Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mourinho’s Monster


Real Madrid have become an 11-headed hydra on the pitch: swallowing their opponents whole. 4.5 goals/game in the last 4 matches. The biggest head of this 11-headed monster has thus far been Ronaldo
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Last Tuesday, as the referee blew the final whistle in our commanding win (despite the fluke-ish goals) over AC Milan, the Sky Sports announcers covering the match, Gerry Armstrong & Rob Palmer ended the match
with a haunting statement that should have echoed across the Spanish Countryside and across the European continent: ‘What a monster Jose Mourinho is building here in Madrid.’ They said
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Tactics: a pointless Back 5 against Madrid’s hungry Four-some
Last night, Miguel Angel Portugal, back at Racing Santander after Madrid’s Calderon-Mijatovic and Schuster catastrophe visited the Bernebeu and SEEMED to understand that they were about to face: “We might have to make this ugly…’ he threatened, seemingly aware of the firepower and the now-clicking awesome foursome of Di Maria-Ozil-Ronaldo-Higuain is capable of. Last night, as the team sheet came on: Racing Santander did send that “we’re not afraid it this turns ugly” message: with a formation featuring a 5-man backline.
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10 minutes into the match however, it became very clear that Racing’s supposedly fearsome 5-man backline was a tactic that reeked of pubescent naiveté. With their backline, deployed high up the pitch the Argentine-connection clicked into gear with Di Maria finding Higuain with a long looping pass that made Xabi Alonso feel like a proud father. Pipita then gamely beat the high backline, whose combination of naïve positioning and poor communication made their joke of an offside trap easily beatable: the outcome was a typically clinical Pipita finish: the kind we saw plenty of times last season.
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Tactics and Team Attitude: the fate of a team that concedes an early goal against THIS Madrid
Once again, the early opening goal was the key factor: being one up, Real Madrid gamely dared Racing (much like Milan) to have a go at them: only to be trapped at midfield with a combination of a Pepe surging forward and the front 4 collapsing on the Racing midfield to win the ball back. The story then repeats itself a few times: a quick exit of the ball upon winning it back… funneling it to a forward player who would then create a goal-scoring opportunity: With the 2nd and 3rd goals being of an identical nature: Pipita / Ozil receiving the ball at the wings and unleashing a cross to an oncoming Cristiano Ronaldo.
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The astonishing bit about this game that we are seeing more and more with this Real Madrid team is the team attitude: Pipita and CR7 entrenching themselves in the box to defend corners and free kicks and even the forward players are looking for each other in open play to create scoring chances. Most of all, last night, we saw a full 90 minutes of intensity and aggression against their opponents. It was that killer instinct of wanting to go for that 4th, 5th, 6th goal and some more that was impressive about this Madrid side last night. This is the Real Madrid that the Bernabeu and madridisimo at large had always wanted to see.
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Ronaldo’s Form & Attitude
Cristiano Ronaldo now looks like the player who scored 42 goals in one season with Manchester United. This is not to say that he had a bad season the last time around though: this year however, after killing off his early goal-scoring anxieties, Ronaldo looks comfortable, confident and with no insecurities: the kind of insecurities that frustrated his teammates and fans alike. This is the reason why he seems to trust his teammates more and is now much less likely to hog the ball or take an ill-advised shot. His decision-making in picking out a pass, making a run or going for goal has remarkably improved. Best of all, his efforts on the pitch for his tireless running get rewarded as well. Last night’s 4 goals were all scored via chances with which his teammate created for him: he didn’t have to beat 5 men with a mazy dribble or with his feints and stopovers…. He only needed to stick to his coach’s game plan and put in the requisite effort to enjoy his best goal-scoring night in his professional career: 4 goals (could’ve been more!).
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Even the intangibles of his play andhis reactions showed a very different Ronaldo: Ronaldo’s reaction to his goals was a surprise: running off to hug his teammates for the goals-on-a-silver-platter that his teammates have laid out for him. He still did that ridiculous ‘tit-squeeze’ goal celebration of his. To top it off, he was actually chasing after Pipita to celebrate the opening goal. Is this a sign that the 2 can actually learn to get along and form the strike partnership that we’ve all craved to see? The big shock however was his comments postgame where he gave all the plaudits to his teammates: Full marks to Mourinho for what he has done for these 2.
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"This is the first time I score four goals in a game as a professional player. My team-mates served me every ball I got and all I had to do was push them into the goal. They should be congratulated because they all played a great game tonight." said Ronaldo.
The only missing bit in Ronaldo's game is his free-kick taking. He scored off one last Tuesday, but that was mre down to idiotic defending from Milan than his skill.
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… Now, if only he can get his free kick to get over those defensive walls… hahaha.
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Pipita’s, he of the I-want-to-be-Pichichi-every-season, also had a remarkably impressive and mature postgame response:
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“I don't care who is the competition's top scorer as long as he is a Real Madrid player. I am very happy for Ronaldo and for the entire team. We have the least scored upon goalkeeper and we are playing rather well. I always work for the team and I must do my job."
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Next Up, Copa Del Rey
Next up, Real Madrid travel to Murcia to play in the Copa Del Rey. It will be a perfect opportunity for us to vanquish the ghosts of Alcorcon and for the likes of Granero, Lass, Canales, Pedro Leon and Benzema to show us all that they are indeed good enough to be in the squad and a second look on their chances to get into the first XI or not. Mourinho has already issued out his warning to the squad:
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"...It is a very important game to me. If last year’s situation repeats itself, I will cross those who play off my list because they will be dead to me."
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Judging from last night’s performance however, if Real Madrid can manage to repeat this performance, it will be Murcia who will be dead to all of us.
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p.s. I’m sorry if I wasn’t able to comment on the AC Milan game. Been very busy last week…

12 comments:

  1. Hi enjoyed this post immensely I know you was busy but can you do a post on the milan game later on please mr mac

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  2. yeah, i love to read your comment. please keep it up.

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  3. Very nice review there, especially in regards of CR7.

    Last night he was pretty much a master poacher. His skill set is getting more complete. I guess this is what Mourinho means by the next step in CR7's development will be to become more of a team player. In the match, his mesmeric dribbling wasn't that apparent... actually he lost balls rather easily. But his positional sense & decision-making has been tremendously improved just as you said.

    With the team clicking and still improving, there's actually a good chance that he surpasses the 42 goal a season mark.

    I think that in this Santander game, they played like a top English club - fast, direct, deadly, don't care about possession. They don't let the opponent play the "park the bus" tactic. Hmm... perhaps this is a preparation/experiment by Mourinho to negate Barca's strengths? I watched Inter-Barca game from last season. Inter goals were mostly from fast counters. I noticed in last night's Zaragoza-Barca game, Zaragoza could have actually scored at least 1 or 2, had it not been for very weak finishing. So, this probably highlights Barca's vulnerability to pace. Puyol & Abidal are old, while Pique isn't particularly a speedy defender.

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  4. Great post, as always, Madridista Mac. I've been reading this blog for a while, and I really like the quality and depth of your analysis. Keep up the good work!

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  5. I do agree with the analysis. The only other thing I noticed in the game is that while Pipita is now more than willing to find CR7, he doesn't show genuine happiness when ronaldo finds the back of the net. Maybe I'm just paranoid but is he getting a bit jealous? I wouldn't like to see a clash of egos deep into the important parts of the season

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  6. Some reactions to the comments:

    @Anonymous #2: please fill in a nickname so I can refer to you in this blog - I'll TRY to put in some VERY late thoughts on the Milan game... I'll do it while referring to some of the great comments made by Mourinho Big Fan (MBF) in lieu of that game

    @MBF: I agree that we played like an English team last Saturday... but with a 'continental flavor'. The key was scoring the early goal, after that, it was all about trapping them at midfield and hitting them with swift counters using wingplay. We were at their throats the whole game! I loved it! In reference to your 'English' observation, I now wanna call out a Madrid player I forgot to pay tribute to: Di Maria: what a game for the Argentine Winger!

    @ De Squeran: Thanks! Do come by more often and drop in a few thoughts...

    @ Awwal: Cristiano used to shun Pipita too... Now, he's giving all his teammates credit. It won't happen overnight, and it might only be even temporary (i.e. only during Mourinho's tenure)...but I think slowly, the team mentality will 'infect' everyone in the squad. Heck, if it can happen to CR96, it can happen to anyone :)

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  7. Fantastic review... I recently started following your blog and I'm really enjoying your commentary as it always helps me think more clearly about their playing beyond my initial happy reaction

    I'm so happy to see all the things you've discussed about Ronaldo... the collaboration up front is making all the difference and it's wonderful to see Cristiano himself recognizing that. Hopefully that's a sign that this is only going to continue.

    This is the feeling that every fan wants about their team... when one match is over you cannot wait until the next.

    I think Madrid are proving these goal fests are not just flukes... and that realization is pretty electrifying

    Also, gotta love that Mourinho quote....

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  8. Glad You enjoy the blog Bekah...

    I think this Real Madrid team's effectiveness has as much to do with our fab four in front (Di Maria-Ozil-Ronaldo-Higuain) as our super six at the back (Arbeloa/Ramos-Pepe-Carvalho-Marcelo-Xabi Alonso-Khedira).

    Everyone knows the quality of Ramos and Pepe, Carvalho has been unanimously hailed as a brilliant signing while Marcelo has been unanimously lauded for his remakrable improvement too. Xabi's reputation as the world's foremost passmaster has preceded him even before he joined Madrid. The one guy who hasn't been given enough credit so far in my opinion is Khedira.

    The German midfielder is awkward and inelegant to watch given his built and high center of gravity (watching him reminds me of seeing a giraffe run)... but the guy is damn EFFECTIVE. He's all over the place at midfield and he does SO MUCH dirty work. Against Milan, he completed 90% of his passes, a stat that surprisingly surpasses Xabi Alonso's. Kudos to him too.

    Sorting out the 'Super Six' was clearly Mourinho's first priority, that's why we're still undefeated. Now that our 'Fab Four' are clicking too, we're massacre-ing other teams now.

    Having said that, I'm reminded of what Michael Jordan & Phil Jackson of the NBA's Chicago Bulls once said something to this effect:

    'sometimes when you're having an off-day on offense, you can't do anything about it. But on Defense, as long as your mentality and fitness are therem you can play good D. There's no off-days on Defense... and as long as you play good D, you stand a chance to win.'

    In the same way, while we celebrate our goalfests this month against the lower echelon teams of La Liga, we shouldn't let our euphoria get ahead of us. We will still find ourselves grinding results out in the future... the good part is that Mourinho is showing that we know how to do both.

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  9. Yes, Xabi is one of our most important players right now - if not THE most important. He's basically the fulcrum upon which attacks are built up & where enemy's attacks are "filtered", making the defender works much easier.

    In a way, thing brings out a serious concern if by some misfortune, he gets injured and can't play for a long time. In that situation, we will miss a link upon which good defense & attacks are built upon. There's no player in the squad that can play his role. We can afford to lose about any player of the squad (although we will get worse, I think we will survive)... even Cris, but not Xabi. I think his role is even more fundamental than Xavi at Barca.

    If by misfortune we lose him for a period in this season, the team's performance could drop quite significantly.

    That makes me think who is an appropriate successor to Xabi, given that he's not young anymore. The only name comparable to him that comes to mind is Schweinsteiger. He's a master passer, too (in WC, he was the only guy comparable to Xavi in terms of passing - statistically)... and many of his attributes are similar to Xabi: strong-deadly long-range shots, good distributor of the ball, plus he's energetic & dynamic. His role in bringing Germany to 3rd position in WC is arguably more than any other player in the German NT. Is it any wonder why Mourinho wanted him early in the season (by saying "next year you're mine" privately to him)?

    I think just like Carvalho & Xavi, Xabi's time in top flight will probably be not very long from now... 2-3 years, maybe. And injury risks are always there. All in all, he must be protected from injuries & hope that we don't get that misfortune. Rest him whenever possible.

    Next is... perhaps for next season, the priority should be to get Schweini. It's a fortunate time, too:
    1. his contract w/ Bayern only lasts until 2012. It's Bayern's last chance to cash in if he doesn't extend the contract. AND 2. there is a distinct chance Bayern won't compete in 2011-12 UCL (just look at their standings in Bundesliga now).

    Hmm... can we get him for as cheap as Ozil? ;)

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  10. This is was a well written story.I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED IT.That is the best story that i have read this year.For a person who doesnt have much acess to seeing my team play ,i felt as if i was watching them play live whilst i was reading your article.I WOULD BE GLAD TO RECEIVE EMAILS FROM TOU[davisonmagogoi@gmail.com]

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  11. Hi Davison... sorry dude... don't think I'd be able to email every reader... do stay tuned to this blog for my thoughts on the games.

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  12. @ MBF:

    If Florentino-Valdano-Mourinho manage to snag Schweini from Bayern at 15m. That'd be a steal! A big part would be Bayern's state of affairs: No CL football means would be a turnoff for Schweini to sign a new deal.

    Schweini I'm sure is also aware of how well his German teammates are doing with us and is keen to explore life beyond the Bundesliga. At 26, he's just about to reach his peak and surely would be keen to showcase himself to 'a bigger stage'.

    Tactically, it gives Mourinho more options too. We don't have to shit our pants (as some of us are probably doing now looking forward to tonight's game vs. Murcia) at the thought of playing without Xabi Alonso. Schweini also would allow Mourinho to play his 'Trivote' (a combo with Khedira, Xabi Alonso & Basti) without being branded defensive (remember how they crucified him for playing it vs. Auxerre?).

    But in any case, that's a discussion for the summer. Let's just all look forward to tonight's Murcia game and hope that there's no repeat of the Real Union or Alcorcon debacle.

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