Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Diarra doomed?

Analysing Real's defeat to Almería on Saturday, Phil Ball makes an interesting statement about why Mahamadou Diarra may not have a long and illustrious career at the Bernabéu. He draws a parallel with Claude Makélélé, a player who performed a very similar role, but was unloved by the Madrid faithful because of his lack of skill in playing the ball forward creatively, while overlooking his obvious qualities as a defensive midfielder.

Almería's midfielders turned the tables on the Mali captain by putting intense pressure on him every time he had the ball, forcing him to give it away time and again. This, Phil Ball argues, is why he will eventually be let go in favour of someone like Gago, less able defensively, but much more comfortable with his passing skills.

I wonder how likely it is that history will repeat itself. The departure of Makélélé in 2003 coincided with a downturn in Real's galáctico fortunes, and they did not manage to win a trophy again until the league championship last year. Some have argued that the lack of an effective defensive midfielder, a "destructive" rather than a "constructive" player, was a major contributing factor, and that Real Madrid really did miss Makélélé.

Florentino Pérez's inelegant parting shot to a player who then went on to form a core part of Mourinho's Chelsea may have come back to haunt him: "He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélélé to be forgotten.". There's a place in the squad for a player of Diarra's characteristics. Let's hope Schuster has the wisdom to see it.


Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. There were only 2 or 3 players who played with any kind of energy or effort against Almeria.

Mont said...

Interesting article.

I can remember Atletico playing us in the Bernabue where their main plan was to knock Guti every time he gets the ball and giving him no chance to create something. It kinda worked.

Diarra adds a significant physical strength to the midfield but we could appreciate a bit of better delivery. A tiny bit, ya know.

estoverao said...

I read that same article by Phil Ball and he definitely highlights the creative midfield vacuum that has existed since Zidane left. If Guti had consistency in his blood he would be the one, but his play reflects his mercurial mood and temper. Guti's style is too bi-polar to build a team around, besides he is the old guard and we need new blood. Diego looked really good in that role with Brazil against Ireland, who else is out there?

Domino said...

Fernando Gago is 22 years old. Diarra is 26. Both these players seem to be the highlight of most Madridistas criticism of late.

Gago: A young promising palyer who is fairly inconsistent.He has shown great potential in his passing ability especially showing maturity to deliver the 'killer ball' from a deep position. Moreover, like any good Argentinean midfielder, Gago plays his heart out. Gago has yet to become a man and until then, I feel he is not in a posititon to lead a team of Madrid's stature for an entire season.

Diarra: A strong physical midfielder who runs relentlessly for 90 mins and is a reliable buffer between defence and midfield.
Diarra's only disadvantage is not his consistency but his delivery of the ball. If faced with a crowded midfield, this type of player can easily be singled out as the weak link. However, when playing an attack minded opponent, Diarra is sublime. His passing still remains fairly limited but he really does pick up the pieces when Madrid lose possession.

To conclude, I wish to express that in any great squad, what is necessary is variety. In a position such as defensive midfield, a team needs to have options. There are some things that Diarra does that Gago will never be able to do and vice versa. There may be games where it is best to use one over the other or sometimes, both of them at the same time. Madrid will hopefully have the sanity not to put unnecessary pressure on a young player like Gago and also not loose 26 million euros worth of steel.
Ideally, the board should be focusing on the acquisition of a player to replace Guti and another to replace Raul. I personally believe that come next season, Madrid will have less breathing space to afford Guti's unreliability and Raul's lack of goals as a striker.

I agree that Diego is a fantastic option in attacking midfield. As for Raul, simply promoting Higuain to the starting line up should suffice as the captain's experience and leadership may still be required in the squad.

Anonymous said...

Thanks all for your comments. On the issue of replacing Raúl and Guti; I thought that was the point of bringing in players like Higuaín and Sneijder. On a technical level, replacing Raúl is relatively easy; there are plenty of players in his positino with similar or better skills. What he brings to the side in terms of workrate, commitment and experience is harder to replace, but his days of being picked for every starting 11 must surely be numbered.

Guti is a more complex problem and probably the subject of a separate atricle (when I have the time). The problem is that, like for example Zidane, he has unique characteristics, some good, some bad, but there is not one player I know of out there who can just step into his shoes and deliver the same kind of thing. That doesn't mean he's irreplaceable, but that once he goes, the character of the side will perforce be different.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you & I must admit that I will miss the both of them terribly, especially after that 7-0 drubbing on Sunday.
Looking forward to the next article...