Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It Had to Happen Sometime

It had to happen some time... after the last several games playing at a very mediocre level, relying on the magic of CR96 and on the mere talent of the squad to create 10-15 minute bursts of brilliance (and 'goal showers')... it had to come to a point where we'd have to face a truly good team and be exposed for what we really are: a half-cooked dish. When I called out my prediction of 2-2, it was out of my gut feeling that this Sevilla side were too good, too organized, to disciplined to be left without a point against this half-cooked Real Madrid team. For those out there who actually believed that we'd win this one convincingly, I hope they're wide awake now to the reality that this Madrid team is still far from a finished product.
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Without a Cristiano Ronaldo to score an RPG (a Ronaldo-Propelled Goal as was fondly baptized by one of the contributors at the Real-The Offside website to refer to CR 96's freekicks) or a wonder goal (start of the game or not)... there simply wasn't enough magic out there to make up for the mess that the team was at the Sanchez Pizjuan. Perhaps my 2-2 prediction would have come true with him on, though I'd still think the 2-1 might have been the outcome even with him on. Either way, perhaps it was better that he was not on the pitch last Sunday.... to remind us all that we need to stop winning games the way we have been doing so far: relying on the individual talents of the members of the squad. Maybe this is good training: for us to learn to figure out ways to win even without the big stars of the team on the pitch. Are we really expected to win only if Kaka AND Cristiano were on? That'd be ridiculous.
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Let's get down to the most obvious flaw of the team, one that was cruelly exposed by Sevilla, not because they were that awesome or that Manolo Jimenez is some kind of tactical wizard, it is out of the very simple fact that our main flaw happens to be Sevilla's absolute strength. Not only did we fail miserably in answering the question that I asked over and over again this summer over the personnel moves (where is our left back? Marcelo? Really? Are You sure? Have you gone mad?): we are also opting for a system that further reinforces this weakness. Not only do we have Left Backs (Marcelo & Drenthe) who can't defend and a right back who is too eager to attack (Ramos)... we also happen to play a system that is just way too narrow.
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While I'm a supporter of Pellegrini's rotation system, I do not support his narrow system of play. And I'm not just talking about his 4-2-2-2... his 4-3-3 is also unsually narrow. This 4-2-2-2 without any wing players at midfield was something which we have seen before at Real Madrid from the Brazilian coach Luxemburgo. It was employed with a paceless David Beckham as well as a aging Luis Figo. Interestingly, it was attacked from the very beginning by the press as opposed to Pellegrinis' similar system, which had been hailed by the fickle-minded press pundits as the dawn of sexy football in Madrid. This is a bizarre system that I didn not expect to see considering the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo, easily one of the best players in the world is also without the doubt the best winger in the world. And despite the success he has achieved as a striker, he has openly stated that his preferred position is as a right winger.
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I was hoping to see a system employed by Bernd Schuster in his early days at Madrid: the lopsided 4-4-2 which allowed one winger (Robinho) who liked to cut in to take shots but made the occassional cross, while the other side had an attacking midfielder (Sneijder) drifting inwards behind the 2 strikers. This is also seems to be the formation that has allowed Fabio Capello to achieve the golden balance at England that allowed Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to play successfully together in the same 4-4-2 midfield. This system was an oldie but goodie too, as it as employed by the old man Del Bosque to balance Figo and Zidane on the same team during the successful Galacticos era that saw us win La Liga and the Champions League without question. Why can't Kaka keep his role behind the 2 pivots and behind the striker as Zidane drifted inwards in the old days... and allow Cristiano to switch constantly from the right side and the left side at his own choosing (which would also help dictate the appropriate circumstances for Ramos/Arbeloa and Marcelo/Drenthe to join the attack).
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A change of tactics however does not rectify the situation that we currently have at Left Back. It might perhaps be too much for me to say this but I'll say it anyway: Real Madrid is not a place for prospects to have starting XI spots. Even the fabulous Pipita Higuain started with bit part performances, fristurating us by missing sitter after sitter until he became a big game goal scorer that brought him out as a fan favorite and a 20-goal/season scorer. Nevermind the 32-year old Guti who is still a prospect and is not really even a first choice player. And while we are at this point, we continue to employ 2 prospects at Left Back in Marcelo and Drenthe. Don't get me wrong: I have no doubt that the 2 can develop as very talented players: but at this point in time, they are clearly not Real Madrid Starting XI-calibre players and they will continue to get exposed and skinned alive as what happened to Marcelo this past game vs. Sevilla. The next question however is who is the left back out there who is worthy for a Starting XI Real Madrid role? I currently have no answer for this question... I suppose the search will go on.

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