Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Aftermath Season Ramble

The aftermath Season Ramble
By: Ramzi Tanani

Preface: Glory!

Imagine yourself playing a football match, You receive a pass into the opponent box and you have two options: either to blast a shot or pass to a teammate who may have a better chance to score. What will you do?

No matter what option you take, it’s the good one! The most important thing is to decide, or else you will end up neither scoring nor passing. You will only look as funny as it looks when you get a tricky cross that makes you confused if you have to shoot it or head it! Just hope your knee do not kick your face while you shoot and head at the same time!

In such situations, You end up pulling your socks up, or sticking your boot in the grass, as if it’s not your fault that you flopped to create threat from that obvious opportunity, it’s your socks, the pitch, or wait! I forgot “tying the shoe” after flopping, it caused all the mess. Damn Luck!

I have been in a similar situation since “The glorious day of May”. Do I write about the achievement made by our heroes? But how can I do so if every time I think about it, the thrill blow me up on my feet so I start walking back and forth like a Drunk excited Messi!

Do I write about our magicians who kept on fighting till the last moment of the season Marathon? Even when they were labeled overrated. Even with the liga stupid schedule throwing a stone over a stone on the players shoulders. Even when they had to play out of position. Even when key players were suspended. Injured. Doubted. or criticized!

Or I just jump to the serious stuff. Pure football and season analysis?

It was a great season. Exceeded all expectations, and fulfilled the most unrealistic dreams we painted on the walls of our fantasies.

It is a bold fact that this team deserved this treble after being the football Ferrari this season, cruising the Competitions highways between the “Ugly but reliable” rusty vehicles of football.

This is a team owned by fans, plays attractive football, and promotes the idea that football players are artists, not soldiers. This is a unique delicious flavor in the world of nowadays football, something different. it’s more like being the spice of excitement.

Teams get honored when they win a title. Barcelona gives any title an added value when they win it. Because Barcelona is more than a Club, and Barcelona players are more than just some quality talents.

They are the knights of football passion!

The Squad. General overview:

The squad quality this season was out of question. Not only we had great players with world class potentials, but also –unlike the past few years- we had more diversity when it come to players attributes. A perfect mix of skillful players, tactical players, Strong ones, Versatile ones, youth, experienced, Veterans with dedication, New signings with hunger. That’s a perfect mix to win titles.

This squad succeeded to create the difficult balance between Offense and defense –to some extent. Even during the great 2005–06 season, that balance was not available. First because of the difference in tactics as we will discuss later. But most importantly because of mono-dimensional resources. Ronaldinho for instance had never been the Henry we’ve seen this season regarding defense contribution. Nor he was as involved in Offense build up –system wise- as Iniesta when he play on the flank. Deco with all his brilliance had never been as disciplined tactically as Keita, nor as energetic as Iniesta in the midfield. Compare Zambrotta or Oleguer impact to that of Alves. Add pique to the Mix, Busquets, and the other youth.

And its very, very...Very important to note that I am not talking about the quality of individuals. But more about the individuals contribution with in the system dynamics.

In the other hand, the old guards were customized this season in a way that helped them to serve the team much better, as we will discuss in Players evaluation.

During the intensive period where we had a tight fixture. There were lot of talks that we are suffering of fatigue because the squad lack depth. I always had the belief that this fatigue has other reasons related to football style and rotation, without denying that couple of signings may give us a further edge. In the Champions’ league final we played against the team that was considered as the team with best depth. That team collapsed- as they claim- because they missed one defensive midfielder. We had three defenders out. We had to pull our main defensive midfielder back to cover and used a second option in the midfield instead. And we still had a player on the bench who is much better than their suspended player (Keita).

Pep Contribution? Now, Thats another discussion!

The Squad, Players performance and future needs:

Victor Valdes Arribas

Some people just hate the guy. Others feel he is a ticking bomb. You never know when he flops and it happens at worst timings. And may be, it’s the memory of the times Valdes mistakes knocked us out of champions’ league competitions. Now let’s make this straight, He caused us lot of troubles before. But if the Champions' league destiny, for example, is hooked on a single moment or mistake rather than the over all team performance, then its safe to say that he won us two Champions’ leagues as well.

Season 2005–06, Against Arsenal when he made heroic saves (Interestingly against Henry) , and kept us in the game. As predicted, Belletti boot –deservedly-was immortalized after the game at the club museum. Valdes gloves? Don’t even ask.

Season 2008–09, Mainly against Chelsea. Iniesta was the Hero of the Champions’ league semi finals. Now everyone who follows my writings enough know that I have always been the eternal fan of Iniesta. But for me, the semi Final Hero was, again, Victor Valdes. Ask Drogba. In the Final he saved a “come back“ scoring opportunity for Man Utd after Messi's goal. Believe it or not, If Man Utd scored that goal, lot of "woulda"s could have happend. Manchester utd would have the felt the “Yes we can!” beam of hope for the rest of the game. Nothing guarantees that they would have won the title instead, but the opposite would have been far from certain as well.

Taking the two competitions he was involed in this season, He was the best keeper in Spain. No question. Now if you are wondering if I forgot Casillas, I know that guy. He is a better Keeper, much better. He had a great form at the end of the season. But in the first half of the season, he flopped, big time, he made lot of "Valdes-like" mistakes. To refresh our memories, I mentioned after the game against Madrid last December that Valdes was the most impressive Keeper so far in the league. No one argued back then. That was almost the midway of the season. Add that part to the last section of the season with Valdes performance in the Champions’ league, you get the unquestionable result. The guy was really good.

Taking the fact that there are no better alternative in the market. Taking the fact that the guy is improving his performance year after another . Taking the fact that the amount of pressure this thick-skinned guy can handle and keep performing decently. Taking the fact that Changing the first choice keeper will be risky, costly and may not even be a choice (Lack of options). I consider renewing Valdes Contract as a priority.

I know I will get whipped for this view the very first time Valdes makes a mistake, and he will. But thats my saying about it.

José Manuel Pinto Colorado

The Copa Del Rey hero. One thing I like most about this keeper is the way he command his area. For a second choice keeper to have the steel to boss his defense the way pinto does, is impressive by all means. I wish if Valdes learn that part. What will you demand when you look for a second option keeper?

1) A certain level of quality and games experience. Something Pinto proved he has. And his football profile prove it as well.

2) He does not nag to start games. Because unlike the common belief, the Head-to-Head competition between keepers for the first spot is never a good thing. The goal keeper is an exception in football when it comes to rotation and competition (May be the first striker is another exception as well, but for different reasons).

Goalkeeping is a huge responsibility. The keeper need to feel confident and settled to be able to perform well. If one mistake blow him to the bench, he will be so obsessed about it that he will flop in the very next match. There is a reason why you barely find two great keepers in one team. Now to Keep the keeper alerted, you need a keeper on the bench who can take his place if he collapsed completely game in game out. Pinto is actually good enough as an emergency option. While to motivate the Goalkeeper to improve his form and qualities, you need a young keeper who is not yet there to hack a starting role, but soon may turn to be a strong option. That situation keep your first option motivated to get better, to avoid the upcoming threat, not because one mistake may ruin his future.

3) Having the chemistry with the rest of the squad. And you can see it obviously when Pinto plays, or when the team scores. Besides, we all read Valdes argument that it won’t be fair to have anyone else for the cup Final beside Pinto. Now of course no one expects Valdes to say:”I am the first keeper and I want to start this game!”, But at least “It’s the coach decision and we are all motivated and will wish luck for the ones who will start this game” is a typical Cliché that will not show any signs about the dressing room harmony. Instead, Valdes comment was notably positive.

In the “Do we Buy? Keeper” we discussed Sergio Asenjo option as a backup for Valdes. His advantage over Pinto is age. But If Sergio Asenjo decided to move to Atletico Madrid, it means that he is not welling to be a second choice. Which means, he was not an option anyway.
So I think it’s smart to keep Pinto for one more season.

Albert Jorquera Fortia

It was a surprise that we extended his contract. I was expecting us to get a younger more promising keeper last summer. For his age, I think it’s time that he move seeking another challenge. He was one of our youth products, served his role as a supportive option, now he needs something different, so as the team.

New Blood:

Beside keeping Valdes and Pinto, we either need to promote one of Barcelona Athletic keepers, or seek a young talented keeper, as a prospect for the middle term future.

For Next Season: Valdes, Pinto, and a young keeper.

To be continued…


MohamedH said...

Great Article, Ramzi!!!
Cant wait for the follow ups...
Keep up the good work!!!

kamikaze kontiki said...

I think Pinto is a really good keeper, Zamora winner with Celta Vigo remember?

I think he is actually a better keeper than Valdes because he commands his area, directs his defenders (as Ramzi noted) and his confidence with the ball at his feet is very good allowing the defenders to play the ball around the area. this causes strikers and midfielders to try stealing the ball thus opening space for us in midfield.

I defnitely hope we keep both Valdes and Pinto. But I feel we also need someone like Asenjo beacuse Pinto is always going to be 2nd choice, he is never going to be the man to put pressure on Valdes to get better.

And Valdes does need to get better. He is a great shot-stopper and has saved our ass many times but there are many areas where he needs to improve. If he was just a bit better at coming out and collecting the ball of corners and freekicks we wouldn't be so nervous during setpieces.

FCBarca said...

Yeah, nice writeup so far...Made me misty eyed for VV =)

Ramen said...

We need a young keeper right? We have them in the names of Miño and Oier. <_<

tero said...

Yeah I think that Jorquera needs new challenges (read:we don't need him).Too bad we didn't get Asenjo

barca4life said...

I think valdes has answered his loudest critics this season including myself. You dont win 2 champions league's by being a bad gk and our defence is not the strongest in the world so it isnt at if the defence is the only reason he won those two titles. He has gotten better and i honestly think he is just a bit bored sometimes. He is a little demotivated for whatever reason and he makes some bad plays. But when he is motivated i think he is a pretty good gk. Somebody pointed out that he is a great shot-stopped but positioning and kicking is not necessarily his best strength hence the looking lost on corners and getting beaten with set pieces. I do hope he stays and wins another 3 or 4 champions league titles before he retires. After all he is 27 so he can go till maybe 38 so that is 11 years.

Helge said...

Victor Valdes was crucial this season.

He also made 2 astonishing saves against Drogba in the first leg of the semi-finals, where he denied him from scoring two times in a row. I bet Drogba has nightmares about Victor Valdes. He was criticized - also during this season - but he kept to himself and proved to the whole world that he is a keeper good enough for the world's best team. He may not be the best keeper in the world, but he is certainly strong enough for Barca.

Another thing is that with 27 years of age, he is still young (for a keeper), thus there is time left for him to improve. He's also a true Catalan, born in a suburb of Barcelona and one of 7 regular starters from la Masia - that's a true plus. I definitely think we should give him a new contract (I've read something about a contract extension till 2014) simply because he deserves it.

Oh, and by the way (off-topic), whoever Real Madrid will buy, they will have a bunch of players bought together from all over the world and they will never be the first team to win the treble :D
Just had to repeat that, because it is so awesome that we've played such a historic season WITH 6 or 7 starters from our own youth team. No other team will ever repeat this (Ajax might have won the CL with a similar origin of their players back in the 90s, but they didn't win the treble in la Liga^^).

peter said...

Id say we buy asenjo and then loan him out for a couple of years. HE is going to be spains first choice goalkeeper in 2-3 years.

sashi said...

VV is the best!!! atleast the best we can keep our hands on!

praths4barca said...

yaiyeee!!!! Negotiations are underway between laporta and moratti :) :) :) i am so happy ibra is coming to barca.....Letz get ready to break buses henceforth. I hope etoo agrees to move to inter.

James said...

according to someone on a forum, the mexican press are saying Marquez has extended his contract for 2 more years.

cruelsong said...

beautifully done ramzi... luv to read ur article...
can't wait 4 defence, midfield, attacking article.. :)
and yeah.. this season valdes made a less bloopers and lots of magnificent saves (in term of decisive match)
hope he ca maintain it...

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