Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Getting the Midfield Right

I am writing this down now as we find ourselves trailing Juventus 2-0. I am obviously frustrated like mad. We shouldn’t be losing like this! The halftime commentary talked about how we have seemed hesitant to really have a go at Juve and our history of consistent losses to them…. That somehow indicates that we are afraid. Are they? I’m not really sure that RM headed into this game with a kind of fear. I am more willing to chalk up our awful start (where we conceded a goal from a stunning strike from Del Piero) to just being lax… but for the remainder of the first half, I don’t see our performance as one of being lazy or afraid, I honestly believe that it was simply a matter of a flawed tactical system.
Thoughts on the Derby
I thought we were great vs. Athletico Madrid: the 1-2 scoreline was flattering to them. We had many unrightfully disallowed goals and what I felt to be an unfair sending off of RVN. What I thought was the brilliant thing which we did in that game however was our midfield: the combination of De La Red, Gago and Sneijder was great. They held the midfield well positionally, which resulted in a great shape for us. Sneijder played as if he was never injured: he was active and was spraying some nice passes around. Gago was making these great raking passes forward and De La Red held his position really well and got forward and did well to distribute the ball forward.
Van Der Vaart is not a Central Midfielder!
One thing we did in this game vs. Juventus was to start with a midfield trio of VDV, Sneijder and Gago. What makes us think that this is an ideal lineup for such a match…. Against an Italian side!?!? Van Der Vaart is NOT a Central Midfielder. I know that we’ve racked up wins with him in the middle 3, but he’s not really a true midfielder: he’s not known for his passing / playmaking or positional ability. He’s an attacking midfielder by nature: which is why we’ve seen him threaten the goal with shots from distance but at the midfield, aside from Sneijder’s active moves and Gago’s raking vertical passes, we have had no shape and have been bullied… and our front 3 have been left starving for service). Why couldn’t have we just repeated the midfield lineup we used in the derby?
I really believe that it’s this deficiency we stated out with for our midfield that is the reason why we had spent the first half completely dominated by the Juventus Spine of Chiellini, Sissoko and Amauri. No solidity at midfield meant that Sissoko who had played a brilliant first half, has completely killed off our midfield and Chiellini has had an easier time containing a starved RVN-Raul-Higuain front 3. Amauri also had an easy time, dropping deep into midfield and lead the line forward to punish us.
The announcers have absolutely crucified Pepe for giving up the ball that led to the 2nd goal. But can we all please have a look at the replay and see who was defending Amauri and how he defended the guy? It was Heinze….again. A late, half-interested lunge towards the ball from him was completely ineffective in stopping the Juve forward. I know I should lay off him a bit since it’s his cross to RVN that’s given us a fighting chance in this game… but heck.
Ramos has been awful in the 2nd half.
What’s up with Sergio Ramos??? An awful game versus Athletico and he has been absolutely dreadful this 2nd half. Slow to reach balls, constantly losing the ball, fouls galore… getting caught out. I’m just scratching my head. Where is the world’s best right back?
Width and Making changes sooner
Schuster has been constantly criticized for making his changes perhaps too late all the time. In this game, it has been Robben’s presence that has transformed the game. But why did he wait for so long before sending Robben in? It was very clear very early on that the best way to overcome Italians’ strength in choking up the middle of the park and holding the line at the center of defense was to open up the field with wide players. Granted, that Schuster tried to replicate that same situation on the other flank by bringing in Drenthe (perhaps also as a reward to him for winning that penalty during the derby), but he was completely useless. More and more I am beginning to feel that perhaps Drenthe wasn’t really such a good buy. actually once did a feature n which type of player RM needs the most at this time. For some reason, the readers replied that what RM needs the most at this point in time is another striker. I voted that we need a winger. Those words echo very strongly in my head now
I know, I know… we’ll get ‘em back at the Bernabeu. Juve played well, I have to give them that. But I really have to say that we should’ve done better by not being so lax at the stat of the 2 halves but at the same time, I also think that we could’ve done better too… if only we got our midfield right from the beginning.

1 comment:

  1. arrgghhh... I'm so frustrated about the Juventus game. What a terrible game! This is a classic example where the coach lost the game. I cannot fault any of our players (except maybe Cannavaro and Heinze for the two goals). Sometimes Schuster comes off as a tactically inept coach.

    I went wild when I saw the lineup. What sort of a midfield is that?? What was he smoking when he selected that midfield?? Both Sneijder and VDV ARE not wide players. The reason they're so successful for Holland is because of their full-backs, who go forward at every opportunity. And they can go forward as they've two holding midfielders to cover their asses. who do we have? Gago! no offence to him, he was splendid but he can't cover for everyone! When will Schuster realise VDV is a player for the last third of the pitch?

    when you play 4-3-3, the width should either come from the full-backs or the wingers. With Ramos somewhat off-colour we suffered a bit. And Heinze will not provide the width you want on the left side. Have you ever seen him pass vertically? Never, he always gives it back to the midfield or the defence. I prefer Marcelo over him, even defensively Heinze seems to suffer a bit these days.
    Please Please I hope Schuster realises, Higuain is NOT a winger and will never be. It's either Raul or Higuain, if Ruud plays. They cannot play together, both their games suffer when they play together. Raul doesn't know whether to play behind ruud or drop deeper and take the ball. Higuain doesn't know whether to stay on the wing or move inside. don't even get me started on his first touch, it's very very poor for a striker. he needs 10 chances to out one away.

    Ruud on the left wing? what was that all about??? you put the guy who needs to be on the end of through balls and crosses on the left???!!

    we improved a lot when Robben came on. I think the real reason is Sneijder moving into the middle and giving balance to the midfield. I thought Sneijder worked his socks off int he second half, he kept probing away with his passes.

    I'm getting fed up with Ramos these days, he and his stupid silly fouls and theatrics. He makes so much out of an innocuous challenge.