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Barcelona vs. Chelsea, 2-2

Clusterfuck photo is all too appropriate

Sort of a match review, more of a general analysis

A very quick recap of the game against Chelsea: Valdes started a poor night by rushing off his line to crash into his own defender instead of trusting him to hold off Drogba's attack. Pique's head hit the ground hard, he had to come off, and he's being hospitalized overnight for observation. Granted we were able to score two goals after that - Cuenca passed to Busquets who tapped the ball into the net, and Messi passed to Iniesta for a great goal - but in the last minute of the half, Ramires outran our defense, Valdes again left his line, and it was an easy chip over him for an away goal. At that point I knew deep down that it was all over. In the second half, Messi missed his penalty shot, we failed to get past the ten men blocking Chelsea's goal (even after John Terry had been tossed out for tackling Alexis in the box for no reason), and in extra time, Fernando Torres celebrated his recent return of form by scoring another goal for good measure. As we had already lost in the aggregate based on away goal rules, this was just adding insult to injury.

So what a terrible week for Barcelona. Not only did we lose to Real Madrid at home on Saturday, putting an end once and for all to our chances in La Liga, we just drew Chelsea at home after last week's loss to them away and dropped out of the Champions League. Never mind winning the Triplete this year - we'll be lucky to walk away with the Copa del Rey.

There's been a lot of whining about bad luck and shameful defensive strategies in the wake of these losses, but the way I see it, our flaws have been there all along and were just waiting for competition against high enough quality teams to be exposed.

1) No reliable strikers this year except for Messi. Our midfielders (Xavi and Cesc) scored more goals than any of our other forwards except Alexis (and then just barely). Some of our freaking DEFENDERS scored more goals than any of our other forwards. Pedro is still off form. Cuenca is shaping up to be a fine winger, but he's not a striker. Tello is hungry for the goal but not very intelligent in his tactics, I'm sorry to say. Either Villa needs to be back better than ever (and what is he now, 30???) or we need to buy a new center forward to work with and/or sub for Messi.

2) Messi has been dropping deep to be a playmaker because Xavi hasn't been doing his job. I hate to say this because I love Xavi, he's my favorite Barcelona player in fact, but whether because of age or injury or something else, he has been much too conservative and unimaginative lately. He passes the ball with great accuracy, but what's the point if it's always going sideways or backwards? That's why Messi has the most assists by far for Barcelona and not Xavi.

3) As a result of 1) and 2), we have been far too reliant on Messi this season. If he has an off day or two (or three), we're screwed. Yesterday he missed training because he had stomach problems. He could get injured. It's very dangerous to pin all our hopes on one little guy, even if he is the greatest player in the world.

4) We ABSOLUTELY need to develop new tactics against teams like Chelsea that park 10 men in front of their goal and then wait for the counterattack and run like hell. It's the obvious way to beat our playing style, and our coaching staff need to face up to that and adapt accordingly.

5) Our defense needs to be shored up with new blood. Puyol is all heart, but he's 34 years old - he's slow, and he gets tired. Pique has had his head somewhere else for most of the season. Mascherano came to us as a midfielder and in my opinion is shaping up to be a great defender, but he's still learning, and he can't do it alone. Dani Alves and Adriano are not true defenders, more like wingers who run the entire length of the pitch and then get caught with their pants down. And Valdes... well, every keeper has his bad days, but he has been making serious tactical errors in terms of when to come off his line, and my god, that episode today that put Pique in the hospital, what the hell was he thinking???

I still love and support this team - their playing style, their philosophy, their individual personalities - but some dramatic changes are in order if we are going to return to our recent greatness in the coming season. And given that Pep still hasn't announced whether he will renew, I'm starting to think that the changes will be dramatic indeed.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 25th, 2012 06:12 am (UTC)
The Corriere della Sera online version titled "The Fall of the Gods". Top title on the first page.
Tripletes are rare but the last score must have hurt.
Your image of Messi as the tiny boy holding this all team on hus competent but human shoulders was so appropriate.
Apr. 25th, 2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
I think that Messi is a phenomenal talent, but at the end of the day, he depends on his team for success, and it should never have become the other way around. It's too much pressure even for him. I saw him hyperventilating when he was about to take the penalty kick, and I knew just from looking at his face that he would miss. When he's happy, when he's playing apparently just to have fun, he's amazing. But whenever he gets that grim look, like it's entirely up to him to win this match for the team, I know we're in trouble.
Apr. 25th, 2012 09:58 am (UTC)
Well, I wouldn't blame Victor for Pique's injury (there are news btw, he left the hospital in a surgological collar with his parent this morning, Apparently his state is satisfactory but he has to rest a week and than they will make more tests. Poor Geri!). It was a very unlucky situation. Players collide with goalies all teh time and nothing happens. Geri was smply ulucky.

I think Xavi is getting old and while rested he is briliant, in my opinion he shouldn't play more than one game a week next season. He is not 20 anymore as asd as it makes us. We need to let other midfielders learn from him and gradually take his place . If we just rely on him all teh time, he will be done after next season and we will be left with nothing.

I agree about point 3. Poor Leo really.

I think that we need to modify our style as such. Teams were parking busses against us since 2009 but so far we knew how to deal with it. Now, other teams simply learned how to fight with our style. We need some modification or next season will bring another heartbreak.

Actually, I am quite postive he will renew.
Apr. 25th, 2012 05:39 pm (UTC)
I was glad to hear that Geri was released from the hospital, and I know that the exact way things panned out was unlucky, but I still think that Victor made a bad decision and a dangerous one. If he had stayed back and trusted his defender to do his job, it wouldn't have happened. (Although I concede that Pique hasn't been the most trustworthy defender this season.)

I agree 100% about Xavi. I would like to see Thiago and Cesc alternating with him so that he can rest more between matches. I worry about him in the Euros this summer.

My heart broke for Leo when I saw him crying on the pitch yesterday. I'm sure he feels like the loss is all his fault because of the missed PK.

I love our passing style, but if we're going to have everyone in the opponents' half when the other team parks the bus, we need very fast defenders to head off counterattacks, plus clinical shooting when we manage to find an opportunity. In spite of the dense defense, we had many chances in the last three games but failed to score.

What makes you so sure that Pep will renew? I want to believe it, but my dad says Spanish news sources seem pretty positive that he won't.
Apr. 25th, 2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
I think it was the way he spoke after Clasico when he mentioned next season he was saying "we" and ... I don't know, I have a gutt feeling he will stay. I have nothing to base it on, simply wishful thinking and a strong gutt feeling that he will stay.
Apr. 25th, 2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
Sorry, doll - I was watching this live and so hoping for the result you wanted. The match stats said that Barca had over seventy percent possession...they must be devastated :(
Apr. 26th, 2012 01:24 am (UTC)
Thanks hon - yeah, Messi was crying openly after the match, and the goalkeeper Victor Valdes has disappeared from social media and is probably seriously depressed after his performance.

Barcelona pretty much always has 70+% possession! The problem is that when the other team just sits tight and defends, eventually we make a mistake and then our opponents run the ball down to the other goal and score.

My only consolation is that Bayern Madrid defeated Real Madrid today, so at least Mourinho will only get La Liga and not the CL too :P
Apr. 26th, 2012 04:11 am (UTC)
Huh. I wrote a catharsis fic.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )



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