Archive for the ‘Barcelona Offside’ Category

Hello, I am Geri Pique. This is an article I’ve been asked to write (just like they ask Cruyff sometimes!) proposing strategies to deal with the current crisis.  And I am very concerned. Very concerned indeed. Our defender situation, as you might have observed, is rather dire. Puyi’s gone off and had knee surgery, Alba has torn a muscle and Adriano is…well, Adriano, so he’s injured. That leaves just Masche, Dani and me. With Dani pretending he is Neymar, and Masche off to play in Bolivia at some insane altitude with the aid of hyperbaric chambers, it’s no wonder that my Barca teammates have been following me around with cushions all day. As MD sums up the situation so well…

(via mundodeportivo.com)

(via mundodeportivo.com)

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We never tire of stating the obvious and of using many words and valuable space to do so. And the fact that Barca doesn’t play its next game till a week later was a good opportunity for a quick dive into the archives to unearth some Pep Guardiola gems that are especially apt for the situation. So here goes.

1. Footballers are people

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That’s an old Pep quote. Taken from the Independent. Pep is usually correct, so we will take his word for it that our footballers are actually people and not precision automatons mass manufactured in La Masia underground genetic laboratory. Which usually means a certain degree of fallibility and fatigue however much we like to scream “we want to see 110% every game, against every opposition no matter how good, for the nth year running, irrespective of whether you have a coach or not!”. Sometimes it is hard to invest 110% if you are unsure of the plan and unsure if everyone is in sync in the first place.

Unsure of the plan? Let's just do what the ref is doing.

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Everything was carrying on as usual in Barca land. And then one fine sunny day in the beginning of February, Jordi Alba went to visit a friendly neighborhood doctor. He had a burning question and nobody was giving him a satisfactory answer.

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So what’s different between last season and this season so far, apart from Alba and attitude? It’s not like the injury curse has let up. And we still suck at defending set pieces, though there might be a marginal improvement in taking them (mainly because Dani has been banned from coming anywhere near a stationary ball). Cesc’s hairstyle has shown no improvement whatsoever, except to get him detained at Russian airports for looking suspiciously like he snuck in along with the cargo (come on, we all know the passport issue was just a front). Pique’s beard comes and goes, and Puyol’s curls remain as immaculate as ever. Sanchez is still unable to shake off his personal battle with gravity that he inherited from Bojan. And no one has banned Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Busi from playing together in the interests of fair competition. Yet. But there are some stark differences that we really ought to highlight, just so we can gain more insight about the game we all love.

1. The sideline show

Who can forget Pep gesturing frantically from the sidelines, his gestures growing increasingly animated with the number of goals Barca is leading by? Or Pep thwarting Xavi’s attempts to drink water with a series of urgent instructions? Or Pep giving Cesc a friendly shove for joking about the mental anguish of seeing Barca send a hundred and twenty seven chances evenly distributed to goal posts and crossbar? A quiet, introspective Pep would have had us all worried sick and taken out half the fun in watching a Barca game.

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So we decided to use this international break to conduct a Ballon d’Or RoundTable with some of the candidates because…well, why not? Yeah it is *cough* completely made up *cough* of course but we didn’t have anything better to do with our time, and it’s better than scouting for random goal celebration videos and spinning a story to go with it! Moreover, with Spain national team flying to Panama for a mid-week international friendly and Argentina national team flying to Riyadh for another mid-week friendly, it keeps our minds off the dreaded I-word anyway (image via @BarcaMorocco). So here goes!

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After a long-ish time, Barca get an entire week to do whatever it is that they do in training sessions without a mid-week game interruption. According to MD, this is the first week without a midweek game since start of the season, and if everything goes as planned in Champions League, likely the last till end of Hlebruary. Which does make it sound a rare event, you know, like a solar eclipse. Tito Vilanova gets to go off and eat paella and visit the cinema theater without trying to figure out a formation where Barca can play without any defenders.

 

So fellas, you couldn't possibly save us all a headache and make it 100% possession, could you?

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The international break is over. It’s that time of the season when players go off to play for their national teams and get the bad habits out of their system, like Masche’s proclivity to collect yellow cards with ARG, or Xavi’s and Messi’s sudden urge to get their free kicks just right. The players are back, we’d like to add safe and sound, but of course, it’s completely unheard of to have an international break without the FIFA virus striking. This time, the victims are Iniesta, who is out for 10-15 days with a right thigh muscle injury, and Alba, who is out temporarily with the flu.

For a recap, first, we’ll start with the free kicks. Just because, you know, it’s not straight at the wall or directed at the stars or kicked backwards as we’re accustomed to, but are two such perfectly rendered versions.

Xavi’s Free Kick vs Saudi Arabia

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We are thinking back to the last time we came up with a prediction. And there’s this unsettling feeling that it was during that couple of weeks that no one really wants to remember. It was something along the lines of – “Pep Guardiola is definitely not leaving Barca next season”. Yeah well. Any predictions before that, you ask? Yes, there was one for the second leg of Chelsea game in CL semis. And suffice to say it was nothing like how that turned out. So, with that confidence building exercise out of the way, here are our predictions for the upcoming Clasico.

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It has been quite a ride the last couple of weeks. A sinusoidal curve that peaked at the brink of competing very realistically for the treble and reached its nadir barely a week later after being knocked out of Champions League, losing La Liga to Real Madrid and of course, Pep Guardiola’s heart-breaking yet totally understandable decision. “In three games, we could be out of two competitions” Pep said then, and for once the Pepssimism ended up ringing true. Once again, as journalists hurry to write premature eulogies mourning the “end of an era” in an age where teams can be “the greatest ever” or “maybe not the best in the world currently” based on the outcome of a crucial game or two, we are merely amused. Well, we are usually amused by almost everything, so you can’t really go by that, and no one can really guarantee anything about the future, but sometimes you just don’t understand the exaggerated reactions, and it’s a little funny when definitions are applied to a work-in-progress. Judging by the media reactions, one would think we got knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages and finished eighth in the league. Semifinal – win – semifinal – win – semifinal?! Good Lord, the team has totally lost the plot! Clearly!

Guests at Cesc's birthday party are capable of giving any football team a run for their money.

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