Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Finding Meaning from the SEEMINGLY Meaningless


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It may have been just a friendly match against one of Spanish Football’s ‘minnow teams’… the newly-promoted: Hercules: but last sunday night’s match brought to mind some interesting thoughts. Here are some of them.
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The Absentees
Jose Mourinho left out the Starting XI of this past World Cup’s Spanish team, namely: Casillas, Xabi Alonso & Sergio Ramos. He also left out Cristiano Ronaldo. Each of the 4 are crucial members of the team. Casillas’ absence was made very apparent by Antonio Adan’s goalkeeping howler (a trend it seems these days). We were without Sergio Ramos’ aerial power or rampaging runs from the right flank either. Also, everyone knows that Real Madrid aren’t quite the same team without Xabi Alonso (we usually play like a bunch of drunks without him) and of course, there would be no Cristiano Ronaldo to save us with a moment of brilliance or a trademark free kick a.k.a. RPG (Ronaldo-Propelled-Goal). Despite facing minnows, it was interesting to see how Real Madrid would cope without the critical spine that has allowed us to stand / survive this past season.
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The result of course was very pleasing. We started then game lacking clarity and definition in our attacking plays (lots of intercepted passes) but a generally solid performance (despite Adan’s howler). By the end of the match, the best result in my eyes was not so much the 3-1 scoreline but the chance to see the fruits of Mourinho & Valdano’s labor.
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Blah Blah Performances

Let's give Ozil some time to adapt
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Most of Madridisimo was of course looking for the chance to see Mesut Ozil play, hopeing for Zidane-like moments and such. As expected however, perhaps it was too early to expect that type of performance. Sporting jersey #26 (which means that Real Madrid didn’t have to unnecessarily humiliate a player by taking his jersey number away ala Van Der Vaart last summer), he seems to have started on the right side with Canales behind the 2 strikers. Our attacking midfielder from outer space spent much of the first half linking play between himself, his international teammate Khedira & wonderkid Canales but didn’t do much damage to Hercules. I suppose we’ll have to give him a bit of time to get into the thick of things.
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Sadly, the same could be said of Canales though I have to say that what impressed me about the 18-year old was his audacity and boldness to have a go at the opposing defense: by trying to dribble straight through them.
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Rafael Van Der Vaart
It was Van Der Vaart however who showed the 2 youngsters how to hold the baton of the midfield to guide the attacks with the few minutes he was allowed to play. It is sad to know that he is the one guy who is really looking like the odd man out in this process to trim the squad down from 26 to Mourinho’s preferred squad size of 23 (with 3 goalkeepers). I continue to hope that Mourinho can find a formula to fit our 4 attacking midfielders within his system for the suqad while avoiding situations where the players would undeservedly spend long stretches of time on the bench. The idea of playing Ozil, who has the versatility to play on the wing is not a bad idea, though its effectiveness is yet to be proven. Should the Dutchman have to leave us, I can only hope it’s to a top level team that can value him the way his honorable behavior deserves and one that will make him happy.
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Karim Benzema

Benzema: We are all hoping Mourninho awakens the Beast in him
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Marca’s headline was something like ‘He’s awake at 11’ (with Benzema at the cover) after spouting out Mourinho’s criticism of him all over its pages: ‘With you I have to train at 12 midnight because at 10-11 am, you’re still asleep!’ the paper quotes the Special One as saying over the Frenchman’s lackadaisical attitude in training. The 22-year old, now sporting the ‘9’ with his pouty face really does bring back images of the Incredible Sulk. His volley to score Madrid’s first goal did show off his nasty talent (though he was given an hour to control then strike the ball off Khedira’s pass). He missed his hat trick by fluffing the goalscoring opportunity that Van Der Vaart served on a silver platter for him but he did make up for it with a neat finish from a nice distance to make the score 3-1. All in all, it’s nice to see the 2nd of Madrid’s 2 strikers finally break his duck in the pre-season. This is a good start for him. He scored 9 last season. If he manages 15 this season with Pipita as the first choice striker, then we might finally really have liftoff for him. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.
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Pedro Leon
He tarnished his evening with a Red Card for a nasty kickout. But I can’t help but mention how impressed I am with him. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a winger play for Madrid who can zip along the by-line, beat his man and unleash a nasty cross that wreaks total havoc in the opposing penalty box. He’s done this all pre-season long. Hmmm… if only we had a classic Hulk-type ‘9’ striker ala Fernando Llorente. Either way, it’s easy to imagine a streaking CR96 to head those in… or even Pipita to scrap it out for those balls and poke those in.
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Angel Di Maria

A Few More Goals like that and Di Maria will hold Madridismo's heart in his hands.
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He showed off his Speedy Gonzales-like qualities with his goal: latching on to a pass onto space, zooming past 2-3 defenders, and then very elegantly stepping away from the on-rushing goalkeeper before walking the ball into the net. While his pace offered the attacking threat that kept the opposiung defense at bay, I still find that it remains to be seen whether he can really be the Pedro Leon-type of winger who can assist from the wing apart from being the poor-ER man’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Arjen Robben (cut in from the wing and shoot). All in all, I thought he had a good game.
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Juanfran
He came in at the 73rd minute (I think) and with the score at 3-1 showed the audacity to dribble through and take potshots from long distance. His few minutes on the pitch was generally positive. There is talk in the Spanish press about Jose Mourinho lusting for another striker (further confirmed by his statements to today’s press conference): which has led to the names of Dzeko, Adebayor and even Drogba coming out. With 2 superbly-talented young strikers in Pipita and Benzema, bringing in the likes of them would only hinder the progress of our developing strike team. Raul or Ruud would’ve been perfect for this, but without I’d much rather that we make use of CR96 (despite the ‘9’ not being his best position) while making better use of our midfield resources to fill in for Cristiano (Di Maria, Pedro Leon or even Canales & Ozil)… or even better, try out our Cantera products too.
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Sami Khedira

Sami played like a Midfield Monster against Hercules.
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He was my favorite Real Madrid player on the night. The half-Tunisian midfielder gave us all an exciting glimpse of what he can do as Xabi Alonso’s partner: intercept balls, tackle, impose his physical presence, deliver through balls for attackers to score on (Benzema’s opening goal is the perfect example) and even make late runs into the box and take long distance potshots. His performance undid the image he established in the early pre-season games in the US & against Bayern & Standard Liege. With him as the last ‘feature’ for my review of the Hercules game, I’d like to conclude with this: The most critical element of our success this season will be how to surgically enhance our midfield presence beside Xabi Alonso. It will determine the fluidity of the attack and the vulnerability of the defense. It will be the difference between being the bride or merely the bridesmaid once again. If this is the Sami we will see throughout the season, then the authorities at the city of Madrid better get La Cibeles ready once again.
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Sami & Xabi – I like the sound of that.

1 comment:

  1. Queremos ser escuchados por aquellos que llevan las riendas de nuestro equipo. Firmad y difundid, que se alce nuestra voz. ¡HALA MADRID!

    http://www.efirmas.com/4377457/index

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