Much has been made about the fact that Real Madrid's ageing squad is in desperate need of renewal if they are to be competitive in the coming seasons. Fabio Capello has been both vilified and lauded for what he calls "achieving miracles" with the players at his disposal. And yet, it was two of these players who scored the goals that resulted in Real's come-back against Athletic Bilbao: Ronaldo (30) and Roberto Carlos (33).
Once again, Real Madrid had to struggle to get all three points at home (14/21 so far, compared with 15/18 away), falling behind to a goal of dubious legality after 35 minutes, and playing the sort of football that would "bore sheep". Capello changed tack in the second half bringing Ronaldo and Beckham in for Reyes and Emerson, respectively. The Brazilian, especially, looked sharper than he has for some time and was seen running after balls with the same speed he used to run after the ice-cream van.
While Athletic's defence clearly contributed to the final turnaround in both goals, this article by Martí Perarnau has a good assessment of Real's effectiveness under Capello:
- Defensive solidity: They have allowed 15 goals in 18 games in the League and Europe. This is the same number as Barcelona, arguably a much more attacking side. The number of unconverted goal chances (thanks mostly to MVP Casillas) means a 'Fail' in this category thus far.
- Fast counter: Real have renounced patient passing play to adopt a counter-attacking style, which is proving lethal, both because of the speed, and the pushing up of players forward when this happens.
- Scoring effectiveness: They have no equal in this category. They have scoring rations of over 60% per game; few opportunities, plenty of goals (on average 2 per game). Overwhelming.
- Results: Three defeats in 18 games. No problems to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League and 1 point from the top in the League. Superb.
Capello will find little in the way of weighty opposition to his methods as long as they deliver results. He has a good track record of doing this. Given that he's unlikely to win everything in sight, he's very unlikely to stay in the post for longer than two years. This is the quandary facing the Real Madrid management: Capello was brought in as a "surgeon" to chop away at all the deadwood and instil a winning attitude in the players. How then can he be expected to contribute meaningfully to the long-term make-up of the squad?
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