Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Coming back from a week's holiday to find that your team is the best thing since sliced bread (which, let's face it, was never that great an invention) always brings out the cynical side in my nature. Granted, winning 5-0 away from home doesn't happen every week (last time was over 11 years ago, on 24th January 1996 against Athletic Bilbao), and Villareal had not lost in 18 games.
Perhaps Bernd Schuster has it right, calling for an attitude balanced between joy and caution: "I'm not worried about the feeling of euphoria because there's a 10-day gap until the next game and in that time nobody will remember what happened here. That's why we're going to enjoy the result, which is a thing that happens only rarely. What I liked the most was the team's attitude; they're all working together at the highest level. We can undoubtedly improve on certain things because not everything was that great." Real Madrid looked good, balanced and playing more exciting football than under Capello, but let's not forget the 120 million euros that have been spent building this squad and all the jogo bonito in the world will not save Schuster from the chop if the trophies don't come his way.
There are some positives to take away, of course. Guti and Sneijder seem to be complementing each other in midfield better than could be expected (though of course it's still early days and Guti has a propensity for 'disappearing' from a number of games every season). Phil Ball argues that Drenthe and Sneijder have given the side the balance they sorely needed and Diarra is doing all the dirty work behind Guti and the little Dutchman. Heinze debuted at left back, coming in for Raúl(!), and freeing up Drenthe to roam further up the pitch, where he prefers to play. Cannavaro and Metzelder were solid in the centre of defence all evening, especially in the first half when Villareal had most of the possession and the attacking play. Ramos continues to impress on the right wing and his tribute to the late, lamented Antonio Puerta, who collapsed during Sevilla's opening game of the season, suffered a number of cardiac arrests and finally passed away a few days later, was spoiled by an officious yellow card from the otherwise fine refereeing of Medina Cantalejo. In a rare display of humanity, the Spanish Federation annulled the yellow card as they considered the tribute to be "sincere" and made in "exceptional circumstances".
However, some of the other news of the past week have not been so positive. Schuster took six canteranos with him to Austria for preseason training: Granero, Balboa, De la Red, Adrián, Codina and Bueno. None have any room in the current squad, given the influx of players, and in the hours before the closing of the transfer window on August 31st, De la Red and Granero moved to Getafe (transfer and loan, respectively) and Adrián was loaned to Celta for a year. Soldado does not seem to feature highly on Schuster striker list and may opt for a move at Christmas.