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Barcelona 2017-18: O Midfield, Where Art Thou

Discussion in 'Breakfast with Gazza (with Sachmoneious Bullcrap)' started by Zososoxfan, May 29, 2017.

  1. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    4,421
    Ernesto Valverde has been named the new manager at FC Barcelona. He takes over one of the most talented squads in the world, but one that only brought home the Copa del Rey while Madrid claimed a La Liga title and is in the UCL finals.

    It's a bit odd to talk about Barcelona on boards these days because this squad has several world class players, including Leo Messi, but when Cules discuss the disappointment of last season's results, other Cules and supporters of other clubs point out that you can't win a treble every year. I'm here to say that the bar is set very high for this club and has been since the early 2000s. A season without a La Liga title or a trip to at least the semis of UCL will be considered a disappointment. Being in the same league as Madrid makes it harder on both clubs to reach the levels they aspire to, and honestly, that makes it fun. I have a pretty big crush on this year's Madrid squad, but also look forward to them losing some real talent and depth with Morata and James likely to move on. With Isco and Asensio really coming on at the end of the season though, it's not clear at all whether there will be much drop off unless Benz or CRonaldo decline precipitously due to age. Nevertheless, most Cules (including myself) expect some sort of transfer splash this summer with CM and RB the two clear areas that need improvement (RB more so IMO).

    Last year's squad had a couple of positive developments such as Umtiti emerging as an heir to Masche at CB, the viability of Sergi Roberto as a first team player, Ter Stegen cementing himself as a top 5-10 keeper, and other lesser definitive improvements too (Neymar's continued maturation, Vidal playing well before his horrific injury, Denis looking competent, etc.). However, those positives were overshadowed by weak performances by Busi, Iniesta, Rakitic, Suarez, and pretty much all of the backups. Gomes stands out as particularly bad business considering his hefty price tag and dull performances. Paco Alcacer had trouble integrating into the squad at first, but did finish the season on a high note. My binky Denis looked wonderful combining with Messi although in limited minutes. Arda unfortunately fought injuries all year at a time when he could've provided a lot of value. Rafinha also dealt with some tough injuries and Mathieu is likely on his way out. Back up keeper Cillessen looked very good and will likely stay at least another season, although I suspect he will be the starter for the Netherlands NT and will get plucked following the WC.

    I honestly don't know much about Valverde. I was hoping for Allegri (was never happening), Tuchel, Sarri, Sampaoli (who honestly might be here after the WC if he does well and Messi likes him), or even Pellegrini for a short stint. Nevertheless, as Lucho showed, with this much talent on the squad, many managers could likely lead this squad to great success. Valverde's primary job is likely to rebuild the midfield of this team and particularly, how they combine with the forwards. I've been debating elsewhere the shortcomings and symptoms of this year's squad, and while almost everyone agrees that Messi really missed an aggressive RB like Dani Alves and that the MF lacked creativity, not everyone agrees why this happened or how to fix it.

    With Messi starved for service on the RW, he frequently set up camp behind Suarez and left the RW empty. Barca never really figured out how to establish a threat on that wing, although I'd argue that Denis was good enough combining with Messi and Suarez that he was the best option. Rafinha is overly dominant with his left foot, Roberto never felt comfortable pushing that far up, Rakitic is excellent as the third player in that space, but not the second, Iniesta was injured for the most part, and Gomes was a disaster. I happen to think very highly of Arda and I think he would've been excellent on that wing, with Messi in the middle, however that leaves the two MF behind Messi (e.g. Busi and Rak/Roberto/Rafinha) with a lot of defensive work to do.

    The other big weakness of the squad was its lack of depth. Honestly, I blame Lucho for not giving guys like Denis and youngsters more run. He also pretty much never sat Messi. I'm sure Messi makes it hard to sit him, but as the manager you have to make tough calls. When Vidal went down, I thought Lucho should've tried to get more creative, for instance by trying Digne and Alba as FBs in the same squad (one of them has to be passable enough to play on their off side). Instead, Lucho switched to a sloppy 3-4-3 that had some success, but ultimately left the team very vulnerable.

    In order to fund the transfer of a CM and/or RB, I expect we'll see the sale of Mathieu, Arda, and perhaps Rafinha. Rakitic could also be on the move since presumably a CM will be brought in, but as I explained above, I think Rak is still world class and the system really hurt him. Iniesta really needs to show last year was a one-off, otherwise next year could be his last for the Blaugrana.
     
  2. InstaFace

    InstaFace MDLzera

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    5,376
    A former client of mine just sent me this. Figured some local SoSHers might be interested.

    ---
    Dear Friends,

    We are pleased to invite you to the first FC Barcelona Charity Reception to benefit their FutbolNet initiative in the US. Our firm, <...>, was lucky to be selected to produce this amazing evening.

    This event will take place at the iconic Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center on Saturday, July 22nd after the team plays against Juventus at MetLife Stadium. It will be the perfect opportunity to celebrate with FC Barcelona’s First Team (Messi, Neymar Jr, Pique, etc) amongst other celebrities/athletes while sipping drinks and taking in the NYC skyline. The evening will include a live and silent auction followed by a special musical performance.

    For information about purchasing tickets or tables, please see the invitation below or visit FundacióFCBarcelona.org. Limited tickets are available and will most likely sell out in advance of the event.

    For further information, <yadda>.

    Thanks!
    ---

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    In a change of course, Barca has done some good business and picked up RB Semedo for (e)30M. Dude is fast and skilled and should have an excellent chance to hold down the spot, although Vidal should be able to mount a good challenge. Much happier than getting Kylo Bellerin. More importantly, this lets Roberto compete for a CM spot. If Barca don't close the deal on a high end CM (read: Verratti), they need as many bullets in the chamber to throw at CM.
     
  4. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

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    15,499
    El Classico El Exhibition in Miami

    Quite a spectacle, fireworks and all

    No Ronaldo for Fake Madrid

    Hopefully easy win
     
  5. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

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    Suarez Messi Neymar Buckets Iniesta Pique all playing
     
  6. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

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    Neymar clutching his left foot 52 seconds in and crying

    Twellman posits a rolled ankle
     
  7. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

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    The Lion scores

    First CC goal
     
  8. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

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    Neymar back in

    Assist to Rakitic

    2-0 Catalonia
     
  9. speedracer

    speedracer Member SoSH Member

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    Navas looks less than pleased at his defense
     
  10. Clears Cleaver

    Clears Cleaver Lil' Bill SoSH Member

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    first 60 mins of that game were incredibly enjoyable to watch
     
  11. bosox4283

    bosox4283 Member SoSH Member

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    If we assume that Barcelona retains Neymar, does the team have enough depth to make a run at one or two titles this year?

    Players (ages):

    ter Stegen (25)
    Alex Vidal (27) - Umtiti (23) - Pique (30) - Alba (28)
    Iniesta (33) - Busquets (29) - Rakitic (29)
    Suarez (30) - Messi (30) - Neymar (25)

    More later about the bench...
     
  12. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    I think the team has the horses. Every position has a capable backup:

    Semedo/Masche/Digne
    Gomes/Masche
    Roberto/Denis
    Munir/Paco

    Alena probably makes it into the rotation in some way.

    I think it will take a deft touch get the combos right. But other than Gomes and to a lesser extent Paco, all of those backups are capable players.
     
  13. InstaFace

    InstaFace MDLzera

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  14. Luis Taint

    Luis Taint Member SoSH Member

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    5,883
    Barcelona has said that Neymar said goodbye to his teammates and has left the club.
     
  15. Luis Taint

    Luis Taint Member SoSH Member

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  16. bosox4283

    bosox4283 Member SoSH Member

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    3,685
    And Griezmann!

    It's an unbelievable move. So much money.
     
  17. swiftaw

    swiftaw Member SoSH Member

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    And Coutinho. Go sign Mbappe.
     
  18. Zomp

    Zomp Turkey Virgin Dope

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    Its an insane amount of money. Doubles the world record.

    I'm sure Neymar will love winning the Ligue 1 every year but if he's truly leaving to get out from Messi's shadow he'll need to win the Champions League with PSG
     
  19. rguilmar

    rguilmar lurker

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    132
    Been there, done that.

    I do wonder how Barca will reinvest this money. Fans will demand an immediate star or three, especially after last campaign.

    Anecdotally, Neymar seemed to cause a lot of disagreement among the fans. Some loved him, some hated his style of play. In my family, the divide was more along generational lines, with the kids loving him and the older generation feeling like the attack fizzled whenever he got the ball. Whatever his faults, losing Neymar will change the way Barca plays. Opponents had to decide how to defend him, and whenever he had the ball, he occupied at least two defenders.

    As was noted earlier, this team does have a little more depth than most previous teams. I do expect them to use the money to bring in a midfield maestro in their continuing quest to replace Xavi (and Iniesta soon enough) and a young winger who is good enough to start now with room to develop.
     
  20. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    I'm not upset about this transfer, but I am certainly shocked. Neymar is a world class individual talent, but he's never struck me as the best passer, and he does have the bad habit of slowing down the attack. Nevertheless, the club and specifically Valverde now have a tough task ahead of them with not that much time to prepare. It has been done before, during the treble season in 14-15, when Barca brought in Suarez. In 2014, they were lackluster and Lucho rotated a ton. Once the calendar flipped though, Lucho identified his best XI and the SNM trident along with still in his prime Iniesta and Rakitic were unstoppable.

    I expect Barca to improve with the tactician Valverde at the helm. Lucho brought some more freedom and directness to Barca in 2014, but I don't think anyone would describe him as a tactician. Valverde has instituted a quick press to win the ball back on defense and I would expect more possession-based play from the Blaugrana this year.

    On the transfer front, I have to expect that Barca will go after another world class talent. In my order of preference, that could mean Dybala, Dembele, or Coutinho. There's still a small chance IMO that they go after Verratti. With so many bullets in the MF chamber though (Rakitic, Denis, Roberto, Rafinha, Iniesta, Gomes), I could see the club waiting to see how that looks and try to add another bona fide attacker to go along with Messi and Suarez first. Arda, Delofeu, Denis, and Munir may get chances on the wing, but Barca will likely want to pounce on some young talent now before it gets even more expensive.

    https://streamable.com/xnfbe

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BXSt62SFYWj/?hl=fr&taken-by=leomessi
     
  21. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    Welp, Barca got a hurt put on them yesterday. All credit to Madrid who look like they haven't missed a beat. Asensio looks very ready to add significant minutes this year. I've liked the player a lot since his debut for the Blancos last year. Madrid's FBs really played an outstanding game. Marcelo was up and down the line all match, and he was very unselfish. Carvajal was pressuring waaaaaaaaay upfield to great effect. Barca barely touched the ball in the first ten minutes. Kroos and Modric bossed the middle and played a better possession game than Barca by a wide margin. Big Benz was buzzing about - he's criminally underrated and under-appreciated.

    The silver lining is that although this match had hardware on the line, it doesn't affect Barca's hopes at all in seeking La Liga, UCL, or CDL. In other words, the team will have ample opportunity to incorporate Valverde's philosophies and mesh together. Yesterday, Barca played the best team in the world by a huge margin in an unfamiliar system with 2-3 key players missing (some of whom are not returning at all). It's fair to say they got run off the pitch, but I don't expect that to continue going forward.

    There was a lot not to like yesterday though. The formation was the first thing that comes to mind. Valverde had a plan to establish a presence in the middle of the field, but Kroos and Modric were able to pass around it anyway, and then spray the ball out wide where Marcelo and Asensio ran amok. Second, Gomes played over Arda and Denis. This, to me is inexcusable. Gomes will probably be better this year but he looked like shit yesterday and hasn't settled in at all. The team lacked energy and Madrid was flying all over the place. Some of this is age and some of it is players in unfamiliar positions. I will be keeping a close eye on Sergio this season, because I think he got a pass last season for underwhelming play.

    The young kids are going to have to play this season. Denis and Roberto need to be weekly fixtures. The team needs energy and running and the club needs to know whether they are going to stick or not. Semedo looked very good in his short minutes and Barca did hit the post a couple of times (so did Madrid). With Suarez going down for at least a month, Paco needs to step up his game considerably, as do Delofeu and Arda.

    Lots to be unsettled about ATM, but I'm not hitting the panic button...yet.
     
  22. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    Barca put up a nice 2-0 victory over Betis to begin the season. Barca was very organized, but did seem to morph quite a bit. I thought they were a bit easier to figure out on defense, when they dropped into a 4-1-4-1 of sorts. When Barca were pressing, it was more like a 4-5-1 where the closest 3 players press because Sergio was very far forward. On offense, there was a lot of switching with Roberto and Rakitic getting ahead of Paco frequently. At times Paco and Delofeu played very wide and the MFs would join the attack through the middle. And at other times, the two wingers would pinch in and either a MF or a FB would provide the width. Betis isn't very good though, and Barca will face a much stiffer test next weekend against Alaves who had a stingy defense last year, although they lost their opening Liga match to Leganes (not a good start to their season).

    Other than getting points and not looking terrible doing so, the story of the match for me is Semedo. The kid played a pretty flawless match at RB and looks like a seamless fit into the club. It sounds odd to say it, but for this modern footballing Barcelona having an effective RB may solve a lot of the problems that plagued them last year. Vidal came on late in the match but for Delofeu, in more of an attacking winger role. We'll see where this all goes.
     
  23. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    4,421
    I don't think it's quite official yet, but it seems like Dembele is coming to Barca for €120M-150M. This is a very nice Band-Aid for this year, while the underlying problems with the Board, squad management, and youth development remain woefully persistent. A front six of Busquets-Roberto-Denis, Dembele-Suarez-Messi has the potential to be world-class. With the exception of Rakitic, I don't see any other combo of forward players that could be world class to challenge for La Liga and/or UCL. Other guys like Paco, Arda, and (gulp) Gomes will have to play minutes, but I think that first group will dictate how far this team goes this season. Also, Valverde needs to try that combo first.

    From what I can tell, Dembele is a speedy skilled winger who can play well with both feet. He seems to have a nose for goal and a lot of his goals are cleanups inside the box. Fortunately, I think he will get tons of opportunities to do so playing alongside Messi and Suarez. His crossing and final passes are very sharp, and he has silky touch and inch-perfect weighting on his passes. He uses a lot of separation moves and has serious cutback skills. He also drops into midfield and helps bring the ball up occasionally. I think it will take some time, but he will add a very dynamic element to this team, which I think will invigorate Messi too. The key once again will be getting high-level and consistent midfield play.
     
  24. Jed Zeppelin

    Jed Zeppelin Member SoSH Member

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    30,329
    Watched a fair bit of Dortmund (for Pulisic)—Dembele is pretty much as described, but I'll also say that he can be pretty frustrating at times and his passing, for now, is not great. Can get caught with his head down a bit when he's on the ball trying to do too much, and his final pass suffers in those moments. Will benefit from maturation, certainly.
     
  25. Titans Bastard

    Titans Bastard has sunil gulati in his sights Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Sometimes I feel like Ousmane Dembele is the Allen Iverson of soccer. He's capable of the spectacular on a regular basis and will put up numbers for sure, but that may distract you from his inefficiency: he's prone to giving the ball away and his decision-making is rather selfish. That said, he's young enough that continued improvement is a reasonable expectation. How well he integrates into Barcelona's squad will be interesting to watch.

    In any case, if the transfer fee is accurate it's very good business for BVB, who bought him for €15m last summer. It doesn't leave them much time to replace him, though. They may have to hope that Pulisic can shoulder a bigger load + Götze is rejuvenated after his return.

    Rennes reportedly have a 25% sell-on fee, so if Dembele is really going for €150m, the sell-on fee would be larger than any direct transfer fee Rennes have ever received. That's kind of amazing.
     
  26. Zomp

    Zomp Turkey Virgin Dope

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    10,825
    I think its a move that's good for both teams. Dembele has the talent to be world class and is only 20 years old. He can play on both wings. I actually think he's a much better fit than Coutinho.

    Is he worth the fee? Probably not. No one is...but everyone knew Barca had money to burn and the pressure from fans for a signing was getting to them.
     
  27. rguilmar

    rguilmar lurker

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    132
    I'm a big Dembele fan. Like most here, got to see a lot of him while watching Pulisic and had dreams for Dortmund of a Dembele/Pulisic right-left punch on the wings for years to come. He always struck me as having a nonchalant ease in the way he plays. It never looks like he is moving that fast, but he is. He never seems to try to blow by people, but he does. I actually found him to be a little too unselfish at times in terms of passing up shots to set up a more established player on Dortmund (many times that pass being a poor one). I always thought he could score more. I do see where TB and others are coming from when it comes to dribbling however. He gets dribble happy, and hopefully he will integrate himself into the Barca system (which has allowed for plenty of selfish dribbling of late- he is replacing Neymar!!). He has played at the top level, played against the Fascists, he's young/exciting and so on, so I get why Barca wanted him.

    The price tag is steep, but teams have Barca bent over at this point in terms of demands. Normally they have plenty of cash to burn, but even more than usual with the Neymar sale. Everyone knows it, and everyone knows Barca need to get players. Hell, they needed an upgrade or three BEFORE Neymar left. That being said, I would be shocked if Barca were done this transfer window.

    I am curious to see what the final terms are. I doubt it will ever go as high as being reported- Barca are noted for their complex transfer dealings. We shall see though.
     
  28. coremiller

    coremiller Member SoSH Member

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    3,423
    If you ignore the total price and think relatively in terms of whether you'd prefer Neymar or Dembele+70-100m ... that's not a bad deal.
     
  29. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    Picking nits a bit here, but I don't think the Board gives a flying fuck about fans. The Board cares about $ and their jobs, that's it. After Ney left, their brand was damaged and the product was significantly diminished. Rather than the public thinking about Barca as licking its wounds, the narrative will now resemble a shift in the squad and the fact that Barca can still swing massive transfers. Barca went from a squad with entertaining players to contenders again. The Board can now say they managed the squad as well as possible considering Ney insisted on leaving. This may not matter to fans here in the US or China, but I bet it means quite a bit to the Socis throughout Catalunya.

    WRT to Dembele, I don't doubt that he is still a raw player. However, as long as he moves the ball quickly and defers to Messi and Suarez early on while he settles in, I think he will be a dynamic player. But again, anyone thinking that Barca will immediately start clicking is crazy. This team will likely look out of sorts until January (like SNM in '14). The key is staying in the La Liga race and beating Olympiakos and Sporting in UCL to keep things within reach until then.
     
  30. InstaFace

    InstaFace MDLzera

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    Dembele is a good get for Barca, it puts a lot of pressure on him and we don't know how he'll develop, but this is madness:
    I have my criticisms of Neymar, but he's in a class that Dembele is nowhere near, and may never reach. Barca needs that talent difference more than it needs the money, because the titles they're competing for require it.
     
  31. Schnerres

    Schnerres Member SoSH Member

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    I have no idea what that means, on which side you are.
    I mean if Barca could actually make a decent, smart transfer and buy someone with that money (see, Bayern gets Süle/CB, Rudy/DM, Tolisso/CM for a combined 62m.€ - no superstar, but depth), I can see additional money being a good thing. But if I see that 70mil.€ brings you (or not) a half Coutinho, I don´t know what would be better.
    And in Barca´s system, they just don´t need any (supertalented!) winger type players to plug in the lineup, they relied on three of the best attackers which exist right now.
     
  32. coremiller

    coremiller Member SoSH Member

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    My point is to view the transactions as linked. If, at the start of the summer, Barca had been offered a trade of Neymar for Dembele+100m euros, would they have taken it? Because if they buy Dembele for 120m, that's basically what they did.

    Dembele is not yet in Neymar's class, but he's not thaaat far off, and he only turned 20 in May. Michael Caley has published some data on this -- statistically, Dembele was one of the best attacking players in the Bundesliga last season, and his 16-17 was the best season by a U20 player in this decade.



    Dembele is not a raw lottery ticket; he is already an elite player, with the chance to develop into a generational talent.
     
  33. Schnerres

    Schnerres Member SoSH Member

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    You have to expect that if Dembele plays well for Barca, he has to hit the additional payment clauses, so it will probably be closer to 150mil.€, so it´s "only" a difference of 72mil.€. And Dembele could reach Neymar´s class, but Neymar is also just 25, or 5 years older than Dembele. It´s not as if he will be gone in 3 years, a la Ronaldo (or like Messi/Suarez in 5 years; he was Barca´s youngest superstar).

    I don´t know. That money is insane. Dortmund (and Rennes) come away very good looking in that transfer affair, IMO. They are rumored to be interested in new french signings (Malcolm/Bordeaux or Maxwell Cornet/Lyons), but it´s also obvious they still have kept Emre Mor so far, who was already on his way to Inter until that transfer fell apart. I doubt they are betting on Mor to contribute much with all that huge money in the account, but I don´t know what´s going on in Bosz´brain.
     
  34. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    Barca picked up another 3 points against Alaves. Valverde decided to go for an unorthodox XI, including Roberto at RB, Vidal at RW, Messi as a false 9, Delo on the LW, Iniesta started with Rak in the MF, and the rest of the lineup was normal. I just can't figure out why Denis and Semedo aren't in the XI. As soon as Denis came in he had an immediate impact. And while Roberto is good enough to play RB against weaker competition, he would be better utilized in MF and let Semedo slot in. I'm willing to give Valverde a pass for the time being because he needs to figure out what pieces he has and rotate quite a bit to do so, and he hasn't dropped points. But, it seems obvious to this outsider that Valverde is leaving some of his best pieces on the bench. Stay tuned next week when we get to see Ousmane debut!
     
  35. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    Barca got a big lift in confidence after dispatching Juve 3-0 at home. While the Messidependencia is still a bit worrisome, the team performed very well against a depleted Juve. Starting from the back, MaTS had little to do and did fine. Umtiti looks great and is clearly in the XI next to Gerard. Pique is already rounding into better form. Alba had an aggressive game at LB and is a real pest. Semedo also looks the part and is very collected in possession. I love his game, and hope that he gets more aggressive and Alba can sit back a bit more as the season goes on. Alba is a one-trick pony going up the line, although he does it as well as anyone. Semedo has shown much more creativity and has made the RW dangerous again. Busquets had an excellent game and really controlled tempo. One of the biggest things that stood out this match was how the team performs so much better when Iniesta is on form. With the current iteration of this team, one of the two forward MF really needs to be creative and Iniesta worked wonders today, bouncing from both wings (but mostly the left) and through the center. Look no further than Messi's second goal. This is why I think Denis needs to be worked into this role because he is the best bet to fill out post-Andres (although I'd still try Roberto there too). Rakitic was solid too being the workrate guy. He's had a rough few months and his touch seems to have regressed a bit, but he doesn't need to play otherworldly to be an asset. I think Roberto could be the heir to this role and he's more skilled than Rak. Hence, Denis/Roberto MF of my dreams. Messi was ridiculous today and his first goal was vintage. He also dropped back into the MF to help with possession occasionally, but not so much so as to hurt the team's shape. Suarez was pretty awful until he played the perfect wall pass for Messi's first goal. The life of a striker, eh? I am loving Dembele so far. He is aggressive and takes defenders on when it makes sense. He is young and still trying to integrate himself into the team, but he seems incredibly confident and I don't expect this to last long. I'll go so far as to say I won't be surprised if he passes Suarez by the end of the season. I'd like to see him on the left more, but I imagine they will keep moving him around as they figure out where he works best with the rest of the squad.
     
  36. Schnerres

    Schnerres Member SoSH Member

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    Dembele out with injury.

    Click the link or open the spoiler.
    Dembele picked up the injury as Barcelona beat Getafe 2-1 yesterday afternoon.
    The game against Getafe was just his second start for his new club.
    But Barcelona have now confirmed the wing wizard will miss a large chunk of their La Liga campaign, in a bitter blow for Ernesto Valverde's side.
    A club statement read: "The tests have come back following first team player Ousmane Dembélé has ruptured the tendon in his femoral bicep in his left thigh.
    "He is expected to be out for between three and a half months and four months."

    Barca says "OUCH". I say they´ll miss him a lot. Dortmund fans say :p:p:p
     
  37. InstaFace

    InstaFace MDLzera

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    5,376
    Good thing he had a few games' worth of performances to at least placate fans that they spent money on the right guy.

    If they're now in the market for another Dortmund winger, though...
     
  38. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    Really unfortunate injury as the team has looked very good thus far. Yesterday's game against Getafe was one of the most entertaining games I've watched in quite some time. Getafe played very well and their goal was absolutely perfect:

    https://imgtc.com/w/jXqgvtR

    But, Barca's full squad really performed well. MaTS made the 1-2 important saves that he had to and did very well with good attempts. The goal was absolutely unstoppable and beautiful. Umtiti showed off some serious wheels and is playing with full confidence. He is currently the team's best CB. Pique had a slight dip in performance, but he has shown in the past couple of weeks that he's getting into form. Alba had a nice game on the wing, and Roberto did well on the right. Iniesta had another solid performance and Rak had a good workrate. Messi was himself and very good - assisting very nicely on the Paulinho goal. Dembele was excellent until going out. Delofeu showed that he is a scrappy player and his effort was a big part of the Denis goal.

    Luisito was the one exception-he was absolutely dreadful. His touch was off and his decision-making betrays his current lack of confidence. Sadly, there's no good backup as the team has not played with Paco in the center and there's no plan beyond him. Definitely a glaring oversight by the board not to have a young promising player in this squad role.

    But, the two latter subs for Barca totally stole the show:

    https://imgtc.com/w/HfDxW0E

    https://imgtc.com/w/1h1QbUh

    I've been banging the drum on behalf of Denis for over a season, so I will relish every goal for the kid. Even outside of this absolutely brilliant strike, he had a positive influence on the match and a rotation of him and Iniesta seems like a sound plan for the near future. I didn't know much about Paulinho before this, but what an introduction! That was a huge goal and Paulinho showed a lot of strength and skill with the play.

    Losing Dembele is definitely a huge loss for the rest of the calendar year. This team has too many midfielders and not enough for the front 3. I don't know why Arda is in the doghouse, but he would be my first choice to start at winger. The team seems to think more of Delofeu though. If Valverde keeps rotating Iniesta, Rakitic, Denis, Roberto, and Paulinho, with Semedo getting lots of playing time at RB, that will ensure the squad has good endurance and would mean the right side attack is generally settled.
     
  39. SoxFanInCali

    SoxFanInCali has the rich, deep voice of a god and the penis of Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    10,580
    Barcelona are playing Las Palmas in an empty Camp Nou due to civil unrest related to the Catalonia independence referendum taking place. Spain considers this referendum illegal.
     
  40. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    On the broadcast, Phil Schoen said that not only did La Liga threaten to have Barca forfeit the match if they weren't on the field at kickoff, but they would also be docked additional points.

    As a club, I completely understand why the decision was made to play. But, as the club motto professes, "Mes Que Un Club". Today, the club took a hit to its Catalan credibility.
     
  41. rguilmar

    rguilmar lurker

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    132
    I think La Liga will have a lot to answer for when all is said and done. Either they were thoroughly incompetent (which is understandable if they operate at all like the Spanish government has over the last few days) or they knowingly denied Barca home field advantage.

    I get it- the whole Mes Que un Club thing can be a bit much to non-Catalans (and to pro-Spanish Catalans). It has a "holier than thou" edge to it that can rub people the wrong way. It can seem arrogant, condescending to other clubs/regions, and self serving. But to me this feels like La Liga said "let's find out just how 'Mes Que un Club' you really are." I doubt other teams in other regions (outside of the Basque region, of course) would be given the same ultimatum. There are tons of better ways to have handled this. Play on Saturday, reschedule for later in the season, anything but play the game on Sunday. It just feels to me like Barcelona were treated differently because of who they are and who they (profess to) stand for as a club.
     
  42. InstaFace

    InstaFace MDLzera

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    5,376
    They probably were treated differently. Though if we're thinking about football clubs made to play a game after a terrorist act killed people in their immediate vicinity, there's Dortmund, in last year's UCL quarters. That was more personal, this was a much larger incident.

    That said, Bartomeu brought the choice to the players, who voted (upon being informed of the penalty for not playing) to play. Forfeit 6 points and they can probably kiss La Liga goodbye, so the vote is rational. But I do think that not even the NFL would have threatened teams with competitive penalties in order to force a match to be played, after an equivalent to what happened in Catalonia. So we'd have to rate it as at least "rather callous", if not outright antagonistic for no good reason.
     
  43. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    My friend and I were talking about this the other day, and the best analogy we could come up with stateside was California taking a vote to secede. Which makes this all the more obvious that this should never have gotten to referendum day.
     
  44. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    4,421
    Wow this thread is in need of a serious bump.

    Since we last checked in, Dembele got hurt, returned, and got hurt again. Coutinho was purchased for a fuckton of money. Oh yeah, and the team has lost exactly one game this season (yesterday's first leg CDR tie against Espanyol). Barca currently lead La Liga by 9 points at the halfway point, Atleti is second, Valencia is third (2 points behind Atleti), and Real is 4th but way behind the pace (19 points back of Barca). Barca has a challenging matchup in UCL against Chelsea in the round of 16, and as mentioned above, Barca currently trail 1-0 in QF matchup of the CDR, but return for the home leg next week.

    Ernesto Valverde has proven to be an astute tactician. Since Dembele went down, he has favored a 4-4-2 of sorts, with Messi and Luisito up top. The biggest development of the season though has to go to Paulinho who has been an absolute catch in the MF rotation. Although Rakitic has remained a fixture this season, I would expect Paulinho to eat into that more and more as the season wears on. Iniesta has seemed revitalized in his role as a 60-70 minute maestro. Even Gomes has looked competent recently.

    In net, MaTS has cemented himself as a world class keeper. I don't know that there are many better than him - De Gea and who else? Cillessen is a top class back up and should be starting elsewhere and likely will come next season.

    At CB, Pique has recovered from a slow start and is back to being world class. Yet, he was overshadowed by Umtiti who has been absolutely incredible before going down with injury. On top of being skilled and sure footed, he is also incredibly fast and strong. He has some bonehead plays here and there, but he's 24 years old, so I think that's excused. When Masche and Umtiti both went down, there was a bit of a panic, but forgotten man Vermaelen has filled in admirably. He doesn't have the upside of the other 3 CBs playing the ball, but he has been beyond serviceable and is a fantastic 4th option at CB. He may be headed out with Yerry Mina slated to join the squad soon.

    At FB, Alba has really turned it on this season. He is second on the squad in assists with 8 (all competitions) and has added 2 goals. Roberto and Semedo have split time at RB and both have been pretty damn good. I am completely in love with Semedo's calm game and he looks right at home in the position. I hope EV begins using Semedo more at RB, so that Roberto can begin moving into MF as a more permanent role. Digne has been an excellent backup to Alba.

    At DMF, what is there to say? Busquets is still the best in the world for my money. No, he isn't Kante and going to run around like a madman for 90 minutes 3x a week all season, but he'll just stir the drink of one of the best teams in the world. I'd like to see EV rotate a bit here with Roberto, Rakitic, Masche (if he's still here), and (gulp!) Gomes.

    At the 2-3 MF spots, it has been a bona fide rotation. Rakitic, Iniesta, Roberto (to a much lesser degree), and Paulinho have taken the majority of the minutes. Iniesta has been excellent and has thrived in EV's system. Rakitic has been steady and he is tasked for covering for everyone else when they roam out of position. Gomes recently received praise for performing the same role. Making any use out of Goddamn Gomes would be a huge win. But, Paulinho deserves the plaudits here. He is a tireless worker and a swiss army knife. When he plays, I've come to expect him to play in all 3 lines - defense, MF, and attack. At the front, he is more skilled than I thought, but more importantly his movement is intelligent and he knows exactly how to open up space for Messi and Suarez. He is an adept presser in the midfield and can help Iniesta possess, cover like Rakitic, and help Sergio transition in the pivot. He's also strong as an ox and has helped out the CBs when necessary. Very complete player. The only sad thing I can say about the midfield is that Denis has not impressed in his somewhat limited time. I thought he was the heir apparent to Iniesta, but he has not taken his chances. With Coutinho coming in, I worry that Denis may be marginalized even more going forward.

    Up front, what more is there to say about Messi? He continues to produce incredible numbers and remains the focal point of a lethal attack. He leads Luisito by 4 in La Liga goals at 17 and 13 respectively, with Aspas 2 behind Luis. He has 8 goals in other competitions as well. While Luis got off to a slow start, he is now hitting on all cylinders and has made the attack even more fearsome lately. Paco Alcacer had a solid start to the season, but unfortunately went down with an injury. Dembele never really got out of the blocks due to injury and likely won't for real until March. Deulofeu got some burn early in the season, but he is wasteful and not a very intelligent player. He will likely get shipped out this summer.

    It will be interesting to see where EV slots Coutinho. I could see him as a winger with minimal defensive responsibilities, but more likely he will act as a 4th MF who is the most forward of the group. Lastly, it's nice to see the kids start to see some time. Alena, Arnaiz, and Oriol seem like 3 most favored at the moment. Alena seems to be the most likely to break through.
     
    #44 Zososoxfan, Jan 18, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2018
  45. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    4,421
    Mascherano move to China, Rafinha loan to Inter, and Arda move to Turkey all confirmed.
     
  46. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

    Messages:
    4,421
    Barca won a cagey affair with Atleti yesterday moving them 8 points clear of Los Colchoneros and 15 (!) ahead of 3rd place Real. Yesterday's match changed drastically when Messi scored a nice FK and Iniesta went down with a hamstring injury. Barca had a nice half going with Don Andres playing, but once Gomes came on, Barca was content to absorb pressure from Atleti the rest of the match. Simeone tried to switch tactics and made all 3 of his subs in the second half, which led to better pressure from Atleti, but overall Barca absolutely shut down both Costa and Griezmann. Pique and Umtiti both played very well and Rakitic has really settled into his double pivot role alongside Busi. Barca's offense has really struggled the past couple of weeks and with Iniesta going down, that seems likely to continue, but this team is very balanced and rarely gives up goals.

    With Iniesta going down for what's being reported as about a month, it's really time for Coutinho to step up. Coutinho will be tasked with attacking from his preferred left position and will get to work with Alba quite a bit. Messi and Alba have shown an incredible level of chemistry beginning to near Alves-Messi levels, although Messi is more effective cutting in from the right. But, because Barca can't get the right flank going as well as the left, Messi tends to drift left to find Alba for his runs in behind the defense. Messi, Coutinho, and Suarez will have to figure out their spacing and quickly because the right flank has been pretty bad for awhile now. I expect to see Vidal get some run as a RM/RW to keep defenses stretched, although against Chelsea I expect to see a Paulinho-Busi-Rakitic-Gomes MF to win the middle of the park.

    It's really a shame Dembele lost so much time to injury this year because if he could get the right flank going, I'd feel much better about Barca's chances against top competition. Dembele has the speed to get behind defenses and put pressure on FBs to really open up space for Messi and Luisito. But, he has been too prone to errors and isn't in form. I would expect to see him play significant minutes along with Vidal, Paco, and Gomes this weekend to determine who the best option is to round out the XI. Semedo's injury also really hurts because this would've been a great opportunity for Roberto to show off his chops in the MF. My binky Denis Suarez has been banished to la casa del perro for a couple of months now and he is likely on his way out this summer to help pay for Griezmann.

    Another idea I just thought of would be to play Digne at LB and have Alba play as a LM/LW. I don't think that's an effective use of the squad, but it's not out of the question.
     
    #46 Zososoxfan, Mar 5, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2018
  47. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    Barcva notched a straightforward win this weekend against Malaga. They did this while resting Messi and without the injured Iniesta, so the show got stolen a bit by the storylines. Dembele had easily his best match in a Barca shirt as he was creative and threatening throughout the match. He made an excellent pass to Coutinho for the goal, which was absolutely silky. Alba continued his world class play finding Suarez behind a napping defense. Rakitic really got to show off his importance to the team today. He is really excelling as Busi's sidekick and this team rarely loses their balance with those two in the middle. If I were attacking Barca, I would try to overload the midfield against these two. Lastly, Gomes got some run at RB, which I can only assume is EV testing the waters if an emergency pops up to Roberto. Gomes may continue to survive on this squad if he can find a home there and let Roberto move into MF.
     
  48. Kliq

    Kliq Member SoSH Member

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    7,642
    Should be 3-0 Sevilla right now; Barca hanging on as Messi checks in.
     
  49. Kliq

    Kliq Member SoSH Member

    Messages:
    7,642
    ...And Sevilla chokes the two goal lead away after failing to put away a half-dozen chances in the second half.
     
  50. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Member SoSH Member

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    4,421
    One of the most fun matches to watch I can remember. Really skilled attacks going both ways. Coutinho was really invisible in the first half and Dembouz scuffled a bit before settling in. Suarez was the real goat of the first half though - I can't remember another player who was so clinical in front of goal in big moments but whose touch could look so pedestrian during matches. Iniesta was excellent until the cavalry came in. The team missed Busi in his DMF role, but almost just as much missed Rak in his typical CM role. Paulinho was pretty ghastly in this match and the team looked very out of sorts until the 75th minute. Obviously Suarez got his goal and Messi's equalizer a minute later was insane.

    Props to Sevilla who are an excellent team on their day. Their play through the MF was beautiful. Nzonzi and Banega break out of pressure so well and Sevilla's wings in Jesus and Correa can punish teams. As @Kliq said though, Sevilla only have themselves to blame for not salting the match away even before the second half. I was advocating for J. Correa to make the Argentina NT, but despite his massive skillset, he's not quite ready for that level. His assist on the first goal was outstanding, but his conversion rate in just the first half was terrible. He had at least 2 chances he needed to do more with. I've seen Muriel play with his NT and I find him to be terribly wasteful. He can create occasionally, but I have seen him just make terrible decisions and be wasteful in front of net numerous times. Sevilla really needed to convert at least one more chance in the first 20 minutes of the second half when they had Barca on the ropes.

    I've totally come around on Banega who I used to think was overrated. He is a deep lying (not quite Pirlo) playmaking MF who helps establish possession, break presses, and sprays the ball all over the field. He is reasonably good winning the ball back as well. I think now that he has settled into this position (he used to play more of a traditional #10 further upfield), he is a great fit in the Argentina NT alongside Biglia in the MF to get the ball to the 4 players who will be setup further ahead of him.
     

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