Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Miow


Hunting with a Cat
How fitting was it that before I last Sunday’s 2am (Singapore Time) match between Real Madrid and Villarreal, I had been watching a documentary at Nat Geo about the pack hunting methods of mountain lions. The documentary showed their different methods (Ambush, Blitz and Seige) to take down various prey that included a Zebra, some form of Antelope and even a full grown Giraffe! I didn’t realize the relevance of this documentary to Real Madrid until after seeing Real Madrid drop 2 points in their 1-1 draw to Almeria where Jose Mourinho finally decided to gamble on playing with his ‘Cat Formation’ (a lineup without a ‘9’).
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‘You can hunt with Cats, but hunting with Dogs is better.’ So said Mourinho (or something like that) as he differentiated the possibility of playing without a traditional striker.
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It seemed then that last Sunday’s match vs. Almeria was to be a pretty good day to pick. So let me say this out loud and clear to all those who follow Real Madrid: I do not believe that Jose Mourinho was wrong to try out his striker-less formation against Almeria last Sunday:
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1. The possibility of playing without a striker is a scenario that Mourinho should be prepared to use with or without Pipita or Benzema. It’s something he was bound to try in a Champions League tie or even against a tough La Liga team like Barca or Villarreal.
2. As good as Almeria may be, they are no Villarreal, Atleti or Barcelona – They are a relegation-battling team and they are as good as any other team to pick to try out the new formation
3. The key to the use of the formation is Kaka: having gradually played with increasing minutes over that past few games, it was logical that such a game was an appropriate time to give him a start to further his confidence with a start.
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Having said that, it still has to be said that Real Madrid’s attack looked toothless and lacked incisiveness last Sunday. Playing Ronaldo as the Center Forward, with Kaka behind him and Ozil on the Left as Di Maria took his usual place on the Right, Real Madrid was a step slower when they pushed forward: a critical step slower, with less intuition moving forward and without enough of Ronaldo’s ability to draw defenders and leave them eating dust with his darting runs with the ball forward. Let me point out the fact that Real Madrid looked exactly like this going forward during our early season struggles. And it is this that leads me to believe that with enough work, there is no reason to believe that Real Madrid cannot play / hunt effectively ‘with cats’. I suppose that at the end of the day, we may choose to see it either as a gamble or an investment. Then again, what’s the difference between the 2?
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'Boys - This is how the 3-5-2 works... This is how we'll turn this around...' says Mourinho says Marca during halftime of the Villarreal game.
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In the end of course, the outcome of Mourinho’s gamble, was possibly fatal for Real Madrid’s La Liga title hopes. Going down 1-0 almost midway through the 2nd half, his now-familiar move to play a 3-5-2 to go on an all-out assault on the enemy goal. His stated-appreciation for Granero finally manifested itself as well by sending using him in as a right-sided attacker as Di Maria shifted to the left side. The canterano of course re-paid the faith placed in him with a blistering shot to make it 1-1. He didn't have to use Coke and Water Bottles of course to explain this to his team as alleged quite outrageously by Marca during halftime of the Villarreal Game (there are people in the Real Madrid camp who drink Coke during the game? Really?). 
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In any case, the outcome was to be a draw. However we may wish to see this match as as 2 points lost, it was ultimately 1 point won thanks to our ‘11’s’ goal.
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The aftermath is a familiar story… a story so familiar I can only roll my eyes bitchily at the hint of having to hear it again. Mourinho not-so-subtlely vents his anger at the referee, parts of the press agree with him, while others, many of whom are the same ones who spoke of Benzema’s hopelessness as a striker unsheath their knives against Mourinho for his gamble that didn't pay off.
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It’s halfway through the season and there is indeed plenty of time… if only there were plenty enough chances for Barca to drop points.
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It’s a funny affair this matter about hunting… Cats… Dogs. All this of course was we wait in wonder about Real Madrid’s ex-horse: Ruud Van Horseface… err… Van Nistelrooy.

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