Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sinking the Submarine


For Stretches of the Match: We played some great Attacking Football as a TEAM. And that REALLY got Madridisimo Fantasizing. 'Ilusion' is what Florentino Perez likes to call it.
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When I woke up on monday morning from a very deep slumber, the very first thing that I saw was the clock: it read 7:00. In a split second, I shot out of bed realizing that I had failed to wake up to the 4am alarm clock setting I had set for myself to see Real Madrid's match vs. Villarreal. I hopped onto my PC to check the score: 6-2. We Massacred them! and I missed it yet again (I missed seeing my Merengues put Zaragoza to the sword) last December too. MISSING out on seeing my beloved Real Madrid shrug off the pressure from the Lyon fallout in the days prior to the match... what a miserable way to start the week.
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So I spent last night watching the replay of the game online (the Singapore broadcasters aren't very hot on La Liga due to their EPL fixation)... and here are my thoughts:
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1.) Why is Marcelo still playing at left back? Is Pellegrini trying to prove a point? Perhaps in wins like this, there is the mindset that it can conceal this clear defect in our lineup and tactics. In the long rin however, against the big teams.... or even just the better teams.... especially those whose offensive game plan is to attack through the flanks, this weakness will end up becoming exposed yet again.
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I'd also like to say that this is not fair to Marcelo, who is a tremendous asset on the left side of the pitch with his pace, his dribbling, his workrate... and even in the efficiency/economy of his movements (I've yet to see him 'over-elaborate' during possession). Let me make this very clear to all: I think Marcelo is a good player and I'm happy to know that he's signed an extension, I just do not want to see him playing Left Back for Real Madrid EVER again.
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2.) It was clear that everytime we raced to a 2 goal lead, our propensity to lower our level of play and surrender the initiative during the match never fails to rear its ugly head again. In last Sunday's match, we took a 2 goal lead twice.... both times followed by an extraordinary drop in the level of our play. This is unacceptable. This will get us killed in the Champions League especially. We fell asleep against Milan in the Champions League after taking the lead and did the same without even scoring after 15 minutes against Lyon. The same happened with plenty of our victories in La Lige. This is not a good sign. Manuel Pellegrini, his coaching staff... even Manuel Pardeza and Jorge Valdano need to have a close look at this and drill it into the heads of the players: the match is 90 minutes long... not merely the time it takes for us to take the lead.
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3.) Let us not be over-euphoric about this match over the scoreline: 2 of the goals were penalties, 1 was a free kick (which it can be said, were awarded rather generously). And as I've mentioned above, we gave Villarreal a lifeline one too many times.
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An image we all remember this match by: Villarreal was helpless to stop Ronaldo: who, for the first time this season, made us play better as a team.
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4.) Cristiano Ronaldo was indeed the Man of the Match by a mile. His free kick to score the opening goal was amazing and he was all over the pitch today: involved in practically every goal we scored. Perhaps he deserved a hat trick and perhaps not... I'm happy nevertheless that he is being recognized and praised now despite scoring 'merely' 1 out of Madrid's 6 goals: the praises are a message to him from Madridisimo that even without the goals, his contribution to the team was very important. I'm happy that he ultimately allowed Xabi Alonso to score his debut goal for Real Madrid but still cannot get used to (or tolerate) his petulant reaction at giving the chance for his teammate to score.
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I wish to point out however that in long stretches of this game, he played in the wings and was incredibly effective: forcing Villarreal's midfield and defense open for our guys to overrun them. This is a tactical variant that perhaps Pellegrini ought to consider more. My props to him as well for the gesture to support his hometown in light of their flooding tragedy.
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5.) A big part of the reason why Villarreal were able to gain control of the match during certain patches of the game (particularly after we scored our first 2 goals) was due to our midfield's inability to seize control of their zone. Lass seemed to have done nothing but foul players all night while Granero continues to blow hot and cold. this is yet another worrying, but seemingly unnoticed bit of information on last Sunday's match that is being masked by the emphatic scoreline.
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6.) It makes me feel REALLY good to see our very own Pipita Higuain gunning to become Pichichi. the boy who grew up in front of our very eyes now has his name next to David Villa, Leo Messi and our very own Castrol Boy. Let me also point out another name in the Pichichi rankings who could be wearing the white shirt today: tied with Cristiano Ronaldo with 12 La Liga goals so far: Roberto Soldado. We're all still cheering for you 'Soldier'!
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7.) Are we EVER going to see Raul score again?
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Seeing Kaka in AC Milan made me say: 'Shit, I wish he played for Madrid?' These days, I find myself saying 'Where's the guy from Milan?'
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8.) I notice that Kaka seems reluctant to turn on those jets in his legs that made him so famous and so great in AC Milan. Too many times have we seen this season Kaka latch onto a ball played into space for him, only for him to race to it and stop to turn another direction instead of using his legendary accelleration to zip past his defender and attack the goal. Is this his hernia/groin injury? It's a worrying point to note that the Bernabeu seems to have picked up on as well as the Brazilian was also subject to a few jeers last Sunday. In this regard, it relieves me to see an on-the-up Rafa Van Der Vaart put pressure on Kaka not only to get Ricky to get his act going, but also for us to have another potent option in case the Brazilian's stale form or in case his hernia injury acts up.
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9.) For the number 9 item, I wish to call on the name of one of the greatest '9's of all time: Ronaldo: who has announced his retirement at the end of next season. He was the footballer whom I followed accross 2 World Cup campaigns and into Real Madrid that cultivated the love I have for this club. Beyond the Transvestites, the Beer Belly and the endless list of vices is the greatest goal scorer of all time. We wish him well. I pray that the day may come when he can step onto the pitch of the Bernabeu once again to be applauded. Despite all he has done to make me despise him back then, I would happily applaud him with all of Madridisimo.

7 comments:

  1. I still don't get why Pellegrini is so eager to play Marcelo as a left back. I thought he saw enough of Marcelo against Lyon.

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  2. I've come to a hypothesis that Pellegrini playing Marcelo at LB is not based on this belief on Marcelo at that position: but rather based on his belief that Sergio Ramos is a better partner to Albiol than Garay: bringing Arbeloa to RB and leaving no other alternative but Marcelo at LB.

    Sergio Ramos brings to the Centerback partnership Albiol the qualities that Pepe used to bring: the power and pace to track the quick strikers that drift into the box, trying to play off the shoulder of the last defender. He also has that ability to race forward and kill off potential dangers to the Madrid goal before any threat materializes as we saw Pepe so countless times. This allows the slower Albiol to be the Penalty box Policeman as Casillas' bodyguard.

    It was my big question last summer and will remain to the be big question for Real Madrid this summer again: Who is going to be our left back? I can only pray that this summer, after all the mumbo jumbo galactico talk, we can finally find a solution for that spot.

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  3. But the back four or Ramos-Garay-Albiol-Arbeloa will concede fewer goals than Arbeloa-Ramos-Albiol-Marcelo.

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  4. Why not play Lass-Ramos-Albiol-Arbeloa then? Marcelo is just horrible in that position.

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  5. My point was more pointed towards the idea of highlighting the hole in our roster that clearly has yet to be addressed. The Ramos-Garay-Albiol-Arbeloa and the Arbeloa-Ramos-Albiol-Marcelo will have to do for now... with the latter to be used only for weaker teams.

    As for the idea of playing Lass at RB, I've seen it and to be honest, I'm not very keen on it.

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  6. It's hard to say. I don't like Lass at RB, but I'm not a fan of Gramos over there either. I like Ramos at the CB, but that would make Marcelo our LB and that's a no-no. I don't mind Garay at all, au contraire, I have confidence in him and I'm not missing Pepe too much.

    For the future, I'd say: Arbeloa RB, Pepe & Albiol CB and buy a good LB. Right now, I think Arbeloa-Albiol-Garay-Gramos is the safest way to go, even with Gramos unbalanced skills on the right.

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