Barca Chokes: Xoel's Thoughts on the Disaster in Milan
Well, that didn't go so well, did it?
FC Barcelona got beat, and got beat good.
Lionel Messi didn't do anything. Pedro was not there. Xavi or Andres Iniesta didn't have enough.
And of course, the defense was not very good.
You have to give credit to AC Milan. Massimiliano Allegri brought a game plan and it worked. Congratulations to Milan and their fans on a well deserved victory.
OK, now it's time for me to critique this FC Barcelona team.
Let's dive into this thing as Barcelona are on the brink of elimination from the UEFA Champions League as they fell 0-2 to AC Milan on Wednesday night.
I'm not happy at all, but let's go!
Missing: Lionel Andres Messi
If you have seen Lionel Andres Messi, please return him to the Camp Nou as soon as possible.
Messi was nowhere to be found in this game. Milan did a terrific job pressuring him to move further back to get the ball. Leo was forced to move around and not get a good look at a shot.
Let's face facts: we've seen Leo Messi disappoint and disappear before.
We saw this Messi against Chelsea in 2009 (only to be bailed out by Andres Iniesta's golazo in the last minute).
We saw this Messi against Inter Milan in 2010.
We saw this Messi against Chelsea last year.
And we saw this Lionel Messi on Wednesday against AC Milan.
Or maybe I should say, we didn't see Lionel Messi in all of the games just mentioned.
If history has told us anything, it's that Messi will more than likely disappear in the second leg.
I don't want history to repeat itself, but unless Lionel Messi studies the tape, works with his teammates on the practice field and mentally prepares for another "park the bus" defense, I won't be shocked if Messi disappears and disappoints once again.
I hope Messi re-appears in the second leg.
Park the Bus Strikes Again
Were we supposed to be surprised that "parking the bus" worked again against FC Barcelona?
I can't believe how many Barcelona fans are complaining about Milan's defensive strategy. Of course AC Milan were going to park the bus, especially after their handball goal.
What surprises me is that Barcelona still have not come up with a strategy to defeat the parking the bus defense.
This team saw the bus in '09 with Chelsea, '10 with Inter, and last year with Chelsea again.
Why haven't they figured something out by now?
Part of the blame has to go to the coaching staff as well. Pep Guardiola couldn't figure out a strategy for parking the bus, and it cost the team in 2010 and last year. I understand Tito Vilanova is out, and who knows, maybe things would have been different if he was on the Barcelona bench.
But he wasn't. Let's get over it.
Barcelona has three weeks to figure out how to destroy the bus AC Milan is going to park at the Camp Nou.
No. More. Excuses.
P.S: I wouldn't be surprised if Tito Vilanova comes back in time for the second leg.
Has the Time Come for a True Striker to Be Brought into the Lineup?
Has the time come for a true striker to be brought into the lineup?
It looks like it may have.
Let's think about it: Are Milan going to park the bus at the Camp Nou?
So why not mix up the lineup for the second leg?
As I previously mentioned, Leo Messi has not done enough in previous occasions when teams have parked the bus. Why not open Leo up by putting him at central-attacking midfielder, and move a healthy David Villa into the striker position?
I'm sure Tito Vilanova will present the same 4-3-3 lineup at the beginning of the game, but what if Barça go into halftime of the second leg tied at 0-0? Then what?
If that were to happen, Tito will be forced to go a 3-4-3.
Many Culés are saying that the time has come for Barcelona to use a true striker.
I somewhat agree.
While this team does not need a true striker for most of their matchups—even against a team like Real Madrid, for example—this team does need a true striker when facing a "park the bus" defense.
You wanna know the sad part in all of this. It's that history is repeating itself.
Take a look at what I said just a year ago (April 25, 2012) after Barcelona lost to Chelsea and were eliminated from the Champions League:
For many Barcelona critics, one thing that they are beginning to wonder is if Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka (now Tito Vilanova's) system has become too predictable. I don't buy this argument. What I do see is that this team is lost any time a team decides to park the bus. We saw this in 2010 with Inter Milan, we’ve seen this in La Liga whenever an opponent takes the lead against Barça and play all-out defense, and we’ve seen it now with Chelsea.
I know it’s easier said than done, but Pep Guardiola (insert Tito Vilanova) and his team needs to work on something to fix this, because many teams are going to copy what Chelsea did against Barcelona.
I’m not trying to overreact, but I think this semifinal teaches us that a true striker is needed when facing an all-out, park-the-bus defense. A striker like (David) Villa would work the middle of the pitch and would free up Messi to have the space he needs to create plays instead of having all the pressure of being in the middle solely on him.
Perhaps due to Barcelona being so deep with wingers as well as seemingly not needing a true striker these past few years, we overlooked the impact a striker...can bring to the team.
But as we all know, “perhaps”, “would have”, and “should have” mean nothing right now."
History has a bad memory, because it repeats itself too many times.
I know David Villa isn't the el guaje of a few years ago, but he is a true striker, and someone needs to score other than Messi. This falls on the wingers as well. I don't care if it's Pedro at striker, Andres Iniesta playing at left-winger, or Cristian Tello at striker.
Someone not name Messi needs to score goals, period!
Alexis Sanchez: Done at FC Barcelona
Alexis Sanchez is officially a bust with FC Barcelona.
I know I'm probably writing this out of pure frustration with my team, but this kid has been nothing short of a waste of money.
Sanchez cannot handle the pressure of playing for el blaugrana, and it's best that he is loaned out this summer.
Sanchez replaced Cesc Fabregas in the second half of the Milan game, and he contributed by doing nothing.
He clearly followed the lead of his teammates.
Sanchez lost the ball on a few occasions, and was not the spark Barcelona were desperately looking for. I blame Jordi Roura as well for deciding to go with Sanchez instead of Cristian Tello, who has the speed to create plays and cause problems to the opposing defense.
Alexis is bad at controlling the ball, his moves have become too predictable, he has no confidence and has become a joke among football fans—even Barça fans, myself included.
Some of you might be saying that I'm being too tough on Alexis and that he deserves another chance.
Another chance?! Seriously?!
How many chances are we supposed to give this kid? It feels like every time Alexis struggles, some Barça fans say, "He'll do better next time" or "I'm sure the old Alexis Sanchez will show up soon."
I'm still waiting, folks.
I'm not saying he can't play football. I'm saying that Alexis Sanchez is not good enough to play at FC Barcelona.
Sanchez does have talent, but he is also weak, he lacks confidence and has been a waste of Barça's money. He needs to go either back to Italy, or go to the Bundesliga to gain confidence in his game.
And yes, I do believe Neymar would have given Barcelona a better performance not only in this game, but throughout the season.
Get rid of Alexis Sanchez this summer, Sandro Rosell. Send him to Juventus or any other team looking for his services.
Spend quite a bit of the summer transfer budget and get Neymar for next season, Sandro. You already wasted over €25 million on Alexis in 2011, why not spend double that for Neymar?
At least I know Neymar has confidence.
Truly disappointing, Alexis.
Alexis Sanchez = BUST
Time to Spend on a Defender to Help Defend the Counter Attack
We all know this FC Barcelona defense is weak. Even though the defense wasn't bad against AC Milan, it needs a boost this summer.
This team cannot contain the counterattack, and it showed in Milan's second goal.
While I'm not very disappointed in the defense's performance, I still believe Barcelona should use some of their reported €50+ million (h/t @barcastuff) summer budget to get a top defender to strengthen the counterattack.
Enter Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels.
As I mentioned in a recent article, Hummels is the best choice to bring in this summer. At 6'4", Hummels and his long legs are able to slow down speedy forwards. Hummels would help Barcelona defend set pieces, as well as corner kicks—two big areas of weakness in the Barça defense.
And of course, Mats Hummels would help defend against the counter attack.
Unlike Gerard Pique, Hummels does not tend to move up forward to attack. Mats stays in at the back line like Carles Puyol. With Carles not as fast as before due to age, Hummels would come in and give Barcelona the speed, height and strength to help stop the counterattack.
I'd prefer to see Mats Hummels signed before Barcelona try to finalize a deal with Santos for Neymar. Hummels is needed more than Neymar is. But I'd take both please.
Mats Hummels would more than likely cost FC Barcelona €30 million, an amount Barça can easily afford to pay Borussia Dortmund.
The counterattack has killed Barcelona too many times in recent history.
It's time to do something about it.
And in my opinion, Mats Hummels is the best option to help fix the problem.
I know all Barcelona fans are disappointed with their team's performance against AC Milan, but don't forget to give credit to Milan and their fans.
Culés have to look at their team if they want to be mad at someone.
I understand that this article has a "next year, we can improve" feel to it. Sorry, but I'm just playing the cards Barça has dealt me. They have one foot out of the Champions League. La Liga is ours this season, and the Copa del Rey will be settled soon, but under Barça's current predicament, it's not too early to think about next season's Champions League run.
A 0-2 deficit is tough for any team.
Is it possible for FC Barcelona to overcome this deficit, and win 3-0 or 4-1 at home in the second leg?
Of course! If there is any team in the world that can do it, it's Barcelona.
That being said, it's going to take a nearly flawless game by Barça to do it.
I also realize that Barcelona may have dug themselves a hole that's too big for them to get out of.
But I'm a believer in the comeback.
The comeback was nearly complete against Inter in 2010 as well as last year against Chelsea.
Now against Milan, it's time to complete the comeback.
For now, lets put all of this aside, and focus on Sevilla on Saturday.
Time to bounce back and win, FC Barcelona.
That's what champions do: Rise.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona.
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