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Thread: Maz's review of the season

  1. #1
    I walk the line
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    Maz's review of the season

    Having rounded off its 62-game season with a 1-1 draw in the league against Deportivo La Coruña on Saturday, FC Barcelona can look back on what is without doubt the most triumphant season in the club's history. The capture of an unprecedented treble wrote FC Barcelona's name in the history books, and gave all Culés a reason to be proud again.

    In May 2008, 38 year old Pep Guardiola was announced by president Joan Laporta as the successor to Dutchman Frank Rijkaard, who had guided the side to domestic and European successes, but in his latter years had failed to give the team the impetus to continue winning trophies. Many felt the task was too great for Guardiola, who although had taken over Barça B the previous June and guided them to promotion to the Segunda B league, had no experience coaching top flight football, let alone a side of the first team's magnitude. In the summer the club sold Deco to Chelsea and Ronaldinho to AC Milan, and had strengthened the side with Daniel Alves from Sevilla, Martín Cáceres from Villarreal, Aleksandr Hleb from Arsenal and former FC Barcelona youth player Gerard Piqué returned to the club from Manchester United. There was one other piece in the jigsaw which was later heralded as a great bit of business: Samuel Eto'o, who had a rough end-of-season in 2007/08, had remained at the club after many had expected to see him move on.

    FC Barcelona's preseason included trips to Scotland and America, and although most of the results were routine for the club, it was Pep's inclusion of many youth players that caught the eye of the Culés. The likes of Sergio Busquets, Víctor Sánchez, Pedro Rodríguez and Jeffrén Suárez were all given minutes, and was a sign of things to come for the management style of Pep, himself a product of Barça's youth system.

    Just two competitive matches into the club's season, and with qualification to the Champions League having been sealed as expected with a 4-1 aggregate win over Polish side Wisla Krakow, Pep took his side to Numancia in what was his first ever game in charge in La Liga. With players and fans alike buzzing with excitement from what Pep had promised would be a proud season for Culés worldwide, the side unexpectedly slumped to a 1-0 loss. Although the Catalan side dominated the game, they were unable to find the target, and the failure to capture any points left them near the foot of the table. Already the media were sharpening their knives. A subsequent uninspired 1-1 draw at home to Racing Santander only amplified noises coming from the Catalan media, and 1 point out of a possible 6 was statistically the worst start to a La Liga season for the club for 25 years.

    Pep and the players had to respond with results, and respond they did. The side went on a 17-game unbeaten run in all competitions, racking up a phenominal 28 out of a possible 30 points in the league, gaining top spot in La Liga on Matchday 9, proudly securing 1st place in its Champions League group (with 16 goals scored in just 5 games - at that point the most goals scored in the 08/09 competition), and continuing to advance in the Copa del Rey. And all the while the side had developed a mesmerising style, and was bringing the football world to its knees. Xavi and Iniesta were dictating play from midfield, Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o had been in top form, and Thierry Henry had found a new lease of life. The Frenchman had had a good debut season for the club statistically in 2007/08, but had seemed to be on a different wavelength to his teammates. However 2008/09 was a different story, with the striker taking hold of the inside left position and making it his own. His goal played a big part in one of the most important victories during the unbeaten run with a 1-2 win at rivals Espanyol. The side came from 1-0 down to attain the 3 points with the last kick of the game (a Lionel Messi penalty). It was not only a victory on the pitch for the side, but also a mental victory. It was the first major display of the players' ability to turn things around from a losing position, something which would prove crucial in the coming months.

    However, despite the superb run the club had been on, there was one big reason that Pep still had not won all critics over. Up until this point the side had only faced what were deemed as lowly teams in the league. The Spanish fixture computer had organised the schedule such that it had been left until late November and December that Barça would face consecutive league games versus Sevilla A, Valencia H, Real Madrid H and Villarreal A (with one Champions League game sandwiched in the middle). To most managers, 8 points in the run of league games would have been considered a success for that period, and a "told you so" to the doubters. However, as Guardiola proved, he is not most managers. The side started off the run with the maximum 6 points out of 6 against Sevilla and Valencia without conceding. However, with qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League secured, the club was finally reminded what it felt like to lose, succumbing 2-3 to Ukranian side Shakhtar Dontesk. It had been a 19-game unbeaten run in all competitions. But that did not dent the side's character. The club continued the "Death Run" by winning Pep's first Clásico in charge with a 2-0 win, and rounded off the run with a 1-2 victory over Villarreal. Overall the Catalan side had scored 11 goals in the league games and conceded just 1, and won all 12 points. If some had doubted Pep before, there wasn't a single person that doubted him now.

    Christmas brought about a well-earned rest for the team, and the team hit the ground running in 2009. Another maximum 12 points were won from 4 games in the league, and a place in the Copa del Rey semi-finals had been secured at the expense of Espanyol. The atmosphere around the club was electric, and having beaten Real Madrid's record, set last season, for the most points at the half-way stage of a season there were already talks about breaking Real Madrid's record of 92 points in a complete season (although 42 games were played at that time). It seemed no one in the world could stop them.

    Or so they thought. Having been 12 points ahead of Madrid mid February, an uninspired 2-2 draw versus Betís preceded a 1-2 loss to Espanyol cut the lead to 7 points, and it was evident the side was taking a tumble. With the poor start to the season having been accredited to the players and coach getting their bearings, no one knew just how the side would respond to this dip in form. A point (and an away goal) was salvaged against Lyon in the Champions League, but it was followed by arguably the lowest point in the side's season when some shocking defending led to a 4-3 loss to Atlético Madrid. With the lead in La Liga cut to just 6 points, whispers of "the higher they climb the harder they fall" were on many people's lips. Something had to be done.

    Things seemed to be going from bad to worse when Mallorca brought the aggregate score to 2-1in the second leg of the Copa del Rey Semi Final. The side seemed deflated and with all the momentum with Mallorca, Barça looked unlikely to progress to the final. But it was goalkeeper José Manuel Pinto who took it on himself to give the side a boost, saving a penalty which would have surely led Mallorca to the final. His side went on to equalise, and earnt its place in the final.

    The character shown led to yet another turning point in the season, and inspired the side to dump both Lyon and Bayern out of the Champions League (scoring 10 goals in 3 matches), and earn 21 points out of 21 in the league. With the reverse fixtures of the Death Run having arrived, and Real Madrid breathing down Barça's neck, the side could not afford to slip up. A draw away to Valencia accompanied with a win for Madrid, meant the gap was cut to just 4 points. Next up was the Clásico, which was without a doubt the most important game of the season for both sides. Having been humilated by Madrid the previous season by having to give Madrid the Pasillo following their league success, it was revenge time for FC Barcelona. To say they beat Madrid is an understatement. A Gerard Piqué goal capped off a superb 2-6 win, and the result was highlight of the season for all Culés. For some Culés the highlight of their life as an FC Barcelona fan!

    With Madrid having been demolished and the league all but wrapped up, a steadfast Chelsea team awaited Barça in the Champions League semi final second leg. Having frustrated the Catalan side in the first leg, and beign the first team all season not to concede at the Camp Nou, a score draw at the Bridge would be enough for Barça. But a loss would see Chelsea to the final. And for 92 minutes it was the latter that seemed to be the order of the day. But yet again FC Barcelona showed their character, and an unforgettable strike from Andrés Iniesta sent Culés into eurphoria: he had sent his side to the final.

    With a convincing 4-1 victory against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final securing the side's first piece of silverware for the season, and Madrid's loss to Villarreal in the league mathematically handing the title to FC Barcelona, the side had won the domestic double. But Culés weren't satisfied. They wanted the treble. The coveted success that no one in the history of the Spanish league had achieved. A strong Manchester United team awaited them in the final, and just 90 minutes in Rome would decide Barça's fate.

    It had been heralded as the battle between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The battle between attack and defence. The battle between two managers at opposite ends of the managerial experience spectrum. With Manchester United hammering down the door of FC Barcelona in the first 5 minutes of the game, United's 5 shots to Barça's 0 suggested the task had was too great for Barça. But that did not stop them, and after 11 minutes a mazy run from Iniesta and a pass to Samuel Eto'o who cut inside and toe-poked the ball past Edwin Van der Sar brought the first goal. It completely stunned Manchester United, and Barça went into the break a goal up. Sir Alex Ferguson's second-half substitutes could do little to stem Xavi and Iniesta's flow, and in the 69th minute when a Xavi cross was met by Lionel Messi's head to knock the ball past Van der Sar, Manchester United had been knocked down and out. When the final whistle blew, history had been made. Wild celebrations ensued, and the following day the players were welcomed back to Barcelona by over 2,000,000 Culés who lined the route the open-top bus took through the streets leading up to the Camp Nou. Speeches from all the players, and also Pep Guardiola, confirmed that this season had been just as special for them as it had been for the supporters.

    If all that is too much to take in, the whole season can be summed up in a series of statistics. FC Barcelona are the first Spanish side to win the treble. They have scored the most goals in the Champions League. They are not only the first side to score 6 goals against Madrid in 58 seasons, but also the only side to score 6 goals away in a Clásico. Eto'o, Messi and Henry earn the title as the most devastating trio in La Liga history, scoring a phenominal 100 goals between them. The side conceded the least goals in the season, earning it a goal difference of +70. They hold the record as the side with the most homegrown players in a Champions League final with 7 starters and 1 coming on as a subsitute. They earnt the most number of points in a 38-game season (87).

    Any way you look at it, the 2008/09 season has been the most successful season in not just FC Barcelona's history, but any Spanish side's history. Perhaps another season like this will never be achieved. Perhaps it will inspire future FC Barcelona sides to realise that nada es imposible. But no matter what happens in the future, all Culés can be proud of this side, and will be able to tell future generations: "I witnessed it. I was there".

    Força Barça.

  2. #2
    Anxiously waiting for the next match
    diegomessi's Avatar
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    im getting that whole descrpition tattooed onto my back
    "I pass and I move, I help you, I look for you, I stop, I raise my head, I look and, above all, I open up the pitch...The one who has the ball, is the master of the game...That's the school of Joan Vilà, of Albert Benaiges, of Johan Cruijff, of Pep Guardiola" - Xavi Hernandez

    !!Visca Barça!! !!Visca Catalunya!!

  3. #3
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    :clap::clap::clap:
    Well done, maz...I know you had lots of fun writing that and remembering each precious moment during the season.

    I understand how for many Culés, the 6-2 win at Real was the highpoint. But for me, Iniesta's shot still brings tears to my eyes (I re-watch it everyday)...the highpoint of my adult life.

  4. #4
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    Messi's goal against Man U was just as good. I knew at that moment we had won the treble.


    God doesn't pick football teams but if he did.... they'd probably look like this

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JALJM View Post
    :clap::clap::clap:
    Well done, maz...I know you had lots of fun writing that and remembering each precious moment during the season.

    I understand how for many Culés, the 6-2 win at Real was the highpoint. But for me, Iniesta's shot still brings tears to my eyes (I re-watch it everyday)...the highpoint of my adult life.
    The most fun came from going back through our results and realising just how impressive we were. We hardly dropped points anywhere.

  6. #6
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    Nice one, maz. How long did it take you?

  7. #7
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    nice review, maz.

    we were awesome.

    triiiiii-iiiiplet! *clapclapclap*

    in retrospect, storming through the first death-run like we did without iniesta was so so impressive.

    overall? a magnificent season.

    VISCA BARCA

    VISCA CATALUNA

    i VISCA....?

    IMAKEMADBEATS

  8. #8
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    ..Fuentealbilla!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew M View Post
    Nice one, maz. How long did it take you?
    Long enough!

  9. #9
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    Well done Maz!

    Words can't describe this season, there are not superlatives enough... When things are shit and nothing seems to be even close to good you can always think back and remember this season. Nothing makes me as emotional as when I think about how big this season has been. Not only the results and the beautiful football, but every evening you have been watching Barca. All the joy it has brought you. It's amazing how a person can feel so conected to a club. And when your love to the club get's awarded the way it has for us it's simply unbelievable.
    I keep remembering last season's frustration and all the difficulties our club was facing. Especially I remember the humiliation in the last El Clasico. Now, what can you say about both El Classico's this season? I am as young as I am, otherwise I wouldn't be alive anny longer because of the huge preassure my heart has been exposed to... it has been pumping out adrenalin like there was no tomorrow.
    This year's edition of FC Barcelona has brought me satisfaction, joy and pure happiness! Like for the most of the members in here this will stay in my memory for the rest of my life. I have never been to a football game outside Sweden, which makes me more than sorry, but still this team has made me feel present at every arena they have visited and allthough I'm still a "camp nou-virgin" I have shared the same experience as everyone who is a Culé wheiter they have been to the Camp Nou or not. Wheither we have followed Barca at Stamford Bridge, Camp Nou, Santiago Bernabeu or just through TV or Computer screens doesn't matter, we all have the the greatest drug ever pumping from our hearts out in our vains and body. This drug is called Barca and we will alwayd love it.

    Thank you for the best season ever to be experienced!

  10. #10
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    In the voice of omar little "Oh indeed".

    Following the club this season has been a joy. Supporting the club is like an addiction.

  11. #11
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    Ooooh I must read this when I have time!

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    Quote Originally Posted by maz View Post
    In the voice of omar little "Oh indeed".

    Following the club this season has been a joy. Supporting the club is like an addiction.
    +1..Yep it has been an amazing experience ..Maz you probably had a good time going to 2 gr8 games..

    I will read it completely when i get time..Just read the first and last paragraphs so far!
    "If you understand football you make substitutions during the game, if you don't you make comments after it." ~~ Stoichkov

  13. #13
    NeSaVlaDiV
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    nothing more is to be said, except a warm thank you

  14. #14
    Monster Masch
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    Bravo, Maz, bravo!

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    Well-written, Maz! I must say that what strikes me in particular about this season is the way that at the most intense point of the season, it is possible that we were saved by an ingenious penalty save from our second goalkeeper. That Pinto penalty save turned our fortunes around and gave us a newfound belief and stability imo. It's quite amazing and legendary...