Friday, January 8, 2010

Playing Drunk




After scoring a bucketload of goals in the last few games, I'm not inclined to give Pipita stick for missing his chance to give us the 1-0 (he didn't really miss, the goalkeeper saved it)
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As I arrived back in Singapore after a 3.5-hour flight from Manila, I was greeted by the wonderful news that Barca had tripped up against Villarreal 1-1 at the El Madrigal, giving Real Madrid the golden opportunity to start 2010 with a bang (i.e. seize the leadership). It wasn't too much of a shocker for me to see Barca slip up. The El Madrigal was always going to be a tough proposition (despite the end of the Pellegrini era in those parts) coupled with the fact that Barca came into the match with:
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A.) Post-Club World Cup+Christmas+New Year hangovers,
B.) A thin squad: something they started the season with...
C.) The squad being further thinned up the the losses of Keita & Yaya Toure to the African Cup of Nations
D.) A squad that will need to be rotated heavily to allow them to balance their players' playing time between the La Liga Campaign and the Copa Del Rey (I write this while pondering my regret over a hunch I had last Monday that it would've been wise to bet $10sgd for Sevilla).
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We came into the match having lost only Diarra V1.0 to the African Cup of Nations, which was of little consequence due to Xabi Alonso's return from suspension. All signs were pointing to a glorious start to 2010 especially after our clinical demolition of Zaragoza to bid 2009 good bye (a match I missed seeing with loads of disappointment). I was among those who believed that Barca's tough 2010 start and the start of our team's gelling process would culminate in a comfortable win at Pamplona and leadership to begin 2010. I was very wrong.
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In at nutshell, the game turned out to be a really dull game. Let’s all not please give them too much credit for being such an organized team on defense (though they were)… or who truly intimidating the Osasuna fans were (let’s please stop being a bunch of cry babies by making a fuss out of the ‘Die Cristiano Die!’ chants and the noise at the team hotel after the match) more than that, we were playing drunk.
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Lass had God-Knows-How-Many passes intercepted last Sunday

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1.) No pressure from the forwards on their midfield, and defense after losing possession (yes I’m talking about you too Pipita…)
2.) Misplaced passes galore all over the midfield (Marcelo & Lass)
3.) No presence in the box.
4.) Lazy clearances of the ball on defense (Garay and Albiol)
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Missing our Alien
As the match ended, I found myself pondering the last point over and over again, mulling the loss of Pepe and my initial voicing of support at the idea of giving Garay the chance to prove himself in that position. A point to ponder however lies in the study of the Pepe-Albiol partnership: where the quicker Pepe was the more advanced in terms of position of the 2, more aggressive in sweeping up threats to Casillas’ goal while the stronger Albiol would usually be in a deeper position sweeping up behind. In the same regard, it was also the more technically-skilled Pepe who was the ball-playing Centerback of the 2 (ala Pique) while the more powerful, and deeply-positioned Albiol was known for his last-gasp clearances. Now, without Pepe, we seem to have 2 Centerbacks of the same type: or rather a Garay, who played a match where he made Albiol redundant far more than he was supposed to play the Pepe role. Thus, while our midfield was playing drunk, starving our strikers of service, we also found our play made even more discombobulated by our 2 Centerbacks who were using the match to try out with the NFL for spots as Field Goal kickers. Uff. We miss you Pepe.
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Welcoming the Islanders with Changes
As the match ended with yellow cards for Sergio Ramos and Lassana Diarra, we now face a scramble to sort out the back four (i.e. ponder the horrors of Marcelo at left back once again) while we look into our midfield and realize that Diarra V1.0 is in another continent and stare down the concept of playing the Mallorcans without a midfield enforcer / pitbull. Latest reports from recent training sessions also suggest an injured Rafa Van Der Vaaart but a healthy Kaka. The sports tabloids are also asking for/suggesting a return to the starting XI for the crashcar king Karim Benzema. Somehow, it’s looking like a lineup of (at least my preference):
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------------Casillas----------------
Arbeloa-Garay-Albiol-Marcelo
-----------Xabi Alonso-----------
------CR96-------Granero-------
--------------Kaka-----------------
--------Pipita-Benzema----------
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A conservative Arbeloa protecting the space behind Cristiano Ronaldo would be a good counterpoint in my opinion to an attack-happy Marcelo having Granero look after his space behind (the clear weakness of the lineup)… A healthy-again Kaka playing behind the pairing of Pipita and Benzema is a prospect I’m eager to see too. Here’s to hoping both of the 2 young strikers manage to get on the scoresheet… and 3 points!
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2009 Balon D’ RealMadridTalk
Real Madrid Talk’s Adam Bader is in search of votes to crown his 2009 Real Madrid player of the year. I’ve cast my vote for Pipita. I highly encourage everyone to drop by his site and vote.

6 comments:

  1. I think Kaka will start from the bench.

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  2. Barca played against Villareal at home.

    Happy new year, Madridista Mac!!

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  3. To Mr. Anonymous: At the time of writing, Van Der Vaart was still just training in the gym, sursing an injury o some kind, he is indeed back in the squad so your're right, we might indeed see Kaka start form the bench.

    CMRR: Appreciate the correction. It validates my point further: for Barca to drop points AT HOME is rare, and our team unfortunately failed to take advantage of it...

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  4. Yes Barca did drop points at the Camp Nou. I saw that game and safely say that they were very lucky to have got even that one point.

    They fielded a weaker side against Sevilla, but had three of their best players playing.

    Fact is Barca are not playing well, and the next person who tells me that we dont play with the same "magic" as Barca will get a punch on the face.

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  5. Hi Siddharth! hahaha Good one! This Barca is a great team, but this seasons' Barca has so far proven that they aren't the same as last season.

    I'm pro-Madrid but not anti-Barca, I am however getting really tired of all the Barca-this, Barca-that talk from many people who don't necessarily see the matches.

    Great blog by the way... I'm adding it to my blog roll!

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  6. I think we should sign Sergio Canales before his market value rises.

    ReplyDelete