Seville’s decline against Barcelona shows a skewed sense of ambition | La Liga

IVan Rakitic gathered his men and turned north. A couple of hours earlier, a banner hung across that end proclaiming “Unity Makes Strength,” their version of the resounding Tour of Marseille, and they still sing there today. Weary Sevilla players stood in front of the crowd, all those flags draped, and listened. It was 11 in the morning and the sound was loud but the words were not the same now and they did not come to celebrate; They have come to apologize. “We had to,” said Captain Rakitic. They were beaten again, this time by Barcelona. Four weeks into the season and they have one point, a crisis is coming.

With the final minutes of Saturday night’s 3-0 defeat long lost, Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui stood on the touchline, a twinkle in the lights. Now, instead of going down the tunnel from there, his players stood on the field, silently facing the music. Soso bowed slightly, sorry. Hands and palms are raised together. They were there for a while, long after Barcelona left. The athletic director joined them, and eventually led them to the locker room. At the northern end, the song appealed to the stability of the testicles. In the other three stands, where the players then turned, it was different.

There were moments, crack streaks appearing during the match, and the final whistle was met with their own whistles from the fans. Behind Lopetegui’s seat, some turned to the directors’ box chanting: “Get out! Out! Out!” Then a group gathered at the gates, chanting that they wanted President Jose Castro to go. Inside, it looked like there were calls for Lopetegui to leave, too. By the end, many of the 40,257 had already left, but that didn’t stop the whistles from deafening. Some pulled out white handkerchiefs and waved at them in refusal.

“I can understand that our fans are angry with us; that’s totally normal,” Rakitic said. “We are also really angry. I ask for forgiveness but also patience and trust.” His coach was trying to put everything into context: “The picture is ugly, I know it,” Lopetegui admitted. The problem is that the broader context may not help much, which calls for the conclusion that their problems are not unexpected.

He insisted that “the plan was going perfectly,” and if he said that time seemed a bit empty, if Barca in the end got more than all three, he had a point. “Sevilla surprised us,” Xavi Hernandez admitted, and as Isco made his debut, they flew to Barcelona.

In four minutes, Isco cut a superb pass to Rakitic, one-on-one, only for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal to fire his right hand and stop it somehow, Ronald Araujo kicked the loose ball off the line. With the game ending with 11 points on the clock, Juan Jordan volleyed the ball into the net calmly Eric Lamela to score, but the flag went up. Three minutes later, Lamela rolled into Marcos Acuña, who sliced ​​wildly. Immediately, Youssef Al-Nusairi penetrated inside, to be able to see the goal clearly, but he made a weak shot. A minute later, Acuña’s superb pass sent Isco running solo all the way into the area where from seven yards he sent the ball off the crossbar. If, like Al-Nusayri’s chance, it was offside, it was also an amazing foul and not finished: two minutes more and Isco played in En-Nusayri. Again he should have scored. Once again, Ter Stegen has made an exceptional rescue.

Perhaps Seville should have had two or even three; Instead, Barcelona did. Gavi stole Lamela, Sergio Busquets found Ousmane Dembele, and they were away. Robert Lewandowski crossed it over Yassine Bounou and although Fernando kept it off the goal line, Rafinha shook his head. Sevilla was done, and a short reaction early in the second half ended definitively when Eric Garcia added the third.

Seville players after their defeat against Barcelona
Sevilla players after the match in which they started strongly but lost in the end big. Photo: Christina Koekler/AFP/Getty Images

“We started the game well and in two moments, we were late by nothing,” Rakitic said. “That’s the difference when you have the best striker in the world, when you can give him the ball deep, on the left, on the right, on his head, and he knows what to do with it. In the first little moment, he’s close to scoring and the second he scores. That’s the biggest difference” .

He is one of them. Sevilla does not have the best striker in the world. Al-Nusairi lived his moments – In 2020-21 he scored an impressive 18 league goals – but even then, Sevilla feared it wouldn’t last and hoped it would lead to a sale. Amid injuries and international duty last season, he earned five and hasn’t been in double digits in any other season. Rafair Mir scored 10. This summer Kasper Dolberg has scored six, six and in his last three seasons in Ligue 1 and is coming back from a shoulder injury. Lucas Ocampos went on loan to Ajax. “Football is goals,” said Lopetegui. “If you’re not efficient when you’re the best team…” In Sevilla’s four games this season, they’ve captured 69%, 61%, 66% and 61% and taken 51 shots. They scored three times.

Which would be less important if it weren’t for what Lopetegui calls his “glass jaw”, the Sevilla team that “derails at the slightest setback”, must learn to “stand firm”. Instead, as El País said, it’s a pie, which isn’t the most solid of desserts. They look a bit like a team whose defense has been torn apart. Diego Carlos went to Aston Villa and Jules Conde joined Barcelona – on Saturday, he made two passes. Diario de Sevilla says goalkeeper Bono is no longer wearing his cape, while centre-back Marcao, coming from Galatasaray, has yet to appear. Twenty-year-old Tanguy Nyanzu is a newcomer and was the only actual defender in the squad against Barcelona.

If there was a club that beat sales and somehow came back stronger, that actually made it a virtue to leave, it’s Sevilla. Munchi, the athletic director, is a man who inspires faith, trusted for his timely release, Ready alternatives. This time, though, it looks a little different, sales are more compelling. A newspaper poll in Seville showed that 81% of readers described their window as a failure. It may partly have to do with expectations, and that doesn’t always help either.

Monchi and Lopetegui implausibly say it’s still early season: “We didn’t sign them just in August; we signed them for five years,” said the sporting director, while the coach spoke of “paying the price for a difficult pre-season” where “we didn’t sign them.” The players weren’t at their best yet.” But perhaps something deeper. Monchi admitted this was a return to the politics they had temporarily left behind, with ambition prompting them to push too hard for what they saw as a unique opportunity to compete for the league. They couldn’t keep players Like Carlos and Conde forever. And after two years of the epidemic, sales are inevitable. Indeed, Monchi admits, first-team salaries are still very high: 175 million euros when they should be somewhere near 140 million euros.

Julen Lopetegui cuts a depressed figure on the seam
Julen Lopetegui cuts a depressed figure on the touchline, as his side have only taken one point from their first four league games this season. Photograph: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters

All this means a shift in goals, a feeling of missing something, fading out of something. Accepting a little is not easy; It is still more difficult to accept, even if Monchi approached the fans after the defeat in Almeria and insisted that they went through much worse. However, this is not entirely new, for once; The issues that score goals are certainly not. If Sevilla hoped to compete for the league last season, Those hopes are gone in spring. They’ve only lost two of their last 18 league games in the 2021-22 season, that’s right, but they’ve only won five. They scored zero or one in 12 of those, which is an unresolved problem.

At the end of the season, they celebrated qualification for the Champions League for the third year in a row – an easily overlooked feat, the club claimed – but that night there was a refusal to confirm Lopetegui’s continuation and a feeling that something was not quite right. The same thing that remained even when it was announced that it would remain. Juan Jiménez wrote in AS describing the signature of Isco, the manager’s guard and Personal request (link), as a gift given as a means to the director and athletic director, but doubts remain, and patience is already waning.

Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Espanyol
Celta Vigo 3-0 Cadiz
Mallorca 1-1 Girona
Osasuna 2-1 Rayo Vallecano
Real Madrid 2-1 Real Betis
Real Sociedad 1-1 Atlético Madrid
Sevilla 0-3 Barcelona
Valencia 5-1 Getafe
Villarreal 4-0 Elche

Monday
Real Valladolid v Alméria (8pm BST)

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Spanish league results

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Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Espanyol
Celta Vigo 3-0 Cadiz
Mallorca 1-1 Girona
Osasuna 2-1 Rayo Vallecano
Real Madrid 2-1 Real Betis
Real Sociedad 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Sevilla 0-3 Barcelona
Valencia 5-1 Getafe
Villarreal 4-0 Elche

Monday
Real Valladolid – Almeria (8 pm GMT)

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And now they’ve already been beaten three times – last year they lost four all season – making this their worst start in 41 years; They had no fewer points at this point. Yes, they should have won more of them, fortune wasn’t quite in their favour, but it’s not like they had the toughest sides: they lost in Osasuna and Almeria, and needed a late equaliser to get a draw against Valladolid. Tension builds and division too. If the North End calls for unity, others aren’t sure. “We have to be better, we can be better, we’re going to be better,” Nyanzu said. “When we win the match, everything will change.”

Maybe Barcelona was that match, an opportunity. There were six changes, three starters, noises, and noises. The opening minutes suggested that something might be changing. Then suddenly it was over. In the end, there was no competition. Then: Manchester City and Erling Haaland Who scared them the last time He was among the opponents. “Seville has a thousand ways to lose, the question is when will this free fall end,” said one local newspaper. Lopetegui offered no magic solution, but he did see some reason to be cheerful, despite it all. “When bad things come you have to work, grit your teeth and convince the players,” he insisted. The rest is ‘yada yada’ and ‘yada yada’ doesn’t help.

“It may seem strange, but we did a lot of things well today, and if we keep going like this, we can do something good,” said Rakitic. At first, he took his teammates to the north end of Sanchez Pizjuan and said sorry.

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