Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Trivote? Or a Diamond?

2 Goals for Ronaldo who kept himself 2 Goals ahead of Messi in the Pichihi Rankings. He played like Monday never happened.
"The most important thing for us tonight was to win a complicated match following a the terrible result we earned in our previous encounter."
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"It was more important not to suffer at the start of the game than to attack too much given that we lacked some confidence and self-esteem. That's why I changed the lineup. Conceding a goal could have destroyed the confidence and self-esteem we had left. That's why I decided to use a fuller, more pressurising and defensively stronger midfield. It wasn't the day to play a great game or score many goals."
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From Jose Mourinho’s post-game quotes, following last night’s win vs. Valencia at the Bernabeu, he was still employing his skills as a Sports Psychologist. Employing the much-criticized ‘trivote’ (by the Madrid press at least) against Valencia both as a psychological tool (opting to win the game in the 2nd half or by ‘safer means’ even if the lead is obtained in the first half) and as a response to the loss of Gonzalo Higuain. I suppose this also (directly or indirectly) allows Mourinho to express to Karim Benzema how he feels about him at this point.
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With regards to the absences we had on defense, Carvalho’s suspension from Yellow Card accumulation and Ramos’ suspension from his moment of madness (something he duly apologized for later on in the week – for which I applaud him) wasn’t too much of a worry. This Real Madrid squad is stacked with talent when it comes to the defenders: the ‘poly-valent’ Arbeloa can seamlessly slot in either fullback role (who filled in for Ramos) while we also have 2 La Liga starting XI-calibre Central Defenders. Raul Albiol stepped in last night to renew last season’s defensive partnership with Pepe while Garay also finally made the squad list for the first time since going down with an injury this seasion. The defense was of course not something that neither Madridisimo nor Mourinho really had to worry about:
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"I wasn't worried about having to use Albiol and Arbeloa in the starting eleven. They are very important players. They are both very good, serious and true team workers. They work to the fullest and they've always played well this season. This was Albiol's first league game as a starter in the present campaign and he was fantastic. It wasn't a problem for us not to have Ramos and Carvalho. I knew Albiol and Arbeloa would respond well."
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The Trivote – Defensively Solid yet Offensively Incisive

The Key to Last Night's Trivote was Ozil at the Center of the Front 3, and Dropping Deep to Connect with, and be protected by the 2 Bodyguards he shared with Xabi Alondo: 'Carilleros' Lass & Khedira
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Contrary to naively popular opinion, the ‘Trivote’, or rather, this Trivote by Mourinho is NOT Defensive. Mourinho, reverting to the midfield he used away to Auxerre in the Champions League, employed a line of 3 in front of his defensive line: consisting of Xabi Alonso, Lass & Khedira. Width on the pitch was provided by having 2 natural wingers up front (Ronaldo and Di Maria + Ozil who has a tendency to drift wide too) along with the fullbacks (Marcelo & Arbeloa) who freely bombed forward throughout the match.
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With 3 midfielders, including 2 hyper-active ball-winners (Lass and Khedira), the battle at the center of the pitch wasn’t going to be a worry, despite the fact that Unai Emery chose to employ a lone-striker formation to add yet another chapter to should-I-use-1-striker-or-2-striker-system to his ongoing public conundrum. Aside from the center of the pitch, the Trivote also helps in considerably in protecting the flanks as any space left vulnerable from counterattacks (left behind by the fullbacks) can allow one of the midfield 3 to seal it up while still keeping 2 CMs at the center of the pitch.
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The Auxerre Trivote vs. the Valencia Trivote

Football Fans Know Better
Last Night, the Trivote became a Narrow Diamond
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The interesting point that ‘s come out of last night’s execution of the Trivote however was how it behaved as an offensive system. Against Auxerre, a forward line consisting of Benzema, Higuain & Ronaldo was used (see diagram in this older post) – with Ozil going to the bench. Last night, without Higuain, the front line comprised of Ronaldo, Ozil & Di Maria. Despite the media’s starting XI showing Ronaldo as the central, striker, it was actually Ozil who mostly took the central position, but dropping deeper (see diagram above), filling up the ‘hole’ left between the forward line and the Carilleros that we had the last time we used the Trivote against Auxerre (see diagram below):




The Trivote used against Auxerre: Ozil was on the bench and with the forward line tending to drift wide rather than drop deep, there was a 'hole' between the carilleros and the forward line which needed the presence of a white shirt to keep things linked up in forward positions.
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The result was a narrow midfield Diamond with Xabi Alonso as the deep-lying playmaking pivot while Lass and Khedira’s work-rate was employed to full use as Carilleros. With Ozil dropping deep from the forward line, it not only allowed him to play his favored ‘10’ position, but it also allowed him to do so under the protection of Xabi Alonso’s 2 Bodyguards: the Carilleros (Khedira & Lass). In effect, the system allows both Xabi Alonso AND Ozil, the team’s 2 main passing ‘hinges’ to perform their role while ‘under protection’. With Ozil dropping deep, offensive passing combinations are increased considerably and created quite a number of goal-scoring chances (including a couple for Khedira!): albeit none of them were converted. In other words, the one unfortunate thing that happened last night was that last night’s goals happened with the reversion back to the 4-2-3-1 after Benzema came on for Khedira and after Abelda’s sending off. In truth however, I’d have to say that this Trivote, or rather, this narrow diamond midfield actually has a lot of potential.
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A Window for Other Possibilities
The potential of this Trivote / Narrow-Diamond reveals plenty of possibilities for us given the characteristics of the current squad: with 2 Diarras, Gago and Granero as midfield options for the team (as viable substitutes for the members of the ‘Trivote’). Once available, the glut of attacking midfielders that we have can also be deployed for this (Kaka, Ozil & Canales). On the striking department, in the absence of Higuain, permutations between Ronaldo, Di Maria, Benzema and even Pedro Leon can be used for this (with the Ronaldo + Di Maria being the most potent option in the absence of Pipita). Last night was perhaps a very good demonstration that there are ways to move on without having to spend 40m Eurose on Edin Dzeko even if the trust on Morata isn’t there yet.
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Ronaldo keeps up with Messi
The game will of course be remembered for Ronaldo’s 2 strikes. The first comes off what is now becoming a classic move: Real Madrid’s lighting counterattack with Ronaldo scoring off yet another assist from Mesut Ozil. The second came off an impressive ball-winning sequence from Lass who decided to make an American-Football-style run to literally physically clear-out the path for Ronaldo to run and score… he was clearly not interested to score as evidenced from Ronaldo’s baffled look when Lass opted to not run into space into the box: a hilarious goal! Ronaldo’s 2 goals keeps him ahead of Messi in the Pichichi standings. It’s all we can settle for in the meantime with Barca now ahead of us by 2 points.
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In the final analysis, perhaps the most critical aspect of last night’s win was the team’s recovery despite all that has happened this past week. And it’s been a LOT: the 5-0 against Barcelona, Ramos & Carvalho’s Suspension and Pipita’s injury… all under the spotlight of the World Media. Against a Valencia side who have been proving themselves worthy of a place in Europe, Mourinho’s men reacted brilliantly have gone some way to put the 5-0 battering at Barca’s hands behind them. With 24 matches and 72 points to play for, there’s plenty of time to make up the lost points. To do that however, the team needs to get back on track INSPITE of the suspensions, the injuries, the shenanigans, and the pressure from the world or even from the manangement. Last night’s win gave us 3 points and +2 goals in the Goal Difference Chart (and Ronaldo’s personal stats)… in the bigger scheme of things however, it was worth much more than that.

11 comments:

  1. Haha, I watched Lass fight his way through players to assist Ronaldo and I was like" Damn you Barry Sanders"
    I felt a win was necessary in this game. I like what Mourinho did. At times like these, when there's a lack of confidence, it's much easier to concede goals. So playing a more clogged midfield was a really smart thing to do.
    Ronaldo wasn't getting too involved in the first half probably because he was in the cf position (yeah, i thought it was cron that was in the cf position, and not ozil). However, after Benzema came in, I noticed cr more. I also think he was playing through an injury. If you noticed, he didn't take any long range free kicks (there weren't many of them though)
    Anyways, good win for the team, and i hope we put last monday behind us and move forward. I was very impressed with the way the fans supported the team. I was quite comforting.
    ps: i still can't tell which one of the formations would be better to use on a more consistent basis, the three man midfield, or the two man midfield. I guess one match is not enough to evaluate how good the three man midfield really is for us.
    And yeah, I don't think it's defensive at all. It's just a better way of keeping possession in the midfield.
    Hala Madrid

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  2. Hi Muna,

    Your comment has gotten me watching the replay again. But I find that my observations are still about the same: Ozil dropping deep with Ronaldo drifting left-side.

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  3. A few personal observations I made. Firstly, I don't think I share you optimism on the loss of Higuain. I watched last night's game and I thought there was something missing in attack. It looked so clear to me. I agree that Ronaldo did not play a central role. In fact, nobody did. ozil tried, but he simply is not an attacker. Ronaldo scored playing how he normally plays. Secondly, we all know about di maria's sometimes poor decision making. There were a few times he got the ball and Ozil made runs that were ignored. I don't know why but whenever that is Higuain making the run, Di maria tends to pass more often (argentine connection I guess). Thirdly, Ozil is so bland it's crazy. He needs to get pissed more often. So many times he should've receives goal scoring chances and his team mates didn't pass. He is expressionless. Lastly, if Benzema is going to work out, he also needs to get pissed more often. If it was Pipita with Ronaldo for the second goal, he would've been screaming his head off for a pass.

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  4. Please dont interpret my sentiments as 'optimism'. Losing pipita hurts big time. His natural connection with Di maria is indeed brought about by their built in chemistry from the national team.

    With ozil, a lot of it also has to do with his still-developing communication skills with his teammates. His connection with CR7 is developing rapidly though.

    As for the 2nd goal: CR7 was looking to pass. The path to Benzema was covered by valencia players and lass wasn't keen to run into space for ronaldo to pass to.

    Awwal: what's your take on buying another striker this winter break?

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  5. To be honest I'm not really sure. If indeed Pipa does have surgery but is fit before the quarter finals of the champions league, I think I can live with benzema. Constant game time has got to result in a lot more goals. After all, this IS the wonder boy from Lyon. On the other hand, if we were to get a striker, I really don't see how that would work out. We all know our club and you can be damn sure we're not going to get someone unproven at the highest level. That means we'll be linked to players like Llorente, Fabiano, Aguero, etc
    I certainly don't want to be linked with Adebayor et al simply because they are available. I think the club will let the media do their work. Make links and then watch and see which players respond positively. Problem with all this is what happens when Benzema, Higuain and the third striker are fit? We'd have about £50m worth of talent on the bench? Personally, I don't want anyone else but I think I'm just a bit biased as I don't like the way Pipa plays when he feels threatened and I feel he is one of the best out there. I must say though that I am shocked a club of our stature have only 2 out and out strikers (and I think many would even argue that benzema is not out and out). Morata is certainly and interesting option

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  6. There used to be a time where I thought Adebayor would've been a pretty good prospect for us. I'm totally embarrassed by that now. haha.

    I'd prefer for us to stick to the current squad at the moment... and that's why I feel quite good about this 'rombo' formation: It allows us to make full use of our glut in CMs (and AMs once Kaka and Canales are back from injury) while keeping the 'requirement' for a '9' to a minimum.

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed to see Morata get some playing time on Wed. :)

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  7. Interesting points, Mark. It's also interesting to see that in the game vs Auxerre, Mou can opt for a similar frontline of Ronaldo-Benz-Higuain with Benz at the center and withdrawn, much like Ozil in this game. He didn't and opted for a target man attack by putting Higuain at the center. I guess now Mou knows that a central player to link attack is needed aside from Xabi's deep passes. It does, however, makes a difference when choosing to play either Benz or Ozil in the center. Though Benz does link play, he's not as dynamic as Ozil when doing so. On the other hand, if Benz uses his speed well and attacks from deep, he can always sneak in to score unsuspectingly. And there are also other options when our injured players return like you said. Thus, offering other variations based on their individual game.

    On another note, and although it is kind of early to say this, using this kind of trivote/diamond might be our other option to play Barca(or other big teams). The withdrawn center-striker role can be useful as divergence for opponent's CB/DM to mark, while one of the carilleros can push up during attacks. One of the wingers can alternately tucks in and take the central striking role like Vucinic of Roma to create more damage.

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  8. I'm not so sure Benzema would be as effective in the 'Drop Deep' Central Role as he's still more striker than midfielder, whereas Ozil's a more natural '10' / 'Fantasista' / Playmaker

    This 'Rombo' might have worked better against Barca as it gave us a 3 vs. 3 in midfield or even a 4 vs. 3 in our favor if Ozil had dropped deep to help in pressing. We probably still would have lost though: given that our players choking and shitting their pants before the game was still the major reason why we lost the game.

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  9. ...and Syafiq: you're right about the Carilleros confusing the opposing CBs & DMs too: as that breakaway play of Khedira in the first half showed. Lass found himself with plenty of room too quite a few times when he broke forward last Saturday.

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  10. Hi there, I enjoyed your review which I jumped on from the offside site.
    I liked your positive points in promoting the trivote in theory, but I thought in practice ie Saturday's game, Valencia had little difficulty overcoming our midfield, both Xabi and Ozil were dealt with effectively with Mata and Joaquin arriving far too easily. It's hard to say whether the reversion to the usual formation was more successful as by that time they'd lost Albelda who was doing a marvellous job on Ozil, demonstrated by the wonderful assist he subsequently made.
    I think it's the way to go though while Higuaín is out and confidence is battered, to introduce more creativity I think Granero is the only player we have who should replace Khedira leaving Lass as the manic destroyer.
    I agree that we were always gonna lose against Barca, with our rabbit in the headlights show, but I think the damage would have been less with this line-up
    Great blog

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  11. @Anonymous: The game was always going to start shaky given what happened last Monday.

    My opinion on this Trivote / Rombo vs. our now-familiar 4-2-3-1 is that I still prefer the latter as it shows off the team's attacking talent more. Many are right to say that this Trivote / Rombo would be more suitable for those tough cup ties or even critical La Liga matches. It can also work quite well on days without Pipita or in-form Benzema.

    If anything, I thought that last Saturday's match showed us that much like the formerly-much-maligned 'Double Pivot' (4-2-3-1) for its defensiveness, this Trivote can actually be used BY Real Madrid as a pretty effective attacking formation too.

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