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.