Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blunting the R(i)azor


Guti's Reaction to Benzema's 2nd and Real's third goal to seal the victory: It was very obvious he WANTED this win badly.


Cuts & Bruises
I looked toward the past weekend with absolute dread as I thought about the idea of going to a ground where we, for almost 20 years now, experienced our annual ritual of getting our heads chopped off (by the R(i)azor.... apologies for the corny word play, I couldn't resist it). The experience wasn't much helped by the fact that we were travelling without our unjustly critically-panned Super Striker (Pipita Higuain), our midfield pitbull (Lass) - a critical ingredient to any kind victory in a midfield war of attrition (the kind Depor are known for given their penchant for 1-0 victories)... and of course, our defensive super spider (Pepe). Nevermind that the subs were out too: our post-galactico super striker Ruud Van Horseface now wears '22' for Hamburg SV, and though Diarra V1.0 may be back from the African Cup of Nations (congrats to Egypt for the 3-peat by the way), he is still nursing an injury as was Garay. Ditto for Van Der Vaart. Heck, Even Lady Gago was injured (oh how my heart aches at the loss of 18m over Man City’s supposed failed last gasp attempt at him)!
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Too much Castrol
Things weren’t helped at all by the petulant actions of Cristiano ‘Castrol Boy’ Ronaldo, who broke the nose of a Malaga player and was screaming injustice to the heavens while on his knees at the Bernabeu. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the Madrid press and the Real Madrid hierarchy spent the entire week cranking up the propaganda machine crying foul and calling for justice. The ridiculous-ness of the situation reached its zenith when Leo Messi has turned by the Madrid press into Villarato’s icon of injustice. What Madness!
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Let me lay my opinion on the matter straight (I know the subject has expired a bit): Ronaldo’s elbow to the face was a foul. It’s been a yellow card in some instances and a red in others. There are those who naturally get away with it due to one circumstance or another… either of the possibilities is something we’ve all seen before (no foul, a foul, a yellow or a red). To say that ‘this ain’t fair’ is one thing: to crucify the entire refereeing profession or the federation for it, while dragging in a player who ‘got away with it’ (why is it his fault that it wasn’t called?) into the mix is just way too much. And while I understand the moves to appeal, to have Real Madrid’s top honchos (I’m looking at you Valdano & Butragueno), the Coach (Pellegrini and his ‘envy’ speech) and player (Sergio Ramos) hark endlessly about the subject and the notion of injustice is just preposterous.
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Real Madrid are a Football Club, they are a club that’s supposed to promote through the actions of those affiliated to it, conduct becoming of a sportsman. To accept punishment for a red card that we had seen many times would have been the right thing to do. Sure, we could have said that the punishment is harsh or what not… but to rant a bout fairness and justice: that’s another thing altogether.
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Pellegrini's Lineup
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Without the Garay on defense, Lass at midfield and Castrol Boy & Pipita up front, Pellegrini cobbled together what he had left and assembled his jigsaw puzzle to look like:
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-----------Casillas-------------
Arbeloa-Ramos-Albiol-Marcelo
Granero-Xabi Alonso-Guti
----------- Kaka -------------
------- Raul-Benzema --------

The squad was so thin that we even needed to draft a slew of Castilla players into the squad. Just to come up with an 18-man squad!
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I wish to rant however against how the Real Madrid press have gone out to bas Manuel Pellegrini for not using a single Canterano in the match: attacking him for his lack of trust and so forth. My answer to that is: with an 8 point gap staring him in the face against Barcelona, while playing on a ‘cursed’ stadium, last weekend’s match was no time to take gambles. And while it would have been nice to see the night capped off with a Canterano appearance, it was not a necessity as this Madridista was happy to just see the Curse of La Coruna finally come to an end.
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Tactics
The performance the team put in was just absolutely exquisite. I hypothesize that because of all three men sitting behind Kaka were true midfielders (as opposed to one of them being a ‘faux-winger’: Marcelo), keeping hold of the shape and the position at that part of the pitch was much more effective. Perhaps it also works against a team like Depor, that by having no real ‘destroyer’ on the pitch a la Lass, and instead, having 3 midfielders all who can pass well (this is assuming Guti’s having a good day): then dominating the midfield was that much easier. It allowed us to move our ‘dragnet’ further up the pitch, winning balls and putting pressure on them on their third of the pitch. It was nice to the ‘dragnet’ moved high up the pitch again, towards the final third at the opponent’s third: they bring back good memories of our late 2009-performances that seemed to be absent in the few games which we had played so far this year.
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Performances.
All in all the three midfielders played well. Granero facilitated the fluidity of the team’s passing game as well as offered mobility and positioning. Xabi Alonso on the other hand played the role of the unheralded hero in this game: it was a masterclass performance in ball movement, with simple passes, clever ball distribution and great anticipation for interceptions. I wish to say that in the aftermath of this match, it is sad that too little attention and credit has been given to the Basque.
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The arguable Man-of-the-Match however has been Guti. I won’t talk at length too mucn anymore at the brilliance of his ‘Taconazo’: it was sublime beyond words. But more importantly, Guti showed us the Guti we start every game as fans hoping would turn up. No shenanigans, no petulance: just his mind in the game and busy figuring out ways to slice open the defense with that amazing vision and those raking passes. It was indeed the kind of performance that if repeated, merited the attention of Vicente Del Bosque. Whether this is the once-in-a-season Guti performance to make our jaws drop (as suggested by Dai in the previous post’s comments section remains to be seen. This Madridista shares his apprehension after seeing this sort of things too many times. If anything, perhaps we fans should count ourselves lucky that either the stars have aligned or that Pellegrini has scheduled this once-in-a-season showing to coincide with this incredibly important match. Genius or Luck? What’s the difference anyway?
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I’d also like to give a pat on the back to the much-maligned (and thus far, perhaps rightfully so) Kaka: who put on a good showing, making his menacing runs and providing us with some form of evidence that the player that led AC Milan to that Champions League triumph is still somewhere trapped inside and is keen to come out.
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Above all, I send my plaudits to one Karim Benzema. I read an article that suggested that all this talk about Ronaldo’s red card, kept the unpleasant spotlight on this seemingly timid 22-year old away… allowing him to keep his head down and concentrate on proving himself in what might be the last chance he gets to as a starter in this streak of games as El Pipita is supposedly scheduled to make his return in the coming match. The Frenchman finished both his chances not just with aplomb, but with the kind of calm, precise and clinical finishing that the great strikers have. The 2 goals are most definitely a huge help to his confidence… and should the decision to let Pipita slowly come back into the starting XI come, there’s now much more confidence and a better feel of things for the young Frenchman to get his and Real Madrid’s momentum going.
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Apologies
I’d like to offer my apologies to all who follow this blog for the inactivity these last few weeks: things on the personal front have been quite busy these past few weeks and will continue onto the weekend where I will miss this weekend’s match. As I type this entry in an airport lounge, I wish Madridisimo a juicy victory this coming weekend vs. Espanyol. More activity next week!

3 comments:

  1. Thank you Guti, Riazor curse is a history now.

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  2. It is indeed. It's funny how we are always scared when Ronaldo is not playing, but our two best performances this season has been without him in the team.

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  3. Well, we ran over Espanyol without much difficulties, but it was bad news that Benzema ended up a virgin. He should have confirmed his value and washed away any doubts (mainly of the press).

    Now he's injured he'll have to start all over again next time. And Pipita (who scored a GREAT goal with just a few minutes played) has returned to claim his crown back, as well as CR9, who is back again to crush some skulls. And Xerez shouldn't be a hard nut to crack, so anything below 0-4 should be considered dishonorable.

    I want to see good performances by Granero and Xabi, who have been a good couple in the latest matches, and I'm hoping Kaká keeps advancing in his quest to regain God's favors.

    Hope all is well with Madridista Mac and that we'll keep on enjoying his great reviews!

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