the above was true or not ) but no barca fan anywhere is truly happy, and over a million of us can’t be entirely wrong.
    While I expect EV to win matches, but not acting like we had a near death experience with this weak defensive mind set.
    Although one would say it’s too early, and he has a better squad, but we are really just hoping things change.
    Tactically speaking, EV isn’t one of the best coaches, the only league game Messi didn’t play we lost, and when he was having a bad day against ROMA we lost also.
    He’s sub were rather questionable, as has always been. (Remember roma) many other matches,
    Messi has literally been the one saving this coach.
    If more Messi gets a two month injury, then you would see obviously hire weak EV is.

    For crying out loud Suarez wasn’t in the game, you left him, dembele was you removed him.
    Even countinho was losing it in the second half, it took a while, and after subbing dembele before you changed him.
    You know it doesn’t matter how great some players they would never be appreciated in Barcelona, like Ronaldo ibrahimovic, balotteli, there not just our guys, and would do at most one season irrespective of the goals.
    Same for EV he might somehow carry another treble, but would never be fully accepted by the barca verse and he would ultimately lose our quit the job

  34. mvarfi
    August 28, 2018

    I don’t know if my view of Barca is in the minority or majority of cules. I haven’t taken a poll, nor am I interested to. If it is in the minority, then so be it. Perhaps the beauty of this Barca is too subtle for many cules. Perhaps many cules’ minds are already made-up about Valverde, regardless of how much more attractive his Barca might become. The changes may never be enough. I’m not the first to bring this up, but it’s worth reiterating. It’s sort of like you’re waiting to be moved the same way you’re moved by a Rubens mythical painting at its most Baroque, when in reality you’re in front of a Morandi still-life.

    P.S. I do love Morandi.

  35. Víctor
    August 28, 2018

    Once again, the typical: “we gotta play our style” argument. I get, I really do get it. Barcelona is not a team whose identity is associated with cautious or defensive football… but then again, fans want Barcelona to play offensive, juego de posicion football and win trophies all the time.

    Are the two things possible at the same time? Yes, of course. Not easy, though… and I bet that many of those fans will keep hurling insults at the coach and the players if they don’t win the UCL & La Liga… even if they play attractive football. Remember Rijkaard? He is a coach that likes offensive football… sure thing, his strategy wasn’t like Pep’s, but it was attractive football nonetheless… yet they managed to win nothing in his last two seasons (OK, they won a Supercopa in August 2006, but that’s about it)… people wanted to sack him even when his game style was offensive minded.

    Saying “I want an attacking team that plays attractive football, even if they have trophyless seasons” sounds great and fantastic, but how genuine is that? The Barcelona vs Real Madrid rivalry is, nowadays, way more based on results and results alone. Madrid has won 3 UCLs in a row and that hurts the Barça fanbase a lot… it’s got to the point that winning the UCL is definitely a must for almost every Barça fan out there… while retaining La Liga, of course… if EV fails to do that, my guess is that the #valverdeout crowd will grow a lot…

    • Hristo
      August 29, 2018

      We want a coach who can complement our players technical and tactical abilities. You don’t try to instil new philosophy that is polar opposite to the one that is already there because it has worked for 20 years. Not with these players. When Messi, Busi, Pique, Alba retire u then go for it. Then u try to change to a larger degree.
      That’s lack attempting to convince a detective who has been on thr Street for 15 years to take desk job because its safe and his pension and life are guaranteed. Logical right. That detective will wain in fortnight. Its the life he knows. He is nor crippled or incapable. Same with our core players.
      Rakitic defends better than most of our attacking players because he is not brought in our style of play. He is vastly inferior players in terms of technical ability. He can’t hold the ball, organise or dribble his way at of trouble on consistent basis. Nearly all of our players are dangerous with the ball. You need total overhaul of the squad to see this change you are talking about.
      You need Messi, Coutinho, Dembele, Suarez, Malcom, Pique and Alba out of the squad. Then you have a chance to bring players who are skills are predominantly in organisation, Conservative football.

      Do you see this happening anytime soon?

  36. realdox
    August 29, 2018

    the quality of how everyone makes there point known and express there thought here is something I rarely or haven’t witnessed in other blogs at all. in that regards I will urge us to exercise caution,you are free to state your opinion but that doesn’t mean I should agree with you because I have my own beliefs too.
    I love the fact that we were able to defend 1-0 lead against atletico last year that show something has changed in the team. the problem most of us (not all) have here is because we read too much to guardiola era. this is different team you just have to sit back and enjoy it regardless of how The team play. In my own opinion EV is doing a wonderful job but he won’t survive more than this year at barca playing safe, he needs to summon the courage to bench any senior player who doesn’t perform to his expectations.
    and while we are at it what do you think about replacing Suarez with Brazilian firminho??? the guy technical ability is insane, have been watching him for a while now. he seems to be quiet type but the guy is world class.. did anyone noticed how jurgen klopp benched his Captain? that’s a clear message to everyone that you are not safe unless you play the way I want.

    • Khing_prince
      August 29, 2018

      Mhmm!!!…How I’d love to have some bobby dazzler right about now. The guy is such outstanding character.

  37. Dracko
    August 29, 2018

    Players adapt to new systems all the time, coaches inject smart signings to aid the assimilation process and that’s why barca came close to both a treble plus unbeaten season.

    The stat on our defensive play last season in Laliga alone (second to only Atleti) is already evidence that Valverde is systematically transforming his team to suit his philosophy. Last season’s lack of depth problem affected both our attacking and defensive play aod the game against Roma is proof of lack of options in both fronts.

    People often underestimate all that actually goes into organised defending, a la “if its not attack then it is not football’ mentality. Pep at City has unapologetically embraced a paradigm shift that has seen him place more emphasis on signing quality defenders. This is the same Pep who started off on a high by undermining the import of defense on the basis of his staunch conviction that ‘if you can keep the ball really well, there is no need to really defend.

    The game has changed. EV recognised that.

  38. Hristo
    August 29, 2018

    We were never close to a treble. We might have reach the quarters of CL but really losing to Chelsea would have been deserved. We won games, so many games we didnt deserve one too many times. Games in which Mats was man of the match too many times and Messi was savings us with last gaps goals number of times, in games we didnt play well. We were winning but we weren’t good. Not at all. We won La liga based on 3 major factors.
    – RM losing La Liga by December.
    – Atletico playing awful in the fist three months.
    – Messi, Mats, Umtiti.

    We had no pressure in the league and played our top 11 in CDR.

    Keep dreaming. I’ll be knocking on your door when humiliation descend upon us one more. I hope you will not come up with excuses.

    • NJ_08
      August 30, 2018

      Agreed , we need to focus on CL more than CDR. No one is interested in CDR anymore. It should be playing for B team and rest key players. Even if we lose it doesn’t matter. T The last four year we won this competition Madrid has won 3 CL and not to mention 2 Ballon d’or. Madrid would be laughing at our CDR story.

  39. TITO
    August 29, 2018

    I dont get it, really dont.
    You want us to lose just to prove something?
    So, by that logic of wining or losing a trophy, we should win something without a team having a single shot in our goal because Mats cannot be man of the match. It is not our style.
    Or Messi should not be what he is, because it should always be a team effort, a team goal.
    If we won because AM or RM were crap the first few months, the same can be applied on the later stages of the season when we played badly. Someone else won because we were bad.
    Admit it or not, without being at our best, we were continuosly playing good. Isnt that the point, to win games when you dont play good.
    Season lasts for 9 months, not 3. As for CL, our bad away games form has nothing to do with Valverde, but is something that is continuing for more than a decade, even with Pep or Enrique.
    For the second season in charge, let just give him few months and dozens of games before we start throwing stones at Valverde if we are not satisfied. He deserves that from all of us.

  40. Khing_prince
    August 29, 2018

    Who thinks EV would have been considered by the board in a post-messi era?. Messi seems to upgrade all the coaches(almost) he plays for, heck he could make sean dyche look like a flipping genius

    • mvarfi
      August 30, 2018

      Cruyff on Valverde being appointed by Valencia in 2012, and four years before he died:

      “It’s a great selection by Valencia. When he was a player he was very intelligent and he always showed me his interest in football and learning. He’s one of the most outstanding and promising coaches in Spanish football.”

      Unless the board thinks that Cruyff had gone senile at that point, I’d say “yes”. They would have considered Valverde, especially post-Messi.

    • Hristo
      August 31, 2018

      Is that why he made 6 appearances in 2 years? Though. Must have been the real deal.
      He showed interest in learning but his sealing had already been reached. It seems so.

      On Barca: Losing

      We were unfortunate not to lose the game we deserved.
      Because every man great at something, very successful man knows that you learn more from losing than you do by winning.
      We won so many games last season through individual brilliance that we learned more than ever to rely on individual plays tham systems and team selection

    • squeen
      August 31, 2018

      A very interesting notion! Is there a danger of the coach turning too much over to the player’s creativity and abandoning tactics/strategy? A kind of Messi “bubble of the impossible”.

    • mvarfi
      August 31, 2018

      Brilliance of Messi caliber can not be contained by tactics and systems. Does anyone think that Messi was not The game changer of Pep’s Barca? Why would Pep, a highly meticulous and brainy control freak, give Messi a free role? Individual brilliance should be allowed to trump systems and tactics, for the simple reason that it’s unpredictable.
      What is curious is that the work that Valverde has done, to make Barca a more compact and defensively stronger team – this by players’ own admission, is completely disregarded.

      P.S. Lack of squad depth dictated rotation, which in turn was the reason of the dip in form defensively at the end of last season.

  41. Dracko
    August 30, 2018

    Barca in Group B, gets Inter Milan, Spurs and PSV

    • georgjorge
      August 30, 2018

      Not an easy group by any means. Spurs can be spectacular (as shown by their wins against RM in the group stage last season), and Milan is no pushover as well, they competed for the league title half of last season.

      RM and Atleti got comparatively easy groups, but PSG – Napoli – Liverpool has to be the toughest one. I would have a tiny bit of Schadenfreude if PSG got kicked out of that one, but not waiting for it to happen.

  42. NJ_08
    August 30, 2018

    I like the last group some mouth watering fixtures, Juve , ManUtd and Valencia. Lets kick some English butts.

  43. Half and Half
    August 31, 2018

    A great draw. My two teams (Barca and Spurs) drawn together at last 🙂

  44. Grindelwald
    August 31, 2018

    Modric winning the UEFA men player of the year shows footballing award has hit rock bottom

    • Khing_prince
      August 31, 2018

      How do you mean sir?

    • Grindelwald
      September 1, 2018

      I’m not that critical of Modric winning the award as much as Messi not making the top 3 when it’s pretty obvious for anyone with a brain cell that Messi does deserve the damn thing. The farcical nature of the nominations shows journalist & the money grabbing officials are the ones damaging the beautiful game.
      Salah & Griezzman ahead of Messi is a stuff of incredulity, I’d even argue that Mbappe shiudk have made the top 3 in place of Salah, since the WC holds the highest clout in the voting processes.
      Felt smug bout Ronnie behaving like a spoilt brat as usual!

    • mvarfi
      September 1, 2018

      I don’t care about the UEFA award. Messi has been way above it for a good while now. But, while we wait for Kxevin’s next nugget of wisdom…
      Mbappe in the top three?! Why? Because he just hatched, had three great games at the World Cup and gets tested weekly in Ligue 1? That enough? Any way you look at it, both Salah and Griezmann are above him, at least for now. And I find Griezmann antipathetic. Like me, you can’t stomach Ronnie’s petulance, but you can Mbappe’s? Give it time.

    • Grindelwald
      September 1, 2018

      Not saying Mbappe is more deserving of the top 3 or the damn award, point in trying to establish is : using UEFA warped logic of WC performance being the overarching metric for judging the best player, why then can’t Mbappe make the top 3,at least in place of Salah??
      Imo, the only thing that made Mbappe & Griezzy less deserving is they don’t play for any of the media friendly clubs, e.g, EE, Barca, Bayern, Manchester clubs & latest kids Liverpool!

    • mvarfi
      September 1, 2018

      I see. Well, the World Cup is a little hard to ignore. I almost don’t mind that it influences opinions. What I do mind is that consistency of excellence was overlooked when it came to Ronnie. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but objectively speaking, he was garbage the first half of last season. Yes, he scored a bunch in the CL, and EE won in large part because of him, but EE also finished 3rd in La Liga also in large part because of him. He couldn’t put the ball in the net to save his life. Why doesn’t UEFA take that into account? Rhetorical question.
      I have a feeling Messi cares little about the award. That’s another reason why it doesn’t matter who gets it. At the end of the day, it’s the opinion, albeit “informed”, of 135 people. Whatever.

  45. realdox
    September 1, 2018

    are you saying there is someone more deserving of the award or because modric isn’t a barca player

  46. September 2, 2018

    I do feel sometimes that Messi really do not care for the individual awards. But in the top echelons of UEFA & FIFA it definitely looks like there are people who are a bit fed up or bored up of Messi bagging personal awards again and again.. I do not know if this is pure jealousy of some veteran players or some hard work by RM (no conspirational theories, but by the time Croatia got into the WC semi’s I was pretty sure that Perez would do everything for keeping the awards in Bernabeu).
    – We need to go back to the FIFA BdOr of 2013 (if am not mistaken this is the year when they changed the submission dates to favour CR7 . Cristiano was not even in the picture until that 4-4 match and people were widely considering an injured Messi to be much superior), and that is the first time I had this thought that big guys might be bored of Messi
    – Also look at the time period mentioned by FIFA for this years awards – It hardly represents half of 2018.

    – It is also interesting that – what did he win – question is raised mostly only against Messi. It does not matter in the case of Salah or Harry Kane (last season he was in top 10 right?) or some others.
    Technically speaking, in my knowledge for the first time in the history of football, a players leads, goals, assists, chances, key pass, dribbles, through balls, free kick goals everything in a prominent league, and he does not even make the top 3 in awards is quite laughable.

    • Khing_prince
      September 2, 2018

      Well I think it’s because Messi has been out-worldly consistent for the past 10 years, he’s played himself into somewhat of a state of messi-normality in the eyes of the viewers

    • Grindelwald
      September 2, 2018

      Very good points, I must admit. Jealousy & EE marketing are the only reasons stopping Messi from having more individual awards since 2013.

  47. Hristo
    September 2, 2018

    Man, the man with no balls has picked the same line-up. We gonna have the same problems.
    He does not even attempt to solve our issues.

  48. Jim
    September 2, 2018

    So it looks like a pretty familiar lineup. I’d have liked to have seen Arthur given a chance as I’m still not convinced by either Rakitic, or indeed Coutinho in a mdfield three but it’s a chance for them to show they can produce attractive football. We need them attacking the box more often to create numbers in there. Was watching City yesterday and when they attack they have five or six in the box overwhelming the defence. By extension when they lose it in the final third they have numbers around the ball already so winning it back is easier.

    Not gonna get involved in making final judgements on EV after this few games. I’m discounting entirely last week’s game. We won and we escaped injury is all that mattered there. I was terrified every time someone went down.

    There are questions but all he has done so far is set out his preferred starting eleven which is as it should be. It’s positive that he seems to be playing three up front ( and I liked Messi’s advanced position last week). The real test comes if they aren’t delivering both results and, for me, more attractive football than we saw last year does he change it ? Does he feel our last half hour was justified because of the pitch or is that something he’s happy with anyway ?

    Today may tell us a lot.

  49. TITO
    September 2, 2018

    Really? Against freaking Huesca at home with the same line up? Change something!!!
    I want to see Semedo there, Arthur, Vidal, Malcolm having more than few minutes. Whats the point of buying them? How can they be ready to take someone’s place in case of an injury if they dont play prior to that?????
    I defend EV with his second season, but this is not helping his case.
    Oh yes, and Huesca just scored.

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