LaLigaUk

laligauk.com is now up and running. This site will no longer be used, for all the posts on here with Pictures and Professionally presented go to laligauk.com New content is also available.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero: 101 and Out ?

Changes in football, like life, can alter everything in an instant. One day it’s normal then out the blue SMASH. A clubs turned upside down, there team-mates are in shock (if they didn’t already know) and the fans are the most let down. Every team has felt it, whether it’s a team from the upper echelons of world football or a team playing in the lower divisions. A fan favourite, the teams most important player asks to leave !!

For teams winning leagues it’s easier to cope with, no one player makes a team, the other great players can rally round and make the difference. Huge sums of money are often involved and replacements can be sought. For teams in the lower regions of football, a sense of inevitability comes across, “He was always going to leave one day”, “He was too good for us to keep” are heard banded about the terraces. The money generated can be enough to replace half a team in some cases and in other more extreme circumstances save the football club as a whole. The pain is no greater or smaller whatever club you follow, it’s how the club deals with it that defines the healing process. For some though it’s an altogether different feeling, clubs with rich history’s of winning trophies and competing at the very top only to have been sub-standard in recent times. In the past it probably wouldn’t have happened that frequently but the way the clubs being run now means that todays reality is very different.

On Saturday 21st May 2011 Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero scored a hat-trick away to Mallorca, 101 goals in 234 appearances in his time in Spain. He’s joint best scoring season with 27 goals in all competitions and his best in the league with 20 goals. A 121 minutes per goal (mpg) scoring rate for the year. Former fan favourite and local boy Fernando Torres scored 91 goals in 249 appearances which included a season in the Segunda. His best season saw him score 21 in all comps with 19 of those having come in the league. His best season being 177 mpg, a far cry from his time at new club Chelsea where he has one goal to his name in 1094 minutes. Obviously with the exception of one season they played in different sides, so that should also be taken into consideration. But this does show the pedigree that Kun has for those that are unsure if he’s really that good, when comparing Fernando’s scoring rate at International level during his time at Atletico 14 goals in 43 games, 0.32 goals per game (gpg). Kun with Argentina has seen him score 9 goals in 25 games, 0.36 gpg. With the difference only slight, perhaps more tellingly is their record in European competitions. Torres had made just 11 appearances and 2 goals, 0.18 gpg, Agüero had made 39 appearances and 20 goals, 0.51 gpg. Whilst this is more conclusive that Atleti have been a stronger side in recent seasons due to more involvement in European competition it does suggest that Kun is a more complete and rounded goalscorer than the one that set sail for Anfield. With El Nino having left a few months after turning 23 and Kun due to have his 23rd birthday next week, its advisory for their next young star striker to be locked in a cupboard at the Vicente Calderon next time that milestone approaches.

Of his 101 goals for the club 49 of them have come in away games, for such a young player this shows he can be relied upon to find the net even in hostile and uncomfortable environments. Against the ‘Big Two’ he has 9 goals in 19 starts. As well as goals against Sevilla, Villarreal, Valencia, Chelsea and Internazionale. Theres more to his game than just goals however, his movement on and of the ball is fantastic, always looking to play off the last defender, using his pace to time his runs to perfection.

Under the current board there was always an acceptance amongst the fans that he would move on to pastures new but its the timing that is what often cuts through the supporters the most. Having signed a new contract not so long back (even though this lowered his buyout clause) and said “If I wanted to leave the club, I wouldn’t have renewed my contract as I would have been free to leave in 11 months.” Maybe the part where he says “I will decide the day not the club, nor my agent” when talking about leaving the most important part to the statement. Monday 23rd May 2011, 2 days after his glorious treble, the papers Marca and AS reported he had told Atletico Madrid he wanted them to listen to offers. On his Twitter page and his official website came the news every Atletico fan dreaded, “I said a while back that when I wanted to leave, I would announce it publicly. That moment has arrived. It’s difficult for me to leave Atleti. It hurts me and makes me sad. But it’s not difficult for me to explain why I am leaving.”

Since then President Enrique Cerezo told Spanish newspaper AS “The decision of Kun catches us by surprise. Lets see if I am going to take the blame for everything that is going on with Kun”. Even though in Kun’s statement he says “I was promised by the club that no conditions would be placed on my eventual decision to leave in June 2011.” Someones telling fibs !! Who exactly is open to interpretation, only the people in the boardroom at the time of various meetings truly know. Though it’s fair to say an unpopular and disjointed board will do everything they can to paint the picture of the player in the wrong. It’s clear Kun feels it’s time to leave, whether the club knew of his intentions or are secretly happy for him to leave may or may not come into the open in the future. With the ‘Green and Gold’ protests at the club the fans know where to direct their blame. With the prospect of losing Agüero and the impending move of De Gea to Manchester United this summer those protests are likely to be stepped up. The official stance varies between ‘Not for Sale’ or only for the €45 million buyout clause depending on source. The buyout clause would include taxes if the sale was to a fellow Spanish club taking a potential deal to €70 million. With Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all interested, Kun’s destination is far from certain. Real Madrid seem to be the favourites but transfer situations can change in an instant and there are as many grey areas as their are black and white. Many players are often open to the idea of joining a variety of different clubs despite the party line they will toe on arrival at there new surroundings. Real Madrid have also stated they aren’t interested but then they have history of saying that and then doing the opposite. Kun’s father-in-law one Diego Maradona this week talked of Kun’s happiness in Madrid and his own fondness for Jose Mourinho, make of that what you will. Whether he stays or go’s questions will continue to be asked of both board and player, whilst Kun has always conducted himself well off the pitch with advice coming from his notorious father-in-law and having elves writing tattooed on the inside of one of his forearms there are signs that he could think a little differently from the rest of us. Remember the most fantastic marriages can end in the dirtiest of divorces.

Posted in Atletico Madrid | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maxi Rodríguez: Another poor Rafa signing ?

Rosario, Santa Fe is the third largest city within Argentina. Located 187 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, Exporters of wheat, flour, hay, linseed, corn, sugar and wool. It’s unclear whether its imports include ITV Yorkshire set dramas of the 60′s gender. Maximiliano Rubén Rodríguez is probably a little more familiar with the tv show “Heartbeat” since arriving on Merseyside, if he’s not then it’s likely that he will be soon. The theme tune has been amended by the Kop faithful to show their appreciation of the winger.

Maxi learnt his football at Newell’s Old Boys, this youth set up brought us Gabriel Batistuta, Jorge Valdano, Gabriel Heinze and Mauricio Pocchettino. A very young Lionel Messi also played in the club’s academy, but left for Europe to seek treatment for his growth hormone deficiency. After 3 years in the first team Maxi moved to Spain where he played the majority of his career. A loan spell of six months at Real Oviedo was followed by a move to Espanyol. A permanent fixture at Estadi Olímpic Lluís Company, despite playing under five managers in his 3 seasons there including current Deportivo de La Coruña coach Miguel Ángel Lotina. This showed an adaptability, a willingness to change tactics and training methods. A team player that would follow the managers wish to the letter, whether he agreed with it or not. This brought him to the attention of his national side where he scored on his debut against Japan. His final season of 2004-05 was his best for scoring in Spain, 15 goals in 37 appearances at a rate of a 198 minutes per goal.

Earning a €5 million transfer to Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2005. Once again he played under five different managers, that year he continued his decent scoring record. The highlight for him was a left-footed volley for Argentina in the last 16 of the World Cup against Mexico. It was later voted in an un-official FIFA poll as goal of the tournament. The next game was probably his lowest point in his career to date as after the team had lost he punched German player Bastian Schweinsteiger in the back receiving a two match ban. In the following season he suffered from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, having netted 6 goals in 10 appearances. However when he did return to first team action he continued to score goals but not at the rate per minute he once was. The next 3 seasons saw rates of 357,406 and 378 minutes per goals within La Liga. With the sale of Fernando Torres to Liverpool in 2007, Maxi was made club captain, another feather to his cap. A quite person by nature but receives respect from his peers for his professionalism. A more comprehensive look at his time at Atletico can be found here. His overall time in Spain saw him net 58 goals in 232 games, 0.25 goals per game (gpg). A 1 in 4 game ratio shows he know’s where the goal is, whether it be right or left foot, header or back heel, long or short-range.

La Fiera then followed El Nino to Anfield in January 2010 a Rafael Benítez signing. The club at the time was heavily in debt, struggling with injuries and struggling to make the top 4 in the league (which they had grown accustomed to). The knives were out for Benítez within the English press and there was very little money to put things right, a sell before you buy policy was in operation. Few players of International pedigree would consider joining a club so clearly in trouble. Maxi was brought in on a two-year contract, a player that could score goals and work for the team with no complaints (have you ever heard him complain ?). ”Maxi knows Javier (Mascherano) and Fernando (Torres) and the big positive
from that point was they have a very good opinion of him. He is a player who knows about the game” said Rafa at the time.

Adapting to a new team, language, country and style of football, will vary from player to player. A club that is in disarray from top to bottom will surely increase the bedding in period.  His form whilst nothing spectacular was consistent, an understanding with Torres being the key as he assisted the striker with a couple of goals. He got off the score sheet himself in a 4-0 win over Burnley. Last summer as Rafa left rumours circulated over the sale of Maxi. A return to Espanyol seemed the favourite as critics including Paul Merson and Jamie Rednapp, were quick to pass judgement over the little mans short stay in the Premier League. Depending on the source Rodríguez was either brought for €1.5 million or was a free transfer, either way for a club that was fighting to keep its Champions League status it wasn’t a massive investment. Attacking players are naturally more expensive in general (Although there are exceptions). Having just turned 29 he was signed for the circumstance that the club were in, not long-term but with the ability and experience to come in and do a job. The winter market in England that year was certainly slow, the only other transfer of a winger/playmaker involving that of a top 6 club was Manchester City’s signing of Adam Johnson for £7 million which was still a bargain for a player of his age and talent.

In the last three games Maxi has scored 7 goals including two hat-tricks. 7 goals in 9 starts under Kenny Dalglish, 3 goals in 14 starts with Roy Hodgson as manager. In fairness to Hodgson, his scoring record was not that dissimilar to his achievements at previous clubs. His form at the moment is obviously something that should be commended given that he was written off as a flop signing. More consistency is still required so that he scores goals in more individual games rather than all at once but being ruthless is also an important quality, strike while the irons hot. His goals have come against Burnley, Bolton, West Ham, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Newcastle and Fulham, all of which are ‘bottom half’ of the table teams. This can be viewed as both a positive as well as a negative, its important to score against the weaker sides that sit deep and defend resolutely. The fact that he hasn’t scored against ‘top half’ shouldn’t be too much of a concern after all he scored against Barcelona and Sevilla whilst in Spain.

An intelligent player between the lines, a good first touch, clever passing and movement make Maxi an important squad player now at Liverpool. Having played the majority of his time on the left in England he can also operate the same position on the right or even behind the frontman. Whilst not blessed with blistering pace, he makes up for it with a work rate and positioning that enables him to get the best out of his abilities. The tactics of Kenny Dalglish are definitely playing their part in the players recovery. A key to Dalglish’s Liverpool tactically so far having being the interchanging positions of the front and midfield players, helping fluidity and creating problems for opponents who are unsure who to pick up. He’s scoring record this season as a whole being at 196 mpg with 2 games remaining, a figure which beats the player of 23-25 years old (possibly he’s prime years for scoring). Having seen his friends Mascherano and Torres leave Liverpool in the last year, it would have been easy for Maxi to look for an escape route but if there’s one thing that has been consistent throughout his career and that’s being adaptable. His link up play with Luis Suárez has been excellent, being in the right place at the right time assisting his finishing. For a transfer fee of £1.5 mill/free he is proving the critics wrong.

In the original Heartbeat show actor Nick Berry sung the theme tune a cover of Buddy Holly. For the change in fortune of Maxi Rodríguez  he could easily borrow another of the London actor’s songs ‘Every Loser Wins’.

Posted in Atletico Madrid, Liverpool FC | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Subbuteo Pitch: Raúl (Schalke) v Manchester United (Home) 26/4/11

Background

The record scorer in the Champions League history found himself in the unlikely situation of another European semi-final. Having scored in both legs of the quarter finals, Raul was rolling back the clock once again.

How they line up ?

Both sides started the match in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 and likewise both made 5 changes to their teams previous outing. Schalke brought in Uchida, Sarpei, Papadopoulos, Baumjohann and another Spaniard Jurado to the team that lost to Kaiserslautern at the weekend. United went with Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Giggs and Park who all sat out Saturdays home win with Everton.

Direct duel

Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were the centre backs looking to keep an eye on Raúl.

1st Half

Raúl hit the ground running with less than a minute gone, with a cheeky nutmeg on Carrick with his back to goal, he turned and laid the ball off. A header then took him by surprise 5 minutes later, creating a shooting chance for Edu which was comfortably saved. As the tempo was fast Man Utd looked for attack after attack, Raúl used his experience and drew a foul from Fabio. His ability to find space between the lines wasn’t used effectively enough in the opening exchanges. When United had the ball Raúl positioned himself between the triangle of the Centre Backs and Carrick trying to apply pressure, but as he was often a solitary figure they played the ball round him comfortably. When Schalke had possession deep he roamed just in front of the back four. In the 24th minute an uncharacteristic sloppy pass went to Park but Man Utd failed to break. Man Utd pressed better than Schalke, in contrast Rooney had the fantastic movement from Hernandez and Valencia and Park giving them width. Neuer made a number of first class saves to keep Schalke in the game. The German side needed more width and energy in order to compete with their English counterparts and help the Spaniard create problems.

2nd Half

After the break Raúl dropped a little deeper patrolling the space in front of Carrick when his side didn’t have the ball this seemed an immediate response to the time that the midfielder had been afforded in the first period. But Carrick just pushed further forward into an area in which Raúl didn’t want to drop into with little support off his team mates he was unable to press the United midfield. With an hour gone Schalke won a corner, Raúl played it to the edge of the area then curved his run so he was back onside receiving the ball after a deflected shot. Using the outside of his boot he cleverly curled it to the far post which was headed away. In the next 10 minutes Manchester United made their dominance shown as they scored two quick goals in succession. As commentator Grahame Souness pointed out Raúl continued to work hard without the ball but the service and assistance from his team mates just wasn’t there. The ball fell to him in the area in stoppage time but he has looking for a return ball.

Conclusion

With only one side ever in the contest this made life extremely difficult for the centre forward. Raúl worked hard but had little impact on the ball. His side looked nervous and struggled with the movement and intensity of United. A number of long balls from the back were dealt with comfortably by Ferdinand and Vidic in the air as Edu and the former Real striker couldn’t compete. When comparing Raúl’s passing to that of the home game against Inter it’s clear to see he didn’t have the most productive of evenings on the ball and too often had to make passes with his back to goal.

 

But also there was a lot less service to the front man than they had displayed in that Quarter Final tie.

  

Higher work-rate and fight will be needed for the second leg from his team mates. It’s unlikely that United will fail to reach the Wembley final but having scored five goals at the San Siro against the reigning champions Schalke will feel they are not out of it just yet. But just as Inter had their fair share of chances, United will undoubtedly get more at Old Trafford.

For more on the game as a whole go to the excellent Zonal Marking.

Chalkboards using the Iphone Total Football app

Posted in Spaniards Abroad | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Four Clásico’s: Overjoy or Overdose ?

The thought of the best two teams in Spain if not the world locking horns is certainly something to savour. But if it happens 4 times in 18 days is it a footballing spectacular or does the familiarity breed boredom?

It’s not the first time it’s happened, though it has been 95 years, back in 1916 the two battled it out 4 times in 20 days with Barcelona winning twice, Real once and one draw. All of those ties were in the Copa del Rey with the 3rd game in the series (1st replay) finishing 6-6! We can only dream! A little more recently back in late November the El Clásico was expected to be a closely run tie, although Barça had just started clicking into gear, Real were progressing nicely as well. José Mourinho was the man with all the answers, after all it was his Inter side that had defeated the Catalans on route to winning the Champions League at the Bernabéu. Expectation was that a similar tactic would be employed, “the park the bus” approach whilst wouldn’t be popular to with the Madrilenos, was seen as José’s tried and tested formula. The Portuguese manager instead went for a high line, what followed was one of the greatest team performances seen in football as Barcelona demolished their rivals 5-0.

The last time Real Madrid beat Barcelona the very next day it was announced “Pep” Josep Guardiola i Sala would be L’equip blaugrana’s new manager, the side from the Nou Camp have not looked back since with a total aggregate score over the five games being a massive 16-2. Between the two managers the first of the games will be there forth encounter, Pep leads this 2-1 but ultimately José has defeated him over the course of a two-legged tie. The smart money would suggest Barça for the league and cup games and Real for the European ones but I’ve never been too good at predictions and anything can happen in football nevermind derbies.

The problem most English-speaking writers of the Spanish game have with the series of matches is that it doesn’t do anything to discourage the critics. Those that say it’s a two team league in La Liga, the rest aren’t up to standard. However what is probably coming to be realised is that the rest of Europe aren’t up to their standard either. Within Spain the press don’t do anything to discourage that the leagues all about Barcelona and Real Madrid. Writers like myself want people to realise there’s more to Spanish football than the “big two”. There’s fantastic footballing sides, clubs and players that don’t get the full credit they deserve from the media worldwide. Valencia were unlucky to have not progressed to the Champions League Quarter finals and Villarreal are close to a Europa League Semi final. But due to the television deal within the league it’s fair to say there is an imbalance, some writers avoid watching the top two altogether as some games are such a formality. All leagues have a disparity between the top and bottom though, it’s just some are more obvious than others and even this will change from time to time.

When English sides have played each other frequently, the media have embraced it. The regular battles of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United in various scenarios in the knockout stages of Europe’s premier competition in recent history have been seen as a sign of how strong the Premier League is. Phrases such as the “Battle of Britain” are rolled out, the idea that it’s too much is not even contemplated. Maybe however its the space between the games that makes the difference. When Chelsea played Liverpool five times in one season the League Cup Final was separated by two months before the first of the European semi-finals commenced.

A series of matches like these should be celebrated. When things occur so often they begin to be taken for granted but we should all remember that this isn’t the norm. In 10 years time events such as these will be looked back upon, all leagues and countries have their cycles. These games will be part of the legend of when Spain dominated football both internationally or through one of the best two teams. The Spanish media will go into overdrive over the games, but why not, they are maybe the biggest series of games that two club sides have ever faced. Everyone of these games are not to be missed, whilst the league is pretty much done and dusted, the game takes significance as it’s the first showing of either sides hand and whoever draws first blood will strike a massive psychological blow. For the casual observer if they only wish to watch one of these games then the Copa del Rey final is the match, a one-off game on a neutral ground with only that result of consequence. Then the biggest and most expensive game of chess seen, a two-legged semi final to decide who will be at Wembley for the European Cup Final 2011.

Both managers preferred first choice elevens have become fairly obvious throughout the season. But injuries and suspensions will mean that these aren’t on show though, those looking for tactics previews can be rest assured that a couple of surprises will be sprung at least by Mourinho if not from Guardiola. As each game unfolds personal duels will develop and hostility will increase. Whilst Jose has been fairly quiet up to now, expect the mind games to increase as the semi finals become nearer. Phil Ball, the author of Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football, calls the El Clásico “a re-enactment of the Spanish Civil War” such is the passion and fight generated from this game. When Eidur Gudjohnsen spoke recently to Sky’s flagship magazine of the League programme on the derby he said “One of the players wrote on the wall, ‘Don’t worry boys there’s only 100 million people watching this”. That was about the intensity of one game but no one was on hand to talk about Four of them.

The thought of the best two teams in Spain if not the world locking horns is certainly something to savour.
Do But if it happens 4 times in 18 days is it a footballing spectacular or does the familiarity breed boredom?
It’s not the first time it’s happened, though it has been 95 years, back in
1916 the two hidden it out 4 times in 20 days with Barcelona winning twice, Real eleven and one draw.
All of those ties were in the Copa del Rey with the 3rd game in the series (1st replay) finishing 6-6!
Expectation was that a similar tactic would be employed, “the park the bus” approach whilst wouldn’t be popular to with the Real Madrid was seen as Jose’s tried and tested formula.
The Portuguese manager instead went for a high line, what followed was one of the greatest team performances seen in football as Barcelona demolished there rivals 5-0.
Previous Real/Barca games
The problem most English speaking writers of the Spanish game have with the series of matches is that it doesn’t do anything to discourage the critics.
Those that say it’s a two team league in La Liga, that the rest aren’t up to standard.
However what is probably coming to be realised is that the rest of Europe aren’t up to there standard either.
Within Spain the press don’t do anything to discourage that the leagues all about Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Writers like myself want people to realise there’s more to Spanish football than the “Big Two”.
There’s fantastic footballing sides, clubs and players that don’t get the full credit they deserve from the worldwide media.
Valencia were unlucky to have not progressed to the Champions League Quarter finals and Villarreal are close to a Europa League Semi final.
But due to the television deal within the league it’s fair to say there is an imbalance, some writers avoid watching the top two altogether as some games are such a formality.
All leagues have a disparity between the top and bottom though, it’s just some are more obvious than others and even this will change from time to time.
When English sides have played each other frequently, the media have embraced it.
The regular battles of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United in various scenarios in the knockout stages of Europe’s premier competition in recent history have been seen as a sign as how strong the Premier League is.
Phrases such as the “Battle of Britain” are rolled out, the idea that it’s too much is not even contemplated.
This season has seen a Quarter final between Manchester United and Chelsea, the two had previously met on the and are due to meet again on the
that’s 4 times in days.
Never was it considered boring.
A series of matches like these should be celebrated.
When things occur so often they begin to be taken for granted but we should all remember that this isn’t the norm.
In 10 years time events such as these will be looked back upon, all leagues and countries have there cycles.
These games will be part of the legend of when Spain dominated football both internationally or through one of the best two teams.
The Spanish media will go into overdrive over the games, but why not, they are maybe the biggest series of games that two club sides have ever faced.
Everyone of these games is unmissable, whilst the league is pretty much done and dusted, the game takes significance as it’s the first showing of either sides hand and whoever draws first blood will strike a massive phycological blow.
For the casual observer if they only wish to watch one of these games then the Copa del rey final is the match, a one off game on a neutral ground with only that result of consequence.
Then the biggest and most expensive game of chess seen, a two legged semi final to decide who will be at Wembley for the European Cup Final 2011.
Both managers preferred first choice elevens have become fairly obvious throughout the season.
Injuries and suspensions will mean that these aren’t on show though, those looking for tactics previews can be rest assured that a couple of surprises will be sprung at least by Mourinho if not from Guardiola.
As each game unfolds personal duels will develop and hostility will increase.
Whilst Jose has been fairly quiet up to now, expect the mind games to increase as the semi finals become nearer.
That was about the intensity of one game but no one was on hand to talk about Four of them.
Posted in Barcelona, Real Madrid | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Subbuteo Pitch: Javi García (Benfica) v PSV (Home) 7/4/11

Background

Francisco Javier “Javi” García Fernández is in his 2nd season in Portugal having learnt his trade at Real Madrid. The 24-year-old cousin of former Atletico Madrid and Liverpool winger Luis helped the Portuguese outfit to last seasons title. A regular for Benfica in the central holding midfield role.

Both sides came into this Quarter Final Europa League 1st Leg, after losing top of the table clashes in there domestic leagues. Benfica lost at home to now Champions Porto, whilst PSV lost away to current leaders FC Twente. The battle of the current runners-up of both Portugal and Holland, would be more gripping as both teams would need an immediate response to appease the fans.

How they set up ?

Jorge Jesus made three changes to the side which lost at Porto, Maxi Pereira and Oscar Cardozo returned from injury and Jardel replaced fellow Brazilian Sidnei in central defence. This change was perhaps due to an error by Sidnei in their previous game however former Atletico Madrid youth product goalkeeper Roberto kept his place despite being at fault for the two goals at the weekend. Benfica lined up in their usual 4-4-2 diamond.

PSV kept the same starting eleven which had lost away to Twente at the weekend but also won the previous game before that against Utrecht. They also played a familiar formation in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3.

Direct Dual

Occupying the deeper role in the diamond midfield meant that García would be tasked with nullifying the threat of attacking midfielder Otman Bakkal. Bakkal was the victim of January window Liverpool purchase Luis Suárez when the Uruguayan decided to see how he tasted back in November.

1st Half

García got his first touch of the ball straight from kick off when the ball was laid back to him, a simple side ways pass was suffice. In the 3rd minute he battled with 2 defenders and the opposition goalkeeper to win a header from a long throw which was wrongly given as a goal kick having took a deflection. His positional sense throughout the half was good but as Benfica looked to attack quickly and had the better of the exchanges he wasn’t required so much on the ball. When he was needed he broke up the play well either from tackles or interceptions and passed the ball accurately. He sat deep and occasionally dropped into a centre back role almost Sergio Busquets like. This was a feature of Benfica’s play as both their full backs caused problems when attacking, García was important to provide the cover against the counter attack. When Javi did venture forward he provided a side footed cross which was poorly dealt with by the PSV defence and Javier Saviola should have buried. Former Valencia man Pablo Aimar opened the scoring and Eduardo Salvio made it two.

2nd Half

The next period was much the same as the first when Atletico’s on loan winger Salvio scored again. PSV defended poorly throughout but that perhaps does Benfica a mis-justice who played some good football. Benfica’s high pressure up the pitch meant they often won the ball back early as in the first half, but the extra dominance now meant that Javi wasn’t needed as much to break up the play. In the 68th minute he almost got on the end of driven free kick from Cardozo, missing a connection by inches. Cool and calm in possession and a constant threat from set pieces. PSV’s goal came when Luisao came out of defence to make an interception allowing Lens to make the move in behind the defence with a first time ball, Javi was quick to see the danger and was unlucky not to prevent a cross/shot which Roberto didn’t deal with allowing substitute Labyad to slide home against the run of play. After that PSV looked a little more threatening and the game was more stretched this was symbolised with a covering last-ditch tackle from García. In the 83rd minute García tried his luck from distance forcing Isaksson to push it round the post when it bounced just before him. With 5 minutes remaining he deliberately cross blocked Bakkal as he looked to spring a counter attack receiving a yellow card for his troubles, immediately he berated substitute Franco Jara who had given the ball away cheaply, causing him to take one for the team as it were. Former Real Madrid and Barcelona striker Javier Saviola made it 4-1 at the death.

Conclusion

With so much attacking flair and movement from the forward Benfica players it would be easy for the fans to forget that Javi García was playing. But as the holding midfield role is often the unsung hero position he won’t have minded. With such fluent players interchanging positions in attack and in full backs that get forward at every opportunity, García’s game and positional sense is crucial. He rarely put a foot wrong in everything he did until the 79th minute but he wasn’t the only one wearing a red shirt who could have been described that way.

Posted in Spaniards Abroad | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Subbuteo Pitch: David Silva (Man City) v Chelsea (Away) 20/3/11

Background

Having scored in his previous two Premier League games, David Silva is a player in form. Whilst not known for his scoring prowess, he’s ability to create and overall link up play with the team as a whole has helped the blues look dangerous on the break. He has now established himself as a regular starter for Roberto Mancini’s side. After an initial difficult couple of months settling in, he has gone onto win the clubs Player of the Month award for a record 3 months running from October to December 2010.

How they set up ?

Chelsea had an extra day’s rest and also had the luxury of having entered there European match two goals to the good and were comfortable enough to rest Fernando Torres. Carlo Ancelotti made 5 changes to the team with David Luiz, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou and Torres all returning to the line up. Drogba and Anelka started from the bench. Ancelotti claims to have chosen his team for this game before the midweek game and then chose backwards. Chelsea started the game in a 4-4-2 with Kalou partnering birthday boy Torres up front.

Roberto Mancini made just two changes from the side which failed to knock Dynamo Kiev out of the Europa league. Bad boy Mario Balotelli dropped to the bench and Carlos Tevez missed the game due to a groin strain. James Milner and Edin Dzeko replaced the pair. With Man City having played for 55 mins with 10 men on Thursday whilst chasing the tie, fatigue was possibly going to affect them late on in this game. There formation was their usual 4-3-3.

Direct Dual

David Silva started in the left-wing position, where he likes to drift in field. He would be marked by Ivanovic who was at right back and prefered to the more attack minded Boswinga who started on the Wednesday.

1st Half

Silva got he’s first touch of the ball after 90 seconds with a one two with Kolarov which mounted to nothing. He saw plenty of the ball in the opening 10 minutes as he looked to cause problems with his position between the lines. As City broke on the counter attack in the 22nd minute, Silva carried the ball up the field constantly looking up to see what was around him but a misplaced cross field ball not only frustrated team mates but clearly annoying himself. As the half played out he began to pop up in more central positions and on the right-hand side in a bid to see more of the ball. Silva didn’t interchange with Dzeko at all, where as he’s almost telepathic play with Tevez has been an important part of City’s attack this season. Defensively he looked to nick the ball a number of times in order to spring-board an attack but as Ivanovic rarely ventured to far forward he wasn’t pinned back for very long. Overall City offered little going forward and that showed as most of David Silva’s touches were in deep positions but he wasn’t the only one who hadn’t got a grip on the game in a dull first 45.

2nd Half

He’s first contribution in the second period came when he broke up the play in front of his own penalty area. City started to look more threatening on the left hand side as Kolarov pushed on and used the space which Silva had vacated by being in a more central position. On the 55th minute Silva pounced on a mis-placed pass from Malouda and ran out the Chelsea defence, he’s little poke through almost finding Toure as Cech slid out. Silva intercepted the ball a number of times through a mixture of good positioning and poor Chelsea passing at times. The game began to become more stretched, which would suit Silva if he was able to get the ball in the right positions. He’s vision and ball with the outside of he’s left foot to Dzeko on the 65th minute was sublime. A mixture of good link up play and sloppy passes were not only the story of his 2nd half but summed up his game. The first goal came from a set piece, due to Silvas frame he’s job at free kicks is to stand in the wall or at the edge of the area with the view to break. In the last 10 minutes as City chased the game, he operated more in the hole.

Conclusion

For the most expensive game in world football, the match was devoid of attacking flair and goal mouth action. With just 5 attempts on target during the whole game, it was always likely to be a set piece that made the difference. With Torres on his worst scoring run since arriving in England and Dzeko not yet adapted to the league and he’s new side, the game was less than spectacular. Man City had just 3 attempts on the Chelsea goal and were poor going forward. Whilst David Silva was not the worst player on show, he didn’t have his greatest of games. Their reliance on Tevez was there to see and as their main flair player Silva had little impact. For Silva to cause more problems he needed to receive the ball further up the pitch more often, other players needed to carry the ball out of defense more and better movement was needed from Dzeko.

Posted in Spaniards Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment