Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Classic Mourinho

Carvalho was happy with his rare chance to show off his guns last Saturday.
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Jose Mourinho made his Bernabeu debut with a signature 1-0 win. The win had the hallmarks of a Mourinho match: a win at home (as can be expected given his 8-year undefeated record at home) and a 1-0 scoreline (nevermind my 2-0 prediction), scored by a non-forward making a late run into the box. Looking beyond the surface, Mourinho’s fingerprints were all over the performance in an even deeper way.
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Real Madrid lined up with their now familiar 4-2-3-1. On defense, Casillas was on Goal, Ramos at his familiar position (Right Back) and Marcelo at his, Carvalho teamed up alongside Pepe (who played for the first time for his club since his horror injury last season) to form an all-Portuguese Central Defense. At the heart of the midfield, Mourinho tried his envisioned partnership: Xabi Alonso with Sami Khedira. The surprise came with the trio behind lone striker Higuain: Cristiano on the left, Ozil in the ‘fantasista’ position while natural striker Karim Benzema played on the right. It was a lineup that completely negated the impression of it’s-either-Benzema-or-Pipita-will-be-the-striker-notion. A closer look at Mourinho’s Inter however gives as a clue as to where this lineup came from: a trio of Etoo – Sneijder – Pandev (a ‘9’ on the wing, a playmaker and a ‘hybrid forward’) behind Diego Milito.
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So while the bulk of the Madrid press are still scratching their heads idiotically, asking themselves why Mourinho’s Madrid are so dull, I find myself looking at a few key interesting points of the match that yielded positive impressions and got me looking forward to seeing more of Madrid in the coming weeks:
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Madrid were Solid as a Rock
Iker Casillas might as well have brought a pillow with him on goal. At no point in time in the match did I ever feel that Osasuna threatened us even while they had possession of the ball. Unlike the Schuster and Pellegrini days, this Real Madrid weren’t vulnerable on set pieces. Also unlike the Schuster & Pellegrini days, after 2 matches thus far, this Real Madrid hasn’t been vulnerable to breakaway counter attacks once we lost the ball on attack: constantly positioned ready to absorb and neutralize any move to counter. The midfield dragnet, comprised of Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira mostly neutralized majority of Osasuna’s threats going forward: through the combination of the Spaniard’s anticipation and interceptions while the German did his best impersonation of Hulk Hugan-in-a-frenzy: jumping for every Aerial Ball, and throwing himself at every red shirted player that had the ball. This was not the composed and elegant Khedira that I remember from the World Cup, but a wild, beast-like reincarnation that I grew to like and appreciate for his efforts. This wasn’t the best part of the midfield’s performance however…
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The Primma Donna Attackers were… DEFENDING!?!?!
The most stirring sight for Real Madrid last Saturday that’s still seared into my brain was to see Karim Benzema, creeping up behind Osasuna attackers hacking away at their ankles in a childishly crude attempt to win the ball. Even the recently-injured and not-defensively-inclined Cristiano Ronaldo did this – turning the midfield not just as a filter for Osasuna prior to their arrival at Madrid’s defense… but into a deathtrap where Madrid’s front line would collapse onto Osasuna’s midfield once they had the ball, winning us ball possession and ultimately, control of the match. It was this that brought Mourinho to his very bold conclusion: It was an easy win.
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Real Madrid Created a good number of Scoring Chances

Ronaldo's 'Shoot First, The Rest Can Come Later' Approach to the Game was VERY Frustrating
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Without counting the few dozen potshots on goal Cristiano Ronaldo in his bid to come up with his latest feature film entitled: The Epitome of Poor Shot Selection, Real Madrid did in fact create quite a few great chances during the course of the game. The problem however was that last Saturday, Osasuna’s geriatric goalkeeper Ricardo put in a Man of the Match performance (along with Higuain still fluffing his lines). It was a game that could have been 3-0 or even 4-0 and one that could’ve changed the complexion of the Madrid’s Mourinho era. Isaiah Cambron (the Cule of all people) mentioned it in the last podcast afterall: Mourinho’s Inter scored the most goals in Serie A last season... it is an interesting fact that opens up a multitude of possibilities in terms of how Madridisimo at large will choose to view the style of play of Mourinho's Madrid. 
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Ozil was Mind-Ozzling

Mesut Ozil: My Madridista of the Match
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The Madridista of the match was most definitely Mesut Ozil (I’m totally thinking of getting his jersey this weekend… still deciding between his or Pipita’s). The Part-German, Part-Turk and Part-Martian gave us more than flashes or glimpses of his mind-ozzling capabilities (sorry, just had to say it): pacy, vertical, aggressive and unselfish: he looks set to be the fantasista that the Bernabeu has lusted for for so long after the departure of Zidane and the disappointment of Kaka (thus far). What he will be like once he learns Spanish and finally learns to integrate with his teammates is something only for the excited imagination at this point.
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Mourinho’s Madrid is still clearly a full-squad training sessions away from reaching the level that that has made the Portuguese tactician’s teams so ruthlessly efficient, effective and yes, fearsome. yet even now in the early stages of the season, the hallmarks of what has made his teams so successful are already beginning to show. A rock-solid defense and midfield complemented by a hard-working frontline that up to this point has only been known as all-flair. In the end, though there will very likely be only a few moments of champagne football, it is already looking like the writing is already on the wall that titles are on the way... for some that may not be enough. But if we were to look accross the continent and past the English Channel, it is comforting to see what can be done to a club once after Jose Mourinho lays the foundations down.

3 comments:

  1. Mind-Ozzling!! xDDD

    Great review.

    It's gonna be a long and hard road, but we're gonna make it NO DOUBT.

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  2. he was mind-ozzling hahaha!
    I had fears that his WC form was a mere purple patch and that he might struggle in a higher level league (La Liga) coming from Bundesliga. But it's been a pleasant relief to see him shine and what he'll be like when he fully integrates himself with the team has become something to REALLY look forward to :)

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