At the start of the winter break we asked for your questions to our team. All questions were answered by Luis Mazariegos, Arron Duckling and myself Sam Cooper.
What are the most important moves Barça should be pursuing to secure long term success (ex. Neymar, Barça B players, CB, selling anyone?) Which should be avoided?
The most important one's been made - Messi has re-signed. Further than that, it's a bit too early to tell. I still think that a CB signing has to be made, and really should have already been made. The only exception is if Marc Bartra improves markedly. LM
How much of Messi's brilliance do you think is attributable to the Barça system and how much to Messi's brilliance? And I'm wondering if there's a way to break it down statistically.
It's hard to tell but it's obviously a bit of both. Of course his scoring record for Argentina is not as great (though still awesome lately) but then the amount of goals Spain score is much smaller overall compared to Barcelona. Simplest way to show it. LM
Unsure of any way to break it down individually but in my eyes it is about 70% Messi's brilliance 30% the Barça system. There's no doubt Messi would still be a great player if he wasn't at Barça but would he be one of the best ever? I don't think so, Barcelona have taken him up a step.
I think he would also have a different style if he was at a different club, a lot more weaving runs and long shots similar to how he played as a child. Barcelona have taught him discipline and that taking a long shot is not always the best option. Xavi and Iniesta too must be accredited for making Leo the player he is today. SC
How has Messi's role changed under Tito?
In a lot of ways it hasn't. In subtle ways, it has. He tries ambitious passes less. In fact, he registers less touches overall. He tries less dribbles and shoots less, too, and yet he's scoring more. I think Tito has slightly reduced the burden of playmaking on Leo and allowed him to poach a few more goals. Again, these are slight differences. The overall effect is the team is slightly more balanced. LM
Could Alves be on his way out?
where would Montoya fit in? Is he starter for 8-10 year material?
To both: Yes, Alves could be on his way out because Montoya has impressed and because Adriano has improved. Alves is a great player, but there are several factors that could motivate a switch. One, his salary. Two, his attitude (a bit rebellious). Three, his age, injury history, and declining form. However, if he re-establishes himself this season he could stay on for longer. LM
I don't think so. Alves has been a key player for a number of years now; it's almost like he's one of our own. He appears to be one of Messi's closest friends, or at least, the two get on well on and off the pitch, so that's one reason not to sell him - but above all else, Alves seems happy to stay for the next few years and possibly the rest of his career.AD
How do you see Tito's vision playing out, say, 4 years in the future?
Will that Barça be almost the same or not even close?
Tough to say. Tito is more pragmatic than Guardiola, and he's said he would change his style with different players. I think Plan A is tiki-taka, and can't see the team straying too far from it. But four years is a long time, anything could happen. LM
How would Barça play against a new team managed by Pep?
by Ricardo Blonde
Same as always. The question is whether Pep's team would be able to take the ball away from Xavi and company, and I think the answer is no. Arsenal, for example, are a possession team and they had very little of it at the Camp Nou last time. Of course Pep's team might be better than Arsenal but I think something similar would still happen. LM
That's a good question. I think it depends on what team Pep takes over. If he takes over a team that is already very much about possession based football (such as Arsenal) then I believe the quality of Barcelona will be too much and they will still dominate the game. Even though Pep knows the inner workings of this strategy. If he decides to take over a team that works on counter attacking football then I think we will see games of the same style to recent Clásicos. SC
I can only imagine Barcelona would play in exactly the same way they usually would, I think it'd be interesting to see how Pep managed a non-Barca team vs Barcelona though.AD
Who are our best prospects for the future? Aside from already established first teamers like Thiago.
by Al Benson
I've caught a fair amount of Barcelona's matches in the NextGen Series, and I quite like what I've seen from the two wingers - Adama and Ebwelle. They have a great deal of pace, which obviously shines through at the youth level, but I'm not sure whether they are candidates to make the step up to senior level. Obviously, Sergi Samper is another exciting midfield prospect and Sandro has a good eye for goal, but again, I'm not sure whether he has what it takes to eventually break into the Barca team - especially playing as a centre-forward. I've also heard good things about Georgios Spanoudakis, who plays for the Cadete A - he was offered a trial at Chelsea before, and plays in a sort of Iniesta-type role, left of centre in the midfield. Vilanova's son, Adria plays for the same team, and it'd be awesome if he turned out to be a prospect as well. AD
Tello is basically a first-teamer, so that one's obvious. Deulofeu is the most exciting prospect in the B team at the moment, but he's still not there. Dongou is very young (though some doubt his age) but playing excellent football. If he continues to develop he should be great. Sergi Roberto is sometimes overlooked because he's not quite as spectacular but he's a tidy, smart midfielder in the Guardiola tradition. LM
What do you think about Tito so far?
His game plan, strategy and effectiveness?
He's performed beyond expectations. Like I said, more pragmatic than Guardiola. He wants the team to be direct and never give up. Some were of the opinion that Guardiola's team last year were too idealistically motivated, and Tito's brought them just one notch back. His effectiveness - dropped only 2 points in the league - speaks for itself. LM
Who do you start at midfield when Fab is healthy? Does Iniesta return to the left wing even though that means that both Villa and Alexis are both on the bench?
Looking at form this season, I would play Iniesta on the left wing and Fàbregas in the centre. Although this means sacrificing Villa and Alexis I feel the quality of Xavi, Iniesta and Fàbregas together is worth it. SC
Realistically, if Bojan returns... do you think he'll fit into this team? And all in all, who do you think offered more to the team during their respective time here... Bojan or Alexis Sánchez?
Bojan will always fit into this team, even if he doesn't look like starter material. He knows the system, and is a decent finisher, so I would think he could play out on the left if he ever did return. Whether he would accept a role on the wing however...
And overall, I think Bojan offered more to the team in his time at the club, but Alexis has proved himself to be a better fit in the squad - i.e. he never complains, always works hard in attack and defense etc. AD
Perhaps Bojan has learned humbleness having played for other squads that did not find a spot for him in the starting XI every time. Bojan will have lots of competition for wing spots - especially if Neymar is brought in. He will have to play better in the second half of the season with Milan. Alexis scored 15 goals last year, better than Bojan ever did. However Alexis is going through a very rough patch in front of goal this year. Also, Bojan was younger. Still, did Bojan ever score in el Clasico? Because Alexis did in two. But I've said this before, the decision for either of these two is at the end of the season. We'll see then. LM
Is Villa leaving the club in the near future a possibility?
Unfortunately it does look that way. I, like you, am a massive fan of Villa but for a striker in his 30s he is not getting enough game time and at this time of his career he doesn't have the time to be patient and wait for his chance.
As for when and where he will go it is undecided. I think it is incredibly likely that he will leave this summer maybe for a team in England. Chelsea are rumoured, as they are with every top player, so are Liverpool but I doubt Villa would move to a mid-table club such as Liverpool. SC
What is Alex Song's role? Was his purchase a waste of money?
Song was brought to give the team a bit more strength, speed, and height. Barca's main defensive weaknesses is high balls and quick counters, so a defensive player who is fast and tall should help with this. However, he's yet to fully adapt. We won't know if it was a waste of money until we give him a bit more time to adapt. LM
Why does Tito prefer Alexis over Villa?
There is a question of fitness - can Villa still give 90 mins at a high level of pressing and tracking back? Villa has actually made one more appearance, with only 2 less starts, than Alexis. The problem is Villa usually plays less per appearance than Alexis. I think this has to do with age and the fact that he came off a terrible injury. Alexis clearly does not have Villa's finishing skills, but he has a much faster motor to help defend. LM
It's hard to know why. A possible reason I can think is that Alexis offers more pace then Villa but if you looking for a player who is more clinical then Villa has got to be the clear choice. Another reason may be that Tito doesn't want to rush Villa back from his injury or that he wants to see if the £30 million transfer fee for Alexis was worth it. SC
Does he? He probably does on the right-hand side - after all, that's a position Villa has barely ever played - and probably does in the middle of the attack as well - Sanchez is a better fit for the system/can play as a false nine. Other than that, I think Alexis also has youth on his side, and off the bench, he brings pace and power, which can sometimes make a difference.AD
1. Will pep ever return to Barcelona?
2. Is the unsuccessful (in terms if our standards) season of last year helping us this year?
3. Do u think one day in the far future Messi will play midfield?
1. I hope so, but there is honestly no way of knowing
2. My guess is yes, because the team was shocked into playing better. But we won't know until the end of the season.
3. He already does for Argentina and at times for Barcelona. It's not unreasonable to think he may, in his later years, play a Xavi-like role of directing the ball through passing. LM
1) I'd say it's possible, but seems unlikely at this point. Maybe if Laporta runs for presidency again, but who really knows what the future holds? Maybe Tito will choose to step down at the end of the season to stay healthy and Pep will step in? Something similarly unlikely could happen, it's hard to speculate.
2) Absolutely. These players want nothing more than to win, and any time that they don't win must really serve as a motivator to return and play better than ever. I think a summer of rest (for most players) also helps.
3) I don't think so. It's possible - he certainly has the attributes that much is for sure, but he also has the attributes to become a Pippo Inzaghi-style poacher if he ever lost his pace. I'd say he'll continue playing as a false nine until the day he retires, just like Totti is doing at Roma, but it'd also be interesting to see him give a midfield role a go.AD
Who do you think are transfer targets for us in January?
Personally I don't think Barcelona will be signing anyone in January. Sir Alex Ferguson spoke of there being no value to January signings as the players don't get enough time to settle in.
Also looking at Barça's recent history, the most recent winter signing was Ibrahim Afellay in the 2010-11 season. But if I were to think of a signing ideal for Barcelona, a backup centre back would still be my top priority.
Even with Puyol and Piqué back to full fitness, an experienced centre back would be useful. Problem is there aren't many top quality centre backs available, Thiago Silva would have been good choice but he chose PSG. SC
Who are your favourite players in the Barça squad? Non-Barça players?
How/why did you get to the BB team?
What is your favourite part about being a writer at BB?
My favorite players are Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, and Puyol. My favorite non-Barca players... I have always loved Pirlo, who is finally getting more recognition. I think Casillas has been a classy player for a long time. I'm a fan of Aguero and thought Barça should have signed him. I don't know if Eto'o and Ronaldinho count. Finally, I've always admired Francesco Totti. He was probably one of the pioneers of the false 9 position, and he refused bigger clubs to help Roma to one of their three Serie A titles. LM
1.) My personal favourites are Fàbregas, Iniesta, Xavi and Messi. Absolutely love the way they play. As for non-Barça players one of my current favourites is Santi Carzorla. The little Spaniard is a genius and has become such a crucial part of Arsenal's team this season. Juan Mata too from the Premier League.
2.) I started my own blog at the start of 2012 called "A Barça Blog". After a few months of writing, mainly match reports, player fact files or any transfer gossip, Arron contacted me via Twitter asking if I would like to join the BB team. Obviously I did and have loved writing ever since!
3.) My favourite part is the interaction with readers. On my old blog I was lucky to get a single reply to any post I made but on BB I get a good discussion with every post! SC
My favourite players in the Barca squad are Pique, Messi and Busquets (probably in that order), and as for favourite players outside of the squad...I'd probably go for Lomana LuaLua, Neymar and Pablo Zabaleta. I joined the BB team way back in November 2010 after receiving an email from a former editor, who enjoyed my work on another website and my favourite part about being a writer at Barca Blaugranes is the community! AD
What changes do you see between Pep and Tito's style? And which do you prefer?
Tito can be a bit more direct, and will only go to the 3-4-3 if the team desperately needs goals. Pep is the originator, though, and he deserves the most credit for now. I admire Tito's work a lot but at the moment you cannot rank anyone above Pep. LM
Many see La Liga as a 2 team race, but have Barcelona and Madrid actually up the standards of football in La Liga?
I don't know if Barça and Madrid actually did this or it's a coincidence, but as the gap between Barça and Madrid expanded (leaving aside the current standings for now) the other teams have improved as well as the NT. But I couldn't quite explain why. LM
Absolutely. Barca and Madrid have always been the heavyweights in La Liga, but in reaching such a high level in the past few years, it's only natural that the other teams in La Liga have reaped the rewards. Maybe 20-30 years ago, players like Juan Mata, Roberto Soldado etc would have been kept by Madrid, but as they improved, they chose to discard more youth players, and teams like Valencia and Getafe have benefitted in that way. On the other hand, I think the ever-increasing popularity of the league might hurt the smaller teams if they don't sort out a fairer system re: TV revenue - particularly as the Premier League teams begin to notice the quality of the players in the league. AD
Who are your all-time top 11 players in Barça?
Can't say all-time because I never saw the likes of Cruyff, Kubala, Cesar or Alcantara play... or even Maradona or Lineker.. aside from a few YouTube videos. But I can tell you since as far as I can remember (from about 1995 on): Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Eto'o, Guardiola, Deco, and Stoichkov. LM
My all-time XI would have to be in a 4-3-3 - with Pep as manager. I'd go for Zubizarreta in goal; Dani, Puyol, Pique and Gio van Bronckhorst would be my defense; Busi, Xavi and Iniesta make up the midfield; Messi, Ronaldinho and Eto'o in attack. Hard to leave out guys like Koeman, Cruyff and Rivaldo though! AD
Can I become the next Barça manager? Or at least doctor? ;)
I think your best bet for becoming manager would be to take your UEFA coaching badges, preferably up to a Pro License so you can still take charge of UCL games and then, you should probably pray for some divine intervention :) AD
Win the CL in Football Manager and you'll be next in line after me. LM
Why do a lot of people consider a Villa move?
Will he really be out of the team?
His age, salary, and injury history. That's it. And eventually, sure, but probably not in the winter. LM
Will Thiago turn into a world player of class?
He has the ability imo..... But does he have the mentality???
Oh and other than ...... Deulofeu , Dongou, Rafinha , What other Barça b players look promising for the future . Kiko?
That is the question. I think we're all still waiting for him to take one big step again but all we can do is sit back and let him develop. Can't burden him with too much expectation.
Again Tello is part of the B team technically, but let's skip that. I will mention Sergi Roberto again. After those, it's hard to say. Grimaldo has potential but he's very very young. Kiko again, maybe, though he hasn't played as much lately. I will say Espinosa and Luis Alberto catch my eye, but again who knows. Sergi Gomez is promising but he's yet to put it all together. LM
1) Are we closer or further away from having a fairer liga. What would be the first steps you would implement to move the league to being a fairer and more sustainable competition?
2) What were the main lessons to be learned from the disastrous Gaspart era, so the club never repeats them again?
1) It's hard to know. I think the European Super League is looking less and less like a pipe dream. On the other hand the image of La Liga is suffering, so maybe that will call the owners into action. LM
1.) I think that's a difficult question to answer. Clearly, the problem isn't quite as simple as giving everyone more money, and every solution has its drawbacks. In fact, one could argue: does La Liga even need to be changed? Malaga have had their financial troubles, but are one of the standout teams in this season's UEFA Champions League; Atletico were excellent in last season's Europa League; Valencia consistently reach the knockout stages in the UCL as well - I wouldn't say that the league is in dire straits just yet but we are probably further away from having a "fairer" playing field.
As for a solution, sure, money is a real issue - but that isn't a problem unique to football, everyone in Spain is struggling. Hell, it's a problem all across the Eurozone. Pretty much every team in England is in debt so even their much-lauded model isn't perfect; in theory a collective TV deal could help, but even then, assuming we share the most recent figures (i.e. last season's TV revenues) equally across each of the 20 teams in La Liga, each team would "only" get around €32 million. That's almost double what some teams get now; but it's hardly enough to clear each team's debt - not to mention that Barca and Real would probably collapse if they lost over €100 million of revenue. I can't think of a solution, but I suppose if someone like me could think of a solution, there would already be one in place.
2.) That vice presidents only make good presidents if they leave? No, that can't be it...it's probably that we need to continue being smart with our money - not splashing the cash until we have a good idea about the players we are buying. If that means more scouting, then that's what we should continue to do, and if that means a greater emphasis on youth development then that's what he should continue to focus on; but above all else, we know not to sell Messi to Real Madrid :)AD
I love to talk about tactics and I have a simple question. What are the differences in the tactical approach of Pep's Barça and Vilanova's Barça?
The main difference everyone agrees is that they're a bit more direct. But, they've taken less shots average, scored less, and conceded more. In fact the only positive development is they have committed less fouls and received less yellows. Only, that is, apart from the huge lead in La Liga. So it's a bit hard to explain. Perhaps Tito has been a bit more cautious at the right times and more aggressive at the right times as well. There's been less 8-0 and more last gasp comeback wins. It's partly an attitude thing, but I think the coach has instilled this attitude. LM
Honestly, it's hard to say for sure. At face value, one could argue that Tito's Barca are more direct, and perhaps a little less disciplined than Pep's Barcelona. Certainly, the tempo of the passing in the final third has improved from last season, but I'd say the main difference between the two managers is the way that they utilize width. So often last season, we saw Pep hand starts to Isaac Cuenca - often in important matches - and also to Cristian Tello. Obviously, Cuenca hasn't yet played under Tito due to injury, but even if he was available, I'm not sure Tito would have considered him for a lot of action. Now, the width doesn't necessarily come from the two wingers - seldom do we see Andres Iniesta positioned right out on the touchline for instance - instead, the width comes from either full-back. In that sense, Jordi Alba almost epitomizes Tito's reign, bombing up and down the left, it's Alba who stretches the defense, and it is Alba who sends in the crosses or cutbacks from the touchline. Montoya is another excellent example, but has seen a lot less game-time recently, especially on the right; but Adriano and Alves also perform similar roles - perhaps with a little more freedom to roam inside, which not only allows long-shots to come in from the right, but it also means that Pedro tends to drift out wide (which might explain his goal-drought).
Also, another key difference between the two managers is that "lack of discipline" we see in Tito's team. Most of the time, it works well and shows the freedom that the players have to work with, but sometimes it leaves us a little more susceptible at the back, particularly to lobbed-passes over the top of the defense (think the second leg vs Real Madrid). It's always been an issue for us with the high-line, but now we have players like Mascherano, and Pique in particular, who pick up possession around the half-way line and drive forward to pick a pass. This tends to open up space for Busquets, Xavi, etc. in midfield, but it also gives us another dimension - those long diagonal passes, often to an overlapping full-back which can lead to a cut-back and so on. Early in the season, Messi was playing a lot deeper and having fewer touches of the ball, although that has since changed. AD