Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Barcelona Stars Complete Their Season Of Fail

Manchester United 1-0 Barcelona

Funny that the match was decided by a goal from Scholes, who I singled out as being potentially more harmful to ManUtd than good. In saying that I was failing to take into account the 1 thing that he can still do well, which is shoot screaming rocket shots from outside the box, which is just what he did. It was his only shot of the match and damn near his only involvement of the match, but it was a brilliant shot that will make him even more of a hero for ManUtd fans.

It must be noted also that Scholes shot was set up not by a teammate but by what the Brits call a "moment of madness" from Barca right back Zambrotta. After taking the ball of C Ronaldo, he decided against the natural instinct of every defender in the world at every level, to turn outside to the safer area of the sideline, where he had a teammate that he could see who was open who he could easily pass to, and instead decided to turn inward, and without looking pass the ball into the center with his left foot. The ball went to directly to a wide open Scholes, who couldn't have teed it up any better, and that was that. In addition to the key play of the match, Zambrotta had an awful game, getting beaten repeatedly, and having to foul, and eventually getting booked for repeated bad fouls. In my mind he was the man of the match for Manchester United, who arguably could not have won without his contribution.

The other striking thing about this match, and this season in general, is how poorly this star studded Barcelona team play. The last 4 years they have played beautiful stuff, but more importantly they played for each other and passed well and linked up well, the zenith of which was with Ronaldinho, Eto'o, and Messi all linking up well with Deco pulling the strings. Just two years ago Deco was like the Quarterback, Ronaldinho was the star running back, and Eto'o and Messi were the great wide receivers. That shit is gone. Now Barcelona have more individual talent than anyone around, but they do not play well with each other, and they do not link up well. They most defintiely play like a bunch of individuals rather than a team, and today was a perfect example. Whether it was Messi or Eto'o or Deco or Henry, they all seem to try to do it all themselves, and the great interplay of the last few years seems to have completely broken down. They have gone from the American football analogy above to a stereotypical NBA team of mercenary stars who play for themselves and not for the team, and when they get the ball seem more inclined to take on their defender 1 on 1 or 1 on 3 rather than play like a team, together, and for each other. For fuck's sake today was the Champions League semifinal 2nd leg, and they seemed to be going through the motions for the first 2/3 of the match before a final 20 minutes of desperation. It's hard to say about a team that had 60% possession and passes the ball around quite a bit, but they no longer seem to be out there playing for each other, rather for themselves. Certainly all the Team Turmoil talk must be true.

Let this season's Barcelona team be introduced into evidence as Exhibit A against all of the overreactionary, irrational Arsenal fans who are saying that Arsene must break up the team and sign 3 or 4 world class players in order to "solve" Arsenal's problems. Last season Barca lost La Liga by 1 point, and had Messi & Eto'o each miss half the season with injuries. I said at the time there was no need to alter the squad, that they should just keep everyone and with their style, players, and team chemistry that would be better than signing a bunch of stars. Henry, Thuram, Zambrotta, and Edmilson were brought in and this season they not only had poor results but played poor {for their standard} soccer.

This really reminds me of Arsenal this year. More points than they have had in 4 years, will probably finish within 4-5 points of the league title, and with RVP, Rosicky, and Eduardo all missing more than half the season. This team should not be broken up, it should be retained and give it another go with a healthy squad and maybe 1 or more new dudes {wide player who actually scores goals and isn't made of glass, please}. Fortunately Arsene is on the right page, and he gets to decide not the lunatic fringe of the fan base.

One more bit about the irrational overreactionary Arsenal "fans", who have been bitching since things went south this season that Adebayor is shit, that he needs 1 chances to score, that he should be sold, etc, etc... You all can fuck off. He played the bulk of the season up front on his own, he runs his socks off in every match, his work rate is massive, he scores in big games, and he now has 30 goals and counting this season, which is 1 more than Fernando Torres of Liverpool, who everyone is creaming their pants over this season {and rightfully so}. Also, Adebayor didn't cost 26 million pounds like Torres- Arsene bought him for 3 million. So all you ignorant Adebayor haters, STFU for realz.

So ManUtd are in the Champions League Final in Moscow on May 21, which guarantees that for the first time ever the CL final will feature 2 English teams.

I'm forced to root for The Pool tomorrow, because ManUtd-Chel$ea would be unwatchable for me personally- the equivalent of Florida playing Georgia Tech in the national championship game.

Plus it will be more than interesting to see these two sets of fans, from the same area, who absolutely hate each other, travel by the thousands to another country for the match. Forget the area in Moscow around the stadium- at least there people have room to move away from any trouble. I'm thinking of all the flights from northern England to Moscow packed full of intermingled ManUtd and Liverpool fans, and the shenanigans that would ensue on these tiny flying tubes from which there is no escape until they are taxied at the gate. Sure to be some amazing stories if it goes down like that.


Killing My Liver said...

At least you're supporting a proper team now. I have a felling the Merseyside virus will strike my body around 1 PM EST, and as we all know, the only cure for that is pints and pints of beer.

beast in 'bama said...

Forget the area in Moscow around the stadium- at least there people have room to move away from any trouble.

Someone needs to start taking odds, especially if Liverpool advances today; either:

The traveling hooligans will frighten everyone away, including the Russian mafia, OR...

The Russian mafia senses an opportunity and wades into the chaos to lift whatever cash and traveler's cheques they can get their hands on.

Kanu said...

Yes I really want a ManUtd/Pool final just for the two sets of fans, the russian mob, and post KGB all in one big fiesta.

Good luck today, boys. I'll be rolling to the airport and likely will only get to see bits and pieces, so any post match analysis would be appreciated.

Come On The Pool!

moin said...

Let's not forget, that Luzhnik Stadium, where the event will be hosted, has had its own version of Hillsborough, only much worse.


No... nothing bad could possibly happen if United plays Liverpool.

But the thing is, recently, Liverpool has absolutely been laying down against United, rarely giving them a match. Chelsea at least has been playing United fairly evenly, but Liverpool has been getting stepped on by United like a redheaded stepchild.

beast in 'bama said...

which is 1 more than Fernando Torres of Liverpool

Senor Torres calls...I'm hoping like hell he raises before regulation is over.

beast in 'bama said...

You've only got 2 league games left, and you're not winning the EPL title anyway. All you've got left is this little thing called the Champions League. Fernando Torres is 23 years old. He can be tired when the season is over!

If it turns out there's nothing wrong with the kid, then Rafa's house is the one being burgled (more like burned to the ground) back in Liverpool right now. Well, at least we've got a proven goal scorer on the bench in Crou...oh, wait.

This one decision could cost Rafa his job.

Tenacious Lee said...

Kanu - I've been following your blog for a while; love getting your take on all things footy. I saw Barca play last year and consider myself a fan. As much as it pains me, I agree with your point of view. I hope the talk of a major shakeup is partially true, and I hope the higher-ups there realize the importance of chemistry, not just individual talent. Henry has far too much potential to be a very pricey 'galactico' bench-warmer. This summer will be interesting.

Oh Riise, why did you have to go for that header...

Michael said...

A couple fact issues:

1. Barca didn't lose the title to Real by one point in 2007. The clubs tied and Real won on head-to-head results, despite having a vastly inferior goal difference.

2. Barca brought in Henry, Abidal, Yaya Toure, and Milito over the summer. Thuram and Zambrotta came the previous summer after Juve were relegated. Edmilson has been on the team for several years and started the '06 Champions League Final, which you may or may not remember. This past summer's purchases were a mixed bag. Milito and Toure have been very good. Abidal started well and then completely lost the plot. Henry has been shit. I've never seen a player run less or look more disinterested. Bringing in a player nicknamed "Le Sulk" to a team with chemistry problems was not a good idea.

This might be excessively hopeful thinking, but Barca will do better with a new coach and without Ronnie or Deco around. The dressing room appears to have factionalized and that would go a long way to improving the matter. If I were a betting man, I'd guess that Michael Laudrup is going to be the next head coach. I'm looking forward to having a coach with a little more tactical flexibility than Rijkaard.

And for the record, Arsenal need some better players. Your roster isn't as good as Chelsea or ManUtd's, full-stop. You don't have the depth of those clubs and frankly, I don't think you have their quality. Look at the players you are starting on the wings. Look at Philippe Senderos getting to play critical minutes. If you're OK with not winning trophies, then by all means, keep trying to keep up with teams who spend far more on players than you do. United and Chelsea both bring in several new players every year and it works out OK for them.