Friday, November 26, 2010

El Clasico 101

Let's Fight!
Okay this isnt a match preview written in glowing terms about the hallowed status of Real Madrid or Barcelona. If you intended to read such a thing, you can do so here (Real Madrid)..or here (Barcelona). Be advised that they are viewpoints written by fans of the respective clubs, and as such may be biased. If you do want a neutral viewpoint, you can also try this. However if you can take sarcasm and criticism you are the right place.


El Clasico 101 is the basic El Clasico guide for dummies. This guide will tell you what El Clasico means, and everything you need to know so that you can watch the match on Monday night having armed yourself with some worthless titbits from this post which will serve you no more than scandalize some fan of either club. So let us begin...

Real Madrid (noun) - is the name of Spain's biggest and most successful football club. They are also famous for owning their own private plane, amongst other things, and they hold the distinct record of top three record breaking transfers in the world of football (1st - Cristiano Ronaldo, 2nd - Kaka, 3rd - Zinedine Zidane). They're also the world's most hated football club and lately are coached by a manager who specializes in using 100% of his brains during football matches and talking out of his ass off the pitch.

FC Barcelona (noun) - is the name of Catalunya's biggest and most successful football club. They do not like themselves to be identified as Spanish, but unfortunately, Catalonia is a an autonomous region which is still part of Spain, which means they've forever had to carry the indistinction of being Spain's second largest and second most successful club. This complex leads them to have tremendous self-importance, which is why they're the self-proclaimed "People's club" whose fanbase includes distinguished personalities like the Pope himself.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nutmegs, Backpasses & Rollerballs

APTW loves Spanish Football. All those little tricks, tweaks, nutmegs, and back passes (literally off the back) is what makes Football down in the Iberian peninsula so much more attractive than in other parts of the world. So coming back to last weekend, APTW takes the time to run over yet another triple bomb…

Villareal vs Athletic Bilbao

Villareal celebrate after a comprehensive victory against Athletico Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao is probably the only team in La Liga which can compare with an English club’s lack of imagination. They play a thuggish variant of hoofball and the way the match started, you could be forgiven into thinking that it was an English side playing the game. The match kicked off with Iraola hoofing the ball up to Llorente who is a solid “English” forward and his hold up play was so great that if the ensuing build up was just as good Athletic could’ve been a goal up in 12 seconds. It was therefore no surprise that within 5 minutes, Bilbao found themselves a goal up in true English fashion. A looping cross in from the left flank found Llorente unmarked in the box and he headed it in past Diego Lopez; no questions asked. But that was about the only time Bilbao did something noteworthy apart from hacking and kicking the Submariners in the entire match.

Hit & Miss?
The yellow painted Madrigal spurred the home team on and almost immediately Villareal almost equalized through Rossi; once, twice and thrice, all in the space of 10 minutes. It was however, Nilmar who actually equalized for the Yellow Submarines as he scored a goal almost reminiscent of Llorente’s. Rossi got into the act soon after, making another hat-trick of misses before Cazorla scored Villareal’s second of the night just before the stroke of half time. Following a bad gaffe between Iraizoz and Ustaritz, Santi Cazorla latched on to the ball which was happily bobbing around in no man’s land and slotted past Iraizoz sending the Madrigal into different shades of yellow and the visiting Basque fans into various shades of crimson.

The second half started predictably with Rossi making hash out of three other oppurtunities. For APTW, at this point in time, it was safe to think that Rossi wouldn’t score even in a whore house that night, but on the stroke of the 80th minute, after missing nearly nine good chances, Rossi finally scored on the football pitch from a text book counter attack. The fans seemed even more relieved about the goal than Rossi himself. Then, just as these things happen, deep into injury time, following another swift counter attack, Cazorla fed a majestic through ball to Rossi who buried it for his second of the night. Not that his opinions ever amount to much (as evident above), but APTW felt that had the match gone on, Rossi could’ve got a hat-trick easily.

Getafe vs FC Barcelona

Playing Rollerball!
With the two big teams from Madrid set out to battle in a couple of hours, Madrid’s 3rd biggest team welcomed Catalunya’s biggest team at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez. The match started out as expected with Barcelona domination possession, Getafe sitting back and using a counter attack approach to score fast goals. As the first half aged, Barcelona started running riot with Villa hitting a shot over the crossbar, Villa caught offside, Messi and Pedro both coming close with ex-Real Madrid Castilla goal keeper Jordi Codina making saves to deny the latter two. There was only so much he could do as in yet another build-up, Alves toe poked the ball to Villa who faked a shot, did a roll on all four limbs with the entire Getafe backline behind him and slid a quick pass onto the onrushing Messi’s path who slotted it in neatly at Codina’s near post for Barca’s first goal. For want of summing up Villa’s move in one word, APTW will settle with calling that pass “Roller-Ball”. So sublime was the move from such a sublime player that even the Madrid based crowd had to applaud. Messi soon returned the favor to Villa who scored for Barca’s second, the game essentially over at that point.

The match continued in a similar pattern in the second half as well and Getafe’s hopelessness was summed up in Barcelona’s third goal. Codina passed the ball to Cata Diaz who was dispossessed by Messi, who then laid the ball off for Pedro to score his first and a simple third goal for Barcelona. That seemed to be curtains; but then Pique got his marching orders after being booked for handling the ball inside the penalty area (Pique had already picked up a yellow earlier for an untidy challenge). Manu scored from the ensuing penalty and Getafe decided to press on the man advantage. But they self pawned when they introduced Arizmendi. The best chances of the second half fell to Arizmendi, but let’s face it – he’s no Villa, hell he’s not even Rossi – so APTW was not surprised that he made a complete mess of all the chances he got. The clock soon wound down to full time and Barcelona finished the match 0-3 winners.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid

Carvalho reacts after scoring Real Madrid's 1st goal
In what was the last match of the night, Real Madrid hosted cross town rivals Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu with a giant banner proclaiming “Estos Es Madrid” (This is Madrid), probably a symbolic reference meaning “This is the true Madrid” or “This is Real Madrid where you do not win”. Whatever its implications, the giant banner would’ve surely been intimidating for the Rojiblancos who started out the match in their standard 4-4-2 formation.

Blood, Sweat, Tears & Goal
Real Madrid dominated possession early on with a Khedira goal rightly called offside, and within 10 minutes duly went ahead when Di Maria slipped in a ball which took a slight deflection off Ujfalusi before Carvalho – yes you heard it right; it was Carvalho – latched on to it and slotted it beautifully past David de Gea in the goal. Five minutes later, Filipe Luis took Ronaldo down just outside the box and the referee duly awarded the free kick after submitting to the linesman and Ronaldo’s cute crying puppy face, having ignored the challenge before. De Gea had positioned the wall incorrectly and this fact was not lost out on Ozil who kept his shot low and had the ball curve into the far post for Madrid’s second. The match there on was interesting in patches, since it became a midfield struggle with both teams pressing intensively for the ball. Jose Antonio Reyes had few good moments as he finked his way through Madrid’s defence for a couple of shots, one which went slightly over the bar, and one which Casillas parried away with a fine save. At the other end, Madrid had their own set of shots with Ronaldo, Di Maria and Higuain all coming close.

The second half began and continued in much the same way as the first. Mid-way through the second half Ozil latched on to a pass from Ramos on the left flank, turned Simao inside out, dodged Suarez and nutmegged Filipe Luis, before carrying the ball and feeding to Ronaldo who shot straight at De Gea. Ronaldo soon had his own share of show boating to entertain the crowd with when he backpassed – literally passed the ball with his back – to Alonso who crossed it in deep to the far post. Ramos, unmarked, powered a header from 2 yards out which went wide. Ronaldo then sent in a lobbed ball to Higuain who struck a sweet, lethal volley that left De Gea’s post rattling. Diego Forlan did the same thing at the other hand, leaving Casillas’ post rattling. As the half wore on, Benzema came on for Higuain, and while his link up play with Ronaldo and Marcelo was a treat to watch, it did not result in any more goals.

…Real Madrid are now top of the table with 26 points, highest number of goals scored and least conceded. Barcelona trail them by a point, while Villareal are third trailing the leader by 3 points.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Adios to a Player. Ola to a Coach

Adios to a Player. Ola to a Coach
Ever so often you see players you know are destined to be legends in the sport. Ruben De La Red was such a player, a player who epitomized self-confidence, talent and skill. He was sold to Getafe by the Calderon (mis)management, who thankfully had the foresight to include a buy-back clause in his sale. As was expected, he impressed everyone, especially in Euro 2008 when he scored a couple of crackers and Real Madrid finally took notice of the gem they had let go.

So, he was finally bought back by Real Madrid, and having risen from Real's youth ranks, the lad fit into the system like a glove. However sometimes, the effect of an entity's past actions are laden down on it in interest and that is what happened with Real Madrid. They lost DLR to a syncope he suffered while playing against Real Union in a Copa Del Rey Match

Two years passed since then, and despite extensive medical tests, nothing conclusive was ever found. So that he doesnt risk a case like Dani Jarque happening, the club's medical department advised De La Red to give up football for good. Today, at the age of 25 which would've been his break through year, Ruben De La Red announced his retirement from football. Today has been a sad day for all the madridistas around the world knowing that Ruben will never play in the white of Real Madrid again. They however know that he'll always be a part of the club hierarchy in a coaching facility, and would like to see him take the club to unprecedented heights as a coach.

Ruben De la Red's Press Conference:

"I am starting a very exciting stage in my carreer. I wish to send my support to all those players out there whose careers were also cut short. I am also very grateful to all the people who have supported me since I fainted. I've fought against this in vain and doctors advised me to stop. I always dreamt of becoming a football player and to be successful at this club, which is the greatest in the world. Real Madrid has watched me grow since I joined the Under-10 side and now it sees me retire from the game. I want to become a coach now. I may have a problem in my heart, but it still beats for Madridismo."

"I am very excited and anxious to start this new stage in my career thanks to the Club. I will be able to continue to work at a place I regard as my home. I will try to learn the skills of a coach and I will give my all to be successful. I am very excited and will be eternally grateful to the Club. I've been watching football from a different perspective for quite some time now, while at the same time I've been preparing for this new stage. Real Madrid are currently one of the strongest teams in Europe."

"I would like to eventually coach a great team like Real Madrid, but I really aspire to be satisfied with myself. I want to reach the elite some day."

"Jose Mourinho was very aware of my situation since day one and he was very clear when he spoke to me. He told me he counted on me if I was able to play, but if that wasn't the case, he said he would be delighted to have me in his staff."

"I've had many great moments. I took a very important step as a player when I was coached by Quique Sanchez Flores on the Under-19 side. I also fondly remember when Castilla were promoted with me on the team and the spectacular season Getafe had when I was there. That's my fondest memory because it allowed me to be called-up by the Spanish national team, with whom I ended up winning the Euro 2008. I then returned to the club that's marked my whole life."

Jorge Valdano on Ruben:

"This day marks a turning point in Ruben's life. He ends his career as a player to focus all his passion for this sport on training. He is, from today, a part of Real Madrid's Coaching Staff snd will start learning about what we do and how we come about it. He will also be part of Mourinho's 'lab', in which every game is rigorously prepared. The objective is for Ruben to learn skills in order to apply them to whatever team he ends up being assigned to. He's gone through all of the different teams the Club has and he will use that experience to continue to be a part of the world of football."

Press conference credit: RealMadrid Official Website

Oppurtunities, Offsides & Orgasmou

Real Madrid celebrate after scoring their 700th goal in Europe
An AC Milan vs Real Madrid encounter is always special, even before the ball is kicked, because it is the coming together of European Royalties. To put things into perspective, they have a mind boggling 28 European trophies between them – enough for any trophy cabinet curator to have a nightmare maintaining them – and the 2nd leg played out last night lived up to the pre-match media hype. The match was significant because of two reasons:
  1. Real Madrid have never won at the San Siro, and with The Special One in charge (who incidentally used the same ground as home for the other Milan, the treble winners Inter Milan, and has never lost there), they had a chance to break the jinx
  2. Allegri finally seemed to have seen sense and benched Clarence Seedorf in favor of Kevin Prince Boateng. With Abbiati, Pato and Silva back in the squad, Milan could boast that they were full strength this time round, so there was going to be no room for excuses
Oppurtunities

The match started predictably with Real Madrid dominating possession and blooding Milan with sucker punches. To say that Real Madrid deserved to be two goals up by the 30th minute is no overstatement either as Los Blancos peppered the Milan goal. Higuain latched on to a ball by Ozil early in the half and drilled a shot to the far post through four static Milan defenders. Abbiati scrambled and saved what would otherwise have been a very fine goal. As the first half aged, Madrid started turning the screws tight, with Sergio Ramos sending in a cross almost from the goal line to Higuain who headed it in perfectly, only for Pirlo to head it off the line; the ball landed to Di Maria who unleashed a volley, which Pirlo again headed out to safety off the line. As the half wore on, the urgency dimmed a bit, but Madrid’s brightest spark Di Maria latched on to a loose ball, went on a typical marauding run before picking out Higuain and feeding in a majestic through ball to the striker, who announced his real arrival on the European scene by scoring past Abbiati to the far post for Real Madrid’s 700th goal in European tournaments.

Higuain writes his name into the Elite List
What Irony that Higuain, who some sect of fans dub as a failure on the European scene, now joins an elite list of players who’ve scored milestone goals for Real Madrid in Europe (Miguel Munoz - 1st, Di Stefano -100th , Puskas – 200th, Jensen – 300th, Losada – 400th, Guti – 500th, Beckham – 600th)

Offsides

AC Milan looked to hit Madrid on the counter, but were not too successful seeing as the Real Madrid defensive line played high up the park and the forwards duly got caught offside. Ibrahamovic performed his disappearing act in Europe once more and Pato was a disappointment as well, but that was more due to the fact that Marcelo and Carvalho doubled up on him exceedingly well. AC Milan’s change came in the form of Inzaghi, the man identified by Mourinho as the danger man for Real and it was no surprise why Mourinho felt so, because Inzaghi scored two goals, the first one through combined gaffes by Pepe (who went to ground easily in a big game once again) and Casillas who misread Ibra’s cross and made a big mess out of it allowing Inzaghi to ghost in and score a header. Inzaghi’s second goal came from an offside position, which in the linesman quite inexplicably decided not to flag down, thereby cementing the popular phrase “Inzaghi was born and will die offside”

Orgasmou

Finding themselves a goal down despite dominating the entire match, Madrid looked out of ideas, out of inspiration and out of time. That is when Jose Mourinho worked his magic once more. Now APTW is very fair when it comes to awarding credit. The particular change which Mourinho made (replacing the erroneous Pepe with Benzema), was a tactic which Mourinho had seemingly borrowed from Pep Guardiola (re: Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona). What Guardiola did then was push up Alves into a LWM position with Busquets dropping back into the remaining three man defence to restore parity with the number four. It was in effect a 3-4-3 which became a 4-3-3 when Barcelona were without the ball. A similar approach was used by Mourinho who took off a centre back and put in a forward who likes to drift in from the flanks. He then took off Higuain who was the lone reference high up the pitch, and put in Pedro Leon a right winger. The players were moved on the field like chess pieces, with Madrid’s 4-2-3-1 becoming a 3-4-3 in attack and a 4-3-3 in defence.

Khedira moved deeper to sit ahead of the 3 defenders and sometimes dropped even deeper to compensate for the 4th man. Ramos (just like Puyol in Pep’s setup), is primarily a RB who can play center back and he did just that. Ronaldo moved from the left flank into the centre of the attacking trident, with Di Maria moving to his preferred left flank. Benzema took up the right side of the attacking trident, Ozil moved from his advanced playmaking role into the deep playmaking role, while Alonso moved deep and slightly off to the left, to compensate further for the reduced man in defence. Pedro Leon on the other hand was given full freedom to utilize the right flank and co-ordinate with Benzema, thereby utilizing both players with fresh legs against the tired legs of Milan. This tactical change worked wonders, as Benzema took the ball outside Milan’s box and opened himself to unleash a shot. Pedro Leon meanwhile had moved high up the park, almost as a targetman, and just as Benzema opened himself to take his shot, Leon made his run. Benzema spotted him and made an inside pass to Leon who slotted it between Abbiati’s legs for the equalizer with 30 seconds to go, stunning the San Siro into pin drop silence.

Super Subs
He may not be a Zidane or a Maradona, but Pedro Leon certainly has the mentality to be one. There are not many people who come on as a substitute and score the winner with 30 seconds to go in a ground as intimidating as the San Siro. Gattuso who was subbed for Seedorf couldn’t believe his eyes, while Inzaghi (having flashed the number 69 after scoring in a dig to Raul) had that look by which one can surmise that he must’ve wished Abbiati was never born.

...All in all, the match was one of the most entertaining matches APTW has seen, and mainly because of the sheer aura that both the teams have. Real Madrid should’ve won the match had they taken their chances well, but in retrospect, a draw is a very fair result. Props to Howard Webb for letting the game go on, instead of being a whistle happy ref.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Faking News: Liverpool's Future & Barca's Treble Valuation

It’s time for Another Prick In The Wall to report some sensational news which probably isn’t covered by any of the bigger news sources for fear of fan backlash or litigation. But being brave and challenging the accepted norms of society comes naturally to APTW, and hence without bothering about the consequences, APTW exclusively reveals two startling nuggets of information here:

Chip & Dale
John Henry’s plans for Liverpool FC

John Henry talked to the fans of the club he recently took over from the beleaguered previous owners Hicks & Gillett – making them look like Chip & Dale in the process – and while he said that NESV had big plans for Liverpool Football Club, he carefully refrained from outlined what exactly those plans were.

However, based on inside information from a source high up with NESV, Another Prick In The Wall confirms that John Henry plans to start Liverpool Football Club in place of er…Liverpool Football Club, the word Football being key. As the insider who quoted to APTW, “Note that John Henry never said Liverpool Soccer club, he said Liverpool Football Club”. Based on this valuable comment, APTW assumes that starting from the short term, John Henry plans to retain Roy Hodgson and the current crop of players, who he feels are much more suited to playing football the American way (Rugby, for those who're not bright). “The possibilities are endless”, our source tells us, “NESV, in the long term plan to start the NESV’s English Premier League which will feature all those clubs who are owned by sugar daddies who don’t give two hoots about football [the English one], are on the path of either going bankrupt or being thrown out by the insufferable English FA, and are open to being bought out by caring owners like us who are willing to give them a facelift and an entire sportlift”

For full quotes by the insider at NESV, click here.

Comic Look Alikes?
The True Valuation of Barca’s Pep Team

Summer 2009-10, a very confident Xavier Sala-i-Martin had announced that for € 65 million, Barca could buy the entire team that took the field in Rome for the Champions League final of 2008-09. Not minding the hypocrisy – Barca splashed roughly the same amount on Zlatan Ibrahamovic in the same summer – it turns out that poor Xavier was wrong after all.

The latest investigation carried out by Barca’s comic Mascherano look-alike president Sandro Rossell (the Mascherano signing is finally explained, don’t you think) seems to suggest that the true valuation of the Barca team that took to the field in the 08-09 final is at least € 102 million; the rather debatable 65 million of Senor Xavier and an extra, hitherto undisclosed € 47 million splashed by ex-president Joan Laporta on Rolex watches, caviar, champagne, for players and “refreshments” for all the fat turds that sit in the VIP box, and the likes. If there’s such a benevolent president who gives away freebies per game, I’m sure even Levante can have the motivation to do a treble. The full findings will be published in the civil court where Joan Laporta has set out to get screwed…er…sued. So, stay tuned for the end game and remember you read about it first on Another Prick In The Wall.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Triple Sundae

Unstoppable Quartet
Alright the title is a bit misleading since it covers matches that were played on a Saturday, but then the matches served up were comparable to the joys derived from eating the famed dessert and it was one of the most enjoyable weekends I’ve had because of two reasons: Firstly, it was a weekend featuring club football after 2 long weeks and secondly any match involving Real Madrid is “Special” (pun intended) these days.


Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

Moving on to the first match, Atletico vs Getafe was a brilliant, entertaining match and had me and my dad on the edge of our seats. Now, my dad isn’t a football follower, but stayed up to watch what I was serving him on the telly, and surprisingly he enjoyed it. I had originally expected this match to be a high scoring one given the fact that Madrid derbies are generally high scoring; and it sure was end to end stuff but minus the goals. That being said, Getafe looked uninspired in the final third and it was no wonder that De Gea was hardly tested in the Atletico goal. On the other hand, with due respect to Atletico, I’m beginning to think that that popular parlance of Atletico being only as good as Forlan and Aguerro together are, is true. In their absence, Atletico apart from some cameos by Reyes, Simao and Valera (for the final goal) looked out of ideas while finishing moves. Fran Merida in particular, had a forgettable night and was duly subbed out by Diego Forlan on the 66th mark. Simao netted the first goal from a wicked free kick, while Valera made a very fine overlapping run on the flank and squared the ball in to Diego Costa who put it in from 3 yards out for the second.

Barcelona vs Valencia

The second match of the night started as soon as Atletico wrapped up the 3 points and I was looking forward to the usual “Barcelona attacking, opposition defending with 70+ % possession in favor of Barcelona, but finding goals hard to come by” thingy. However, Unai Emery’s Valencia did pull out a rabbit out of the hat. In the first half, they led in all aspects: possession, shots, corners and more importantly goals. In fact, Valencia totally “outbarca’d” Barcelona in the first half; Pablo Hernandez finished off a wonderfully worked move from Mathieu on the left flank and was unlucky not to have scored another. With 45 minutes to go, the Asturians hit the showers for a quick breather, while the Catalans hit Pep’s spit shower. By Pep’s own public admission, he pisses perfume and I presume the spit too has some invigorating effects because it was a different Barca that took the pitch once the game resumed. Suddenly Valencia started getting pegged down, the possession counter shifted balance and World Cup Hero Andres Iniesta scored a trademark goal from 6 yards out; that of ghosting in through the defence, latching on to a Xavi final ball and slotting it past the keeper. While Valencia tried their best to figure out why Iniesta was not flagged down for offside, Xavi sent in a lobbed ball which Puyol brutally headed past Cesar Sanchez who until then was man of the match given the number of times he’d denied Barca a goal. At 2-1, Barca kept rolling the ball with their famed horizontal passing and saw out the match to become level on points and joint leaders with Valencia, at least until Madrid's game.

Malaga vs Real Madrid

After two entertaining matches, I was very apprehensive when Ferreira’s Malaga welcomed Real Madrid at La Rosaleda. Malaga had a piss poor home record but they have played a 4-3-3 this season with two pacey wide men in Rondon and club hopper Quincy, who drift in and could pose a threat for Marcelo and Arbeloa. Malaga, until then, also had the best goal scoring record of La Liga with 12 goals, but had a goal difference of zero. I didn’t expect Real Madrid to keep a cleansheet, rather I hoped they outscore Malaga. And exactly that happened. With the International break, everyone had read a lot about Ronaldo’s selfishness, but what they saw against Malaga was his selflessness. Around the 30th minute mark, instead of choosing to the cut outside the left back and go for glory like he generally does, Ronaldo lobbed a ball instead to the far post and Higuain slotted it past Galatto from an angle of roughly 3 degrees sending La Rosaleda into rapturous silence. The party tricks were on after that as the attacking quartet of Ronaldo, Higuain, Ozil and Di Maria meshed into a single entity allowing Malaga absolutely no respite. Ronaldo scored a penalty won by Ozil, before slotting in another one from open play, the pass created again by Ozil. Soon he sent Higuain through for the team’s fourth and Higuain’s second to finish with two goals and two assists himself. The best scene of the match was Mourinho gesticulating to a petrified Pedro Leon asking him to get his ass at the byline and start warming up, thereby quashing a lot of talk about fallout between the two. The best comment of the weekend was from Mourinho after the match when he immediately said that he was unhappy that Madrid had conceded from a set piece yet again. No doubt, The Special One will be working on some counter solution for that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Poll: What do you think about Sergio Ramos' Andalucian Joke?


Credits: Bharanithar

Another Prick In The Wall is also interested to know why you think what you think. So it would be swell if you can drop your choice and the reason for choosing in the "Comments" Section below.

Oh and In case you dont have a clue about what this Poll is talking about, you can read it by clicking on this link: Sergio Ramos' Andalucian Joke

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Talking Points

The crowd's already clapping at Roy's Liverpool Swan Song
As football leagues around the world ground to a temporary halt allowing the ruthless International Break train to plod on, Another Prick In The Wall took a look back at the last few weeks to garner some talking points for football fans to chew their brains on, which are currently devoid of any club football thoughts…

Roy Hodgson

The man of the moment is undoubtedly Roy Hodgson. Fulham’s last season’s success meant that Roy Hodgson was full of hope while taking over Liverpool. But his Mersyside dream has come crashing down like the Twin Towers because of a combination of his tactical naivety, shaky foundations, lack of fresh blood in the squad and general pessimism and off the pitch going-ons. While Kenny Dalglish is waiting outside his office with the disposition of Jesus taking back the black sheep into his flock, Roy’s days are inevitably numbered. Oh, and Pellegrini stands a chance of being on a job once more, subject to the will of God, of course.

Liverpool FC

Did I talk about the Twin Towers? While Roy is one, the club itself is the other tower that’s going down, and fast. Liverpool FC is trending worldwide on Twitter for all the wrong reasons. That reminds me of one of the tweets that I read last night which went something like:

Brought to Fame by Shanks and then to Shame by Yanks…Saved by the Bank of yet another Yank
Pretty much sums up the situation I’d say, though I have my reservations about the “being saved” part as Hicks and Gillett seem adamant to fight off any attempt to sell the club without their authorization. Stay tuned for a long, drawn out court battle. This year, Liverpool is the world’s favorite circus!

Wayne Rooney

Lately, Shrek has been appearing in the news for all the wrong reasons. But after all the various drops the poor guy had to endure, a rise in number of mentions in tabloids is quite justified. Dropped out of the World Cup without a single goal scored, dropped by the hooker whose performance standards he could not meet while cheating on his then pregnant girlfriend, dropped from the United starting line-up due to lack of goals (“To protect Rooney”, says Fergie), dropped from Coke’s marketing campaign, on the verge of being dropped from the English NT, things aren’t going too well for big Wayne. The tabloid mentions might just serve as a light at the end of the tunnel.

Marouane Chamakh

The Arsenal striker looks upon Zinedine Zidane as his god and not Didier Drogba, by his own admission. While it’s good to harbor such feelings, he could do taking a leaf out of Drogba’s book and start scoring. Looked upon as an idol or not, Drogba has never failed to shine against Arsenal and the 2-0 states that Chamakh could do with switching loyalties for the time being and take some pointers from the man from Ivory Coast. Talking about Arsenal, they’re once again in their rebuilding phase and their number of titles is far lesser than Alisher Usmanov’s many chins.

Jose Mourinho

After being lauded as Jesus’ second coming and Satan Reincarnated at the start of the season by Marca and El Mundo Deportivo respectively, Mourinho has kept the sound bytes flowing. From labeling Pedro Leon to be the very anti-thesis of Zidane and Maradona to his fabled press walk out post the UEFA Champions League match against Auxerre and finally asking young Juan Carlos if he was shitting himself during Madrid’s demolition of relegation contenders Deportivo la Coruna, the Spanish press has had quite a bit of Mou-bytes this summer, while Barca have had enough of his squad which just doesn’t seem to lose, home or away.

Real Madrid CF

While Real Moudrid hasn’t lost a game so far this season, it hadn’t given fans much to cheer about. Of course, the fickle madridistas don’t cheer 0-0s and 1-0s, which is precisely what a Mourinho coached team sets out to offer its fans (at least that’s the popular parlance). I have to admit, I’ve been waiting for the Mourinho death watch (a term familiar amongst Madridistas as they’ve gone through so many manager death watches and subsequent sackings) to start sooner or later. But instead, I was shocked when the Santiago Bernabeu erupted into a chant for Mourinho…yes you heard it right…a chant for Mourinho. I was reminded of a cule who had once quipped, “It takes little to please the Bernabeu these days”. The chant is enough input to make the fairly accurate deduction that Marca has been the largest selling sports daily in Spain.

FC Barcelona

Talking about the Bernabeu and Marca, it is only logical to move on to the self importance of Catalunya, where everything is self proclaimed to be not just good, but world class. However, subpar performances have blighted the happy summer in Barcelona. Stadium attendances are mediocre, the team has only 17 first team outfield players and with Pedro and Xavi injured, things aren’t too rosy at the Pope’s favored club. Catalans have their excuse ready and still continue to trumpet about their famed La Masia rather than looking inwards and analyzing the obvious fact that their game has become predictable and easy for teams to get a point at their stadium.

Goal of the Month

Now that I have exhausted all my limited facilities and poured out what little I know in yet another drawn out article, it’s worth mentioning that there are so many talking points around you to keep yourself occupied with till the insufferable international break ends. This goal for instance

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Two-Face Series: Ronaldo

With the ball, CR7 is a glorified ball hog with the exception that he's the world's finest ball hog. But give him a make up kit and he resembles an overdressed pretty poodle.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tactical Talks - Part II

Countering Point 2 of Opposition Dynamics

As stated previously (re: section Opposition Dynamics of Tactical Talks – Part I), this tactic would largely be employed by teams like Atletico Madrid or Villareal, very much teams we need to win against, if we are to win the league. Broadly speaking…
  1. A 4-2-3-1 formation, which is more of a 4-4-2 can be the preferred way to deal with pressing teams. This formation means that we beef up the midfield, and concentrate on stretching the play to the flanks. Before Mourinho re-introduced the magic and effectiveness of defensive double packs to football, most of the teams pretty much pressed play against us and got a result as well. However, in the Galacticos Era, Mark I, we used a diamond 4-4-2 on most occasions, where we stretched play down to the wings and then made our kill down the middle. But back then we had a Zidane or Guti down there in the center, who was capable of making that kill, which brings me to the next point
  2. Having a slightly deep lying tre-quartista of supreme quality is essential against such teams. Teams which press invariably tend to leave gaps which can be exploited to brutal effect, if you have a supreme midfielder orchestrating the midfield. We tried to play this pressing game against Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu and suffered the 6-2 because of Xavi. Zidane has retired and Guti is plying his awesome trade in Besiktas (off the pitch entertainment included), but we have Mesut Oezil, Kaka and Alonso; players capable of playing that final ball, but nowhere near the quality of the three masters stated previously. If you ask me, I think Kaka is past it already and those who wait with beady eyes for the resurrection of God’s chosen child are just kidding themselves (and that’s just a feeling). Anyway, Oezil and Alonso (with Canales as back up) are the two guys whom we can look upon to play this role realistically speaking. Even if they do not possess the quality as that of a Zidane or Xavi, they are certainly players worth their salt and can triumph against most of the sides that would use this formation against us
  3. You might think that I’ve stated a 4-2-3-1 as a preferred formation, but haven’t talked about it. It is because we’ve already been using the 4-2-3-1 for the first 6 match days and as such we all know its merits and demerits. While we can beef up the midfield with a 4-2-3-1 against such teams, we run the risk of restricting width and being too narrow, but then again pressing teams will leave gaps and a 4-2-3-1 would be very effective too. I for one, think that a flat 4-4-2 would be invitation for suicide against these teams for the simple reason that it is rendered ineffective against teams which play a pressing game. These generally employ a striker and a support striker that plays like an advanced tre-quartista (in the hole between our defence and midfield), but actually holds the ball in counter attacks or attracts players and lays it off to the real striker while counter attacking
Countering Point 3 of Opposition Dynamics

This approach would be taken up by very few teams in the world viz. Barcelona and Bayern Munich and considering the fact that we play Barcelona at least twice every season and that these matches are often the title deciders in a season, we need to be spot on with our tactics under such oppositions. Juande Ramos made us play against Barcelona man to man after a season of counter attacking and it was an absolute carnage. Pellegrini made us beef up the midfield and play a high backline; we were pretty during the entire match and with some inspiration in the final third could’ve won as well, but the high backline killed us. I do not have much to add in here, except…
  1. 1. This is Mourinho’s territory; he is simply the best man out there to tackle such teams and I trust his judgement implicitly. I’d be more than happy to play like how Inter did, provided we win against arguably the best Barcelona side of my time
  2. Matches like these need mavericks (re: point 3 of Team Dynamics), those players whom you cannot tie down to any game plan, and who need to be on top form in games like these. If you’ve not already figured that out, these are the matches where our 94 million euro investment is justified. This is the match where we need Ronaldo to be at his devastating best
  3. These are the matches where the fans need to stop being romantic and think practically; the fickle madridistas need to keep their hankies in their pockets and if they do get them out, it should be only to wipe the tense sweat off their bros. And yes, they need to be the quintessential 12th man
Conclusion

We seem to be heading the right way and I would like to see some experimentation with the formations when we’re faced with the different types of oppositions outlined above. The current lack of goals is only a temporary thing I hope, though I will not dismiss it as simply a by-product of a state of transition given the fact that the state of transition has lately become the permanent state of affairs at Real Madrid.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tactical Talks - Part I

Routine Training Session

Credit to Midhun Mohandas for handing me the idea of writing this long and boring piece

APTW takes a break from the usual satirical stuff and gets down to talking some real footie stuff once in a while. And since Real Madrid haven't been playing much "Football" lately, It's better to indulge in some retrospection, introspection and into the ether to divulge the future; the future of the team. Like the title suggests, APTW will try to discuss different aspects in this article in sets of three. However, I'll like to warn you that at times in this article you'll feel like you're watching Memento because it'll reference some parts that have already been discussed, so you may find yourself scrolling back to the top and reading those parts just for things to make sense.

So let’s move on to the first one...

Team Dynamics

After 6 match days, three things are quite clear about the team..
  1. We have an unholy number of shots at goal, but closer inspection reveals that very few chances have been realistic chances (Re: Matches against Auxerre, Levante, Sociedad, Osasuna, Mallorca)
  2. We've struggled to break down resolute defences, primarily because we're defensively oriented ourselves (Wait a second, we have the highest number of shots on goal!..Re: point 1 above)
  3. The mavericks have failed to adjust to the team dynamics which Mourinho is trying to get into place (Re: Ronaldo, Di Maria -goal notwithstanding, Higuain, Benzema)
 Opposition Dynamics

The second aspect worth concentrating on is the opposition. After 6 match days (and some liberal predictions), three things are clear about what our opposition will set out to do...
  1. Either park the bus, i.e. 2 lines of 4 defenders each, with a spare man to pick up any of our overlapping attackers and 1 physically strong forward at the half line to hold on to the ball and orchestrate a quick counter 
  2. Quick Pressing to stifle us, to not allow us time on the ball, force us into wayward passes and hoof the ball to forwards 
  3. Match us man to man and turn it into a possession struggle in the center of the park.
I expect chances of that happening are.. 70% for Point 1, 20% for Point 2, 10% for Point 3. The essential thing is to predict how teams will play against us and then devise a strategy to counter that. For example, against teams like Levante and Auxerre, it was totally obvious right from the outset what they'd do, and yet we persisted with questionable strategies that made us make a match out of a walk over (okay, that's exaggeration for you). It's quite obvious (even without possessing the tactical nous of a Nostradamus and Mourinho combined) that teams like Atletico Madrid, United and Villareal would play us like mentioned in point 2, and teams like Barcelona, Bayern would play us like in point 3.

Based on these premises, I'll propose three different broad level strategies that the team can adopt.

Countering Point 1 of Opposition Dynamics

Since this is going to be a persistent problem we're going to face as the season ages, it is essential that we have some strategies to counter this effective and efficient move by the opposition. So, Broadly speaking...
  1. We should do away with the defensive double pivot. Amongst Alonso / Khedira / Lass / Mahamadou, except Alonso, we do not have any other ball playing defensively minded midfielder who can link up the defence to attack exceedingly and consistently well; i.e. carry the ball out from defence to attack. Lass, when he plays, tries to do so much that he complicates a simple passing move by over running or by breaking the paradigms of zonal marking; chasing the person with the ball to the ends of the Earth. Khedira poses much more talent and positional sense than Lass and Diarra and should logically start above them, but he looks out of ideas in the final third. Still, he is a workable solution against parked buses only when we shift from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3. Against organized defences, it is only logical that we should put in as many attackers (in their proper respective places) as we can, so that we stand more chances of trying to break the wall. A 4-3-3 formation enables a minimum of 6 passing triangles amidst a defensive wall of 8. Add to that the horizontal passing lanes coupled with the fullbacks' overlapping runs, and the possibilities are endless. In a 4-2-3-1, it often happens that the two defensive midfielders sit away from the action (which means we hog possession) and it leaves a line of 3 midfielders which the opposition's first line of 4 cancels out, and to add to the misery, the box poacher is totally lost
  2. The 4-3-3 looks simple but is difficult to master, and as such requires players of a typical style, i.e. those trained in off-the-ball movements (currently a serious issue that needs to be addressed), and playing in their natural habitat and side of the pitch. What Mourinho did against Auxerre was absolutely shocking; playing 3 defensive midfielders in a 4-3-3 against a side which was expected to defend, thereby rendering the formation useless. What he should've done (yes APTW is more qualified than him) is play Oezil in the lopsided advanced left center midfielder role (his natural habitat for Germany and Werder) and Granero in the deep lying right center midfielder role (his natural habitat for Getafe) with Alonso in his deep lying center role (his natural habitat for Spain and Liverpool). The forward line was correct with Benzema and Ronaldo changing flanks giving the center-backs no chance to guess whom to mark and Higuain trading passes with them, but there was a distinct absence of passing triangles (re: Point 2 of Team Dynamics) and as such little of note was created. The good thing was when Mesut Oezil replaced Lass and Di Maria replaced Benzema and the goal, when it came in came from players in their preferred positions (Ramos on right to Oezil behind the striker to Di Maria on the left), and one of the few team worked goals of this season
  3. The second alternative, or Plan B if I may, would be to use a 4-2-3-1 / 4-4-2 with natural wide players after doing away with the inverted wingers. Needless to say, the wide players should be Di Maria and Pedro Leon in their natural habitat with overlapping fullbacks, who in addition to the 2 strikers in the box (beefing up the presence in the box), stretch play and increase our presence in the final third

To be continued..

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fan Squeal Part 1 - Nationalism & Seperatism

Football in Spain is well known for its Morbo, a word that cannot be translated, but which means deep and intense passion which feeds on itself and attains levels unthought or unheard of. Where there's Morbo, there's Another Prick In The Wall, who constantly likes to stoke the fires of Morbo.

Fan Squeal is a cartoon strip designed specifically to depict some of the fan interactions across the globe. While this strip will focuse pre-dominantly on Spanish Football, you may see the occasional mention of other European clubs; so stay tuned....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Xavi Two-Face

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With the Ball at his feet, Xavi is nothing less than the conductor of a fine orchestra. But give him a mike, and he resembles a fine baboon with all that insane chatter.

The Two-Face Series

Another Prick In The Wall cannot resist taking the mickey out of football players, club managers or any of its associated acts. So I present to my beloved audience what I call "The Two-Face Series". It is a satirical viewpoint of the Jekyll and Hyde personalities that we see in Football; well not necessarily as bad as Hyde, but I assume you got the drift...

Of course, it would be stupid to assume that APTW will handle the entire pressure of presenting you football's two faces on a regular basis, so it would be prudent on your part too, to drop me a line occassionally lending me that idea which struck you a minute ago.

You can do so by:

a.) Dropping me a note in the comments section of APTW's Facebook Page
b.) Dropping me an email

NOTE: Due credits shall be given

And if what this series is, is still not clear to you, stay tuned. I daresay you'll figure it out very soon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Exclusive: Florentino Perez's Fourth Agenda


Latest rumors suggest that Florentino Perez, President of Real Madrid CF, will hold a press conference on Friday, 24th September at 10:00 AM CET. While the purpose of this conference is yet unrevealed and various speculations are rife; some of them suggesting that Jose Mourinho will be fired in light of poor play from the team, while still others suggest that Florentino Perez will step down from the post of El Grande because of a difference in opinion with other board members.

However, after contacting some reputed sources, Another Prick In The Wall exclusively reveals that the press conference is actually a continuation to Perez's earlier address where he made three promises to the Bernabeu faithful. The latest press conference will be to announce Perez's plan to add a fourth point to the agenda. It seems that after watching the match against Espanyol from the VIP Box in the Santiago Bernabeu, Florentino Perez has been locked down in discussions with stadium contractors for the feasibility study to get his new plan underway.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

David "Iker" de Gea?


These days players are blooded early, much too early it would seem, but given the level of competition that keeps increasing in football, it is only a natural turn of things. This however doesn’t mean that the young guns turn out to be very good players, just because they see action early in life. But ever so often, you see these players, who show maturity way beyond their age. They have that ability to not only soak up pressure at a tender age, but respond favorably to the load of expectations placed on their young shoulders. These are the “cracks”; these are the players that take your breath away.

The newbies who saw David de Gea in action against Barcelona must surely have had that feeling. Born in Madrid, Spain, at 19 years of age, David de Gea is a goalkeeper who plies his trade for Atletico Madrid. He is an Atletico product through and through, having come up from their youth ranks and now the first choice; El Numero Uno. Last night he showed the world why he starts for Atleti over other experienced keepers by keeping the team in the match making superb saves after saves; he must’ve saved at least four goals, and saved Atletico Madrid from what would otherwise have been an embarassing scoreline.



Sunday, September 12, 2010

7 Reasons why International Breaks Suck


  1. If you’re primarily a resident from a country that doesn’t belong to the top 50, you don’t give two hoots about meaningless friendlies and qualifiers
  2. The Infamous FIFA Virus which affects players of your club, especially if they play for Real Madrid or Arsenal
  3. It nullifies the morbo that was being carefully nurtured and built up to a crescendo
  4. If you’re the citizen of countries like England, there are chances that you will get to read about Rooney’s extra marital performance (or the lack of) rather than England’s performance
  5. If you happen to support a club that has had a poor result before the leagues break up for the International break, you will be treated to endless paranoia created and fed by sports dailies trying to meet their sales targets
  6. Acute Favorite Club Football Withdrawal Syndrome which affects you
  7. You have to listen to Platini who times his verbal bouts perfectly with FIFA’s International Break

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

All the Week's Action in La Liga: Jornada 1

Here we are at the end of week 1 of La Liga and the weekend’s results are as follows:

Hercules 0 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
Málaga 1 – 3 Valencia
Levante 1 – 4 Sevilla FC
Deportivo 0 – 0 Real Zaragoza
Espanyol 3 – 1 Getafe
Osasuna 0 – 0 Almeria
Real Sociedad 1 – 0 Villarreal
Racing 0 – 3 Barcelona
Mallorca 0 – 0 Real Madrid
A. Madrid 4 – 0 Sporting Gijon

A newly promoted Hercules did well in keeping the ball against the Basques, however with their new signings (Valdez and Trezeguet) not making the cut, they created precious little and lost their opening fixture. Malaga seem to have picked up from where they left off last season, that is, losing once more. Valencia, on the other hand, completely overwhelmed Malaga in their own backyard, and a spirited performance by Joaquin in the 2nd half saw them comfortable winners. Joaquin along with Vicente have been standard pall bearers for Valencia for some time now, and in the absence of David Villa and Silva, they have once more taken up the mantle of Valencia’s resurrection force.

Sevilla comfortably dispatched Levante after initially conceding a lead, controversies notwithstanding. Let’s face it, the officiating in Spain is poor, and it will be sometime before we can see any change. So, for now, let’s get on with the game.

The Ronaldo Conundrum


At the outset of this post, I’d like to warn you that this post may appear to be the work of a hyper reactive moron, or worse a schizophrenic paranoid. But I wrote it nevertheless because if the quarry that I discuss in this post comes to pass, I have the right of saying “I told you so”. If not; well I’ve been called worse things and reading the work of a moron, what does that make you?

I was waiting with bated breath for Real Madrid’s La Liga opener to kick off at the Ono Estadi. However, it turned out to be a distinct and a “snoozey” if I may add, anti-climax after all the initial euphoria of seeing Mourinho’s men take the pitch for a supposed cracking encounter. In the end, there was precious little of note to pen down. The match finished at 0-0 with both sides clamoring for the referee’s head, just as it is always done in the Spanish La Liga run by those brain farts that seem to totally overlook the poor officiating present in the league. Anyway, coming back to the match, since there was absolutely no action to concentrate on and to keep myself awake, I started focusing on the other things like how many seats were empty in each row of the stadium and how many times Ronaldo acted like a Diva. The good thing was Ronaldo’s count was significantly lower than the number of empty seats but it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth; 33 goals from 35 starts in his first season and now billed to uphold the glowing tradition of the number 7 jersey and he was busy taking dandy swipes at the legs of yet another Mallorcan defender who had fouled him or potshots at the goal from impossible angles and distances, some of them so much that even Ronaldo wouldn’t have been able to score.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer Shignings

With Jorge Valdano very vocally slamming shut the door labeled “New Transfers” on the remaining poor souls who were not bought by Real Madrid, there’s still no guarantee that the transfer season has actually concluded at the White House. Because Valdano is after all an Argentino, and a quick look at how he’s backtracked so many times on statements of finality leaves you with a lingering feeling that Flo Perez will still open his coffers for that one last signing. But for now, we’ll take Valdano’s word as the absolute and assume that Real Madrid are actually done as far as the summer transfer window is concerned.



So, here’s a quick rundown of this season’s summer signings along with pre-season ratings …

Jose Mourinho
Undoubtedly, THE Galactico signing of the summer. The club aims to fulfill two objectives with this signing: a.) Win the Holy Grail a.k.a. El Decima a.k.a. The elusive 10th UEFA Champions League Trophy and b.) Forge a core team with a winning mentality.

Jose Mourinho is a thoroughbred in managers, the kind who have always achieved both points A and B at whichever club they’ve managed. All in All, a full 10 points for this signing. There have been big coaches who have failed fantastically at Real Madrid. But none of them were bigger than Jose Mourinho. By the winter break things will be clear either way; we may start listening to clarion calls or church hymns, and depending on one of them Mourinho might decide to exercise the release clause which he had the foresight to insert into his contract. It’s always better to scream “I Resign” than having “You’re Fired” being screamed at you.

Sergio Canales

Boy!!...Yeah he’s a boy, but that was supposed to be an exclamation. Anyway, Sergio Canales, at age 16, had already been dubbed as a crack, and following his last season exploits (notably the two goals against Sevilla), he was labeled by the irksome Spanish media as the next Golden Boy of Spain. Real Madrid swooped on the lad before Laporta could say “Cule” and Mourinho promptly decided to draft him into the team straightway, the proposed loan back to Racing Santander never getting any flight.

A superstar performance at the U-19 FIFA European Championship only saw his stardom rise higher and having seen him in the pre-season, I can only label him as a Guti-atric player plus work rate. He was always branded by the Madridistas as Guti’s heir and make no mistake, if this lad keeps his head down and works his ass off, he’ll be greater than Guti ever was; the maturity that he shows beyond his 19 years is testament to this fact. A solid 9/10 for this signing.

Angel Di Maria

Honestly, 25 million Euros? One would think Benfica had the decency to deal with us like gentlemen given the fact that half of our rejects play in their team and for one player going the other way, they would be less greedy. Sadly that wasn’t the case and they join all those other clubs who have regularly slit our pockets.

I followed Di Maria in Benfica’s campaign for Europa League glory last season and was quite impressed by the lad. He is a big match player and is generally not fazed by the opposition or the occasion. That’s good, because when the white hankies come out at the White House, he’s going to need that or he has to have the ice in his veins like Guti did (sigh!). Anyway, having wanked over Di Maria, I have to confess that he’s still quite green behind the ears and under his feet, which is why the 25 million euros seem absurd. If he stays in favor of El Jose Mourinho, he might develop into one of the scariest wingers. A 7/10 rating for now.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

UEFA: Underhanded Egomaniacal Fuck-All Association


I know the title is very strong; UEFA actually have a good vision about this entire financial fair play concept. However, what I don’t like is the bigotry, which lately is part of the territory when it comes to UEFA. On one hand, Platini makes vociferous claims that though he plans to introduce the Financial Fairplay scheme (which broadly means that clubs will not be allowed to spend more than they earn), it will only be applicable by 2012 which gives time to clubs to sort out their financial woes. Then the same Platini goes ahead and bans RCD Mallorca from taking part in this season’s Europa League.

Now, don’t get me wrong. For a club of Mallorca’s stature, being in the financial mess that they are in, they deserve a strong rap on their butts (make that a double to Webo whom I dislike very much), but they do not deserve an action so extreme. Mallorca has a debt of € 85 million, which is quite a lot and they have gone into administration, which is like a public admission that they cannot service their debts. You may be forgiven for thinking why I’m bitching then. You’d feel that they should hire better financial managers than the idiots who’re running the club right now and get it done. But that is not my beef actually. Oh I mean, they need to hire better financial planners and all that, but there are three things that stand out for me.

New Ownership

They have a new owner (Lorenzo Serra Ferrer) and Rafael Nadal has also bought shares into the club with the aim of pouring in some much needed money. Lorenzo Serra Ferrer has a long time association, being born there, then playing and finally coaching Mallorca. What Ferrer did after immediately taking over is go into voluntary administration. Though this is like a public admission that you’re bankrupt, it essentially allows the club to operate and yet pay off the debts. Administration is actually a good thing in the long term for the club. It will help them survive and pull out of the financial mess that they find themselves in currently. A point to be noted here is that there are clubs like Fulham who are in a marginally better financial condition but were allowed to continue playing in the Europa League last season simply because they haven’t publicly admitted that they’re going broke.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

“Mou”re Formation Blues

Marca has dubbed Mourinho’s arrival to Madrid as the second coming of Jesus, while Sport has labeled the subsequent signings as a “failed summer of devalued players”; two extremes, which have left fans with their knickers twisted around their ankles, that is to say, an uncertainty of what to expect from The Special One, who is known to do unexpected things.

There’s been plenty of talk in the press about how this Madrid side is going to play under Jose, some of the supporters justifying that with a side comprising of Ronaldo, Benzema, Kaka and Higuain, it is Impossible to play defensive football as if there is such a term in Jose’s dictionary. If you tell him to and give him enough time, Jose can serve up some of the most turgid football you’ll ever see in your lifetime with a team brimming with attacking talent; that’s how he is. Obviously, this trait has people like me, who have a weakness for those little moments of flair and artwork (known colloquially as “Beautiful Football”), very worried. So, I’ve tried to analyze the possible ramifications for a Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho. Essentially, I see only two ways the team can line up under Mourinho, broadly a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, employed in different manners based on the opposition and the tournament. So, my discussion here will be based around this premise.

Let us inevitably rewind to the UCL semi-final 1st leg of Inter Milan vs Barcelona. Now assume it was Real Madrid who faced Barcelona that night (Yeah right, wishful thinking!); we’d see our team lining up in the manner shown in the diagram on the left.

Though the positions of Kaka, Benzema and Ronaldo have been shown advanced on the pitch, if it was the first leg, we would’ve seen them lining up in a more withdrawn role, with Benzema omitted altogether in preference of Marcelo. However, even with the withdrawn roles, it would mean a distinct lack of defensive quotient in the team, because Kaka and Ronaldo are not really known for their work rate in defending. Another thing to concentrate on is the dotted arrows. Again, you can observe the distinct lack of movement and interchanging positions; but then a counter attacking formation doesn’t really allow you that luxury since you spend most of the time defending. All in all, this would mean suicide. So a point to those who feel that it’s impossible to play a defense oriented formation with Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka in the same team.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gracias 7egend, The Golden Boy of Spain (1995 - 2010)


I wonder how many people back then in the 1990s would've thought that the sprightly boy who initially was part of the Athletico Madrid youth setup and later moved to their bitter and cross town rivals Real Madrid and who drove a nail into the Atleti fans by scoring against them in only his second home game, would be hailed as a Blanco Legend 15 years later. I wonder how many people in the last 2 years actually thought that Raul will leave the club and play for another one. I wonder how many people are thinking about the fact that Raul might play against Real Madrid in this season's UEFA Champions League.

Like most accepted notions, people always took for granted that Raul will retire at Real Madrid. That very fact has been blown to smitherness with Raul departing to play for Schalke 04. Raul was the symbol of the club, the Golden Boy of Spain, so much so was his position in the club that people have always referred to Real Madrid as Raul Madrid. It is indeed a travesty to see this great man don another club's jersey and I'm going to feel very gutted the day I see it happen (as if I dont feel gutted already). I've never been a big Raul fan, but I do know that he epitomized the club. The name Real Madrid was synonymous with this great player and almost no one in today's date can offer to the club that much which Raul has. Raul always delivered on the biggest stage of them all. As he leaves Madrid, he leaves a trail of gold to follow for youngsters aspiring to be like him. He leaves the club as the club's all time top scorer, La Liga's all time top scorer, UEFA Champions League's all time top scorer and the current top scorer for Spain.



Raul was never a pacey striker, neither was he one of them step-over infatuated, flashy kinds of striker. What he had in him was an excellent first touch and an uncanny ability to ghost in thru the opposition's defence and latch on to a thru ball and score, unerringly and effeciently. The sheer number of goals he has scored is testament to that. Raul upheld a long pedigree of number 7s for Real Madrid. From Juanito to Butragueno, the Real Madrid number 7 has always passed on to Spanish players who've gone on to become Legends and Raul kept pace with that long standing tradition. I will always miss Raul for all those moments that he provided and I sincerely wish that he returns back to Madrid. For a guy who never got a red card in 24 long years of service to Football, I can safely say that he'll make a great boardroom director for Real Madrid.


Adios 7egend. Muchas Gracis. Respect.
_____________________________________________________________________________
In Raul's own words...

Before I begin I would like to thank everyone in attendance, and thank you to the president for his kind words. I love football more than anything, and to play for Real Madrid is the best dream I can think of. I feel like a footballer, and I want to continue doing so as long as time and my body permit.


Throughout the years I have always tried to stay true to the values of Real Madrid. Today more than ever before I want everyone to know that I tried to give my very best in every play, every dribble, every shot and every gesture on the pitch. That is what Real Madrid is to me, and that is why the word surrender never existed in my head.

Today is a very emotional day. Today is a day of powerful feelings. Today is a day that cannot do without my gratitude and thanks. It is impossible to name each and every person who over this time have stood by me and helped me. They know I will never forget them because they never let me down and they always stood by me even in the worst of times. Thank you to all the presidents and directors because they always made me feel at home over the last 16 years. Thank you to all the teammates who I shared a dressing room with. Their sacrifice and commitment helped me be a better player. Thank you to all club employees, because they are essential and they make our work easier. Thank you to all the coaches and coaching staff who I shared day-to-day duties with and who I shared victories and defeats with. Thank you to our opponents, because I always felt your respect. It was an honor to play against you. Thank you to the media as well, because whether it was by praise or criticism, you also helped me make it to this point. And thank you to my people. You know who you are because you are always by my side. Thanks Jorge for giving me that first opportunity. For many it was a crazy move by a football poet, and thank you to Florentino Perez, because I know you always search for what is best for this club. I am convinced that this will be a great season and I hope that Real Madrid win many titles this year. Thank you, of course, to the millions of Real Madrid supporters who always want us to win and who suffer with every defeat.

I will never forget that their strength was also my strength and fortitude, and also to the Santiago Bernabeu, where I always felt loved and respected. Thank you everyone for everything and for so much. And finally, thank you from the bottom of my heart to my family, because thanks to them, nothing, not even football, would make any sense.

The time has come to make a decision. I have worn the shirt of the best team in the world for 15 years. I am now 33-years old and it was my last chance to experience playing football outside of Spain. It was a long, hard decision, but this isn't a goodbye, but rather a see you later. I will always support Real Madrid wherever I go.

I want to thank Real Madrid for their patience in allowing me to make this decision
without haste. I have thought about with my family and the club in a calm manner. It was difficult because there was a new coach who counted on my services. I had to look at the situation from a certain perspective. I made a decision and it is a painful one, but I think it is also the correct one.

I have many fond memories and to think of just one is impossible. I think the greatest moment for me was when I got home on Friday 28 October and told my mom that I was traveling to Zaragoza with the first team and that I was going to play. My mom could not hold back her happiness, which was the greatest thing I have ever seen. I will stick with this memory because it was the first, but there have been thousands.

Number '7' is very symbolic for Real Madrid. I am sure that the players who wear it will do so as they should. You must enjoy the moment and not live in the past. What is important is not the number, but rather the crest. That is what I consider most important. The number is important because of its tradition. I am sure that whoever wears the number '7' will do it well.

Jose Mourinho made me think long and hard about my decision. He is a great coach and I have always admired his work. We spoke and he told me that he counted on me and was looking forward to training me. But I decided to make my decision from a different perspective.

I cannot end this speech without sending my love, support and deep admiration to our maestro, Alfredo di Stefano. I hope that one day soon he is able to again sit in
this balcony, from where I am sure that during every match he will want to move
the ball with his eyes and thoughts.

Football is and has been my life. Real Madrid has been my home and here I have experienced unique emotions. Today is the first day of my new life, during which I will try something so complex and difficult as it is to be as immensely happy as I have been at Real Madrid. Many years have gone by since I suited up in white for the first time. With that time now passed and on the day of my farewell, I reassert more than ever my commitment to this club and my loyalty to its values. I will always be available for whatever it needs. Thank you from the bottom of my footballer heart.

Hala Madrid.

Guti (1995-2010) - 15 Years in Number 14

I have my favorite players in ronnie and zizou, but as a madridista, i've always preferred Guti over everyone else. Probably the fact that he's been a part of the club since the time he could kick a ball, or all that I-am-supreme-and-you-are-mortal attitude goes a long way in making him my favorite madrid player.
He is the only player i associate with being a true madrid player, someone who's always bled white. It's because he's got everything real madrid epitomizes: class, arrogance, cojones, attitude, pride and a never-say-die attitude and to top it all, Guti has always had ice in his veins. You can bring him on when the team's down by 3 goals and still expect him to salvage the situation. The amount of stars Guti has seen pass thru Madrid is unimaginable for any other player. Yet, he survived. It's truly a mark of a great player; his career numbers speak for themselves and as he leaves this institution, Guti doesnt have anything more to prove. He has played everywhere as a player except in defence and as a goalkeeper. He has done that, time and again, in his 15 years with the first team and 26 years overall (26 years is one less than my total age).

I cannot bring myself to imagine real madrid without Guti. Since the time I've followed the club, I've always seen Guti; his antics, his passes, his goals..both the crass and the class. I know when the chips are down, I'll always have that wishful thinking that "This would be the time Guti joins the fray and opens up the game", but Guti will never join the fray anymore. That is his legacy to us as fans; to keep remembering him.

Like he said in his last reveal-all press conference "I have no regrets about how my life turned out, if I had the chance to rewind it, this is still how I'd like it to be". Attitude, Class. Respect. Like the great Zidane commented, "Guti can do things with the ball even I or any other players cannot imagine".
You will never be forgotten, our (yet another) blonde arrow. Muchas Gracias, Guti. You will always be missed.













\Legend/ ..Respect.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In Guti's own words...

Thank you all. I leave knowing Real Madrid will always be my home. Part of my
heart stays here today. I would like to return after retiring as a player.

I would like to thank Real Madrid for being so good to me. I've been at the Club 24 years and I achieved something very important to me: to play for the best team in the world and grow both as a player and as a person at Real Madrid. I owe half my life to Club because it's been like a family to me. The values this shirt represents have all been instilled in me. I've had good and bad moments here, but the fans have always been there for me and I am very grateful. The fans are great and I've had a great connection with them over the years.

I know Madridismo loves me. The fans have given me a lot and we've shared many joys together. If they miss me then I've done a good job. I am about to begin a new and exciting stage in my career and I wish to enjoy being in a new country to the fullest. This has been a beautiful and glorious experience, but these things happen in football all the time. Younger players need to be given way and I feel proud and happy for having played here.

I'd like people to remember me for my passes and for having been a Madridista that gave his all for the team. I always wished to play for Real Madrid and I did my best to stay, refusing very tempting offers to play elsewhere. One of the best things I've experienced is the great mixture of star players and youth teamers on the team. I am proud of that.

I wouldnt have been able to achieve all this without my team-mates. My best relationships on the squad were with Raul and Alvaro Benito, who were also from the academy. Real Madrid have to promote players from the youth system. I know the Club is working hard on that. I'm sure new Gutis will come out of the academy.


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