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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Brittle or Brush Revolution?

A brush or subtle Revolution?

This year has been one of a total embarrassment for the club that ended last year on such a high. It is even difficult to know where to start. The blame could be put on so many parts and almost everyone is guilty; the directors, the coach, the players, the press. The directors for allowing certain complacency to take room, for not setting the line and for acting like a Nouveu Riche. For the coach for not imposing professionalism, lack of training, allowing the ego to arise and tactical innocence. The players for acting like spoilt children, thinking of themselves as a superior untouchable being and to think of the individual (oneself) instead of the team. The press for creating a sense of euphoria and being more concerned with their own agenda (supporting Laporta or being anti-Laporta) rather than focusing on being a Barcelonista.

It is just unbelievable that when it is too late, the players are suddenly waking up. When some players like Edmilson and Eiður Smári raised a warning some months ago, they were just seen as crazy. There has been little self-criticism from the team, with the greatest example being Deco, who said after the elimination in the Champions League said: “We are paid to play and not to win”. It was only when Madrid were suddenly ahead of them, something they and almost everyone else thought was impossible, that they woke up. However in the final sprint, they drew at home, in their own stadium, thanks to last minute goals to Betis and Espanyol and only managed to beat Getafe and Mallorca by a single goal. No one deserves a League title, with that brittle result.
The waking up has just arrived too late, not only too late for the title, but even their credibility has run out. I am not sure if there needs to be a brush revolution or a subtle one, but some important changes need to be made. It is not even sure if Frank Rijkaard will continue or not, while I have been a devoted fan of his, it can’t be denied that he has lacked both authority and flexibility during games. Perhaps it is true that he was the PR person, while the former assistant coach Ten Cate, was the one who made the important decisions.

It is true that most teams have learnt how to stop Barcelona and that Rijkaard has tried different methods to surprise the opposite team, but none of them has worked. The most persistent one, in almost all of the important games in 2007 was playing the three tiny little ones (Deco, Iniesta and Xavi). It can’t be a coincidence that no other team plays three small ball players these days. It seems that in modern football you need not one, but two players with a physical presence, this is much more tactics of the past, of a Play station game.

Too be fair, all defensive midfielders have been awful, this year, Edmilson has not been himself; Motta who has had endless opportunities to prove himself and has failed once again and that was his last opportunity and Márquez has had non-field problems.

It seems like the players have gained an immense power and la Dolce Vita has imposed themselves on certain members of the squad, who are everything, but professionals. It will remain to be seen, if some rumours of unbelievable magnitude are true or not of certain players behaviour, but if they are no doubt the club will have to get rid of them. Rijkaard is a man in favour of a laid back nature, but he will have to be more alert in the future, spotting tendencies to destruction of the unity of the team. He was believed to be the ideal coach to deal with the egos of a dressing room, but this year there have been more conflicts than in all previous seasons together. His dealing with the so-called war between Eto’o and Ronaldinho has not been impressive and the root of the problem is still there. No one knows to this stage if both stars will be there next season, but it is almost certain in order to “safe” Ronaldinho his entourage will have to be pushed out. It could well be that all he needs is an assistant coach who acts like the bad guy keeping the players in line and I hope and believe that will complimentary assistants and a refund professionalism it can all be redirected towards success.

The last signs of the season were not exactly promising, as on their tour to South Africa, the club, the very club that wears Unicef on their shirts, were invited to meet Nelson Mandela. To the clubs embarrassment only five players turned up; Thuram, Oleguer, Gio, Iniesta and Belleti and the third coach Eusebio. It is surprising that none of the club captains turned up, nor did the star Ronaldinho or Eto’o, their only African players, so vocal about his continent and racial issues. Not even Frank Rijkaard a coach who openly admires Mr. Nelson Mandela. The act was voluntary and as it was a whole 30 minutes away by car the majority opted for a rest, rather than meeting one of greatest symbols of humanity. It is unbelievable that the club had not made the event compulsory; it was a golden opportunity to put some kind of graciousness to a disappointing season. Only a few hours earlier Laporta had promised that the club would act more rigidly against indolence, but he obviously referred to next season.

I wonder if this has a solution, there was some kind of hope that they would have understood that they actually need to work together in order to receive success, that they need to live day by day, match by match and not in the fumes of celebrations of past or future titles. It is obvious some important players will have to leave and if the rest of the squad has understood that they need to go back to the very basics that made this team successful (sacrifice, team spirit, humbleness) a few signings will be enough, but if not a true revolution is needed.

Written a few days later

Now Henry has arrived, and it is probably not a deal done in the last few days, but has been rushed through in order to sooth the heart and soul of el culé. It remains to be seen if one of the cracks will be sold (i.e. Ronaldinho, Eto’o). Deco is the one likeliest to pay the price for a lame season (and hopefully Neeskens too. It is also still unknown if Rijkaard will have the personality to deal with 4 egos as he has said that two and a half is more than enough. I am not entirely sure if it is just a galactic signing, something I am not proud of, but looking on it positively it was needed for a few reasons:
Next year there will be games twice a week and Messi is prone to muscular injuries and advised not to play more than one per week, Eto’o will be away for the African Cup and Ronaldinho (apart from the question if he is recoverable) needs someone to seriously threaten his place, someone who will be stepping on his toes. There are still some important positions to be filled, as Puyol is out for three months and Edmilson (who was likely to go to Milan, but will now stay) is out for six. The next important signing could well be a replacement for Deco, but let’s not fall in to the trap of Los Galacticos (again) and forget about the crucial position in modern football; the defensive shield in front of the defence.

Ps. i was trying something different with the pictures, but I think it is important to show failure (in order to be human) as well.

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Blogger Jordi Vendetta said...

very good post..

I guess you know more yourself about Deco than I do, so I leave it. Deco has been one of my favourite players over the past seasons and I still believe he is one of the guys with cojones, but let's see.
The DM position has really been a problem and the 3 dwarfs..well, I think the problem was more with the fact that none of them is a true defensive midfield and sometimes the positioning wasn't right. I don't think it has much to do with height. I guess Mascherano would have worked there.

I agree very much with you on Rijkaard. His 3-4-3 worked once as a surprise, but it failed him every other time. Still he went for it in all important games in February and we lost all of them.

About Henry, I have pretty mixed feelings, although more positive. It will depend on whom he will put the pressure on and with Eto'o away and not being able to put the weight of the team on young Messi, we sort of need him. He will also give a push to Ronaldinho. But imagine before a clasico...who of the 4 should play?

If the signings of Yahya Touré and Chivu come true(although I would prefer Super Milito over Chivu), then the club has done a great job with the signings, as they are exactly the positions we had to enforce, although a fullback(Diogo maybe, Alves might be too expensive) would be handy too.

Anyway, the team needs to go back to the spirit of 2-3 years ago. And the signings will make sure a lot of players do that..

7:17 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

@ Jordi
Hmmm, I don't really, but I am guessing conclusions and adding 1+1, hoping it will add to two.
I loved Deco at his peak, but let's be honest, it is a year and a half ago.
I don't think the defensive midfielder has to do with height, but having lots of tiny ones adds up, that said Edmilson is dreadful at defending headers.

I am not sure why Rijkaard went for 3-4-3, many people say it is because he did not want to bench Iniesta, but I think it is as much of a reason that the other options (motta, edmilson, marquez) were not to be trusted. he had almost no choice. but then I might be too defensive about rijkaard.

henry is injury prone, as an sub to the other three, yes with closed eye, to replace ronnie or eto'o, mmmmm not really.

I want a sub for Deco and a good defensive midfielder - think yaya is more of a deco type player.
agree with your last point and thanks for reading the blog (I don't post that often...)

8:41 PM  
Blogger Jordi Vendetta said...

yaya is actually more a vieira type of player than deco. if you have seen his games for Cote D'Ivoire, he always played a classic 6 with lots of defensive work and he isn't really a Deco player. He has good footwork and likes to go forward, but he is a real 6.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

I am really happy that we are getting Yaya, think he is a great addition to what we have.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous edwin said...

Very nice article Yrsa.

I know that you have been very frustrated by the attitude of Barca this season. The reasons you have outlined seem very probable.

As you have mentioned again here, the absence of Ten Cate has been problematic for Rijkaard in man-managing the inexorable rise of egos and individualism.

With the new addition of Henry, who's opinion of himself is, lets say, elevated. Would not this signing be further aggravation to an unresolved problem?

Lets face it, Rijkaard is a tactician not a disciplinarian. As you have highlighted already much of Barca's problems have been in off-field matters rather than on.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

@ Edwin,
That remains to be seen, no?

I firmly believe that the only way to keep Ronaldinho is by signing Henry, he can threaten his place as well as the other ones in attack. This year the club has been forced to play REM at all times, as their subsitutions are so manys scales behind.
I sincerely hope he is not arriving to replace Eto'o or Ronaldinho, but witht them.

Remember this year, there is Copa Africa and Messi will be tired after Copa America and can't play twice a week.

But who knows, perhaps there is some more drama to come, but we culés love drama...
We even survive on drama, it is the very existence of us.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous tracey said...

Everyone knows Henry is a bit of a selfish egotist himself, but he's also a clever and nice guy, just like his mate Eto.
What has been the general reaction of Barca fans to Henry's signing? People seem less enthuastic than I would have thought. The press say he's too expensive, we think he's gone cheap, as he has been the best player here for the last five years, and one of the best players in England ever. The problem with elderly players is they can struggle to adapt, especially strikers who go rapidly downhill once they hit thirty. Look at the 24 karat disaster that is Andrei Shevchenko.

It's funny about Deco, I don't remember him being a bad apple at Porto, so I guess you have to blame weak management.

From a distance things don't seem to me as gloomy as to you, mainly because all the big teams have major flaws. Your expectations must be a lot higher than mine!

5:34 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

deco's ego has just risen, you kow it happens to us all in moments of excess.

people in barcelona like to moan, they are moaners and almost thrive on that, there is always something hidden behind a corner even during success.

I am not really sure why they are complaining about the price, but I guess they just think it is a bit of money (catalans hold on to their money) and he is injury prone, also our problems this year have had to do with ego'os, so i guess that doesn't help.
thanks for cheering us up.:)

12:44 PM  

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