Posts Tagged ‘ Messi ’

Old Futbol Buffet–Every Day is Like Sunday

Title of this post is not my favorite Morrissey song (much prefer Glamorous Glue) but does the trick for this post.

Saturday was blocked off with stuff to do.  Worked around the house, made an appearance at the gym, and went to the circus with the family.  Sunday was for watching footy as I watched three and a half matches (United/Liverpool, Arsenal/City, second half of Atleti/Zaragoza, and FCB/Malaga), all with goals and varying amounts of quality and drama.  Spent the morning at Buffalo Wild Wings with Mid-Michigan United and we had a great turnout.  Probably 20-25 at its peak, but with Arsenal down a man and two goals, the place cleared out pretty quick.  Then I headed over to the Claddagh for some La Liga action as Barcelona continued their amazing run finishing the first half of the season with 18 wins, 1 draw and 0 losses.

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Manchester United 2  Liverpool 1

A tense beginning to the match but eventually MUFC put some passes together with Evra finding RvP just outside the six yard box to fire home on 19 minutes.  From there Liverpool offered very little but the Red Devils could not find the second.  Young’s injury, the results of another heavy touch, will cause Sir Alex problems over the coming weeks but could open the door for Nani.

Tangent: Let me just say I was wrong.  When the signing of RvP was announced this summer, I was like that’s great but who’s going to give him the ball from the center of midfield and who is going to defend when the Dutchman eventually loses it?  Turns out Sir Alex has fashioned a team that simply outscores their opponent.  Maybe he will address the other areas this summer but for the time being it looks like United have one hand back on the Premier League trophy and will provide a stern test for Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Credit to Rodgers for the second half set up and substitutions.  Sturridge’s introduction provided a partner for Suarez and the new man created plenty of chances.  Borini’s entrance was questioned by me but that front three caused the United rearguard all sorts of problems.  Add to that more energy and drive from the visitors and the game grew as a contest.

Could argue that a draw would have been the fair result as the hosts lost the plot in the second stanza. Sturridge wasted a couple of decent chances and Suarez could never quite free himself to create the decisive moment. Thought Wisdom has a decent match defensively, but his one scoring opportunity went horribly wrong.  As for United, Kagawa didn’t make much impact on the left, while Welbeck worked hard but squandered several goal scoring opportunities.  Felt that Carrick was particularly poor, with several passes put teammates in tough positions and leading to turnovers.

Cannot let my game notes go by with mentioning the appearance of Darth Mou/Emperor Palpatine at the proceedings.  Looking extraordinarily evil in his hooded jacket, perhaps he really has gone to the dark side as he tries to build his legacy at Real Madrid.

Bit colder than Madrid, Jose? Mourinho seemed to be struggling to reacclimatise during the first half

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Arsenal 0  Manchester City 2

The second game of the game had to be painful for the each team’s fans.  The Gunners got a man sent off early, managed to raise their game to compensate and then completely fell asleep to give up the first goal, a blast from Milner.  From there it was damage control and very little of the slick passing and movement was evident.  Every ball predictable and wasted, and a second goal from Dzeko put the game to bed.

For City, they should have scored more in this match.  Too many chances went begging and felt the blue side lacked energy for most of the match.  Kompany’s sending off (harsh in my opinion) leveled the game in terms of numbers but Arsenal were second best.

Really not much to say about this match, other than the appearance of Balotelli, reprising Wesley Snipes’ role from Demolition Man.  This guy can’t help himself can he?

Mario Balotelli

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Articles

Last week the Ballon D’Or was handed out and Gabriele Marcotti examined some of the quirks of the voting for ESPN FC, noting that not all countries voted, there are various criteria for voters, and not all voters watch the same amount of footy.  He acknowledged that the award is not scientific but felt that the Argentinian “deserved to be saluted.”

Jonathan Wilson called the individual awards such as the Ballon D’Or “insidious” at SI.com and wants readers to remember that soccer is a team game.  He does not deny Messi’s greatness but states

It is part of Messi’s greatness that he so regularly chooses the action with the lowest tariff of difficulty to complete any given task. He is capable of the flashy and technically complex, but if something simple will suffice he does that. He can be jaw-droppingly brilliant but is essentially efficient. Paradoxically, it’s because he is so undemonstrative, such a team player, that he is such a great individual.

Wilson was also on Off the Ball last week making his case and I agree with him in that the results in leagues and cups are what matters.

In the wake of poor seasons from Sporting and AEK Athens in Portugal and Greece respectively, UEFA.com profiled big names that have been relegated in the past—Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, AC Milan and Marseille.  I remember when Sampdoria went down just after challenging for the European Cup in 1992.  Recently Leeds United have fallen on hard times, going from domestic and continental challenger to plummeting down the divisions, currently playing in the Championship.

Returning to Marcotti, he suggested in the Wall Street Journal that a Jorge Mendes United team might be a future possibility, with the super agent representing Mourinho and a stable of top talent—CR7, Falcao, Pepe and di Maria.  Soccer works differently than most American sports, so Mendes’ influence is unusual and with Real Madrid, there is an alarming amount of power.

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MatchDay Memory–The Big Two Part 2 (Memories and Tactics)

As for my personal involvement in the rivalry, the first El Clasico I can remember is the game after Figo switched sides in the summer of 2000.  I had loved him at FCB and was sad to see him go over to the Evil Empire.  I definitely didn’t have the hatred that the Nou Camp supporters showed when he returned to the Nou Camp, and I vaguely remember the famous Pig’s Head game that followed.  Tom Adams looked back at those days for Soccernet.

I have to admit that Clasico viewings between those games and the Pep Era were hit and miss.  Once I heard that Ronaldinho was actually cheered by the Real Madrid fans, I had to find highlights, during which I saw an amazing performance by Ronny, in a season that ended with the League and European Cup double.  Then in March 2007, I read the match report about the 3-3 draw and found snippets of the game, including a sick hat trick from Messi, but it wasn’t enough to keep Beckham and Real Madrid from winning the title that season.

I haven’t missed a League Clasico since Pep took over.  Some of the matches have been duds (December 2008 and November 2009) in which Real Madrid used an overly physical approach to nullify a Barcelona team in the ascendancy, while others have been Blaugrana Epics (May 2009 and the manita of November 2010).  Of course there was the Clasico Apocalypse of 2011, which saw the rivals play four times in 20 days.  I watched both legs of the Champions League semi and the league encounter but missed most of the Copa del Rey final (stupid work), although I did see CR7’s winning goal.  The Spanish Super Cups have been hard to schedule as they come during a ginormous work function, but in all in all, the games recently have been amazing on every level—drama, tactics, and technical ability.

Speaking of tactics, there have been several developments for both clubs during the recent years.  With Pep’s hire, the Blaugrana maintained the 4-3-3, which is part of the club’s DNA, but the former Barca captain added a level of pressing and increased fitness.  Possession became a means to defend, as opponents rarely saw the ball and were under constant pressure, eventually breaking under constant bombardment.  Width from outside backs allowed attackers to come inside and combine in intricately, leading to amazing goals of skill and precision.  Now that almost every opponent parks the bus, the team is confronted with their next progression.

Messi was slowly moved from his right hand berth to a more central role, starting as false 9, which caused backlines all sorts of problems.  Do you follow Messi into midfield?  Do you focus on him and allow Pedro and Villa to drive at you from the wings?  These days Messi has moved to almost a false 10 position with Fabregas stretching the play and Messi able to pull the strings and occasionally dribble at defenses.  Kxevin at the Barcelona Football Blog commented on this recent phenomenon.

Another player that evolved is Sergio Busquets.  Pep arrived and made the youth player the fulcrum of the team.  Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita have moved on as Busi has become vital to the success of the team. Andreas Vou looked at the evolution of Sergio Busquets for Inside Spanish Football.  Busquets has moved from the pivot to the third center back to the sweeper and back again, which has allowed the Blaugrana to constantly tweak the formation and approach.  Jonathan Wilson called him the 3 and a half after the first league Clasico of 11/12.

From a Real Madrid perspective, Los Blancos have progressed from an entertaining side that was open and scored lots of goals (but gave up plenty as well) to a pragmatic side that is a lethal counterattacking unit.  In the 2000’s the club made the mistake of selling Geremi and Makelele, players who snuffed out attacks, gave the ball to the creative players and shielded an aging backline.  The team was exposed time and time again and tried to outscore the opposition, which was effective to varying degrees.  After Capello squeezed a couple of titles out of a decent squad, the club floundered until Perez reinstituted the Galacticos policy, bringing CR7, Pepe, Ozil, Alonso, Benzema and a host of others.

These players were overmatched by the FCB machine and it took the arrival of Mourinho and a couple seasons of his discipline to pay dividends.  Now the squad defends as a unit, wins the ball and launches lighting swift counters with CR7, Di Maria, Ozil and Higuain or Benzema.  Angel Di Maria was signed to give balance to the attack and switched from right midfield, his position at Benfica, to left mid.  Occasionally he and CR7 switch but Di Maria’s cutting inside encourages interplay between the lone striker (Higuain or Benzema) and attacking midfielder (Ozil) and also allows Marcelo to overlap.  As for Ozil his transfer provided a more dynamic option to Kaka.  The German, who basically plays the same position for Germany, drifts side to side and pulls the strings. His teammates react by alternating positions, and opposing defenses are forced to make decisions against an attack full of dynamism and energy.

In the back Sergio Ramos has moved from right back to center back.  Carvalho was a Mourinho signing to help him build his power base but injuries and lack of form saw him slip out of the team.  Arbeloa has been serviceable on the right hand side, which has allowed for the emergence of a Pepe/Ramos pairing, full of speed and aggressiveness.  Frustration at FCB’s dominance led to several cards but both have been under control lately.  It is breathtaking to watch and their current shape took them to a league championship and within a whisker of the Champions League Final.

We now enter a period when the two teams are considered the best in the world and will lock horns home and abroad in the search for glory.  Plus several subplots give texture to the battle between the clubs.  How long for Mourinho?  He has never led a team beyond three seasons.  Along with that, can Mou lead Los Blancos to La Decima?  Can Tito keep this cycle going or will he be at the wheel as the Blaugrana fade once more before rebuilding?  Will we see a Real Madrid/FC Barcelona Champions League Final, setting up the greatest confrontation between two biggest sports clubs/franchises/teams in the world?  I can’t wait to see what this season and the near future holds.

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