Monday, December 13, 2010

Hello Kitty and The Wolfpack

From Eggs and Omelettes to Cats and Dogs
Mourinho waxes lyrical about Eggs and Omelettes
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In a throwback moment to his days of poetry: waxing lyrical about eggs and omelettes in the lead up to his self-proclaimed title as the ‘Special One’, Mourinho got the press abuzz this time with his metaphor on cats and dogs: "You hunt with a dog; with a cat you hunt, but less so."
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Sinama said he was going to eat the grass. He was probably smoking them before the match too, judging from his performance.
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Marca’slikely still basking in the glory of their positively hilarious 'BenzeMAN' cover tribute to Benzema (for the Frenchman’s hat trick) then decided to run with this analogy, interpreting Mourinho’s statements as a critique the aloof Benzema as a supposedly less effective striker. All of this was happening of course as Zaragoza’s Sinama Pongolle was doing his best cattle impression by posing as if ready to shove some grass in his mouth in the newspaper. What a bizarre prelude to last night’s match: as if it was going to happen in some countryside instead of La Romareda, as if I was going to watch it in the Nat Geo Channel instead of my cable TV provider’s ‘Football Channel’. Cats, Dogs… Cattle. It was all going insane! (Real Madrid TV’s lovely Kay Murray explains Sinama’s ‘Cattle’ episode nicely on her website)
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In any case, the game started off with what Mourinho later on explained as his ‘Dog Formation’ i.e. his now familiar 4-2-3-1 (as opposed to the ‘Cat Formation’ otherwise known as the ‘Trivote’ or his 4-3-3, I wonder what he calls his 'Rombo'): No surprises: Benzema was on for the injured Higuain and Lass was on for the suspended Khedira. Arbeloa’s place at right back however had a bit of a twist to it. Along with the pat in the back he publicly received from Jose Mourinho for his perpetually great attitude regardless of his place in the starting XI or on the bench, Mourinho also went on to say that Arbeloa’s presence in the starting XI was also a separate matter from Ramos’ injury: meaning to say that the Canterano might actually have won the job from the 27m-Euro Vice Captain who hasn’t exactly been playing to the level we all expect from him. Next season’s tussle for spots on the defensive starting line will be an interesting one for sure.
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Prey
Zaragoza started the game brightly – giving Real Madrid a glimpse of their we’ll ‘Eat the Grass’ Spirit in the early exchanges. Since we’re all in the mood for metaphors, I suppose this would be the reaction of some poor antelope or deer (you may choose to imagine you’re preferred prey) when trapped, in an enclosed area (the stadium) with a predator (Real Madrid): a show of its horns and some form of aggressive posturing in the hopes of intimidating its predator away. Zaragoza took possession of the ball, had a few excursions into the Madrid third of the pitch and actually looked organized in the early exchanges when Madrid got the ball back: as 2 clear banks of 4 (defense) and 5 (midfield) looked ready to receive Madrid’s attack.
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Much like most predators however, Madrid’s opening act of aggression did not come from an excruciating exchange of aggression between predator and prey, but through a brilliant streak of attacking instinct that catches Zaragoza off guard: their now-signature lightning-quick counter attack. Real Madrid’s opening goal came off a counter-attacking blitzkrieg that completely carved Zaragoza open. Like a pack of rabid wolves, Ronaldo, Marcelo, and Ozil combined with blinding speed, catching Zaragoza flat-footed and leaving ex-Atleti keeper (and thus a favorite victim for Real Madrid) Leo Franco completely at the mercy of Ozil. Last night, the German went a long way to erase the impression that he doesn’t thrive away from the Bernabeu (he’ll need a few opponents of better quality than Zaragoza to completely do that).
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Ozil’s opening goal, was then followed by a spectacular display of effective attacking and relentless pressing every time they lost the ball (if only we did this against Barca at the Camp Nou). Marcelo was single-handedly destroying them on the left flank (with a relatively subdued Ronaldo!) while Lassana Diarra put on a performance that was as good as pounding his fist on the table of Mourinho’s office as if to say: I deserve to start! The little Frenchman with the Sperm-Whale-shaped head put his full range of skills to use: pressing and wrestling his opponents when they had the ball, showcasing his close-quarter dribbling ability, combined with his teammates, performing American-Football-style bodychecks to beat off Zaragoza players from his teammates who had the ball… and even almost scoring a goal himself. It was a hands-down man-of-the-match performance for him.
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In the midst of the little Frenchman’s superb midfield display was also Cristiano Ronaldo’s thunderous freekick that was as close to a heat-seeking missle as I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. Angel Di Maria’s goal from Xabi Alonso’s looping pass made us all pretty sure that the only thing that was still in question would be the extent of Madrid’s win.
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Wolf or Kitten?

Benzema needs to sharpen up his killer instinct and get his mind off cutie-pie kittens if he wants to run with this pack of Wolves.
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Despite yet another convincing win for Real Madrid, Madridisimo’s eyes however were all still-fixated upon mid-week hat trick hero Karim Benzema. Fresh off such an impressive performance against Auxerre, was the French striker going to stamp his authority in this match to show that he deserved his place in the team? Despite putting in a decent effort, I’d have to say unfortunately however, that he should have done better. I felt that he was a bit off the pace, relative to his teammates (this time with the lighting quick Ozil as Di Maria). Some chances that came along could have been better dealt with too (including the one that seemed to have had Mourinho going ‘use your bloody elbows!’). Sevilla and Levante await us to cap off 2010: and Benzema better prove himself a Wolf rather than a Kitten.
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A bright spot shone on the striking department last night though: after Pablo Sarabia’s debut in the Champions League, Alvaro Morata had his last night: coming on in the dying minutes of the game. It didn’t matter to the young canterano however as he was clearly keen to show off the fire in his belly: several times, looking like he might be able to score the goal that Benzema couldn’t manage. It is quite possible that the last time we sent on a young Canterano to his debut at the La Romareda, he became one of the true legends of the club… a fellow by the name of Raul… remember him? I hope it’s a good premonition. Morata might likely go on to take his place as a substitute for the remaining games this year (I hope)… and I do hope to see him open his goal-scoring account and perform well enough to get the directors of the club, along with Mourinho to decide that we’ve got the striking department all sorted out.
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Looking Forward



Football Fans Know Better
My preferred XI vs. Sevilla. Some might prefer to keep Lass at midfield after how he played last night. But would the slow-footed Albiol be able to cope with the likes of Capel / Navas / Perrotti?
Up next for us are Sevilla. They were expected to thrive this season yet they’re shockingly performing below par under the guidance of last season’s standout manager Gregorio Manzano. They still boast of a nasty frontline (Luis Fabiano, Fredi Kanoute and Alvaro Negredo): and a couple of wingers capable of giving anyone a heart attack (Capel, Navas and Perrotti). It will be a match without Marcelo, Xabi Alonso (suspended) and Sergio Ramos (injured). Do we keep Lass at midfield after such a great performance these last 2 games? Or do we slot him in at RB to cope with Sevilla’s speedy wingers instead of the slow-footed Albiol who has played at RB at times too? Who comes on for Xabi Alonso to sit beside Khedira if Lass plays RB? Diarra V1.0? Granero?
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Lemme know what you think.

3 comments:

  1. Nice review. Not sure of the heart attack remark. Hope Sevilla fans dont take it the wrong way! I thought Benzema was OK, not great, but not bad. Yet again his link up play was good, but it was almost as if that midweek hattrick never happened when it came to his finishing. What about Ozil? Quiet, again, yet what a goal and what a finish. I still think he needs to get better. After all he is the link man. Without him, the midfield and attack dont interlace, and Benzema HAS to drop deep or else become isolated. Anyway, great stuff as usual, Mac.

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  2. Great review. I agree with caracoleo about Benzema. Not bad, not great but good. He is the best player we have on the pitch for link up play which would be hugely effective if we met a team with a solid defensive line. After watching the game, I have to propose that Lass come into the team for the long haul in place of Khedira. He can do everything Khedira can and more. Although without height for set pieces, his physical presence is significant nonetheless. I say we let Lass start and bring Khedira in whenever Lass is in danger of being sent off. As for Albiol playing RB at real madrid, I believe that it will never happen as long as Mourinho is coach. I just can't see it

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  3. @ Caracoleo: I thought that Ozil was quite suited to the game. He looked active and dangerous... especially with Zaragoza backpedalling helplessly when we were launching our counters (this is where he is best).

    On Benzema: He was 'off-the-pace' to me. Though he did ok, it seemed to me that he was playing a lower gear or at a slower pace than the attacking 3 behind him (Ozil, Ronaldo & Di Maria). This is where I felt Morata did well, because he came on looking like he was in synch, pace-wise with his teammates.

    On Lass: We've seen a great Lass Diarra before, and we've seen the 'what the F%ck are you doing!?!?!' Lass too. I think his current streak deserves a spell in the starting XI... whether or not it should be 'cemented', should still be up for discussion.

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