2 conclusions from the game: envy and realism. One at a time.
I envy Real Sociedad, just like an elderly man envies a teenager that has the whole life ahead and is bursting with energy, dynamism, vitality, enthusiasm. That young person that has all you used to have in the past. That glorious past that will never come back.
This exuberance, audacity and joyful style is what we were once renowned for, and all what La Real has at present – and we don’t. Here’s where the second point comes into play: realism. The realisation that that golden era is long gone, even if we’re trapped in the past.
We try to move on, but we can’t. The clearest example: 7 of the starters of the 2015 UCL final were also in the line-up this afternoon. This isn’t an exceptional occasion; with Arthur’s injuries, this may be our gala XI. Sergi for Alves, Lenglet for Masche, De Jong for Iniesta and Griezmann for Neymar. That’s it. 4 years later, only 4 changes.
In other words, the team’s backbone is 4 years older. The players that executed Luis Enrique’s vibrant football are now veterans. There’s no way we can replicate our past football with the exact same players that have 4 more years on their legs. If we want to do what we used to do, we must have different footballers. And if we want to keep the same players, we must do something different.
In Tata Martino’s season, the fact that we were edged out in the possession stats by 51% to 49% by Rayo looked like the end of the world. It was the first time that that happened in 5 years. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve lost the possession battle this campaign. Today we saw it again, alongside more worrying stats:
Real Sociedad · Barça
Possession | 54% · 46%
Shots | 19 · 9
Recoveries | 48 · 39
Completed passes | 502 · 414
Passes in the final third | 123 · 95
Forward passes | 256 · 177
Chances | 12 · 8
Corners | 8 · 5
Fewer possession, fewer shots, fewer chances…Fewer everything. Except years. Real Sociedad had an average age of 24 years; ours was of 28. 4 years older than our rivals. The ‘txuri-urdin’ have a solid project and an admirable sense of collectiveness.
Again, I feel both jealousy and the shock of this harsh reality.