Friday, May 2, 2014

Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and the Champions League Semis

Ed finds that honky-tonk piano music inspires his creativity
photo by Epiclecticvia PhotoRee
Ed dishes on Pep, Bayern Chelsea, Atletico, and even Ricky:
Pep Guardiola may not have won the Champions League this year, but I think the hysteria regarding his possession based system and his being "outcoached" is comical.  Bayern won the Bundesliga in record time.  They've also made it to the final of the German Cup.  And to top it off, Bayern made the final four in the Champions League.  Pep is not exactly a Spanish David Moyes.
I did find something interesting -- the possession style was undone first by Atletico Madrid against Barcelona and then later by Carlo Ancelotti and his suspended left eybrow playing the part of the copycat.  Both teams used the 4-4-2, and both teams countered with aggression and purpose.
In the case of Madrid, Bale and Ronaldo did the damage.  And let's not kid ourselves -- these are the best left/right combination in modern football, and arguably ever.  Bale is simply built for the counter, leaving defenses with pressing outside backs extremely vulnerable on both sides of the pitch.  You simply cannot double or triple both of them, and to take your defenders out of the attack makes it difficult to have any width going forward.  I wonder where Real came up with this idea?  Oh, that's right, it was from Bayern Munich!   Playing the role of Ribery on the left is Ronaldo, and playing the role of Robben on the right is Bale.
So what did happen to Bayern?  I think the answer is simple -- Ribery hurt his buttocks and didn't return to form on time.  This allowed Real to triple cover Robben and to worry little about the Frenchman.  I think the American commentators to the game got it all wrong when they said Robben was the guy that really carried the team.  Robben was forced in this case to carry the team -- which he couldn't do -- because the guy that used to carry the team wasn't ready to go at all in the first game and was merely an echo of himself in the second.
Regardless, I don't shed any tears for Bayern.  While I like former Spurs' Modric and Bale (how about that, two guys on Real going for it all!), I have no patience for Pepe and his painful brand of petulance, flopping, and feigning injury to delay games.  I also never like the trophy squasher Ramos and his enormous ego.  But hey, Real is looking, well, real.

Over on the other side of the Champions League, Chelsea did its best to bore its way through its games against Atletico, but the better Spanish side ultimately prevailed.  Oh, and when I write "bore" I don't mean "drill," I mean "bore" like a long wait at the DMV.  Chelsea's sit and wait style was successful against a better Liverpool side over the weekend, and it worked well in the first leg against Atletico, but when forced to go out and win a game the team was undone.  This is certainly in part because Fernando Torres really has no ability any longer and could be swapped for a random Norwich striker without consequence (who wouldn't love to see Corresp. Scott in a new Liverpool Ricky Van Wolfswinkel kit!).  As my son likes to say:  "Why do they start that guy?"  And:  "Why don't they start Demba Ba?"  And even:  "Wow, that David Luiz is very cocky considering how much of an A$$hat he is!"  Wait, that last one is something I say.

But Chelsea's failure was also because, well, Atletico was better on the ball, better off the ball, and better finishers.  I can't say I like Simeone's hairstyle (it's weird to see a guy with that much hair still go with some kind of postmodern front to back combover), but Atletico's manager seems to know what he's doing as well as how to motivate his guys.  Plus he's got plenty of talent on the team.  Do they have enough to beat Real Madrid?  Uh, no, but they just might.  Hey wait, is La Liga the best league in the world?  I think that was obvious when Barcelona treated Manchester City like the JV squad, but certainly the success of the finalists in the Champions League as well as Valencia and Sevilla in the Europa league make it clear.

This is farlieonfootie for May 2.

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