Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Finding Hope.... To Play for Pride... and even more Hope

Juande Ramos: He has given the team Tactical Organization, Discipline and Confidence. He is also giving Madridistas hope.
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Many expected a rout, a beatdown, a massacre. People were mentioning possible scorelines like 5, 6, 7-0. They weren't so wrong to think so because I as a Madridista feared the same thing, knowing that it was all truly possible.
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Since Capello, we've always played Barca on the counter (except of course that night of the pasillo). The difference today however was just that we didn't even have enough warm bodies to put on the field. Heck, we even tried an unfit Sneijder. We had a makeshift defense too with our rightback Sergio Ramos on left back. That was the beginning of the surprise.
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Yes, yes, yes. We played like a small club as Cules (Barca fans) are now criticizing us. They call us cowards, called us pathetic. What would you all have us do? Play Schuster style? To get hammered with 7 goals? Now THAT's stupid. THAT's pathetic. Every great team should and will play according to who their opponents are and how they play. Every great manager will use his resources in a manner that will make it hard for his opponents to do what they do: for Barca's case, it was about denying them space, giving them no time, never allowing them to feel comfortable even if they had the ball. And it almost worked.
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Who knew that Madrid could actually be ordered, organized, disciplined, and tactically proficient to repel Barca's relentless tiki-taka onslaught? For 83 minutes at least. Juande did so apparently. Seems like he's pretty good afterall.
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Few knew we had a bright right-sided youngster named Miguel Palanca. I say draft him into the squad even if we're getting a winger on January. With Robben always hurting and with 'Acci-Drenthe', it's good to have choices.... especially from the Cantera.
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The only mistake I think that Juande made was to give up perhaps too soon on his 4-4-2 (or 4-4-1-1 ?) and switch to a 4-2-3-1. Perhaps he decided that he was ok with a draw? In swapping Guti for Javi Garcia, Juande lost the guy who can make that defense piercing laser guided pass on the counter (like he did vs. Sevilla at the Bernabeu under Capello) in favor of another defensive bodyguard. He then swapped the pacy Pipita for Van Der Vaart, to turn the now paceless Raul, who had been working his ass off helping at midfield into the 9. So we lost our pacy attacking option for an attacking midfielder who can't really pass coz our guy who could make that one pass was subbed out already. VDV didn't help much as a defender either so what goes? Juande will need to figure out what to do with him. But to Juande's credit, he let Palanca in for Sneijder instead of VDV. It was a great surprise out of the bag.
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Super Iker was RE-canonized as a Saint Last Saturday Night at the Camp Nou Cathedral
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Then, there are some more: San Iker is back!!! Salgado it turns out have a few more decent performances in him, same for Cannavaro and there is hope yet for Metzelder (as a 6 yard box policeman)! Gago continues his progression and in Juande's system, I am really coming to believe that it will be further accelerated.
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Barca is now 12 points away though. And at 6th place, it is clear that the objective is now to make the top 4 to qualify for the Champions League next season. Realistically speaking, the only way we'll win La Liga is through a Capello-esque, double digit winng streak coupled by a sensational Barca capitulation: though not impossible, very imbrobable.
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Juande Ramos has made me delusional though: from his 2 matches thus far, I have now come to believe that we will achieve things in the Champions League. With his slew of Copa Del Rey, Supercups and UEFA Cup titles, I don't find Champions League success beyong reach anymore. We are now finding order, discipline and harmony, coupled with a new injection of new morale. January re-inforcements to regain our squad depth and the blessing of good luck that we are very much due will take care of the rest.
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We might not be heading for La Cibeles straight from the Bernabeu come May, maybe not from an away match locally either. But if we get there late from a flight from Rome, then Barca can have their La Liga title. We'll get them back for next season... Like we always do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bye Bye Bernd, Hello Juande

Bernd is wondering what time it is... Time for you to go Bernd. Buy yourself some Tampons.
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You can't say it wasn't coming. Our football has been terrible. His relationship with the press (a function which is very important for the RM manager) has been a circus because his mood swings towards them have been worse than that of a genetically moody woman with the worst kind of PMS. He reportedly had an icy relationship with El Kapitan Raul and the sporting director never liked him anyway. The board, it was said, couldn't stand him too. The only man who was said to be a believer of his was Ramon Calderon.
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That was until he committed one of the gravest mortal sins: 'Winning in Barcelona is impossible. They are flattening everyone... this is their year. We can only hope to put on a decent display.' He might have been right. I have been wincing in pain all week not from our sorry loss to Sevilla, but from thoughts of how we will get slaughtered at the Camp Nou on Saturday. That however isn't the point, especially if you're the manager of Real Madrid. It's a disgrace to admit defeat before a match is played, regardless (or perhaps, especially) if we're talking about the 'eternal rival.' Fuck injuries, fuck poor form, many Davids have killed Goliaths with less. Besides, it's not as if we're 'David'.
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I've said plenty of times that its perhaps not a good idea to sack a manager midway through a season. I did however state that in case we get into an emergency wherein our Champions League qualification is in danger, then perhaps we'll need to do something. Yes indeed there are 69 points left to play for and perhaps we can still turn things around, but let's admit it: at our current condition, even though it's not impossible, it's improbable (cue in Adidas impossible is nothing commercials... Not!). And for what Schuster has shown us so far (and likely to show us had he continued), he'd probably be sacked by June anyway... There is the worry of a long term solution of course. But in this case, we seem to have met my mentioned criteria: we are now at 5th place in La Liga, with defeats to the likes of Valladolid and Getafe while conceding goals as if we were a newly promoted side. What I'm saying is that I believe that we were already in a situation that was headed for disaster: not just because of the results, but more because of Schuster's lack of interest or ability to solve the situation which was further exacerbated by his sudden inclination to make things worse.
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I was hoping Bernd could save our sinking ship even if it seemed that he was having trouble / seemed incapable of doing so. That to me wasn't the problem. The problem is that he didn't even seem interested to save it and had, for weeks now even manifested a keen-ness to sink the ship himself. This cannot stand.
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Juande, this is Peja, You are his Bitch now, I hope the 2 of you can get along
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Which brings us exactly to where we are now: Juande Ramos and the oulook for a long term solution… which is where the genius of this deal comes out: for Juande Ramos to be on a six month caretaker contract. How many teams can get a manager (one of the 'candidate' coaches in our upcoming summer shortlist anyway) who has won 5 titles in 15 months on a caretaker basis?
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With what Schuster has done and seemed on course to do, what will be the difference IF Juande fails? I say, not much.
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However, if Juande Ramos manages to succeed, then he'd already have had a 6 month warm up to go on to do bigger things to prove all his doubters (myself included) wrong. We can talk about timing too: Juande Ramos now has 3 matches (tonight vs. Zenit, Saturday vs. Barca and the next Sunday vs. Valencia) to size the team up before the winter transfer market opens. Even then, he still has a month to buy players too, so the timing isn’t as awful as we think it’d be. Granted, that we have all these big games coming up, how would we have liked it anyway…. Do we prefer to have a manager declare defeat 1 week before the macth and tell everybody ‘I told you so’ while we get massacred at the Camp Nou this Saturday? Or a manager who might put in some effort for us to win over the weekend ad that even if we lose, we can go out and say ‘Hey, it’s the first La Liga match we had with this manager’? I prefer the latter
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Let me say this though: I too am a Juande Ramos doubter. He has not been successful as a manager at all except for his stint in Sevilla (think about it, Bernd was pretty good at Getafe, but was he REALLY that great? Surely not better than Juande at Sevilla) and has miserably failed at Spurs. He's not the proven title winner that RM should have as a manager. We should have guys like Mancini, Benitez, Wenger, Scolari: tactical geniuses who have REAL title credentials. Despite all this though, I am unwilling to dismiss Juande: how could I, how could we after such massive success at Sevilla where as manager, he almost always kicked our ass when we played them. And they played some pretty nice football too!
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Juande Ramos is part-stopgap, part-longterm solution. The next 6 months might tell us that which one he is. For while his failures are there to see... we cannot deny that he has merits that deserve the benefit of our doubts. And let’s try to be fair too: at this point, perhaps the goal left for the season is to push as far as we can (hopefully to at least the semis) in the Champions League and a Top 4 (hopefully 2nd place) finish. Any expectations/demands beyond that I think would be unfair.
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Between a man who might not be so great (but impressive in some sense as well) and doesn’t really know the ship he’s just gotten into but will try to keep us on course (read: Ramos) and a man who has developed a clear itch to sink the ship I’m in. I pick the former.
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It’s happened already…. Now we should all just shut up and pray. And I mean pray REALLY HARD.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Misery

I had this bad feeling we'd lose last night... And we did. It didn't matter that I had not eaten junk food yesterday (my weird as hell superstition), or I wore my Zidane jersey while watching the match. It seemed inevitable that we'd lose to them... They who scraped a point from Barca last week, they whom we hardly ever beat no matter how supposedly modest they are or how big and almighty we supposedly were. Last night, Getafe were great and we were just shitty... And I am miserable.
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What has happened to Iker Casillas??? Where has the saint gone? He played like a C-teamer last night: conceding a goal to his nearpost, fumbling on caught corners and being directly responsible for quite a few unnecessary goalmouth scrambles that could've easily turned into disasters. He looks devoid of confidence, uneasy and perpetually nervous. I can only suspect that this is the impact of the Euros on him... Playing deep into the summer and all of a sudden having to play a full season again. Fatigue.
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Our backline seems lost again. Ramos looked nothing like the powerhouse defender that shut out BATE Borisov midweek. Pepe was decent, but should've conceded a penalty once or twice if it weren't for the referee. Thank heavens that Salgado wasn't attacked on his flank too much, that might've made things even worse for us!
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At midfield, I had wondered previously why Sneijder had been 'holding back' on his set pieces. I developed this suspicion that he was still suffering from a lingering injury (suffered against Recreativo) but the necessities of he BATE match forced him to play... Same case last saturday night. He didnt appear to be tackled strongly. Guti even took a free kick while he was still on before he went down. His replacement, Van Der Vaart, was just REALLY awful last night. VDV doesn't tackle people, he just fouls them. He fired a free kick from a very distant range WAY OVER the goal too. No shots on goal, no danger created. Guti made some great passes forward including the great pass that led to Saviola's goal but he hardly tracked back. I saw a replay of a Getafe attack that unfolded almost directly in front of him and he didn't even bother to make an effort to stop him. Gago tried hard but his positioning was off (unlike against BATE).
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On attack, while many have ribbed Raul for being invisible, I count that he had at least 3 shots...on target, all nicely saved by Pato. Saviola scored a goal, but apart from it, he hardly did anything great.
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So back to 4th place we are with Pepe, Sneijder and Miguel Torres joining the injury list... How truly miserable. I smell 2 losses vs. Sevilla and Barca. Unless of course we park the bus in front of goal. But how do we do that with no defenders? Haaaaaaaay!
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I woke up this morning with the Madrid sports press on red alert saying that the injured Klass-Jan Huntelaar is joining our injury-ravaged squad for 23-24m Euros. Calderon's trying to save his ass now before the Dec. 7 assembly.
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I live in Singapore. This mess in Madrid stinks so bad I can smell it up to here! Fuck.