Thursday, September 23, 2010

What the F(uss)...!

It was supposedly only 2 days between our match at the Anoeta and our return to the Bernabeu to face Espanyol but it sure as hell felt like longer than that. And then some… And I blame the media for it… as if our dour & dull performance last weekend wasn’t enough.
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Mourinho & Portugal Issues
Mourinho’s tenure at Real Madrid is merely a few months old. And just as he’s starting with his new job, he’s also trying to integrate half a dozen players into his squad while trying to stave off public persecution from a fanbase that expect champagne football AND 5-0 wins. Portugal’s national team is in trouble: apart from getting their ex-coach (who was the poster boy manager of the failed Galactico Project) suspended for idiotically verbally assaulting dope testers, they also decided to sack him with little thought on who his replacement might be.
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The decision to run to Jose Mourinho for 2 matches instead of having a long term solution to their problems is a reflection of the competence level (or more like the severe lack of it) at the Portuguese FA. They were also either naïve in the way they chose to pursue Mourinho or sinister: understanding how much Mou means to the club (given how much they spent to bring him, that they actually listen to him on sporting matters and that they actually have patience with him), they somehow chose to or idiotically allowed the Madrid Press to turn the whole brouhaha into a Circus. Somehow they’ve managed to redefine the word ‘inappropriate’ completely… or rather, taken it to a new level.
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Sara Carbonero’s Explosion
In a perfect world, WAGs spend their time spearheading community work and promoting charities. In the world that we live today, they spearhead fashion statements and star in vomit-fest Reality TV shows. Sara Carbonero on the other hand, wants to live in a totally different world. In her world, WAGs talk shit about how their husband/boyfriends’ teammates suck on the pitch. That she happens to be the WAG of Real Madrid’s Captain… that she chose to talk smack against the club’s 96million Euro Boy Toy… who happened to have gone 48 days without scoring… has turned what would have been an easy 2-day wait for football into a Guantanamo-like torture experience for Madridisimo.
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(Update: Today, she’s telling everyone ‘I was taken out of Context’ Uff.)
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Messi’s Ankle
Let me state my opinion on this very heated matter. I would NEVER wish for a player to be injured (except maybe for Mark Van Bommel). I would NEVER wish for a player to miss a match because of injury. Yes, even if he happens to be the best player on the planet playing for Barcelona. If such incidents do take place, I however, would nevertheless be happy to see Real Madrid capitalize on his absence in the standings.

I also wish to state that the foul than injured him did deserve a straight red. The fallout however, particularly in the press has been incredibly ugly. Ujfalusi is not the first defender to give a hard tackle to a marquee player. He’s also not the first to do so resulting in an injury. The way by which the press have vilified him however is just out of order. Accusing a player of willfully trying to injure another player is a very serious thing, and to make such an assumption or even a suggestion on the mere basis of an injury is totally out of line. Ujfalsi is currently being treated like a footballing Hitler by the press who are acting like a bunch of Nazi Propagandists. Yuck.
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To make matters worse, even the Madrid press has joined in asking ‘what about THIS tackle on Ronaldo???’. These people can be really disgusting. These people need to get a life.
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The Espanyol Match

Pipita & CRon should look out for each other more on the pitch: it's beneficial for both of them
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All of this had set the stage for the home match vs. Espanyol that was supposed to start with only 2 questions on everyone’s mind: Which Madrid is Turning Up Tonight? The Ajax or Anoeta version?
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In terms of intent at least, it was the Ajax version that turned up. Mourinho was frank with the press prior to the match by stating his opinions on rotation: he stated that he didn’t favor them at this point as his team was still ‘under construction’ and preferred to breed familiarity among his regulars for the mean time. As a result, we only saw one change from the side that faced Sociedad over the weekend:
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----------- Casillas ------------
Ramos-Pepe-Carvalho-Marcelo
------ Xabi Alonso-Lass ------
---- Di Maria-Ozil-Ronaldo ---
---------- Higuain -------------
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Ronaldo and Di Maria started out as inverted wingers once again and drifted inwards constantly… looking for the shot, or finding Ozil and Pipita every now and then. On the wings, openings they created when drifting inwards were used by Ramos and Marcelo to surge forward. Ronaldo and Di Maria did switch wings often throughout the course of the game. Despite the inverting of the wingers however, a different game seemed to be unfolding between the center of the pitch and the flanks as Madrid’s wing players and attacking players did not link up enough times: resulting in sporadic effective plays going forward.
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To his credit, likely due to the firestorm he created within the Madrid Press (as evidenced by Sara Carbonero’s critique on him), Cristiano Ronaldo was far less trigger happy in this game: taking 7 shots with 2 of them being saved. So far, it seems clear to me is that there are 2 main key points of improvement at this point for Real Madrid:
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Inter-play between attacking players
The front 4 of Real Madrid are still not in synch. There is still currently a prevailing (but incorrect) notion among the wing players (including fullbacks) that the best way to get the ball to the forward players is by crossing the ball from the flanks and expecting the likes of Pipita and Ronaldo to get to them to score goals or set other players up for the shot. The problem with that is that neither are natural airborne attackers (not even Ronaldo). Both prefer the ball to be played on the ground or at the most, through Wesley Sneijder-like looped balls from the final third and into the 18-yard box.

It’s much simpler of course when you have a lead and thus are forcing your opponents forward to leave fewer men at the back. But doing this with 11 men behind the ball (as what Real Madrid usually face) when it’s still 0-0 or 1-1 (when the opponent is playing for a draw) however is not so simple. For every Guti-esque, laser-guided pass that goes through the defense for an attacking player to latch onto behind enemy lines, 10 of these attempted through balls are intercepted, deflected or just plain doesn’t get to its target. And therein lies the problem.
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‘Lite-Counter Attack’: Quick exit of the ball from the Midfield to Attack
The key to success with regards to the above would be the quick movement of the ball upon its retrieval at midfield. Mourinho’s Madrid as we’ve seen against Mallorca, Osasuna, Ajax and last night against Espanyol showed a high-workrate midfield capable of sealing off opponents at the middle of the park. Xabi Alonso’s passing ability often shadows his ability also to read the game and make critical interceptions while the likes of Khedira and the 2 Diarras are known for their workrate and ball-winning abilities.
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This is perhaps the reason why Khedira (who condeded that fatigue was setting in) was rested in favor of a fresher Lass Diarra to harangue Espanyol at midfield. So today, despite our midfield looking a lot less porous, it is still not quite the finished article.
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The one thing that Mourinho’s players have not mastered so far would be the quick exit of the ball from the center of the park to move forward. The optional outlets from this ‘platform’ are unlimited: a lateral pass to surging fullback (Marcelo, Ramos, Arbeloa), a diagonal pass to a winger (Ronaldo, Di Maria, Leon), a forward pass to the playmaker (Ozil) or a raking thru-ball (something in Xabi Alonso’s menu) to a streaking Higuain / Benzema who are facing fewer players behind enemy lines.
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In the end, it was a penalty (called for a handball from a CRon freekick) that opened things up for Real Madrid. A Ronaldo Thru-ball for Pipita on the counter made it 2-0 and a nifty finish from Benzema off a neat exchange with Lass made it a flattering 3-0 scoreline for us.
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Real Madrid's French Connection Celebrate the 3rd Goal of last Tuesday's Match
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Finally, Ronaldo, Pipita & Benzema have opened their accounts for Real MOUdrid this season. Finally, the world is well again. Well, not really... there's still a long way to go for the team. But what the heck, we're top of the league... and apart from Iker getting his ridiculous request turned down (to push training back by an hour in the name of our only 2 players who have school-going kids to send them to school before going to training), we're now back to the usual programme in the press...or so I hope.
Iker: With your girldfirend shooting her mouh off talking smack against a Teammate early this week, it's best to keep ridiculous requests (suspending training for another hour for the benefit of 2 players) for the following week.

4 comments:

  1. Some people argue that the Iker incident is totally made up by Marca.... LOl we might never know the truth and I didnt see this stuff on AS so i am not convinced much by it cuz AS is usually a better source than Marca. Might be some press's tricks to boost up the sales. Who knows?

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  2. If the Iker incident is true: the Raul needs to get on a plane and hit him on the head with a brick 'What's the matter with you!?!?!?'

    If it's Marca up to their usual tricks again... then it shows us all once agan what a bunch of clowns those people are...

    But thinking of it 'politically'... it doesn't make sense for Marca to just magically stir this up: it makes Iker, (the Captain!... or Real Madrid AND Spain) look bad... and they're the ones who 'defend' Mourinho (AS seems to be shifting their tone about Mourinho towards the criticial these days).

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  3. I'm curious to know what you think of this article, written by one of the barca extremist fan Kxevin :

    http://www.barcelonafootballblog.com/4397/4397/

    Would you agree also to "special referee protection" for key players for Madrid?

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  4. There should be no special protection. A star attacking player deserves as much protection as a gruffy defensive player. And that's what irks me about this whole Messi business is that it's a bigger deal because it's Messi.

    Ujfalusi is a bigger villain than he deserves to be because it was Messi and that there's nothing he can do about it, not even a simple human apology is accepted.


    That Blog post basically tells Ujfalusi and Atleti to go F#ck themselves... that they're absolutely evil... that the deserve hell... blah blah blah... and that's what I have a problem with.

    ReplyDelete