Saturday, April 30, 2011

‘Till a Wolf Came Along


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It was supposed to be round 3 of this once-in-a-lifetime ‘World Series’ of Clasicos, and it was supposed to be the first of the 2 games where the chance to vie for the biggest prize in club football was at stake. It didn’t even have to be Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, any 2 Tom, Dick and Harry teams vying for this prize would’ve turned this match into a potential classic. Instead of what was supposed to be a great match however, we witnessed a fiasco that’s made everyone lose their appetite for football. Thank God for the Royal Wedding huh?
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Barca ‘Football Moralists’ and their Horseshit Logic
Everytime a Madrid-Barca match finishes, some ignoramus usually comes out to say that ‘Only Barca tried to play football.’ As if to say that Barca’s brand of possession-based Tiki-Taka football is the only way to play football – that anyone who dares to deviate from this model is ‘anti-football’ – that is the biggest load of horseshit I’ve ever heard of in my life.
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I’ve said it so many times before: People who take this line of thinking seem to think that the rest of the non-Barca world are as stupid as the Arsenal last season (or was it 2 seasons ago) – who had the Barca players’ mouths frothing up at the prospect of facing them: so that the poor naïve Gunners would get hammered 145-0… which was what happened (sort of). These people also believe that those who try something different are committing some form of sporting blasphemy. Horseshit I say.
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I am reminded of those ridiculous battles of the past (American Civil War era I think) where it was considered ‘ungentlemanly’ to shoot the officers of the opposing side and that soldiers would neatly arrange themselves in file and be shot dead one row at a time till someone wins. It’s as if Barca-tactic-lovers are saying that this is the only way to do battle and that any other way is ‘wrong’ – like it was some moral issue. Horseshit I say, Horseshit!
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Mourinho’s Evolving Tactics over the course of the 3 Clasicos so far
I am very happy as a Madridista about the fact that our coach doesn’t believe in such horseshit. And it is with that thinking that he had set out to play the Clasico to have Barca’s midfield hobbit trio of Xavi-Busquets-Iniesta face our very own trio of giant midfield beasts: Pepe-Khedira-Xabi Alonso. His first experiment resulted in a stalemate: a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu though there were signs of promise given that we played with 10 for a large part in the 2nd half. So for the second match, he tweaked the system a little bit and found success: with the now-mangled Copa Del Rey trophy to show for. He did notice however that his charges ran out of steam in the first half: resulting in his team almost teetering to the brink of defeat in the 2nd half.
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Mourinho's tactics went out of the window when his linchpin Pepe was sent off... wrongly. He lost the match. He also completely lost it.
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And so with this third game, as observed in the utterly boring first half and pre-Red-Card Second Half as well as from Mourinho’s post-match comments: it seems that we were supposed to see Mourinho’s third adjustment for this ‘World Series’. That plan seemed to me like he was going to let Barca have their possession early in the game while Madrid would only secure their territory. ‘We could have played for another 3 hours without conceding a goal’ he said. And this was evidenced by the fact that Barca’s mostly had the ball either in their third of the pitch with a slight edge in the middle. Mourinho also said that the plan was to play the last 25 minutes with 3 attackers with playmaker behind them to overwhelm what was supposed to be a frustrated Barca team. It is and was a strategy that made perfect sense for me… Until a ‘Wolf’ came along.
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The WOLF’s Red Card makes a STARK Difference.
Barca ‘Moralists’ should have a look at the actions of their Blaugrana heroes: Busquets, Alves and Pedro. This Madrid do not speak of their football in moral terms, but you guys seem to love doing it – so perhaps you need a closer look at these Hollywod B-movie playacting stunts. These were performances for mostly-B-Movie films at Cinemax (for which I am not signed up for to in my cable TV subscription) instead of the ridiculously expensive Mio TV Sports Package I fork out $50+ SGD for monthly. And while we all pretty much know how incendiary Mourinho can be in a press conference, let it be noted that it is this whining and feigning of injury that has had most of the world shaking their head with embarrassment at this display of football. After all, was it not Barcelona who has hijacked the image of Spanish Football care of this ‘Tiki-Taka’ formula which they are now castigating the rest of the world for – for not playing?  Yet it seems none of these actions are captured in the match report or in the charges UEFA has filed against either of the 2 clubs.
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Pepe gets the ball. If there was contact with Alves, it was at his ankle. But...
...Alves acts out like someone shot his... KNEE?
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On the flipside, the biggest talking point of course is Pepe’s Red Card, for which replays show that Pepe was wrongly sent off (images and videos of Pepe making contact with the ball in a 50-50 situation have since surfaced). In the heat of the moment, without the benefit of a reply: calling a foul would have been acceptable in my opinion, a yellow card, perhaps – but a straight red? Horseshit, I say. And for those who might not have noticed, as I recall, Wolfgang Stark was all the way on the other side of the pitch when he made the call (on the right side of the pitch – Arbeloa’s ‘wing), the foul took place on the left side (Marcelo’s wing). The foul was committed with the players’ backs turned to him: how a red card can be handed out so mindlessly is beyond me.  When I am reminded however that this was the referee who was rated as the worst in Germany, sense comes back to the picture.
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To top things off: They sent Mourinho off too. It is still unclear to me as to what Mourinho said or did that merited the sending off. By all accounts I’ve read and seen on video, all I saw was him 1.) Whispering to Carles Puyol after Pepe’s Red Card (he was probably telling Barca’s Captain ‘You and I BOTH know that that call was BULLSHIT!’) and 2.) Sarcastically smiling, giving a thumbs up and applauding. I’ve read plenty of lips from managers over my many years of watching football “Fuck Off” or “Oh Come on” with a rabid hand gesture or “….. FUCK…. FUCKING…” are common amongst English-speaking managers. The word “Puta” is also very much readable from the lips of Spanish / Portuguese-speaking managers  - and they’ve not been sent off for this. Why Mourinho would get sent off for a sarcastic gesture free of swearing is beyond me. Clearly they were asking for it from Mourinho after the match… or they were perhaps goading him into it.
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Stark ruined the game. Mourinho’s plan had to be thrown out the window. Xabi Alonso was left unprotected, trying to avoid receiving a yellow card that would’ve ruled him out of the return leg. Sergio Ramos had a yellow by then so he had no plans of getting an early shower to leave his team with 9. So before we all allow the angels from heaven to blow the trumpets and sing God-like praises at Leo Messi, let’s all remember first the circumstances of those who were playing on his opposite side. Having said that, the second goal was a wonderful thing to watch. Would he have scored it with Pepe on the pitch? I say ‘not!’.
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Mourinho Turns the Foul-Smelling Air Into Poison
Now I wish to say this as Madridista: while Mourinho did not deserve to be sent off for his reactions to Pepe’s sending off DURING the game, I feel that he deserves a suspension for what he did after the game.
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The air was already filthy with Barca’s playacting antics and the ugly football we all witnessed. But when he exploded into his tirade to allege an organized conspiracy that favors Barca dating back to seven years, dragging with them the name of UNICEF and even Pep Guardiola’s credentials: he turned the filthy air into poison. While I agree with the CORE message which he had (that Barca are favored for perhaps their club’s ‘Moralist’ undertones – subconsciously at least), the manner by which he conveyed his message was absolutely distasteful.
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It is impossible that Mourinho has not won a title on the back of a questionable decision here and there. If his logic states that every title that is won on the back of a ‘scandal’ is a dirty one, then that is the same as saying that every title won in the history of the game is a tainted one – including the ones that he won. He went too far and I as a Madridista will also admit it.
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In Search of a Miracle
We now head to the Camp Nou for the return leg in search of a miracle. Pepe, the ‘antichrist’ of Barcelona (as AS has dubbed him), the man who has completely turned Barcelona upside down is out of the game. Khedira, the team’s ultimate utility man is out injured while Ramos, the Vice-Captain, a prime Aerial and Physical Threat is also ineligible to play the game.  Most of all, Mourinho will also be seeing this match from a VIP box and will be monitored even more closely to ensure that he doesn’t turn up in the dressing room from a laundry basket during halftime. We need a 2-0 to send the game to penalties and extra time and or 3-0 or 3-1 to go through. If there was ever any opportunity to show the world that he’s the greatest coach of all time, it would be this.
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And let’s all admit it too: Mourinho is as brilliant a manager as he is a loose cannon.

1 comment:

  1. What needs to be said about Barca, I have said it in the Offside Blog & you also summed it up well. Your article a while ago about what they were going to do was quite spot on.

    Most in the Offside Blog complained about the defensive tactics. On the surface, their complaints do make a lot of sense. Alonso having passes fewer than Valdes is just too much. But then when you begin to look at the previous matches, the answer may lie there: they can't afford to attack-attack-attack & track back too much due to the grueling nature of the previous 2 matches.
    As you said, our game involves way more physicality (hence stamina) than Barca.

    Perhaps this is why Mourinho planned to sub-in Kaka in the 60th min... on the thinking that after 60 mins, they would also be worn out to an extent.

    We can see how the freshness of Afellay overwhelmed Marcelo for the 1st goal. Had it not been for the red, the plan was perhaps that it should have been Kaka who did exactly the same to their side.

    ReplyDelete