Tuesday, August 28, 2007

La liga news round-up: day 1

It was a weekend that defied predictions as the 3 promoted sides all won at the expense of some of the bigger teams, Real looked better than expected, Sevilla won but it didn't matter, Barca bored and Valencia and Atletico bottled it once again.

Barca 0-0 Racing

As a certain Spanish newspaper put it, 'fantastically boring'. Fair play to Marca, it made me chuckle.

As Sid Lowe said on Football Weekly, it was all rather depressingly familiar to Barca fans: a total lack of width, urgency, agression and worryingly, not much inspiration in attack.

But Zambrotta's right, you know:

“During the pre-season we have been a 'fantastic' team and won everything. Now just because of one match there’s all this fuss."

I also second Xavi's frustration at all this 'fantastic four' rubbish. Certain sections of the press need to remember that football is a team sport.

What has sparked some worry amongst the fans and the press is that while Messi was arguably the best of the trident, he was the one who was subbed off for Henry to come on, instead of Ronaldinho or Eto'o, who would be more likely to have a tantrum about it. Rijkaard insists the substitution was done that way for tactical reasons, but he's definitely under scrutiny for his (apparent lack of) willingness to test the discipline of Ronnie and Sammy by benching them. Messi himself didn't look too happy to be bought off, but in the post-match interview he repeated his usual line of being at the disposal of the coach. To be honest, he's probably the least problematic of the 4 in terms of discipline, but that doesn't mean he should be the victim of the others' egos.

Incidentally, Cesc Fabregas implied in an interview this week that Henry intimidated too many of the young players at Arsenal while he was there. At least that won't be a problem at Barca, where most of the squad are established internationals in their 20s with their own egos and some are stars in their own right.


They're better than I thought they'd be. Garay is as dependable as ever, and with a manager who knows how to marshal limited resources, maybe they won't be in trouble after all.

club news

Poor old Eidur Gudjohnsen. I know I placed him pretty low in the striker hierarchy for the season, but at least I didn't say this:

"Eidur knows the situation," said Beguiristáin. "We now have six players in front of him."

Ouch, Txiki (technical director 'Txiki' Beguiristain), harsh. Especially since 2 of those 6 are at least 10 years his junior.

Next up is the Gamper trophy, which we have to cheer ourselves up for despite the events of the opening round. To be honest, a first round draw away from home is far from a disastrous result, but as I said above, it's just the same old problems which is a bit frustrating for fans. I would certainly rather have the 3 points, but at least this damp squib of a result has damped down the absurd hype.

Real 2-1 Atletico

If it's unfair to judge Atletico on this performance alone, it's probably also unfair to say that Real are world-beaters based on one victory. However, they did look at least dynamic and up for it, and this is a great result for them after the pre-season madness. Good stuff.

As for Atletico, I think they've still got issues in defence, but having said that, they haven't conceded that many in previous seasons either, it's just the timing of the ones they do concede that hurts them.

Valencia 0-3 Villarreal

Being an admirer of the Yellow Submarines, I was very pleased with this result and with their slick performance, but where does one even start with Valencia? Angulo instead of Morientes to partner Villa? And what was with that defence? I didn't think they'd miss Ayala, having signed well to replace him (plus, Albiol's pretty good), but lord, they didn't look organised.

Sometimes, it's difficult for fans to accept the decline of a great player as age takes its toll, and Ruben Baraja is a prime example. I keep thinking that he's still brilliant like he was 3 or 4 seasons ago, and the reality of how far he's fallen was a shock. Sad, but at least Valencia have just signed Manuel Fernandez from Benfica to plug that midfield hole.

Sevilla 4-1 Getafe

A good win, but the gloss has completely been taken off it by the plight of young leftback Antonio Puerta, who remains in very serious condition after collapsing first on the pitch, and then again in the dressing room, where he had to be resuscitated by club doctors. Kind of puts all the fuss about referees and whiny players and unjust results in perspective when a 22-year-old is fighting for his life in hospital, doesn't it? At least the behaviour of Sevilla's cross-town rivals Betis in this matter has been commendable, which is a nice break at least from the childish acrimony that often characterises the rivalry.

All the best wishes to Puerta and his family.

Elsewhere, Zaragoza cost my fantasy team a few points as they were surprisingly beaten 2-1 by new boys Murcia, for whom Pablo Garcia did a good job and record signing Baiano opened his account (although I did get some points because of this game courtesy of Ricardo Oliveira). Depor also cost me a few points in being thrashed 3-0 by Almeria. So much for the fortress Riazor.

(I should explain that I have a 'no Barca or Real players' policy for my fantasy team, which is probably going to cost me points, but has made things more interesting by forcing me to look harder at some of the other sides in the league.)

(Coming up, a post on the new Barca signings.)


estoverao said...

Linda, I was waiting to see how you would handle the disappointing debut of the "fantasticos"(which sounds and feels a lot like the Catalan version of "galacticos"). Whats all this crazy talk I'm hearing of Ronaldinho to Chelsea??!! I hope its just some more hot air from madrid based partisan press = AS and MARCA. I just cant see Dinho in the royal blue playing Mourinho(Capello junior) style football.

Linda said...

Yeah, the whole fantastic four thing really irritates me for precisely that reason.

I hear you on the Ronnie to Chelsea thing. Just doesn't seem right, does it?