Thursday, November 08, 2007


Needing a break from my increasingly depressing readings in ethnic politics, and even more depressing events back home, I decided to take two hours off and watch some Champions League football. What follows are my thoughts and impressions from watching Barcelona play Rangers at the Camp Nou:

1. Ronaldinho looks to be rounding into form. He's still giving the ball away with maddening munificence in midfield (how's that for some alliteration?) but he basically constructed the two goals. For the first, he picked out Messi at the far post - who strangely enough had acres of space for this sequence - who headed it back across goal. I'm sure Messi was trying for goal but it ended up in the path of Henry who elbowed it home. The second goal was just brilliant. Ronaldinho got the ball at the edge of the penalty area, tapped it to Messi who went straight back to Ronaldinho, who had made a quick run. A quick dribble to settle himself and then the shot, which the goalkeeper stopped, but sent straight to Messi who had an easy finish. The entire sequence (Ronaldinho to Messi back to Ronaldinho to shot on goal) took less than a second (I swear to God). The Rangers defense could not be blamed - the movement and the passing was too good, and too quick. That said, Ronaldinho was still substituted and didn't look mighty pleased. I don't always understand Rijkaard - if the guy's getting better, and is playing well, why not just leave him out there? If you want to give Bojan a run, that's fine - take Henry off instead. He's the one that was strangely ineffective all game.

2. I absolutely detest teams like Rangers. For the first 70 minutes, they had almost 11 players at all times behind the ball. It was sickening. It reminded me of Greece in Euro 2004. God, I wish teams who can't stand up talent-wise would just admit it and move on, and not subject us to this crap. God knows what would have happened if Barca hadn't got the early goal. Thankfully, we didn't have to find out.

3. The Barca back four look mighty suspect. It wasn't one particular instance or mistake that caught my eye, just a feeling I got that teams like Arsenal and Bayern (who luckily aren't even in the tournament) could easily score tons of goals against this team. Puyol, for all his heart and virtue and spirit, is slow. S-L-O-W. Marquez, though he wasn't playing today, always seems vulnerable to making a mistake. And Thuram really shouldn't be a starting 11 player for a team hoping to win the Champions League, not at his age. The only two guys who are assured are Milito and Zambrotta. Everyone else scares me. All I'll say is: thank God for Yaya Toure.

4. Messi has replaced Mohammad Asif as "the athlete most likely to lead me to orgasm". Just thought I'd throw that our there.

5. This was a weird sort of game in the sense that you were almost always expecting a moment of brilliance from Barca that would open up Rangers but it never really came. Messi and Ronaldinho dazzled a couple of times but there were few - by Barca's standards anyway - ooh and aah moments. A lot of that had to with Rangers' anti-football, as Messi called it after the first leg. But a lot of it was also Barca's own doing. There wasn't much creativity out of midfield, and it's when he's gone that you realize how important Deco is to this team. Wait, scratch that. Everyone knows how important Deco is to this team, even when he's playing. I'll rephrase and say that it becomes glaringly obvious how important Deco is to this team when he's not playing. Iniesta and Xavi are very, very good at what they do, but they don't do what Deco does, which is provide vision and playmaking. Barca need him healthy quickly if they're going to mount a serious challenge this year.

6. If you haven't seen 17 year-old Bojan play, let me tell you, you need to. Him, Giovani and Messi, health willing, are going to terrorize a lot of teams for a long, long time.

7. Barca have to be relatively satisfied with the way they're playing. They've been one of the three best teams in the CL so far (Man United and Arsenal are the other two), and have separated themselves - so far at least - from the second tier (Milan, Real, Inter, Sevilla). They've just got to get everyone healthy, get the attacking pecking order set in stone, play Zambrotta and Milito in every game, and hope they don't run into a rampant Arsenal/Man United type on their day. Hopefully they'll get at least further than they did last year.


zeyd said...

Dude, you're bitching about the defense (despite having the scariest offense in the world) and you guys haven't even conceded a goal in the Champions League so far. Fuck off, all right? Fuck off.

Anonymous said...

hahaha, I'll echo what zeyd wrote.

Regarding the back four, it almost seems like Barcelona don't care; its like Brazil in the late 60's, early 70's but then Brazil had the balls to say fuck that to Defence with a formation that read:
2-4-2-2. Now apply this formation to Barcelona, doesn't it just seem right?

Milito Toure Henry

Puyol Xavi Eto

Oh and I've never been convinced of Marquez playing the back 4; I really like him as a player but he's much more adept at being a defensive mid-fielder, a position he plays at when captaining Mexico.

Ali Kabir said...

my formation got fucked in the formatting, here i go again:



Milito-----Toure------ Henry

Puyol--------Xavi--------- Eto



Ahsan said...

zeyd: this team is very vulnerable to any team with (a) speed and (b) innovativeness up front. they've yet to concede because they're in a relatively weak group....the one time they played a challenging team (lyon), that team refused to show up (plus it was at home, where barca are formidable).

ak: that would never happen. in the CL, barca usually play a 4-1-2-3 or a 4-3-3 (depending on whether yaya toure or iniesta plays). in the latter stages, it will be yaya toure, because the absence of a real defensive midfielder cost them dearly against liverpool last year. against a good side, and assuming everyone's healthy, this is what the formation will look like (4-1-2-3):

zambrotta milito puyol abidal

yaya toure


messi ronaldinho henry/eto'o

Asfandyar said...

seriously man, hating Rangers for trying to put up a fight?

If you support Barcelona that's fantastic, but try to place yourself in the shoes of a Ranger's fan; who don't have the ability to blood youngsters with the talent of Bojan, Dos Santos, Gay Assulin etc. They have to do with what they have and try to implement tactics that work for them at that moment in time.

Do you want a team like Rangers to go to Barcelona looking for a win and get raped 7-0 in the process? A rather one-sided and frankly non-football purist approach I say.


Ahsan said...


i see your point, and i see why teams such as that choose the tactics they do. but isn't it better to lose 4-2 and win some fans in the process than lose 2-0 and have everyone hate you? i don't think they would've conceded 7, and i certainly don't think they should have gone to barcelona looking for a win, but come on...11 players behind the ball in their own half? that's just sickening.

all i ask for is send THREE guys forward...just have THREE guys at the halfway line. you're more likely to catch teams on the break that way anyway. having that many people back just makes for bad football in my opinion and the game degenerates into something highly unattractive.

Asfandyar said...

i'll give you that, and in all honestly i'd have loved to see that.

its something you see happening a lot of grounds around the world in an amateur, maybe semi-professional capacity.

not in professional football. especially not in the champions league, where an extra two matches can provide financial windfalls of upto $15million :|

and three guys at the half way line? you've been watching too much barca man! that's insane. hahahahaha. it'll only work if you've got the close control of the likes of Messi, Henry and Ronaldinho :\

Funny though, how everyone kept talking about Henry, Etoo, Messi and Ronaldinho being mouthwatering and orgasmic; personally I think Messi, Henry and Dos Santos ought to be the holy trinity.

Ahsan said...

messi and ronaldinho together are greater than the sum of their individual parts. they work exceedingly well together, primarily because they've been playing together for a while now. their understanding is truly a sight to behold. that is why ronaldinho must continue to play.

dos santos is young. him and bojan cannot be counted on for 90 minutes. they player 20-30 minutes every now and then, and thats the way it should be.

i do think that gudjohnsen should be sold in the transfer window. he's spare change and is really quite useless at this point.

i would shift henry over to the left away from the central role he seems to have been given by rijkaard. i would shift ronaldinho to the center and keep messi on the right. then when eto'o comes back, i would put in a rotation policy and rest whoever's had 2-3 games in a row.