What Do Now??: Barcelona 2021-2022

Zososoxfan

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Koeman is out, Xavi rumored to be coming in.

I saw this video of Xavi explaining his tactics. Unsurprisingly, its Pep-ball through and through: Five channels in attack, high press without the ball.

Its a big step up from Al-Saad to Barca but I think he'd be a good choice given where the club stands right now.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yR5B8viTWQ
So much respect for Koeman--Culer through and through. That being said, I don't think too highly of him as a manager.

Xavi is probably coming one stint too early, but at this point I think he'll benefit the club regardless. That's premised on the idea that he's given at least 1 and ideally 2 full seasons to build his project. IOW, this year is about treading water (i.e. finishing top 4) and figuring out what they have in house already. Next season should be more transition, clearing out bad contracts and bad player-club fits, developing young talent. Then hopefully in '23-'24 Xavi has the club in a position to add 2-3 starters (with at least 1 being a world class at his peak talent) and ready to contend for real.
 

bosox4283

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I've just read that Kun Aguero will be out for three months due to the heart problem he had during/after last match. Really tough break for him and the team. I hope he ends up OK.
 

OilCanMDS

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Xavi official.
I think I am in the same boat as most fans in feeling like this is an exciting development for the team, but I'm still doubtful that there will be any significant impact this season. In the Celta game, the difference in quality between when Barca did and did not have Fati on the field was apparent. The same can be said for Dembele in the Dynamo game. I am sure Xavi will get the most out of the midfield, but in the Celta game I thought Nico, FDJ, and Gavi looked good while Balde looked pretty poor at LW versus Fati. I know Balde is a LB and he will hopefully not see much time at LW in the future, but there really aren't any other players on the team that can play LW or RW on this team other than Depay, Fati and Dembele. I can't think of a way Xavi can overcome the lack of wings with the system he wants to run, but I hope he can figure out something to keep the team afloat until players start to come back.
 

Zososoxfan

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Aguero officially retiring due to heart condition. In the 1.5 matches he played this season, he actually looked like he had a lot to contribute. It's a shame.

Xavi has officially thrusted Barca into the 3ATB shape trend in a 3-4-3 and has delivered on his promise to start the youth movement in earnest. Even with Pedri (19) and Ansu (19) out, Xavi is rolling out Nico Gonzalez (19), Gavi (17!!), Demir (18), Balde (18), and Ez Abde (19) on a fairly consistent basis. Add that to some other young but more established talent in FDJ (24), Araujo (22), and Mingueza (22) and you can see that Barca are comfortable making this season about development. Some of that is due to injuries (Alba, Roberto, Braithwaite, Aguero) but I think those teenagers are going to continue getting chances even as the squad gets healthier.

This also bodes poorly for Dest (21), Garcia (20), and Puig (22), who haven't seen an increase in PT along with their young teammates. It's also rather striking and somewhat silly that Barca's team-building has this incredibly young squad paired with some serious elder statesmen in Pique (34), Busi (33), and Alba (32). Really big gap in that 22-29 age range, also known as the typical prime for footballers.

I have to think that Xavi has the green light to basically promote the entire La Masia and see if they have any gems and also build the value of players in the transfer market but who may not be part of Barca's future. The problem is that Xavi has to simultaneously chase a top 4 finish and the UEL trophy for next year's UCL money. But if and when top 4 is no longer attainable, I wonder if Xavi will staple the 30+ contingent to the bench.
 

bosox4283

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I'm 100% not a doctor -- I wonder how bad the condition is given that Aguero retired given that there are some athletes, like LaMarcus Aldridge, that have retired but returned after being diagnosed with a heart issue.

I saw Aguero play once, maybe in 2007, in a Madrid derby. He was my favorite Atletico player then, so I've always liked him and enjoyed watching him succeed at City.

His loss is tough for Barcelona, as his experience and skill were needed.
 

Zososoxfan

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I'm 100% not a doctor -- I wonder how bad the condition is given that Aguero retired given that there are some athletes, like LaMarcus Aldridge, that have retired but returned after being diagnosed with a heart issue.

I saw Aguero play once, maybe in 2007, in a Madrid derby. He was my favorite Atletico player then, so I've always liked him and enjoyed watching him succeed at City.

His loss is tough for Barcelona, as his experience and skill were needed.
No idea about the specific condition, but I have to think his age and being in the twilight of his career had a lot to do with this. He's got a son (Diego Maradona's grandson) who's probably 10-11 years old.
 

bosox4283

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AS is reporting that Cavani will be heading to Barca. This move seems prudent to me -- a more experienced striker that replaces Kun and keeps Luuk de Jong off the pitch.
 

Zososoxfan

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AS is reporting that Cavani will be heading to Barca. This move seems prudent to me -- a more experienced striker that replaces Kun and keeps Luuk de Jong off the pitch.
Yeah, that's a solid move that should help stabilize the squad. If the kids can feed Cavani service in the box, he should convert at his usual less-than-it-should-be clip but still put in ~10 goals. I also think Cavani is warrior hardworker type and Xavi feels like this team needs more of that mentality.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barcelona squeezed out a 3-2 victory over Elche on Saturday. But the big story is that 3 youngsters put in the goals, and Gavi's was a work of art:

https://streamff.com/v/5MGyB7

Ferran Jutgla made his debut and scored the opener, and Nico Dominguez came on as a sub in 85' to snatch away the winner.

A stiff test follows with Sevilla this week to close out the calendar year.
 

OilCanMDS

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Barca looked pretty good against Sevilla considering where both teams are in the standings. Barca was the better team for most of the game, even before Sevilla went down to 10 men.

Ferran Torres is rumored to be a done deal for January, and Dembele has supposedly agreed to terms on an extension. With the improvements in the formation and movement under Xavi, I'm excited to the attack in the second half of the season with Pedri, Gavi, Fati, Depay, Dembele and Torres. I'm still concerned about the defense and the mid defense, although Busquets has looked much better over the last month. It's difficult to tell so far if the defense has lapses due to talent or poor understanding because a lot of goals conceded seem to come from unmarked attackers or defenders making poor challenges when they need to play safe.
 

Zososoxfan

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With Coutinho off to Villa (WOW), Torres can now be registered. That's a huge upgrade. Moreover, Laporta and Mateu said that they wouldn't try and make any other moves unless and until that was complete, so GAME ON!
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Barca have been hateful to watch since they went down to 10. Should actually be down to 9 and wasting time horribly.

Just got punished for it all with the equalizer and I hope they lose in stoppage time.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barcelona taking on Real Madrid in the Supercopa, hosted in...Riyadh, because of course.

Ferran Torres getting his first start for the Blaugrana flanking Luuk de Jong, Dembele on the other side. Gavi got the start alongside Busi and Frenkie in the middle. Pique and Araujo in the middle, Alves and Alba at FB just like old times. Once Barca get Pedri and Ansu back, you can start to see the potential for a better squad.

Pretty even match so far, Barca having more of the ball and in good positions. Trying to win it high as well, but Madrid getting the best 2-3 chances.
 

Zososoxfan

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What a match. Even though Madrid are through 3-2, I'm incredibly encouraged by that performance. Pedri looked incredible and Ansu wasn't far behind. Nico gave the team a huge lift of energy when he came in, and Gavi looked like the real deal for the first time to me (not saying he hasn't done it before, but I hadn't seen his play merit the hype yet). Araujo was a beast, and MATS had a terrific performance.

Weird that Frenkie was taken off at half, as you'd expect him to be helping in this effort. Xavi has said that he was surprised at how bad FDJ's spatial awareness was when he arrived, and getting FDJ up to speed has to be top priority. Dembele created a lot of danger today but he's also incredibly frustrating and wasteful. He has the ball jump on him more than I've ever seen any other pro, and his shooting is dreadful. Ez was bad tonight, but Mendy is a terrific LB. Once again aging legends Alba and Busi show they can't hang for a full match against elite competition. They need to be challenged.
 

OilCanMDS

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What a match. Even though Madrid are through 3-2, I'm incredibly encouraged by that performance. Pedri looked incredible and Ansu wasn't far behind. Nico gave the team a huge lift of energy when he came in, and Gavi looked like the real deal for the first time to me (not saying he hasn't done it before, but I hadn't seen his play merit the hype yet). Araujo was a beast, and MATS had a terrific performance.

Weird that Frenkie was taken off at half, as you'd expect him to be helping in this effort. Xavi has said that he was surprised at how bad FDJ's spatial awareness was when he arrived, and getting FDJ up to speed has to be top priority. Dembele created a lot of danger today but he's also incredibly frustrating and wasteful. He has the ball jump on him more than I've ever seen any other pro, and his shooting is dreadful. Ez was bad tonight, but Mendy is a terrific LB. Once again aging legends Alba and Busi show they can't hang for a full match against elite competition. They need to be challenged.
I was really encouraged by the game. I think the team looked really dangerous and cohesive when Pedri was in the game. The defense continues to make plays that make me wonder if the players are bad, make bad decisions or are just being put in bad situations, but there's still improvement there.

A lot of people seem to be down on FDJ, but I think a lot of his lack of production comes down to the lack of offensive talent in front of him. His game has never really been creating offense, and I think his strengths are reading the other teams' attack and picking out forward passes from the back. I think that last year when he kept going in between CDM and CB was the best he has looked at Barca. Maybe the best spot for him is at CB until Busquets is ready to be benched or move on. He could be good in a double pivot with Pedri in front of him and Busquets, but I'm not sure I want Gavi benched right now with the way he's been playing for the last month (ignoring the constant yellow cards).
 

Zososoxfan

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I just stumbled on a new Barca blog called BarcaFutbol and I'm very impressed. The 2 writers are very much into the new world of football metrics but combine it with observational analysis. I found 3 of their first pieces very interesting.

Re Nico Gonzalez and FDJ:

Imagine if the likes of Paulinho or Arturo Vidal had the technical quality of a LaMasia graduate and you essentially get Nico González. He’s big, fast and strong while also having great control, awareness and technicality of diminutive and agile midfielders. And if the importance (and success) of the aforementioned duo is anything to go by, Nico’s future seems bright, to say the least.

Barcelona generally always have two types of midfielders occupying their interior positions. One, usually the left one, is more creative and enjoys a freer role. The other, usually the right one, is more of a box-to-box presence that combines physicality and technique very well. Nico seems to perfectly fit the latter role, far more so than De Jong does at the moment.

That doesn’t mean there’s no place for De Jong in the squad. Even though he’s been shaky in the single-pivot position, he does seem to have all the characteristics of a good deep-lying midfielder who could eventually replace Busquets. Yes, that role might limit him at first but with Nico on the pitch at the same time, Frenkie would be free to roam and advance from deep since Nico would be there to cover and drop for him when necessary.
I'm READY for Nico to start every match from here on out after reading that!

Re Pedri and Gavi:

While both tend to drift wide when necessary, Pedri is more centrally-focused and also the one bursting forward far more. Comparing their stats recorded by Wyscout in the last calendar year, Gavi has averaged 1.71 touches in the box per 90 compared to Pedri’s 2.31. Similarly, Gavi’s 2.13 successful attacking actions (shots, crosses and dribbles) lag behind Pedri’s 2.46.

But when we isolate dribbles from that equation, suddenly Pedri’s 1.97 can’t match Gavi’s 2.57. The situation with offensive duels is not even a contest - Gavi sits at 10.71 per 90 while Pedri can only boast with 6.63. To many and without proper context, this could easily lead to a wrong conclusion. You see this is not so much about how many but rather where.
Super interesting comparison between 2 young and incredibly promising players. Pedri is such a G.

And finally, the blog did a deep dive on the decline of MATS. The whole thing is worth a read, but they ascribe a lot of his recent issues to his foot surgery last year. While MATS is also displaying a mess with his fundamentals, my takeaway is that the club need to seriously consider bringing in someone to challenge him for real next season, in case he doesn't bounce back.

https://barcafutbol.substack.com/p/nico-gonzalez-and-frenkie-de-jong

https://barcafutbol.substack.com/p/pedri-and-gavi-co-existing-in-xavis

https://barcafutbol.substack.com/p/the-anatomy-of-the-rise-and-fall
 

bosox4283

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I’m utterly confused how Barca is managing to bring in Ferran Torres, Adama, and maybe Aubameyang. Does discarding Dembele free up this much cap/spending space?
 

Zososoxfan

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I’m utterly confused how Barca is managing to bring in Ferran Torres, Adama, and maybe Aubameyang. Does discarding Dembele free up this much cap/spending space?
Torres was registered in the wake of the Coutinho loan. Adama's wages aren't probably that high, and while I'm a bit mystified about how the Auba acquisition would fly under the cap rules (you only get 75% relief on outgoing wages to spend or something like that), we can never forget just how bad the Coutinho and Dembele signings and contracts were. So, yeah.
 

mikeford

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Dembele is refusing to go to Arsenal in any kind of Aubameyang loan deal so yeah I have no idea how they'd fit him under the wage bill.
 

Zososoxfan

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Latest reporting saying that Auba is now with Barca docs for physical. I have to think they're just trying to firm up everything in the event Dembele gets moved. Because without Dembele going out, no idea how Barca afford and register Auba.
 

mikeford

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Ornstein is basically saying it's done. La Liga has given Barca the green light to register Auba no matter what happens with Dembele. So he's a Barcelona man now.
 

OilCanMDS

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Barca also freed up cap space by getting Umtiti to sign an extension. He actually helped the team a lot by getting the salary he was supposed to get over the next 18 months spread out over the next 3 1/2 years.

With Auba, the rumor is that he's cancelling his Arsenal contract and signing a team friendly deal that fits into Barca's cap space.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barca also freed up cap space by getting Umtiti to sign an extension. He actually helped the team a lot by getting the salary he was supposed to get over the next 18 months spread out over the next 3 1/2 years.

With Auba, the rumor is that he's cancelling his Arsenal contract and signing a team friendly deal that fits into Barca's cap space.
Right, my reading indicates that he's basically playing for €1-2M for the remainder of the season, which is like €7M less than he would've earned rotting at Arsenal. So good for him for wanting to play and taking a huge financial loss to do so.

However, I also read that Barca can only register 4 additional players for UEL, so one of Torres/Alves/Traore/Auba will not be able to get registered for that competition.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Barca lineup from now on. In a 3 ATB:

MATS
Araujo-Pique-Erik/FDJ
Alves-Busi-Pedri/FDJ/Gavi/Nico-Alba
Torres/Traore-Memphis/Martin/Pedri/Luuk-Auba

In a 4-3-3:

MATS

Alves-Araujo-Pique/Erik-Alba/FDJ
Gavi/FDJ/Nico-Busi/FDJ-Pedri
Torres/Traore-Memphis/Martin/Luuk-Auba/Jutgla

I mean, both are an absolute mess. The only stapled on starters for me are Pedri, Araujo, and Torres. Build around those, prioritizing the youth in Torres, Erik, FDJ, Gavi, Nico, etc. and I'm good.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barca are having all the good feels today after a thrilling 4-2 win at home over Atleti to put the Blaugrana into 4th place. The match got off to an ominous start with Pique falling asleep leading to a cross down Alba's flank that ended with a goal. Pique looked like he was man marking Suarez yesterday, but when El Pistolero drifted out wide past Alba, Pique neither followed him over nor dropped back into the defensive line to pickup Carrasco. Alba got caught between the 2 attackers, Araujo couldn't get over in time, and MATS once again got beaten to his right--something that article I posted upthread has identified as a big issue.

What felt like a minute later, Barca equalized when Adama, Pedri, and Alves pressed Atleti in the corner, leading to a turnover that Alves crossed to Alba, who hit a sublime volley to the back post that was beautiful. Koke went down in a heap after Adama grazed him, and while Adama is a friggin' tank, that was a risky move from Koke (likely gets called half the time) that certainly contributed to the goal. Shithousery giveth, and shithousery taketh away.

From there, Adama continued to torture Hermoso down the right, and put a cross on a dime that Gavi (!) finished with a header to the far post. I think every football fan is fascinated by Traore, because it's always fun to think about what someone who looks like Darren Sproles or [INSERT FAVORITE SHORT MUSCULAR NFL RB HERE] might be able to do on a football pitch. Well, at Wolves everyone rightfully bemoaned his lack of end product, yet within 30 minutes of his Barca debut he looks like he's ready to be an absolute steal. I don't know if Hermoso is above or below par defensively (paging @bosox4283 if he's willing), but Traore put some fear into him early and often.

To that point, the match had followed some kind of script, but just before half Atleti absolutely fell asleep on a set piece, that Barca had all day to rebound, with the final strike delivered by Araujo. I mean, the service from Alves was good, and so was Pique's initial header that went off the cross bar, but after that, half of the Atleti D doesn't move. The 2 nearest players go to stand in front of the net, which is fine, but all the far side defenders are just watching. I have no idea what the hell is going on over there, but I think most La Liga fans expected Atleti to challenge for the title this year. They haven't.

Just after half, Gavi combined well with FDJ and gets a cross in that gets dummied and ultimately cracked by Alves. Again, just poor defense from any side, let alone from one as established as Atleti. The goal is interesting because for large parts of the match (especially in the first half), Alba would push up to winger, Alves would tuck into a CMF role, and FDJ was the fulcrum by covering LCB for Alba. Here, Alba stays in defensive position and FDJ pushes into the half space to combine with Gavi. Alves is in a good starting position to take advantage of the dummy by Pedri (Ferran gets taken out hilariously on the play as well).

Barca conceded poorly on a set piece before the final big event of the match. Atleti had a strong 10 minutes after the Suarez goal, during which time Auba replaced Traore, and Nico came in for Pedri. Shortly after those subs, Atleti had an offside blown dead, and Alves for some reason stomped on the back of Carrasco's leg. Idiot move that rightfully earned him a red. Xavi reacted by subbing off Gavi in favor of Dest. I didn't watch the rest of the match as closely, but Barca mostly shut down Atleti after that. Not sure if Auba played out left, or if he was deployed centrally. Anyone know where I can find a heat map?
 

OilCanMDS

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Barca looked really good yesterday on attack, but still had a couple lapses in defense once the ball got past the midfield press. I haven't seen the heat maps from the game, but it seemed like Xavi wanted Adama and Alba to handle the wings with Alves and Gavi drifting inside to overwhelm the Atleti midfield. Frenkie looked really good dropping back wide to cover the LB spot while also being available to help the attack. I was surprised how good Adama looked whenever he got a chance to go one on one with the Atleti defenders and he opened up a ton of space in the box for the team with his dribbling on the wing.

It will be interesting to see how the team lines up going forward because I can't imagine Xavi will regularly run Gavi at LW but drifting inside to basically play CAM. At least the team has enough options now that different looks can be thrown out for different opponents.
 

OilCanMDS

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Barca are having all the good feels today after a thrilling 4-2 win at home over Atleti to put the Blaugrana into 4th place. The match got off to an ominous start with Pique falling asleep leading to a cross down Alba's flank that ended with a goal. Pique looked like he was man marking Suarez yesterday, but when El Pistolero drifted out wide past Alba, Pique neither followed him over nor dropped back into the defensive line to pickup Carrasco. Alba got caught between the 2 attackers, Araujo couldn't get over in time, and MATS once again got beaten to his right--something that article I posted upthread has identified as a big issue.

What felt like a minute later, Barca equalized when Adama, Pedri, and Alves pressed Atleti in the corner, leading to a turnover that Alves crossed to Alba, who hit a sublime volley to the back post that was beautiful. Koke went down in a heap after Adama grazed him, and while Adama is a friggin' tank, that was a risky move from Koke (likely gets called half the time) that certainly contributed to the goal. Shithousery giveth, and shithousery taketh away.

From there, Adama continued to torture Hermoso down the right, and put a cross on a dime that Gavi (!) finished with a header to the far post. I think every football fan is fascinated by Traore, because it's always fun to think about what someone who looks like Darren Sproles or [INSERT FAVORITE SHORT MUSCULAR NFL RB HERE] might be able to do on a football pitch. Well, at Wolves everyone rightfully bemoaned his lack of end product, yet within 30 minutes of his Barca debut he looks like he's ready to be an absolute steal. I don't know if Hermoso is above or below par defensively (paging @bosox4283 if he's willing), but Traore put some fear into him early and often.

To that point, the match had followed some kind of script, but just before half Atleti absolutely fell asleep on a set piece, that Barca had all day to rebound, with the final strike delivered by Araujo. I mean, the service from Alves was good, and so was Pique's initial header that went off the cross bar, but after that, half of the Atleti D doesn't move. The 2 nearest players go to stand in front of the net, which is fine, but all the far side defenders are just watching. I have no idea what the hell is going on over there, but I think most La Liga fans expected Atleti to challenge for the title this year. They haven't.

Just after half, Gavi combined well with FDJ and gets a cross in that gets dummied and ultimately cracked by Alves. Again, just poor defense from any side, let alone from one as established as Atleti. The goal is interesting because for large parts of the match (especially in the first half), Alba would push up to winger, Alves would tuck into a CMF role, and FDJ was the fulcrum by covering LCB for Alba. Here, Alba stays in defensive position and FDJ pushes into the half space to combine with Gavi. Alves is in a good starting position to take advantage of the dummy by Pedri (Ferran gets taken out hilariously on the play as well).

Barca conceded poorly on a set piece before the final big event of the match. Atleti had a strong 10 minutes after the Suarez goal, during which time Auba replaced Traore, and Nico came in for Pedri. Shortly after those subs, Atleti had an offside blown dead, and Alves for some reason stomped on the back of I didn't watch the rest of the match as closely, but Barca mostly shut down Atleti after that. Not sure if Auba played out left, or if he was deployed centrally. Anyone know where I can find a heat map?
Nice write up. I usually go to sofa score for heat maps. You have to click on each player to bring up their heat map. Here's the link for the atelti game: https://www.sofascore.com/atletico-madrid-barcelona/rgbsLgb
 

Zososoxfan

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Nice write up. I usually go to sofa score for heat maps. You have to click on each player to bring up their heat map. Here's the link for the atelti game: https://www.sofascore.com/atletico-madrid-barcelona/rgbsLgb
Excellent, thank you for the link! Ferran was the most central attacking player yesterday, but even his map shows a pretty significant drift to the left. When Auba came on he also popped up mostly on the left. So once Adama came off, Barca didn't put much resources down the right other than Pedri. Although that should be looked at with the context that Barca was playing down a man for the last 20-25 minutes.
 

bosox4283

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Barca are having all the good feels today after a thrilling 4-2 win at home over Atleti to put the Blaugrana into 4th place. The match got off to an ominous start with Pique falling asleep leading to a cross down Alba's flank that ended with a goal. Pique looked like he was man marking Suarez yesterday, but when El Pistolero drifted out wide past Alba, Pique neither followed him over nor dropped back into the defensive line to pickup Carrasco. Alba got caught between the 2 attackers, Araujo couldn't get over in time, and MATS once again got beaten to his right--something that article I posted upthread has identified as a big issue.

What felt like a minute later, Barca equalized when Adama, Pedri, and Alves pressed Atleti in the corner, leading to a turnover that Alves crossed to Alba, who hit a sublime volley to the back post that was beautiful. Koke went down in a heap after Adama grazed him, and while Adama is a friggin' tank, that was a risky move from Koke (likely gets called half the time) that certainly contributed to the goal. Shithousery giveth, and shithousery taketh away.

From there, Adama continued to torture Hermoso down the right, and put a cross on a dime that Gavi (!) finished with a header to the far post. I think every football fan is fascinated by Traore, because it's always fun to think about what someone who looks like Darren Sproles or [INSERT FAVORITE SHORT MUSCULAR NFL RB HERE] might be able to do on a football pitch. Well, at Wolves everyone rightfully bemoaned his lack of end product, yet within 30 minutes of his Barca debut he looks like he's ready to be an absolute steal. I don't know if Hermoso is above or below par defensively (paging @bosox4283 if he's willing), but Traore put some fear into him early and often.

To that point, the match had followed some kind of script, but just before half Atleti absolutely fell asleep on a set piece, that Barca had all day to rebound, with the final strike delivered by Araujo. I mean, the service from Alves was good, and so was Pique's initial header that went off the cross bar, but after that, half of the Atleti D doesn't move. The 2 nearest players go to stand in front of the net, which is fine, but all the far side defenders are just watching. I have no idea what the hell is going on over there, but I think most La Liga fans expected Atleti to challenge for the title this year. They haven't.

Just after half, Gavi combined well with FDJ and gets a cross in that gets dummied and ultimately cracked by Alves. Again, just poor defense from any side, let alone from one as established as Atleti. The goal is interesting because for large parts of the match (especially in the first half), Alba would push up to winger, Alves would tuck into a CMF role, and FDJ was the fulcrum by covering LCB for Alba. Here, Alba stays in defensive position and FDJ pushes into the half space to combine with Gavi. Alves is in a good starting position to take advantage of the dummy by Pedri (Ferran gets taken out hilariously on the play as well).

Barca conceded poorly on a set piece before the final big event of the match. Atleti had a strong 10 minutes after the Suarez goal, during which time Auba replaced Traore, and Nico came in for Pedri. Shortly after those subs, Atleti had an offside blown dead, and Alves for some reason stomped on the back of Carrasco's leg. Idiot move that rightfully earned him a red. Xavi reacted by subbing off Gavi in favor of Dest. I didn't watch the rest of the match as closely, but Barca mostly shut down Atleti after that. Not sure if Auba played out left, or if he was deployed centrally. Anyone know where I can find a heat map?
Hermoso is garbage, or is at least playing at a garbage level. He's not highly skilled and his recent bout of poor decision-making only compounds his mediocrity. It seems that Hermoso is averaging one horrendous clearance per match and at least one moment when you wonder how he got to this level. I mean, Adama played fantastically, but I knew and you knew and everyone knew that Adama was going to attempt to use his speed to play the ball toward the touchline and either cross or play a dribble toward goal. Hermoso seemed to be the only person who didn't know this.
 

dirtynine

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Zososoxfan

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Barca rescued a point of Luuk de Jong's head at the death in the Catalan derby yesterday. It's starting to shape up as a 3-team race for the 4th UCL spot between Betis, Barca, and Atleti. I didn't get to see much of the match, so will be curious to hear some analysis. Although it should be notes that Luuk's header came from a Traore cross--so more end product for the most fascinating player in the world. Pedri also got on the scoresheet from an Alba cross to open the scoring only a few minutes in. Barca plays Napoli in the UEL R16 on Thursday.
 

OilCanMDS

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Barca didn't look terrible, but they also didn't look as good as you would hope given their recent form and that they were playing against a mid table team. The offense did a decent job of keeping the ball in the attacking third, but there weren't many good chances generated. Gavi had a nice goal on a play that broke down, but it got called back because FDJ was offsides when the ball deflected off of him before going to Gavi.

Barca's issues mostly came from Araujo leaving due to injury and being replaced by Eric Garcia and then FDJ and Gavi getting subbed off for Nico and Dembele. Garcia looked terrible and was completely at fault for the second Espanyol goal. Gavi and FDJ getting subbed off resulted in much less creation from the left side and a much worse press when Barca turned the ball over. Dembele had one nice cross that I could remember, but was invisible for the most part. Nico was fine, but clearly a tier below FDJ and Gavi.

I know Dembele has been brought back into the squad, but with how much better Adama is at beating defenders off of the dribble and delivering the ball to the area in front of the goal I am not sure there is a spot for Dembele in this team. Gavi has been a much better complement at LW to Adama at RW because Gavi seems to be a better finisher than Dembele and is also better at controlling the ball in the box. When Adama and Dembele were both in, they both stayed outside of the box to try to create which resulted in one less player being in front of goal because Gavi was off. Hopefully, Depay will be back soon because I think he and Gavi would be a better LW rotation with Adama at RW. I think Dembele should only be on the field when Adama is off, which would ideally be never.
 

Zososoxfan

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Nice win over the weekend away at Valencia. Auba got going for the Blaugrana netting a hat trick, with 2 in the first half and a third to respond to Soler's goal early in the second half. Auba got the scoring started making a run against Valencia's high D line, and he showed a nice speed burst to receive Alba's ball over the top, and he finished real nice beating the keeper high to the near post. The defender also looks pretty bad on replay, as he followed Auba's run across the goal without looking back, so when Auba sees the ball in the air and adjusts to the ball being on his right foot, the defender has not only allowed him to receive the pass in the first place, but he's not between Auba and the goal. Alba got the hockey assist on Barca's second goal, with a similar but shorter ball over the top to Dembele streaking into the box on the right (very nice run from Dembele), who then crossed to FDJ first time for a tough tap in goal to double the lead. The third goal might be Xavi's favorite, as Busi switched the point of attack out to Dembele, who then combines with Dest quickly while Gavi makes a move into the box, receives the ball (in the box) with time and space, and he finds Auba alone in front of the net for a tap in.

Barca were a bit fortunate to have 2 Valencia goals chalked off--one for offside, the other for a ball going out of bounds. I'd say the latter was somewhat excusable as several Barca players stopped running because the ball was fairly obviously OOB, but the first goal was quite nice by Valencia and only the assister being a hair off kept the goal from counting. Auba's third was a fortunate deflection off a Pedri rocket that gave the keeper no chance.

The D is still suspect, but I'm not going to worry about that too much with Pique and Dani both out for this one. Rather, I'm encouraged by players not making their calling card mistakes (e.g. Auba timing his runs and staying onside, Dembele showing some confidence and control, and FDJ showing positional awareness), the contributors involved (everyone on the bench got into the game except for Abde, Puig (poor damn Puig), and Lord Martin), and the general movement and fluidity on offense.

Also, fuck Bordelas in the ear--he's a wannabe next-gen Mourinho. Aim high fella. You look like a dumb hipster.

Barca play Napoli in the return leg of their UEL matchup on Thursday.
 

OilCanMDS

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That was a pretty encouraging week from Barca. The defense looked a lot better the last few games, and I'm especially happy to see Dest fitting in since essentially no other young fullbacks have been on the team this season due to Balde constantly being injured (I don't think Mingueza is a real fullback). The midfield is looking great with Pedri out there and the forward line has looked really dangerous with the new additions.

One thing I found really interesting against Athletic was that Dembele and Adama looked good on the field together when Dembele replaced Ferran at LW. Last time they were both on the field, they both stayed close to the sidelines, like Adama did this time. However, Dembele was actually running into the box this time and it seemed like Athletic's defense wasn't concerned with stopping Dembele from moving forward, but rather the defense stayed on his right to block the cross. His goal was basically just carrying the ball forward until he could blast a shot near post (and it was a really nice shot), but I think most LBs would normally try to stay between the ball carrier and the goal. I think Athletic read Barca's gameplan as going wide to Dembele and Adama, which backfired when Dembele started going inside from LW. I'm not sure if that was Xavi's plan or if Dembele just took the space given to him, but it seemed like Dembele was focusing on going inside so I think it was Xavi's plan.
 

wonderland

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I caught parts of the Napoli-Barca match and it looked like Napoli was playing a man down. Barca was everywhere and created a number of chances. I thought it was an excellent performance in tough conditions.
 

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Some concrete reporting on Barca's interest and pitch to Haaland:

Last week it was 'De Telegraaf' that published that the president of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta, met with Jordi Cruyff, from the technical secretariat, with the player's agent, Mino Raiola, in Monaco. This morning, L'Esportiu de Catalunya reported that Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona coach, traveled this Tuesday to Munich to talk personally with Haaland in the Bavarian capital, where the star is recovering from his latest muscle injury. And this midday, journalist David Bernabéu revealed in detail on Deportes Cuatro the offer with which Barça is trying to seduce the striker.

Joan Laporta, in the meeting with Mino Raiola, offered him a five-season contract for 195 million euros gross to be paid in ascending order: 20 million in the first season, 30 in the second, 40 in the third, 50 in the fourth and 55 in the last.

The player's agent made it clear in the negotiation that he prefers a contract of 3 seasons plus two optional ones.


Barça's progressive offer is understood from the economic difficulties that the club still has and from which it is gradually coming out.

According to the aforementioned information, Raiola would have advised the player and his father to opt for Barça despite the fact that Manchester City and Real Madrid are still waiting.

With a contract until 2024, it will also be necessary to pay Borussia Dortmund an amount that would be around 80 million euros, an amount that the Norwegian would have stipulated in a kind of release clause signed in his contract.
https://www.mundodeportivo.com/futbol/fc-barcelona/20220303/1001759754/oferta-barca-haaland-detalle.html

There's another article floating around as well that Barca are looking at cheaper options at other positions of need (e.g. LWB) in order to make the offer to Haaland as lucrative as possible. Doing some back of the envelope math, that offer comes out to €384,000/week in the first year, and over €1M/week (!) in the final year. Not sure that my math is correct, but goddang!! I hope those are competitive numbers. If Raiola insists on the structure mentioned above, I would absolutely at least make a pitch using that framework (i.e. 3 years plus options) as well to the one already proposed.

My buddy and I were talking about Haaland last night, and the truth is all of his bona fide suitors are going to throw buckets of money at him, so it makes some sense that Haaland is likely looking at the sporting project, location, quality of life, and other things in addition to just straight comp. Does he want to play with Mbappe at Real? Does he want to live in Manchester/England and play under Pep? Does he prefer the beach vibes of Barca? I have no idea, but the thought of Haaland in Blaugrana makes the pants move. Flanked by Torres and Ansu, getting fed and combining with Pedri!??! Mama Mia!!
 

OilCanMDS

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Barca are good again, but I'm not sure they are this good. Real's game plan was kind of terrible and completely destroyed their midfield defense, which let Barca pick out passes and make runs all game.

In general, Barca have been playing a lot better with Auba, Torres and Adama/Dembele as the front three because they are putting a lot of pressure on the other teams defense, which is giving the midfield more space. The better pressure by the attack is also helping the defense look better because Barca is losing the ball farther up the field and in spots where it's easier for the midfielders and forwards to pressure immediately.

I don't think Barca are this much better than Real even without Benzema, but if they had this team to start the season they would probably be in the title race and still in champions league.
 

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Wow. Just wow. I didn't get to watch this closely, but did get to enjoy the unbridled exuberance. Game changer in terms of solidifying UCL position in the table, but perhaps more importantly in transfer recruitment. If you're pitching someone like say, Haaland, and you can point to an exciting project with excellent young players, a young manager who's showing real promise, and UCL football, well that's a helluva project.
 

Zososoxfan

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Immense win over Sevilla on Sunday. I didn't get to watch much as I was on the road, but I did see Dembele cut inside, and feed Pedri who did a ton of work before a surgical strike to the low corner from outside the box. Dembele's resurgence is baffling, but in Xavi we trust. There's still probably a x<5% of Barca catching Madrid for the title, but Barca are clearly going to qualify for UCL through the table, have a chance for some hardware in the UEL, and have real momentum they can pitch to players (read: Haaland).
 

Zososoxfan

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1-1 draw yesterday @Frankfurt in the UEL. I didn't get to watch the first half, which I heard was a cagey affair. But once Dembele came on for Gavi, Barca found their flow. The goal was pure Tiki Taka Barca goodness, with a big switch out to Dembele, who cuts inside, finds Frenkie at the top of the box with a nifty pass, FDJ one times a pass to Ferran, Ferran one touches it back, FDJ one touches it again to Ferran, and Ferran gets it out from under his feet for a nice finish from the penalty spot. Barca looked susceptible on the counter but that's always going to be the case to some degree and Pique came off at some point, so the backline was Araujo-Garcia-Lenglet.
 

OilCanMDS

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1-1 draw yesterday @Frankfurt in the UEL. I didn't get to watch the first half, which I heard was a cagey affair. But once Dembele came on for Gavi, Barca found their flow. The goal was pure Tiki Taka Barca goodness, with a big switch out to Dembele, who cuts inside, finds Frenkie at the top of the box with a nifty pass, FDJ one times a pass to Ferran, Ferran one touches it back, FDJ one touches it again to Ferran, and Ferran gets it out from under his feet for a nice finish from the penalty spot. Barca looked susceptible on the counter but that's always going to be the case to some degree and Pique came off at some point, so the backline was Araujo-Garcia-Lenglet.
I caught the game and the team seemed to be struggling with the field in the first half. I couldn't really tell if the field was just bad or the weather had affected it, but players seemed to be having trouble controlling the ball. Pique got injured while slipping on what looked like a bad patch of grass.

Frankfurt looked like the better team for most of the game, but it also looked like Barca realized they couldn't play their game with the field conditions and were more conservative than they have been lately. My guess is Camp Nou will be in great condition so Barca can go all out on attack in the second leg. I'm a little concerned about the defense if both Pique and Dest are out (along with Dani not being eligible for UEL), but hopefully Barca can hold the ball for most of the game to keep the defense from being tested if that's the case.
 

OilCanMDS

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While I think Xavi is a much better coach and fit for this roster than Koeman, I think the game today showed how much the players on the field impact the game regardless of the coach. Much like Real without Benzema, Barca without Pedri and Gavi looked lost on attack unless it was just a straight counter. There seemed to be no focus to the attack or central option beyond Auba whenever Barca tried to buildup attack. The team looked significantly different and much better as soon as Pedri and Gavi got on the field.

Please re-sign Gavi ASAP (I hope LaPorta or Alemany are members here).
 

Zososoxfan

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I've been a Dembele hater for a long time, but he also deserves serious credit for getting this attack flowing. He's finally getting final product from his work and he's such a threat from outside that he stretches the pitch. Ferran's goal yesterday was a thing of Barca beauty--he keeps the width on the left until the last possible moment, then cuts in at 90 degrees and strikes a beautiful header. Auba has been surprisingly effective as the center man, but it's hard not to dream about what a frontline of Ferran-X-Dembele, with Auba and Luuk de Jong (obviously) as the rotation pieces. As much as I love Adama, he's the odd man out here. All of this and I still haven't mentioned Ansu who might be the best of the bunch.

Pedri is already one of the best players in the world, full stop. And that's just bananas. It looks like he's moving in slo-mo but really the game is already so slow to him he always has an extra tick to find a pass. His touch and vision are already world class, and his nose for goal is improving quickly (at Xavi's suggestion).

Gavi is supremely talented and he reminds me of a young Iniesta. Andres started off as a wing in Barca's 4-3-3 but blossomed once he was put in the middle next to Xavi and Messi. Iniesta perhaps doesn't get quite the credit he deserves for being an alltimer, but he's basically the skillset between Xavi and Messi--sublime passing and vision, but also the ability to absolutely ghost a defender and finish or make the assist.
 

Zososoxfan

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Immense win yesterday over Sociedad, who was either 5th or 6th heading in. Pedri is out for the season, so Gavi took his place and really struggled against a strong Sociedad side. FDJ played very well in the first half but was quiet in the second. Barca scored a quintessential Barca scramble goal, meaning that the final move was still a nice lateral chip of the keeper by Torres (I think?) over to Auba who climbed the ladder for a nice header just inside the post. Lots of unusual subbing by Xavi today, with both starting CBs--Pique and Araujo--coming off for Lenglet and Garcia. Dest also came on for Dani Alves, who was getting beat by Sociedad's pace, and surprising talisman Luuk DJ came on in the 80th minute for 20 minutes of match play (yes, there was 10 (!!) minutes of added time).

With a 6 point lead and a game in hand over 5th place Betis, I feel pretty confident in Barca qualifying for UCL, now it's about seeding. Barca have a very easy schedule down the stretch, other than matchups against Betis and Villarreal. Any points against Betis in a couple of weeks might even clinch top 4. After that it's time for Xavi to refine the system and figure out which of the kids might figure into the squad next season.