Tag Archives: Dembele

COULD THIS BE THE END OF THE MOST BORING ERA EVER? I HOPE SO…BUT NOT SO FAST!!

(PS: Long post ahead; Barca’s misery makes me happy, hence, I have a lot to say!!)

Barcelona’s ‘global’ soccer dominance received a seismic shock on Tuesday last week when they were THROWN OUT of the Champions League competition (I was so so so happy).

It would have been less of a shock if they were dumped out of the CL by a superior team. But, let’s face it, there is hardly a team that deems itself superior to Barca let alone equal to these Spanish giants.

I am sure Roma knew they were done for the minute they were drawn against Barcelona for the CL Quarter Finals. I do not think they expected to survive the second leg let alone beat Barca on aggregate score.

They were thoroughly thrashed in the first leg with Barcelona scoring four to their measly one goal. But, they turned it all around in the second leg on Tuesday last week by beating Barcelona 3-0; the aggregate score was 4-4 and Roma went through because of the away goal rule.

It was such a rare unexpected comeback for Roma at this stage against such a team and a shockingly cruel and an unimaginable turn of events for Barcelona.ย  Just last year in the same competition at the same stage, Barca had been able to claw through PSG’s 4 goal lead from their first leg, and beat the French giants 6-5 on aggregate score in their second leg match (this was a beautiful night of football btw).

So what’s the dish? What made Barcelona go from King of the CL comeback in 2017 to the biggest victim of comebacks in 2018?

The answer is that alot contributed to their fall from grace last week, but let me start by saying that I have NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER liked Barcelona. (Hence, some of the views presented in this post may be slightly biased).

Their style of play, for me, is completely outdated and makes every game a drag! It is crucial to have a formation for the squad, but, let it come with some spontaneity and bring the game alive.ย Neymar, Suarez, and Messi used to bring the wow factor when they played together, but before and after this trio, it was just boring!

Arguably, they may not use tiki taka at every instance, but, come on, that is the go-to technique for that midfield (that never seems to get replaced).

I also feel like tiki taka is a bullying technique of sorts; mentally and physically for the opponents, which is fine until it becomes a tad too predictable, too domineering, and the players do not often have to think outside of the box in order to win the game. Tiki taka has curtailed their creative expression (don’t roll your eyes, it’s the truth!!).

Anyway, back to the topic. For me, the biggest reason for their poor performance last week was tired, lethargic players. Why would Barcelona have tired players when they have such a good line up sitting on the bench?

Because Valverde seems not to have learned the beautiful art of squad rotation regardless of competition or stage. His over-reliance on his top scorer is evident, and it seems he was a bit too scared to muddy the waters by experimenting with other players. I know nearly everyone considers Messi as some god (more like freak of nature), but even he deserves a break. We have barely seen the likes of Alacer, D. Suarez, and Gomes being used when it counts, and I’m sure they would have a profound impact if they are not forced to live in Messi’s shadow, were taught the ropes, and were allowed to be as creative as they want.

Another closely connected area that the Barcelona coach should have paid more attention to was substitution. The minute Barcelona were two goals down in that second leg he should have brought the other squad members in. We have already spoken about D. Suarez and Gomes up there, but the list is long. Vermaelen, Dembele and/orย  Paulinho could also have come in to pick up some of the slack earlier on in the game. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your side of the fence), he was making substitutions with like 10 minutes to go. Honestly, how would that help anyone?

And this business of playing defense when you should be attacking, all in the hope of protecting a lead, is not working this time round especially when you are facing a team as hungry as Roma. Go out there and score goals before they even think of making a comeback.

However, the loss (and hopefully several future losses) is not entirely Valverde’s. The board of this team seems to also be full of it when it comes to making purchase decisions (Barca and Arsenal continue to have more in common as the years drag by). Fans have accused Bartomeu and his cohorts of selling their top talent (NEYMAR!!) and purchasing expensive individuals who have not been as productive as fans would have hoped in the domestic leagues.

Here, we are talking about Coutinho and Dembele, who together cost Barcelona more than 200 million euros, but presumably only have three goals between them (but then again, it is the coach whose refusing to rotate these players, although Dembele has suffered serious injury setbacks over the season)!

And let us not forget how old their midfield is, and this Iniesta is still keeping us in the dark about whether he is retiring or not. I think if he renews that contract, I will break something (I still have beef with him over his goal against Netherlands at that World Cup final btw).

Furthermore, Messi and L. Suarez are not getting any younger with both of them in their early 30s. I am sure they still have a lot of gas, but at that age and their level of competition, that gas runs out fast!

Anyway, I wish I could definitively claim that Barca’s glory days are over. But, that is not the case. All they need to do is improve on squad rotation, and avoid exhausting their players especially the older ones. Give Coutinho (and perhaps Dembele) more time away from Messi, and he will become a regular on the score sheet. They also need to utilize the other younger players during games to give them a more hands-on experience as well as allow them to create their own magic and learn through their own mistakes, the BARCA way!

(FYI: These youngsters played really well this weekend with most of the veteran players out and they won)

(I also wanted to say that I really miss Puyol)

Finished. Done. I’m satisfied now.

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WILL TOTTENHAM EVER STOP SHOCKING ME?

Oh, my! Oh, my! Oh, my! Who saw Tottenham’s performance on Tuesday night coming? Who? Certainly not me! I spent an entire blog post belittling Spurs before their match against Arsenal last weekend, AND their Champions League match against Juventus this week (you can catch that post here). Little did I know how truly resilient Spurs can be.

I had to eat my own words after they completely outclassed Arsenal on Saturday, and now, I have to do the same thing again after their breathtaking performance on Tuesday night. Before this game, even before the week began, I was so sure that Spurs had no chance against the Italian side. On such a big stage? Pshhhh! There was no way they were going to hack it (I have to admit that some of the negativity stemmed from them beating us on Saturday). Boy, was I wrong! And, boy, was I glad to be so wrong.

For me, the match was not only entertaining, dramatic, and full-blown intellectual (the way Spurs was passing that ball was just incredible), it showed a different class to Tottenham. These boys are poised, organized, confident, mature even, and all this is evident in that amazing comeback from 2 goals down to a draw. This has not happened at the Juve Stadium since 2011, and for Tottenham (of all the teams) to be able to do that was just mind-blowing!

When Higuain scored the first goal (in the 2nd minute, mind you), I was like ‘Here comes the bloodbath!’, and then he scored the second goal, and for me, that game was over before Spurs could even blink. Two goals in less than 10 minutes of the first half of the first leg of the knockout stage of the Champions League, Tottenham was clearly way out of its depth here! To make it worse, they are the underdogs, they have less experience compared to Juventus across all competitions, Juventus have Buffon who is a matchmaker on his own, and Juve’s defense (BBC) was until most recently considered unbeatable, absolutely impenetrable! Talk about having all the odds stacked against Tottenham.

And yet, Spurs continued to play their hearts out. They kept attacking and they kept coming, and Juventus kept making mistakes. Higuain had two amazing opportunities to widen the score in the first half, one of them being a penalty that he missed right before halftime. Can you believe that? He and Mandzukic also missed seemingly straightforward goals in the early minutes of the second half. What were they thinking?

A special shout out to Kane for being so unafraid in front of goal. Did you see his goal? Did you see how he drew Buffon in, then darted from him, leaving the veteran goalkeeper completely floored, and then striking the ball into the net with his left foot? He did it so unassumingly, you wouldn’t believe that he had just done that to THE Gianluigi Buffon! I mean the cheek of it all!

That goal was special; that goal was the first goal that Juventus have conceded in 2018! That goal, along with the Eriksen one, could shove Buffon into retirement, people! There are already calls for the legendary goalkeeper to pack up his gloves and leave after his ‘not so good’ performance against Tottenham on Tuesday.

Personally, I do not think Buffon was solely to blame for the calamity that befell Juve this Tuesday. Tottenham ARE that good, and it was wrong for so many of us (I’m pointing at myself here) to under-estimate them!

And the beauty of this match was how every Tottenham player contributed immensely to that successful comeback. I’m talking about the likes of Dembele, who hands down, controlled that mid-field and single-handedly set the tempo for that entire game. He made incredible passes forward, he stole the ball, he dribbled, he tackled, he created chances, restarting lost ones, and he linked well with the others. He..was..UNSTOPPABLE!

Dele Alli was also quite impressive, mainly because he was absolutely instrumental in both goals. His possession was not as clear-cut as fans would have hoped, but, for me, he showed a bit more maturity than usual (in other words, I’m glad I’m not spending my post-Valentine’s day calling him out on his diving antics again).

The Spurs’ defense was a bit shaky from the start, but I liked how Sanchez continued to remain calm even with all the pressure. I feel like Tottenham fans are making too much unnecessary noise about Sanchez here. He’s been good so far, give the boy a chance (as I secretly hope he is your weak link and causes you to tumble out of the running for the top four spot in the EPL #COYG)!

One Tottenham player who will not be happy with his performance on Tuesday night is Serge Aurier. It was just a bad night for him, although, it is turning out to be a series of bad nights for him. Free loan transfer, anyone?

But that was a beautiful game, a wonderful show of sportsmanship, and I CANNOT WAIT for the return leg. It is going to be absolutely awesome, and I cannot believe that I am saying this, but I really hope Tottenham go through. Chances are they will, but this is football, and I know Juve will put up a strong fight! Good luck to both teams!!

What did you love about the TottenhamVsJuventus game? Leave your comments below and you can also follow me here, here, here, and here!