|photo by Tobyotter
Ed checks in on Spain:
Whenever I watch Barcelona two thoughts come to mind: (1) “Wow, that Danny Alves is a petulant and annoying dude,"; and (2) These guys are playing a game with which I’m completely unfamiliar. Nothing needs to be said with regard to the first point: it is what it is. If you don’t see it, well, there’s something wrong with you.
With regard to the second point, however, it’s difficult to understand exactly how much better Barcelona are than anyone else currently playing the game. They can be beat, of course, but even in defeat or in a draw like the one this week against Real, they still show as the better team.
As usual, and as in virtually every game I see them play, in El Clasico this week there was a passing combination in tight space where, surrounded by opponents, they were able to play the ball out of pressure after about eight quick passes, many of which were back and forth between the same two players. Madrid’s defenders got to a point where they could do nothing but wait, so confused were they as to the pinball wizardry that was occurring around them. Again, this is a regular occurrence with Barca, not a one-off thing.
Pep Guardiola, last seen in NYC by some friends of FOF, is now headed to Germany. One suspects he will bring the Barca style with him, though it will be interesting to see if and how he works with the larger, more traditional personnel of the German team. At Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers has yet to bring the possession game he had at Swansea, as his personnel just don’t seem to fit it. Presumably, though, it will happen in time if there is time to give.
And what of Luka Modric? Well, he is struggling to find a place – any place – at Madrid, to the point that there were rumors of his departure in the January window. The problem, I think, is that while he showed the cheek pincher Jose Mourinho that he was the only guy on the pitch who could effectively possess against Barca pressure, the Special One doesn’t set up for or play the possession style. So it seems the Modric saga may be concluding with the axiom “Be careful what you wish for.”
As for Messi, well, there isn’t anyone better on the pitch. Christiano Ronaldo, or as the television announcer embarrassingly referred to him, “CR7,” (Seriously? Please don’t make me gag like that ever again) is an amazing player, but simply isn’t in the same class. Putting aside Ronaldo’s narcissism and even his diving, he just isn’t the threat of Messi. Real’s tactics in this one were to surround Messi with the entire defense – understandable, but still largely ineffective as Messi was simply too quick for them. Ronaldo had his chances, but his play echoes the rudimentary style of the BPL rather than the modern intricacies of Barca’s game.
I want to assure you readers that I write this not as a fan of Barca or of the Spanish league, but rather as someone that is forced to acquiesce to reality. We cannot let our hearts and loyalties get in the way of fact. Which reminds me (strangely) of what FOF always says about those crazy large girls in the wedding party he always ends up with: You may not want to think it, you may not be comfortable with it, but ultimately Big Girls (and Barcelona) are Best . . . . Yeah yeah yeah!!!!
This is farlieonfootie for February 2.