Posts Tagged ‘Guardiola’

Dear Barcelona


So you today say you won’t wait much longer for Cesc Fabregas. Is that a promise? Will you just piss off if Arsenal continue their refusal to sell? That would be nice.

The daily ‘negotiating’ tactics are pretty hilarious, and it seems the more silent Arsenal remain, the more desperate Barcelona start to sound.

Barcelona won’t pay over the odds. Of course,why should they? Arsenal should just accept the opening offer and sell their captain and one of the best midfielders in Europe for little more than the Catalans received for Yaya bloody Toure. Oh wait… Also, if they want to move on to Mascherano or Robben please be my guest. It’s not like they lack enough diving players already.

Sandro Rosell also regrets the topic being public as it “increases the selling club’s expectations”. And whose fault is that exactly? Arsenal have made all of about two statements on the matter; I think he needs to be looking closer to home. They will never pay 50 or 60 million euros? They won’t even get to negotiate let alone buy if they don’t.

Because he's worth it.

Is saying you won’t wait meant to be a threat? Let’s not forget which club is in the position of power here. Arsenal have no need, and no desire to sell. Yes, Fabregas may want to join Barcelona but he is also Arsenal club captain and last time I checked he still has four years left on his contract. If it came down to a war of stubbornness Arsenal can simply hold him to it.

Oh and getting your whole squad to day by day comment that Cesc’s heart belongs to/is already in Barca does not reduce the fee. It just makes you sound like twats.

I could hazard a guess at what the FC in FC Barcelona stands for but this is a family blog...

If you want to buy Cesc Fabregas, offer a proper transfer fee. Like you did for David Villa. Like you did for Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Arsenal should really call Inter for some tips on how to screw Barcelona over).

Arsenal will then say no, and you can be on your merry way. At least until next summer. Thanks.



Weekly Photoshop – 2009 Review


Hello hello, long time no speak. This week there’s no Photoshop theme in the Guardian, merely a collection of the year’s best entries. They’ve decided to not just use the weekly winners (not sure why) hence Emmanuel Eboue gets in from way back in January while October’s effort for Old Trafford Injury Time also makes it.


My three personal favourites from this year are as follows:

3. Nicklas Bendtner (more for Ade as Ike Turner):

Nicklas may think he's "simply the best, better than all the rest" but sadly for him Ade is the Ike in this relationship.


2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (proving me wrong to be fair):

zlatan ibrahimovic barcelona guardiola

"Of course you can rely on me in the big games Pep." Zlatan's already epic nose suddenly seems to increase in size...


1. Roy Keane (both entries):

roy keane ipswich

There'll be none of this Tractor Boys business now Keane is in charge, it's manual labour all the way...

roy keane ipswich mick mccarthy

Mick McCarthy may have escaped Keane's clutches for now but he'll soon hunt him down.


Hope you enjoyed them all, I’m going to try to spend more time on them next year. Alberto Aquilani is first up in the new year.



Weekly Photoshop – European Super League


Last week, Arsene Wenger predicted that the Champions League would not exist in ten years time, instead being replaced by a European Super League. It wouldn’t be a surprise to be honest, I’m sure most of the major European clubs want a competition where they have more control and income than from the current UEFA format. Anyway, this formed the theme for this week’s Guardian photoshop gallery comepetition, the entry for which is below.


It's Come Dine With Me as Wenger predicts a European Supper League...

It's Come Dine With Me as Wenger predicts a European Supper League...


The rest can be found here (lots of superhero entries).





Barcelona vs Man Utd Thoughts


Some thoughts from tonight’s Champions League final:  


Best team in Europe. Fact.

Best team in Europe. Fact.


This Barcelona side is a great one. They may have their flaws but their midfield in attack is so good it doesn’t matter. Congratulations on their treble.

The possession football of Messi, Xavi and especially Iniesta was a joy to watch. Both sides had weaknesses going into the game, Barcelona lacking their fullbacks, United their defensive midfielders (good ones at least). The difference in the match was Barcelona took advantage of United’s flaw whereas United failed to return the favour. 

After a dominant opening ten minutes by Man Utd, Barcelona scored out of nowhere and proceeded to then control the rest of the match. In the semi final second leg, Fergie’s side had done the exact same thing to Arsenal. 

Another final, another quiet Henry performance. His chance early in the second half was reminiscent of 2006 when he had an opportunity to wrap things up at 1-0. He missed now as he did then but this time the end result was different and he gets the one major trophy missing from his impressive CV.

Iniesta – excellent.

Ronaldo peaked with his free kick after two minutes.

Vidic, Rio and Van der Sar – not so much. Vidic was turned easily by Eto’o for the opener, while 6’3″ Rio was nowhere near 5’6″ Messi for the second. I thought Van der Sar could have done better with both to be honest.

Against a team so comfortable on the ball, will Fergie regret choosing old man Giggs over the hustling Tevez?

And should Rooney and Ronaldo have interchanged a bit more? You felt Ronaldo would be a more effective winger against Sylvinho, at least for some of the game. 

In his first season as Barca manager (and only the second year in his whole managerial career) Pep Guardiola wins the lot. He joins select list (read five others) to have won the European Cup as player and manager. And to think this team can still improve.



Champions League Semi Final Second Legs


After two fairly underwhelming first legs in both the Barcelona-Chelsea tie and Manchester United-Arsenal tie, this week should see a tense and exciting finish conclusion of the semi finals. It is still all up for grabs. Here are my thoughts about how the first legs panned out and what to expect from the  sides involved in the second.



Chelsea vs Barcelona

Guus Hiddink and his team were heralded in the media for their tactical outmaneuvering of Barcelona at the Nou Camp. The stats tend to agree – not only did Barca not score but they failed to create that many good chances, with the best falling to the youngling Bojan Krkic. Credit where credit is due, Chelsea played to their strengths – very literally. The combination of Essien, Ballack and Mikel in the middle denied the engine room players Xavi and Iniesta the space to operate, while Messi was often forced inside by a unusually defensive-minded performance from Bosingwa.

Nevertheless, it was such an unambitious showing from Chelsea that I am not quite sure why anyone is confident they can beat Barca at Stamford Bridge. Failing to score an away goal puts them in the unenviable position of needing 2 should Barca score one. Guardiola’s men have scored 140 in all competitions this season, who wants to put money on them failing to score one in 180 minutes against Chelsea?

The Blues have players who have the quality to maintain possession and distribute accurately but instead they put all their eggs in the lump-up-to-Drogba basket. If he had scored the chance gifted to him by Rafael Marquez then Drogba may have vindicated the strategy. Lampard was a spectator and thus was unsurprisingly withdrawn before the 90 were up. The reality was that Chelsea did not even attempt to play any football and I think more likely than not it will be the same case in the return leg.

Barca were at their devastatingly best going forward in their 6-2 drubbing of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday night. Although it is pretty clear they won’t get that kind of joy against Chelsea at the Bridge, I expect Las Blaugranas to dominate proceedings yet again. Hiddink will rely on the same tactic of frustrating Barca and hope to provoke them into a mistake by frustrating and aggravating their players, as they did in the first leg.

If Henry is injured it is a massive blow but I think this Barca team is playing with such confidence and quality that regardless of who comes into replace him, Chelsea won’t see much of the ball and ultimately the class will show.



Arsenal vs Manchester United

While Arsenal, unlike Chelsea in the other semi, attempted to play the game against Manchester United, their lineup was completely non-conducive to getting a result at Old Trafford once they conceded the early goal. Wenger tried to contain United with a five man midfield but in the end was lucky to come away with a 1-0 defeat. Ultimately, I think that Arsenal’s failure to score an away goal will come back and bite them on the Arse.

Wenger’s choice to deploy Fabregas in the advanced position, Diaby on the left and Nasri as a holding midfield was based on success against a poor Boro side the weekend before. What happened against United was that Fabregas was forced to come deep to see any of the ball, meaning Arsenal’s last third was congested and Adebayor was isolated figure struggling against the formidable duo of Vidic and Ferdinand. The threat of Walcott was made redundant through lack of distribution and space in behind Evra, while both Gibbs (who had a good game) and Sagna (who was poor) were pinned back by United’s wide forwards.

At the Emirates Wenger will go back to 4-4-2 (thank fuck), although the success of that working depends on Van Persie being fully fit to play (he was passed fit today but who knows what that means for chocolate leg). A forward line of Bendtner and Adebay plays into the hand of United’s aerially astute centre backs. Fabregas will go back to the middle and Nasri return to the left. The problem for Arsene is that United will press the Gooners the same way they did at Old Trafford, safe in the knowledge that if they go out to score early doors, Arsenal will be forced to go gung-ho in search of the 3 goals needed to overturn the away goal.

Nevertheless, the important factor for Arsenal is that they return to playing in the way they feel comfortable (4-4-2) and enjoy. Wenger’s two big matches of tactical experimentation (Chelsea FA Cup semi final and United first leg) were largely failures. Arsneal have got good results against the big sides playing their own game.

United showed why they are European champs at Old Trafford. I expect Arsenal to show that they can play on a par at the Emirates. But when it comes to the crunch, United have the confidence and experience to score when it matters. For my sanity’s sake, I hope it doesn’t come after Arsenal outplay United, leading 2-0 until the 93rd minute. If you are gonna kill my boys Fergie, make it quick and painless.



Champions League Quarter Final Preview – Barcelona vs Bayern Munich


In the last of our rather late Champions League previews we focus on the tie between Barcelona and Bayern Munich. This is the only game without English interest but it could well be the most explosive quarter final given it features the two top scoring teams this year. Both have 24 from eight games, though half of Bayern’s total came against sorry Sporting Lisbon in the last round. Managers Guardiola and Klinsmann met as players for Barca and Bayern in the Uefa Cup semi finals back in 1995/96 (back when it was worth winning) and the Champions League group stages in 1998/99 – Bayern won both the Uefa semi and both CL group games but I think it may be a different story this time.

Pep and Papin

Pep and Papin


Super Barca

Under new manager Pep Guardiola, Barcelona have been transformed this season. Key signings like Daniel Alves were made in the summer and star strikers Eto’o and Henry decided to stay and decided to get fit respectively. The result has been dominance at home and abroad with a frankly ridiculous 122 goals in all competitions this season. They are averaging a shade under three goals a game in the league while building up a six point lead at the top with a +61 goal difference. +61! In Europe they strolled through the group stages before dispatching Lyon with a 5-2 destruction  in the second leg at the Camp Nou. They have failed to score just twice in the league and have scored six goals in a game four times. Their defence isn’t bad (24 conceded in 29 league games, but 11 in 8 in Europe) so it’s not a case of we’ll just score one more than you, but the focus as always with a Barcelona team is to keep attacking so if anything the strikers have compensated for any defensive frailties.

If he can do that with his lips, think what his feet are capable of...

If he can do that with his lips, think what his feet are capable of...


Not so super Bayern

In contrast to Barcelona’s dominating ways, Bayern have struggled in the Bundesliga currently lying fourth, though just three points behind the leaders Wolfsburg. Those leaders handed them a 5-1 spanking on Saturday so Bayern don’t come into this game in the best of form. Grafite scored a lovely backheel that made their defence look silly. Their attack is pretty good and led by Ribery. Bayern have scored more than two a game domestically with 54 but their defence can be leaky with 36 conceded. Just seven clean sheets have been kept while three or more have been let in five times. Europe has provided relative comfort away from their domestic issues. They went unbeaten in the group stages (which included Lyon) and we’ve mentioned the record win over Sporting. 

How to wrongfoot three players...

How to wrongfoot three players...


Key men

Eto’o and Henry have scored over between them but Barca’s key man these days is Leo Messi. Arguably the best player in the world right now, he has scored 30 times for Barca this year. He will look to attack the Bayern defence from the right wing but has to ability to be effective anywhere in the front third. He’ll be ably supported by Dani Alves who will run up and down the right touchline all night long and Xavi who will look to control things from the centre of midfield.

Bayern meanwhile have their own genius winger in Franck Ribery. Him playing well is the key to Bayern getting anything from this game and the Frenchman will look to continue his good recent form in which he scored both times in France’s pair of 1-0 wins over Lithuania. Up front Podolski and Toni will look to aerially attack the Barca defence and test Victor Valdes, who let’s be honest is a bit rubbish.

King of the Bavarian castle.

King of the Bavarian castle.



I simply can’t see anything other than a Barcelona win tonight. Going forward I think they’ll have too much for Bayern’s defence and it woudn’t surprise me to see them score three or even four goals. I think Bayern have enough going forward to score themselves and Toni and Podolski can certainly cause Marquez and Pique some problems. Ribery may well be better off starting on the right wing so he can attack Sylvinho rather than Daniel Alves but I imagine he will have licence to do as he pleases. If Bayern are still in it for the return leg at the Allianz Arena then it will be a job well done but I fear Barcelona could somewhat humiliate them this evening. I agree with the Football Guy, 4-1.



Champions League Preview – Barcelona vs Olympique Lyonnais



The Barca Show

20 games. 53 points. 63 goals. 12 points clear. Barcelona are smashing La Liga records and sweeping opposition aside with their tenacity, class and lethality in front of goal. Their latest victims were Numancia at the Camp Nou on Saturday night, Pep Guardiola once again getting the best from a group of truly world class players. Terry Henry, Sammy Eto’o and Leo Messi have formed the front three trident that Frank Riijkard couldn’t quite get to click last year. A goal return of 14, 22 and 23 goals respectively from 25 games is a phenomenal record. The Blaugranas are deservedly the favourites to win the Champions League this season, with most bookies giving odds of 3 to 1 for them to reclaim the title they last won in 2006.

Leo Messi


How much longer do I have to touch this guy for? Why is he touching my leg?

The man is quite simply the best player in the world at the moment, outclassing the World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, in terms of goals and impact. His superior dribbling and ability to make something out of nothing is combined with great teamwork. If he can stay injury-free, his taste for big game performances should see him excel in the knock-out phase of the Champions League.

According to Cesc Fabregas, Messi was “very shy and that complicated his integration” into the Barcelona youth team, and his team-mates “thought he was dumb. Until, being kids and thanks to Play Station, we discovered he could talk.” Now, I don’t know whether this means Messi is being controlled by some spotty teenager in his bedroom (me and the Football Guy used to imagine taking control of live football matches by ‘plugging in’ our control pads) but whoever the kid is, he has to be pretty special.

Daniel Alves

Bosingwa has a mono-brow but I still look like more of a freak!

Chelsea, you missed out! Bosingwa has a mono-brow but I still look like more of a freak!

Messi is not the only threat coming down Barca’s right-hand side. Dani Alves, the right back that Chelsea didn’t think was worth dishing out £25 million for, is arguably the most potent force in Barca’s armoury. His overlapping runs, pinpoint crossing and eye for a goal has led the Guardian’s man in Spain, Sid Lowe, to rate him as the second best player in the world at the moment (after Messi of course). Ten assists is a pretty sweet return from full back, even if the Quark look-alike does play like a right winger. On top of all that, the man can actually defend. Some people have it all eh?!

Unsung heroes

As always, Xavi’s contribution is taken for granted, but this season the addition of Seydou Keita and the emergence of both Yaya Toure and Sergi Busquets have given Barca a steely side to their game, without sacrificing technical ability and creativity. Even the milky-bar kid has had his career rejuvenated by Guardiola.


A Word for Lyon perhaps?

Well, I am not going to pretend that I have been following Ligue 1 at all whatsoever this season (or any season for that matter), thereby damaging my credentials as a lover of football from all corners of the world. Nevertheless, I did a bit of research and here are my three points on why Claude Puel’s team must be respected but will ultimately fail against Barca:

1) Seven Ligue 1 titles on the trot….but

A record breaking seven consecutive championship titles gives Lyon a perennial presence in the Champion’s League and confidence to take on the biggest and best. Nothing appears to have changed, as Lyon currently sit pretty at the top of Ligue 1. However, this season could be different, as Bourdeaux under the tutelage of Laurent Blanc, are playing some good football and are only one point behind. Marseille are in third place, four points behind Lyon. Will this finally be the year when Lyon give up the crown?

2) Yes they still have Karim Benzema…but

The Manchester United target is continuing his good run of form from last season, having scored 15 in 22 thus far. He proved himself on the Champion’s League stage last year against Manchester United, and has the ability to upset Barca. However, while Lyon may have the likes of Benzema and the highly rated Jean Makoun II, the also play Jean-Alain Boumsong at centre-half. A mental image of Barcelona versus Boumsong is a very Messi one.

3) Lack of strength in depth?

In years gone by Lyon had a strong squad with a good balance of attacking and defensive players. This season they look a little short of the quality they had two or three years ago, with the likes of Essien, Malouda (don’t laugh, he was pretty good there) and Ben Arfa. Judging by Lyon’s transfer window targets of Charles N’Zogbia and Julien Faubert, OL have set their sights a little lower in terms of the players they can attract (they still didn’t manage to buy those two). Fred also appears to be on his way out of the club.


I may as well not have bothered with this bit, right? Even if Barca are ultimately the winners, I expect a good match of football between these two.  The two-legged affair should be more watchable than some of the typically stale meetings between Europe’s elite clubs.



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