Sunday, 31 May 2009

Review of Reactions In the English Papers

Barça beat Manchester United in the CL final with what Uefa records as 51% possession. That might well be the lowest possession stats Barça have had all season. By all means, Barça barely tried hard during this game, never having to overextend themselves, easily covering spaces in midfield to keep out Man Utd’s attacks.

The British media in its pre-match build up had many sarcastic observations to make about Barça’s attacking methodology and its ability to beat exalted English opposition. Many of these had to make a quick turnaround and were fulsome in heaping praise on players like Iniesta, Xavi and with a few more qualifications to Messi. Pep Guardiola was another who got a lot of rave reviews.

But the sensation that filters through the applause is one of embarrassment. So anyway, we thought it worthwhile to bring you a short review of some of the articles focusing more on the writers who scrambled to eat humble pie.

MARTIN SAMUEL: So you're the best Barca? Now is the time to prove it...
MARTIN SAMUEL: Yes, they are the masters - no dispute, Barcelona deliver on their boast

The picture of Martin Samuel at the top of the page reminds one of the loud fat guy, you once saw climbing on to his table at the pub making loud proclamations before eventually falling off in a drunken stupor. While it may appear that he was gracious in the second article, with the sort of taunting that he employed in the first and earlier pieces (after the Chelsea semifinals) there was little Mr. Martin Samuel could do beyond publically eat his hat.

The Mail also has Andy Townsend and ‘Spice Boy’ Jamie Redknapp expressing banal opinions on where United went wrong. Redknapp who was gutted after the Chelsea game (perhaps because Frank Lampard is his cousin) had little to say on this occasion beyond weeping over United’s performance.

On Sky Sports, Graham Hunter and Jason Cundy had a debate on whether Barça are capable of winning the Premiership. Cundy (who ?) quite atrociously, suggests that Barça would have trouble beating Stoke City because of the superlative defences that the English League is littered with. Graham Hunter, who is the Sky Sports correspondent for La Liga, promptly rubbishes the suggestion with a reasonable argument. Cundy, nevertheless firmly believes that if Barça had so much trouble beating the eleven 300 million pound worth defenders of Chelsea they are bound to struggle against the total 15 million pound worth sides that are Blackburn and Stoke. Apparently no one reminded Cundy that back at the Club World Cup Man Utd, the best defence in the world had 3 goals put past them by Gamba Osaka of Japan and thereafter struggled to defeat Liga de Quito of Ecuador in the final.

“As their legions of supporters strolled through the Coliseum, mounted the Spanish Steps and marvelled at the ecclesiastical masterpiece famously referred to by Sir Bobby Robson as the Pristine Chapel, the champions of England and Europe were counting down to their date with destiny to ascend to the pantheon of the sporting Gods.

For all the paeans to Barcelona, for all the trumpeting of Lionel Messi’s fabulous talent, and admiring glances at the tempo-setting skills of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, Manchester United look ready to assume their place among the greats of the game. ”

Rather majestic hyperbole from Henry Winter, a respected journalist whose columns, reproduced in many countries, serve to propagate the myth of the Premier League’s unsurpassable superiority. Winter, hit the depths of gloom in his match report and quickly turned to the FA Cup final thereafter to distract himself.

In a more enjoyable read, Jim White teases the Man Utd supporters who claim that the result would have been different but for the absence of Fletcher and Owen Hargreaves. Pointing out that Guus Hiddink is soon to leave Chelsea and thus his reputation as likely to grow in absentia as Fletcher’s and Hargreaves’ did; White reckons that the combination of the three if they ever were to tie-up would be unbeatable.

The Sun, in its own stylised technique of splitting even a single sentence into paragraphs has the most erudite Terry ‘El Tel’ Venables providing the match analysis. Venables reckons it was a master stroke on Guardiola’s part to play Messi in the centre and nobody in the world could have seen that one coming. His praise of Messi and Iniesta is flowing and his criticism of Ferguson rather subdued and back-handed but he lashes out at the media for portraying Barça as a weak side with a flimsy defence.

Surely no hypocrisy there then from the man whose previous article entitled was “Barca cant cope with United” and included comments such as “The astronomic abundance of ability at his (Ferguson’s) disposal is so great that whoever he sends out will be good enough to claim victory.” Indeed the entire article is littered with such pompous statements and if there is anything shocking to a cule, it should be the fact that this man is a former Barça coach who lead us to a La Liga title and the final of the European Cup.

The Guardian, maintained its usual attempt at objectivity by targeting Man Utd on a range of issues, from Goalkeeper Van Der Saar’s age to its lack of ball handlers in midfield. It was left to our favourite La Liga columnist, Sid Lowe to pay tributes to Guardiola and the treble winning Barça squad.

The Times Online was similarly gracious in its praise of Xavi and Iniesta and eloquent in its description of United’s despair. The Mirror published a criticism of the media's hyperbole and trumpeting of the English League and Man United's dominance before the final.

My Take

The initial reaction from a larger number of papers was one of criticism for Ferguson’s tactics. In what seems to me an apparent contradiction in terms, Ferguson set out a team to beat Barça at their own game(as opposed to Chelsea who did everything right) yet did not have a plan B after Barça had scored. This seems a little strange because if you set out a team to attack then you should be in the best position to react if the opposition score first.

I think that in fact the opposite is true. Ferguson set out a team to play on the counter but taken in (and perhaps with some justification) by the hype about Barça’s weakened defence told his team to press early for a goal. He presumed they would score first amd later sit back and defend, counterattacking when the opportunity arose. The plan backfired when Eto’o scored and after that instead of playing the ball through the middle, Man Utd’s forwards to the man hung on the Barça defence and left poor Carrick the enormous task of single-handedly threading through balls to them from deep midfield.

What I was looking for in the papers was a strident criticism of Ferguson’s arrogance. The man talks about Barça defeating Madrid but doesn’t bother to watch the match or could it be that he watched but didn’t notice Messi playing in the centre? Similarly a few videos of Eto’o would soon reveal that in the position that he received the ball from Iniesta, his first inclination would always have been to step inside and his control being poor under pressure (of late), simply waiting a few seconds could have presented Vidic with the opportunity to steal the ball off him.

Everything in the manner of the win indicated that Sir Alex had spent little time studying Barça or even considering the possibility that United might go a goal behind. But perhaps it was the media themselves which brought such a scenario about and any mention of this would be a greater admission of culpability than any of them were willing to accept.

kamikaze kontiki


per said...

Great read.

Thank Pep we beat those smug brits.

barca4life said...

Great work Kami. Nice read

Stigsby said...

Yeah Kami, excellent job. Very nice overview and I can't agree with you more, SAF were simply not prepared to take on Barca.

Iason said...

Great Read. FC Barcelona is just plain and simply a better team than Manchester United.

fcbee said...

Nice work, kamikaze, very interesting!

Anonymous said...

thanks, this is what i was looking - english reactions before and after the match.

Anurag said...

lol, just what i was looking for. thanks for this, just shows how true the term "eat your hat" is

sashi said...

gr8 one man. cant agree more to it. the media almost gave the Cup to Man U before the kick off itself!!! but yeah, backfired big time!!!

Ramzi said...

Great work Kami:)

Regarding Ferguson, I think if Man Utd were the winners, everyone would have hailed his genius approach to the game. He lost, so Venables for example(u know that guy from his Naive article before the game) ended up writing another article after the game talking about Pep Tactical surprise of using Messi in the hole, at the center. Surprise? For a wild elephant in a jungle may be, but for ferguson?

If an amateur footballer like me was so certain Messi will play in the center and Eto'o will put pressure on Evra to lock him back (my pre-match article), there is no way an experiences coach with 18 technical staff member and scouts had no hint about it.

The team with the best mix of tactics(coaches) and resources (players) won.

They are trying once to say "Man uts were not performing up to their normal standards" and some other times claiming that "It was Ferguson mistake" Just to keep living in denial. They cant accept the simple truth:

This Barcelona is a better team than This Man utd. That win was normal, not a surprise, nor an exception.

kamikaze kontiki said...

Thanks everyone. I kinda enjoyed reading these articles and figured you guys would as well.

Mast said...

nice work kami! :)

LeónDragón said... opinion is,that ferguson did not play only against barca...he was also fighting with the big piece inside him,that couldn't deny,being a barcafan too...nice one here...also like the samuel thing...very funny view of him too...

rObReV7 said...

Ahh, Brillinant article! Im from england, and i hate the british press soo much! They believe in their 'brilliant country with their brilliant league and brilliant players' soo much, that i waas looking forward soo much to reading the reactions! the only problem was my dad didnt buy the papers the day after as they had sold out when he got to buying them! So thanks soo much for this!

zeebarca said...

Im still hearing in the media that barcelona caught man u on an off day and that any other day it would have been a walk through the park for them. although i dont deny man u's talent, i cant agree with the smugness of the british press, to fail to realize that the best team in the world right now fully replaced last years winners by being true to their philosophy. its the same way that scholes lone hammer blow sent us back to barcelona last year. that was out walk of shame , and united had theirs on that glorious night in rome, its now the british presses time to get of their high horse and do the same.

thank you kamakaze for the read and to our great team this year for the treble. we must now try to retain all these titles next year for another shot at glory.

¡Visca Barça! ¡Visca Catalunya!


blablabla37 said...

I SIMPLY LOVED TO READ THIS!!! What an overview! Really nice to read journalists opinions before and after the match!
How arrogant is that Venables guy, he simply refuses to see that he got it all wrong and as Ramzi said, Barça ARE the better team. They simply outplayed Man Utd and not just because their manager wasnt spot on with his tactics.
Having said that, i cannot agree more with Ramzi about Barça playing Messi in the middle. Ramzi you saw it, even if you are a amateur footballer. Well, i tell you what, i knew Messi would play there too and im not even in the game anymore! And im sure a lot more of us saw it coming! It baffles me Ferguson didnt see it coming.
Again kami, an excellent read! And i couldnt agree more with your comments on the articles!

MohamedH said...

i just love the objective view that Graham Hunter is displaying... he is the only one that gives barca real credit... i especialy like this one:
GH: I think they would win (the Premier League) and I think they would win it often enough so that the top four would become a top two - whichever was the best English club and Barca.

Carrer de Corsega said...

That's like an Olympic sprinter losing then saying, "I lost today, but I'm still faster!"

LeónDragón said...

...say it again...think sir alex was not 100% after it,because he's also a footballfan...and as a footbalfan you gotta love barca at this moment...he had to fight this out with himself...fight against the barcafan inside him...but that's not a reason for barca,not being the better team...the reason is that barca was best...and fergie realized it also,i think...fergie said so often positive things about barca,that i think that there is some truth in this idea...

Jnice said...

Well Graham Hunter is kind of biased towards Barcelona MohamedH. He has lived in Barcelona for 7 years and has more info that most British journalists. He is biased in a good way, though. He watches Barca every week, as well as training and he knew what he was talking about when debating with Jason Cundy. That cunt of a person.

MohamedH said...

@Jnice.. ok... maybe the 'objective' part was a little bit exaggerated... ;)

Random Juve Fan said...

its always good to see the british outshone...thanks Barca :) FORZA JUVE!!! ps i would like to thank Pavel Nedved, Luis Figo and Paolo Maldini for their great careers
pps maldini has been offered a job at barca

cbr_boss said...

It was slightly best of both worlds for me as Rooney is my favorite player in the world. I wanted the scored to be 2-1 with barca scoring 2 early goals and knocking ball relentlessly around the opposition. then with late sub's rooney making something out of nothing and scoring a consolation goal. as barca is "my favorite team in the world" I smiled when they taunted us on our lack there of's in defense and laughed when we proved that talk will never have a "say" in football. Barca for life!

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