Sunday, February 17, 2008

What a Difference a Week Makes...

After a historic victory, in which Madrid thrashed Valladolid 7-0, the team came back and lost with an unimpressive performance against Real Betis. The loss, combined with Barcelona’s controversial victory against Zaragoza, has once again opened up the league by shrinking Madrid’s lead to five points in the table.

After a very quick lead, Madrid began to sit back and Betis put in two in five minutes, mostly due to two blunders by Marcelo. After that Betis parked the bus in front of goal and Madrid couldn’t get anything going offensively.

It might not be a bad thing to get humbled heading into the Champions League. Coming off a 7-0 victory, the team might’ve been experiencing a little euphoria, especially with all the talk that the league was over. Now they know that they are going to have to work really hard and step up their game both in league and in Europe.

One positive that I took from the last two games was the emergence of two Dutch giants. One is already one of soccer’s elite, the other is emerging into one. I’m talking about Arjen Robben and Royston Drenthe.

We here at American Madridistas had become very critical of Robben, saying that his purchase may have been one of the biggest blunders in recent transfer windows. While this is still entirely possible, he showed everyone that he wants and deserves a place in Madrid. We mostly criticized the economic side of the transfer, we all know that he is a world class player when fit, but if he can give the team what he gave over the last two games then he will be worth every penny. With the addition of Robben in the squad Madrid have an actual winger who can provide service into the strikers. This gives the team more options on the attack and it gives the opposition more to deal with. This is especially important considering that it is only a matter of time before more teams figure out that to stop Madrid you simply have to shut down their center midfield.

Speaking of Madrid’s future, we were all shown a glimpse into one of the future stars in Royston Drenthe. He was signed to the team after a dominant performance for the Dutch Under-21 team. He scored in Madrid’s last two games, and has shown the pace and flash for which he was brought.

The two Dutchmen combined to score Madrid’s only goal over the weekend.

I didn’t agree with Schuster’s decision to take out Drenthe because at that point the wings became nullified and Guti had been wholly ineffective throughout that entire match. The problem is that without wings, Madrid relies too much on Guti’s through passes. When he has the space he needs he is deadly but when opposition shut him down the offense basically stops. Julio Baptista has been a good second option but with the injury to Ruud Van Nistelrooy, the Beast has been pushed forward. Madrid needs wing players to expand their attack.

Let’s see what Schuster decides for the clash in Rome.