Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Clutch City

Bernd Schuster is turning this team into a great team! I hope it's not pre-mature at this point to make these declarations, but I can certainly see the makings of a great team already:
.
We are playing high-scoring, entertaining football at home: hat tricks and back heeled goals for our midfielders and 7-1 mauling of poor, newly-promoted sides. We played awesome against Sporting, though was still careful not to read too much on a victory over a minnow team which Barca had just trounced 6-1 days back. What give me encouragement though are the wins on the road against tough teams such as Racing and most, recently, Real Betis in their home grounds, where getting 3 points is far from easy. We've played solid football throughout those matches and have put away the naive game plan of wanting to play tiki-taka against teams in their soil, only to be smashed with counter attacks that would cost us the game.
.
Moreover, we are showing the kind of winning mentality necessary to win titles: disregarding the momentum of the game or the opponents' superiority in numbers to make comebacks or score tie-breaking goals to win matches as we have shown yet again against Betis just days back and against Valencia in the Supercup. This is a team that is capable of winning 'character-matches'. This is a team with a winning character, and so far, I've been damn proud of them.
.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy, now healthy again, has resumed doing what Ruud Van Nistelrooy always does: score goals... no matter what, no matter where, no matter when. Rafael Van Der Vaart hasn't really gotten into the scheme of things (or maybe that's just his style), but he's been a constant threat / menace to the opponents' goal with his shots from long distance and the perpetual threat and insecurity to the opposing defense that it brings. Robben has been thankfully injury-free and has become the wing presence we need to replace the void left by Robinho (in a way) while Higuain has finally found his scoring boots and has been playing really well thus far.
.
At midfield, injuries have brought us terrible luck, but the same injury problem has allowed us to discover a something really great: that Ruben De La Red is awesome. I like him paired up with Diarra much better: as his physical presence and defensive capabilities allow him to control and even boss the midfield (in a way that Guti is not capable of), but at the same time, he has the ability to roam forward and serve as the offensive fulcrum in initiation the offense. And let's not forget his capabilities as a goal scorer as he has a mean shot from distance. De La ed to me, turns out to be the rare box-to-box midfielder who can give us the flexibility and dynamism we need to push forward and we had found missing in the first few games with Guti in the double Pivot alongside Diarra.
.
I'm also really glad that Schuster's decision to go with a rotation policy has paid off: now we have guys like Javi Garcia and even Saviola who have received some real playing time in their actual favored positions in real games: at the same time, guys like Robben who is a perpetual candidate for the treatment room as well as guys like De La Red & Diarra (midfielders = something we're short of at the moment) are able to rest up and have some breathing space between the matches in this part of the season where we play up to 2 games every 3 days.
.
Marca has just conducted a survey on who should be that 'attacking trident' (in a 4-3-3 formation) for the Zenit game where Schuster would need to bench one of either Robben, Raul, RVN or Higuain. I voted in favor of a starting threesome of Robben-RVN-Higuain. My apologies to Raul fans, but I do think that now is the time his place in the starting XI needs to start being non-guaranteed. Schuster was right that 'it is necessary to respect his history, but I think we must also equally respect the good work and and the resultant good form that has been reached by his teammates.
.
Next Stop: St. Petersburg in Andre Arshavin's turf. I'm hoping for a win (though the conservative prediction would be a draw) to get us past halfway to advancing beyond this tough, tough group.

No comments:

Post a Comment