Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Winning ugly

Some statistics from the Getafe-Real Madrid game illustrate the deterioration in Real's play since the 5-0 drubbing of Villareal (currently lying second) on the second week of the championship. Getafe had 26 shots on goal (7 on target) compared with 13 for Real Madrid (5 on target). Getafe had a total of 10 corner kicks, for Real's 2. And yet, the game ended with Real's first ever win at Getafe's Coliseum courtesy of Sergio Ramos's goal from a Robben through ball, although the Dutchman was in a dubious offside position. Is this a return to last year's playing pattern under Capello, or is Schuster taking a terrible risk with his squad rotations?

Contrast the treatment that Schuster is having at the hands of the Madrid press with the constant criticism of Capello for most of last season. It can't be just because the team is still sitting atop the standings, with their best league start in 16 years; no such slack was granted to the Italian. When the press turn, as they surely must, it won't be pretty.

The arguments about squad rotations can be summarised simply: when the season consists of 70+ games, you cannot use the same starting eleven and expect them to perform at the same level throughout. However, constant chopping and changing of the team gives the players little time to settle and learn how to best link up with each of their colleagues. Long gone are the times when a team like Nottingham Forest could win the 1959 FA Cup with the same starting eleven in all 9 games. Schuster is perhaps still trying to integrate some of the newer arrivals, like Robben, who had little or no time in the preseason to adjust, but results will only continue to go his way for so long, if the team continues to perform as poorly as in recent games.

Against Getafe, it was the pair in the centre of defence (Cannavaro and Ramos), who, along with Casillas's usual collection of last-gasp saves, and the providential intervention of the woodwork, kept Real in the game. Schuster had words of praise for them: "I think that, once again, the back four have been exceptional. They, along with Iker Casillas, saved our bacon. I don't like how the four in midfield are discharging their defensive duties; they're causing us problems".

Schuster was referring to the now all too common malaise at Real Madrid, where there are huge spaces between the defence and the midfield, resulting in loss of possession. It is nonetheless his responsibility to get the team to play how he wants them to. Drenthe seems to be all over the place, and Gago is just not able to do the same type of job that Diarra does. Sneijder and Robinho were playing far too far forward and just were not getting the service, and it was only when Guti came on for Drenthe early in the second half that Real started to connect (though they still were far from great).

The worry is that the last 4 league games have been against weaker opposition, at least on paper, so how will the team perform when they have to play against higher placed teams? The answers may have to wait, as the next league engagement is against mid-table Recreativo, although the team from Huelva did win 3-0 at the Bernabéu last year.


haran said...

From what I've seen, it looks like Schuster is uncertain of what the best XI is. He's either experimenting maybe because he thinks we can still win against weak teams like betis, getafe... (as usual our signings come only when the door is about to be shut) or his plans are just not working which I hope is not the case.

If we go in for a 4-3-3, with Robben n Robinho on the flanks, Diarra, Sneijder and Guti in the midfield and RVN up front, we can get good pretty football atleast on paper. But, neither Guti nor Sneijder have the capacity to keep good possession (come on guti can hardly stay up) and Diarra is not a Redondo to win balls and dictate play (I would've loved to see Mascherano come).

So we need more defensive cover in the midfield. Then move sneijder back and play 4-4-2. But guti can't perform defensive duties. The best position for him is in front of the midfield but where will Raul play then? Neither Robinho nor Higuain track back well, they do it for the first 20 mins. And we don't have a good LB. We either get decent attack from Marcelo or very good defence from Heinze. I say play Heinze there, at least Robben will have more freedom then.

I can't even come up with a good starting XI.

Forgive me for the rant. Hell... Schuster knows more.

Linda said...

I've been quite worried about Gago, to be honest. He cannot be used interchangably with Diarra, and the latter seems to work better with the likes of Sneijder.

haran's 4-3-3 idea seems good to me, although I note that it might be impossible given that it entails dropping Raul.

As for the defence, Cannavaro's lack of pace means that it's safer for him to play closer to Casillas. But to be truly cohensive, it's probably necessary that the defence pushes up closer to the midfielders, who will have to track back more and pressure the opposition higher up the field, which I can't see Guti, Robben or Robinho doing.

Anonymous said...

what is Haran Talkin about??? 433 with 5 midfielders?
You can have sniejdr dictate play, (not diara-duhhhhhhh), i think marcelo needs more game time i think he has alot to offer.

Raul's days r numbdered he's been not soo good season in season out save for this season, when will Madrid realise that they have to let him go?

haran said...


robben and robinho are not midfielders. At the least they're wingers.

And also when I say dictate play, the holding midfielder should do more than just horizontal passing.

Sneijder I guess can give some direction.