There are no excuses. There are only extenuating circumstances. Some of which has been in the making for a few years now. The following is the order in which, I believe, we can - to a certain degree at least - explain this match:
- The board
- The transfers(or lack thereof)
- The players
- The coach
- The referee
- And last and definitely the least, the pitch
Before some of you jump to conclusions and look to call me out on the above, I am not justifying the loss in anyway. But I am not naive enough to believe that each of those reasons are not causes, admittedly with exponentially decreasing weight-age.
Let's start with the board shall we? I've said it before, there were positives to Rosell and his minions. The purchase of Neymar and the reduction of debt. However, we can question those as well. We all know we have enough reasons to doubt the Neymar transfer but I won't go into that cause I believe it is still a brilliant purchase and will show itself to be so soon enough.
The debt the club has, however, is a tricky situation. First of all, how many of you really knew the extent of the club's debt during the Laporta era? I didn't. I believed, at the time, that Laporta and his administration came in at a time when the club desperately needed them. I still believe so and as a club, back then at least, we were in a horrible situation. Yet, here is Rosell who came in screaming BLOODY MURDER! and saying that he would have to spend the next few years fixing our finances. As an average fan (and we really aren't much more. I am not even a card holding member of the club, are you?), we can only believe what we've been told. The rest are all rumours and hearsay. So maybe, we really were in dire straits and needed to fix our finances. But somehow, the very same board, found a way to fund a 60 million euro transfer on one player (while totally ignoring positions that were in desperate need for reinforcements) and also suggest a 600 million euro plan to renovate the stadium?
This isn't a matter of whether we needed Neymar or a Nou Camp Nou. Rest assured, we need both and if we hadn't bought Neymar this year, we probably would have lost him to Madrid, Chelsea or Bayern. This is a question of priorities. Rosell, who has never been known to be forthcoming with information regarding the club, even though he has always claimed to be, chose to save from our limited annual transfer budget for a year or two and chose to spend on Neymar. Fine, the argument can be made for that and I will probably agree with those of you who do. However, he then seemed to go out of his way to alienate anybody who was close to the previous board. That was unforgivable. In retrospect, it is easy for us to say, that Rosell had only one real banana peel to avoid when he took office:
Let go of the ego and don't mess with club legends and fan favourites a.k.a keep Pep, Cruyff and some of the board members happy. And that was exactly what Rosell didn't do. First he managed to get rid of both Pep and Cruyff (in Pep's case I think, Rosell's tactic was a war of attrition that he unfortunately won. Lack of support and other small issues which basically made sure Pep was exhausted by the end) and then got Zubi in charge of transfers.
There was a time when this club had players like Henry, Eto'o, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Toure, Puyol, Pique, Milito, Abidal (am I missing anyone?) and a couple more. We did not lack capable centre backs, for example. Which is the point I wanted make. Now? You can blame Tata Martino all you want but there is a reason he is low on my list above. The man walked into a club that has been run into the ground for a few years and a squad that has been largely ignored for the same period of time. Neymar's transfer is even more justified when you consider that instead of buying a centre back, we got Alex Song. Even at the time, I considered a new centre back higher on our priority list to a player who was bought as competition for Busquets (and could possibly, maybe, if we're really lucky, play as a defender - yeah, thanks Wenger, we owe you one).
The board has managed to destroy everything great this club represented by systematic incompetence. I would love to be able to claim something more devious was afoot in Rosell's administration (and by association Bartomeu's) but I am convinced Rosell simply isn't smart enough to be that devious (you can question my judgement, but I say the same about Mourinho - more a case of the empty vessel making a lot of noise than our very own Machiavelli).
The solution? Well, considering in how bad a state we are in (and losing this game or the last few hasn't changed that one bit) I cannot see past new elections. Even then there are no guarantees. The only reason I think elections are a good idea is because the thought of wasting the best years of players like Messi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pique, Fabregas makes me want to cry. It's either elections this summer or wait till 2016. Unfortunately, I am just a fan and have no real say in when elections will be held. Therefore, chances are we will not have elections and will have to hope the Gods have some mercy on us and this team.
We can no longer expect Tata or any other coach for that matter to win us a league with a bench that comprises of Sergi Roberto, Cristian Tello, Ibrahim Afellay etc (that would include Song if he had made the match squad). What's next? Call back Bojan and hope for the best?
I think I've covered the board and transfers by now. Next the players. Unfortunately it's their lack of drive/ambition and passion that was most evident in recent matches. This, despite their recent interviews stating otherwise, is mostly down to the squad not being replenished in a timely manner. That said, I never thought I'd see the day when these guys would lack ambition. Rather, it might just be a case of me not willing to admit to it utill now. This has been in the making for 2 years at least which brings me back to Zubi. We can no longer accept substandard purchases simply because you cannot make your mind up on targets and we definitely cannot accept Zubi's, rather evident, inability to negotiate for the targets that we set. This is Barca, we generate more revenue than most clubs out there and now it's time to get the players that we so desperately need and want. If that's Thiago Silva, so be it.
I am not backtracking on my previous article. I still disagree with the idea of buying every star player out there but I wouldn't even have to admit to so much if it weren't for the fact that the aforementioned "systematic incompetence" also included destroying our youth set up. That for me was the worst thing ever. All the shady pressers, even shadier shirt sponsors is forgivable, but destroying the very soul of this club (La Masia) is unforgivable. People talk about Messi's renewal? At least nobody can argue he deserves it, but how in God's name do we justify Eusebio? Or losing Thiago? That said, coming back to the point in hand, the players simply cannot be excused for their performance against Vallodolid. Zero movement, horrible first touches (something I thought I would never say when talking about Barca and this team in particular), wayward passes that deserved to be in the league here in India not in Europe's top football league.
The coach: There is very little I can put at Tata's feet at this point. Unfortunately, the board put him in an impossible situation to begin with. There was no way, he could just come to Barcelona and start demanding the players that he needed. At least there is no way I could see Rosell and Zubi agreeing to those demands if he made them. That said, his substitutions recently have given me reason to worry. The damage was already done by then but I disagree with taking Pique out even though he was on a yellow. I also think Neymar should have been the first to come off the pitch and we probably could have survived a few more minutes of Fabregas. After all, Busquets and Xavi were way below what was acceptable.
Initially, I was okay with Neymar and Dani Alves starting simply because I thought we could take them out when we were leading comfortably. Of course, I didn't expect such a horrendous showing. Dani Alves has been below his (admittedly very high) standards over the last year or so. Today, he was just horrible. Montoya might not be in his best form but at least he would have been rested and thanking his stars for the minutes. So when Alves was having such a howler, why did Tata keep him on the pitch? It was bad touch after horrible cross after bad touch from Alves all game. As a fan, just painful to watch and the rumours of him leaving the club are quickly gaining more and more support from fans.
The referee and the pitch: Both had minimal effect on the result but still had an effect. It's all well and good to say it shouldn't be used as an excuse which I agree with. But it isn't about whether we, as fans, use them as an excuse is it? We can say whatever we want. It is a luxury we can afford. What I cannot accept any longer are players using it as an excuse. So now, for the first time, I totally disagree with Xavi. Even though the pitch was visibly horrible, Xavi needs to avoid stating the same and letting the other players using that as a way to justify their horrible performance. They need to be blaming themselves as harshly as possible and can leave the worrying about refs and pitches to others.
We are not Madrid, we must accept that we will not be seeing too many games like the ones our rivals had against Elche (and a couple of others in the beginning of the season which ensured they would remain in the fight for the league). The referees will make mistakes and some very obvious ones. As fans, we can continue cribbing and whining about it but the players themselves do not and should not have that luxury. The fact that they continue to talk about the pitch is a symptom of everything that is going wrong with this club.
In the end, whether we want to agree or not, the buck stops at the board. They can fire Tata. They can revamp the squad as well but Karma is a bitch and she doesn't forgive or forget the level of sheer incompetence that has been on display at our beloved club over the last couple of years.
Rant over. Now let's all pray that this squad can somehow hold on against City and qualify for the next round. At the very least, we could use the funds that will bring us even if I wouldn't blame any of you for thinking that we don't stand a chance against the bigger teams that we will, inevitably, face in the coming days. As for Real Madrid? Well, in the form we are in, we do not stand a chance, so the team better buck up and find the inspiration from somewhere.
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