Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stabbing with a Bat

'They'll only whack Mourinho Tomorrow Because of this Angel! Thank YOU!' says Pipita
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Last night , Real Madrid took a trip to France to play their 2nd Champions League group stage match. Auxerre’s stadium had an English feel to it with its stands right up to the edge of the pitch filled with rabid fans singing, cheering and booing boisterously as the match unfolded last night. It was no Potato Field either.
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And 2 days after the Levante horror show, and a day after Jose Mourinho’s in-depth comparison between Pedro Leon and a host of footballing legends that included Zidane, Maradona and Di Stefano, Real Madrid finally got the chance to do their talking on the pitch once again – this time in their nice blue-purple 3rd away kits. Looking back, it’s easy to tell why Mourinho was so furious at the pre-match press conference over the Pedro Leon questions: as he might have been excited to show off a new trick he wanted to try out against Auxerre. And it wasn’t the Benzema-Pipita-Cristina ‘tridente’ that we’ve seen before and the Madrid press had predicted. So perhaps last Monday’s bitchfit from the Portuguese tactician might have been more akin to a teenage girl throwing a hissyfit about how everyone noticed her thighs when all she wanted to do was to show off her latest stilettos.
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4-3-3 vs. 4-2-3-1
Jose Mourinho’s surprise however was not the ‘tridente’, but the ‘trivote’. I’ll go ahead and assume that this is a sort of Spanish Short Cut for the ‘Triple Pivot’. It was a formation that brought images of horror to the Madrid press as flashes of Capello’s (and his much-reviled ‘Double Pivot’) enormous, wedge-shaped chin, tearing into them filled their thoughts and gave them nightmares.
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It was however a formation that had made perfect sense to me for the following reasons:
1.) With our infamous recent history of travelling to countries whose leagues are of an-almost-similar level of competitiveness (e.g. France & Germany), it became even more imperative that we play a solid game with our back line protected and control of the match and the midfield completely ours.

2.) With our recent performances clearly showing a lack of interplay between players on the final third of the pitch, it made much sense to increase the permutations of passing combinations between players to build up play. To quote [Mourinho Big Fan], who eloquently commented on my recent blog post:
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“The linking between forwards & midfield is far too inconsistent. They had it linking very well in the Ajax game, and in instances in the Osasuna game - when Ozil played brilliantly. But generally they are sporadic. So, I would consider this is not yet set up and still need a lot of work.”
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I also wrote about how there seemed to be a tendency to rely too much on crosses to get the ball to the forward line despite the fact that our goal-scorers are known to prefer the ball played on the ground: Something that I think answers [Mourinho Big Fan]’s concern:
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Could it be that Mourinho's system do not suit the type of player Higuain is? Should Ronaldo be given a role as when Pellegrini was in charge?
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My interpretation of How Mourinho’s ‘Trivote’ Worked Last Night



The Trivote wasn't that bad: it kept us solid at the back and it had Auxerre on the backfoot and stuck on their side of the pitch
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Mourinho’s midfield lined up with Xabi Alonso sitting in front of 2 quick and Athletic Centerbacks (Pepe & Ramos). This effectively turned the ex-Liverpool Pass Master into Real Madrid’s master conductor: the fulcrum of the entire team. To assist him, Mourinho employed Lass & Khedira in slightly more advanced positions (the opposite of what the formation-graphic showed on TV). Both midfielders, famous for their tireless workrate, to serve as “Carilleros”: shuttling back and forth from deep positions to forward positions, serving the ball to the ‘Tridente’ (Benzema, Pipita & Cristina) in order to facilitate more interplay between midfield and attack. The 2 Carilleros, would then shuttle back deep into midfield to win the ball back once the ball was lost. Width was then provided by the conservative Arbeloa and Marcelo, who seems to have shockingly developed some football IQ.
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I thought that the formation did have some degree of success also through variants in attacking shape: with Ronaldo at the Left side drifting in (with Marcelo overlapping forward). Ronaldo at the Right Wing giving width to the attack or even Marcelo, rushing the ball to the byline on the left side or cutting in.
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The outcome was 70% ball possession and complete control of a game that was almost entirely played on Auxerre’s half of the pitch. The French did catch us on the backfoot a couple of times early in the game through the flanks: but when Arbeloa and Marcelo settled in, the ‘Trivote’ drew a line across the pitch that had ‘Auxerre: Do Not Pass This Point’ written under. Beyond this line were 2 fleet-footed Centerbacks waiting to chase down anyone who got past.
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This, I thought, was the exact same system that Maradona tried and failed to do for Argentina in the World Cup (where Leo Messi held the baton as part of the Tridente) and with Mascherano as a limited fulcrum at the heart of midfield. The failure of the system was with the use of Wingers (Di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez) as Carilleros: resulting in a weak and flimsy team shape.
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The Benzema & Higuain up front: We All looked forward to it... and we all collectively chucked our remote contorllers at the TV to see how it turned out last night.
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The problem however was still on execution in the final third. Lass’s close-quarter dribbling and ball control skills got him close to the goal and his attacking teammates often while Khedira’s movement helped a lot too, but it was still the lack of 1-2s, off the ball movement and coherence in link up play in the final third of the pitch that made the difference. That and poor finishing. Pipita is still out of sorts and so is Cristina. Nevermind Benzema: who decided to express his gratefulness to Jose Mourinho’s reward to him with a starting position with an incredibly anonymous performance. So while the Madrid press bitch and moan about how truly miserable the Trivote was, I’d actually have to say that the problem was the Tridente.
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Benzema was finally put out of his misery in the 57th minute, with Ozil coming in to play in a Messi-for-Argentina-during the World Cup role. Trouble however is that Ozil is no Messi and was quickly reminded of it by the French’s physical play. Enter Di Maria for Lass and Real Madrid reverting back to 4-2-3-1 (or Double Pivot):
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------------- Casillas ---------------
Arbeloa-Pepe-Ramos-Marcelo
------ Khedira-Xabi Alonso ------
---- Ronaldo-Ozil-Di Maria -----
-------------- Higuain --------------
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Di Maria (who alongside Marcelo was my Madridista of the Match), offering his trickery with his mazy dribbles, combined with his pace opened up the game even further against the French. In the end, it was Ozil’s simple pass that found a streaking Di Maria roaming into the box whose left-footed half-volley gave us the lead and ultimately the win.
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Finally, in a typical Mourinho move, Real Madrid closed shop with the exit of the miserable Higuain for the much maligned Diarra V1.0 (this Madridista was happy to see him though).
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From a Wider Perspective
At the end of the day, one can say that there are quite a few important positive points to ponder following this match:
-We went into the stadium of a top European League team and walked away with 3 points.
-With AC Milan and Ajax’s draw, we shoot up to the top of the Group standings: a group labeled by many as the ‘group of death’. A win against Milan at home will likely do the job to get us to the round of 16 (where the hard part begins). It was a critical win.
-The team showed their capability to remain solid while playing a different system from the one we’ve seen them play many times.
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All of this however has happened within the shadow of the events that transpired in the Ciudad De Valencia Stadium against bottom-feeding club Levante last Saturday. We are all still living with the memory of that horrific 0-0 (and just for everyone’s recollection, Fabio Capello’s Madrid tore them apart with 4-goals in that same fixture). Last night, Real Madrid looked like a team trying to stab the Auxerre defense with bat, just like they did with Levante, Espanyol, Osasuna, Ajax & Mallorca. And until we get the team to lace up their shooting boots and get themselves synched while going forward, this Real Madrid will not only continue to just be pointlessly hammering away at massed-up opposing defenses, but it will also be bludgeouning us all to sleep while they do. And in the morning after, the Madrid and the rest of the world will read all about it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

ZZZZZ…. AAAAAK!


Watching Real Madrid These Days Feels like this...
So here I am on my lunchbreak at work trying to figure out what to say about what happened to my beloved Real Madrid last Saturday Night. It was weekend of ‘upsets’ and frustrations.
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Saturday night at the Ong House’s TV started at 7:40pm to take in Chelsea vs. Manchester City. I had grown to like watching Chelsea’s weekly goalfests and was looking forward to seeing them stick it to the Billionaire’s Club new boys Manchester City – it wasn’t to be though as Carlos Tevez and his new haircut decided to spoil Chelsea’s night with a goal coming from an impressively powerful run. The Chelsea match was followed by Arsenal vs. West Brom at 10pm (a match my Gooner of a house guest from Manila preferred to watch over Liverpool-Sunderland even if it was available on HD). Once again, the favorites end up one the losing end: Arsenal are bitchslapped in the game, going down 0-3 before Samir Nasri grabbed 2 late goals to put some suspense into it. Over on the HD Channel, Liverpool’s Reds (my wife’s team) were getting hammered by Sunderland and barely managed to come out with a point.
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I was tempted to let the football marathon continue onto Sporting-Valencia, which I had cheekily predicted to go Sporting’s way (I had a ‘feeling’ I said)… but I instead decided to catch up on some other shows stored in my Hubstation (Singapore’s TiVo). At about 1:45am, I switched back to the football and saw Valencia leading Sporting 2-0. Not my day, I said to myself… still oblivious to the horror that awaited me.
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At 2am, Levante vs. Real Madrid had started. “The World will find Order once again” I told myself, looking forward to a comfortable win with hopes of more than a few goals. But Oh how wrong was I…
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Jose Mourinho started the match with his favored 4-2-3-1 (with inverted wingers) with only 2 changes from the Espanyol Match: Arbeloa at RB and Sergio Ramos at CB to replace the suspended Pepe and Khedira returning from his ‘rest’ to replace Lass Diarra alongside Xabi Alonso:
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------------ Casillas --------------
Arbeloa-Carvalho-Ramos-Marcelo
------ Xabi Alonso-Khedira ------
-----Di Maria-Ozil-Ronaldo ------
----------- Higuain ----------------
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The positives and the negatives as talked about after the Espanyol game was there for the world to see. Let’s start with the Positives:
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-We were once again solid at the center of the pitch. Xabi Alonso & Sami Khedira held the midfield well and teamed up adequately with Sergio Ramos (whose athleticism at the Center of Defense makes him an awesome Center Back) and the superbly intelligent Ricardo Carvalho. It wasn’t a troubling night for Casillas and the 4 men-in-the-middle are the reason for this.
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-Our fullbacks were great. With our summer flirtation for Maicon together with Lass’ try-out at the Right Back position, I had developed a fear that Alvaro Arbeloa would turn into an underutilized benchwarmer: only there to make up the numbers for rules on homegrown players and Spanish players. Thankfully, situations still do pop up for him to prove himself. Arbeloa played a very typical game: unspectacular yet solid and effective. He played his role with no fuss: providing width going forward. And solidity at the back.
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Marcelo: My Madridista of the Match
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Marcelo on the other hand, turned in a Madridista-of-the-Match performance. His decision-making in going forward and sitting back showed great improvement. On attack, he provided his requisite level on danger: running to the byline for crosses and even cutting in to link up with the midfield. While on defense, Marcelo put in a lot of spunk to his defending and looked very different from the player who was perpetually out of position that we saw many times before.
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Despite the fact that we were generally solid at the back, and at midfield, our attack was just about as razor-sharp as a baby’s pillow. The tactics have now been set to allow the team to play attacking football: surging fullbacks to give the team width and the option of crosses from the flanks (Arbeloa & Marcelo), a pass-first playmaker with excellent vision at the final third of the pitch (Ozil), 2 pacy-wingers capable of creating chances for themselves and others (Di Maria/Leon, Ronaldo) and a world-class striker (Higuain).
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There is still a clear lack of interplay between the 4 attacking players: there were no triangles, no 1-2s… no pass-and-move football: the kind that will allow the team to unhinge the opposing defense. Most of all, what the team REALLY need to do, is work on their finishing. The only thing more horrific than a goalkeeper who can commit a Robert Green-like howler every time he touches the ball is the team facing him taking 25 shots on his goal failing to score on every one of them. This was the story of Real Madrid last Saturday night. Great on Defense, Solid at Midfield, Dangerous from the wings but blunt on attack as epitomized by Pipita’s host of fluffed chances and Cristiano Ronaldo’s seeming preference to shoot at the wall, instead of the goal during free kick situations (for fear of awakening my wife, I couldn’t remember how many times I struggled to stop myself from screaming ‘let someone else take the bloody free kick!!!’ every time Ronaldo placed the ball on the grass and took on his familiar pose prior to a free kick).
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This was perhaps the reason why I drifted to sleep during the first half’s last 15-20 minutes (ZZZZZZZZZZ….)… only to wake up for the 2nd half and see the team elevate their play, yet continue to struggle.
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Mourinho did try to change it up, pulling Ozil & Di Maria out in favor of Pedro Leon & Karim Benzema. To change his team’s shape into a more conventional 4-4-2:
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-------------- Casillas -------------
Arbeloa-Carvalho-Ramos-Marcelo
Leon-Khedira-Xabi Alonso-Ronaldo
--------Benzema-Higuain-----------
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Pedro Leon ended up putting in a performance worthy to note. The young Spaniard is a peculiar player: despite his pace not being off the charts, he still has the knack to get past his defender(s) and even unleash an accurate cross while being crowded out. He was a breath of fresh air in the match and I’m happy to hope that the contents of today’s rumor mill would come true. Benzema was largely anonymous during his 30-minute stint on the pitch. Despute that however, I think that we’ve now officially gotten to a point where it’s trying him out in the starting XI wouldn’t be a bad idea. Here’s to hoping for something better for tomorrow’s match.
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WHY can't we SCORE!?!?!?!?!? WHY!?!?!??!
Yesterday morning, I woke up to find that the one upset I had hoped for didn’t turn out: Barcelona had beaten Athletic at San Mames 1-3. That was my cue to REALLY go: AAAAAAAAAK!
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It was a football weekend to forget. Here’s to hoping for a reason to smile tomorrow.

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.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

FUgly


Xabi Alonso was happy to return to San Sebastian but couldn't have been happy with his and his team's performance there.
During our opening match against Mallorca, we got an idea of the basic principles of what Jose Mourinho’s Madrid was going to be like at its bare bones essence: great tactics, a solid midfield and impenetrable on defense. Last weekend’s performance against Osasuna on the other hand showed us how that system made the team effective on the pitch: reducing Casillas to a mere spectator regardless of the closeness of the match. Both our La Liga debut and the Home debut ended with volleys of criticism leveled at the players, Mourinho and the team in general.
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Enter Ajax. By the time the referee blew the fulltime whistle, the team had already taken 35 shots and rendered Ajax completely at their mercy. It was also by the time the referee blew the final whistle for this match that the Bernabeu, Madridisimo at large and the rest of the world finally realized what Jose Mourinho was really talking about when he declared so many times that he wanted his teams (and could get THIS team) to play attractive and attacking football too. The Ajax game captured the imagination of many (including me) and got everyone excited and salivating at the prospect of what Real Madrid were truly capable of once their attacking players finally showed up in a match wearing their shooting boots. Mourinho even proudly declared after the Ajax game “Some poor team is going to pay for the chances we missed today.”
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That team however was not going to be Real Sociedad.
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To start last night’s match, Jose Mourinho made only once change from the team that faced Ajax. The recently recovered Sergio Ramos took his place on the right side of the defense to send Arbeloa back to the bench. There was a not-so-slight difference though…
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Tactics: To Invert or not to Invert… That is the Question
 
By playing inverted wingers, interplay between CR96, Ozil, Di Maria and Higuain created a load of passing and scoring opportunities.


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An interesting detail of note in my opinion was the decision to line up the left-footed Di Maria to the left wing while the right-footed Ronaldo started on the right: a reversal of the alignment that we saw in the Ajax match. To compare the implications of such an alignment, during the Ajax match, we saw the Left-Footed Di Maria on the right wing, drifting inwards to use his favored left foot to score by cutting in (8 shots during the Ajax Match) while the Ronaldo did the same playing in the left side also looked to cut in to take potshots on the Ajax goal on the opposite side (11 shots): resulting on the opening of a ‘highway’ for Marcelo and Arbeloa to charge in to create width for the Merengue attack. This use inverted wingers gave us additional numbers in the final third of the pitch to create passing options for Ozil and Higuain and opened varying sources of goal scoring opportunities without losing width. The vulnerability of the spaces behind the fullbacks then fell on the shoulders of the fullbacks themselves who were expected to have the smarts to decide on the appropriate time to attack and defend, the central midfield pair (where we saw Xabi Alonso and Khedira intercept and recover so many ball clearances or potential lead passes by the Ajax defenders), and the Defense (where Pepe’s pace and Carvalho’s intelligence/sense of anticipation becomes vital). It was the kind of play that I’ve seen Mourinho’s Chelsea pla only in limited stretches usually to overcome a deficit after halftime (only to ‘close shop’ after gaining the lead)… but not for a sustained 90 minutes.


Pipita, not a classic '9' couldn't reach the crosses sent in from the wings. Ozil was isolated too. Both had terrible games.

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I can only speculate that Mourinho’s worry about Sociedad’s ability to counter on the wings is what led him to the decision this time NOT to invert his wingers (though we did see it a few times last night). “I have watched their two previous games and I can say that they are very organized and defend well. They are a compact group that waits to counterattack. Their attack can be devastating." He said prior to the match.
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By keeping Ronaldo and Di Maria along the byline, there would always be 2 Merengues on each flank (Di Maria + Marcelo on the Left, CRon & Ramos on the Right) to stop a counter. In THEORY.

Poor Positioning by Ramos & Marcelo at Fullback drew our CMs to try closing the spaces left behind. The remaining CM was then left outnumbered in the middle. While Sociedad's Wingers & Fullbacks got quite a few crosses in.
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The result of this alignment when going forward however was quite visible in its impact to Ozil and Higuain, both of whom were hardly involved in attack. And with the 2 wingers stuck on the flanks unable to cut in, we saw plenty of crosses into the box with no one to meet them given Higuain’s preference to play off the shoulder of the last defender rather than use his physical presence to win balls in the box ala a classic battering-ram ‘9’.
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Mourinho asks his assistant 'What the F&ck should we do!?!?!?'
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The theory of playing true wingers (instead of inverted ones) to assist our fullbacks to repel counters from the opposing wingers fell flat on its face as we all saw last night. This was of course due to Marcelo and Ramos’ continued lack of awareness and poor-decision making in deciding when to hold their position and when to hold back. The Brazilian and the Spanish Fullbacks were repeatedly beaten on the flanks. This not only resulted in Mourinho viciously throwing this water bottle in the dugout (narrowly missing one of his assistants) but it also forced Xabi Alonso and Khedira to repeatedly attempt to seal off the openings on the flanks… creating a domino effect: with the 2 central midfielders giving up their positions at the middle of the park: Los Blancos effectively ceded control of the center of the pitch and the game to the Basques. It allowed them to get to our side of the pitch with easem forcing us to concede the numerous deadball situations that ultimately almost cost us the game (Raul Tamudo in blue and white scoring against us, albeit not for Espanyol is a haunting image).
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Di Maria admitted himself that the goal, scored by his right foot was 'sort of' lucky...
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It is thus not surprising that Real Madrid won the match the Ugly Way…. Or even more accurately, the Fugly way, Fucking Ugly Way: Our goals came from a shot from Di Maria’s right boot (where he sheepishly admits “I scored a nice goal with the foot I use the least.”) and a free kick from Ronaldo which the help of Pepe’s back/ass. It was 3 points earned not by how the tema played but by merely the difference in class between us and them.
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Fatigue?
From the match against Osasuna (2010-09-11) till the match against Deportivo La Coruna (weekend of 2010-10-03), Real Madrid have/are going to play 7 matches in 16 days = that’s one match ever 2.2 Days following an international break of weekend and midweek matches (prior to the Osasuna match). It’s a half-month of absolute enjoyment for Madridistas all around but one that will beat the living hell out of the players’ bodies. With a squad of 25 players (albeit with injuries to quite a few of the players), the wisdom of using players like Canales, Benzema, Pedro Leon, Granero, Arbeloa and Lass Diarra seems to be coming to the fore: because a big part of what has made us so sloppy and sluggish last night might also have been due to fatigue.
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This is not to say that I do not understand the wisdom of keeping our best 11 out there during this part of the season with the schedule so packed. I also know perfectly well that it is in times like this where Barcelona’s thin squad of 19 can be vulnerable and where we have the chance to extend our cushion of points over them even further. I do believe that having some semblance of rotation for the players will still allow us to get the results while resting some of our key players and allowing other squad members to build up on their familiarity with each other, with Mourinho’s system and most importantly, on their confidence.
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Passing Forwards
If there is one positive thing to note that has been consistent in the several matches that we have seen in this season’s Real Madrid thus far, it is the fact that we are seeing Pipita and Cristiano looking out for each other in the final third unlike their previous tendencies to only be interested to go for goal.
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Sure, we still see CR96 looking for his goal and not stopping until he gets on the scoresheet. Yet despite this, we are now seeing a semblance of a developing chemistry between the 96-million Euro man and his Argentine strike partner. We’ve seen some 1-2s, through-balls and best of all, the tendency to release the ball on the break when once sees the other with an easier chance to score than himself. Is this the Mourinho effect as well? I hope so.
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An interesting side effect of the Ajax match was to see the fallout and the reversal of roles between Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain who were cast in opposite roles this time around. Last time around in the Champions League, it was the open-for-the-shot Ronaldo who was spurned by Higuain - the selfish villain. But this time, it is Ronaldo who has been the target of whistles and jeers (and flak from the Madrid Press) for his poor shot selection, which stretched back all the way to the Osasuna match (nevermind that it was his assist that found the open Carvalho for the winning goal).
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Madridista of the Match: Ricardo Carvalho
It’s been 4 matches this season thus far (3 La Liga, 1 Champions League) and it’s interesting to note that it has been Mourinho’s footballing son, Ricardo Carvalho who has been the most consistent player in the team. Last night, he was my Real Madrid Man-of-the-Match. Intercepting balls, saving tackles and even last gasp deflections and interceptions were the order of the day for the 32-year old Portuguese Centerback. The season is young, but if Carvalho can muster 2 seasons of performances like we’ve seen so far, then the 8-million Euros spent on him would be very, very well-spent. I can only hope that in his stay with us, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Albiol and Garay can learn a few things from him.
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Result versus Method, Excitement versus Criticism
It’s an old but very true cliché: The mark of a good team is one that can win even when things get ugly.
Here’s another old but very true cliché: Real Madrid must not only win but win with style.
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It’s interesting to take stock of what’s happened to Real Madrid thus far in Mourinho’s reign. I as a Madridista am happy to see the team develop a sound system of playing that can balance an effective and exciting attack with defensive solidity as witnessed in the Ajax match. The interesting thing to note about this recent match would be: would we rather win ugly like this and walk away with 3 points? Or put in a Mallorca-like performance where we were able to effectively implement Mourinho’s system?
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To expect Real Madrid to produce a Barca-like stylish hammering of every opponent that comes their way at this point is simply ridiculous considering the decades-old system that Barca has been employing from youth-team to first-team. What Madridistas must accept is that Mourinho is here to set the foundations for the Real Madrid of the future: subject to ‘personal interpretations’ of future managers of substantial quality to upgrade and finetune for further success and aesthetics – similar to how Carlo Ancelotti has turned Mourinho’s Chelsea into a KILLING MACHINE.
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For Madridistas for now however, patience is the order of the day. The club has SO FAR shown that they have a little of it… but it remains to be seen if the fans or the Madrid press can grow some.
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FOR NOW, we will have to settle for solid Mourinho-like displays ala Mallorca and Osasuna, or scrape-through Victories or Draws like the one last night. Four matches into this season, I am now totally convinced that a time will come where Mourinho’s prophecy (of an Ajax-like performance with a bucketload of goals) will come true… it remains clear though that Madridisimo must learn to do something it’s never known how to do: Wait.
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This time though, it seems clear that doing so with hope and optimism won’t be for naught.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

2010-09-17: La Liga Weekly Podcast Episode 4


It's a full crew for this week: Kevin, Corey, Isaiah, Christina and yours truly sat down to talk La Liga and La Liga teams in Europe. We also talked about last weekend's results, this past week's European action and looked forwad to this weekend's round of matches.... and oh yeah, we also talked a bit about immigration...

Friday, September 17, 2010

2010-09-15 - Real Madrid 2 - Ajax 0

Apologies for not having a match review of this one... just didn't have the time (work was toxic this week). Do enjoy the highlights though :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2010-09-11: Real Madrid 1 - Osasuna 0

Classic Mourinho

Carvalho was happy with his rare chance to show off his guns last Saturday.
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Jose Mourinho made his Bernabeu debut with a signature 1-0 win. The win had the hallmarks of a Mourinho match: a win at home (as can be expected given his 8-year undefeated record at home) and a 1-0 scoreline (nevermind my 2-0 prediction), scored by a non-forward making a late run into the box. Looking beyond the surface, Mourinho’s fingerprints were all over the performance in an even deeper way.
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Real Madrid lined up with their now familiar 4-2-3-1. On defense, Casillas was on Goal, Ramos at his familiar position (Right Back) and Marcelo at his, Carvalho teamed up alongside Pepe (who played for the first time for his club since his horror injury last season) to form an all-Portuguese Central Defense. At the heart of the midfield, Mourinho tried his envisioned partnership: Xabi Alonso with Sami Khedira. The surprise came with the trio behind lone striker Higuain: Cristiano on the left, Ozil in the ‘fantasista’ position while natural striker Karim Benzema played on the right. It was a lineup that completely negated the impression of it’s-either-Benzema-or-Pipita-will-be-the-striker-notion. A closer look at Mourinho’s Inter however gives as a clue as to where this lineup came from: a trio of Etoo – Sneijder – Pandev (a ‘9’ on the wing, a playmaker and a ‘hybrid forward’) behind Diego Milito.
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So while the bulk of the Madrid press are still scratching their heads idiotically, asking themselves why Mourinho’s Madrid are so dull, I find myself looking at a few key interesting points of the match that yielded positive impressions and got me looking forward to seeing more of Madrid in the coming weeks:
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Madrid were Solid as a Rock
Iker Casillas might as well have brought a pillow with him on goal. At no point in time in the match did I ever feel that Osasuna threatened us even while they had possession of the ball. Unlike the Schuster and Pellegrini days, this Real Madrid weren’t vulnerable on set pieces. Also unlike the Schuster & Pellegrini days, after 2 matches thus far, this Real Madrid hasn’t been vulnerable to breakaway counter attacks once we lost the ball on attack: constantly positioned ready to absorb and neutralize any move to counter. The midfield dragnet, comprised of Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira mostly neutralized majority of Osasuna’s threats going forward: through the combination of the Spaniard’s anticipation and interceptions while the German did his best impersonation of Hulk Hugan-in-a-frenzy: jumping for every Aerial Ball, and throwing himself at every red shirted player that had the ball. This was not the composed and elegant Khedira that I remember from the World Cup, but a wild, beast-like reincarnation that I grew to like and appreciate for his efforts. This wasn’t the best part of the midfield’s performance however…
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The Primma Donna Attackers were… DEFENDING!?!?!
The most stirring sight for Real Madrid last Saturday that’s still seared into my brain was to see Karim Benzema, creeping up behind Osasuna attackers hacking away at their ankles in a childishly crude attempt to win the ball. Even the recently-injured and not-defensively-inclined Cristiano Ronaldo did this – turning the midfield not just as a filter for Osasuna prior to their arrival at Madrid’s defense… but into a deathtrap where Madrid’s front line would collapse onto Osasuna’s midfield once they had the ball, winning us ball possession and ultimately, control of the match. It was this that brought Mourinho to his very bold conclusion: It was an easy win.
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Real Madrid Created a good number of Scoring Chances

Ronaldo's 'Shoot First, The Rest Can Come Later' Approach to the Game was VERY Frustrating
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Without counting the few dozen potshots on goal Cristiano Ronaldo in his bid to come up with his latest feature film entitled: The Epitome of Poor Shot Selection, Real Madrid did in fact create quite a few great chances during the course of the game. The problem however was that last Saturday, Osasuna’s geriatric goalkeeper Ricardo put in a Man of the Match performance (along with Higuain still fluffing his lines). It was a game that could have been 3-0 or even 4-0 and one that could’ve changed the complexion of the Madrid’s Mourinho era. Isaiah Cambron (the Cule of all people) mentioned it in the last podcast afterall: Mourinho’s Inter scored the most goals in Serie A last season... it is an interesting fact that opens up a multitude of possibilities in terms of how Madridisimo at large will choose to view the style of play of Mourinho's Madrid. 
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Ozil was Mind-Ozzling

Mesut Ozil: My Madridista of the Match
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The Madridista of the match was most definitely Mesut Ozil (I’m totally thinking of getting his jersey this weekend… still deciding between his or Pipita’s). The Part-German, Part-Turk and Part-Martian gave us more than flashes or glimpses of his mind-ozzling capabilities (sorry, just had to say it): pacy, vertical, aggressive and unselfish: he looks set to be the fantasista that the Bernabeu has lusted for for so long after the departure of Zidane and the disappointment of Kaka (thus far). What he will be like once he learns Spanish and finally learns to integrate with his teammates is something only for the excited imagination at this point.
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Mourinho’s Madrid is still clearly a full-squad training sessions away from reaching the level that that has made the Portuguese tactician’s teams so ruthlessly efficient, effective and yes, fearsome. yet even now in the early stages of the season, the hallmarks of what has made his teams so successful are already beginning to show. A rock-solid defense and midfield complemented by a hard-working frontline that up to this point has only been known as all-flair. In the end, though there will very likely be only a few moments of champagne football, it is already looking like the writing is already on the wall that titles are on the way... for some that may not be enough. But if we were to look accross the continent and past the English Channel, it is comforting to see what can be done to a club once after Jose Mourinho lays the foundations down.

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010-09-09: La Liga Weekly Podcast Episode 3

We've all been bummed out by the international break and can't wait for week 2 of La Liga to start. Isaiah has finally joined us again for the first time this season so there was plenty of Madrid-Barca banter. No Corey & Christina though... they'll be back hopefully next week.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ditching the Dutch

As of 12:30am on 2010-09-07 Singapore Time, Rafa Van Der Vaart's website still lists him as a Madridista. He may have served us only for a couple of seasons, but I'll always be thankful for what he's given us.
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As the hours wound down to close the transfer window shut across Europe last week, so of course did the final squad lineup of Real Madrid take shape: with Royston Drenthe going out on loan to newly-promoted (another term for ‘relegation battler’) Hercules and Rafael Van De Vaart making his buzzer-beating transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. The transfers bring about a lot of talking points good and bad. Here goes some thoughts:
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Royston Drenthe
Royston Drenthe: He was as frustrated in Madrid as we Madridistas were frustrated in watching him. No. Maybe we were more frustrated.
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It is not clear to me how Real Madrid (Mijatovic & Calderon in particular) could decide to splurge 14m Euros on a teenage talent who has only managed to prove himself over the course of one tournament (the U21 World Cup or Euros?), without adequate proof of his talents at club-level. He started at Madrid with some degree of promise, scoring a spectacular consolation goal in the 5-3 mauling we experienced at the hands of Sevilla in the Supercopa… and then that was it.
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The dreadlocked Dutchman is reportedly a physical specimen: equipped with the strength and stamina of a bull, built like a tank and gifted with a Brazilian attacker’s pace, agility and flair. Perhaps, in an effort to be fair, God probably also gave him the crossing ability of a pub league player, the ability to defend his goal like that of a geeky high school freshman guarding his lunch money and the positional sense of a visually & hearing-impaired 80-year old. His supposedly best position would be as a left back where adequate space in front of him would allow him to use his pace and power to bomb forward and knife through a defense. In a world where the fullback is fast becoming the most difficult position of all however, his positional & defensive naïveté has also meant that his presence on the pitch could mean tactical suicide for the manager – a recipe that doesn’t exist in Jose Mourinho’s menu.
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The combination of his astounding talent, his youth and his refusal to outright leave Real Madrid has seen him leave the club on a much-delayed yet much-needed loan deal: nevermind that it’s for a club like Hercules. It’s a place for him to play regularly and attain a certain level of match fitness and build up his confidence. Above all the experience will serve as a perfect venue to for Real Madrid to find out if the 14m Euros spent on him was worth it or not. If it was, then the cellar-dwelling club has now turned themselves into darkhorses for the battle to survive when Drenthe’s talents can be matched with the goal scoring abilities of David Trezeguet (I wonder why we never chose to employ him as our 3rd striker?).
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It is hoped that by the end of this season, we will all finally find out if Drenthe is a 14m euro writeoff, a break-even deal in the transfer market or a true Real Madrid Calibre player.
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Rafael Van Der Vaart
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Rafa Van Der Vaart joined Real Madrid with plenty of mixed reactions: arriving at the last minute on the summer of Ramon Calderon’s infamous, shameless and ultimately failed pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo. Rafael Van Der Vaart arrived at Real Madrid with a certain degree of fanfare: helped by the fact that he successfully played the glamorous ’10’ position in his previous club (Hamburg SV), his part-Spanish ancestry and his gorgeous celebrity wife: he fit perfectly into Real Madrid’s ‘23’ jersery (made famous by golden balls himself and his Spice Girl spouse). He was purchased in a very similar manner to Mesut Ozil: with a year remaining on his contract, Hamburg SV had no choice but to sell him cut-price when Real Madrid came knocking.
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He started his Real Madrid career well: taking over free kick duties to score a goal and assist Pepe for a winning goal during a preseason match. With the injured Sneijder on the sidelines, he then managed to score 4 goals (I think) in the early stages of his debut season which included a stunning back-heeled goal. Sadly though, the recovery of Sniejder combined with a dip in form condemned him to the bench with bit-part appearances. Playing amongst Schuster’s front or middle 3 in a 4-3-3 (but never behind the striker/s as he preferred) or along the wings on a 4-4-2, Van Der Vaart, never managed to show off his playmaking skills and suffered as a paceless winger (with minimal crossing abilities) or as a wasteful striker (without the requisite penalty box killer instincts). He ultimately became part of the collective failure of the club from the corrupt President (Calderon) the sleazy Sporting Director (Mijatovic) and the witless Manager (Schuster).
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Enter Florentino Perez: Van Der Vaart found himself as a sacrificial lamb and as an economic counterweight to the arriving galacticos version 2.0 project. He was offered across Europe but with no buyers (after his disappointing season) and with his insistence to stay on (reportedly due to his wife’s battle with cancer who required treatment in Madrid), not even dirty tricks played by the management (e.g. his exclusion from the preseason US tour and temporarily taking away of his jersey number) could get him out of Madrid. In the end, it was his fellow Dutchmen, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben (with Ruud leaving us later) who left the Bernabeu for greener pastures (i.e. the Champions League & World Cup Final).
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Taking his place quietly on the bench, Rafa never made a remark, never threw a tantrum and sat quietly on the bench to watch the matches. In some cases, he’d even have to see the matches from the stands or on TV if he wasn’t included in the 18-man squad. We worked his ass off in training and slowly but surely won the favor of his coach. His opportunity finally came when 65m-Euro-man Kaka’s groin injury reared its ugly head. Filling in for the Brazilian in this favored position behind the striker/s, Van Der Vaart played his role very effectively… even scoring some valuable goals in the process (the winner against Sevilla at home). This season was supposed to be the same story for Rafa (with Kaka out for his surgery and wonderkid Canales likely not yet ripe for the full-time job): till Mesut Ozil walked in.
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The difference this time though is that his wife has already been given a clean bill of health… and for him, an offer from a London-based English Club with Champions League football has come knocking: it is now that much clear that the time is right for him to move. I’m sad to see him go as a Real Madrid fan, but am happy to see him move onto something that suits him better for his sake. Time will only tell if he can manage to fit into Harry Rednapp’s very English 4-4-2… or if he can compete with Luca Mondric for that playmaking position on the squad…but it’s surely better than playing 3rd fiddle behind Ozil & Canales for the meantime… and even further down when Kaka returns.
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Through all this, Rafa has acted with honor: from his refusal to join city rivals Atletico to speaking only with complements to Real Madrid despite his ordeal. I’ve called him the ‘anti-Robinho’ for it has been very clear that he understands very clearly what the crest on his chest stands for when he wears Real Madrid’s white.
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The conclusion allows Real Madrid to trim their over-sized squad to something Jose Mourinho preferred from the very beginning: 2 players for each position plus 3 goalkeepers (for a total of 23 players): leaving only Diarra V1.0 as the only remaining player on the initial ejection seat remaining on the squad. This has also allowed Jose Mourinho to promote Castilla standout David Mateos to the first team: giving us a canterano who can play both at the heart of the defense and in front of it.
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Perhaps in the final analysis, we will find departure of the 2 Dutchmen as mere anecdotes to start the season. It’s hard to argue with the arrival of Ozil and Di Maria as replacements for Van Der Vaart and Drenthe afterall. From a much bigger picture however, it will be very interesting to see if the perpetual cycles of player replacements that the club has been instigating annually is all that necessary anyway. Time will tell, and I don’t think it will take long to do so.

Friday, September 3, 2010

2010-09-02 La Liga Weekly Podcast Episode 2


We talked a bit too much about Real Madrid this episode. I suppose we got too carried away talking about Mourinho and Harry Potter. Isaiah Cambron overslept and woke up thinking that Barca actaully made a profit from the Ibra & Etoo deals.
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And we have a new member (and the first female member of the panel at that!) starting this week too! Christina Santos a.k.a. Gazpacho Girl was with us and had serious issues about Madrid's midfield. Listen in and Enjoy!

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.