Thursday, September 2, 2010

Muzzled in Mallorca

Jose Mourinho - Maybe he's more Voldermort than Harry Potter...?
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So here we are left to ponder for an extra weekend (isn’t it kinda stupid to start the La Liga Season only to let the International break cut it off on the following weekend?... anyway, I digress) what happened to Real Madrid in what was supposed to be the glorious arrival of the Special One in Spain. Beyond the result however, what I am finding to be really surprising is how the Spanish Press are surprised by all this.
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Jose Mourinho lined the team up in the now en-vogue 4-2-3-1 – the double-pivot formation that the much-vilified Fabio Capello preferred, which was branded defensive. It is interesting to see how the Spanish press is now much more open to this formation now that it is Jose Mourinho applying it (topped by the fact that the World Cup-winning Spanish National team used it too):
-------------Casillas---------------
Arbeloa-Carvalho-Ramos-Marcelo
---------Lass-Xabi Alonso--------
-----Di Maria-Canales-CR96-----
-------------Higuain--------------

Despite the critics, one has to say that it was a lineup that made much sense: the Xabi-Lass partnership provided passing and tackling in the middle of the park while the flanks were manned by 2 genuine wingers (Di Maria and Cristiano) who switched sides throughout the first half, providing the threat of crossing in as well as cutting in to score once while using their pace to rattle Mallorca’s defense.
The script handed to the team also gave specific instructions for them NOT to go with the ‘just give it to CRon and he’ll do the rest’ plot. This time, Mourinho wanted pressure from everyone on the pitch once the ball was lost and to actually have a better plan than the ‘just give it to Ronaldo’ strategy when going forward. But with their clear lack of familiarity playing Mourinho’s system, Real Madrid were caught between a half-cooked attempt to play better as a team when moving forward while still showing tendencies to just ‘leave it to CRon’… the result was a very Jose Mourinho-like performance: The Midfield and Defense were solid as a Rock, while the midfield and the attack were as entertaining as a Rock. How it is the likes of AS’s Alfredo Relano only just realized last Sunday that the EPL’s former Mr. 1-0 tended to be err… not so entertaining… is beyond me.
Don’t get me wrong, Real Madrid did create a few chances (which were wasted by CRon & Pipita) early on, chances that might have changed the complexion of the game… it’s just that it didn’t seem to occur to them that the probability of creating a scoring chance increases when you get to their penalty box NOT by walking into it like an 85-year-old grandmother on a stroll in the park.
Real Madrid were slow, blunt and lacking of ideas moving forward. Canales showed us some glimpses of this talents (including a Guti-esque laser-guided pass for Pipita to meet in the 25th min.) but Di Maria was invisible. When you add a Let-me-do-it all Cristiano Ronaldo and the I-forgot-my-shooting-boots-in-Madrid Higuain, it adds up to a offensively constipated team.

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The pundits are all reacting incredulously about Mourinho’s decision to keep Sami Khedira & Mesut Ozil on the bench and only unleashed the German pair in the 2nd half (where we played some good football in the end). This is Mourinho’s era don’t you all remember? And it just so happens that Mr. Mourinho is also Mr. Meritocracy. It was clear that the Portuguese preferred to make use of players who knew his and the Real Madrid system better and had earned their places on the training ground (thus the preference of Lass over Khedira & Canales over Ozil).
Mourinho did unleash the 2 Germans in the second half with Khedira getting a lot of flak from many commentators (I thought he did ok) while Ozil showing some bright glimpses. With their introduction alongside Benzema, Real Madrid looked to me like they were playing a Pellegrini-esque asymmetrical 4-4-2 (with Cristiano as the sole-winger & Ozil playing behind 2 strikers):
---------- Casillas ------------
Lass-Carvalho-Ramos-Marcelo
----- Xabi Alonso-Khedira----
------------Ozil ------ CR96--
------Higuain-Benzema--------

It was much more entertaining and it really gave us some degree of belief that we could actually manage to nick a goal and walk away with 3 points – Pipita’s wastefulness, and the game not having been scheduled at 11pm (in time for Benzema to wake up) meant that our 2 frontmen couldn’t manage to find the back of the net though. Let’s not forget about Dudu Aoate’s Man-of-the-Match performance too by the way. If anything, the presence of the 2 Germans and our much-improved attacking posture in the 2nd half showed us some flashes of positive things we can look forward to the next time we tune into a Real Madrid match.
In the end, it’s not the snore-fest of a match that bothers me. It’s the loss of 2 points that does. In a league where you’ll need to win practically every match in order to win, dropping points to a club that’s expected to fight for survival is a big pain in the ass. AS was right with their ‘2 Points, One World’ headline, while comparing our 0-0 to Barca’s 3-0 performance while half-asleep.  

I'm not dissappointed that our football was boring Jose, I'm pissed off that we didn't win - coz if you can't win - then there's not much point in having you around right?
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Today, Mourinho was on AS again: ‘I’m a coach’ he said ‘not Harry Potter.’
I get it: Jose Mourinho doesn’t do magic. He’s not here to get Real Madrid to magical play spell-binding football. What Jose Mourinho does however, is win.
So as far as I’m concerned (nevermind the delusional pundits who are dumb enough to believe that Mourinho is here to get the team to play attractively), the disappointment over last weekend wasn’t so much about playing beautiful football… to me, it was about not winning.
This isn’t a case Mourinho not being Harry Potter. It’s about Jose Mourinho not being Jose Mourinho.

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