Friday, September 19, 2008

Slackers

What is wrong with this team? Our wins against Numancia (4-3) and BATE Borisov have masked how awful we have been these few weeks.
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Circumstances have prevented me from watching the Numancia game last weekend (horrible internet connection which totally made streaming impossible): though the reviews and the highlights I’ve seen showed the painfully obvious: we have no idea on how to defend set pieces. Perhaps Robben’s claim/admission to the press that the first goal conceded to Numancia was his fault is something of a good sign: that we have guys in the dressing room who are willing to raise their hand to say ‘that was my bad.’ It was however ‘Bad’. To be able to score 4 goals against Numancia was a good sign though: with Van Nistelrooy showing us that he’s still a goal scoring machine despite an almost season-long spell on the treatment table last year, Van Der Vaart is showing us that he can provide the needed firepower from midfield in the wake of our supposed need for another striker and best of all, Higuain is showing us that he’s found his shooting boots.
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I did get better luck with the internet streaming last Wednesday with the BATE Borisov game (though I missed chunks of the 1st half). There were a few things that were noticeable however: Firstly, what was with those huge patches of empty seats at the Bernabeu? And I’m not talking about the fans leaving early coz of Madrid’s lazy display, there were large patches of empty seats at the start of the game!
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BATE were an awful team. They’re almost like a pub team if I may dare say. I don’t care if they’re Champs of Belarus and they once had Aliaksandr Hleb in their team: they were awful. I expected more: I expected 11 men behind the ball, lots of energy, high-intensity-pressing and danger in the counter attack. Instead, they left a lot of space, they stood around, they were slow and seemed to be too much in awe of their opponents. Madrid, in my view, as shown through the scoreline of 2-0 were worse. By the time they figured out in less than 10 minutes that their opponents were starstruck, they scored a goal and played lazy, lousy and passive football: justifying the decision of the fans who had tickets but decided not to turn up for the match. Madrid were lazy, slow, and incredibly wasteful with their goal scoring chances. We should have raped them and brutally pulverized them with a cricket-scoreline type of goal-fest. That’s what RM’s fans deserve. That’s what the team needed to do to shake off the rust from the offseason. Most of all, that’s the logical thing to do when you’re in a group that includes Italian giants Juventus and giant-killers Zenit: where goal difference may spell the difference between advancing or not.
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I feel bad that Gago got hurt against BATE: he had a great tournament at the Olympics and was showing sings of blossoming into the elegant, slick-passing holding midfielder that RM fans have dreamt of having ala Fernando Redondo. And just as I was beginning to wonder on whether or not he was going to get playing time after these few games where he didn’t get a single minute on the pitch, he actually got a call to start in this game…. Only to end up unlucky and get injured. We’ll be alright though, as we still have Diarra, who’s going through the Muslim fgasting-month of Ramadan (i.e. he’s not 100% fit) but thankfully we have De La Red too and Javi Garcia who can be important for us in that spot.
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There have been rumblings in the Madrid press that Gonzalo ‘Pipita’ Higuain should be given the starting spot in place of Raul in lieu of the former finding his form and the latter losing it. I know it’s a sensitive topic among Madridistas because of Raul’s importance to the club, which goes beyond the pitch. But as a person who is more influenced by logic as opposed to sentiment, I do feel that Higuain should be given this chance. The kid has done his part by developing his game and should be rewarded for it. Higuain in my view is also a much better tactical choice because of his flexibility as a player: having played in the wings previously (because of his pace and dribbling ability) as well as having been able to prove that he’s capable of dropping back to help the midfield (as he did against BATE, coming on for Guti). People who favor Raul being retained in the starting XI will surely point to Raul and RVN’s chemistry on the pitch (as they showed last season), I would like to point out however, that Higuain’s wily and pacy, style would complement RVN well too. We will see what happens in Santander this Sunday.
. What I’m REALLY hoping for this Sunday however, is a convincing Real Madrid victory.

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