Monday, August 25, 2014

Merengue Bites 2014-2015 Episode 4 - Supercopa Dissappointment

Kaushik, Bassam, Ryan and I pick up the pieces from our shattered Spanish Supercup Dream: rationalizing the midfield and pondering an Angel Di Maria-less future. We also talked about some of the best and worst Real Madrid kits of the recent past. Plus, which Real Madrid player would bake the best cake?
Everytime I'm reminded of the second Capello stint at Real Madrid, I feel like slapping myself in the head for being a cheapskate and not buying that season's kit. It was also Ruud Van Gol's one super great season for us. 
Inspired by Game of Thrones? or the Chinese Mafia? Would have loved this kit WITHOUT the Dragon/s.
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The Podcast can also be downloaded here:


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stale Supercopa (Real Madrid 1 – Atletico Madrid 1)

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It was a debut goal for James. A scrappy goal, but they all count - especially in a scrappy, cagey affair.
We are now pursuing trophy #2 of the 6 up for grabs this season. And like many things in life, the degree of difficulty will only increase as we go from one trophy to another. Trophy #1 (UEFA supercup was claimed with relative ease), Trophy #2, which features 2 rounds against La Liga champs Atleti was always going to be tough. Trophy #3, the Club World Cup, may feature weak opponents, but will be held in December, where injuries, fatigue, and vacation mode mentality creeps into the team. Trophy #4 will be the Copa Del Rey – and the bulk of that competition will be on January, where the team will suffer a post-CWC/winter break hangover. Trophy #5 of course is the La Liga title which we have not won in 2 seasons and of course, the sweetest one of all is #6 – La UNdecima.
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But let’s go back to trophy #2, where Real Madrid pretty much collectively laid an egg on the pitch against Atletico at the Bernabeu last night – drawing 1-1 thanks to a goal scored by James on a ‘scramble’ and conceding an ‘away goal’ in what must now be a VERY familiar source: a set piece.
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Team Shape / Tactics
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A well-deserved contract extension for Modric. The Real Madrid midfield will need to drastically improve on Friday though if we are to lift the Spanish Supercup.
Ancelotti lined the team up as I dreamed up: a 4-3-3 with Kroos-Xabi-Modric lined through the middle. We were going to control the game and eventually figure out a way to unlock Atleti’s organized defense. Only we didn’t.
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Rather than being able to constantly circulate the ball with their passing and movement, Kroos, Xabi and Modric passed the ball around and remained static, unable to force Atleti’s defenders off their positions to enable us to find openings. As a result, the team became too dependent on our wide men (Ronado + Marcelo / Bale + Carvajal) to force the action – making the team’s play even more awkward. During those stages of the first half, the state of Real Madrid’s play really did seem to call out for a ‘10’. Going as far as switching to a 4-2-3-1 might not have been necessary (something Ancelotti could have done without as substitution as both Modric and Kroos are playing either as a pivot or a ‘10’). After all, what was just really needed was for our midfielders to be more active: both both Kroos and Modric to shuttle up and down the pitch almost as twin playmakers. If done well enough, there would be no need for a specialist ’10.’
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Keeping the ‘equilibrio’ however seemed to be Ancelotti’s foremost priority. With Isco, James and Di Maria all on the bench, he still had ‘bullets in the chamber’ if he wanted to turn up the attacking pressure in the latter stages of the game (which was what he did). It seemed a sound enough approach to the game: especially with James scoring a scrappy goal in the tight affair. It wall went to waste however when Madrid conceded in the most familiar fashion: a set piece (I actually missed seeing it live as I ran to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee – the match was at 5am Singapore time!).
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It was then that Ancelotti, became more willing to take a risk by introducing Di Maria, sacrificing Modric’s stability (he had a meh game anyway) for the Argentine’s dynamism.
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It’s now finally clear to us that while having a Kroos-Alonso-Modric midfield will give us supreme control of a match, the combination can turn Madrid’s attack stale. It will be therefore VERY important to have a stash of sparkplugs (Di Maria, James, Isco) either on the bench or in lieu of one of the 3 pass masters (Kroos, Alonso, Modric) in certain games.
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I hope that this game would serve as the adequate message to Florentino that selling Di Maria might turn out to be a massive mistake. Because while Di Maria is not a superstar comparable to the likes of Ronaldo and Messi, he is nonetheless a player who brings elements to Real Madrid’s game that no other player can replicate.
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Questions for the Front 3
After seeing him tear Sevilla apart in the UEFA Supercup, all of us were given an eerie reminder that Cristiano Ronaldo might now be entering that dreaded phase of his career (where father time begins to creep in, in the form of more frequent niggles and knocks). We have the acquisition of Bale and James (who came in for CR7 in the second half to buffer the blow, which is massively painful nonetheless. James however was still playing on the left side, whilst Bale remained on the right. Might the team have done better if they had switch flanks instead? After all, playing on the left has not necessarily hindered Bale’s goalscoring ability (he played on the left during his famous ‘Taxi for Maicon’ game with Spurs vs. Inter). James on the other hand, was a right-sided player with Porto before becoming a full-fledged ’10’ for club (Monaco) and country.
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With Ronaldo injured, and Atleti’s defense giving us migraines, Real Madrid had a slew of lethal ball deliverers on the pitch. Alonso, Modric, Kroos, James, Bale and Di Maria are all capable of delivering long crosses into the box – except that Benzema is no target man. Might we have had use for a center forward capable of being an aerial threat out there last night? You might not agree with the idea of acquiring Tiger Falcao, but you have to admit that there were moments last night where you wished you had someone to send those crosses to behind Atleti’s defense.
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Quick Thoughts
I’m happy that the decision was made to do away with the pasillo shenanigans last night. The Supercup is a meeting between 2 champions, it’s hardly the appropriate occasion to play a game of one-upsmanship on trying to weasel a pasillo out from the other team. I was thus pleasantly surprised to see the touching tribute to the great Di Stefano instead prior to kickoff.
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Did Sergio Ramos throw a punch at Mario Mandzukic? I watched the game on a blurry stream but it did seem to be the case. If so, then he ought to be punished for that. I’m a Real Madrid fan, but there should be no place for cheapshots in the game. In fact as a Real Madrid fan, we all ought to be outraged that a player who wears the shirt behaves in that manner.
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Diego Simeone ripped out a page from Jose Mourinho’s playbook with his post-match comments (calling Di Maria our best player). While what he said was true, it was a clear attempt to poke / provoke Real Madrid by making such a remark about a player who is reportedly seriously considering his future with us. Clever move, El Cholo.
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Bracing for Round 2
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All to play for in the second leg
While it’s true that the team’s performance (as well as the result) is a source of much disappointment, it must not be lost on us that we are playing the La Liga Champions and Champions League Runners Up. The team’s dour play cannot solely be attributed to bad performances by the players but should also be chalked up to the effectiveness of Atleti’s play. 1-1 to me is a fair result. And though Atleti currently have the ‘away goals’ advantage, it is not unfathomable for us to score at the Calderon and even things out in that regards. I would in fact say that the tie’s arrangement might be to our advantage: as any goal we score on Friday (when things REALLY count), will be an away goal (much like what happened in Munich last season).
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Round 2 is on a Friday Night! Friday Nights are for beer, ribs, chicken wings and the company of people you share laughs with. This Friday will be extra-special – it will be all that plus a Madrid Derby. And the ultimate ‘bonus’? Seeing the boys lift trophy #2 for the season.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Waking up to a Fantasy (Real Madrid 2 – Sevilla 0)

When the match started at 2:45am, I was still feeling as disoriented as those dudes trying to spell 'Real Madrid' during the opening ceremony. All that changed when the match started
Maybe it’s because this is the offseason after orgasmically winning La Decima…
Maybe it’s because this is the offseason when I became a dad for a second time…
Maybe it’s because this is the offseason where we had a very entertaining World Cup…
Or maybe it’s just simply because life in the office has become insanely busy these days…
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But we are a couple of weeks from the opening of the La Liga season and somehow, I still feel de-sensitized to the supposed excitement building up to the season opener(s) of the European football calendar.
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All of that changed last night after seeing Real Madrid pretty much stroll right through Sevilla to win the first of 6 possible trophies to be won this season. Sure, it was ‘only’ a 2-0 win. I predicted the scoreline correctly during the weekend podcast too: accounting for Sevilla’s lack of creativity going forward to the departure of Rakitic (to Barca) whilst Real Madrid I thought, might still be rusty. I was only half right of course: Sevilla did indeed barely threaten us (except the last few minutes), clearly missing the incisiveness of Rakitic’s passing… our ‘only’ 2 goals however, were more due to Beto’s great performance between Sevilla’s sticks.
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Ancelotti’s Goes Counter-Intuitive AGAIN

Everyone saw Kroos, Modric and James on the teamsheet at midfield and instantly thought: 4-2-3-1 (including me). It seemed like the logical thing to do: you assign Modric and Kroos as pivots (where they have played before) whilst allowing your 80m Euro #10 (James) to play in his preferred role behind the striker.
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Doing so however, meant curtailing Kroos and Modric’s role and forces them to function more as ‘specialist’ pivots. Mr. Carlo ‘Equilibrio’ Ancelotti was having none of that. He thus surprised us all by deploying his team using the same 4-3-3 formation he used for majority of last season: with Modric in his usual role, Kroos in the ‘Alonso role’ and James in the ‘Di Maria role’. In essence, all 3 midfielders were both given the opportunity to conduct the team’s passing movements AND carry the defensive responsibility equally. ‘Balance’ – as Ancelotti has preached all of last season. I think everyone would agree that it was an absolute success.  
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Midfield Kroos Control
Given the way Kroos and Modric were playing, coupled with Cristiano starving to make an impact, Sevilla stood no chance against us. Artwork from @r4six (follow him on twitter!)
No one impressed me more out there last night than Toni Kroos. He made everything simple for Real Madrid: keeping possession, neat touches and clear and accurate passes. He completed 96% of his passes including 13 out of 14 long passes. I once called him a ‘Modric lite’. I was wrong – he’s a far better player than my feeble, lazy assessment at the time. Together with Modric (94% passing accuracy last night), Sevilla stood no chance against us (not even those red elbow patches on Unai Emery's suit could do it). We kept possession and were in complete control of the entire match. Kroos not only impressed with his neat, tidy possession and his passing acumen, he also functioned as the team’s primary hub and was the conductor of the orchestra last night. I never expected him to slip so seamlessly into Alonso’s role.
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Real Madrid can now play with a midfield 3 of Kroos-Alonso-Modric if it chooses to do so, it will be a 3-headed passing monster combo that cannot be stopped in the manner Klopp once imagined (stop, Alonso and you stop Madrid). All 3 are masters of possession, passing, and the dictating of the game’s tempo. From one game to another, depending on the nature of the game or the opponent, Ancelotti can opt to rest 1 or 2 of his 3 passing/possession maestros and inject the midfield with steel (Khedira/ Illaramendi), more attack-mindedness (James / Isco) or blood the youngsters in (Isco / Illaramendi).
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Last night, bereft of Alonso (who shook his head towards Platini and gave him a ‘you’re a shithead’ look while collecting his winner’s medal), Ancelotti decided to try James in the role Di Maria played last season. Occasionally, when it would catch Ronaldo’s fancy, the 4-3-3 would become a 4-4-2, with CR7 joining Benzema to form a strike partnership upfront, turning Bale and James into wide midfielders. The Colombian, also blessed with a sweet left foot (like Di Maria and Isco who played that role last season) will need to learn the virtues of one of Carlo Ancelotti’s greatest disciples: a one-time Madridista-turned-Milanista legend: Clarence Seedorf, who learned to use his qualities as a ‘10’ in a central midfield role to devastating effect. And like Isco, James hasn’t ‘gotten’ the role just yet (Incidentally, I take Di Maria not playing last night as a near-sure sign that he might leave us).
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Remember Him???
1-2 weeks before last night’s match, twitter experienced a surge in photos showing Gareth Bale in a sleeveless training top with his biceps about to explode during his first proper preseason with the team. He had the look of a player ready to morph into his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo.
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Playing in his hometown with a trophy at stake, after a preseason where he’s been the sole bright spot for his team, he really looked set to explode last night. And in a way, he did… just more subtly. Bale demonstrated a highly-improved, and a far more organic understanding of his teammates. His actions on the pitch were not just relegated to the use of his explosive pace. Last night, we saw plenty of neat touches, diagonal passes, lay-offs, lobs and crosses that showcased the fact that he has gotten to know and has synchronized his play with his teammates. Now all he has to do is get rid of that stupid hair band.
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But as all eyes were transfixed on the hometown boy, the world’s best player chose to end his injury hiatus and remind us all who the true super star was. Cristiano has gone missing since around March-April. We managed to win the Copa Del Rey without him, fell apart in his absence for the League campaign (where we also rested other key players), whilst nearly lost the CL final with the skin of our teeth with our star man barely half-fit. As expected, Portugal’s fate was tied to his strained/torn/tendinitis-stricken knee/muscle/etc. this past World Cup. But chasing the only club title that has eluded him, and eager to come back, Ronaldo exploded last night as if to ask us all ‘Remember Me???’
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Yes Cristiano, we remember. ‘Cristianoooo, Cristianooo….!’ went Cardiff City’s stadium last night over his performance, and so did my living room. Glad to have you back champ!
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10 Thoughts for the re-introduction of the #10
In a situation where Benzema is unavailable, how is a 4-3-3 with James as a 'False 9' (formation on the left) very different from a 4-3-1-2 / Midfield Diamond (formation on the right)? Might there be a chance for CR/Bale (who are all 20+ goals/season players) to be played as wide forwards (much like Robben in the WC)? We can even include Di Maria in the midfield rotation!
Last season, we all enjoyed watching the BBC terrorize defences. The combination of Ronaldo and Bale’s pace and power, coupled with Benzema’s selflessness (bravo to his contract renewal!) made our front 3 the best in the world. This was on display again as all goals involved members of the BBC (Ronaldo’s goals last night were assisted by Bale and Benzema respectively). My post-season reflections however, brought a few key points to mind:
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#1: After 3 super-spectacular seasons under Mourinho (playing practically all minutes of all games), last season, we were all reminded that CR7 is human. He CAN get injured and miss a significant number of games (just as he did when he was supposed ‘voodoo hexed’ by a witch doctor during his first season).
#2: Gareth Bale too can get injured. His early years at Tottenham were mostly injury-ravaged. We should also remember that players with the sort of pace of Bale are prone to long injury spells (Robben, Walcott) from muscle niggles, etc.
#3: Remember Jese? He’ll be back before year end.
#4: Particularly intrigued by Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch team in the World Cup, I found LVG’s use of Robben (a pacy, goal-scoring winger like CR, Bale and Jese) as one of 2 forwards to be interesting.
#5: Ronaldo, Bale, Jese would NOT be comfortable as a central striker, they would, I imagine, thrive as part of a strike partnership. (in the manner Van Gaal used Robben with Van Persie in the WC)
#6: We only have one ‘proper’ striker: Benzema (this point would of course be invalid if we ended up signing Falcao).
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So I was thinking: if a ‘balanced’ midfield is non-negotiable for Carletto, and if Isco and James are going to need possibly another season or 2 to be a functional part of a fully-stacked midfield department, Why not rip a page out of Van Gaal’s playbook and use our goalscoring wingers as part of a strike partnership, and then using our world-class #10s in their preferred roles? Many may remember Carletto’s ‘Christmas Tree’ (4-3-2-1) in Milan, but few perhaps might remember that he did use a 4-3-1-2 as well in Milan (Izaghi and Shevchenko with Rui Costa as ‘10’) and the occasional diamond midfield in Chelsea (with Drogba and Anelka up front). Applied to this Real Madrid:
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#7: James and Isco can be played in their favoured positions while still having the midfield 3 Carletto considers important for team balance
#8: The presence of Ronaldo / Bale / Jese and even Benzema in one or both forward spots will mean that there will still be width up front as all have their tendencies to drift wide according to the needs of the game.
#9 The system is in essence, not very different to a 4-3-3 that deploys James / Isco as a ‘False 9’.
#10 The system can just as easily be converted on the fly to a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 without substitutions if the players are drilled properly.
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I’ll stop at 10 points because maybe my imagination has gone a bit too wild.
Maybe my mind is drifting far too deep into ‘fantasy mode’…
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Oh well, but then again, isn’t this Real Madrid team exactly that: a team for one’s fantasies.
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Now we all know that when Florentino Perez talked about ‘ilusion’, he really meant it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Merengue Bites Podcast: Preview

Kaushik, Bassan, Ryan and myself look forward to the upcoming La Liga season. We have a look at the squads that Barca and Atleti are building and attempt to rationalize the one Carlo Ancelotti has been given.
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You can also listen to / download the podcast here: 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Merengue Bites 2014-2015: Preseason Episode 1

Once the the stream expires, you may listen to / download the podcast here:
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The scent of the 2014-2015 season is in the air: Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez are now onboard for our pursuit of 6 titles this season. The dark cloud of the goalkeeping question also looms over the club with the signing of Keylor Navas seemingly 'in the chamber'. Who makes way for him? Iker or Diego? or Both?
Kaushik, Rahul and I siff through the questions.
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Our listeners also ask a fun question: if Real Madrid Football's first team were to start a pickup basketball team, who would our starting 5 be? I give it my best shot. Have a listen.
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Please send us any questions and comments for our next recording: @madridistamac (via twitter).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

In the Meme Time...

Wow. Things sure went my REALLY fast. One moment, we were able to keep track of the world cup, putting out podcasts, writing about matches - and the next thing we know, it's all over.
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What can I say? A crazy few weeks in the office and at home with a new baby have that power to make time evaporate at the snap of a finger. Lucky for me, despite largely being unable to tweet, podcast or write about the goings on of the last few months, I was actually able to see most of the action and keep abreast with most of the news.
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The World Cup
Everyone was watching out for Neymar, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but it was James Rodriguez who would make the tournament his own.
I kept ranting that Germany's weakness of lacking width was going to do them in. Fortunately for them, they decided to make use of their embarrassment of riches in midfield and re-deploy Philip Lahm once again as a fullback. Together with supersub Schurrle on the left side, Germany regained their team's width and deservedly won the World Cup.
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I had a much more interesting narrative that didn't pan out: at the 40th year anniversary of the 1974 WC where a 'Total Football Holland' would fall to an unimaginative but efficient and highly functonal West Germany team, the 2 sides would meet but with reversed roles: A fluid, attack-minded Germany that would fall against a tactically-organized yet functional and unimaginative Dutch team. It didn't happen.
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It was instead Argentina, whose tactical error of bringing wide man Lavezzi off for Aguero ultimately blunted their attack and allowed the Germans to deservedly win the cup for a unified Germany.
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My Player of the Tournament: James Rodriguez.
My Goal of the Tournament: James Rodriguez vs. Uruguay
My Team of the Tournament (3-5-2):
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Mascherano - Vlaar - Hummels
------- Lahm - Kroos ---------
-- Robben - James - Neymar --
--------- Messi-Muller ---------

I realize that I tend to pick 3-at-the-back lineups for teams of the tournament / season. This is due tot he fact that attacking players tend to be considered to be the highlights of a season or tournament. I am also acutely aware that I've put Lahm in the midfield (despite criticizing Germany for putting him there) and Mascherano as part of a back 3 (despite playing in midfield for Argentina this WC). All I can say re: that is - well I need to at least make the lineup work somehow.
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The Transfer Market
Being married to a Liverpool fan (and thus being one myself), I honestly would have loved to see Suarez in a Real Madrid Jersey (yup, I said it!). The last thing we need however, is someone with his sort of anger management issues. After all, we already have Pepe for that sort of thing. Looking forward to seeing them kill each other this coming season though...
So after the logical signing of 2 GKs (Ter Stegen and Bravo), the club who weren't supposed to be allowed to sign players (Barca) choose to sign a  player who isn't allowed to participate in football activities for 4 months (Suarez). Suarez joins a massive front line in Barcelona that include: Neymar, Messi, Pedro and the returning (from loan) Deulofeu. On paper, a starting front 3 of Neymar, Suarez and Messi is a frightening prospect: the issue they will need to resolve however is that all 3 men are used to playing in the same area of the pitch and none of the 3 are used to being given defensive responsibility. Luis Enrique is in for a big challenge. Meanwhile, at midfield, Barca's purchase of Ivan Rakitic is an astute move: having acknowledged the failure of the Cesc Fabregas experiment, they have acquired a player who might have the makings of someone who can play the Xavi role as their midfield talisman looks towards the twilight of his career at the top level. Finally, yesterday's acquisition of the 30-year old Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia for 20m addresses an area of need. Mathieu however is 30 years old. Might they have been better off spending 40m on Mats Hummels?
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There was only one player who made me go "This dude should play for Real Madrid!" in the world cup. It was NOT Toni Kroos or James Rodriguez. It was Paul Pogba. The dude is a monster and a badass motherf*cker who ought to be patrolling the Madrid midfield with bad intentions. Having said that, the acquisition of Toni Kroos is a marvellous coup for Real Madrid. Over-reliant on Xabi Alonso at the base of our midfield, having him paired alongside Modric spraying passes all over the pitch further 'de-centralizes' the team and increases the number of areas where we can create danger to our opponents without jeopardizing the team's tactical positioning (which is what we get with Di Maria).
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Real Madrid's squad is a frightening one. How it'll play however remains a big question mark.
It was the acquisition of James Rodriguez which puzzles and intrigues me. Having never displayed an affinity towards the 4-2-3-1, Carlo Ancelotti is once again given a classic '10' to fit into his lineup. It is as if the challenge of turning Isco into a proper central midfielder wasn't enough. If my sketchy impression of James Rodriguez pre-World Cup is correct, the Colombian used to play on the right wing for Porto before moving to Monaco. Does Ancelotti try to turn him into a proper CM? Rotate him with Bale and (gasp!) Ronaldo in the wing positions? Play him as a false 9? Does Ancelotti go with a 4-4-2 / 4-2-2-2? Or accept that playing a 4-2-3-1 is the most logical way to go? The signing of this magnificent player raises plenty of questions though I'm not sure if they're necessarily good or not.
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There is still one month to go in this silly season. I suppose now is the time to start getting warmed up to get ready ourselves for this rare chance to race for 6 titles.




Friday, June 20, 2014

Football in Sickness (and In Health)

So my health has finally caught up with me. I started showing symptoms of the flu last Monday and here I am wheezing, sneezing, snorting and sniffing my way through the day. Having caught the flu though, my wife has now kicked me out of the bedroom lest I infect her and the 2 kids. So behold my new mistress: football. Here are a couple of thoughts on the last 2 matches:
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Belgium 2 - Algeria 1
If they're not going to entertain us with their football, they should at least do it with their hair. Come on Mark Wilmots: play the all-afro midfield of Witsel and Fellaini!
I looked forward to seeing the hipster's choice for the tournament. They have the best young goalkeeper in the world (Courtois), one of the best CBs (Kompany) and 2 of the best young attacking players in the world (Hazard, Lukaku). They were in turn surrounded by plenty of great players whom almost much every nation would like to have in their team (Witsel, Fellaini, De Bruyne, etc.). What Belgium don't have however are fullbacks, and it is this weakness of theirs that I think will be exposed... and that's exactly what happened when Jan Vertonghen (a CB made to play as a LB) conceded a penalty to allow Algeria to take the lead.
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Playing CBs as fullbacks usually means that the opposing wide player will be facing a slower, less-mobile man when going forward. On defense, it also means that the team in question will have a limited ability in spreading the pitch open as most CBs deputizing as full backs have neither the pace, nor the crossing ability to threaten you. All this was exposed in the game vs. Algeria.
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Belgium also lacked that much-needed zing going forward. De Bruyne didn't give Belgium the much-needed spark that a '10' brings while Lukaku's first touch and passing was a let down. Too often, especially in the first half, Eden Hazard was given the ball (or his team mates let him have the ball) in the oddest parts of the pitch as if expecting him to turn into the Lionel Messi of 2-3 years ago (who could dribble his way into, around and through a defense at will) to create a scoring chance. Trouble is, Hazard is no Messi.
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Belgium in the end had to resort to 'Route 1 Football' tactics: relying on Fellaini to open the scoring and using a counter attack to win the game. They will still get past the group stages. Their stock as the hipster's choice however is rapidly taking a nose dive.
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Brazil 0 - Mexico 0
Here's the shocking bit: Brazil lack creativity. Instead of a legend-class striker to lead the line (e.g. Romario, Ronaldo), they have the functional, feigning Fred. And behind him are Brazil's 'only' have 2 creative players: Neymar and Oscar - whom they are way too dependent on to create and score. Faced with a plucky organized team, they will struggle. And struggle they did against Mexico whose GK Guillermo Ochoa played the match of his life. Credit must not go to Ochoa alone though. We must remember that in the London Olympics (where many of this Brazil and Mexico team played), it was the Mexicans who walked away with Gold.
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Spain 0 - Chile 2
Marca's painful and poignant cover marking an end to the era of the Spanish National Team's dominance. 
The problem is NOT that Tiki-Taka dead.
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The problem is that Spain's ability to play Tiki-Taka well has died.
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The ‘Tiki-Taka’ football that saw Spain win Euro 2008, 2012 and the World Cup in 2010 was built around the ability of the team to retain possession at an enormously high level. And when the ball was lost, the team would then expend incredible amounts of energy to press the opponent into surrendering it back. It was these 2 elements in their play that saw Guardiola’s Barcelona and Aragones + Del Bosque’s Spain reach the highest quality levels in possession play.  At its zenith, ‘tiki-taka’ football as we know it, functioned both as a vicious attacking strategy (see Barca’s 5-0 mauling of Mourinho’s Madrid) and as an effective (albeit boring) defensive strategy (see Spain’s Euro 2012 performance, except for their performance vs. Italy in the final).
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Here’s the thing about tiki-taka though: like any other tactical strategy in playing any sport, when played badly, the strategy is shit.
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Spain is out of the World Cup not because it played tiki-taka. It is out of the World Cup because it played tiki-taka BADLY. Bereft of a midfield engine who can choreograph play, construct space and dictate the tempo of the game as he sees fit, Spain could no longer command possession of the ball in the manner it used to. That midfield engine, that choreographer was Xavi Hernandez. He is 34 now and clearly no longer has the same engine as the midfield conductor of Spain’s Euro 2008, WC 2010 and Euro 2012 Xavi. He was off the pace against the Netherlands, and wasn’t even on the pitch against Chile last night. Without Xavi in his prime, Spain in possession are still a great team, but they are not at the level of the seemingly immortal Spain (or Barca) circa 2008-2012.
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To make things worse, this Spain team no longer hunt in packs like starved wolves for the ball once it is lost. A lost ball or a broken attacking play from Spain is now an immediate opportunity for the opponent to start an attack. La Roja’s opponents no longer look over their shoulder in fear of being blindsided by 3-4 red shirts when they are in possession of the ball. They instead are able to push the ball forward at pace to start a counter attack which in turn catches the Spanish’s high defensive line (a tiki-taka staple) flat footed and vulnerable.
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And once you add all that to a goalkeeper who was once the source of the team’s absolute confidence, and is now instead the subject of the team’s insecurities (Casillas) – the result is fatal.
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Tiki Taka isn’t dead. Bayern Munich will terrify us all with it at club level again next season, and perhaps Spain will do so again with their new young crop of players.
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The only thing that has died (or has passed on) is the era of this Golden Generation of Spain’s national team. I for one, am just glad that I was a witness to its greatness in all its pomp. Perhaps one day in the future, my son will gush about some great team able to dominate ball possession, win multiple titles and strike fear into the hearts and minds of the rest of the football world. And maybe, just maybe, my reply might be: “yeah they’re great… almost like Spain 2008-2012. But not quite there yet.”