Sevilla FC 2:0 FC Barcelona - Up until the 72nd minute when Cesc Fabregas leveled the game with his second goal of the night, Culés worldwide had to reconcile with the idea of being dealt the first defeat in this ongoing 2012/2013 La Liga campaign. It’s not so much the idea of losing that is pestering, it happens to be best of sides. There’s no shame in losing to Sevilla FC at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. It’s about the manner in which an almost full-strength Barcelona side engaged with the match. FC Barcelona’s defense was quite simply horrible, whereas midfield and attack only fared marginally better. In the build-up to Sevilla’s first goal of the night Dani Alves decided to play spectator while Victor Valdes followed suit. The second Sevilla goal mercilessly exposed what is not exactly a secret; neither Javier Mascherano nor Alex Song are natural centre-backs and were left for dead by Àlvaro Negredo. And while Barcelona eventually won the game 3-2, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova’s steadfast determination to play, not one, but two defensive midfielders as centre-backs.
Tito Vilanova sanctioned the signing of Alex Song to replace China-bound Seydou Keita. The Malian, though not a starter, provided physicality in the middle of the park that would’ve been vanished since Yaya Toure already left two years earlier. So far so good, that makes sense on some level. But now that Tito’s first choice center-back pairing (Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique) has been quite literally knocked out cold, Mr. Vilanova is changing his motives faster than Republican Presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney. Since he ran out of viable options, or simply can’t overcome his obvious distrust of youngsters Marc Bartra and Andreu Fontas, Tito Vilanova can’t emphasis enough that he originally bought Alex Song, a defensive midfielder, to play as a center-back. Right.
One is excused for failing to comprehend the thought-process of FC Barcelona’s current manager. So Tito Vilanova bought a defensive midfielder, who probably played center-back in a youth side, to become a center-back.
If anything, the wheelings and dealings of Tito Vilanova remind me of the least successful period of the Frank Rijkaard era. He succeeds where countless trolls and bandwagon fans have failed in the past – he irritates me.
In the last three games (in all competitions) Barcelona has scored seven but conceded four. In none of those games did Barcelona particular convince over 90 minutes. The two times Barcelona faced quality opposition, in Spartak Moscow and Sevilla FC, the Blaugrana’s defense leaked goals. It’s a reminder of sorts, a throwback to the good ol’ days of Frank Rijkaard when any given game could, and most likely would, end in a goal-fest.
It already looks like Barcelona will do a lot of protecting their lead over Real Madrid as opposed to expanding it any further
Alex Song’s stance on the matter is admirable. Asked about the prospect of facing Cristiano Ronaldo, the Cameroonian seemed unfazed and noted that he has already played against Real Madrid’s no. 7 during their Premier League days.
That takes the count of people who irritate me at Barcelona to two. Of course, Tito Vilanova remains my personal Irritator-in-Chief.
With all due respect to Spartak Moscow and Sevilla FC, Real Madrid are the better team and if Àlvaro Negredo can run riot against Barcelona’s defensive pairing of Javier Mascherano and Alex Song, imagine what an inspired attack of Mesut Özil, Angel di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema can do. Current League position notwithstanding, Real Madrid remain FC Barcelona’s chief rival in all competitions. FC Barcelona already lost a crucial Clasico this season. However, this one cannot be as easily forfeited as the second leg of the Supercopa de España.
Of course one can always apply two perspectives on any given issue. The glass is either half full or half empty, depending on one’s philosophy. It can be argued that FC Barcelona have shown grit and determination and learned how to win at any cost, even learned how to fight back after a deficit. But neglecting to acknowledge that something is inherently wrong with Barcelona’s central defense is just plain wrong. It already looks like Barcelona will do a lot of protecting their lead over Real Madrid as opposed to expanding it any further.
Rather than be treated to a 5-course menu, Barcelona fans are spoon fed a happy meal. And it’s shoved down our throats.
There are still ties to be played against the likes of Athletic Bilbao and Atlético Madrid, Fernando Llorente and probably the world’s best striker, Radamel Falcao. The latter in particular, if fit and in form, will make a feast out of Barcelona’s makeshift defense.
The parallels between Barcelona’s 2006/2007 and the 2012/2013 campaign are striking - goals galore, leaky defense, the place atop the summit of La Liga. In short, this looks and feels shockingly familiar. No red and blue-blooded Culé needs to be reminded how that season ended, level on points with Real Madrid but with a worse head-to-head record, thus sending the La Liga trophy to the Spanish capital.
At the moment, efficiency, style and substance are missing from FC Barcelona’s game. Rather than be treated to a 5-course menu, Barcelona fans are spoon fed a happy meal. And it’s shoved down our throats.
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