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Showing posts with label F C Barcelona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label F C Barcelona. Show all posts

Dec 4, 2015

Apart from the jaw dropping thumping displayed by Barca players at the Santiago Bernebeu, this season's first Clasico delivered an even greater joy to fans - the return of Lionel Messi. After his return, he has already played two full matches - scoring three goals and assisting one. His hunger is mostly understandable especially when you return to action after almost a two month break. There also is a matter of personal pride, especially with Neymar and Saurez guiding the team brilliantly in his absence. Some people, mostly critics questioned whether Messi's return could complicate things for Barca and Luis Enrique. Messi in the last two matches defined why his return will elevate the team to another level and also showed that class which separated him from a brilliantly performing Neymar and Saurez.

Aug 1, 2013

Perseverance is a big word. An online dictionary defines it as "steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement." or may be more philosophically as "continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.". You still didn't get it, then Look at Jonathan Dos Santos. Yes, the same guy who was told in unequivocal terms last season that he was a surplus to the requirement; one who was referred to by club management as the one who refuses to leave; one whom the then coach Tito Vilanova refused to look up as an option even when injuries were mounting; one who in many Barca fans' opinions was destroying his career by staying at the club against the club wishes; also one who was eating club's money and doing nothing! Oh, yes! I have heard that many times. To be honest Jonathan Dos Santos was not responsible for people arriving at conclusions about him. He wanted to succeed at the club and he wanted to do it on his own terms. So he stayed back, waiting for a call which never arrived; hoping for a chance which went to everyone else. There were instances where Sergi Roberto made it into the squad but Jonathan stayed in the player's box. That was intended to send a firm message to him; he refused to accept. And now at the end, against all odds Jonathan Dos Santos stays. Jesus! it just happened.

Sep 15, 2008

There are early signs of desperation from FC Barcelona fans across the globe. Their desperation can be justified as the first two results of the season is not what they have hoped for. Especially the pre-season tour with Guardiola gave huge hopes of a complete revival. I have earlier written in those pre-season match reports that FC Barcelona may be flattering them by going by those matches. In all those matches they have showed huge defensive weakness; I do agree they scored more than twenty goals, but all of them were against weak defenses. Then came the Numancia match which went completely wrong for FC Barcelona. FC Barcelona was supposed to destroy Racing and show his intention; but that also does not happen. I have been criticized by many Barca fans for being too negative on Barca; but this time I feel rather positive about the draw against Racing Santander.

Racing was expected to play a defensive style and to Barcelona's credit they did break it on a number of occasions. Yup, you can argue that there was no end product to show for that. Guardiola did the right thing to give a wake up call for Henry and surprisingly Iniesta. Iniesta has been Barca's consistent performer since last season; but completely disappeared in the Numancia match. That looked like done the trick as Iniesta came as a substitute and was roaring down the left flank. Pedro and Busquests were simply revelation. If we analyse the match the best part of the match for Barca came after the break till the goal. FC Barcelona relentlessly attacked Racing and there were some frantic scenes at the Racing Goal mouth. All credits to Racing for not succumbing to that kind of pressure. But on a second analysis we can find that it was the tempo at which Barcelona played in that time made all those pressure. The pace was back and since they are the masters of one touch football they terrorised the defense. I have written in my earlier post titled Watch Out, Pep that if Guardiola is expecting to bring back the glorious times, he first need to bring back that pace and tempo. And we saw first signs of that in the Racing match. Sporting tie in Champions League can be seen as a test to whether they can consistently do the same.

If I am right, Barcelona won almost nine corners. But they could not make a decent chance out of the majority of them. Pep cannot allow this to happen for long. He should make sure that the opposition defense should concede a corner against Barcelona as the last option; not as the first option like it is happening now. Secondly he needs to encourage his players to get into the box more often. Many times very good crosses from Alves found no one as there was only Eto in there. At this moment I don't think we can do anything in the defense. The only option to make sure the defense is solid now is to keep the ball in the opposite half.

Sep 12, 2008

Rijkaard's two acquisition from the English Premier League was aimed at providing a genuine back up for the club's perennial poacher Samuel Eto. In the first case, that is arrival of Eidur Gudjonsen Rijkaard managed to upset Samuel Eto. In Henry's case it did upset Ronaldinho more than Samuel Eto. I am not stating here that Rijkaard brought these gentlemen to unsettle Eto. Eto was on all occasion one of Rijkaard's favourite; but these moves indeed did upset him. But very soon everyone understood clearly that these Gentleman cannot play a strikers role. Hnery's acquisition baffles everone as he prefers to play as a second striker or in the wide left. The wide left option was filled by Ronaldinho at that time and Henry could only be expected to play a second fiddle to him.

But these all are things in the past. Ronaldinho has moved to A C Milan since then and FC Barcelona have made a series of acquisition to strengthen the squad. Keita, Pique, caceres, Alves all joined the new Barca of Guardiola. But the question in everyone's mind would be - "Is that enough for Barca?" Mr.Txiki has indicated that FC Barcelona essentially needs to strenghtenn the far left position with the departure of Ronaldinho. Arshavin, Silva etc were discussed as a possible signing to cover that void. But my firm belief is that the void which was left was at the front of the formation. Simply put we don't have anyone to look up to in that substitute bench as a replacement for Eto. There is no one who can be called a genuine centre striker. Bojan is nearest we have in that position; but then he is too young and inexperienced to handle the role alone. If Eto is able to remain injury free for the majority of the season, FC Barcelona may not even find the need for a replacement. But in these hectic schedule that could be like asking too much. Bojan needs his time to learn the full aspect of the game. If you look at the squad we have replacement for almost all the position baring Centre Striker and Right Back. Atleast in Puyol we can have a make shift RB who can do the job atleast 50% of the time. But we canot ask the same to anyone in that Centre Striker role. Henry is no good and looks much more comfortable in far left; Gudjonsen looks more comfortable in midfield; Messi, his position is far right and there is no sense in making a move to centre of the attacking formation. A Pavylichenko or a Berbatov would not have hurt; but then atleast till the mid season transfer market opens we cannot expect a decent centre striker. For that to happen, the management should change their Transfer Policy. They should concentrate on the best player they can buy for that position, not the best star they can buy for the club. We really have enough stars already.

Sep 2, 2008

Sport.es reports that Guardiola gave the players a piece of his mind after their dissappointing performance at Numancia.Guardiola is reported to have understood from early on that the players were not performing according to the plan. he was mostly worried about Messi who drifted to the centre to anchor the attck. Now this surprises me as Messi was forced to shift his position after he was losing all the one on one with Numancia defenders from the right. Guardiola was also critical particularly about Iniesta, who according to him completely lost his positioning sense and Alves who didn't come forward enough. Its good to hear that Guardiola is taking these seriously and trying to solve the problem as early as possible. But he needs to add a bit more versatility as I mentioned in my last post The way Forward.

But sadly for Guardiola he only have a limited number of his players to work with now - Valdes, Pinto, Alves, Víctor Sanchez, Sylvinho and Eto'o. Messi has already joined the Argentinian squad; Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and Bojan were called up for Spain; Henry and Abidal for Spain; Hleb, Gudjonsen, Caceres, Keita, Toure all are been called up for their respective teams. The pleasant fact is that mostly Bojan would make his debut for Spain this time around. Seeing the way Ronaldinho performed in the last match for Milan; let's hope all these players get enough motivation to play well for their country and club.

London based media centers were too happy to pounce on to FC Barcelona's defeat to lowly Numancia. Now that reaction from a media dedicated to a different league does reiterates the fact that a FC Barcelona revival is one thing these guys really fear. All these media houses were more than happy to see FC Barcelona failing to carry forward their pre-season form. For all the flair of the best team in England, Manchester United did fear a completely out of sort FC Barcelona last year. To the build up of that game the analysts actually predicted a drubbing of FC Barcelona by Ronaldo and Company (These are the same guys who equated Rooney to Pele, now which does not surprise isn't it?). So it is better to discard the match report and analysis these guys are bringing.

But there are some worrying signs for FC Barcelona. Firstly it comes from the Manager itself. Guardiola attributed the failure to a system Numancia played - "they put ten man on the ball and it is hard to break". I do agree that this was the truth and Numancia's game plan. But doesn’t he know about this? For the last two season every team whether big or small are doing this to us with very great success. In Camp Nou we were able to use the width of the pitch and the home crowd’s passion to overcome this, but away from home we simply failed to do anything about it. This has been happening for the last two seasons and is looking like to continue for some time also.

FC Barcelona under Rijkaard always played the fast, silky kind of football. This became the trademark of our style and no one wants the team to discard this style. Barcelona as a club always believed in playing football in a particular way and that connot be and need not be changed. But Guradiola cannot for once put everything behind this style. The problem with FC Barcelona attack is that they are very predictable. None of the players will try something new. So it becomes easy to defend. Look at what Numancia did; the moment Barcelona goes forward they crowd themselves in and around the box. There is a 90% guarantee that FC Barcelona midfielders or defenders will not try the long range shots even though they have guys like Marquez, Xavi and Toure who can do that well. This were Guardiola needs to immediately look into - he needs to make sure that there is a plan B which can be used when nothing else is working. Some long range shots would at least draw some defenders out of the box and that could open up the space.

The second matter Guardiola needs to look into it is the lack of tempo on attack. FC Barcelona during the early part of Rijkaard era played the most exciting style of football. One aspect of that was the speed with which it was played. They regularly caught the defense off-guarded through their skill and most importantly speed. The Ronaldinho goals in Bernabeu were prime examples of these. He needs to look into thios in training session. In the Numancia match also the moment Bojan and Hleb came we looked more potent in attack; because they were able to instill huge pace into proceeding. In this aspect he has to make a decision whether a not so full fit and agile Henry needs to start or not? These two aspects need to be addressed in the training grounds. There is no need to panic about this defeat; but there surely a need to introspect the team. I haven't touched upon the defensive issues here as it does not look like is going to have an easy solution. A replacement for Abidal needs to be looked in. But for the time being FC Barcelona needs to concentrate more on the offensive versatility. Our strength always has been the amount of clear cut chances we created and they look like drying up. Pep, its time to act now.

Aug 29, 2008

Barcelona's Champions League OpponentsBarcelona could not have asked for more. They along with Chelsea got the easiest groups. I would say Barcelona's group looks like the easiest of all. Barcelona is in Group C along with the likes of F C Basel, Sporting Lisbon and F C Shakhtar Donetsk. The draw looks like a cake walk for Barcelona but then we should never forget what Wisla did to us. In contrast to Barcelona, the other Spanish sides were not so lucky. Real Madrid is placed in a group which could become very tricky along with Zenit, Juventus and BATE. If Zenit and Arshavin can recreate some of the magic which made them UEFA cup champions, then that group surely is destined to see some surprise. Villareal who finished 2nd last season ahead of Barcelona also got into a messy group along with Defending champions Manchester United, Celtic and the Danish side Aalborg BK. Celtic has shown it many a time recently that they are very capable of competing against the best in Europe. Athletico Madrid is paired with Liverpool, PSV and Marseille. This is also a potential trouble some group especially considering the way Liverpool qualified. Let’s take a look at Barcelona's opponents in group stage.

F C Basel is the defending Swiss Super League champions; Their Home jersey is almost same as the present Barcelona Home jersey. F C Basel was knocked out of the Uefa Cup tie last season by Sporting Lisbon. They usually play a 4-5-1 formation and are renowned for playing a attacking style of football. That should make it easy for Barcelona. Their major players are Marco Streller, Franco Costanzo (gk), Carlos Alberto Alves Garcia commonly known as Carlitos and Ivan Ergic. Sporting Lisbon along with Benifica and Porto formed the big three of Portugal. But in contrast to Benifica and Porto, they were never that successful in Europe. They finished second to F C Porto in Portuguese League. Like Barcelona Sporting's youth academy has churned out some serious talents like Figo, Ronaldo, nani, Quaresma etc. Their squad includes the likes of Moutinho, Postiga, Vladimir Stojkovic, Fabio Rochemback, Anderson Polga etc. FC Shakhtar Donetsk is the defending Ukranian league champions. Their major players include Brandao, Darijo Srna, Vyacheslav Shevchuk and Luiz Adriano.

At least on paper we have almost got a place booked for knock-out stage. But complacency and lack of attention could be Barcelona's greatest enemy. As Laporta said "On paper it looks like a manageable group, but we have enough experience to know we need to be attentive and not over-confident. We have to respect all our rivals and work hard."

Aug 20, 2008

The way our defense conceded the goal against Boca Juniors raises many questions. The biggest of it all will be whether our defense will stand tall against quality opponents. If we look carefully at the personals employed in Barcelona defense namely Puyol, Marquez, Caceres, Pique, Alves, Abidal, it is really hard to understand this defensive mess. Most of them are the best you can get in their respective position. But even then when they form the haunted Barcelona defense they start to make the silliest mistakes. I don't think Guardiola could hire anyone more to strengthen the defense. But still he cannot afford to look away to these inherent problems.

Our defense was one of the weakest in terms of defending the aerial ball. It was like that for some season. Even when we won the Champions League and the La Liga title in 2006, we were very susceptible in air. To overcome that Rijkaard bought Zambrotta, Abidal, Toure and Thuram. Rijkaard went but the defensive susceptibility to aerial ball remained intact. These all gentlemen when they play for their respective national sides looks so assured in air but not with Barcelona. If you add to this the way we have conceded goals against lesser known opponents in the pre-season, we could be in for more trouble. But the way we conceded the goal against Boca Juniors raises serious concerns. In that goal the entire defense moved to cut off one person opening up two Boca Juniors players who only had Pinto to be beaten. A similar goal was scored in our pre-season also; I don't remember which team scored against us. In that case also the entire defense moved together to cut off a cross from left apparently leaving players unmarked in the far right post. These problems did not feature in any reports as Barcelona was comfortably out-scoring other teams. But against quality opponents this could be the difference in winning and losing the match. So the first task for Guardiola is to install some discipline in defense in terms of man-marking. It is easier said than done. But he needs to address this to turn this team into world beaters again. This should also some what negate the serial vulnerability.

The second problem for Barcelona especially last season was our inability to score from corners. Many top notch sides were content in conceding corners against us. Manchester United semi final clash was a prime example. Will they do the same with other teams like Chelsea, Milan etc? Absolutely not. Usually any defense concedes a corner only if they have no other option, but against Barca that is their first option. In majority of last season game the number of corners ran to two digits. But their conversion rates were appalling. Another problem was the lack of an alternate plan. Everyone knows how Barcelona plays - a series of slick short passes. But sometimes this comes as a cropper, in such a scenario the team lacks a secondary plan which can be at least used to unsettle the opponents. Guardiola seriously have to decide who is going to take those free kicks. He has to designate the task to two persons so that they can take more effort in getting those on target.

Aug 18, 2008

VXavi HernandezXavi Hernandez Creus today is celebrating his tenth anniversary of debuting for Barcelona. On 18th August 1998, Xavi made his first team debut against Mallorcain the first leg of Spanish Super Cup final. He capped the wonderful debut with a goal. Xavi has been with Barcelona all through his life. He joined Barcelona at the age of eleven.He started receiving attention pretty early. He was a key member in the F C Barcelona B team which won promotion in to Second division in 97-98 seasons.At present Xavi is one of the three captains Barcelona is having. His significance and contribution can be judged by the fact how Barcelona played against Boca with and without him. He created both the Goals which ensure Barcelona's hold on John Gamper trophy. So in other word he gave that as a present to himself and the fans for celebrating his tenth anniversary. Xavi has to be said is at the peak of his career. He is a worthy successor to his coach Joseph Guardiola and was adjudged the best player of Euro 2008. He was instrumental in organising Spanish defense and along with his team mate Iniesta led Spain to a well deserved European Championship. Xavi was instrumental in the Barcelona side great run from 2004-06. One of the most remembered goals of those times was the one he scored against Madrid to take Barcelona to second and start a revival.

Any hope of Barcelona revival and dreams of achieving the heights of 2005-06 seasons could only be possible on this rather short man's shoulder. Ronaldinho and Deco have gone and he needs to form a great partnership with Messi, Iniesta and Eto to take Barcelona again to those heights. One thing that can be guaranteed is his commitment and hard work for the same. As one of the captain he needs to marshal other team mates around him for the same. Then considering Xavi's nature and will, it has to be said that Barcelona's future lies in safe hands. Let's wish him the best so as to continue the good works for the time to come.

Jul 14, 2008

Should Ronaldinho go to Beijing?My friend Nic, from Fcbnews.com has written a post about Ronaldinho's decision to skip the first team training and instead join the Olympic preparatory camp with a very controversial title More Indiscipline from Ronaldinho. Barcelona has stated from the start that they will not let their star players leave for low-key affairs like Olympics. Many Barcelona fans at FCBNews also hold on to the same argument of Olympics being a low key affair. They point out that why you should represent your team when football is not going to take the centre stage. This is pretty odd, what are they calling a low key affair; Olympics - It is the biggest sporting spectacle in the world. If football takes a backstage in Olympics then that is precisely because of the enormous scale of the event. With the same argument why should a player like Hleb participate in World cup or Euro qualifiers, when he precisely knows that his team is the weakest in the line? Do these stop them from fighting for their country?

Let me conclude about the situation in Barcelona before getting into the bigger picture. Who is responsible for this Olympic mess? I have only one answer - Pep Guardiola. He was the one who insisted that he will not let Messi join the Olympics. He made it so tough for the kid, that he could only conjure the courage to state his decision when he was in Argentina. Pep's statement of not including Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto in the scheme of things did add fuel to fire. Till that statement was made, Ronaldinho never stated any intention of going to Beijing. Pep is giving a great impression of being an absolute disaster in man managing. If his idea is to bulldoze through his troubles, I have to warn him now that he could be in for some troubled ride. He needs to be decisive but in matters he can control. His insistence for not letting Messi go to Beijing was stupid, as the club was bound to let him go. The club's and coach’s insistence should have made life somewhat miserable for Messi. But Ronaldinho's case is somewhat tricky. It cannot be judged or analyzed in the same way as Messi's case. Barcelona as a club does not have to release Ronaldinho to national duties. But does Barcelona have the moral authority to ask him to stay? Absolutely no; especially when it is been publicly stated that he is not in the future plans of Barcelona. The club has been insisting insane amounts for his departure. Ronaldinho might have been two time world champion but his present form is a shadow of the past. He is over weight and not fit. Instead of trying to off load him to the best place which can afford him, Barcelona still insist on high price. They conveniently for got that this is the same player who in just three years turned back the club once again in winning ways. A player of Ronaldinho's capabilities should not be insisted to play reserve games and it looks like that could be in Pep's scheme of things. Ronnie has been indulged in excessive partying last season and precisely that was because of Barcelona's inability to discipline the player. But now its clear that he could only renovate himself at some other place. Ronaldinho by making the decision to stay in Brazil could be sending a signal to Barcelona to lower their asking price with Milan. He will be fined for sure, but if they can't off load him that is going to split the dressing room. Now is Barcelona justified for asking that high price? Again the answer is no. Why? Because he is a shadow of the WPOY. So Milan obviously will have doubts about going for him; if he was that good now, will Barcelona ever think of selling him? Barcelona fans have been asking Ronnie to show loyalty and report back to club. Yes, I do agree that he is bound to do that by contract. But this cry of loyalty is same as the one we heard when Santos signed for Totenham. You have to show loyalty at places where you are respected. In both these players case Pep and company never showed any kind of respect. If Barcelona is paying insane amount to Ronaldinho, that is because they wanted to keep him here a year ago. Don't portray a scene of Barcelona doing some kind of charities to these players. In this backdrop I completely disagree with the post titled More Indiscipline from Ronaldinho by Nic. We all are fans of this wonderful club, but that should not make us shut our ears on the other side of the story.

Now to the bigger picture, if you look the whole scene there are a number of players who are insisting that they wanted to represent their countries in Olympics. In Europe and South America it's the U-21 and U-20 championship which serves as the qualifier for Olympics. In rest of the world they have Pre-Olympic tournament which serves as qualifiers. Brazil and Argentina qualified from CONMEBOL. From Europe it was Serbia, Italy, Netherlands and Belgium who qualified. The tournament it its form is an U-23 event and allows a maximum of three players who are over the age of 23 to be included in the squad. Surprisingly In South America, there is a rush of seniors trying to get into the side, whereas their European counterparts are least interested. This makes the entire event a low key affair as far as Soccer is concerned. The usual reasons given by the senior players in Europe are of course the stress it is going to cause them. But surprisingly more and more players from South America see it as a pride to represent their country at the Olympics. There is no sporting spectacle as big as the Olympics. If there is a concept of a sporting event being "More than just some sport or games" it is this. The likes of Federer and Nadal are jumping into the Olympics squad. Federer sees it as a moment of immense pride to carry the National flag at the Olympics. Most of the stars of other team events would die to represent their countries at the Olympics; but not the footballers - especially the Europeans. They all are interested in playing for their clubs and making sure that they have an injury free season ahead. Europeans club are fighting among themselves to see how many players they can stop from going to Olympics. On this backdrop the International Olympics Committee should take steps to counter these greedy clubs. They should make it mandatory for FIFA to get the three over-aged players listed in the squad released from club duties. Actually try to raise the number of over-aged players; then we will know the real spirit of European footballers. These over-paid players will never like to share and stay with other mates in an Olympic Village.

Jul 8, 2008

End of Road for LaportaIt looks like Laporta escape from the "No Confidence" motion is going to be short lived. Sport.es has broken an exclusive story in which they claim that Laporta will resign from his post on Thursday. This is after the majority on the board threatened to resign if Laporta continued. First vice-chairman, Albert Vicens is expected to take over from Laporta. This is done to ensure that there is no instability in the club especially considering that Guardiola is building his team from scratch. An election now will put on hold all the transfers and that could seriously jeopardise Guardiola's plans. On that backdrop this comes as a sensible decision, even then one is left to wonder whether the Board has no responsibility in all this mess. If 67% disapproves of Laporta, it effectively means the same does about the Board. I firmly believe that Once the season commence the Board should resign and commence fresh elections. Otherwise this board may not have the moral authority to take tough decisions.

What are the other news - the biggest is the announcement of Zenit about the end of negotiations with Barcelona for Arshavin. Barcelona offered 15 million euros for the Russian star, but Zenit valued him at close to 25 million. In an interview to 'Sport Express', Arshavin confirmed this fact; but he also reiterated his decision to leave Zenit. Soon we could find Arshavin playing in English Premier League. Meanwhile Hleb has launched an amusing attack against Wenger and Fabregas. Hleb said his first preference is Barcelona and was very unhappy with the way Wenger has handled him. Hleb's rebuke against Fabregas should be justified as he has no right to poke his head in other's business. He accused Barcelona for going after Hleb and Adebayor; but looks like conveniently forgotten the way he signed for Arsenal. But Hleb's outburst should give enough indication of him being moving to Barcelona pretty soon.

Jun 5, 2008

Martin Caceres has officially become the third player Barcelona have signed this season. The young Uruguay defender was signed for a whooping 16.5 million euros. The 21 tyear old signed a deal which will keep him at Nou Camp for the next four years, which also include a buy-out clause of 50 million euros. Caceres becomes the 11th Uruguayan player to represent Barcelona. Caceres started his club career with Defensor Sporting Club in Montevideo, Uruguay. In february 2007, he was signed by Villareal for five years. Villareal subsequently loaned him out in the 2007-08 season to Recreativo de Huelva. His performance at Recreativo was enough for Barcelona to take notice of him.

For Barcelona he represent a long term investment. Usually defenders improve with age and this 21 year old is set to guard Barcelona defense for sometime. With his signing Barcelona can consider to have covered the void left by an injured Milito.

May 28, 2008

Gerrard Pirue Signs For BarcelonaGerrard Pique Bernabeu signed a four year deal with Barcelona which sees him back in the club where he started his youth career. It’s rumoured that Barcelona has to pay a fee of 6 million Euros in order to sign the defender. Gerard Pique has traditionally played in the centre back but can be used as a Left Back or a Defensive Midfielder. His height should give him superiority in the air, which Barcelona is lacking for some time. Pique is the grandson of former Barcelona director Amador Bernabeu. His surname did confuse me because of the similarity with former Madrid president Santiago Bernabeu. Pique was a member of the Barcelona youth team and grew up along with Messi and Fabregas. In 2004 Barcelona was reportedly unhappy and furious with Manchester United snatching him from their hands. Pique dismissed Barcelona's frustration saying that he was ill treated by the club after he decided to move away from Barcelona. Has anybody assured him about a better treatment this time needs to know :-)?

Gerard Pique went after the money when he decided to sign for Manchester United. He actually was convinced by Ferguson to sign up for ManU ahead of Arsenal. In the next season he was loaned out to Zaragoza and stayed back in ManU getting a little bit of first team action. Ferguson considered him as a good back up for his defenders and Pep also has to use him the same way. There was huge debate among Barcelona fans circle about Barcelona not getting anything from Pique's signing with Manchester United. But now Barcelona has to cough up 6 million to get him back. Barcelona still has to sign a quality defender as a back up for injured Milito. I don't think Pique could fill in his boots. But he could be a good back up player. His buyout clause is set at 50 million baffles me, is he that good player? Anyway as far as Manchester United is considered he was a good business, they made money from him while loaning him out and now selling him to Barcelona. Is this a good trend, I don't Know?

May 27, 2008

Keita moves to BarcelonaNow its official, Seydou Keita has become the first Malian to wear a Barcelona shirt. Barcelona paid the 14 million Euros release clause in Keita's contract to Sevilla. He signed the contract which will officially see him in the club until end of June 2012. The release clause has been set at a whooping 90 million Euros. The Mali international has thus become the first signing after Guardiola took charge. He may soon see his team mate Alves joining him at Barcelona. Keita has also become the ninth African player to join Barcelona.

Keita started his top flight footballing career in 1999-2000 seasons at Olympique Marseille. But shortly he was transferred to FC Lorient, where he completed his transformation to a quality defensive midfield player. Then he moved to RC Lens in the 2002-03 seasons. The 2006-07 seasons were so productive for him in terms of goals and success - he scored 11 goals in 37 games. But Lens has to let him go reluctantly after Keita reached an agreement with Sevilla. He continued the good work in Sevilla also scoring four goals from 31 games. But his ability, skill and his track record with buy-out clauses should be the reason why Barcelona has set a huge release clause for him. Whatever this one is a quality striker. he will be able to fill into the shoes of Edmillson and cover the great void in midfield. But how Guardiola is going to use both Yaya and Keita together is to be seen. Keita and Yaya both are quality players and will demand regular first team actions. Add to this Xavi and Iniesta who will be the driving force in Midfiled, Guardiola might be in for something.

May 23, 2008

Giovani Leaving BarcelonaGiovani Dos Santos looked like a completely baffled man. At least his recent comments as quoted by media give us an impression of a very confused person. From the moment Barcelona's season started going, all the fingers started pointing on him along with Ronaldinho. It was said that he will never be able to make a switch to first team action. His hardships were increased by the fact that his colleague Bojan, who was promoted along with him, looked like cemented his position. He has scored only four goals throughout the season compared to Bojan's eleven. he could only manage ten La Liga starts compared to Bojan's fourteen. He had to wait till the last game to get into the La Liga goal books, even though he did that is style. Barcelona fans and media are searching for scapegoats at every nook and he appears to be one of their favourite now. Before the start of this season, he was linked to a number of clubs but he came forward and declared that his future is with Barcelona. At that time that was hailed by Barcelona fans and used to question Fabregas' decision. But at the end of the season it looks like Giovani might be regretting his decision.

Many Barcelona fans have already written him off as an over rated players. True that he came to the team as the next Ronaldinho; but expecting that he will turn around the fortunes of the club was too much. Everyone seems like forgetting the fact that this is his first season and not interested in giving him some breathing space. I do agree with the fact that Bojan had made more impact than Dos Santos in the first season; but how can you write him off just because his first season didn't come off that well. Bojan has been more consistent among the two and also have been more effective. But isn't it because he get a chance to play more in his natural positions. Most of his goals are from simple tap in; I do agree that he has a great positioning sense and a great goal scoring instinct. Giovani is a different player to Bojan; he fits more into the playmaker style of role than the striker. Many times this season he seemed lost when he started in the lineup. But isn't it natural in a maiden season. Even Messi in his first season gave an impression that he cannot shoot to save his life. The fact that he made his debut in a difficult season should not be held against him. Already suggestions are made to send him on loan to another club so that he can gain experience. I don't understand this theory, why Barcelona is a bad place to earn experience? Giovani has shrugged off this suggestion; many consider this as arrogance. But I would like to consider this as a testimony to his tough character. He has categorically stated that, if he leaves it will be forever. He looks like a kid with tough character and a great belief in him. If Barcelona decides to sell him in the end it would be a sad day for the club and its youth system. It also sends the wrong signals to youngsters that First team will not be accommodative for the young talents. Secondly I am totally convinced about his talents and is absolutely sure that he will make Barca pay for such a mistake. But I have a feeling Barcelona is strongly considering to sell him, otherwise with so much rumours floating Barcelona board would have backed him. Maybe they are waiting for the right price.

May 22, 2008

Usually when you think about rating the best goals of the season, there always exist a chance that you may go bad, especially with Barcelona. But not this time friends, not this time. It was pretty easy. There were only a handful of goals which can be considered, and picking the best was as easy as it gets. This is my list and if I have missed some please let me know. I have short listed three goals, with Henry, Eto and Ronnie making their presence . Its a pity I could not include the best player of this season - Iniesta in the list. The list starts in the reverse order.


3) Third in the list is Eto's goal against Mallorca in a 2-0 victory.





2) Henry features on the list at number 2 with this stunning strike against Celtic in that thrilling 3-2 victory.


1) Who can be in the top position - Ronaldinho. With this unbelievable goal against Athletico Madrid. Barcelona lost the match 4-2.





May 9, 2008

ivy7y6aydmbrt8o5qo2z.jpgI cannot remember a person who has been ridiculed more than Frank Rijkaard in the last two years, on a second thought may be George Bush. With Real Madrid humiliating Barcelona, supporters and media are jointly after him. He could be the most hated person in Barcelona at this moment. With John Laporta announcing yesterday that Rijkaard will be replaced by Pep Guardiola from July 1st; now its time to pay homage to a great gentleman and a wonderful coach who has given us so much. If you give a thought to why he is being ridiculed so much, its all his own mistakes; yes he has done enough managerial blunders, used players in unimaginable positions but that's not what I am referring to. He gave us a team which after a long time was feared and respected across the world, especially in Europe. You want proof, look at the way Manchester United (the in form most attacking team of present) played against an out of form, out of sort Barcelona. If he is being ridiculed for his managerial skills, it’s because through his initial three seasons he made us forget all the failures of the past.

Rijkaard was a legend as a player. He started his career as a Central Defender at Ajax, moved to Sporting CP then to Real Zaragoza and from their to A C Milan. It was at Milan, Rijkaard became a legend at his favorite position of Holding Midfield. He has been an inspiration to a lot of Holding Midfield players like Vierra etc. His credentials as a player was never in question but his previous managerial records were. Prior to Barcelona he coached Sparta Rotterdam, where he earned the insane reputation of taking the club to relegation first time in his history. His coaching stint with Dutch national team was a much better one, leading the side to Euro 200 semi finals. Hence, when Barcelona gave him the job in 2003-04 season there were pretty huge noises around him. Rijkaard bought Ronaldinho and Edgar Davids that season, but the rest of the squad consisted of many under achieving players who had failed to win a trophy since 1999. Those who are too critical about Rijkaard's two trophies less season should remember that this is not the first time we are suffering this. That season’s start was disappointing with many in media and fans asking for his resignation. Laporta has to be commended here for not listening to the media, particularly when the team was so close to the relegation zone. Those times ESPNSTAR never telecasted Spanish La Liga in India and the only way I could follow the game was through internet. It was heart breaking to get up every morning and read how bad your team performed. But in the second half of the season Rijkaard turned around the club. The team started wining one after another and finished second with a terrific win at Bernabeu. Still remember the Xavi goal set up by Ronaldinho in the dying moments. The next season he would completely revamped team, the old guards were let off and new players were bought in. Players like Deco, Eto, Edmillson, and Marquez combined well with Ronaldinho to win two consecutive La Liga title. The next season he became the only coach to win twice at Bernabeu when Ronaldinho destroyed Madrid. This was a feat even the likes of Cryuff, Van Gaal, Aragones could not achieve. That year he gave the most beautiful present for a Barcelona fan - the Champions League success. Frank Rijkaard with his coaching style turned Barcelona to the most respected side in history. The next two seasons was terrible with winning no trophies. I would attribute it to a lack of effort by players and blunders made by Rijkaard.

As a player Rijkaard was a very temperamental. He once even spat at Rudi Voller. But as a manager he was clam and stable. Even when he had to encounter the bad boy of football - Mourinho, he displayed unbelievable grace. In an era the basic understanding of coaching is mental destruction of opponents by pre press conference sledging, he conducted himself very well. He gave respect to his opponents, event though I believed in last two season he made a habit of taking small clubs lightly. He gave us two La Liga and One Champions league title; but his greatest achievement is the encouragement he gave to the youngsters who came out of Youth academy. He gave enough chance to youngsters; if he could not deliver a Copa Del Rey trophy it was mainly due to the fact that he saw that as a stepping stone for youngsters to the big football. In his time the likes of Messi, Iniesta, Bojan, and Giovani all came out of the youth academy. Every Barcelona fans now looks forward very enthusiastically towards club’s youth system. His last two seasons were not that great, actually terrible if we go by the first three seasons. But no one can deny the fact that he was among the most successful coach Barcelona has ever seen. When you consider this has happened with the likes of Van Gaal, Wenger, Ferguson; you have to accept that there is nothing unnatural in these failures. He might have been a little lenient in training and this could have led to his downfall. But have to sympathize with him because the same approach was giving results the earlier season. Now it’s the time to move on - for both Rijkaard and the Club. It's a responsibility for each Barcelona fans to farewell him with respect he deserved. So keep your white Handkerchiefs in the pocket and get up on your feet and applaud this wonderful gentleman and wish him all the success for the future.

As a Barcelona fan I have only one thing to say
"Thank You Frank, You've been Fabulous."

May 2, 2008

Txiki Begiristain, the Barcelona director of football, has given ample indications of the changes lying ahead of the team. He said and I qoute here "“The poor performances make changes an obligation”. Now we have to make an analysis, and the decisions will be made at the send of the season.Getting to Moscow would not have changed any of things we have decided. We don’t improvise, neither before, or after. Everything is ready but needs time. The changes will come in the end”. Barcelona fans and media were ringing up the decibels to see some changes in the side and if we can read between his lines then we might be inline for some big changes at the end of season. Txiki Begiristain in this interview have made it clear that its the players who need to be blamed for this abyssmal situation, not the board or the official. It would be easy for him to say that, but how much media and fans are going to buy into his assesment is a big question. Barcelona board indeed is as responsible as the players and the coach in this situation. They have let lose the players, which naturally have backfired when the players started to have off seasons. Let's take the example of Ronaldinho, he has been accused of drinking a lot and getting indulged in too much of parties and all. But the truth is he has been doing this from the begining itself. Two seasons ago also he might have partied the same way he has been doing this season. Nobody complained or raised an eyebrow then, why now? Everybody started to question his dedication when he started to have off season. The truth is Barcelona board and official never found the necessity of getting the acts together. Its easy to say that "we have a problem" when everything is going wrong, but it takes immense courage to stand up and say the same when everything was going great. if Barcelona board took a little interest in the state of affairs in the team, this moment would not have come.

When quizzed about Rijkaard's future, he has this to say "Rijkaard has done an extraordinary job, he is an honest club man. He has to find a way to end the season in a dignified fashion and remind us of the things he has won. This is the time for intensity and unity in the four remaining games.” Now that gives enough indication of where Rijkaard will be next season - Out Of The Club. But there are enough indications given that Txiki might be hitting the panic button too hard. His comments on new players who will be brought in is kind of tricky - ” It seems the club is looking for a new kind of player. The new players will have to offer immediate results. They have to be prepared, be mentally strong and able to lead and perform through difficult times”. Now that rush to turn things on its head might derail the syatem completely.

Apr 21, 2008

Should Henry Start against Manchester United?With Manchester United arriving at Barcelona, all the focus now shifts to the first leg Champions league semi final tie. Barcelona with their above average performance against Espanyol seriously raises some hopes among Barca supporters. Yes, i do agree that we couldn't score a goal, but altogether we played well in that match. But it looks like all the good work from the match will be spoiled by the players like Eto who finds the perfect timing to deliver another stupid outburst. Anyway leave that let's come to the topic. There has been numerous theory running around the net about Barcelona's starting eleven for Wednesday. This is my attempt to add more confusion into already whirling pool.

One of the major questions in most of the Barcelona supporters mind is "Will Thierry Henry start?" There are too many people not in favour of it and some who is in favour of it. The major fact put forward by those who supports the inclusion of the French striker, is his vast experience and success in English Premier League. He should be more adapt in dealing with an English opponent that any other in the squad. But those who are not in favour with his inclusion quickly may point out the tons of failure and disappointment from Henry this season. His arrival was supposed to give Barcelona more strength and valor in taking down the big clubs in Europe. But the truth is that he has not yet made the transition to Spanish style of play. Most of the time he looks completely confused on the ground and his recent complaining of he being played out of his position will not go well with Catalan supporters. Now comes the question of what I think about Henry starting the lineup? My answer is an absolute no. But let me re assure you all that the above mentioned facts are not the primary reason for me arriving at this decision. One thing is sure that Henry is nowhere at his best and if he start may play well, but why to take a chance?

If you look at Manchester United defense their perceived weakness lie at the full back positions. I am not sure whether Neville will start ahead of Brown, but it looks very doubtful. Brown is the possible weak link in that line up, whereas Evra on the other hand looks more solid. Even then Messi should not have too much trouble getting past him. Here comes the problem - if you have watched Messi in the last game he looked very sharp in the beginning and then looked a bit tired towards the end. It may be because of the lack of match practice; hence I may not be surprised if I see Messi starting on the Bench. Hence it becomes very essential to utilise the perceived weakness on the other end. On the current form Henry may not be able to utilise this to the fullest extent, then whom are you going to deploy to do that. Giovanni may not but Iniesta very much will do that. He has played very well in that position earlier also and his small stature and agility will enable him get past Brown easily. He looked extremely good in the last match, and looked very comfortable playing on the left. There could be a doubt of Barcelona attack losing its aerial ability, but that can be compensated by including Gudjonsen in the midfield. Gudjonsen and Iniesta can switch their positions very often to create confusion in the Manchester United ranks. Gudjonsen did not have a great last match, but he looks more solid than Henry and Giovanni. Seeing the form in which ManU is in, it will be essential to use all their perceived weakness.

Apr 15, 2008

How to Overcome Manchester United?Critics and supporters together agree on one fact in Barcelona team - that's there is nothing called a defense there. Barcelona defense looks fragile, confused and there are so many words to describe it. Add to the aerial inability we had for ages the defense looks like lost. What is the solution? The obvious answer comes as strengthen the squad with quality defenders, what???? We had the trouble with aerial ball when we won Champions League in 2006. That was the reason why we brought Zambrotta (one of the best Right Back), Abidal (one of the best in Left) and Milito. Add Toure to this we still have a great squad. If we are going to consider replacing some of these guys, where are we going to find their replacements? Puyol, Marquez and Milito are the best available Centre Backs in the world. Zambrotta, Abidal and Toure are the best available in their respective positions. So what is the conclusion? We have the essential ingredients (squad) for success; even then we can't win anything. The obvious answer is that we are doing some basic thing wrong - but nobody knows which basic factor.

Hoping to find a weakness in Manchester United ahead of Semifinal match, I watched closely the ManU vs. Arsenal match. I was expecting Christiano Ronaldo to run riot through the Arsenal line up. Nothing happened, I would clearly state that Arsenal was unlucky to lose that match and gave away goals due to some stupid defensive mistakes. Why was Christiano Ronaldo not effective on that match? Someone (I think #12) in FCBNews commented that Ronaldo is not at all a threat and Rooney is a threat. My answer is - do not rush into making assumptions, Ronaldo still remains the biggest threat of ManU. Then what did Arsenal did to negate his effect? This is the factor which might help us to move into the finals. In Barcelona team's style of play whenever an attack happens from the wings, our full backs try to move as quickly towards the wing and shut down the attack. But a full back moving forward to cut down the space of an attacker from the wings can be easily rounded off by a quality player, as forwards’ tend to be more agile than Defenders. When the full backs are rounded off and the forward gets the space ahead our centre backs naturally move to the wings to close down the space leaving tons of spaces inside the box and making the defense looks like a joke. But there was something which Arsenal defense did which made Ronaldo quiet. Whenever a ManU player received the ball in the left or right side, instead of moving close to the player, Arsenal full backs drew themselves back to the edge of box forming a close line with the centre backs - this cut down the spaces available in the centre. But this also left out too much space for the player to work with, but the close line that defenders formed made it basically ineffective the aerial ball in to the centre as a well placed CB can deal with it more confidently. Even if the attacking player makes a move from the wing he was less effective as there is little space at the centre, and he can be closed effectively by a more attacking player who is retrieving back to his half. When I saw this for the first time I thought it would be crazy to leave so much space with players but every aerial ball was dealt properly and it also give enough cushion for the Goal Keeper. If we look at all the goals conceded by our team in most cases our defense looks out of place. Stay Close has been the Motto of defense for ages and I don't understand why we are not doing that. If you can't do this then Ronaldo will run riot.

Again this is my opinion about the problems in the side, this might sound stupid (it may be stupid itself), but one thing you have to ponder is why these quality defender plays so well for their countries and looks like totally lost when playing for Barcelona.

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