Diving Into El Clasico

I know El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona happened more than a few days ago, but thoughts about that game still linger in my brain. I think Gareth Bale is being unfairly targeted, and dare I even say, made into a scapegoat for the reason why Real Madrid lost that day. His team started of the game keeping a defensive where all of the defense and most of the midfield stayed behind of near the halfway line to absorb the Barcelona offense. Was this a cautious approach? I think a more pragmatic tactic like this 4-4-2 that was mostly employed needs to be done if you want to halt the runs of Neymar and Messi as they dribble their way into your six yard box. Then you have Luis Saurez hovering over the final third itching to latch onto a pass and do what he does best, score.

Holding back allows you to cut the spaces your opponent has to pass the ball by rushing their decision making. It allows them to keep the ball moving, which is unfavorable when facing Barcelona because passing side to side is a way to open up spaces between players forming two lines of four and staying deep; However, Real Madrid kept their positioning and gave the center midfielders a tough time through the middle. Going back on Bale, he was deployed on the wing in a more leashed sort of way to deal with Barcelona’s attackers on the right. If Carvajal had overlapped him more on occasions or had driven up the wing more, Bale would have had an outlet to pass the ball and get help in his zone. Marcelo kept himself in his half as well, but we eventually saw him move up when the opportunity arose.

I have come to welcome the Clasicos not only for the techical quality that the worlds best players can give us when put together on the pitch, but for the drama that usually unfolds. I think these games under the Mourinho era were some of the most entertaining matches I have witness and some of the most mentally taxing. The stomping, diving, eye poking, and dirty tactics brough a late night HBO like quality to the soap opera that is the sport. The diving and dirty play is something that sometimes annoys me to the point where I question why these elements are still present in the game. More can be done to discourage players from diving in the form of longer bans or even imposing sanctions on the teams they represent. Clubs will shape up their players if they are not exempt from direct consequences like tournament participation or suspended players for important games. Some of the problem is rooted in people like me who enjoy the drama going hand in hand with the technical aspect.

If Mascherano had not dived into a pool full of lube, he was rolling and flailing like someone covered in something slippery, I would not be writing this. Yes, their was contact between him and Ronaldo when they got entangled on that one play that lead to the viewers watching going why Mascherano why? With all the writhing and rolling you would think he got knocked over by very effective +10 flair from the stands. Images like that bring up the soccer is for sissies rhetoric that drives me up the wall in annoyance. This game is easy to pick up. This game also requires many hours of practice to even pass a ball and even then your passes go of orbit. Both genders play this game, and just because you don’t have the Incredible Hulk blocking your way, doesn’t mean that physicality is not involved. Have you ever gotten hit by a free kick? Have you ever been on the receiving end of a challenge that leaves bruises on your leg and you limping the rest of the day? If Mascherano was looking to gain some sort of advantage for his team I don’t think he was wrong in trying. I’m just saying that the sport as a whole didn’t get any advantages from that image of him being on the ground a little too easily. Readers we should be the bricks that are building a wall of prevention so that the sick enjoyment of Clasico like drama that people like me get doesn’t grow any bigger.

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Emotional Intelligence

I was reading a BBC article the other day on how to make the perfect footballer. The section that struck me the most was when the discussion of football intelligence came up. It’s something that’s common sense, but gets the best of us sometimes. As a fan my emotional intelligence is that of a child without a juice box. I am keenly aware of how footballer probably feels, when stepping on the pitch, through interviews I’ve read and seen. My expertise ends there and it would be in the interest of all to not quote my last sentence. Those emotions must be 100x greater than my childish like straw sucking,

What is my point? Controlling negative emotions and turning them into wine is what Southampton emphasizes to their players and nit what Jesus did. I mean he does make wine but not from the angry, fuming, volcano blowing emotions of us punitive beings, Instead of earning yourself a red card for kicking out at an opponent, why not up their annoyance by marking and having him or her kick you? I know first hand how easy it is to not control emotions and end up committing yourself to an act of stupidity. The result is that I do not achieve the desired outcome that I was expecting. A red card for any team automatically puts them at a numerical disadvantage where tactics have to be changed with a more defensive flavor in mind.

Is emotional intelligence a factor in why the players of Southampton sell integrate themselves so quickly at their new clubs? Gareth Bale had a very fine first season with Real Madrid in which he scored in two cup finals. In a game where anything but a victory puts you in the same space as the other teams eliminated those are the moments you want to conquer. It’s a challenge to step up for the big moments and that must be applauded. Calum Chambers was thrown into the Arsenal first team as a centerback/rightback due to the numerous injuries at the beginning of the season and he performed well. Playing the game in a dirty manner via time wasting and or diving is part of the game just like those players who try to prevent teammates from swarming the instigator of a verbal spat or a bad tackle.

Another positive from this is the positivity that arises fromĀ  a club taking mental health into account. Not just in the form of football, but in our modern society, mental health should be put on the same pedestal as physical pain. It affects many people among other professions with massive stress even if its just kicking a ball around. It’s encouraging to see progressive advances taking place when in other decades of the sport something like this might have taken a backseat to other issues. The athletes are in sports, but it’s we the fans who consume a product that results from the mass expectations of those who built it. Fans, internal drive, and and the clubs who employ these players are bricks building up this wall of expectation and that comes at the price of mental instability in the cases of some players.

Others Go, But A Defensive Midfielder Stays

Defensive Midfield is a position made famous by the likes of Pep Guardiola, Patrick Viera, Claude Makalele, and Sergio Busquets. It’s withing the midfield, specifically in the back, where this position breaks up plays like a jackhammer on concrete. Throughout the years, tall, muscular, and hard hitting players with a touch of technique have taken that spot. Within the last six years an evolution of the spot has allowed small and technical players to take these spots away from the Vieras of the sport. I’m not saying that brute strength has left the sport. Physicality has transcended to a more technical style of contact.

A nimble DM will draw fouls and intercept passes with good positioning. Lionel Messi, while playing a different position, is able to draw fouls with his dribbles. It’s two distinct positions that follow the same concept. You slide in for a tackle to win the ball, and then what? That ball has to be passed forward to be distributed by the rest of the midfield. A DM not only wins the ball back, but has to be the eyes of the team. A quick pass or a long cross to the winger cutting inside can make a counter attack from a turnover. If not, at least you keep possession for your team.

What about the defensive in defensive midfielder Daniel? I’m only two paragraphs in and nowhere close to ending this post. In a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation, your defensive players pushing up to congest the midfield leave gaps. This results due to midfielders pushing up to increase the attacking options. You have two centerbacks attempting to cover the back line. When this occurs, the DM moves down and adds another body to the defensive line. When their team is defending, the DM is a shield for the back four. He is the first line of resistance to prevent a goal from bombarding the net. This will either be enough to recover the ball or give the defense enough time to organize themselves.

A DM is an essential cog in any of the popular tactics used today. I believe that having a midfielder stay behind the half line is the only way to achieve balance in modern football. Real Madrid has committed the mistake of selling their DM twice, and both times they have been left with an abundance of attacking players in the front, without a link to start transitions. These DM’s are an engine that is felt on all sides of the pitch. They are the one brick that makes a wall structurally sound. The wall collapses if it’s taken out.

1/2 UEFA Supercup Please!

This UEFA Supercup lit up to a very entertaining start. Preseason rust still lingered in the air, among new players Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, but the movements are there. James had a very good play where he ends up on the wing, after switching with Christiano Ronaldo, to create a wonderful dipping cross to Gareth Bale. Later in the first half, he failed to clear a cross in his own half. This almost gifted Sevilla FC a goal. Iker Casillas prevented this from happening. On that note, he is looking very composed this first half. What decline? The competition between him and Keylor Navas will slow done the decline of Casillas due to age and a rotation policy that has him playing the cup matches. James’s passes have been both good and bad from my point of view. This will be nothing to be alarmed about because more games will ensure he develops an understanding with his teammates.

Toni Kroos has been dictating play like a summer dress does to my eyes throughout this game. He decides in what sector the ball will be. The teams attacking movements shape up based on his composure with the ball. Granted, he had a passed blocked, and a few long passes cleared. He is a good acquisition for Real Madrid and you get the impression he was needed. Daniel Carvajal has been the weak link in this game. An assumed finger wag will be needed in the locker room after his performance! On the opposite side, left back Fabio Coentrao, has ran up and down the sideline providing depth in the attack by being another option. His link up with Ronaldo and good crossing are an extra topping on the pizza.

Denis Saurezwas the bright spot for Sevilla FC. Going from Barcelona B to a two year loan at his current club doesn’t seem to faze him. It didn’t show in this game as he was making runs forward and giving solid passes to his teammates from the flanks. It shows that he has honed his craft at Barcelona. We have seen world class players make their current team debuts and Ronaldo has scored a wonderful go to make this game 1-0 for Real Madrid. However, the rumblings of my stomach will cause my analysis to end here. The begging in my gut leads me on an adventure to consume different snacks that will lead to wall of satisfaction once they all dissolve together in my stomach. Good day.

  • UEFA = Governing body of European football
  • Real Madrid (current Copa del Rey, Champions League, and UEFA Supercup holders) are a Spanish team
  • Sevilla (Europa League holders) are a Spanish team
  • Results ended up being Real Madrid 2 Sevilla 0
  • April WaffleCone and Ted Nyguyen from my Unlocking Time post are fictional characters I made up.