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Kevin Prince Boateng (KPB), At Nearly 32, The Newest Member of FC Barcelona January 22, 2019

Posted by michaeltomlinson in FC Barcelona, Spanish soccer.
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Apparently Boateng is as surprised as anyone by his return to the La Liga. But it may not be as odd as everyone is making it out to be.


The departure of Munir, and the ongoing tumultuous stint of Malcom at the Blaugrana has left a hole in the depth up-front at Barca. There had been talks of Carlos Vela leaving the MLS for a La Liga return, but those cooled leading up to this, seemingly out of no-where signing. Boateng joins the Catalan side from mid-table Serie A outfit, Sassoulo where he has netted 4, and assisted 2 in just 11 appearances. By all accounts KPB was as surprised as anyone, admitting he wanted to “run to Barcelona” upon being informed of their interest. That interest seemed to be expressed as late as Saturday, and the loan-to by option was sorted and he was announced by the club Tuesday. Barcelona has the option to buy the 31-year-old attacker after the season for a reasonable $10 million price-tag. These string of roster additions are just what every Barcelona pundit would have predicted for the 2018-19 season, a coming together of Arturo Vidal and Kevin Prince Boateng. Two enigmatic journey-men known for their individual flair and on-field intensity.

KPB was brought in mainly to serve as a back-up to Suarez on the left side of the front line. And while in the past Barcelona has shied away from large on-field personalities in favor of their tactical system driven personnel decisions, you could argue since the addition of Neymar there has been a shift in the front office’s approach. This shift in what some describe as the club’s “ethos,” is often linked to Barcelona’s famed academy, “La Masia” not producing first team players at the same rate that Catalan side is accustomed to.

Regardless of any ideological shifts within Barcelona, as an organization Boateng is still a talented scorer and creative attacker with a lot left in the tank. If he can replicate what Vidal has brought to the side thus far his loan period, and potential singing could be a revelation for both club and player.

Barcelona 8-2 Huesca. How it happened September 7, 2018

Posted by michaeltomlinson in FC Barcelona, Spanish soccer, Tactics.
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How does a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute turn into an 8-2 loss? On Sunday Huesca gave managers, players, and fans alike a crash course on how to make that happen.

Barca’s 8:

  1. They say a first goal is a sign of things to come, in this case, it was a lightly defended Lionel Messi at the top of the box, with just one man to beat. Messi, of course, slalomed past the now stumbling and falling defender and slotted his effort into the bottom left corner, with his wildly inferior right foot.
  2. An abundance of space, not just for Messi, but for everyone in a Blaugrana shirt, and especially down the flanks set up the second. Undone by an own goal, Huesca allowed a Jordi Alba run with plenty of space, but with very few teammates in-tow. So instead, the industrious fullback, from just outside the goalmouth sent a short pass off the foot of Jorge Pulido, and past the keeper.
  3. Same story as the second, far too much space to run into for Jordi Alba. Not to say work didn’t need to be done, but once Coutinho beat three defenders with a perfectly weighted 25-yard ball it was a simple low cross from Alba to a neat and tidy finish from El Pistolero. Suarez’ first goal of the 2018-19 campaign.HALFTIME 3-2 Barcelona (Huesca brought one back right before half)


  4. Just seconds being saved by the head of Huesca’s goalkeeper, Werner, on a rocketed volley by Messi from 6 yards out, Huesca was again beaten by the through ball. This time Suarez connected with Dembele straight into the left side of the box where the French international calmly placed his shot far post.
  5. Inventive pass from Messi dinked over the top of 3 defenders just outside the box to an on-coming Rakatic who sent home a picture-perfect half-volley from a tough angle 15 yards out.
  6. Coutinho with a through ball from the defensive half, beating a horrifically positioned Huesca center-back pairing. Messi gathered some 40 yards from goal beats a defender on his hip and slides one past Werner’s left to the bottom right corner.
  7. Did I mention Jordi Alba had a lot of space down the left? Well he did, a simple run past, um no one and a lead pass from Messi led to a tight angled tap past the keeper.
  8. PENALTY! Just what the game needed. Suarez taken down by the goalkeeper, Werner in the corner of the box. Like every Gerard Pique moment later in the game was itching to score, but alas Suarez took his own pen and ended it.

Neymar signs for… Oregon State University? May 31, 2013

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Brazilian soccer, MLS, Spanish soccer.
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The Brazilian starlet was all but destined to be Barcelona’s next great South American star. Instead, Neymar has decided to take his talent South beac… Err Corvallis, Oregon! As pictured below the 21-year-old striker has closely monitored the progression of Portland Timbers GREAT Ryan Johnson and has decided to take on 4 years of eligibility, just like former OSU stand-out, Johnson. This of course makes a lot of sense due to a recent independent study which I just made up that says  U.S. soccer players have a 74% chance to be more successful in the pro ranks if they opt for the college route. A couple more interesting statistics, Neymar is now 69% more likely to puke immediately following a beer bong attempt gone wrong, but is also 93% less likely to contract gonorrhea after a transexual orgy… We all have our vices.

Is winning with proactive soccer a bigger accomplishment than winning by counterattacking? December 10, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Chilean soccer, Spanish soccer, Tactics.
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I got to thinking about this after reading the final paragraphs of Nicholas Rosano’s excellent article about Universidad de Chile and its coach Jorge Sampaoli on SB Nation.

(Counter-attacking) has proven the recipe for teams outside of Argentina and Brazil to compete for the big boys in South America’s premier competition, but Sampaoli’s team seem intent on trying something different.

If Universidad de Chile can take down the big sides in Argentina and Brazil in both the Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores while playing (proactive soccer), it will be a fantastic accomplishment.

I suppose it is; I certainly accepted it automatically on reading that, but then I got to struggling for a reason.

Attacking soccer is harder to pull off. It mostly centers around ball possession, and when you think about it, ball possession requires not only skill and tremendous teamwork, but also morale. You need to have confidence in your own ability and the ability of the teammate you’re passing to in order to play possession football successfully. So a coach needs to:

  1. Excavate players who are technically proficient enough to keep control of the ball
  2. Create an environment in which those players are familiar enough with their teammates’ movement to anticipate where they should pass the ball on the field.
  3. Devise a system that allows those players to exploit their talents.
  4. Inspire those players to belief in not only themselves, but also their teammates and the system they’re playing.
  5. Do this better than his opponent.

This is enough to make you wonder why people do it at all, but the answer is easy: proactive football played well enough is more effective. It also might explain why Barcelona is so successful: players who have grown up together or in the same system will more readily anticipate their teammates’ movement, and the shared experience will make it easier to motivate them. That very upbringing also emphasizes technique. When you throw in a coach who also has the same background, you’ve got far readier ground for a world-beating side. At almost any other club, you’d need to start pretty much where Barcelona was at the beginning of the 1990s to get where Barcelona is today.

EURO 2012 Preview #1: Holland. Dutch team not ridiculous enough. Here’s my suggestion. November 14, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Dutch soccer, Euro 2012.
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These are some things I don’t really care about in a Holland team: Winning games, tradition, picking the best players in every position, consistency, sanity.

These are some things I like in a Holland team: As many ridiculous players as possible, complete arrogance, losing the run of themselves, Clarence Seedorf, hopefully a complete meltdown or two.

This is how Bert van Maarvijk should line up if he wants my support at Euro 2012.


Who is Isaac Cuenca? October 20, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Champions League, Scottish soccer.
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In Barcelona’s routine victory over Viktoria Plzen Wednesday, Pep Guardiola put on a player called Isaac Cuenca. I’ve never heard of him. Evidently, he spend last season on loan at Sabadell in the third division and has only played three times for Barcelona B, let alone the first team.

It’s silly to judge players based upon their Youtube clips, but I can kind of see why Cuenca went out on loan. In the video, it’s evident that Cuenca is extremely fast and an excellent dribbler, but he rarely tries to pass the ball in the video and I don’t remember seeing any of the passes he did attempt connect.

There’s definitely something promising about him (his technique is on show in this clip and his passing seems more useful too; you’d have to say he must be quite highly regarded indeed to be on the field with what is otherwise the Barcelona first team).

(The second clip was uploaded by, seemingly, Cuenca’s girlfriend who is, seemingly, Marc Bartra’s sister. I’m debating whether that’s interesting.)

Three thoughts on Sporting Gijon v. Barcelona October 2, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Spanish soccer.
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1. Could Alberto Botia become the next Cesc Fabregas (in transfer terms)? — Like Fabregas and Gerard Pique, the Gijon center-back left Barcelona very young, although on otherwise very different circumstances. Botia looked good against Barcelona, and indeed whenever I’ve seen him, he’s looked like the real deal. Considering that Barcelona only has two oft-injured senior center backs in its squad, it doesn’t seem inconceivable that Botia return.

2. Was that a 3-3-4? It appeared that Barcelona used Adriano, Lionel Messi, Pedro and David Villa in forward roles, although you might argue that Pedro was actually playing Cesc Fabregas’ do-whatever-you-want role. The game did not suggest that, whatever the formation, it was tremendously effective — Pedro is, after all, a very different player from Fabregas. It’s also interesting that Adriano is now part of the attacking rotation.

3. Is Dani Alves the boy that cried wolf? In the second half, David Barral punched Barcelona’s Brazilian right back across the face in midair. It was emblematic of Sporting’s especially violent approach to dealing with Barcelona — they seemed particularly keen to give an extra kick to players who were already going down. This violence seemed to target specifically Alves and Sergio Busquets, men who have a reputation for exaggeration. When the referee deemed disinclined to take Alves reaction to Barral’s fist seriously, that made sense: Alves and Busquets fake injury all the time, so you can probably get away with more violence against them.

Three things that went through my mind during Barcelona v. Atletico Madrid September 24, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Spanish soccer.
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The man's psychic stress is palpable

1. Barcelona is ominously confident.

As the Barcelona team becomes a whirring instrument of bloodless atomization, much of the emotional resonance is sucked out of the actual football. Goals are no longer an emotional release for Barcelona’s players. There’s neither the catharsis of joy one gets from surprising himself by scoring a goal nor the catharsis of relief one gets from scoring a goal to loosen the pressure of expectation. Instead, their faces in the post-goal scenes seem to say, “Look what you’ve gone and done, you scamp.” They score, then they laugh it off.

2. Pep Guardiola’s on his last season, isn’t he?

Guardiola, on the other hand, does not look like he’s having a good time. The pressure must be crushing and the rewards minimal. Last year’s Barcelona team would already probably have been remembered as the greatest of all time if Guardiola had walked away at the end of it. If he wins the European Cup this year, there really will be nothing left for him to prove at Barcelona and no dispute about who is the best team of all time. You can tell it weighs on him. He’s essentially a nice, introspective guy. Jose Mourinho has identified making him miserable as his quickest route to a meaningful trophy. After being pretty much flawless for the last three years, he’s probably beginning to wonder what it even means to win things in soccer anyway. He looks miserable. He needs a break.

3. Dani Alves might have a future as a center-back.

It’s fairly common for players to start out as attacking fullbacks, then move inside as they age. Paolo Maldini and Ruud Krol are the most famous examples, while Carles Puyol was viewed primarily as a fullback in the early part of his career (Billy Costacurta, on the other hand, only appears to have started playing right-back in his forties, or maybe I’m showing my age). Alves has a reputation for being poor defensively and positionally though. I think that’s undeserved; Alves isn’t bad defensively, he just does less defending than most defenders. I think he’s very good at it when he does. Sid Lowe pointed out on the Guardian’s Football Weekly Extra this week that one of the big things Barcelona misses without Gerard Pique is a player who starts moves from the back. Alves is an excellent passer, even more so at center back because he doesn’t have to run 80 yards before receiving the ball, so putting him back there seems like an ingenious solution to this temporary problem at least.

Quick Barcelona-Atletico lineup thoughts September 24, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Uncategorized.
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It’s strange that Arda Turan isn’t an automatic choice for Atletico. When I’ve seen him, he’s been very good. I have the suspicion Dani Alves might be playing at center-back (or on the right of a back three, which I realize is not the same). Either that or Xavi’s the deepest midfielder. It seems like there will either be a Diego v. Alves matchup or a Diego v. Xavi matchup, which makes a Barcelona fan nervous, although it also means the Barcelona player in the matchup will have time on the ball. If Tiago’s playing on the left, it’s probably to keep Alves quiet.
There’s formation confusion for both teams. Is Barcelona’s 4-3-3 (Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Sergio, Abidal; Thiago, Xavi, Cesc; Pedro, Messi, Villa) or 3-4-3 (Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Abidal; Xavi, Sergio, Thiago; Cesc; Pedro, Mess, Villa)? Is Atletico’s 4-2-3-1 (Courtois; Perea, Miranda, Godin, Lopez; Gabi, Suarez; Reyes, Diego, Tiago; Falcao) or 4-3-3?

Valdes could definitely play 820 times for Barcelona August 29, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Spanish soccer.
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He could be doing this for a while.


At one point during Barcelona’s 5-0 victory over Villarreal today, ESPN commentator Adrian Healy, observing how little the victors’ keeper Victor Valdes touches the ball in your average game, joked, “If he has many more halves like this, he could make 410 more appearances.”

That’s how many he has at the moment, a record-setting number for a Barcelona keeper, and at first the idea of 820 appearances for the blaugrana sounded absurd, but then I remembered Valdes is only 29 years old. Valdes made his debut at age 20 against Atletico Madrid in 2002. He made fewer than 20 appearances that season, so he’s been first choice for eight years.

Edwin van der Sar just retired at 40. It’s not that rare for goalkeepers, after all, and at the rate he’s going, Valdes could double his tally by age 37. Definitely realistic, also pretty unbelievable.