Osasuna 3 – FC Barcelona 2

Despite the howling icy wind and blistering cold, tonight must have felt like the infernos of hell for FC Barcelona.  The pitch was shocking, perhaps in a league run by more intelligent people, the match may have been postponed, it wasn’t and Barça lost 3-2 to Osasuna.  I’m already quite certain there will be a lot of whining and finger pointing at Pep and some players, a problem with football fans these days who continually forget the other 11 professional athletes similarly wanting to win.  Osasuna wanted this win and deserved it.  They embraced the conditions, knowing full well it would throw Barça off their game, and that positive attitude, smelling the possibility of blood inspired them from minute 1 to minute 95.  But Barça DID NOT lose the league tonight, more on that later.

Responding, quite understandably, to the appalling fixture congestion of 2012, Guardiola rested Xavi, Iniesta, and Fàbregas, giving Thiago and Sergi Roberto starts in the midfield trident.  But, he did start our treble winning back 4, Argentine captain and season star performer Mascherano, 2010’s most sought after young player Alexis, and the 2nd highest goalscorer of his tenure, Pedro.  The point being, yes 3 big name players were given a rest, but Pep didn’t start a bunch of chumps and naming Puyol in the squad signaled clearly he sensed danger and showed Mendilibar no lack of respect.

I must credit Nic with his pre-game comment because he predicted 3 key factors to this game with keen precision.  Firstly, the first 10-minute again proved costly.  Osasuna came out into the cold with fire in their bellies and made us extremely uncomfortable.  It took just 4 minutes and we were 1-0 down, Lekic (“Leka”) with the first of his brace.  Piqué got caught out of position chasing down the ball, the pass sailed over his head, Raúl García got infront of Puyol, did a nice little backheel into space, ran onto it, and put in a cross that Lekic too easily slotted home.

Barça settled into their rhythm around 7 minutes, scoring with Alexis but called offside (fairly) and then a solid curling effort from Messi 11 minutes in saved by Fernández.  I have to mention this already, as I jotted it down during the game, Piqué was having an abysmal game particularly with his distribution.  This didn’t improve.

To point 2 of Nic’s pre-analysis, Osasuna’s high pressing.  They were relentless in this, first half in particular.  Predicting before the game that we would suffer with the pitch, then watching it unfold in front of their eyes, Mendilibar’s men suffocated us and it resulted in the sloppiest game you’ll ever see Barça play.  That leads on nicely to point 3, “Somehow I can’t see Guardiola telling the players to hoof the ball out so we will see some risky moments at the back…”.  Spot on.  The players didn’t hoof the ball and it did lead to several risky moments, often decisive.

It went from bad to worse in the 21st minute when the big Serb Leka made it 2-0 from close range again.  This time Puyol and Piqué can share the blame.  Puyol tried to dribble out, lost possession, and before he knew it the ball was whipped out right, driven in by Cejudo, sailed past the statute presence of Piqué, and Leka showed the hunger to slip in before Valdés could claim it.  Now as I said, both defenders were to blame, but angry words were coming out my mouth in Piqué direction who in all honestly looked like he just couldn’t believe he was playing on such a cold night on such a terrible field.  He never seemed to accept the elements and from the onset looked moopy, which soon transformed into anxiety.  Thank goodness he was taken out of his misery in the 70th minute, in what was his worst game of the season, if not ever.

The team made a relatively feeble attempt to comeback before halftime.  There was one nice1-2 combo between Alexis and Messi that resulted in a tame effort from the Argentine, a second disallowed Alexis goal (after two handballs), and a well blocked shot of Messi’s after Sergi Roberto did well to pinch it on the right and lay it back into Messi’s path.  On that occasion, Lionel just had to take an extra touch due to the bobbles, which gave the towering defender Sergio time to put in one of many last ditch tackles he and his team made tonight.

2-0 down at half time, something that has never happened under Pep Guardiola.  One cannot say he didn’t respond, because he did, and they were some ballsy moves.  Puyol was replaced by Cuenca, and Pedro, who was dreadful, subbed for Tello.  It effectively means we went to a 3-4-3, with Masch moving back, but really the only rigidness was in Cuenca and Tello occupying the wings, and the other players moving to where they felt was correct.

The moves worked, Barça played far better in the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half than the previous 45.  Messi forced another save in the 49th and 60 seconds later Alexis finally did get his goal.  Cuenca, who had an immediate tangible impact, ran onto a lovely pass from Thiago, ghosted past his defender, whipped in a low cross that wasn’t dealt with, and Alexis knocked it into the roof of the net.  Many won’t appreciate the difficulty of his finish.  With the unpredictable bounce and speed of the turf it took extreme concentration to hit that ball so cleanly.  2-1, 40 minutes left, it was only natural to feel encouraged.

Then the hammer blow.  Valdés tried to pass it out of defense, for the umpteenth time due to the bounce and wind, it took a funny trajectory and this time Osasuna punished.  The ball was intercepted, then Alves and Puyol both tried to clear it, both failed, and eventually it fell nicely to Nino on the left who crossed it in and again the cold seemed to be in Piqué’s bones because he again was late to cover the middle and Raúl García knicked it past Valdés on the near side, post and in.  3-1.

This is the only point in the game, I have a minor, and I mean minor, grievance.  Sergi Roberto did a few things well but a bucket load poorly.  He gave away a lot of ball and the team seemed so unsettled in the midfield.  At this point I would have brought in Cesc or Xavi to take control of the tempo, it seemed necessary.

Osasuna sat back after that 55th minute goal and Barça came at them hard but throughout struggled against a motivated team and unforgiving turf.  Alexis missed a pretty good header chance on the hour mark, there were many blocked shots and crosses, but a 2nd did come, from Tello, with 28 minutes left.  Cesc got the ball just outside the box, showed true vision and patience to slip a ball past all the traffic into Tello, who cut it back onto his left and blasted it past Fernández.  I have to admit, even with so much time left, I never felt totally hopeful.  As mentioned earlier, Cesc had entered just before this goal.

Osasuna nearly ended it a few minutes later after Puñal hit the post.  From now till the end, it was really just a bunch of “HUUUUUUY” moments.  Tello forced a few top saves out of Fernández, Alexis had a 3rd goal disallowed, Alexis couldn’t round the keeper, and Cesc put a last second header right into the keepers path.  On the 3rd offside goal, it was certainly the most controversial, but I don’t blame the refs.  It clearly appeared that the cross had been flicked on by Sergi Roberto and if so, Alexis was miles off.  Even in super slow motion, it’s extremely difficult to see if he touched it, but as it happened live I thought he did and so I can only understand that the linesman did as well.

Tonight is not the night we lost La Liga.  Pep taking a small risk with Sergi and Thiago (?) was not why we lost La Liga.  I believe unequivocally in this.  The league was lost on September 10th in Sociedad, on November 6th in Bilbao, November 26th in Getafe, and January 8th at Espanyol.  3 draws from winning positions, 1 limp defeat.  The starting lineups from those games were (excluding Valdés) Alves, Busquets, Fontás, Adriano, Thiago, Xavi, Keita, Pedro, Alexis, Fàbregas – Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Abidal, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Fàbregas, Messi, Adriano – Alves, Piqué, Abidal, Maxwell, Xavi, Busquets, Thiago, Alexis, Villa, Messi – Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Abidal, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Fàbregas.  95% of those players are double Champions League winners, multiple League winners, World Cup winners, in other words, the players we have fawned over and praised as the best club side in football history.  That is where the league was potentially lost.  Not on a glacial pitch, after 11 games in 42 days (1 every 3.8 days) with an average of 3 days rest, not against a team who embraced the unique circumstances and killed themselves to win.

Pep Guardiola is the most successful coach in Barça’s history.  Guardiola has rejuvenated a squad that was lazy and undisciplined, headed for unfulfilled potential.  Guardiola has given new pride and success to the meaning of La Masia, promoting 26 local players in 42 months.  Just don’t forget that.  He believes in his players, from Messi to Tello, believes in the system and these principles have made him the success he is.  Cuenca and Tello tonight showed why, they had big impacts on the credible 2nd half fight-back.

You cannot win them all, you just can’t.  It would take an implosion of historic proportions to see us make up a 10 point deficient (assuming Madrid win tomorrow) but we are still in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey final.  And even if we don’t win either, there is nobody to blame, nothing to feel ashamed about.  It’s sport, you win and you lose.

Ratings:

I am unsure how harsh to be, simply due to the clear difficulty of the elements.  If this had been at the Camp Nou, one could take a full point or 2 off some scores.

Valdés – 6, Alves – 5.5, Piqué – 3 (70th: Fàbregas – 6.5), Puyol – 5.5, (45th: Cuenca – 8) Abidal – 6, Roberto – 6, Mascherano – 7, Thiago – 6.5, Alexis – 7.5, Messi – 6.5, Pedro – 4 (45th : Tello – 7)

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11 Responses to Osasuna 3 – FC Barcelona 2

  1. barcacentralnic says:

    Desperately frustrating. I thought we played a very good second half though it wasn’t quite enough and we did leave ourselves open to the possibility of conceding again. It seems it took us too long to get used to the conditions and Osasuna took advantage of feeling more at home.
    I don’t want to pick out players to blame but your ratings tell the story. I also agree that the Liga is not over (if only Madrid were too look at it like that!) but of course we are going to need a change of luck in the next three months.

  2. barcacentralroger says:

    Just to say that I don’t really blame the players – even those who played quite badly such as Pique. A range of factors led to us arriving at this game in a weakened position (the schedule, the injuries), but we lost the game simply because of the pitch and the weather conditions. Sure, two teams were playing in those conditions, but one team had the whole day to practice on it. We were getting slaughtered the first half; once used to the pitch, we played pretty well in the second. We also played with a reasonable amount of heart, despite how depressing it must have been. We warranted a draw based with one offside call on Sanchez plain wrong, the other (that Enrique notes with the Roberto flick on) was marginal.

    Why the match was not postponed I don’t know. It was comedic how players were slipping over, picking up gashes on their legs from turf – it was amazing no one got injured.

    On positive notes, great to see Cuenca being such a positive force in a game again (he’d drifted a little in some of the recent matches), Tello come in and get another goal and play well, Sergio Roberton have a pretty good game all considered playing the 90 minutes without the most stellar cast around him, but what impressed me the most was Thiago, easily my man of the match, who without Xavi, Iniesta, or Fabregas around him, took charge in a way I hadn’t seen him do in match for the first team. Despite the shitty pitch that does not favor his play, I thought he was excellent.

    Now that the league has got away from us, would it be sacrilege to suggest we concede it now, save our best players for the Copa and Champions, give the whole team something of the rest that they have missed over the previous two summers, and give all our youth players a schooling in la liga over the next four months? Inconceivable? Probably. A lot would depend on whether it would hit the morale of the players themselves, but they’ve looked more exhausted than playing with any real joy, and perhaps turning off the pressure could reap rewards in the other two competitions. Anyway, a very speculative thought, and one that realistically will happen regardless as the importance of the remaining champions league and copa matches demand our first choice line ups.

    Nice write up Enrique!

  3. bc9jaCulé says:

    Hey Enrique, I just don’t subscribe to most of the inclinations of your review although I do agree about your submissions on where the league was lost.

    However, you seem to be shifting TOO MUCH blame on the cold weather and the condition of the pitch. Or did the wind abruptly subside and the pitch suddenly feel better in the second half where we stringed those passes together and played better consequently?! Or are you saying if every other team ‘deliberately’ leaves their pitch unkempt then we’ll just remain toothless and defend like a 3rd–tier team? Their was GLARINGLY no understanding between the starting midfield trio of Thiago, Roberto and Masch’ — not because the pitch was hampering our passes as that point is no justification for what really transpired. There was just no functional link between the defence and the attack. The first 2 goals we conceded last night were wholly due to our sloppy (rather STATIC) defence and the inability of our midfield trio to shield the defence by keeping possession and maintaining a tidy passing circuit. You tried to make light of the midfield composition by highlighting the pedigree ofthe players that started in both defence and attack without equally emphasizing why they couldn’t function to their ability which is simply due to our DYSFUNCTIONAL midfield. Just tell me how fast the fastest car in the world can be with a misfit engine or rather, a dysfunctional one.

    And please Enrique, how could you, for the third goal, say that Valdez’s pass was hampered “due to the bounce and wind”? POOR JUDGEMENT!!!!! I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is for you to say “Valdez made a terrible clearance”. Just call a spade as it is, please — A SPADE. Plain and simple. How do you pass the ball so low like that, right in-between a CLUSTER of three opponents? Do you even realize the pass almost got intercepted right away? Such clearances should be hoofed up, as high as possible, please. That reminds me, it was not even a lobbed pass and so there was no particular “trajectory” as you have put it because MY understanding of trajectory is based on the track made in a parabolic movement. So, I don’t think the wind had any impact on the clearance. IMHO, Valdez simply panicked and made a terrible clearance. Oh please, Enrique, the intellectual fans know how to handle defeats and will always hold this team close to their heart — come what may. So, you don’t have to polish your reviews by portraying everything as being alright when the reverse is the case because this review has only made the defeat a worse pill to swallow. And I understand you if it’s not in your way to point fingers but even if your journalistic philosophy doesn’t permit you to say who’s right or wrong, you should be able to at least say what’s right or wrong because; Anywhere in the world, black’s black and white’s white.

    Well, baring any catastrophic setback for Madrid, the Liga is officially in Madrid’s trophy cabinet and I’m all braced up for that. The only thing I ask of our eternal squad is to make sure they won’t have to stand a shameful guard of honour for Moaninho and his Madrid at the reputable Camp Nou. In other words, they must make sure that the Liga will not have been mathematically settled before and right after the 2nd leg at Camp Nou. Anyways, we should rest our key players for most of our remaining Liga fixtures and focus principally on winning the UEFA CL and the Copa. And if we end up winning both, the world will still kneel at our feet and I’ll be just as grateful as winning the treble.

    Go boys, we believe in what God can make you do.

    Som–Hi Barça!!!!!
    Visca Barça!!!!!
    Força Barça!!!!!

  4. barcacentralenrique says:

    well i disagree with almost all you said as well. valdes has the best distribution of any keeper in the world. game in game out he makes pinpoint passes to players that other keeps would have no chance of doing. its rather marvelous how consistent he is at it. the mistakes in distribution he has made over the last several seasons could be counted on one hand. so the fact he made more than a handful in one night seems rather obvious why. have you ever played on a frozen pitch? i have. so i know how much if messes with the way you strike the ball. plus i have pride in our philosophy of always finding a man not hoofing it long, so i understand totally why valdes continued to try, thats in his dna. and maybe my firsthand experience on such a poor pitch and the extent of mistakes it causes has made me more sympathetic.

    im more than happy on most occasions to say whose terrible and who makes mistakes, but i dont think last night was the correct at all time. ive been harsh in my times to the likes of zlatan and villa for simply poor play.

    and its not like i handled the defeat badly. thats ridiculous. i congratulated a better team and didnt berate our players unnecessarily.

    and like i said i have no issue at all with squad selection. being brave and putting in different combinations have been far more successful in times than been unsuccessful so im not going to go off and talk shit about Pep and say he has no understanding of what he is doing simply because on one night he took a small chance with a unfamiliar midfield. you can do that, its your prerogative.

    • bc9jaCulé says:

      Hi Enrique. I don’t remember suggesting that Valdez aint an excellent goalie nor did I imply that Valdez aint the best passer of the ball in the history of goalkeeping. I was only slightly irked that you were using the wind and the bounce of the ball to cover a blatantly poor clearance. Remember, several balls were lobbed into Osasuna’s box by our attackers with MUCH LESS force than Valdez exerted on the ball when if made the clearance in question and those lobbed passes hit the target without any obstruction or hinderance from the wind. Remember, Cesc’s pass to Tello, Messi’s to Cesc, and many others. Look, he’s (Valdez) sure liable (and in fact, comprehensible too) to make mistakes here and there but kindly say it as it is, — THAT HE MADE A MISTAKE — not using the weather to excuse it. Again, a spade will always be what it is — A SPADE. Maybe you should read my first post again.
      Have a nice day.

    • bc9jaCulé says:

      Again Enrique, you clearly misunderstood me when I said “the intellectual fans know how to handle defeats”. I wasn’t saying YOU handled the defeat badly. I meant fans with a sharp “sixth sense” will be able to take the defeat on the chin and move on without having YOU trying to beautify the match with non-existent pleasantries. I wasn’t inferring that you didn’t congratulate an Osasuna that fought well nor was I requesting you to bash our jewels.

      Also, when I said Valdez should have hoofed such clearances as high as possible, I said “SUCH” clearances NOT “ALL” clearances. Holy Mary!!!!! There was a “CLUSTER” (yes, CLUSTER) of opponents in front of our box and yet he tried to play the pass in-between them?! That’s quite an awful and stupid decision. He had only two options: either play the pass to his left/right or simply hoof it up high.

      I’m off to lunch, enjoy yours too.

  5. FC Barcelona Rocks says:

    Greetings guys, another disappointing defeat has led us into a very difficult situation towards our defence of the league title. As Bc9jacule mentioned above, I for 1 felt, that the lack of our usual dominating control in midfield led to this lost.

    Yes, I do understand the fact that at the end of the day, the manager always knows best…and i believe that Pep knows better than the best.

    However, certain decisions he made for this match certainly made me feel that the league is not his primary focus of the season. For some reason, i would like to believe that Pep is putting alot of focus in grooming the young and potential boys from our cantera. The positives that we all noticed of late and in this match as well is the emergence of Tello and Cuenca who both played very well last night.

    The negative part of the game is obviously the end result. 1 question i have for all you guys and Nic in particullar is…could we have won the match playing with our classic 4-3-3 vs Osasuna? The midfield of Thiago, Iniesta and Fabregas deployed as a holding midfielder with Messi, Pedro and Tello upfront with Mascherano and Pique as CBs and ABidal and Dani Alves as lb and Rwb respectively. I’m curious if its just me that feels we should at times revert into different strategies in a season. Afterall the classic 433 Is our title winning strategy anyway. I hope to get some feedback from you guys. Feel free to condemn my point of view if needed. I’m just really curious as to why Pep sticks quite alot to 1 same strategy per season.

  6. FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

    More on my observations of our players, I don’t know if you noticed this as much,, Javier Mascherano could well be our best CB this season, however he surely doesn’t have the required technique and passing abilities and capabilities to play as a DM for Barcelona, fluidity in passing the ball has always been Mascherano’s downside. He often takes a little more seconds to decide the best pass to make and at several occasions, his passing is very predictable hence deploying him as a DM in our team would only work if we have two really good and inform CM’s. I don’t know if you’re catching my point, Enrique. I really feel, that Mascherano’s passing coupled up with pitch conditions played quite a chunk in our lack of control in midfield last night.

    Moving on, i would like to get some opinions in regards to Leo Messi’s game. Yes, i know and i’m certain he is the best footballer alive at the moment.. but being a Barcelona die hard, i have barely missed a handful of game in this past 8 seasons or so.

    1 thing i noticed is the fact that Leo Messi hardly decides to combine all his moves and quality in a single 90 minutes. In our first treble winning season, Leo Messi had scored many identical goals by drifting in from the right and placing or thundering a shot from just outside the box. Next season, Messi seems to always pop up (false number 9) just in time to apply the finishes to our superb flowing moves from midfield. This season, Messi often makes runs through the middle, and makes identical defence splitting passes through the left channel in between the opposition’s Right back and Right center back.

    The question mark is, why can’t he try combining all of his great qualities at once in a 90 minutes game. And why does 1 identical move cater towards 1 whole season. I believe Messi has the talent and versatility to do all at one go in a game of 90 minutes, but for some reason, most often settles with either 1. This results in some of his moves being anticipated by the opponents.

    Again, i stress that i by no means am questioning the possible ‘God Of Football’…but hell ya i’m really curious. Is Messi being restricted to certain roles per game? Or perhaps he just trains 1 or 2 moves specific technical moves, every season? Is it just his personal choice to concentrate on a few moves per match? Or should i just accept that he is human afterall and not ask for any opinions from you guys?? What are your thoughts, people? Slam me if you must. I’m just hack curious + angry that Mourinho is gonna walk away with the league. I don’t mind Madrid winning the league once inawhile, but certainly it really hurts to see Mourinho’s Madrid winning it. I want the guy out of Spain. I want him dead if possible. Believe it or not, I loose loads of sleep thinking about this. My wife suspects i’m secretly having an affair with FC Barcelona.

    • bc9jaCulé says:

      With regards to your curiosities, I don’t really base my analyses on formations. Meaning, in Barça, our system of play is an intricate mesh of formations. The 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 3-5-2, 4-4-2 or whatever doesn’t really matter in our case because we, most often than not, play a combination of all those in a game even without necessarily making any sub depending on the strategy we chose to employ in the game. The effectiveness of our play lies basically in the combination play of the whole team. That is, the personnel on parade. As in; the defence/midfield/attack compositions or the defence/midfield/attack interplays.

      And on the issue of Masch’ as a holding midfielder, I can categorically say that he’s 10 times a better CB than he is a DM — at least at Barça.

      Cheers.

  7. barcacentralenrique says:

    first off all fc barcelona rocks, dont ever feel like someone is going to condemn or berate your point of view. one should think about such things and question them.

    im not into that type of guessing game though. its impossible to know if a different formation a few personnel changes would have with absolute certainty changed the scoreline. we did play a 4-3-3 early on and then changed it to a 3-4-3, but honestly with barca even the concept of formations has become a bit uncertain. at times its just 11 players out there, with maybe 2 of the defensive guys keeping quite rigid and the other guys moving around to where they feel is the right moment at the time. even the 3-4-3 is has had its moments, versus madrid in particular and only once was it truly destroyed against valencia. the only thing i think would have had a real impact, would have been xavi or cesc in a deepish midfield position to hold the ball. but hey, maybe that would have even not worked. if xavi had been out there missing passes and miscontrolling the ball we could have known with decisive surety that the pitch really was a nightmare.

    but i dont think pep looked at osasuna and thought, well the league isnt priority. in graham hunter’s barca book you gain a lot of insight into pep. he is obsession to detail, watching hours of film on each opponent and then thinking up a strategy he believes will lead to VICTORY, only. so when he chucked out sergi roberto and left some big names out, i truly believe he did so fully confident that the 11 he named was very capable of victory.

    obviously he didnt but he’s not a robot, neither are football players. they have their poor moments like everyone else. my position is that this is the best football team in the world, and if they struggle then would wouldnt.

    its quite amazing how many matches were postponed throughout europe during this glacial freeze. but not one in spain.

  8. Pingback: Preview: Osasuna vs FC Barcelona (game 9 liga 2013/14) | barçacentral

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