Review: Més que un curse

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Luis Enrique of FC Barcelona reacts during the La Liga match between Real Sociedad de Futbol and FC Barcelona at Estadio Anoeta on November 27, 2016 in San Sebastian, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Past visits to play Real Sociedad at the Anoeta have proved to be peculiar, with Barça throwing everything at La Real and lacking a bit of luck in the final third. This draw feels like a lot more than just a ‘curse’, that Barcelona were genuinely outplayed by a team on great form. 

Every year that goes by and the away game versus Real Sociedad comes around, I for one think surely, surely this must be the season that we finally beat them and end the ridiculous away form that stretches back to 2007. But every season it seems that La Real get one over on Barça less and less through luck and more through Barça’s lack of ideas, and of course, Real’s progress.

The game began with Eusebio Sacristán’s side dominating the play, enjoying the majority of the ball as Barça struggled to get out of their own half, as it seemed the midfield was completely non-existent. Javier Mascherano and Gerard Piqué would lift their heads to find a midfielder to pick out to be greeted by the sight of a Sergio Busquets who is surrounded by white and blue shirts, and André Gomes and Ivan Rakitić seemingly not in sight.

Despite what felt like constant pressure on the Barcelona back-line, the teams went in to the dressing rooms at half-time goalless.

On the 53rd minute, Carlos Vela forced a mistake from Mascherano then had a his shot saved by a rushing Marc-André Ter Stegen but the rebound looped straight to the head of former Real Madrid B loanee Willian José, who’s awkward header somehow managed to sneak past Piqué, despite his best efforts to clear on the line.

The defending was comical, the inability to mark Willian José was careless and Real Sociedad were well on their way to three points against a Barcelona side who had barely possessed the ball in the opposition box.

The goal also came just a few moments after Piqué was having his ankle taped up by the Barcelona medical staff which made me question why that wasn’t done at half time, considering his injury was sustained in the first period, or why he hadn’t been substituted if he needed such attention to continue, especially with the Clásico just around the corner.

After this goal the game could have gone one of two ways, Barcelona would wake up and realise the situation they were in and start playing, or Real Sociedad would go on to win comfortably. Barcelona woke up. For a minute.

It feels like months since we have seen some real incisive wing play from Neymar, but in the 59th minute he finally produced what we have seen so often over the past couple of seasons. The Brazilian skipped past a couple of challenges and played precise pass to Lionel Messi, who’s first touch was incredible. It’s a first touch that you see so often from the little man but it’s easy to let it go over your head – a sort of chipped touch with the outside of the left boot that sets up a shot on the half-volley. Incredible, really. But of course it is easy to overlook the brilliance at a time like this, and the important thing was, Barcelona were level.

After this, chances were few and far between, but Real Sociedad stayed in control of a match where they reduced Barcelona to just 47% of ball possession, and the huge talking point came with just 14 minutes of normal time to play.

Vela was causing Barcelona trouble yet again, made himself some room and had a spectacular effort crash down off of the underside of the bar, hit the line and finding its way to Juanmi who tapped the ball into the back of the net but was judged to be offside. The decision was awful, as shown by the image below, with Piqué clearly playing Juanmi onside, and really let Barcelona off the hook.

Credit: La Liga YouTube

Credit: La Liga YouTube

Although it was an awful decision at a crucial time, it is clear that incidents like this leave the linesman in an incredibly difficult situation. The referee’s assistant would have had to analyse who is onside and who is offside as Vela hits the shot, then try to judge whether the shot had crossed the line, and then give an offside call. All in a split-second. Surely a call for some sort of video refereeing in La Liga, or at least goal-line technology, implemented perfectly in the Premier League, giving the linesman one less thing to think about.

Barcelona ended the match escaping the Basque Country with a point, a point that many, including Luis Enrique, are describing as a miracle. The Asturian coach even said that it was the worst game of his time as manager of the club, showing how this is more a problem of the team, rather than just a ‘curse’.

The next week sees Barça travel to Alicante on Wednesday to play the Copa del Rey round of 32 1st leg against Hércules, followed by the small matter of El Clásico at the Camp Nou on Saturday.

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  • Jason Rodriguez

    I think our midfield is the weakest link! There is no link-up play between defense and attack, and teams have exploited that! Possession was our biggest strength, and best defense, but now we’re all erratic with bad passes and no volume!
    Both Busquets and Rakitic were horrible, yesterday! Gomes we can’t really blame, because he is just adjusting to this team! I remember we used to say Rakitic was babysitting Alves, for not showing much in a match, but not anymore! we’re missing Alves’ attacks, and Rakitic doesn’t have to defend as much with Sergi-Rob, because he rarely foraged ahead!
    Without Iniesta, this midfield is just a gleam of what it used to be!

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      We could have used rakitic’s babysitting skills, but no he left them on the bench, when the CBs searched for outlets, busquet could have maybe dropped deeper in between the CBs, that would expand the backline and outnumber the pressing forwards, give the fullbacks more room to recieve the ball out on the flanks, force a suarez to drop deeper and pulling more opponents around him, that alone could pull everyone closer, force quick rondos and before you know it leave sociedad on a back foot. God I wish the effort was even made. There was just no effort by the midfield and the defence suffered alot.

  • Nana Kwame Koranteng

    Anyone noticed the work rate of the entire team has dropped? you see messi walking around all the time when we loose the ball and that’s a man less to begin with, those days when you see Pedro and villa defending from the front is no more a valued attitude, is still early days but until we go back to basics and the very fundamentals of the barca style the season is already over….I think Enrique should just leave after this season he cant motivate messi simple as that

    • Grega Kavčič

      Really? You pick on Messi for this? What have you been watching till now? He walks 90% of the matches and he is still our only hope. He is not supposed to do anything but finishing when our other attacking players are so poor infront of goal. No problem when Suarez has service and finishes his chances but this is not the case this season.

      He can do whatever he want’s that’s just how much he has done for barca. I do however not know why the hell he was so active against Celtic.

      • Kneowell Anyanwu

        That’s the point Grega, just like I said above, messi derives his motivation from his team mates I think, he’s willing to drop deep and intercept balls if he sees every other person working their sucks out, that was the case against celtic, but that wasn’t the case in this game. Celtic in my opinion were ven more physical than la Real, thought they didn’t press our backline this much. But if our midfield moved closer to our defence to create shorter passing lanes and provide quick movement of the ball with quick one twos, this will create congestion and ultimately create space for the forwards or full backs to exploit the wings with fast counters. We do rondos all the time in training I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s much easier if we have the attitude like against Celtic, the team that played this game simply lacked character. Gomes and rakitic were too far off, suarez was busy lurking offside instead of him to be tracking back, probably pressing Real’s CM and all. There’s is only much that messi can do. It’s Lucho’s job to force this attitude out of his players, he’s managed to do that in the past, but it’s seriously lacking now, if he can’t inspire them with tactics, he should do so with attitude. If we had an iniesta who’s able to break the lines and support the attack it would have been better. Rafinha could have also committed better if he wasn’t injured too. Umtiti also has that ability to take on attackers and drive the ball forward, pique suddenly lost that ability, lucho saw the deficiency but didn’t see what needs to be done to correct it, all that needs to change if we are to turn our fortune around for good

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      Nothing motivates messi more than seeing his team mates giving a game a hundred and ten percent, cos that is what an interested messi gives. Not the manager on the sideline

  • Eivind Niclasen

    And now we can´t even beat Hercules of Segunda B. #LuchoOut

    • Jason Rodriguez

      You know who I would love to coach Barca next season? Jorge Sampaoli, ex Chile coach, now coaching 3rd placed Sevilla!!