|photo by Tim Psych||via PhotoRee|
Ed weighs in on a very bad day at the office for Barcelona:
Well, now we know the difference between the World Cup teams and the club teams. Barcelona with a weakened Messi really looked a lot like the Spanish national team would have looked against Bayern Munich. Possession, possession, possession; great passing and great control. But pretty much no threats on Bayern's goal.
Bayern pressed all game, and they did so aggressively. Javi Martinez blanketed Andres Iniesta and roughed him up all night, forcing him to play backwards and sideways. The same was done to Xavi, who had no time to look up and peruse the field. And without Lionel Messi able to charge at the defense, Barca was pretty much bludgeoned out of the Champions League barring a miracle at the Nou Camp.
After a first half which saw Bayern threaten, it was odd that Barcelona didn't try something different. The Blaugrana could have been down by more at the time -- a clear and obvious hand ball by Pique was somehow missed. I am constantly wondering exactly what the back judge is doing in these instances. The hand ball was so obvious and intentional to block a shot aimed at the corner that the proper call could have been a sending off. Regardless, Barca survived but didn't adjust, and so suffered the same fate in the second half as the first, only worse as they pressed and tired.
To be fair, Bayern also had one or two goals allowed that shouldn't have been. Arjen Robben's goal was benefited by a Thomas Muller pick -- a play legal in hoops but called obstruction in soccer. Again, what was the back judge looking at there? Or the head referee in this case. Not even a close call. The Mario Gomez goal was also offsides, but not by much so missing it was defensible.
That said, Bayern were the better team last evening. Perhaps most impressive about Bayern was their defense. Most teams put big clunkers in the center; Bayern's Jerome Boetang and Dante are big enough, but also fast. They couldn't simply be run by, which made Barca's quick one twos at the top of the penalty area pretty much nonexistent.
But again, it was about Messi. The announcers missed about as much as the officials in that game, but they were correct that Messi shouldn't have played if he was in that kind of shape. Cesc Fabregas is an immensely talented player and should have been allowed to try to pick up the slack. Regardless, the difference between Messi and Pedro and Alexis Sanchez is simply enormous. Games like these make you wonder who Messi makes look worse, opponents or his own teammates?
Barca's defense is also looking more and more like they should look considering the personnel they have back there. Pique is terrific, but after him they lack size and strength. Eric Abidal, I think, is missed tremendously.
On another note, it's odd that Bayern are relieving themselves of their manager in place of the manager of the side whose style was just crushed. It will be interesting to see what Pep Guardiola does with the side. Will he attempt to make it more like Barca? The personnel simply don't fit it. It took Brandon Rodgers a third of a season to realize he couldn't force his style just by adding Joe Allen to his lineup. As has been said before on this site, personnel are tactics, which is why Pep's reign will be fascinating to watch (and probably a bit bumpy, as well).
Finally, on a personal note (I know, you don't care) I have a hard time cheering for Barca, and enjoy watching them get beat. I think this is in part because they are so frustratingly good at keeping other teams away from the ball. But it's also because I'm tired of their petulance in games that they lose. At the end of the game they started to do what they usually start doing against Real Madrid when those games don't go according to plan (to their credit, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta don't play that way). That said, their maddeningly good skill is hard to ignore, and in training youth players, their technique (not RM's, not United's, not PSG, not Bayern's) is the one we all aspire to. Barca still play the best pure football in the world, and while they will very likely be exiting the Champions League soon, they remain the future of the game.
This is farlieonfootie for April 25, 2013.