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Los Miserables

Monday, October 26, 2009

When Real Madrid raided their Scrooge McDuck coffers this summer for some transfer kitty they had done something which hitherto had not been the case.
Sure they spent big, but they also spent big in the days of Florentino Mach 1. No, this time they added some sense.

See, the big plan that started with the arrival of Luis Figo all those years ago was to create a team of super stars. We all know what happened; not much (apart from a stunning Champions League victory, 2 League titles, 2 Spanish Supercups, the Intercontinental cup and a UEFA Supercup).

This time though, things would be different. Florentino spent his years in the wilderness learning from his mistakes (and making large amounts of moolah in some rather dodgy real estate negotiations), and with the aid of Valdano and Zidane they would create a team of super stars. They would buy the best player in Europe, and to add to that they would buy the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best too. They would seal up the leaky defence, buy Spanish and create a team with unparalleled depth.

One problem; they forgot about "width".

Last weekend, Los Merengues failed to score a goal against Sporting Gijon. Fair enough, there were some casualties as a result of injuries, notably Ronaldo and Benzema, but to spend close to £300 million and find that you need to play a product of the cantera up front is not what one would expect.

Earlier in the season, Real experienced their first league defeat at the hands of Sevilla, a team bosting width, pace, creativity and Didier Zokora. This was the first game without Ronaldo, and it showed.

However, as Pepe succinctly put it, "There's no need to talk about the absences, we need to talk about those of us who are here".

Pellegrini employs a narrow tactic, dubbed "perfect" whereby Ronaldo and Kaka are free to roam with Alonso and Lass supporting them and thereby creating some stability and support. Up front Benzema and Raul dovetail to form what sounds like the Pro Evo dream team. The wingers in this tactic are Sergio Ramos and Marcelo. There are 2 main problems with this tactic; Sergio Ramos and Marcelo.

Sergio Ramos is a shadow of the player he was in Sevilla, showing frequent lapses of concentration, bad judgement and poor anticipation. In the game against AC Milan, a friend of mine remarked upon how much worse he is when you're watching him in real-life -- he was stunned at how frequently Ramos would turn his back to the game, allowing Pato to roam free and forcing Lass to come wide to cover him the whole time (thereby denying the midfield of one it's most stable players).
Marcelo on the other hand has been excellent going forward, but he too has had a torrid time of it when being asked to do some actual defending.

What Real Madrid miss then is this width; they played Drenthe on the left of midfield against Gijon on the weekend after his excellent impact performance in the midweek AC game, yet he was unable to provide a similar spark.

When you play Xabi Alonso, Lass and Kaka in the midfield you are going to have these problems, and unfortunately Ramos and Marcelo are not Ashley Cole, Patrice Evra or Dani Alves.

I commend Madrid in strengthening their side with some of the greatest names in the game, yet in my humble opinion it is either a call to reinforce the full backs or to change the tactic (which would force someone like Higuain to play out wide).

In the meantime, the return of Ronaldo cannot come quickly enough for Pellegrini and the supporters of this great club.

posted by teedoubleyou


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