Friday, 18 August 2017

So-called FC Barcelona pessimists, nope, you were wrong and hopefully always will be.



There is nothing new about current Barcelonica planet state of mind, we've seen it happening over and over again. We experienced it in the last couple of seasons with Rijkaard, after Pep's departure, throughout Lucho's time, and all the time in between.

From the "Xavi passed it, he can't defend or score" to "Iniesta is not up there" (mostly after Rijkaard's era decline). To doubts about Pep after a struggling start, that went to an extend of accusing him being racist for using a flop like Busquets over Yaya, to #LuchoOut after couple of months of having him as a manager, and the list is long.

I've read the "end of cycle" argument more often than Messi scored during that period. After every decline. After every defeat. We read "Real Madrid's era", "Bayern Munich era",  and all kinds of eras more times than one can count throughout that timeline.

And throughout all that period, FC Barcelona kept on recovering and winning. Making it more and more exhausting to adapt the "we are dead" argument throughout every successful season with the "We won!" celebrations same people jumped to at the end of such seasons. But you can always get philosophical about it, digging too deep into it to a level where there is no light to actually see.

So, why bothering responding when the team engineered a response on the field over and over again, braking every so-called era and snatching titles? Pessimism is a deep-rooted aspect in Barcelonica planet and goes way far beyond "twitter era" and it's agendas.

Simply because, you are left with two bad options on twitter when you browse daily mentions. Either you get along and get into endless fruitless discussions on daily bases, or you just ignore it all and it seems that it sends two kinds of messages: "You are right, pessimists, keep showering my mention with that insightful wisdom", or (as some pointed out to me): "You thought you know better, so you ignored my attempt to engage with a discussion about it" (as I've been told, which is strange).

So, this post, which was supposed to be a twitter thread, is there basically to pin it on my twitter account and it saves me all this fuss.

1) Is it really an optimist vs pessimist thing?
2) Were the so-called pessimists right, and the rest of us were wrong?
3) Should we mourn FC Barcelona's future once and for all?
4) What is the value of starting a debate built originally on myth and lies?

The Optimists vs pessimists thingy

Check my twitter mentions to find predictable arguments about how to celebrate "The pessimists", as they call themselves, "victory" after Real Madrid's win.

If you are one of those giggling after RM result. If the first thing you thought about was "Hooray! other fans were wrong". Reflect. That tells us, Barcelona fans, enough about you to not even bother.

First thing first, they want to claim it is between "pessimists" who were "proven right" and "optimists" who were claiming all is perfect.

That's the narration that fits them. Making a Trump-like argument:"Extreme right Vs extreme left" (in context, not nature). And that is either an intentional mean-spirited lie, or an unintentional short of sight.

It fits them, being extremists, to label the rest as being on the opposite extreme. Because in their eyes it is just black or white. You are either with us or that's it! You are the opposite. You know, like all radicals with extreme agenda.

And now that many "Pessimists" as they call themselves crowned me (somehow) one of the so-called "optimists" camp. it's time to expose the myth.

Is it so? Are we "the others" blind supporters who praise everything and have no critical insight?

Though, I should note, while the "pessimists" are more or less one block (Simply: All is bad. Done.), I can't claim to represent the rest as there is way more diversity there and disagreements, case by case. So I'll just take my part.


Opposing current board:

Was I someone who had zero critic, board supporter, all is perfect fan? Anyone who claims so is either a liar, manipulator, or has no clue. Simple

As mentioned before, my opposition to this board is well documented on internet. Way before Rosell even arrived to power. BEFORE current whiners.

In fact, with some fans, we created a private blog a week after Rosell's win, contacted Penyas to check how to react. Naive, but telling.

We opposed basically most of the board club decisions. The membership changes (And Barça Beeckman story here), The sponsorship deal, buying Cesc, Asensio, Neymar's deal, Bartomeu taking Rosell place without elections, etc... You will find it all on twitter (many are good digging there, go ahead!)




The position toward the current board is clear. Rehearsing it over and over again every day for followers appease and retweets is not my thing. Same as, not acknowledging any positives that may happen (just because I oppose them) is ridiculous. In fact, only when you give credit for the good part you have the credibility to be critical about the bad. That's the deference between whining ranting machines and objective rational opposition.

If they sign Umtiti, it is not: "Meh... somehow they got that one right, but FRAUD! THIEVES! DOUGLAS! ABRAKADABRA!"

Nope. It's simply: "That was a good one." Easy. Try it. Then when it is about other stuff, punch!


As for the team,you won't find us chanting: "Getting Douglas to the team was our dream!"

And two years before Thiago's departure, when Pep was there, I published a post that if he agrees signing Cesc, Thiago will leave. Etc...

When it come to managers, my criteria is to give ANY manager a season chance to adapt and transmit his ideas. Regardless what I think about that manager. I make my point before hiring him, then wait a season to evaluate.

Yet, talking about always agreeing with the board, I opposed hiring Lucho, but when it happened, I stayed honest to my principle.

And yes, I thought Lucho was doing fine during the first season (before winning titles) considering the mess he inherited. Yet,demanded more.

Now if anyone followed my position on Lucho's last season, it is clear I was one of the most critical from day one. Too much for "optimist". I do believe a big part of last season's shortcoming was on the technical department side, more than the resources available.

Here is a sample from just one game:


















But for the agenda extremists, it doesn't work to be objective when something is right, while opposing the overall board's direction.

So, no, it's not Optimists Vs Pessimists. As they want it to sound like. It's "Radical" Vs "Balanced". And balanced does NOT mean being right. It just means painting an opinion AFTER analysis, not having pre-decided position then tailoring an argument for it.


Nevermind that, but wasn't the "pessimists" right after all?

Just like that guy who waited 7 years to claim an "I told you so" victory while the game was still on. Asking me, how does it feel? Well, it sucks. My team just lost against an eternal rival. Oh, that's not what he meant. I see...

Proven right? How so? Because we lost a preseason title? or failed to win La liga for once?

That's like spending a whole year predicting "Tomorrow it will rain". Of course, one day it will. That doesn't make you a weather expert.

So, to avoid that horoscope-like trick where people only remember when it happens and forget the 90% times it turns fake, lets review:

During the mentioned 7 years, EVERY SUMMER, those intelligent experts argued "this season is it!", we're winning nothing! We're shit! DOOM!

7 years of disrespecting our squad and w*nking RM's "superior brilliance". Let's check the record. Especially the one that defines quality: La Liga. How many titles had we won during the seven years and how many had we lost?

7 years of hunting for a collapse, claiming we are inferior to any team we lose against (psg?), whining all season, then celebrating winning. Almost every year of the 7 years.

That's also like saying "Iniesta passed it" for 4-5 years, "Rakitic is shit" (since we got him), that other team has way better midfielders, and during all the years our midfield either dominated (most often) or went toe to toe with that other club midfield, but now after a preseason game where we were catastrophic, well, they were right. After, like, 5 (?) years?

Now here is a solid prediction, and punch me if it doesn't happen: "They will end up saying one thing or two that make sense, in the coming 7 years"

How was that proven right for 7 years? Future? The ones they call "Optimists" never said we are set for 1000 years of glory. We successfully evaluated seasons, one by one.

Last season THEY repeated same 7 seasons narration: We ain't winning a shit. I (now that they address me) predicted competing for La Liga.

True,we did not win La Liga, but we were competitive toe to toe. Had better head-to-head results vs top 6, lost liga via games we shouldn't.

They got so upset (and now singing songs about it) when I tweeted this:




They were actually more upset than Real Madrid fans. Thing is, 1) none of them dared to say they won't mind switching squads. How can you give up MSN to start with? and 2) At the end of La Liga, we had better head to head results against top 6 of the league than RM, which defines quality, though it questions depth (Supporting the argument that we lost the league to them because they have more depth).

Wait! But didn't I say last season we had better depth than Real Madrid? I have to. They are repeating that over and over again. Well, no. I didn't. This is what I tweeted:

Somehow that meant our depth was better. More over, How dare I doubt their depth beyond attack? That's where Barcadrid fans lost their pants! "Are you kidding?!"

Well, again and again, opinions aside, and lets go to facts: How was RM's transfer direction this summer?

To their credit, they acknowledged that issue and are trying to fix it. Offloaded the backup LB who barely contributed, the back up right back who was a joke, replaced the LB, got a defender, a DM, a CM who plays more in the middle third than James. You welcome.

In the CL, they had their summer "it will rain today" daily "we won't win" argument, you know, the same one thru 7 years. I didn't say we'll win CL, the opposite. And even more:

Instead of casual argument, I was specific: Vs Juv, I clearly noted if we play 3-4-3 (Popular then), we have no chance. THAT's being right.

Next season

Now to coming season: I liked hiring Valverde, Prefer eriksen but ok with Coutinho, Like Dembele. CLEARLY Didn't like Paulinho transfer, even with Barcadrid fans continuously ranting otherwise:


But for Barcadrid fans, you have to be an extremist radical. You should not like him, and you should say he is shit. I won't insult myself calling a Brazilian international "average", even if I don't like getting him. Full stop.

And why will I consider next season a failure already, just to please Barcadrid extremists? Judging next season already as doom is naive. Squad ain't complete yet. New manager, new setup, etc...

If we get no more (good) players to cover Neymar and strengthen other needs, we will struggle. No question. But we are not there yet, are we? What if we got 3 excellent players to boost current squad quality? Well, then there is a good chance we recover well, even if it takes till January for all pieces to come together. maybe not. The point is, it is WAY TOO EARLY to run whining like headless chicken throwing fists and punching shadows.

Note that pep's start with Barca was worse than Valverde's (so far),we know how it ended. Two months to Lucho's era and #LuchoOut was trending, then we won it all. For Valverde, the jury STILL out.

Regarding the style, we've seen many positives in pre-season. It is not tough to regain some of our football identity. The spine of the team is still there to transmit it to the future.

So, if not having a pre-decided opinion, no matter what, is right, I love being wrong. I have no agenda. I judge by piece. On time.


Transfers, depth, and Future

When we try to improve depth adding 2 french internationals, Portuguese international and a decent league striker, All young,THAT deserves chance.

One of the main mistakes Barcadrid fans make while comparing depth with RM, is that they pick the worst scenario possible for Barcelona and the best scenario possible for Real Madrid and go crazy.

They signed very well. Young players with potentials. But, history taught us that such transfers can go more often like an Illarramendi than an Asensio. They come thru a celebrated carnival with lot of promise and leave thru the back door.

Ceballos is another player I like a lot:



Yet, he is an U21 international for Spain, who had off seasons before a good one at Betis. Why taking it as a certainty he will meet expectations and set the world alight for Real Madrid when a yound midfielder you hate (unlike each and every manager that coached him, and some of the biggest clubs that wanted him) at FC Barcelona had more successful seasons in his boots before joining FC Barcelona and played a vital role in Portugal's successful campaign to get crowned as Europe's champion? Again, worst scenario Vs best scenario fits the extremist Barcadrid fans more.

Well, I can flip it and say, our young players will blossom next season after a season of tough adaptation while their signings will fail. Viola! Much better! Fact is, too early to pass a judgement.

Another aspect when it come to transfers is that we suffered access of startup quality before and that switched lots of transfers off. Who would've dared to join FC Barcelona as a midfielder when Busquets-Xavi-Iniesta were at peak? None. They went elsewhere. Same as last summer many forwards (like G.Jesus and Dembele before him) hesitated to join FC Barcelona, staring at MSN's quality.

Even Morata, an all and all Madridista ran out of that club escaping competition, while BBC played less matches together than MSN (Bale/Benzema injuries, and C.Ronaldo's age).Many more factors contribute in getting transfers than football PC games may teach.

Now, we are seeing a change, with players craving to join the club with no fear to fight for position, players who (would've) hesitated before. That's a cycle for ANY team after a brilliant round, and we are now at that point.

And of course, we've been reading for a while that FC barcelona lost it's appeal, then whenever we wink toward a player he goes for a strike at his club demanding that dream of a move. Lighten up FFS...

A couple of good transfers, an evolution for some of the young players we have, and we are set for another adventure. It may not happen, or it may. Why losing faith already? I don't get it.

Enjoy your seat, we are satisfied with ours

But it is really not about the state of the club, but more about who wins twitter championship, as the reactions after the loss against Real Madrid showed.

Barcadrid fans, somehow, consider it a war against the fans who are not willing to beat that extremist drum. It's about scoring points on twitter, not on the league table.

You score your points there when FC Barcelona lose, and consider it a point for the rest of us when FC Barcelona wins.

And for that, We like the position we are in as fans, and we don't want to be in your place in such equation, "winning" or "losing"

Predicted feedback

Few will actually read and come up with valid feedback worth discussion or at least disagreeing to with mutual respect.
Most will be too lazy to read and will just rehearse casual reactions that I clearly addressed here.
Some will nitpick one word or sentence, take it out of context and try to trigger an argument about it. Like they did with the Paulinho thingy.
Some will understand a statement not as it is clearly written but the way it fits their urge to argue their extremist rage against anyone who does not curse everything and repeat after them "SAD! DOOM! BAD BAD SAD! We are no more winners! We need to make FC Barcelona great again! SAD..." 

And much more talks to talk, but the point is there, so, that's all.

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Saturday, 3 December 2016

FC Barcelona: Let's save the social frog and enjoy a season.




The social media experience is just another implication of the boiling frog experiment. Basically, if you put a frog in boiling water, it jumps out seeking survival. However, if you put the frog in cold water and start the boiling process, RIP! The cool water? That's the interactive tempting space. The boiling process? That's the escalated debates. The frog? Well... Look at the bright side, the myth is that you will turn to a prince once an absolute charming prince/ss decides, for some reason, to kiss the frog's lips...

Social media, like quicksand, when rants hit the fan, the more one tries to fly, the more one sinks. Being a hopeless optimist or a pessimist hopeless or a swinger, fail to step back and out and you get caught by the noisy vacuum mill that spins you to ill.

As usual, I take this space as a shelter to post my rambles under the restrictions dictated here to differential it from (my) twitter banters and rants.

Social stand is more a self mood-molding than anything!



"Lucho out!" just like "Support the team/Lucho!" are both random irrelevant screams reflecting an illusional, titanic shadow of a micro impact, if any, social media rants have on the team. Lucho will not be fired by a twitter egg, nor the players and the manager are obsessively scrolling down twitter wall wreckage craving for support.

The club lives on a planet in another galaxy at a parallel universe far from the Social media planet inhabited by me, five to ten friends, and a million robotic type-machines. If any, one's standing point is basically the bed s/he sets to sleep in. It's your own throne or thorn. Be it sarcastic, intentionally provocative, analytic, banters oriented, obsessive ranting, optimist hippy, pessimist owl, your call! That will bounce back at you after all.

Enjoy the season. Crisis? Erm... Enjoy the "Crisis"!




What happened to Fc Barcelona? Is a post from the past, Pep's days. Back then, The flaws of Pep's system dominated the good, when he got hijacked by his inner thoughts. It's interesting that Pep's problem started when a compact structure got too compact that the offence line ended up sinking in midfield, while the verticality  in Lucho's system got too vertical, stretching midfield to pieces.

Make no mistake, there are problems, and there is no crime in stating that obvious truth. Don't worry, the players will not sleep heartbroken that we stated it, nor Lucho will retire.


Some of the issues, we can debate about as opinions, others are football measurable alphabets. Like distance between the lines, disconnection between center midfielders (wide distance - too lateral- and lack of passing interchanges between the two), high press from offense while the defense line perform an early transition to defend deep leaving the midfield in no man's land, etc... That's the area where you will not find a single argument, article, or analysis, based on football principles, that counter that. Waving a snow ball is not a counter argument to climate change scientific observations.


On the other hand, the opinions about how and why, that's where it gets too complex, subjective and communicative. That's where we can only guess. For me, Lucho got stretched between too many ideas to find a solid compromise. On one hand, he wanted to make MSN run as little as possible during the "weaker" games and for the first half of the season (Per last season's bad experience), so he decided that they should stay up, and then we move the ball as fast as possible to them. What is the fastest path to take from defense third to offense third? Right. The flanks.


Accordingly, The team's shape cracked to two folds: LB, LCM, Neymar on one side, and RB, RCM, aided by Messi on the right side. The connection between the two distanced sides is bridged by back passing to Busquets or thanks to Messi's central movement between the center midfielders. 


While this can make some sense theoretically, in practice it suffered many challenges. For the first, during early defensive buildup, pushing the center midfielders forward continuously broke the spine of ball circulation by leaving Busquets isolated and tightly marked by opponents, with no passing lanes or help. 


In offence, the lack of  central midfield positioning caught fullbacks between two ideas, overlapping in attack, and staying conservative to cover possible counter attacks. 


The lack of connection between center midfielders makes it more difficult to catch the opponent by surprise, flipping the attack from one flank to another. Slow switching of play makes it easy for the opponent defensive structure to slide across the line's width to crowd the attacked flank without worrying about the other flank too much. 


With Neymar being left left, and Messi dropping deep, Suarez fall a victim of too many things to do all at once. 


Add to that, the defensive dynamic conflicts. A team either press high or defend zonally based on fast transition backwards after losing possession. The idea that half the selection puts high press led casually by MSN while the rest of the players retreat to their own half is not working, and shouldn't. 


In a way, it is not a pleasant experience to watch that, but in another way it's a routine breaker. It will be interesting to see how things evolve. A lot of what was said by players, especially Pique, recently suggests that so many talks are taking place in the team with the manager, and everyone involved. That's how it works usually and hopefully the conclusions and the solutions achieve the needed tuning to push the performance forward.


What about el clasico?


It was intentional that I write this post before el clasico. Regardless of the result, there will still be a lot to enjoy this season. The second half of the season should be a better slice for us than the first half. That's a guess, but it seems the way Lucho planned his season. We have many young new players pending adaptation. Many things to look forward to.


Regardless of the result, the season is still too long, especially with many teams improving enough to take points from the title contenders. My feeling? We win. We have a better team and we (supposedly) play a different game against such a rival. We usually shine when we are not the clear favorites. 


Either way, enjoy the game, enjoy the season, enjoy the uncertainty, the ups and the downs, enjoy the drama. Consider it a series, and where is the fun in a series where you have one hero beating the heck out of other actors tied to chairs in each and every episode?


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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Bravo to Mats, passive certainty to promising uncertainty

Show time!
An eternal wisdom taught us that to know where one is heading, it is important to be fully aware where one is coming from.

MythBuster

Bravo is leaving FC Barcelona because HE decided to go. Pep Guardiola sniffed a chance and painted a promise-land image for the Chilean, a new challenge, a guaranteed starting role, and good cash. Bravo probably waved that painting at Lucho's face, especially after Mats injury, saying: "What about now? Am I the guaranteed first option for next season?" And the answer was, as it should be, for both keepers: No. Hence, gone.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Devil's advocate: Bravo Ter Stegen!



"The beast", Bravo, achievements are "The beauty", Mats, doormats.


Based on The polls we didn't even need to do, Ter Stegen is officially FC Barcelona's main goalkeeper. He is the undisputed starter based on our ultimately relevant Popularity contest. Is it time to put this head aching, ridiculously continuous rant to bed? We say no. 


But it is not about that, they say. Yet, is it? 


For the past two seasons, combined, Bravo was the best goalkeeper in La liga. Scout the twitter archive feed for any game then and you will find one or two "Bravo, Bravo!" waves of praise for a save here or a block there.


Ter Stegen is the keeper any one who watched enough of him even before he joined FC Barcelona can tell, a keeper with great potentials capable of making a supernatural save here, then follow it by a mistake there - exactly what you expect with a young goalkeeper. 


Bravo is the main goalkeeper for one of the best national teams right now, a team that just celebrated another back to back copa. Ter Stegen is still competing for a second/third spot in his national team with other young keepers like him, a situation he rambled around since the time he played in the Bundesliga. 


I share the sentiments and the hopes for Mats to step up and become FC Barcelona's main goalkeeper for the coming decade, and I believe he has the "it" for that. But when it comes to deciding who was the better keeper the past two years and deserves to be the keeper to beat at the moment, is this seriously an argument?


We should be thinking about the future! 


Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes are possibly the most defining future of FC Barcelona. Yet, at no point anyone can argue that they should bench Rakitic and Iniesta. The proven starters start the present and the future develop, get advantage of the opportunities given and gradually prove being capable of being the box office mega star. Lets not forget the number of Bartras, Montoyas, and Bojans people ranted for to start ahead of starters for being the future. 


This is FC Barcelona, the monster of all monsters. What matters most is the future until the present screws up, then it's dooms day and to hell with "The future"!


 Come on, who is the better ball distributor? 


Fishing for just any argument, This is when you know the case is getting too desperate. Yes, and he has a more fashionable haircut, sexier jumps and a German accent that forces listeners to take his english more seriously in comparison to Bravo's mild english. 


There are different categories of attributes that define a goalkeeper quality. First category contains the essential attributes like shoot stopping, one on one, concentration, reflexes, handling, jumping, how prone to commit mistakes,... Whether you are scouting a keeper for FC Barcelona or AC Jam Burgers, that's where you look first.


The moment you find two keepers, almost, equally as good ticking such attributes, that's when you move to the premium attributes like ball distribution, long throws, leadership, etc... 


At the moment, Bravo played more games and made fewer mistakes than Ter Stegen. Bravo's overall level moved between very good and brilliant while Mats games proved a very promising talent pending to peak. 


We can dig through a fantasy tunnel at will, but on the pitch the first option at the beginning of next season should not worth an argument. 


Lucho is wrong! 


Here is the - supposedly- groundbreaking argument though: 


"Well, Ter Stegen is better, but Lucho didn't start him enough games to pick his form and prove so!" 


Then sack Lucho! Your issue is not with Bravo here. Its Lucho's (and a zillion assistant) lack of intelligence that failed them to see the obvious. Had he started Munir, no scratch that, Mats 15 games in a row, the Stegen would have passed the test and proved being world's best. 


Does that make more sense than giving the benefit of doubt for the managing staff that led the team to a CL, two liga, and some snacks in two seasons? 


The way we (should) roll! 


In the previous post, I made a small remark about goalkeepers rotation:


"Talking about rotation, this is where it can all start. Unlike outfield players there is no chance for positional manoeuvring with goalkeepers to ease up rotation tense. When one keeper plays, the other one doesn't. 

Struggling to balance this rotation up can spark the first complain, which is the only spark you need in the squad ashes."

 

If we decided to believe the Tabloids, and we shouldn't, both goalkeepers are taking the hard tricky path A.K.A. "Play me or sell me". Backing to any of them and the club will be digging the team's grave. FC Bacelona's response should be firm in a one minute meeting:


In this club we offer no guarantees. You earn your playing time in training and based on your performance. That's how the manager decides his selection. We believe in both of you or else you won't be here, but we base our success on quality players confident of competing for playing time. The rewards of being here you witnessed in the past two years. If any of you is not up for such arrangement, we understand. Get a club willing to pay your release clause and we wish you all the luck of the world. 


The end




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Monday, 1 August 2016

FC Barcelona, Lucho and the defining season to out-Pep

Face off!


Luis Flores, ex-Sporting player known as Lucho, was the Mexican legend Luis Enrique was nicknamed after. Inheriting the Mexican's nickname is a fitting destiny for a managerial career characterised, like a Mexican wave, by lots of ups and downs yet consistently exciting. 


His Journey at FC Barcelona started with the B team on the merits of being an ex-player of FC Barcelona. He knew the club, the culture, and the philosophy. That was the successful adventure that got him later to the first team's unstable throne. Exceeding all expectations, he controlled the shaking ship, finished the first season winning both the Champions league and La Liga titles - beside some snacks- and securing La Liga victory in his second year - but without repeating the champions league success.


That's a paragraph quoted from Pep's history at FC Barcelona, but you are not to be blamed if you thought it was all about Lucho. At FC Barcelona their managerial careers hold many similarities. Make no mistake, just like Pep, Lucho got Barca's first team job based on his career as a player and his success as a Barca B manager. His decent season at Celta barely cancelled out the chaotic season he had at AS Roma who were - interestingly - seeking their own Pep, in Lucho. 


Third time's a charm, they say. And in his third season with the first team, there is a good chance for Lucho to overlap Pep's third season's success by winning La liga and the champions league like Pep, then add more snacks, like the CDR.  


Last season served many big lessons. We, and the board, know now that Lucho will not consider using a sub he is not perfectly convinced of. He sent that message more than once last season and, being his stubborn self, he refused to compromise even when a match result was on a knife's edge. Another characteristic he shares with Pep who once refused even to let the new signing Henrique train with the squad until he moves on loan. The poor thing ended up getting in, signing, getting out!


We also witnessed the importance of squad depth and rotation while suffering the free fall of the team at the end of the season. With the club deciding last January that no B team player will feature in the first team's training sessions and games, Robert had the challenging job of engineering a squad of two teams of quality players Lucho can count on, and boy did The Robert exceptionally deliver! 


It is not easy to remember when was it the last time there were more excited than sceptical FC Barcelona fans ahead of a new season, and for a good reason. On paper, one can slice FC Barcelona's squad in two teams, both capable of at least competing for champions league spots in La Liga. 


Raise the bar


Without disrespecting the football gods, and while it is impossible to put expectations for the champions league, it is reasonable to consider not winning La Liga next season as a failure. A squad like this is too good to not win in any league format competition. Not only there is a perfectly tailored formula of quality talented youth and established worldclass stars, but the characteristics and ingredients of the squad are enough to answer any question. Techniques, physicality, height, Stamina, experience... 


Then you add MSN! Not the usual MSN, but a wild Messi going crazy to prove a point (that alone should be enough), a Suarez who is hungry to win after missing the summer football actions of Copa, and a Neymar who is not having the usual love in Brazil recently and if he fails to win the Olympics, Messi he goes. 


With high expectations, come immense pressure. Lucho and co will need a perfect season strategy to meet the usual wild expectations at FC Barcelona. So, why not pointing some of the key factors that will decide the season for the team: 


Rotation: 


If we end up using 15 players or so till February when the players momentum passes its best, we should not expect the rest to fulfil the coming test. One can assume that CDR games will feature none of the most common La Liga and CL starters, but even that will not be enough. Some players not only need to have playing time, but to also feel important and relevant in the playing time competition. 


Squad depth currently available will be the bless and the curse for Lucho and the way he deals with it can decide the season. 


Goalkeepers: 


Talking about rotation, this is where it can all start. Unlike outfield players there is no chance for positional manoeuvring with goalkeepers to ease up rotation tense. When one keeper plays, the other one doesn't. 


Struggling to balance this rotation up can spark the first complain, which is the only spark you need in the squad ashes. 


Sergi Roberto: 


If there is a player who can remind Luis Enrique of himself as a player, that's The Sergi. Both played in 101 positions. Yet, S.Roberto should be fully dedicated and focused on competing with Vidal for the right back spot Alves left. 


Replacing the legend is a mission tricky enough already. Distracting a young player like Roberto by touring him across different positions will limit his growth for the position where he is needed most. 


Andre Gomes: 


On Twitter I expressed my belief in the quality of this player throughout the summer. When the rumour drifted him toward that rival club I had a panic fever. The boy is exceptional. But this is FC Barcelona, a monster you can never take for granted. 


Of course, Denis Suarez is Quality! The way he synchronised his movement with Messi against Celtic, showing amazing awareness to movement and space, was exceptional. It was also interesting to watch him running behind the lines, especially on the right flank, something we will need more from a midfielder now that Alves left. 



He will need time, but he masters the rhyme. 


Still, looking at the midfield structure and functionality of Busquets-Rakitic-Iniesta, one can -initially- assume that Andre is the natural replacement of Rakitic - or more the player who will rotate with. Especially if Rafinha's injury records continued to concern. Knowing that in big games Iniesta is still the cornerstone whenever fit, Andre Gomes form and contribution at vital moments of the season can make Lucho's life easier, or more complicated. 


Besides, in the champions league when the opponent locks the box parking a bus, having both Rakitic and Andre launching long shots or running into the box seeking headers can save the day. 


MSN management: 


This one is tricky. In one hand, they are the three knights and they want to play all the time. In the other hand, we witnessed last season the risk of surrendering to their desire. 


That's one of the qualities some managers have, others don't. It will be Lucho's challenge to talk to the big guys, and sort out this ticking bomb with them. 


Strategic planning and Tactical platform: 


As mentioned earlier, Lucho and his technical staff will have lots of variables to tailor for a successful season. Physical preparations (and it seems like we are going more physical this season, judging by training sessions), Peaking schedule, rotation formula, tactical diversity, players' alternative roles, etc... 


My impression about Lucho's technical team is that they can master season's overall strategic planning (even though it went wrong last season), but usually come short in matches reading and management. That is a La Liga winning formula, but not so much for the champions league challenge. It's where Lucho and Pep differs for better and worse, with Pep over-tinkering sometimes to an extend that he risks a champions league survival, while Lucho lacks the tactical flair sometimes to save the day. 


For the next season, Lucho will have a squad capable of mastering different formations, approaches, and tactical complexities. That's a headache every manager craves for to showcase his quality. This is not only Lucho's third season, but it might be his last at FC Barcelona. He needs an exceptional season as a leverage for his next job in England, and we need that to celebrate. But most importantly, the exceptional generation of players at FC Barcelona deserves more and more titles to demonstrate their brilliance.


Lucho may never be seen as Pep's match in the eyes of most FC Barcelona fans, for many reasons. I doubt he has any obsession about that. But a successful third season will no doubt put his legacy beyond any doubt. Not that he didn't do enough already, but a failure in a season introduced by high expectations and the claws and horns will show the fierce character of this unforgiving club.



You can always check latest rants on @FootballMood

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Monday, 25 July 2016

Cruyff, Pep, and Lucho: Pure winger isnt FC Barcelona's winner.


FC Barcelona's next transfer, should it be a forward or a pure winger?


Lucho was very clear when he said that what he is looking for is a goalscorer. From where I stand, I can only agree with him based on last season's experience, and I will get back to that. But first, why am I not a keen to sign a "pure winger", and in fact see it as an absolute waste of money?


What is really a pure winger to start with?


Positional terminology and tactical functionality are two different aspects that usually get us confused. That's why, and before discussing what a pure winger can add, it is important to agree on the common definition of a pure winger, instead of having subjective definition based on what each one like to make out of it (And that's the tactical functionality).


1) Positional terminology


Putting my own understanding to the pure winger term will be seen as a subjective opinion. Not good. So, you know... I googled it! 


Soccer training Guide provided the following description for the pure winger position:


If a Genius description is a better option, here is how they concur:



Complete Soccer guide offer a more detailed definition, and here is another post at BBC that goes in the same line.


You (and I) can agree or disagree on all or some of the above, but that is the most common definition of pure winger. 


As for my own five cents, pure winger is a role started originally in midfield for the player that stretches the opponent team by hugging lines, and perform both an attacking and defence role from there. It worked best, attacking wise, in a flat 4-4-2 formation that fields two strikers to be at the end of the pure wingers crosses. 


That role was moved at some point in the tactical evolution higher in a 4-3-3 formation, yet it was more often than not an upgraded version to either a converted winger (Ronaldinho, Messi, etc...), or a flanked forward (Henry, Villa,...). And that latest evolution shifts the position off from being an actual "pure winger". 

Pure winger qualities:


a) Pace

b) Stamina 

c) Accurate crossing, especially from a sprinting position.

d) Ability to beat opponent on 1v1 while most often hugging the line. Thanks to explosive sudden sprints exposing the space.


2) Tactical functionality


a) When do you believe FC Barcelona may need a pure wing?


The usual narration: Needing a goal against Atletico Madrid, they are parking the bus, what is the best thing to do? Sub in the pure winger you just bought, done.


Well, here is a suggestion: Switch Messi and Neymar flanks and you get the best wingers on both flanks the world can offer you. Done. Except: It doesn't work. As Neymar during Tata time (who shared that strange idea about pure wingers) can tell. If Neymar, one of the best 1V1 technically gifted players doesn't work, not sure what winger will.


Here is the "pure winger" everyone refers to with the argument "Pep uses a pure winger":



Take any of the highlights above and tell me in similar situations a Neymar, Messi, or sometimes even a combination of Iniesta-Alba on the flank won't kill it. 


FC Barcelona never faced a problem against teams providing such space to attack. That is one of the most important factors to be taken in consideration. FC Barcelona's offence (in tough situations) need to create gaps and attack such narrow pockets. 


For a player to operate as a winger for FC Barcelona, exceptional pace and stamina are not as crucial elements as they are in - say- counter attacking teams. At Barcelona, it is more a systematic functionality where you need to operate on the flank to open it if possible (as a team), launch crosses, switch roles and positions and master patient buildup.


Another element is the type of teams we are talking about. The physicality. When you have a Lewandowski in the box and a Muller running into it, that's not the same like having Suarez in the box and Messi running into it.


Beside Messi, you either have to play Iniesta or Rakitic, and either one need to play more conservative than Messi to keep the balance. Such selection will also lock Messi tactically and make it easier to check him physically. 


Another aspect you will lose with such structure is Suarez main virtue in such situation, and that is his movement that causes nightmares to defenders and open spaces. Now, you are locking him dead in the box because he is the only forward you got there.


This is what Pep had to say about Coman role (an awesome break from me) :



So, here we go:


- Coman was, at some point, the only player Pep had at Bayern for 1v1 situations. More against tired legs. Especially with Thiago being injured more often than not. I won't say that this is the case at FC Barcelona.

- As mentioned on twitter yesterday, Pep agrees here, stretching the field and creating width is the fullbacks job. Coman plays more interior than many credit him to.



Note that at FC Barcelona, Pep used Iniesta/Henry as a LW and never mentioned that he need to by a "pure winger". And he could.



So, now that we put that Pep argument to bed, what about Cruyff? There is such a strange belief that Cruyff was obsessed in having pure wingers hugging the lines and running attack. Here are some Cruyff samples for some of Cruyff's most remembered games as a manager:


Cruyff 1989 European Cup Final Barcelona – Sampdoria

Cruyff 1992 European Cup Final Barcelona – Sampdoria
Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid
Barcelona-Milan CL final

As one can see, it's the system that is supposed to create a solution collectively, or collapse completely. Not a specific player doing one specific thing. 


So, taking from Cruyff spirit of the game, isn't this selection more like it? That's if we are entitled to go that path in the first place.



b) Is the winger demand an abstract idea, or an observation based on previous season?


Assuming this right winger idea actually work, how often will it be needed? Judging by last season, rarely the team had a game where the players failed to generate chances. Most of the points wasted were in the games we had tons of chances, but didn't convert.


So, is the countering solution to bring a player who is capable of generating more opportunities (again, assuming that's the case with RW), or a player who can help converting the chances already generated?


And if a striker who can play as a 9 but at the same time can do as a flanked forward will struggle to have playing time, what about the pure right winger?


3) Lets talk Arrigo Sacchi tone:


In modern football, there are too many stuff to do and just 10 outfield players to count on. Its the system dynamics, not the collective outcome of the players that create solutions. Players with more diversity, versatility, and tactical complexity are the keys to solve and unlock all obstacles, over players with specific expertise.


Admittedly, such players are extremely rare and very hard to find. That's why teams breakdown tactical functions and get players capable of doing this piece here, or that piece there in that puzzle. FC Barcelona, for now, are better then that.


Arrigo Sacchi used to talk about the exponential added value of Player A + Player B, and how tactics role is to make the outcome goes beyond the absolute sum of the two players qualities. 


If you can't feed the box from the flank without a pure right wing, then the opponent will push your RW to the side line and as Cruyff put it: The side line is the best defender as it terminates 50% of the options for the player on the ball. But if you do this, this is none defensible:




4) Lets talk systems


Tactical unpredictability is actually the most lethal weapon you can use against opponents. Such unpredictability requires quality (players) and bravery (Manager).


All the arguments so far assume that keeping all of MSN on the field is a must when the team need a goal. Judging by last season, that's not true as there were games where one of the three was obviously out of form and with no chance that this -great- player, in this specific game will deliver anything.


That's where a quality second forward can provide you with an endless queue of possibilities. 


So far, our transfer strategy seems to be executed to perfection. We added the defenders we need, added the midfielder we need (who can also play as a winger btw), and it seems like we are targeting another striker and hopefully we find the right option there for the club to successfully execute plan A across the summer. 


Will all that provide the titles that such effort deserves? That's out of control. The beauty of this game.

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