22/23 Barcelona: Pull the Lever(s)

Zososoxfan

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Barcelona's tumultuous dig out of Bartomeu's disastrous financial mismanagement continues for another season. Visca Barca!!

The latest bullshit amongst Culers and Socis is about the club's treatment of FDJ. FDJ fairly or not is the fulcrum of this summer transfer window. Laporta detractors claim that FDJ's sale has failed and now the club is unfairly asking him to take pay reductions (more likely accurately described as pushing payment out further), just so they can turn around and pay big wages to Kessie and Christensen. Laporta supporters retort is "shut up", let Laporta pretty much do whatever he wants because even a huge disaster is an immense step up from Bartomeu's reign. Both have valid points.

The former group is wrong in part because FDJ currently earns $300K+/week, and Kessie is reportedly at $260K and Christensen is at $200K. More importantly, Kessie is FDJ's potential MF partner (either as a double pivot, or along with Pedri as a MF 3), and Christensen is a potential Araujo partner anchoring the backline. IOW, both players could be key to unlocking FDJ's potential in Xavi's side. OTOH, the latter group is wrong because they still are trying to conjure up the financial gymnastics to land the Lewa signing.

Probably more important than any of that, Pedri looks like he may have eaten his Wheaties this summer and buffed up for a more physical presence:

53153
 

Zososoxfan

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With Raphinha in the fold, Dembele looking likely to follow, and Lewa still being linked, something has to give in the forwards corps: Ansu, Ferran, Raphinha, Depay, Auba, Dembele, Lewa is just too many players, and they're too expensive in the aggregate. Ferran has the lowest wages right now and he's still earning $6M/year ($120K/week), with everyone else over $10M/year ($200K/week).

I wonder if Barca are still trying to strengthen the FBs. Soler had a lot of heat early in the window, and Dest doesn't seem to be favored. I guess there's still time to get Azpi and/or Alonso over the line.
 

Zomp

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So is FDJ actually going to stay without taking a pay cut or is this just posturing from club and player to see who blinks first in owed wages?
 

bosox4283

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As an Atlético fan, I’m both jealous and annoyed that Barca, despite seemingly in violation of league protocols, has been able to make serious improvements to the team whereas Atleti, also running afoul of league rules, has added one free transfer and a guy from Portugal who is as likely to disappear into obscurity than he is to be good.
 
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With Raphinha in the fold, Dembele looking likely to follow, and Lewa still being linked, something has to give in the forwards corps: Ansu, Ferran, Raphinha, Depay, Auba, Dembele, Lewa is just too many players, and they're too expensive in the aggregate. Ferran has the lowest wages right now and he's still earning $6M/year ($120K/week), with everyone else over $10M/year ($200K/week).

I wonder if Barca are still trying to strengthen the FBs. Soler had a lot of heat early in the window, and Dest doesn't seem to be favored. I guess there's still time to get Azpi and/or Alonso over the line.
are Ferran, Auba and Lewa going to line up in a front 3? Three striker formation?

ESPN+ figured viewers must pay a premium to watch Barca....
 

rguilmar

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As an Atlético fan, I’m both jealous and annoyed that Barca, despite seemingly in violation of league protocols, has been able to make serious improvements to the team whereas Atleti, also running afoul of league rules, has added one free transfer and a guy from Portugal who is as likely to disappear into obscurity than he is to be good.
The difference right now, so far as I can tell, is that Barca sold off a portion of their future television income (or took out a loan against it is probably the better way of putting it) to balance the books for 2021-22 when auditors found them to be 144 million euros behind and are poised to make two other similar transaction to address the debt that looms over the club. It looks like Atleti haven't yet exercised similar "financial levers" and need to account for rising wages as well as the return of loaned players like Morata and Saul. It's probably best for the long term health of the club that they don't do what Barcelona have done or plan to do. It's loaning out the future to address past financial mistakes. It's not a get out of jail free card. There are long term consequences for the club, and when it comes to TV revenue, the better that Barcelona do the more money they end up paying out. Valencia are in a more desperate situation too.

The ability to register a player, at least according to Sid Lowe (the only English language writer whose opinion on the matter I trust), is determined more or less by a computer program. The player is registered through this program, and either the program accepts the registration or not. There are no manual adjustments made for this club or that club. Either the club's revenue allows a certain wage or it does not.

I don't really have a horse in this race as I no longer really root for Barcelona. I just haven't forgiven them for the European Super League debacle and probably never will. I take an interest in them because many of my family members support them, with one or two cules in the mix, and I find the English press's fascination with the club's finances kind of annoyingly incorrect. I do love La Liga though, and I find it very frustrating that some leagues like the Bundesliga and recently La Liga have FFP rules with actual teeth where other leagues like the EPL and Ligue 1 apparently do not. I do hope that the result is that "lesser" clubs in Spain that are managed well financially actually have a shot to win La Liga. It wasn't that long ago that Valencia, Depor, and La Real won it. However, I imagine that in practice these rules will prevent the rise of a PSG, Chelsea, or Man City to challenge the teams up top.
 
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Zososoxfan

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Barca's current state of finance, explained by the Swiss Ramble: buckle up!

So the financial situation at #FCBarcelona at the end of the 2020/21 season was pretty terrible, though there are a few signs of encouragement if we dig a little deeper into the numbers.
The good news is that #FCBarcelona debt has been restructured with a 10-year €595m loan at 1.98% replacing old short-term debt. Before the refinancing, this was a major issue, as €596m had to be repaid within 12 months. This was the highest in Europe, much more than other clubs
...
It is also worth noting that #FCBarcelona €555m loss was significantly impacted by €271m once-off costs following the Due Diligence report, including €161m player impairment, €26m other impairment and €84m provisions (law suits, tax cases), which will not be repeated.
...
This means that #FCBarcelona 2021 underlying loss, i.e. excluding the €271m once-off charges and €92m COVID impact, was “only” €193m, as opposed to the reported €555m. To be clear, this is still an awful figure, but nowhere near as horrific as the headline number.
...
That said, if #FCBarcelona revenue could bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, then the salary cap would also climb. Two years ago this was the highest in Spain at €671m, even more than Real Madrid’s €641m, so all is not yet lost, albeit an immensely difficult balancing act.
...
Before the pandemic struck, #FCBarcelona claimed that they were on track to be the first football club in the world to generate more than €1 billion annual revenue. If they can replicate this performance after COVID diminishes, their salary cap will correspondingly increase.
...
However, #FCBarcelona main strategy to “return to a sound financial footing earlier than expected” is to activate “economic levers”. Laporta said this would “bring us back into the black, pay off the debt and make the investments required for our teams to be more competitive”.
This sounds great, but what #FCBarcelona are really doing is selling off some “family silver” to generate short-term profits in order to meet the salary cap, but the price will be future “mortgage” payments (TV rights) or lower revenue (BLM – Barcelona Licensing & Merchandising).
...
While these machinations mean #FCBarcelona can probably meet La Liga’s salary cap and therefore sign the likes of Rapinha and Lewandowski, this strategy is clearly a gamble, essentially hoping that it will drive success on the pitch and generate more money in the future.

Even though Laporta claimed, “This will all take place under the criteria of financial sustainability and prudence”, it does feel like this approach of “short-term gain, long-term pain” means that #FCBarcelona have learned precious few lessons from the mistakes of the past.
https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1548917012021145606.html
 

Zososoxfan

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With Lewa in the fold, I have no idea what the Best XI looks like for Matchday 1:

MATS
Dest-Araujo-Christensen-Alba
FDJ-Kessie-Pedri
Dembele-Lewa-Ansu

Bench: Pique, Garcia, Mingueza (?), Wague (?), Busi, Gavi (?), Nico (?), Ferran, Raphinha, Depay (?), Auba (?)

Everyone with a (?) denotes potential starter/rotation player, or outgoing transfer. So I don't expect Umtiti, Roberto, or Braithwaite to play at all, so they don't even make the list.

in a 3ATB, either Pique or Garcia comes in, but that means you're taking off a CMF, and I don't think that's happening. A 3-5-2 is possible, but unlikely IMO since the club just sank so much money into Dembele, Lewa, and Raphinha.

Two things jump out putting this together--Barca have no left-footed CBs. There's no competition for Alba at LB/LWB. That's just bad roster construction. At least on the right there's Mingueza and Wague, although Barca are certainly trying to get at least one of them out.
 

67YAZ

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Barca pull a second lever and sell a further 15% of their future broadcast rights revenue to the same US outfit. No amount released but the last sale valued the rights at €2.6b. Laporta’s floated figures have been pretty accurate so will be interested to see what the new valuation is. And then what the true value realized is many years from now…

(PS I think Barca will be fine. The mega-clubs basically print cash with many different revenue stream available. )

(PPS My definition of fine probably isn’t Barca fans’ definition, which is something like “a historically great squad every season.”)

Edit: looks like the second round came in at €322b, giving a combined valuation of €2.36b Barca’s TV rights over the next 25 years. That sounds low to me given the possibilities streaming has opened up and how improved networks around the world can increase the number of eyeballs.
 
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Zososoxfan

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Good lawd, the signings keep coming with Kounde! The monopoly money mafia strikes again! He's a world class CB, and is excellent on the ball. Him and Araujo are the future in a 4ATB setup, and along with Christensen and Garcia, will allow Xavi to have 3ATB too if he prefers. They have to sell some players though, this is well beyond completely absurd. And it also makes their treatment of FDJ that much more appalling. That's a real stain on the club.
 
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rguilmar

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Good lawd, the signings keep coming with Kounde! The monopoly money mafia strikes again! He's a world class CB, and is excellent on the ball. Him and Araujo are the future in a 4ATB setup, and along with Christensen and Garcia, will allow Xavi to have 3ATB too if he prefers. They have to sell some players though, this is well beyond completely absurd. And it also makes their treatment of FDJ that much more appalling. That's a real stain on the club.
Man, I feel for FDJ. I don’t know how many of these moves are contingent on his sale or contract restructuring, but if these deals aren’t finalized Barca fans are gonna vilify him. Part of me wonders if Barca are intentionally bringing players that they can’t register unless FDJ’s current salary is reduced or off the books to really ramp up the pressure. The reality is that he signed a contract and Barca should honor that. Instead he’s becoming a scapegoat
He’d be better served signing for Real Madrid. The culés could only throw a pig’s head at him once per season then.

I do like a lot of these moves for Barcelona though, assuming that they are FFP compliant by August. I do find it interesting that Xavi wants to have two players at each position with deep competition for a starting spot when the teams he’s most associated with were comparatively shallow. For 2008-9 I think the only position up for grabs on a week to week basis was the 6 (Toure and Keita). The rest were written in stone barring injury or rest.

This Kounde move is a double whammy strengthening Barcelona and weakening Sevilla, who I hoped would be good enough to make a run at La Liga. Tons of caveats apply, not the least of which is getting everyone registered, but right now I’d pick Barca to win La Liga given the congested fixture list, the winter WC, five subs etc. Madrid are an injury to Vini or Benzema from being in “Real” trouble and Atlético have their own personnel issues to address. Lots can change of course, but if I had to make a bet today, that’s where I would go.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Third lever activated with the sale of 25% of Barca studios. Laporta says he thinks this will enable Barca to register all the new signings.

I imagine this probably also means FDJ stays at Barcelona. The club still seems to want to sell him (and buy Bernardo Silva to replace him) but he doesn't seem to want to leave and if the new signings get registered the pressure to do something will greatly decrease.
 

Zososoxfan

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Third lever activated with the sale of 25% of Barca studios. Laporta says he thinks this will enable Barca to register all the new signings.

I imagine this probably also means FDJ stays at Barcelona. The club still seems to want to sell him (and buy Bernardo Silva to replace him) but he doesn't seem to want to leave and if the new signings get registered the pressure to do something will greatly decrease.
We'll see how much he likes being the 4th (5th?) choice CMF / 5th choice CB. Still rotten the way the club treated him.
 

rguilmar

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At least we know Enron's accountants landed on their feet...

A lot of these others rumors I will take as just rumors until something more substantive comes out, from transfers to whatever is going on with FDJ. Spain has several sports dailies that need material, and these types of "stories" fill them up.

Until I see differently, I am still working under the assumption that Laporta is in close contact with La Liga and is aware of what needs to be done to register these players. Barca still have a few options including selling off more profits from BLM, selling players (Auba, Memphis, FDJ), and contract restructuring. It's pretty common in Spain for player not to be registered until just before the season kicks off, and in some cases even afterwards. This season will see more than usual, and not just at Barcelona, because so many teams are working on the finances to be compliant with the new La Liga rules.

As far as the long-term plan, the way I am understanding it is that Barcelona has been losing a lot of sponsorship money and that the hope is that these transfers will lead to a huge infusion of new sponsorship cash to offset (or exceed) the lost money from selling of future profits from BLM and TV rights. It feels risky, but at least it's something I can wrap my head around. As far as all these things go, I actually have no issue with what Barca are doing. I am fascinated by everyone else's fascination with Barca's finances though.

I obviously dislike how Barcelona have handled the FDJ situation and I am a little irked by the creative figures that they tried to sneak by La Liga. Beyond that, they have also been able to convert a lot of their short term debt into a long term loan with an absurdly low interest rate (like a $500 million loan at around 1%). This is the type of thing that clubs like Barca can get that give them an unfair advantage. This is true of other massive clubs, not just Barcelona, but whether it's favorable loan terms or absurdly low land purchases, these teams just get yet another advantage.
 

rguilmar

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Looks like the next lever has been pulled. https://www.fcbarcelona.com/en/club/news/2736062/fc-barcelona-official-announcement

For most clubs, you’d be worried that the dude behind the TV rights deal that fucked over Ligue Un was involved, but the guy is also Laporta’s buddy so it seems likely to be shady within parameters acceptable to Barca rather than even more of a ticking time bomb than everything else.
And assuming that nothing in this deal is akin to a shell company created by Barcelona- again- this should allow them to register all the players they have introduced and potentially sign one or two more, likely Marcos Alonso.
 

67YAZ

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A sale or two would really help, still. Not just for the crowded roster, but they can book the sales fees and move out the wages while stretching the fees paid over the nest several years. It’s possible this could be a very good budget year that floats them for FFP for a few years.
 

rguilmar

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A sale or two would really help, still. Not just for the crowded roster, but they can book the sales fees and move out the wages while stretching the fees paid over the nest several years. It’s possible this could be a very good budget year that floats them for FFP for a few years.
Looks like either Memphis or Auba will be gone, with Barca engaged in talks regarding both players. They’re at 7 players for 3 starting spots (and 6 roster spots given Xavi’s stated preference) along with whatever the resolution is to the FDJ situation.

How this works out medium to long term will be interesting. Does the gained revenue in sponsorships, CL money, gates, lowered salaries, and possibly smarter transfers outweigh the lost revenue by pulling these levers? I have neither the crystal ball nor the multiple PHDs in economics
to have any clue.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Looks like either Memphis or Auba will be gone, with Barca engaged in talks regarding both players. They’re at 7 players for 3 starting spots (and 6 roster spots given Xavi’s stated preference) along with whatever the resolution is to the FDJ situation.

How this works out medium to long term will be interesting. Does the gained revenue in sponsorships, CL money, gates, lowered salaries, and possibly smarter transfers outweigh the lost revenue by pulling these levers? I have neither the crystal ball nor the multiple PHDs in economics
to have any clue.
As far as I can tell, with the 3rd and 4th levers they've just sold 49% of something that loses money for 200m. Depending on what one thinks about web3 and the future of NFTs (I am a skeptic, personally), that sounds like a decent deal to me.

I imagine the domestic TV rights deal hinges a lot on whether or not there is a Super League and also what the buyback provisions look like. If a Super League does form then I have difficulty imagining big increases in future La Liga domestic TV revenues. At some point one would also imagine that Barca's credit would become strong enough that they could borrow a bunch of money at a reasonable interest rate from a bank and then use that money to buy the TV rights back as long as the buyback provision was reasonable.
 

Zososoxfan

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Auba to Chelsea for (E)$22M. Nice piece of biz considering he came on a free after blasting his way out of Arsenal. I wonder what the plans for Memphis are now--keep him as striker insurance, even with Ferran, Ansu, and Dembele in the fold, or get some money for him as well if the Juve/other interest is real? Perhaps the answer depends on whether La Liga will let them register Kounde now. Who knows, but find out next week on Televisa's newest telenovela, FC Barca!!
 

rguilmar

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Yes, but what we really want to know is what’s going on with Sergino Dest. This isn’t so much a FDJ situation where Barca need the move for financial reasons. It looks like Xavi prefers more of a hybrid 3ATB formation now with Alba or whoever is at LB (Balde this weekend) pushed way up the field. Araujo has been playing RB, or RCB, and they spent considerable time going after Azpilicueta who plays a similarish role. Needless to say, that’s not a role for Dest, so it looks like he’s out, but it seems like he is determined to stay. I’m not going to criticize him- it’s his dream club and given the choice of spending my winter in Barcelona or, say, Manchester, it’s not really a contest. It looks like he stays and gets no playing time in a World Cup year or he makes a move he doesn’t want to make.
 

Zososoxfan

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Yes, but what we really want to know is what’s going on with Sergino Dest. This isn’t so much a FDJ situation where Barca need the move for financial reasons. It looks like Xavi prefers more of a hybrid 3ATB formation now with Alba or whoever is at LB (Balde this weekend) pushed way up the field. Araujo has been playing RB, or RCB, and they spent considerable time going after Azpilicueta who plays a similarish role. Needless to say, that’s not a role for Dest, so it looks like he’s out, but it seems like he is determined to stay. I’m not going to criticize him- it’s his dream club and given the choice of spending my winter in Barcelona or, say, Manchester, it’s not really a contest. It looks like he stays and gets no playing time in a World Cup year or he makes a move he doesn’t want to make.
Yeah the Dest situation is a tough one. You've got his personal angle nailed correctly--not much more to be said about that. Tactically though, Xavi looks comfortable with either Araujo or Kounde playing RB in a back 4, or playing them in a back 3 without a wingback. Barca played 3ATB with Balde at LWB against Sociedad and TBF getting width on the right wasn't an issue as Dembele was enough of a threat and had his heels on the touchline for the most part. Lewa, Ferran, and Gavi all tended to push left and Barca's attack was constantly moving the ball up the left flank and then switching to the right to get Dembele isolated. Not an issue against one of La Liga's best, but not sure how that will work against a Real, Atleti, or UCL opponent.

Even with that, since Barca don't appear to care about nor seem hampered much by FFP or La Liga rules, it would stand to reason that they'd bring in someone specifically for the RB/RWB role. Normally I'd be looking for bargains but this is ridiculous Barca--they could aim high and try to pry one of Pavard or Mazraoui from Bayern (super unlikely), or more possibly one of Otavio or Joao Mario from Porto, or Pedro Porro from Sporting Lisbon for example. Dumfries from Inter would be a dream. There are some other good established players fitting the role littered throughout Italy, France, Germany, etc. too.

But what might make even more sense is to get a sensible OPTION (read: not starter) from another Iberian side. I'm thinking someone like Thierry Coreia from Valencia, Alex Bah or Gilbeerto from Benfica, Maffeo from Mallorca, or Esgaio from Sporting. Those transfers are usually easier to pull off, are cheaper, and require less transition time due to the styles of the leagues.
 

Zososoxfan

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I've been rewatching the Sociedad match and it's pretty stark how quickly Barca turned it on after Ansu and Raph came on for Ferran and Balde. In particular I think this bodes poorly for Ferran because Raph is a better winger and Ansu is a better playmaker (perhaps as a winger too). Once Barca had Dembele and Raph out wide, Sociedad had to respect them more and the middle opened up. Ansu immediately took advantage and Lewa also enjoyed the extra space.

The other thing that I thought was noteworthy is that Pedri was the one playing as "DMF" (really a regista) and FDJ/Gavi took turns playing next to him, or playing as the AMF (next to Ansu). It's all very fluid, with Ansu essentially the key as he can exchange with a wing OR Lewa.
 

rguilmar

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Gerard Moreno is reporting that Jules Kounde can now be registered and available as early as this weekend. Is that it for Barcelona registrations?

Looks like they’ve pulled the right levers, so now we wait to see if the reward is worth the risk, something we won’t know till many years down the line when we know the increased revenues versus the lost television and marketing income…
 

Zososoxfan

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The on field product yesterday was sublime and those levers are looking pretty good! Raphinha is the real deal and he was a phenom yesterday. Super direct and taking players on at every opportunity. Kounde looked way more mobile and adept at RB than I expected. Just wow. Lewa is absolutely lethal and he's going to score a bajillion goals in La Liga this season. Balde looks like he's ready to be an understudy to Alba at LB. Busi-Pedri-Gavi is probably the best XI MF ATM. I didn't see much in Kessie's cameo (ha!) but he would provide some more defensive stability. I wonder if Ansu displaces Dembele in the best XI when everyone's available, but for now he's clearly in the top 4 rotation and the most likely to sub for Lewa. Ferran is the 5th option. Auba should be dealt to Chelsea soon, and it looks like Memphis will be bought out so he can join Juve.
 
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rguilmar

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The on field product yesterday was sublime and those levers are looking pretty good! Raphinha is the real deal and he was a phenom yesterday. Super direct and taking players on at every opportunity. Kounde looked way more mobile and adept at RB than I expected. Just wow. Lewa is absolutely lethal and he's going to score a bajillion goals in La Liga this season. Balde looks like he's ready to be an understudy to Alba at LB. Busi-Pedri-Gavi is probably the best XI MF ATM. I didn't see much in Kessie's cameo (ha!) but he would provide some more defensive stability. I wonder if Ansu displaces Dembele in the best XI when everyone's available, but for now he's clearly in the top 4 rotation and the most likely to sub for Lewa. Ferran is the 5th option. Auba should be dealt to Chelsea soon, and it looks like Memphis will be bought out so he can join Juve.
Curious how you feel about having either Kounde or Araujo at RB against Vini Jr, Carrasco, Papu Gomez, Juanmi/Fekir or any of the other super technical LWs in La Liga. I agree Kounde looked pretty good but he’s publicly stated he doesn’t want to play RB, he was mobile but I wouldn’t say dangerous (like Balde, for example), and it was against lesser competition. Real Sociedad, while a solid test, don’t really attack with shifty wingers on the left- this applying more to Araujo than Kounde.

In other words, I’m worried about leaving either of them in space against a decent LW.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barca took care of business yesterday and dismantled Plzen. I was certainly surprised to see Roberto get the start at RB, and for Araujo and Raphinha to be on the bench. In retrospect, it didn't matter one iota. This match was a display of Xavi deploying a number of different systems and players and having it all work against the second best team from the Czech league.*

Playing Roberto at RB was nominal and only accurate in defense, as he played like a DMF/CMF/RMF in possession. It made for a very fluid MF with Pedri, FDJ, Kessie, and Roberto all flying forward and recovering defensively at times.

Barca's improved physicality from last season was on display early with the first goal involving Kounde getting a header across for Kessie to head home off a corner. On the second goal, Barca collapsed the middle of the field, quickly transitioned to attack, and Sergi Roberto (!) fed Lewa who did his thing and buried it. Barca switched off for a bit and conceded. But immediately turned it back on and was threatening again in no time. Dembele tormented Plzen down the right, and I have to say I've been very impressed with his counterpressing this season. He won the ball back after a failed dribble, then found Lewa on the back post to make it 3-1 just before HT.

Xavi subbed on Pique for Roberto at HT, and my thoughts were that he wants to get Kounde reps at RB, keep Roberto healthy, and keep Pique involved. If I'm right, Xavi will have some tape to show Kounde because Plzen had a great chance at 64' primarily because Kounde got dragged out of position trying to close down a player way upfield in the middle of the park and Kessie had just made a run. TBF, Dembele also shares some blame for not tracking the runner.

After that, Ferran came on for Ansu and made an immediate impact. Alba played a great ball into Ferran at the top of the box, and he handled a tricky pass and let it off to a trailing Lewa who once again buried a curling shot that the keeper had no chance at for his hat trick! Dembele then shifted to the middle of the attack behind Lewa and played more as a creator. He found Ferran making a nice run in behind and Ferran blasted a ball past the keeper to make it a full manito.

All in all, I think we'll look back at this game for the blueprints going forward. Everything worked today but the opposition was weak. Cellar dwellers Cadiz will be a stiffer test, but not likely too helpful in planning for the Bayern match next week.

*I just looked it up and I still don't understand why Plzen made it into UCL over Slavia Prague, who won the Fortuna (Czech) league last season.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barca got off a 4-game streak of not beating Cadiz and finally winning at Mirandilla in Southern Spain on Saturday. Xavi heavily rotated the squad, and the starting XI was:

MATS
Bellerin-Araujo-Pique-Balde
Gavi-Busi-FDJ
Raphinha-Memphis-Ferran

Much of a traditional 4-3-3, which I have to believe is because of FB selection and the opponent more than anything. Barca looked pretty bad in the first half, with only Raphinha hitting the post, Ferran putting in a good shot on a rebound, and Memphis missing from close really notable. Gavi was very combative and energetic and that led to the best chances. No subs at HT, but Barca finally broke thru when Raphinha got the ball isolated on the wing in the half space, Gavi darted in behind, crossed low and hard forcing the keeper to push it out, and FDJ reading the play well to finish in from close. This play was also notable because Bellerin had underlapped and was covered, which allowed Gavi to remain unmarked going into his run. After 60 minutes, Xavi put on the stars, with Lewa, Pedri, and Dembele coming on for Gavi, Ferran, and Memphis. It didn't take long for Barca to double the lead. Barca won a header off a Cadiz GK, Lewa held up play nicely, Bellerin streaked forward and Lewa found him, Raphinha makes a nice run in behind, crosses for FDJ, it gets covered, and who else but Lewa is there to beat the defender for the tap in. Barca had some nice play after that, especially Dembele switching the field quickly for Raphinha. That front 3 of Dembele-Lewa-Raphinha looks real good.

The other big thing with this match was that a fan had a serious medical issue, causing a delay, and after that a cameraman had another issue, so the delay ended up being close to an hour. I thought they'd call the game, but they came back out for the final 15-20 minutes. Lewa got a thru ball from Dembele, expertly shielded the defender, and unselfishly laid off for an easy Ansu finish (came on for Raph). Alonso came on for Balde for his first minutes in a Barca shirt (didn't see any of it), and Dembele scored a solo goal in ET after switching his shooting foot and blasting one straight at the keeper that should've been saved.

This week's UCL matchup against Bayern will tell us much more about where this team really is. It should be a fascinating matchup as both teams like to dominate the ball (Bayern slightly more so) but both teams have also played matches where they saw less of the ball, as inviting the opposition forward has come to be seen more accepted as a way to open them up. But in any event, I expect that Bayern will lean on their pressing, and Barca will try to assert numerical superiority, as Bayern play with an aggressive 4-2-3-1 and Barca are more comfortable in a system with 3 central MFs. This will be a game to watch the wings to see if either side gets pinned back. Both Bayern and Barca play with high wingers and FBs/WBs that get forward.
 

rguilmar

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Jul 16, 2005
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Looks like Gavi is locked up long term. Not that there was a ton of concern but there were rumblings that maybe Barca did not appreciate the young man like they should. That €1 billion release clause says otherwise. I was really impressed with him against Sevilla, a game where the Barca midfield was largely controlled by the Rojiblancos. Except Gavi imposed himself on the game by force of will. Sure, he’s a walking yellow card at times, but it’s something Barca has lacked lately.

View: https://twitter.com/fabrizioromano/status/1569654343061893120?s=46&t=rr7j6gesyeAHAkQhC_eyag
 

swiftaw

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Jan 31, 2009
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*I just looked it up and I still don't understand why Plzen made it into UCL over Slavia Prague, who won the Fortuna (Czech) league last season.
The simple answer is that Slavia didn’t. The Czech league runs a split system. The 16 teams all play each other twice (so each team plays 30 matches), then the league splits into 3 groups (Top 6, Middle 4, Bottom 6). The Top 6 then play each other one more time (5 more matches, so 35 total) and whoever is top and the end of that is Champion. Slavia were top at the split but Plzen were top at the end.
 

Zososoxfan

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Looks like Gavi is locked up long term. Not that there was a ton of concern but there were rumblings that maybe Barca did not appreciate the young man like they should. That €1 billion release clause says otherwise. I was really impressed with him against Sevilla, a game where the Barca midfield was largely controlled by the Rojiblancos. Except Gavi imposed himself on the game by force of will. Sure, he’s a walking yellow card at times, but it’s something Barca has lacked lately.

View: https://twitter.com/fabrizioromano/status/1569654343061893120?s=46&t=rr7j6gesyeAHAkQhC_eyag
I was coming in to post about my expected XI, and it's pretty shocking to write but I expect that the MF will be Busi-Gavi-Pedri. Gavi is such a weapon in pressing and joining the attack with runs forward (as opposed to FDJ's trailing runs, carrying, and passing), without sacrificing much if anything in terms of possession and passing that it's almost a no brainer. The kid is legit and frankly I don't even know if pressing and attacking runs are his best attributes--he's a sublime dribbler too. Add his infectious passion to all of that and he's a unique, promising, and lovable player.

My XI for Bayern:

Balde-Christensen-Araujo-Kounde
Gavi-Busi-Pedri
Dembele-Lewa-Raphinha

Balde gets the start at LB for me to deal with Coman. Normally this would be a good spot for Alonso, but I don't think he's up to speed yet. Maybe Alba comes on later in the game if Barca need more attacking juice. I start Christensen over Erick at LCB because of experience. I expect Bayern will press hard, and Erick is error prone (although he's been much better to start this season). I just think Barca can drop Busi between the CBs to get the ball to the MF. Araujo and Kounde form the right side of defense because Kounde is better on the ball, Roberto's not nearly fast enough to play on the wing against Bayern, and Bellerin's not up to speed yet.

With Busi's ability to drop in behind the CBs and dictate play in the MF, I think he gets the start. There's a chance we see Pedri as the DMF (he's the only one so far who can handle the playmaking responsibilities) with some combo of Gavi, FDJ, and Kessie in front of him. Gavi and Kessie would give Barca runners who can match Bayern, but I don't know that Xavi will want to play that game with Bayern. Maybe he will to start off and then turn to more skillful players later on if game script dictates/allows.

Up top I think the front 3 is pretty set. Maybe we see Ferran start so that Raphinha comes on against tired legs, but Raph and Dembele are so good together already, and Raph's pressing is elite, that I think he gets the nod.

Very excited for this one!
 

Zososoxfan

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Jul 30, 2009
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The simple answer is that Slavia didn’t. The Czech league runs a split system. The 16 teams all play each other twice (so each team plays 30 matches), then the league splits into 3 groups (Top 6, Middle 4, Bottom 6). The Top 6 then play each other one more time (5 more matches, so 35 total) and whoever is top and the end of that is Champion. Slavia were top at the split but Plzen were top at the end.
You're my hero! How did you know that? I tried looking it up and still couldn't find it.
 

Zososoxfan

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Oddly encouraged by the 2-0 loss @ Bayern today. Barca had the better of Bayern in the first half, with Raph, Pedri, and Lewa all not doing enough and Neuer standing on his head to keep Barca off the scoresheet. Xavi played his best MF in Busi-Pedri-Gavi, but Gavi ran himself ragged and Busi couldn't keep pace after HT, and Bayern's 2nd breakthrough came thru the middle of the park. The goal came off a corner where Alonso seemed to be tasked with marking Hernandez, but also Lewa and Raph were guarding the near post, not man-marking. They both jumped and missed and Alonso wasn't in phase (to steal an American football term). To top it off, MATS was slow off his line reading it leaving him little chance at a header taken from such close range. But credit to Kimmich for dropping a dime in a bucket and for Hernandez to lose his mark and bury it. Pedri played one of his worst games in a Barca shirt, Raph looked a bit nervous, and Dembele had some bad turnovers when he dropped deep that created problems for Barca. Alonso got his first start and looked comfortable playing in this immense match. I think Christensen got the nod over Eric for his experience and acquitted himself well.

Really happy to see Ferran, Ansu, Kessie, FDJ, and Eric get meaningful minutes in this one. We still don't really know Barca's Best XI and letting everyone feel the pace and intensity of this match is important.

In sum, I think Barca have more room for improvement than Bayern, and expect Barca will continue to improve over the coming months. But, they need to battle Inter and Bayern to stay in UCL. No easy task.
 

OilCanMDS

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Jan 29, 2007
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Washington, DC
I had mixed feelings about the game. I was encouraged by the attack and the amount of chances that were created, but obviously I was disappointed with the team's finishing overall. Neuer made some good saves, but it also felt like the team rushed their best chances. It seemed like players were nervous or rattled by the game.

I was not a very big fan of the defense, and Alonso in particular. Christensen was fine, but I would have preferred Eric Garcia. I think Garcia's passing out of the back would have helped a lot during the stretches when Bayern had Barca locked into their own defensive third. When Barca signed Alonso, I expected him to be a roster player like Roberto that would occasionally play at LB, LWB and LM. I was not expecting a player of his quality to be starting in big games, and he showed why in this game. He was completely at fault for the Hernandez header and was a major part of the defensive collapse in the Sane goal when he jogged back to his position after he lazily challenged a Bayern player a few yards up from the defensive line and on the side line. Xavi has generally been good with choosing lineups and tactics, but playing Alonso was a clear misstep. I hope in the future he is strictly used to give Balde a rest because he doesn't seem to bring much to the table. At least if Balde makes those mistakes we can hope that he will learn from them and improve. Alonso is 31 year old and seems to have settled into what he is, which includes (according to my Chelsea friends) lazy defending and regular lapses in focus that result in attackers being completely undefended.
 

OilCanMDS

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Jan 29, 2007
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Good game against Elche because that's the type of team we should be dominating, but sometimes don't (like Rayo). I wasn't able to watch the whole game because I had some stuff to do during the game, so I was catching 10-15 minutes chunks a few times throughout the game. The FDJ-Gavi-Pedri midfield looked pretty strong against a lower table team. It's tough to tell if FDJ can play as a CDM against better teams from what I saw, but it was encouraging that he seemed to excel in that role this week. Did anybody catch the whole match and have any thoughts on Frenkie as a CDM?

Also, Balde showed again why he should be starting and getting as much experience as possible. It looks like Barca have three flawed LBs on the roster for this season, but at least Balde is young enough and talented enough that he could become a world class LB with more game time.
 

Zososoxfan

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Good game against Elche because that's the type of team we should be dominating, but sometimes don't (like Rayo). I wasn't able to watch the whole game because I had some stuff to do during the game, so I was catching 10-15 minutes chunks a few times throughout the game. The FDJ-Gavi-Pedri midfield looked pretty strong against a lower table team. It's tough to tell if FDJ can play as a CDM against better teams from what I saw, but it was encouraging that he seemed to excel in that role this week. Did anybody catch the whole match and have any thoughts on Frenkie as a CDM?

Also, Balde showed again why he should be starting and getting as much experience as possible. It looks like Barca have three flawed LBs on the roster for this season, but at least Balde is young enough and talented enough that he could become a world class LB with more game time.
I watched bits and pieces of the match, but not enough to say much about the MF. I will say that when I've seen Xavi roll out a 3-man MF without Busi, it's usually fluid and FDJ might be there at times, but Pedri will also drop in and spray the ball around.

Memphis was awful in this match. Not sure why Xavi played him and Lewa together, but Memphis didn't look effective at all on the wing. He'd try to take on defenders and lose the ball and allow counters to get started going the other way. I say that full-well knowing he scored a goal, but he did it posting up a defender, making a nice turn and blasting a shot from in close.