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

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

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
Related Posts with Thumbnails