Monday, June 23, 2008

Reflecting on Player Movements in the Calderon-Mijatovic Era Part 4



Arrival – Mahamadou Diarra
Real’s website welcomed him by calling him an all-terrain vehicle. Simply put, in Diarra RM were able to finally have that player who can do all the dirty work to allow the creative players to flourish. Many (myself included) had simple-mindedly believed that RM had finally found the replacement for Claude Makelele.
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Diarra robs balls, intercepts, makes basic plays to distribute the ball and in many ways acts like a rudder to the team as it moves forward. Oftentimes, I’ve seen him step on the ball and somehow acts as the negative force that kept the team at bay from mindlessly surging forward (of course this didn’t work most of the time, but I appreciated the intent nevertheless). He tackles hard and is helpful in winning the ball in the air as well. And let’s not forget that though the 2nd goal vs. Mallorca is officially counted as an own goal, it was Diarra who created the goal.
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He will never play tiki-taka (though there were a few times late in the season where he showed flashes of that ability), which is why for some reason, some of the fans don’t appreciate him. I hypothesize that it’s a cultural thing for the Spanish not to like this kind of player, but the truth is Real needed him. He’s won consecutive titles with Lyon (5, I think) and 2 consecutive league titles now with Real Madrid. Certain people might argue that he’s just been lucky… I say he’s made his own luck. And RM are lucky to have him.
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Arrival - Marcelo
It’s a bit too much to be 18 and be labeled as the ‘next Roberto Carlos.’ You’re only 18 and already compared to the greatest left back of all time. Something was definitely off with that description. There are a few similarities though: he’s Brazilian, attack-minded and has great pace. Most of all, he can’t defend.
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Nobody will probably remember calling Roberto Carlos a lousy defender in his heyday. While he was able to conveniently blame his defensive lapses on his age (though the fact that Heirro watching his back had more to do with this) towards the end of his Madrid career.
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Marcelo however has been outed as a bad defender from the very beginning. His performances have been inconsistent not only in the level of his play but also in the characteristics of what he has brought to the game. We’ve seen him make those surging runs on the left flank early on in the season, but as the season wore on and it became clear that Madrid was most dangerous through the left (coz of Robinho & Robben), he then pulled back and decided that he wanted to try some of the tricks he’s supposedly learned from Cannavaro. The results have been varied.
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All in all, one can’t fault his signing, as he came on a winter break youth buying spree of RM which included Higuain and Gago to the team as well. Only time will tell if it was ever a good idea to bring him into the team, the upside is that given his age, he has plenty of time to develop…. And/or Madrid has plenty of time to look for a buyer.

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