Sporting Gijon 1, Barca 1, aka “An undeserved point”

This is the kind of match that it was today. Pulling, kicking, scratching and fouling by an opponent fighting for its very existence. Sometimes, we just don’t understand, and this was one of those days. We’re on top of the world, everybody says that we’re the best EVAH and people slide off their chairs in ecstasy when we play. But sometimes, we just don’t get it.

A side such as Sporting Gijon is fighting for its Liga life. It isn’t a game to them, a match of football in which you display your talent, kick out the jams, score a few goals, then go home and read about how amazing you are. It is a constant battle to stay up, to stay out of the relegation zone, to not go down to a place that features the likes of Betis, a place that you might not be able to get out of again.

For them, it’s war. And shame on us for bringing a pillow to a knife fight.

Gijon deserved to win this match. As their keeper said, we’re probably pretty happy with the draw, and we should be. It was only their fear that allowed us to salvage a point. Imagine if they had continued to play with the aggression and fearlessness that grabbed them an early goal. But they let us off the hook by scoring, then setting up shop in front of their keeper, determined to get at least a point. It won’t be the last time that a team gets an early goal on us, then immediately starts playing for a draw, even though it has the lead. So get used to it. And be thankful. Gijon could have won this match.

We rolled out with a lineup that was keeping upcoming big matches in mind: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell, Mascherano, Xavi, Iniesta, Afellay, Messi, Villa. It’s a lineup that on paper, should have been enough to beat Gijon, had the players decided that they were ready to play, but they weren’t and had to salvage a late draw off a delightful Villa lob, to snag points that were really undeserved. So what the hell happened?

There are lots of excuses:

–International break
–February doldrums
–Big Champions League match looming
–A hummingbird flapping its wings in the Amazon

For me, there is only one excuse: The side didn’t come to play, and got surprised. For me, that is the most vexing thing about this match. When we drew against Copenhagen, that was one thing. That club played its heart out, and we sweated to earn the draw. This time, we kind of passed the ball around, walked a little bit and allowed Gijon to stymie an attack that has been (and still is) amazingly prolific.

So again, what happened?

First, the goal. It was the first time that we have really been damaged by what I call The Alves Complexity, aka Abidependencia. When Alves gets caught up the pitch, pace or positioning have to solve the problem. Messi slid a ball to Villa, who batted a too-soft return pass to Messi. The fight with the Gijon defender saw Messi, for some unfathomable reason, worried about a foul, so he threw up his hands and backed off rather than continuing to battle. Gijon sprung into action. Most teams have a right back over there, playing for precisely that kind of situation. But because ours functions mostly as an attacker, the three defenders and defensive midfielder are on their own.

Mascherano hesitated a bit, then loped over to cover the runner up the wing, instead of running as if a goal and points depended on it. The attacker got past him, which means that it’s now on the central defenders to quell the danger. The Gijon player did the perfect thing in running hard up the wing, then sliding a pass to an attacker who was already running at full tilt at Pique, who isn’t the fastest of players on his best day. Pique had one chance to stop the attack, and bollixed it up. He should have just fouled him. Instead he tried to make a play but the attacker shoved him aside, and kept right on running. Milito had one chance to stop the attack, but he tripped over his shoelaces or something. Valdes was screwed, because he had to make a choice. It was the correct one, in forcing the player to make a very difficult shot across the face of goal. If the shot is off by even a little bit, the keeper parries it away. But it wasn’t, because the Footy Gods deemed it so.

At the moment of the shot, Iniesta is the defender in the box, playing the extra Gijon attacker to prevent the pass. No other defenders are on the scene. To me, the goal typified the match. Who can remember the last time that a team got back on a break, and we had nobody in the picture to defend? Maxwell comes trotting (yes, trotting) in late, but the shot is already on the way. As usual when we concede, it was a team effort. Remember when Messi tracked back like a wild man to gangsta the ball from Aguero? Not today. No Lord Pedro of the Windmills, because he was on the bench, as were Busquets and Abidal.

It’s easy to support being beaten by brilliance. It’s a lot harder to support succumbing because of a lack of effort, and that’s how it was for most of the match, for most of the players, who didn’t seem to understand that if you’re in a fight with someone, you have to figure out what’s at stake, then match that effort. Yes, there are going to be matches like this again, which doesn’t mean that I am going to let them off lightly. That ain’t my job here.

Gijon adopted a defense that (funny how many Chicago Bulls analogies are apt for our beloved club) brought to mind The Jordan Rules, instigated by the Detroit Pistons. Essentially, the Rules were:

–No layups.
–Make the other players beat you.
–Foul when you have to.
–Disrupt the game whenever possible.

Preciado’s charges did precisely that, applying loose pressure that stiffened as we approached their box, whereupon they descended on the ball the way that we usually do when we actually care about a match. Messi was attended by at least three defenders at all times, and when in doubt, they fouled or made the maximum of our fouls. Or just booted the ball up the pitch, giving the defense a chance to reset.

Our attack played into their hands by evincing all the movement of Stonehenge. And when the midfield pressure was such that Messi dropped into the midfield to get the ball, Villa slid into the middle, where he stood. And Afellay was on the right wing, where he stood. So passes that usually find an attacker in stride, ready to play it to another attacker, found 2 or 3 Gijon defenders who understood that today was, if they worked hard enough, going to be their day. So they did, while we sashayed about, checking the watch and saying “Is it time to be brilliant yet?”

And then suddenly it was, which is the crime of it all. Leonine Messi fought off a Gijon defender and won the ball, making the run like a man determined. For a change, Villa anticipated this and actually moved to a pass that was perfectly placed. It all happened so quickly that the keeper was caught out of his box, playing Villa for a pass or hard, low shot. So Villa lobbed him, a delicate bit of perfection of sufficient velocity to preclude a charging defender clearing it off the line, yet high enough that all the keeper could do was watch it go in. It was a staggering goal, that demonstrated fire and the sheer quality that makes the laudatory prose constantly lavished upon us, deserved.

Why it took the 81st minute to finally show up, is beyond me. Some of it was the addition of Pedro!!, who brought movement and effort to the attack. Suddenly, a defender-dragging dervish was creating space and danger with movement, not standing around like a Dutch statue. The delightful result is that their defenders, instead of being able to watch us pass the ball around then converge on the player making a silly run, had to move and anticipate, and gaps were found.

After the goal, Messi came to roaring, vibrant life, but it was too late. His amazing play in the box in the 87th minute was, again, the Footy Gods showing their displeasure. He rumbled, stumbled, fought and flat-out outran a Gijon defender to the end line, smoking in a perfect cross that had the exact right pace to not be parried by the keeper, yet slide between the keeper and his defense. But alas, Villa decided “Hey, whoa, maybe I should move,” too late, leaving Pedro!! to make a last-second lunge at the ball that pushed it wide of the gaping goal.

That was the last real scoring opportunity, despite Pique’s best effort at gifting Gijon the match when a horrific ball back to Valdes turned into a gilt-edged chance for them, and earned Valdes a yellow card. But the threat was dealt with, and that was that.

Team: 2. Show up, and play the whole match. It’s as simple as that.

Guardiola: 6. I haven’t seen him this involved in a match in a long time, as he did all the right things. But he didn’t have them ready to play. The Pedro!! for Afellay substitution was perfect. Keita for Milito should have come a lot earlier, when it was clear they weren’t interested in attacking.

Valdes: 7. Hard to fault him for the goal, and he came up huge on a few occasions, and made some excellent decisions in covering leaked balls. His distribution was unusually mediocre today, which probably had something to do with not having defenders to carry the attack.

Alves: 6. The effort was there, the cohorts weren’t. You can’t really fault him for the Gijon attack getting busy on his side. He’s just doing what he always does. He was funky early like almost everyone else. Some good movement and work in the box, for crosses that deserved a better fate, and his setup for Messi on what should have been a goal was immense.

Pique: 3. Some good, mostly bad. Made a few good defensive plays, then sullied it with those ridiculous long diagonal balls that he keeps trying. And Gerard: When you aren’t the last defender, just foul the attacker and take your chances with the set piece. No shame in that.

Milito: 5. A very solid match after the early shakes. Very strong bringing the ball up the middle to start attacks, as well.

Maxwell: 5. Some good, some bad. But what is it about him that lets his passes always find the other team? He was lofting balls into the box without a lot of point, poking balls directly at the feet of Gijon defenders and making a general mess of himself. Messi being off song can still be pretty good. Not so with Maxwell. Some key defensive interventions in and out of the box, and even bailed Mascherano out.

Mascherano: 5. A stronger effort was required on the run that led to the goal. Strong challenges in his usual stout effort at DM. But his lack of attacking creativity showed here, at a time when Xavi and Iniesta were under siege.

Xavi: 7. He had a very good match, thwarted by the lack of effort on the part of our attackers. Kept the ball, rode out challenges and worked beautifully with Iniesta. Had moments of uncertainty, mostly because Gijon were clogging the passing lanes, making it difficult for him. So make a run, dude!

Iniesta: 7. Ghostface was wonderful today, the only player in the first half who actually came to play. Runs, passes, tracking back and effort galore. Forced a very good save from their keeper.

Afellay: 1. Welcome to reality. It’s easy to dazzle when you come in with a match done and dusted. It’s yet another thing to play against a determined, hard-working opponent. Movement helps that a lot. If they build a statue for you, it won’t actually be you. The awful pass that unleashed a Gijon break and earned Mascherano a yellow was typical of his match today.

Messi: 3. Playing only about 10 minutes of a 90-minute match isn’t going to work. And get on your teammates about their lack of movement, don’t just start making runs into the heart of a defense determined to stop you. Yes, it was the kind of day that a perfect setup gets spanked right at the keeper.

Villa: 2. Yes, loved the goal. But good lord, his movement was nonexistent, when you weren’t asking “Where’s Villa,” as he went to the left wing to disappear. And when he was leading the line, he was every bit as static as Afellay. He doesn’t play like he’s hungry.


Pedro!! (for Afellay): 7. What a difference a player makes to an offense. He was super aggressive, and how is he always where the ball is? It’s a magical gift that unsettles defenses and makes everyone’s life easier. Bummer about the late chance that he pushed wide, but in watching the sequence, it just looks like he never expected the ball to get that far, that Villa was going to move and tap it in.

Keita (for Milito): incomplete. His willingness to do everything at any time shows why he’s such a favorite of Guardiola. He worked like a dog for the time he was on the pitch.

Krkic (for Iniesta): incomplete. He entered the match, and vanished. He reappeared when it was time to somehow lose a ball to Gijon, then disappeared again. Guardiola was clearly trying to impress upon him the urgency of the situation. It didn’t work.

So as of right now, the lead is 5 points. If EE were playing any other team except Espanyol, I’d say we have a shot at the lead being 7 points again. But their hatred of us is such that even if they aren’t conscious of it, they will play in a manner that ensures full points for EE. But don’t forget. 5 points means that we can still dump El Clasic and be fine. Keep the faith.

P.S. Botia was “our” best defender today. He would have been a valuable asset to have in the side. Smart, physical and anticipated very well.

By Kxevin

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


  1. So as of right now, the lead is 5 points.

    No, dear. As of right now, the lead is 8 points. It will likely be 5 points this time tomorrow, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, OK?

    Think you rated Pique a little low. He actually looked better to me than he has for a while. I really missed Abidal today, though.

    Iniesta was excellent. Masch had an uncharacteristically poor game. Maxwell was good with his head, poor with his feet.

    This game showed how absolutely fundamental Pedro has become for us. Afellay looked lost today, but as soon as Pedro came in, everyone improved.

  2. If this kind of performance was going to happen against any team, I’m glad it was against Gijon. Hate seeing them in the relegation battle, and lets hope this point goes a long way in ensuring they stay up this season. Lord knows they can if they play the way they did yesterday.

    I think this kind of result was bound to come our way eventually. We weren’t great against Atletico, and had it not been for Messi’s individual brilliance that match (and Atletico’s horrid run of form), things may have been a fair bit more complicated.

    In an odd way, this was probably a useful result before the match against Arsenal. Sure it’s morally deflating, but it’s bound to remind the team how easily a fantastic season can be turned on its head.

    I’m pretty terrified for the match against Bilbao next week though. We’ve played them 3 times this season: 1 win, 2 draws. Add that to their sparkling form as of late and you’ve got one very nervous cule.

    1. I’m afraid of Athletic next week, too. Might be tough to break them down and they’ve been scoring plenty of goals regularly.

    2. Exactly.
      And we’ll be playing them at home so they’ll be content to sit back and play for a draw like they did in the first leg of the Copa.

  3. Oh, and I object to your headline “An undeserved point.” We didn’t play well in the first half, for sure, but we battled hard in the second. A draw was a very fair result.

    1. I agree. While our performance was nowhere near our own standards, it would have merited a point for any other team in the league.

  4. I’ve been pleading for Villa to chip the keeper for ages! He gets so many 1 on 1 chances with Barcelona and Spain that are just begging for a delicate chip over the keeper. Granted, this one was a bit further away and not the usual 1 on 1 situation, but maybe he’ll start diverging from the hard and low shots when the situation comes? (then again, he hit the post this Wednesday for Spain ๐Ÿ˜› )

    1. He spent the week training with the first team only to play with the second team. “I was unfair on him and yet he never complains,” Guardiola says. “He scores for the B and comes back on Monday, happy as anything.”

      No, really, I love him! ๐Ÿ˜€ Pedro is Barca.

  5. I’m thinking about editing the High School Musical ‘Get Your Head In the Game’ to a version called ‘Get Your Head In the Game (And Not on Shakira)’ and registering a Twitter account just to send it to Pique

    1. What exactly did he get a card for? It wasn’t really clear on my feed. The ref was very card-happy, anyway.

    2. Well he came out of his box to clear a dreadful backpass from Pique, and then he got all up in the face of one of the Sporting players who was challenging for the ball as well.

  6. You know, I can barely read all the pre-match Arsenal-Barca articles. It just makes me, a) annoyed, b) angry, or, c) both. Option c happens 90% of the time.

    It’s just really sad (as opposed to amusing).

    It’d be nice to see a post exploring the differences between us and Arsenal. As we’ve seen last year, we don’t play similar football. That previous ‘Barca and Arsenal play the same/similar football’ sentiments are coming out again.

    1. It’s more the comments that the articles themselves (which, admittedly, shouldn’t be surprising), but here’s a few:

      (Warning: the sheer ignorance toward La Liga in the below link is very apparent. EPL fanboys at their most fervent)


      (This one was pretty good, I guess (no comments on this one))


    2. ‘Barcelona don’t really have any quality substitutes’

      Uh, what?

      Even non-withstanding the fact that our eleven starters are all better than theirs, even if we had crap substitutes we’d still be better in atleast 8 of 11 spots on the field, but still that statement is so clueless it irritates me.

      We have FEWER options on substitutes compared to most other big teams maybe, but every single one of the squad players is a top top player. Without any bias. (Except maybe Bojan, on current form). Mascherano, Afellay (from his performances coming off the bench so far), Keita, etc.

    3. A hilarious set of comments from the same blog:

      Shane Holmes
      you obviously don’t watch both leagues if you think there is a vast gulf in quality between the rank-and-file EPL and SPL (He meant La Liga) teams. They’re about matched, possibly slightly in favor the EPL.

      Samir Hill
      @Shane: The difference between the EPL and SPL is huge, Wolves and West Ham would beat nearly every team in the SPL

      Temi Jones
      @Samir: Wolves and westham would qualify for europe every season if they were in the SPL. The difference in quality is almost sad.

      Samir Hill
      @Temi: If Wolves were in the SPL they wouldn’t get the tv money and would probably end up in 5th or 6th.

      Samir Hill
      @Temi: Are we talking the Spanish Primera Liga or the Scottish Premier League?

      Temi Jones
      @Samir: Scottish league. La liga isnt that bad yet..

      Huh what?! ๐Ÿ˜›

  7. Out of all the teams, it was meant to be Sporting that you guys drop points to. I wonder what Mourinho is going to say in the press conference. All the fuss that was made about last game you guys had with Sporting, this was probably an extra incentive to perform well. I know i would go to extreme measures to make sure Mou doesn’t gloat at my expense.

    As for Afellay, did you expect a good performance? New singing, has been with the squad for a month now, barely played with the first team lineup (his start in the cup was with Bojan and Nolito) and new to the league all made out to a bad performance. Not only that but the role that he played is one that i think is the most important one for you guys. Pedro does a huge amount of tracking back and slowing down opposition attacks that it allows for the usually out of place looking for a treasure Daniel Alvez to track back. For Afellay to adapt to that role right away is not going to be easy as it requires loads of work rate.

    As for the point that it is definite that Real Madrid are going to win tomorrow is, errrr, not right. Yes history says that we will probably win against Espanyol. Does that mean that they are going to lay down and let us win? Nope. Last year, when we beat deportivo after 18 years of not winning at the Riazor, it was a relief. Was it because for 18 years we let them win? No. Its just one of those things that happen. Did you let Atletico beat you once every year? Again, no. You lead by 8 points right now and with an international break and a CL game on the weekend, anything can happen. I sure do hope its 5 points, but its not a given.

    I sure hope you rage on Arsenal to avengethis draw, EPL teams tend to be overrated. Not that they are not good, but they are not as good as La Liga. Given the same funding that EPL teams have and the mentality of Spanish football would make a lovely combination.

    Anyways, its nice to see you guys are human. Let me remind you, 2 years ago, this being the 3rd game you drop points in was something never imagined. Both our teams set the bar so high last year that it makes it seem that if you drop 7 points come the 23rd round its a bad thing. Its really not. It never was and probably wont stay like this for a long time.

    1. I think that fact that the match was at Sporting’s home ground had more to do with Preciado fielding his strongest team than the argument with Mourinho.

      He might dare to rest players away from home where they have a terrible record (1 win in 11 away matches), but not with tens of thousands of Sporting fans watching and his team two points away from the relegation zone.

  8. i didnt come away with nearly the negative feeling that kxev did after this one. a great game all around. we worked hard and its just that the execution was very very poor in the first half, esp on the goal, where pique was *idontknow* and milito slipped. so, they grabbed an early goal and parked the bus. can happen to the best of teams. we havent been suffering early goals too much this year, and when we have, we have overcome, but eventually we are gonna drop points. you will not beat that kind of bus every time. gijon played very well. but to say we dont deserve the point…we completely dominated this game and there was no doubt who the better team was out there, and we missed a second goal by so little, you have to think a few more minutes and we wouldve had it. they only had one shot on goal the whole game — their goal…and we had 80% possession, 6-1 shots on goal. so, this is a very negative reading of this game by the kxev…. the champion of tough love i guess. maybe if kxev was the coach the team wouldnt have dropped points yah you tell em kxev.

  9. Hey Bassam ๐Ÿ™‚

    “Does that mean that they are going to lay down and let us win? Nope.”

    That’s not exactly what people are saying. I don’t expect Espanyol to willingly throw away three points. But the motivation to not do Barca a favor is there. Were Madrid to take an early lead that would require a fiery perico fightback, don’t expect Espanyol to bring it.

    So I’m not expecting Espanyol to start the match in the lordosis position. But I do expect them to not give a damn if it gets difficult to get some points.

  10. Good review. Agree with a lot of it.

    Pique and Milito had to play defense for almost exactly one play. They combined to really mess that up. Guardiola needs to instruct the defense to be more cynical when the are vulnerable. The goal should have been stopped 3 times before he scored.

    Mascherano’s yellow was reputation only. Clean ball.

    Ibi…why did Guardiola throw him on in this match. Away? 50,000 screaming supporters? He doesn’t know where to move when space is that tight…yet.

    Villa’s goal is why we bought him.

    Alves was the most dangerous player on the pitch for us.

    Bojan’s cross was perfect. Why do all of our forwards always run inside the 6 when there is nobody at all 10 defending 10 yards out?

    Xavi should have had a goal. He needs to score that.

    Barca needs to cede possession when other teams are parking, then counter quickly. Why can’t the coaches see that?

    Gijon played their balls off. Congrats.

  11. Fantastic match review — couldn’t agree more with pretty much all of it. “Pillow to a knife fight” describes today PERFECTLY in 5 words.

    I was happy to see Ibi get his first start* to see what he could do, but as you said, it was a rude awakening – very different to come in when the game’s not yet already sewn up. *(2nd leg vs Almeria doesn’t count, because we were effectively already 5-0 up.) But he’s young, and new, and here’s hoping he will continue learning the Barca way.

    The softhearted romantic in me is glad that it was Villa who scored vs Gijon, because that must surely have softened the blow a bit — they came to play today, and deserved the point they got. I gather they are still very proud of him (and deservedly so) and he still loves them too.

  12. Getting a bit tired of kxevin’s ratings which IMHO arent objective. Objectivity is central to good journalism but that doesnt seem to be the case here. The post match review as ever was excellent, but ratings again leave a bitter taste. others may argue that ratings shouldnt be debated and ignored, but i feel the high standards should apply to the entire article. I have argued for absolute ratings where a 7 for somebody can be comapred to a 7 for somebody else but ratings are still relative to expectations or as per a player specific framework and unclear.

    as ever keita gets a glowing praise for practically doing nothing and would have surely gotten a 8 if he had more 10 more mins. Villa scores a critical goal and gets a 2.
    Possibly i would be banned on the basis of this, but the ratings are beginning to irk me.
    Villa must be feeling similar to casper in the movie when his big bro cruelly kills the kestrel even though he didnt merit it.

    1. So Messi will always be a 10, Xavi a 9, Iniesta a 9, Pique a 7, Maxwell a 2, and Bojan a 1? If you’re looking for player rankings why don’t you just look up the Castrol Index, because be judging everyone by the same standard, that is exactly what you would be getting. “Abidal a 3? Yep, he didn’t score any crucial goals, which is part of the criteria of the absolute ratings”. “Oh, that sucks”.

    2. But Villa is there to score goals and work as a winger (not really as a strike). So, doing that should, obviously, work in favor of him.

      Then again, I don’t feel like arguing Villa’s rating on this one, because I do think that he was bad today. Other than the goal, he was really off today. Granted, it was an important goal (gave us a point) and it was through a lobbed shot… which is cool, I think… I mean, he used to shoot at the keeper or the farthest post.

      As for Afellay… woa, Kxevin, I guess that you’ll see now why do we want Fabregas. A 1? Yes, I know he was bad today as well… but come on, you know that he needs time to adapt, not only to Barca’s system, but to the pressure. I mean, you’d even give Krkic a 3 had he played like Afellay today.

      And yes, I do also think that Pique was better than a 3. Then again, the team didn’t play its best… partly because that happens and partly because Gijon did a good job (come on, the rivals count too)… so, I don’t ‘blame’ anyone in particular for the draw. At one point or another we were gonna ‘not win’.

    3. about afellay… if i were to rate him id give the same as kxevin did, regardless of whether he’s still adapting or not. he was thinking too much, he didnt fit in the squad, and in that blaugrana shirt he deserved a 1.

      anyway i think ratings are more subjective than objective. theyre the reviewer’s, and you can find them in every other site from different authors with different opinions. you dont really have to agree. if it irks you, just skip it. i myself admit never EVER visiting sites other than, barcastuff, totalbarca and this one, im weak in front of critics xp so yeah.

    4. Sorry, Jnelson, but that wasn’t what he was trying to say, I don’t think. You are judging them by their contribution to the performance and the result. You are right in that a game where we have nothing to do in defence would make it hard for a defender to pull a top grade but maybe that’s how it should be. In such a game their performance isn’t crucial.

      In yesterday’s game using his suggestion there is no way that Messi would be given a 10. You would have to have consistently brilliant throughout a match for that. I’m not the biggest Abidal fan here but in some recent games I would be awarding him maybe 8s for his efforts. I would also, almost never resort to 1 or 2 for any of our team as I’ve never seen one of our players fail to put in effort.

      However, I’m not advocating a change. It’s Kxevin’s review and I appreciate the time and effort he puts into it whether I agree with bits of it or not. The ratings, as they would be with anyone, are Kxevin’s best shot at being objective. He sticks his neck out with scores and provides a starting point for debate which is what it’s for on a blog like this.

    5. There’s always the option of, where Villa usually hovers between a 6 and 7, Busquets and Keita average a 5.5, and it’s impossible to get below a 4.5.

    6. For me, the rating of Villa, and also the other players, is spot on.
      I was actually yelling at the TV “Don’t pass the ball to Villa, do NOT even try, he’ll screw it up anyway!”.
      Villa was poor, and he would have deserved a 1 if he hadn’t scored that goal. I do not only blame Villa for being static, but also for his first touch and decision making when he received the ball.

      If you want to read a higher rating for Villa, go to, they also gave Rooney a 8.0 although he had a truly pathetic match, with the exception of that hell of an overhead kick.

    7. Agreed in part, Helge, but we are always running a player’s score through our own internal mill of how important we consider a vital pass to be compared with, for example, a fairly standard intercepting tackle. I’ll admit bias here. Having played ( at a v. low level) in midfield all my life I find it hard to think of a week when Xavi or Iniesta are not my top performers. I mean Xavi with, what was it, 76/76 completed midweek? That’s godlike consistency and then you get people saying its easy because you’re doing the simple thing . . .

      FWIW, for me yesterday, Rooney was about a 6 ( 3 without the goal). I’m not as sold on the best goal etc….. view as, if you’ve played the game you know that these are instinctive moves and they only even occur to you if your mind sees the ball arriving in precisely the right location. That goal needed the deflection which rerouted it and took pace off it, then it had to arrive in the right position. After that, it was superb technique – but again is that harder when nobody will blame you if you miss? How is that pressure compared with a 1 on 1 with the keeper where you’ll be pilloried if you miss?

    8. I really have to agree with pr17 as far as the ratings are concerned. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy reading this blog and all but without question the ratings are unfairly harsh on the players. A 1 for Ibi, a 2 for the team and a 3 for Messi? Am I seeing right here? Now I’m not saying that we played well but we sure as hell have had worse times. I’ve been watching Barca for a very long time and I know what bad performances look like. According to your ratings this was, and IMO it really wasn’t. Now I’m really curious as to how you would have rated the matches the season we finished third. A zero?

      I can’t help but think that we are all getting way too accustomed to Barca destroying teams all the time. The fans are becoming spoiled by brilliance. Expectations are down right unreasonable. And it’s a dangerous thing. I do agree with the fact that it was an undeserved point – because we actually deserved to WIN! We dominated that game – not in our typical fantasy football fashion but we did. For one thing, Xavi missed a glorious chance that should really have been buried and Pedro hitting the post was very unlucky. It’s obvious to me that post match emotions influenced these ranking. I guess that’s understandable – you love seeing the team win as much as we all do.

      At the end of the day we all won’t be able to come to an agreement about each player’s rating. It’s actually one of the beautiful things about football in that it can be interpreted in so many ways. Case in point. Rooney and Villa did pretty much the same thing this weekend – having a single significant contribution to the game. Rooney’s bicycle volley was a match winner and he was praised by many as man of the match. Villa on the other hand seems to be getting crucified even though he scored. All they did was score one crucial. Villa’ goal was an extremely well taken finish by the way, that could have been the winner had Xavi scored earlier in which case I feel would have lead to a much more favorable view of the players’ performances. It wasn’t the best day but let’s cut the team some slack please. They won 16 in a row – they deserve it

    9. The performance was bad, and the attacking trio were really bad. Just count the number of misplaced passes in the final third..

      Villa was dire, static, invisible and a lot of times the end of the attack (and I only watched the 2nd half – imagine the case in the first)..

      So he scored a crucial goal. BIG DEAL. To me, it was less of Villa showing his finishing skill and more of Cuellar committing Hara-Kiri. Any half-decent keeper worth his salt knows you can’t charge when the attacker is so far from the goal. I’d have to say that if it weren’t for the keeper, We wouldn’t have gotten this point..

      I don’t think Rooney would have fared better if Kxevin had reviewed his performance. AWOL most of the match, even some Utd fans were calling for him to be subbed in favor of Hernandez. The ratings are for the entirety of the match, and not based on one moment of individual skill..

      Lastly, winning 16 in a row does not make any difference in the 17th match. If you want to win the 17th, you have to go out there and make your case, which we didn’t – and no, dominating possession doesn’t necessarily mean that you deserved to win..

    10. ‘So he scored a crucial goal. BIG DEAL.’

      Of course it’s a big deal.

      I agree with you about his performance being close to awful at times. I agree with the very low rating too. But disregarding the goal because he was poor the rest of the time is no better than disregarding the rest of his poor match because of the goal. Ultimately the biggest contribution by any Barcelona player to a game is the goal that gets us the point or the points, not runs or passes or possession. What Villa did got us a point and thus it was something crucial and something creditable.

      I think that sometimes in our quest to be fair or objective we give the 1 minute of a goal scored only equal weight to each of the 89 minutes of the rest of the game. ‘Oh he was just good for 1% of the game time’. But the final goal, the assist, the goal-saving tackle, the brilliant hustle, are the most important moments and thus matter more. I didn’t explain what I meant very well in this particular comment though, it makes sense in my head.

    11. “Ultimately the biggest contribution by any Barcelona player to a game is the goal that gets us the point or the points, not runs or passes or possession. What Villa did got us a point and thus it was something crucial and something creditable.”

      Agreed. That’s why he gets a 2 and not 1/0 in his rating. But he certainly should not get a 5 for a goalkeeping error should he? What Rooney did was certainly good enough to be all the GKs in the world – Not many GKs would have been caught in no man’s land in Villa’s case..

      The point is, had he given out a performance worthy of a 5, we’d have seen many more crucial and creditable moments from him. Get my drift?

    12. Yeah like I said I agreed with the rating since he did nothing most of the game.

      My point was for the ‘He scored. BIG DEAL’ bit. As I said, I’m not saying it should push up his rating by three points or something. He was pretty awful most of the game and a 2 or 3 makes sense for me, it being Afellay’s rating + 1/2 points for the crucial goal. I have no issue with that.

      But ‘scored a goal, big deal’ and ‘it was a goal-keeping error was all’ is just plain spoiled. Even if the goalkeeper made the wrong choice he still had to finish it, and nicely too. Being so spoiled that freaking out over the first win in seventeen games and saying a player scored a goal so what, the keeper should have done better? Well even in our big wins there are goals which would not have happened had our opposition’s defence and goalkeeper always done the right thing. It doesn’t take away from the value of a sweet finish. It’s not like Villa, presented with the chance and with a keeper rushing off his line, fumbled the opportunity and shot it at the keeper who let it bounce off him into the goal. he took that opportunity. He might have sucked most of the rest of the time but he still took that opportunity he got and saved us a point. That’s not just whatever.

    13. OK, chill with the spoiled/arrogant argument. Its not how many we score is it? Its how we score and more importantly, how we play. Even Pep has criticizes our performance even when we win by 3-4 goals. To him, a sweet goal is not a big deal, its how we fare on the pitch. That, exactly is my point.

    14. shoot3score has it it spot on, i probably havent been watching the club as long as you — only since 1999 — and ‘spoiled’ is the only word that can explain giving such a negative reading to a performance like this. it’s shocking, really. the other team had ONE shot on goal. but i guess its good journalism to froth at the mouth and get indignant.

    15. This is the place to come for performance-based ratings, not result-based ratings. I agree with all the ratings: however, I disagree with the statement that the point was undeserved. Had we continued to play in the second half the same as the first, then I would have said that the point was undeserved.

  13. Good review kevin, thank you
    I will say this was coming, but its easy to say such a thing in retrospect, but if we look at sporting figures it wont be such a surprise, five weeks ago our opponent was fixed to the bottom of the table and before yesterday they were in the 12th spot, this says a lot about their form in the last month or so.
    But this is not an execuse, we had a very bad 1st half, pique continues to underperform for some reason, however i think we earned and eventually desrved the draw, because we played a very good second half, shame we didnt start the game as we started the 2nd half.
    Milito was solid yesterday, i dont think he could have done anything for the gijon goal, right now i prefer we start him over pique, and will someone please bring puyol back.
    @bassam: welcome , if RM (EE) played anyother team i would say yes there is a chance of anything, but i truely think that Espanyol will lay down and let your team win without breaking a sweat.

    1. Hello Jnice, i clearly said milito over pique not over puyol
      and yes i watched the goal many times, its pique fault, milito could have recovered? maybe, but i dont think he could, it was pique job to stop the player before that, even if he had to foul him.

    2. Sorry, I meant Pique* I would never start Milito over Pique.

      Sure Pique has to hold his hand up for the goal, but Milito certainly didn’t help in the situation. He was too busy staring at Barral and then when he wasn’t staring, he was stumbling.

    3. Woah, imo it’s not nearly as clear as that.

      This all happened in Dani Alves’ position (starts at 15:35 on my version). What happened to Dani? I’m going to take a slightly different view to Kxevin here.

      1. Yes, Messi shouldn’t have stopped, worrying about a foul – minor blame.
      2. Masch’s job in that situation is clear – get across quickly and either dispossess or slow down progress – major blame
      3. Alves, when the ball is first played wide is only 5 yards from the ball. Just watch his progress after that. When the ball is played down the line, rather than keeping going thinking that he needs to provide some support for Pique if he can slow the attack down he starts jogging – major blame. I’m fed up with him not realising he has a defensive responsibility and Gijon targetted that side.
      4. Pique’s job at that point is to slow the man down, not chop him unnecessarily. If a defender did that every time he wouldn’t last long. He does exactly as he should do and is unlucky that he just nicks the ball on his way past which leaves it sitting nicely for the forward. – minor blame
      5. Milito’s positioning is suspect. The only danger is if he cuts back inside and if he does you should be right there. Had it been Puyol they’d still have been counting Barral’s bits in A+E. major blame and minor for the slip.

      Finally, how on earth does Maxwell end up getting criticised for “trotting in late” ? Have a look at his starting position compared with Alves at the start of the move. Alves is max 5 yards away – Maxwell is on the other wing 5 yards from their box !!!!!!

      It was obvious from the start that Pique was unhappy with the team’s defensive mindset. Look at the 10min mark. He is left marking three players at the back post. What are Xavi, Iniesta and Masch doing? He has a real go at Masch ( prob rightly as he is the DM who is meant to see and fill in gaps in defense ). And before anybody starts – yes it is Maxwell’s position but look at that minute of play. Maxwell saved us with a last minute header then from the corner beautifully shepherds the attacker out of the danger area so he is out of position. When Masch sees that he has to be filling in.

      Bottom line – we need Puyol back asap.

      Sorry, longer post than i intended but it’s actually fascinating to see how things develop in a move ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. First, i must say this match was absolutely interesting. Its been a long time someone brought the game to us with this much determination.
    Valdes showed he is always alert but for the goal felt he shoild have stayed at the goal mouth. Hope he doesnt pick up his fifth yellow before a crucial match.
    We really have to stregthen our defence over the summer. A replacement for maxwell is ripe dude had his head in a cloud all season. We could get a cb while abidal goes back to the left. Adriano covers for both rb and lb. Then train either fontas or batra for first team
    Villa hs finnally learnt ‘THE LOB’ from messi as i instructed him. Dude disappered throughout the second half only to reapper to score a goal. I actually thot he was coming off for bojan
    Nothing like a threat of bringing in bojan to inspire the team to score as noted in a post a while back.
    I believe this couldnt come at a better time. Brings us back to reality in time for the emirates. Am sure pep would face selection dilemmas at the backline. Midfield and attack are already settled.
    bilbao game is really getting me nervous hope its not another draw

    1. “A replacement for Maxwell is ripe dude had his head in a cloud all season.”

      See above rant ๐Ÿ™‚

      Examples from yesterday please. I would say he was our best defensive player by a mile yesterday.

    2. I do think that Pep was planning on subbing Bojan for Villa, but then Villa scored the goal while Bojan was warming up and Pep just couldn’t make that sub after that. As the video showed, Pep runs over to Bojan after the goal is scored whispers something to Bojan (probably along the lines of …”Now, you go do the same thing!!” and pushes him for good measure. Funny stuff.

  15. Milito’s rating says my mind 4.5
    ‘Has to take the blame for Sporting’s goal, as he tripped over his
    own feet when Barral ran across the box.’
    though i still believe valdes could have save if he had stayed at the goal mouth

  16. I’m not sure I agree that Espanyol will “roll over” for Madrid tomorrow. While I’m sure they would much rather see Madrid win the league, they have their own priorities: namely securing a place in Europe for next year, and pushing for a Champion’s League spot.

    If they were comfortably midtable with no hope of getting into Europe, maybe I could see it, but this is their best season in years so I can’t understand why they wouldn’t try to get some points from tomorrow’s match. After all Almeria and Ossasuna have shown that Madrid is not exactly invulnerable.

    1. I don’t think Espanyol will roll over. I just think Madrid will win. Espanyol haven’t been playing as well as they were a month or two ago, and I think Madrid might be too much for them. Hope I’m wrong.

    2. I fully believe Espanyol will roll over, 1st half will end somthing in the range of 0-3 or 0-4, 2nd half Espanyol will put some effort but will not score.
      Ofcourse if i’m totally wrong and Espanyol act as the good team that they are this year, then i will be a very happy man, if Espanyol decide to play competitive football i will happily eat my words, but i dont see that happening at all.

    3. espanyol sold a couple of their defenders to italian teams this transfer window. didac vila(i hear he was a really good left back) & victor ruiz to ac milan & napoli, respectively.

    4. Now that the game is over, I think we can all agree that they rolled. Down a man and Espanyol looked as if they never wanted to get it out of first gear. Shaking my head, because it’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  17. Gijon played with their guts and it’s hard to fault them their tactics. Personally I hate catenaccio but what can you do? They did the same to Real but lost to a fluke tap-in from Higuain. What is disappointing is how disastrously we played in the first half. We must have lost the ball 20 times at least. Totally different story in the second half but by then Preciado had settled for a draw at the least.
    I cannot understand why we insist adopting the 4-3-3 against teams that play 11-man defense. Haven’t we learned anything from the Manchester (in ’08), Chelsea and Inter games? Against teams that congest the last 20m of the pitch, isn’t it better to play the 4-4-2 and allow them to have a bit more of the ball so we can hurt them? ‘Cause frankly that’s the only way I can think of to beat catenaccio: to deploy the same tactics. They want to play Mourinho-style? Fine, we’ll do the same and win too. It’d be selling out our style but goddammit I’m bloody tired of teams playing complete shyte against us, shooting once on target, defending for 95 minutes, and winning, and of course getting called ‘brave’ for their performance, or indeed ‘deserving’ victory, or worst of all having their coach called a ‘genius’ for basically telling his men to defend. Hell I can tell my beer team that and we’d win. I say if they don’t want to attack and behave like Rubin Kazan then they’re welcome to it, but we shouldn’t encourage it. It is bad enough that football has a reputation for being boring and low-scoring around here, but the fact that we praise teams that play in such a way is absurd. In home country we called that the Apollonia Variant–it was effective but after a while even the fans of the team that used such tactics hated their players for it.
    I disagree with your ratings, esp Messi’s and the forward line. I’m his hardest critic but today Gijon was all over him, in numbers and in fouls. It reminded me of the Inter game. Even our lord and saviour Maradona himself wouldn’t be able to do much against teams playing like that (remember Diego vs Gentile?). I mean what are our forwards to do? Bulldoze their way through people twice their size who have only one purpose in mind? Villa played left. Villa played right. Villa played centre. There was always a wall of players in front and behind him. I actually thought it was wise of Guardiola to include Afellay, but he didn’t follow it with a suitable formation–a counterattacking XI would have been better.
    Anyway I’m done ranting.

    1. We win 99% of parked the bus games playing our 4-3-3 and attacking style. Who’s to say you’d have a much much much longer list than ‘Chelsea, Inter, Gijon’ if we’d tried to counter bus-parking counter-attacking with more of the same?

  18. My preview of the CL game for Sky Sports (full text follows)

    Ten Reasons Arsenal Will Thrash Barca This Week (And One Reason They Might Not):

    1. Arsenal have been better this season. Barcelona may have 62 points in La Liga, but you all know La Liga is a kiddie league while the EPL is the best in the world. So to account for that and present a fair comparison, we multiplied the points tally of both teams by a ‘difficulty factor’ of 1.5 for the Premier League. So Arsenal have 80 points to Barcelona’s 62 in this fair analysis.

    2. Arsenal have physical and powerful players who can bully the Barcelona side with their strength and physical prowess. All the Barcelona players are like 5’2 or so. Players like Walcott, Arshavin and especially the strong, fit and powerful Van Persie (all players from our academy at that!) will completely bully little guys like Puyol and Pique.

    3. The return of Van Persie, one of the six best forwards in the world along with Drogba, Torres, Rooney, Caroll and Bent. We didn’t win every trophy the last four years only because he always keeps on getting injured by blades of grass or particularly strong gusts of wind. But no worries here of him getting injured while training for the match or during the game. Their sissy little gusts of wind and grass isn’t as strong and manly as English grass and wind.

    4. Who do Barcelona have, really? Apart from Messi, they have Xavi, who is a bit like Cesc but not as good, and then Busquets, who sucks except for diving and peeking, and Iniesta, who sucks except when Cesc gives him perfect passes like in the World Cup. And Pedro? Who is Pedro? What can they do against players like Diaby, Denilson, Song and the best midfielder in the world Cesc, all of whom are going to be future Ballon d’Or winners?

    (No wait, but FIFA hates all English sides and Arsenal, and will conspire against us, so maybe not. They didn’t even give Cesc the award this year, even though he took Arsenal to a third place in the EPL which is much harder than what Messi did with winning La Liga, and won the World Cup single-handedly for that boring Spain side by making a pass so perfect it rebounded off Iniesta’s foot in the perfect angle for it to go into the net, while all Messi did was make his star-studded Argentina lose 4-0 to Germany all by himself).

    5. We know their biggest weakness, Abidal. He is the weak link in the over-rated Barcelona team. He won’t be able to deal with the speed of all our forwards. He also makes a lot of mistakes and lacks pace and strength.

    6. Having all our players fit. Last year they only won cos we had so many players injured, while their injuries and suspensions were only to bit-part players like Iniesta and Ibrahimovic, and Abidal who was just their backup LB behind Maxwell anyway.

    7. We have improved so much now. We are in the finals of the Carling Cup and are set to lift a important and major trophy. What has Barca won or set to win? That Mickey Mouse trophy La Liga? Pfft. Sunderland would be third if they played there.

    8. Our solid defense of Koscielny, Djourou and Wjckhioch Scsdhshfzy. It’s not like sloppy La Liga defenses where they just stare at you while you shoot. With Song, Messi can be closed down easy peasy. Villa’s accurate shooting might be a threat though, he’s a real stone-cold finisher. If the Arsenal defense let him through on goal, you can bet that he’s not going to hit the post or shoot it at the keeper. But we’ve handled the likes of Darren Bent so no worries. It’s not like they’re anything like the three-headed Hydra of the Newcastle attack.

    9. They have no class. And are classless. In a classless way.



    1. Their impact player, Bojan Krkic. Wenger has been keeping an eye on him for a while now and thinks that he is a brilliant prospect, like the many others at Arsenal already.

    While at 20 he would normally be too old to attract Arsene’s attentions, his cuteness and youthful look is still enough to titillate The Professor, and reports have come out of London that he is Arsene’s number one target now with a reported bid of 30 million Euros being mulled at the Emirates boardrooms for him to build his young side around.

    When asked about the rumors, Wenger just smiled and claimed that he had already had a meeting with Bojan in his van in the off-season and that he was happy with the results, while vehemently denying that it had anything to do with Bojan’s permanently traumatized state this season so far.

    This ‘future star’, a true Arsenal style player, should be one to watch out for. But other than that, I can safely say we are safe and should be planning for the quarters. I’ll enjoy seeing them bring out the sprinklers when they lose! Or trying to ‘exchange shirts’ with Cesc like the evil buggers they are.


    1. That Wenger illegally tapped up Bojan by promising to give him playing time cos he can’t possibly be worse than Bendtner and make him one of the many stars to ‘be produced’ by the ‘Arsenal academy’, and that even though he refused Bojan has lost focus and been distracted since then?

    2. Well said. Your analysis should deserve a full on 10 from the best source of football:!!!

      Nah, just kidding, I was having fits of laughter reading this one! You’re on roll… ๐Ÿ˜€

  19. Aw, Villa looks like someone killed his puppy.×600/David-Villa-celeb-v-Gijon_2562602.jpg

    I kid. He’s scored the single goals in both Sporting fixtures securing the four points, all without bursting into tears and needing to be subbed off because he couldn’t stop crying*, so I can’t begrudge him his melancholy.

    *I posted about Palermo’s captain scoring against his boyhood club in the liveblog thread, and I’m going to post it again, because it’s so completely WTF:

    I actually think it’s class that Villa and Alves don’t celebrate scoring against Sporting and Sevilla — and find it amusing to realize that Messi/Xavi/Iniesta/Pedro can’t really relate because they’re still at their boyhood club — but geez does Miccoli redefine emo or what.

    1. I agree, I have a lot of respect for when players restrain themselves like that. CRonaldo did not celebrate against Sporting, Fabregas didn’t celebrate his goal against us last year. It is admirable.

  20. We are making a mistake playing Affelay on the wings, hes too much of a direct player to be efficient on the wings against parked buses.

    He can get to the by-line with his pace aka titi but villa and co are neva gona beat anyone in a straight jump.
    Stick him in midfield where he has more options and can make destabilizing runs.

    With regards to maxwell, i know ppl are worried bout walcott eating him, but tbh marking him is fairly simple as long as u show him on to his weaker foot at all times.
    Getting to the by-line is his trademark so u always have to give urself a head start eg. Pique vs Tb.

    1. Agreed. Marking Walcott really isn’t the answer – it’s guarding against the likes of Arsenal’s second goal yesterday. It’s more about putting pressure on the passer instantly, your starting position as LB and cover from your CB. That could so easily have been scored against us and I’m sorry but Walcott is also quicker than Abidal, imo. Luckily, as we saw yesterday he’s also not the greatest finisher.

    2. I also agree that Affelay isn’t wisely used on the wing. It’s the same when Pep puts Iniesta on the wing. Affelay is more of an attacking midfielder in my opinion and works better making plays and passes outside of the box,.

  21. I think that the point was absolutely deserved. Sporting deserved their point as well. It was a evenly matched contest.

    As for their goal, for me it boiled down to sporting forward scoring excellent goal. Pique could have done better but i would not blame him. If we track back, all the goals have possibilities to have been avoided.

    Sporting did defend in numbers but i did not get the feeling that they only sat back. I remember that they had 3-4 players pressurizing our back line in like 88th minute. They did defend with 10 which was a valid tactic. Also their play acting was not to be applauded but it wasn’t too bad either. If i compare it to Inter of last year, this was not even 5 on scale of 100.

    As for our team, i think that they took time to realize that pitch was playing slow and hence too many passes that were underhit. Also i was not impressed with Milito, Maxwell and Afellay. Especially the idea which our backline was following to hitting long balls in air. That killed so many attacks.

    As for Messi, i would give him a 8. I do not think of too many things he did wrong. He was most inflential in second half.

    For Xavi and Iniesta, i would give a 6-7. They were shackled and were less inflential then normal.

  22. got to agree with everything here, esp. that the only PLAYER in the first half was iniesta. lol
    i’d give messi a better rating tho, he was really trying in the second half; tho if he did since the 45th min like he did after villa’s goal, things mightve changed for the better.
    also lolling about how so many players were invisible today. draw was well deserved i say.

    its nice to finally get to comment on one of kxevin’s reviews which ive been reading and so admired for the past months now ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Good for bojan to have an incomplete rating ๐Ÿ™‚ I also felt this was an undeserved point. 7 for xavi and Iniesta is too much IMO, they should have done more in the pitch.
    Vamos pericos! Most cules are pericos today most pericos are antipericos. Funny day today.

    1. “Vamos pericos! Most cules are pericos today most pericos are antipericos. Funny day today”

      Always good to get the insider’s point of view. So Espanyol’s fans are really goona root for EE over their own team???????

  24. More unrelated stuff- Arshavin Q&A hilarity.

    From PlYuShA
    Looking in the mirror, do you see an ordinary 28-year old guy with mischievous eyes? Or something else? Someone else?
    Arshavin: I look in different kinds of mirrors: rectangular, oval. I scrutinize myself. And I think to myself, well, thatโ€™s good that I still donโ€™t see a crown on my head :)))


    From IrinaOrehova
    Hi, Andrey, thank you for your great new photos that were posted on the website. They are just great! I really enjoyed looking at them! Tell me, how often do you give flowers or some gifts to Julia?
    Arshavin: Unfortunately, I used to do it more often before. I think I should work on it.

    He says it so matter-of-factedly.

    rom korvin
    Andrey, hello. Tell me, who do you think you really are? A footballer? A writer? A hero? A promoter? Or maybe you just love money? Itโ€™s OK if you do. Well, I guess you wonโ€™t tell the truth anyway. Itโ€™s pity that you are not sincere. Yours faithfully, Alexander.
    Arshavin: I am an engineer of manufactured garments by education, and a footballer by vocation. I told the truth.

    From Maxa1692
    I am writing to you for the 3rd time, I hope this time Iโ€™ll get an answer from you! What song do you sing most often in the shower? Thanks for the great games!
    Arshavin: I do not sing in the shower at all, actually, I seldom take a shower. I prefer to take a bath and to think in silence.

    God, I love this guy’s choice of words and phrasing.

    From saharOK
    Hi , Andrey! I have a question. You know that many girls love to play football, but when they reach a certain age they find it difficult to take a ball on their chest, what would be your advice???))))
    Arshavin: It is better to have a big chest than an ability to stop the ball with it ;)))

    Well he was pretty famous for the sexism after that women not driving interview (โ€˜I would never give driving lessons to women. We need to build new roads for them. Why? Because you never know what to expect from a woman on the road. If you see a car behaving weirdly, swerving and doing strange things, before you see the driver you know it is a woman. It is always a woman’)

    From *

    Also, FEELS SO GOOD to read now. This is a live commentary of the second leg of the CL quarter-final. Before the game the writer mentions how both teams are awful at the back, with explanation ‘(1) their attack nearly always has the ball, against stragglers in sub-SPL farce La Liga to boot, so how can you judge the defence?; (2) their first-choice central defensive partnership, and Maxwell, didn’t look particularly clever at the Emirates once Arsenal worked up a head of steam’. And then seeing him go wow wow wow wow as Messi slaughtered it and Arsenal hardly touched the ball. Sweeeet it was.

  25. Excellent review. Spot on the ratings and commentary.

    In their heads, they were already playing Arsenal and that is unacceptable.

    One game at a time.

    I blame Pep, with his choice of starting line-up he only instilled in the players the idea that the game is winnable only by showing up.

    So they showed up and walked around for 45 minutes. Yes, they played their asses off in the second half, but too many mistakes were still present.

    I have just one question – is there nobody else in the world who can play on the left side for Barcelona? Nobody?

    1. Maybe it was harsh, but we should still be winning these games, never mind the international break, the players on the pitch are good enough to win – no excuses.

    2. Sorry, I meant LB when Abidal is playing CD or rested, surely Barcelona deserves better than Maxwell.

    3. Oh yes. The defence seems so much less secure without Abidal as LB. He just really locks up that side.

    4. Here we go again. Examples, please, from yesterday where Maxwell let us down defensively?

      If you really want I’ll detail the occasions where he saved us with his perfect positioning saving headers, interceptions etc )

      Look, criticise his attacking play and I’m with you but defensively the guy doesn’t deserve this and unless anybody can point me towards an occasion yesterday where he has cost us a goal or even near miss . . . . or even caused a problem in defense I’m struggling to understand why people say this.

    5. Jim, people say this because we are spoiled by the overwhelming quality that Barcelona players have ๐Ÿ™‚

      Maxwell is a good player, he is solid, he has good technique and he is not made of glass, but…

      Barca fans at least expect their LB to be able to pass and cross – and do so excellently and often, but his passing is more often wayward than not and he gave us little to nothing in attack.

      He is a decent defender, but we are spoiled by brilliance ๐Ÿ™‚

      Plus, he has that horrible piece of humanoid as his agent. (But I am being purely subjective and mean on this one)

    6. Thanks for the reply Mila. As I said above ( somewhere) I’m happy to accept that he should offer more on attack – I may be his biggest critic on that – but that’s because he is capable of running at defences and chooses the easy option of passing back all the time. Especially yesterday, at times we worked so hard to get him the ball with a fraction of time in which he could take it to Gijon but he didn’t.

      I’m also disappointed with his crosses at times but I can’t agree at all on the passing front. How many “wayward” passes can you remember from him from yesterday’s match? Apart from one poor game recently his passing has been pretty much spot on for most of the season. That was, incidentally the same game where he was accused of “fluffy crosses” and on a rewatch the only one that was slow at all was directly onto Messi’s head and he pulled out a world class save from De Gea.

      No, he’s not one of the best players in the side but he’s a lot better than people think and I keep waiting for someone to point to actual examples of his deficiencies from games There have been four or five derogatory comments about him from yesterday’s game and I could name you at least three occasions where he saved our skins. In the run up to the Arsenal game watch how often we get the “Walcott had Maxwell on toast” comments and then at some point watch the whole of the game from when Walcott comes on and how little they even came into contact. The goal against us is what happens when we lose the ball unexpectedly with our FBs too high up the pitch and not one defender in the world can catch Walcott when he is off and running. ( Hopefully that’ll not be put to the test with Abidal on Wed night).

      Agreed on the agent ๐Ÿ™‚

    7. Jim, I’m just gonna chime in and say that we are spoiled and we expect our players to be total footballers. Maxwell, is okay at defending, he gets the job done most of the time but he offers little creativity, talent or skill pushing forward. Mostly, like someone said, he takes the easy out by just passing back when he has the ball. It’s all about your perspective. He’d be a great player or another team, on Barca he’s just okay.

    1. Sky Sports Broadcast

      First Half:

      * Half – La Liga – Sporting Gijon v. Barcelona – 12-02-11.avi


      Second Half:

      * Half – La Liga – Sporting Gijon v. Barcelona – 12-02-11.avi


      Links are interchangeable. Credit to Pakman at

  26. Former Barcelona winger Carles Rexach believes that the Catalan club will find it difficult to sign Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal.

    The 23-year-old has long been linked with a move back to the Spanish heavyweights, but recent reports point towards the Gunners demanding ยฃ80 million for the potential sale of their prized asset.

    And the ex-Barca man believes that it would be hard for the Blaugrana to re-sign their former youth product.

    “It will be difficult to bring Cesc back now,” Rexach said, according to The Daily Mail.

    “Firstly, because of the money it would cost, but also because Barca have young players coming through in that position who are very good and we have to look at that, too.

    “It would be different if there was no-one else in that position, then they would have to pay the money to get him. But there are others coming through in the team.

    “There are already three good players in our midfield [Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets] and another three in Seydou Keita, Ibrahim Afellay and Javier Mascherano. Then there are younger ones coming up from the reserves. You need to look at what you have, what it will cost to get something else and what you will need to replace in a few years.”

  27. Kxevin, it was Xavi who squandered that chance, not Messi.
    They show Messi right after the opportunity hasn’t been seized, but it was actually Xavi who passed the ball into Cuellar’s arms (if we are talking about the 54th min)

    Watching the highlights on youtube, I couldn’t see any chance from Sporting that came close to the one of Xavi and Pedro, so I think it’s a bit harsh to say that this was an undeserved point.

    The effort of the team has vastly increased in the 2nd half, not only after the draw was scored. Sporting played with 10 men around their box for a not negligible part of the match, that’s a tough nut to crack. And hell, they WERE physical!
    The team rating of 2 is very strict, the average rating of the players is 4.83. Dunno if there’s ever been such a huge discrepancy.

    I would like to know, if you consider that Xavi and not Messi failed to score from that classy Dani Alves pass, will it change their rating?

    1. PS: Piquรฉ is the main culprit for their goal, watch this video:
      At 1:13, the situation is crying for a tackle, but Piquรฉ either thinks “I will steal the ball from him just like Messi did against Aguero” or “I’ll simply push him away to the sideline” – but he clearly should have tackled there, it would most-likely not even have been a foul!

  28. The bigger mistake was not starting Ibi, but leaving P! on the bench. Also Busi > sMAsch, especially in games where teams park the bus, it is essential to pass the ball around the pitch as fast as possible.

    “While at 20 he would normally be too old to attract Arseneโ€™s attentions, his cuteness and youthful look is still enough to titillate The Professor” – this cracked me up!

    1. btw I have given up agreeing or disagreeing with the ratings as the actual numbers make little sense to me. Be that as it may, the review was excellent as always and I fully agree with the written evaluation of each individual player.

    2. I have a sneaky feeling that as long as Pep is at Barcelona, Bojan will continue with us. There is something about him that the Barca management and coaching stuff see that we mere mortals are blind to ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. To be fair Bojan was critical to our title winning run at the end of last season. So he is clearly has the talent to play at this level. That’s what makes his current form all the more frustrating.

    4. I also think that Busi would have been much better than Smasch yesterday, but alas that didn’t happen, as for afeelay he clearly needs time, but i think he will not show his real worth this season.

  29. Undeserved point ? by barcelona standards , sure.
    Watching the game though , you can easily spot that if we had taken our chances, which were enough to get us a comfortable lead , we could have won easily this game.
    We didnt convert them , and thats how it can go against a fitter, more motivated and somewhat lucky parked bus.

  30. I thought No Layup and stuff were Riley/Knicks rules? (well aware of bad boys but didn’t know they had these rules first, although easy to think they did).

    Hope Charles Smith plays for Arsenal on Wednesday

    1. Wow, the black market story and the guy controling the gates – I’ve never experienced such benevolence in our stadium here ๐Ÿ˜€

      I’m waiting for the pictures, and I’m a bit ashamed that I wasn’t there. 95% Portuguese fans – Messi and Argentina deserved more fans of theirs!

    2. Great job, Ek. Thanks for sharing your “field trip” with us. I wish I could see the pictures!

    1. I think his stats are probably gonna be better than henry’s best season with us.
      It for sure looks that way.

    2. Swede? Don’t know what you’re talking about kari. ๐Ÿ˜›

      Generally I agree with kxevin ratings.
      However if villa eventually tallies around 30 goals and 15 assists , we will officially have been ridiculed for our crazy expectations.

    3. Haha, come on… I do agree that Villa is being better than said Swede… but I do also think that getting rid of Zlatan was not a good idea. Yes, he made mistakes and whatnot… but I think that, generally, he was good for the team.

  31. Here is a nice summary of the history of Espanyol and what makes it different from FCB:

    If you can imagine what would happen to a football club in Glasgow made up of Scottish players but called Her Majesty’s English FC, then you’re some way to understanding why the majority of Catalans will always find it difficult to support RCD Espanyol.

    These pericos are crazy!

  32. Not sure if this has been discussed, but:

    “Barcelona’s commitment card wouldn’t automatically lead to membership after 3 years. There would yearly be a limited number of places. ” – via barcastuff

    So, if I’m reading this right, you pay for three years and could conceivably be forced to wait/pay for an undetermined amount of years before becoming a member. Remind me again why anyone would want to get one of these things?

  33. Let’s not overrate Villa’s goal. Sure, it was an delightful goal and yes, Villa deserves credit for that. Someone said “most keepers wouldn’t commit the mistake of charging to the front in these plays”, but he did… Villa noticed that and took advantage of it. Had the keeper not committed that mistake, Villa wouldn’t have tried that… in that sense, he deserves credit.

    However, other than that… it was an important goal that gave us a point, yes… but it wasn’t a “crucial goal”… a crucial goal would be a goal that gives you the win or a tie on a Knock-Out Match… a semi-final, a final, etc… it was a goal that resulted in a point (perhaps undeserved) for us, nothing more.

    Other than that, you can’t really give him, not even a 5, when he just appears at one moment and practically disappears for the rest of the game. Yes, he is here to score goals, but he is also here to press the opponent, to contribute into plays and be a threat.

    He has had way better games on other matches… even when he didn’t score or contribute into plays… but because he contributed to defense, pressing and opening spaces.

  34. I agree with Kevin on Botia. He was very good yesterday and has been good the entire season for Gijon.

    At this point he may very well be a better back up for Milito.

    Depth at CB is a troubling issue given how off form and fitness Milito has been. Nearly the entire squad was off yesterday, but the CB play was particularly troubling. Pique again had an inconsistent match and Milito while perhaps better than his debacle against Betis was still poor.

    That goal was terrible team defending – but Pique and Milito were just horrible in that spot.

    If Abidal were playing I don’t think that goal happens. Same with Puyol.

    Playing Pique and Milto leaves Barca with two CBs with poor to mediocre pace. And if you’re going to play such a high line and push so many players forward, you need CBs that either have pace or outstanding positional awareness.

    Moving forward I would prefer seeing Mascherano at CB instead of Milito. Mascherano has the skill set to play CB – on this Barca squad I think CB would actually be his best position. He’s proficient on the ball as a holding player, but as a CB his ball skills would be plus. And his pace and defensive positioning would allow him to fit well at the back.

    1. I would worry about Mascherano playing that far back. I’m not sure he could clear balls away without causing a foul/free kick or penalty.

    2. I’m a beginner football strategist, but to me this seems to be an issue with our total football philosophy. I love sMasch, he has so much character, class and skills, but sometimes he just doesn’t seem to have the necessary offensive kick that is ALWAYS necessary in our playing style. I felt that those needs stood out a lot in this game. Perhaps he would be better at CB, where his offense is less of an issue…

  35. It’s easy to confuse not seeing him for ages and the team not doing well with him doing nothing, Victor. Have you ever watched him during one of our attacks? Take his goal. As soon as Messi gets the ball he is on the alert, darts offside behind the defender then nips back onside to take the pass, controls it perfectly ( slow feet anyone?) then performs a delicate chip. The keeper by the time he hit it was about 8 yards out of his goal – I don’t buy the error idea, the keeper had to be ready to dash out to meet him as the defender wasn’t in it – and in order for him not to be able to take some more steps back and tip it over it had to be immaculate.

    He shows constantly for through balls and is forever darting offside and on ( okay, maybe more off ). Add that to the fact that at his age he’s prepared to change his game and work back tracking as he does and you have a quality player. It’s just very hard to get much of the ball when there are 11 opponents working the same penalty box as you.

    Btw, if I’d asked you a minute before he scored if it was crucial that we scored what would your reply have been? I’ve not celebrated many goals more than that.

  36. Our basketball team is kicking the S..t out of EE basket team, kinda of manita thing going on there.
    @Euler; i’m a greedy person, can you please treat us with a tactical preview for the arsenal game, please please please.

    1. That has happened so often lately, I think the gap between Regal Barcelona and Real Madrid is bigger than the one between the football teams!
      Congratulations, Regal Barcelona ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. lololol @ jnice

    “Your tweets go like this:






    1. I love Michael Beasley and Aaron Gray way more than Rose. I wish we drafted Beasley.
    2. True.
    3. No way I’m done with Fabio!
    4. I do hate you.

    I can wrap your tweets up with


    thats all I got


    Sportsnet is showing AS Roma-Shakhtar instead of Barcenal Part 1 ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ™ How can they do this to me, a loyal consumer?!


    1. What the hell?!?

      How can any non-Italien or non-Ukrainian broadcaster prefer that match over Arsenal-Barca?
      I would certainly call them and tell them my opinion on it ^^

    2. Running the LB is one reason, another being I don’t go to bars (even if they did show Barca games, which I’m sure they don’t. Hockey Central, hel-lo)

  39. Who wants to bet on the EE game tonight??
    I say EE will win by a 0-4 score
    any bets???

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