February 27, 2013 Leave a comment
August 20, 2011 Leave a comment
Finally, the much anticipated squads were announced by Sabella. 2 lists, 1 a locally based team for the 2 games against Brazil, and the other list, the squad comprising of foreign players considered as the motherlode of all lists!
Love thy neighbor : Squad against Brazil
A brief review of the squad selected for Brazil . You’ll find the complete list anywhere so I am not going to harp too much about it
- Squad of 24 (2GK +8 DEF + 8 MID + 5 FWD)
- Average age: 27.5
- Club break-up: 6 Estudiantes + 6 Velez + 4 Boca + 4 Racing + 4 from Lanus, San Lorenzo, Arsenal
- Key inclusions : Riquelme, Veron, Valeri (Midfield), Pillud, Botenelli, Castro, Chavez
It seems like a fairly balanced squad with a slightly higher average age than what you’d expect normally. Of course, guys like Veron and Riquelme would heavily skew it J. It looks like Sabella would favour mostly proven performers/experience at the domestic level
Half the squad consists of players from Estudiantes and Velez, giving us an insight that Sabella could start off with the comfort zone of familiarity (Estudiantes) and a winning mentality (Velez)
Sweet taste of India and Bangladesh
Let’s look at the team to India, and importantly, compare it to the infamous Copa America 2011 team (last team assembled by Batista):
- It’s a 23 (Batista) vs 26 (Sabella) Squad
- Using historical data and analyzing player performances for the last 10 games and dynamically using predictive methods mindless intuition, we’ve Red-fonted the players that could have been excluded if the squad were to be trimmed to 23 (Demi, Sosa, Salvio – sorry folks)
- Average age of Sabella’s squad = 24.7
- The players in yellow cells are what we call Flexi-Players- who’ve played in different positions or have the ability to do so if the need arises. Eg – Otamendi can play RB (no matter how ineffectively J )
- We’ve split the midfield into 3 groups – Defensive Midfield (DMF), AMF (Attacking Midfield/ Enganche) and Midfield or Wingers (MF/WING)
- Attackers : Batista 6 vs Sabella 4. As highlighted before, this was too skewed in the Copa. Sabella immediately took the opportunity to offload Tevez, Lavezzi , and Milito, and brought the in-form Lopez in
- AMF: This is key. While Batista and his predecessor, Maradona, had only Pastore as a true player in that position without any real back-up, and hoped that guys like Banega/Gago would provide additional support, Sabella provided an excellent option by adding Lucho Gonzalez to this segment. Lucho has the creativity , experience and skill to fill the immediate needs , or support and mentor Pastore into the role as we had highlighted in our previous post
- MF/WING : This is another CRITICAL area. While Batista had enough defensive cover , he gave himself very little options for flexibility and width with only Di Maria capable of it. I’ve included Biglia in here , but you could make a case that even he was chosen as a DMF! Contrast this to Sabella who has Sosa, Gutierezz, Di Maria, Salvio and Alverez for this position. Even if we were to drop Sosa and Salvio, there are still 2 options- 1 with a defensive midset width (Gutierrez) and 1 with a creative bent (Alverez).
The true head-scratchers are the inclusion of Demi, Gutierrez and to an extent , Sosa. I remember Demi stinking up the defense akin to a public loo back when I saw him last , at the world cup, where South Korea, and then Germany too tore into him. It looked like Bayern weren’t too impressed with his massive flop show during the WC and promptly offloaded him this season to Malaga, the new rich kids in down in the Spanish league. I’ve never seen Demi play well for club or country in recent times to give me much hope. The Spiderman, as Gutierrez is more popularly known in Toonland, was also the subject of much criticism during the WC for his miserable slalom runs and prompt propensity to give the ball away to opposition. To be fair, he was played out of position by Maradona, and I have seen him fare decently when playing for Newcastle. I’ll refrain from saying much about Sosa since I haven’t seen him play much in recent times.
Kudos must be given to Sabella for selecting Ansaldi, who needs to definitely prove and nail down his position at LB, Otamendi (he has stepped it up in recent times with Porto), Sick-Rick- who was one of the flavours of the transfer season, Lucho , and Lisandro, who has been extremely consistent at Lyon. I’ll also be watching Rinaudo with curiosity, as he has the work-rate and consistency that Sabella loves from his players.
The positives far outweigh the doubts at this stage, and I look towards the immediate future with cautious optimism!
August 19, 2011 1 Comment
The Enganche Position
Historically , the Albicelestes have had some tremendous players playing this key role. In the more recent past, The Legend himself (1994), to Ortega(1998-2002), Veron, Aimar,(1998, 2002) (The FANTASTIC ) Riquelme (2006) have all been the owners of the keys that drives the beast. Shockingly, Maradona himself gave himself very little options to choose from when he took charge of the NT in 2010. Batista went one worse by trying to mimic the Barca system and magically hoping against hope and time that two of Banega/Gago/Cambiasso would magically turn into a Xavi and Iniesta combo for Messi and the false no. 9 experiment.
There’s very little to go by when it comes to predicting what Sabella would do. Stressing on defensive and midfield solidarity, there’d be place for a sole attacking midfielder to play a True Enganche role. Veron, the Estudiantes legend , is familiar with Sabella, but it’s not set in stone that Veron would be the choice. Let’s take a look at the candidates:
From the above table, it’s quite obvious that Riquelme is (or was in a league of his own ) when compared to the other candidates. Riquelme is probably the DEFINITION of an Enganche. Riquelme’s class beyond question. However , he has been injury prone of late. Other than Riquelme, Veron and Pastore, 2 intriguing options are Lucho Gonzalez and Diego Valeri.
Lucho has been in good form of late in the French league. On his day, he can be extremely effective (the Brazil WCQ comes to mind), and on others, just absolutely fade away. Compared to the other 2 established stars from the past, Lucho still has age on his side to help the team for the next couple of years.
Valeri is another interesting option. He’s a player with a lot of undelivered promise, but is probably the closest to a natural Enganche role after Riquelme in that list. He takes a lot of set-pieces for Lanus, giving us an option from corners and indirect free kicks. He also has age , pace and stamina on his side, something that the other seniors cannot guarantee just yet.
Pastore is the future without a doubt. He has made a big money move to PSG and the pressure is on him to live upto the billing and take PSG to the upper echelons of Europe. Burdening him with the Enganche role with the NT could be a high risk –high reward situation. Something tells me that he still needs a little bit of burden sharing or mentoring . I am a big fan of his personally, but I’ve never seen him take dead ball situations with his limited time with the NT or with Palermo in the past (maybe someone can correct me on this).
We believe the following will happen:
- Pastore will be selected as part of the squad. He has done nothing wrong so far, and has shown immense potential, and understanding with Messi. The only doubt in our minds is that he may not be a true “Enganche”. He’s in fact more like a Messi himself – a CF.
- Veron disqualifies himself because of his age. He is an extremely short term option, and going with him adds very little to the future
- . As much as it hurts me to say this, but Riquelme may not be an option either. I am one of his biggest fans, but this is the time to move forward. Riquelme’s inclusion often demands a system to be made with him at the core, and I am not sure if he provides Sabella the flexibility that the latter typically loves.
- Valeri as mentioned is a definite option who might see his name called up for the local NT games against Brazil. He might need to prove himself there as a stepping stone to the NT
- Lucho Gonzalez is the one player who may need to return to the NT and be the perfect stop gap for this role. He just turned 30 and can provide a good 2-3 years more. He has the vision and sting in his shot. He also has leadership abilities , and can transition the NT to the future. Though Sabella might not consider him, Lucho Gonzalez should be picked for the NT.
Our Squad pick for Enganche and AMF: Lucho Gonzalez and Javier Pastore
March 2, 2011 1 Comment
In the aftermath of the India vs England game, many questions were raised about the dismal Indian bowling attack. Having personally witnessed Strauss tear apart the bowling like cheap toilet roll, it was time to call upon the STAT TURD again to investigate the stain remains.
MTJAG had mentioned in it’s preliminary diagnosis that the bowling and fielding left much to be desired. A feeling was that outside of Zaheer Khan, the rest of the Indian bowling left a lot to be desired, and especially more was expected from Bhajji – who is supposed to be our primary strike bowler along with Zaks.
STAT TURD took the controls from there and here are the basis for comparison:
1. The data taken was for the performance of the bowlers in the home conditions ( eg Indian bowler in India, SL bowler in SL, and neutral bowler in Asia). This is because- well the world cup is going on in these conditions, isn’t it? STAT TURD feels that the performance in the in the host nation alone would still be sufficient even if India or SL plays in the other nation. This should be reasonable enough an assumption
2. STAT TURD has essentially taken 3 key indicators – Average (Runs given per wicket) , Economy Rate, and Strike Rate ( Deliveries bowled per wicket) as points of comparison
3. Bowlers in consideration are Bhajji, Murali, Steyn, Vettori, Zaheer and Munaf. All bowlers (except Steyn) had close to 20 or more games in the home conditions. Other spinners such as Swann were not considered because of 2 few games.
Do Click on it to get a larger view . Basic Summary:
1. Bhajji has a higher Average AND Strike Rate than all the other bowlers he has been compared to. That means he gives away more runs per wicket and needs more deliveries per wicket
2. Bhajji has a middling Economy Rate – but wait- it’s the highest when you compare him with the other 2 spinners. He has a better Economy Rate than the pacers, but that could be understandable as the pacers often end up bowling during the powerplays.
Now , STAT TURD decides to check on the performance of the 3 Indian Bowlers under MS Dhoni. Let’s see how that turns out:
What are our findings , ye ask?
1. Bhajji seems to have a more significant dip in his performance with MSD as his captain when compared to his overall career! Is it age or field placements?
2. Munaf’s economy rate has drastically increased during his stint under Dhoni. This could be because he used to be employed more often as a 1st change bowler before, but now used as a new ball bowler under Dhoni – hence exposing him to the Power Plays. Would it make more sense to keep him 1st change? Only time will tell.
STAT TURD, while finding these numbers , also took a quick peak at under which captain did these aforementioned bowlers bowl better under. The answer? Surprise, surprise — it’s RAHUL DRAVID! Yep, all 3 bowlers were significantly better in all 3 categories under Dravid compared to Dhoni. Don’t get too frustrated though – it could be because the PPs have been in full force during Dhoni’s time as a captain from 2007. However , that is a topic for another day.
What do you all think?
March 1, 2011 2 Comments
Fact #1 : Lasith’s first words as a toddler was not “Mommy” . It was, “Who’s your Daddy.”
Fact #2: Lasith grew up in a village where every other child grew up on crutches. He friggin yorked them all.
Fact #3: There was one child though who feigned a leg injury. Lasith ate him. Alive.
Fact #4: Contrary to popular belief , Lasith does NOT have a foot fetish. He just hates toes.
Fact #5: Lasith once went 2 games without ever taking a single wicket with a toe-crushing yorker. He then destroyed that damn Playstation 3 box.
Fact #6: Lasith was actually fit for the first 2 WC games for Sri Lanka. The team supervisor misplaced the keys for Lasith’s cage. Gunatunga , the team supervisor, will be missed.
Fact #7: Lasith once bowled a bouncer. No really. The ball bounced , dipped back into the batsman’s toes and crushed it, planting the batsman’s feet permanently into the pitch. He can still be spotted on the field near Gale.
Fact #8: Lasith actually used to date a middle stump in high school, which could explain his desire to “smack ‘em” every time he sees one.
What an insane performance against kenya!
February 28, 2011 Leave a comment
MTJAG was back in action . This time, we sneaked into the stands at the Chinnaswamy Stadium @ Bangalore to witness the crazy run feast. Here are the diagnostic results:
Oh it’s just a Common Cold , silly:
1. It was widely believed that fans going to the game would be facing a nightmarish ordeal. NOT TRUE. We got there pretty early after the usual 3S (shave, $hit, Shower), had a pretty heavy breakfast and got to the gate entrance by 12 noon. We were at our seats within 6 minute 28 seconds (give or take a few seconds). I heard that some of the other stands had a much tougher time, but I’d say a majority of the crowd got into the stadium (and out of it too) without too much of a hassle. There were also KSCA folks who guided as many people as they could to their seats. Well done, amigos.
2. Fear of Tendulkar’s form not carrying onto the world cup – DISPELLED. Sachin was pure awesomeness. His innings was pretty well paced (started slowly but caught up soon), and his hits were clean. His 2nd wicket stand with Gambhir was excellent, and they handled Swann very well.
3. Strauss ‘s ability in the ODI game - Rarely does Sachin score a century and yet get overshadowed. However,
Levis Andy Strauss ensured just that with his fantastic display, possibly his best so far. The captain signaled his comfort in these conditions in their first game against the Oranje, and this time, he almost took England all the way on his own, and he seemed to find the boundary at will too. 18 boundaries and 1 six (compared to Sachin’s 10 and 5 respectively) tells you that he seemed to find the gaps really well , or, well more on that later.
You might want to get a 2nd Opinion on this:
1. The Indian Middle order : Normally, 339 would be a monumental total for any side to post and the opposition to overcome. However, with India’s bowling , any amount of extra runs would be welcome. The last 2 overs in the Indian innings resulted in 5 wickets and 13 runs. Yusuf or Kohli or Bhajji need to understand that you don’t have to swat every ball over the boundary like a fly but maximize whatever you have to get those crucial runs. I feel we missed out on a few runs there, and 1 of the middle order batsmen needs to stand-up and learn how to end an innings with the tail, while batting first.
2. Yuvraj to the Party: With the score at 180 when Gambhir was dismissed , India correctly brought on Yuvraj Singh to the crease. The thought process was 2-fold , continue the left-right combination at the pitch, and see if one of the crucial middle order batsman for India could get into some rhythm as the cup continues. The move paid rich dividends with Yuvi scoring a 50+. Let’s wait and see if his form and confidence continues to soar up.
Um..You might want to call your relatives..:
1. Indian bowling and fielding : can we say *FAIL*??! The bowling and fielding really went hand-in-hand (or butt-to-butt considering the abysmal lows). In the larger context of things, our key spinner Bhajji was economical but not penetrative. He just didn’t seem to be in it yesterday. The 2 sixes off Chawla’s final over was a death blow, but it would be too unfair to hold it against him , a relative newbie, when so many other things were going wrong. Zaheer was brilliant in his last spell, and extremely ordinary in his first. Munaf was back to his meh self. Perhaps a little more variety, a few more yorkers in his armor would help! The 2 part-time spinners gave up 61 runs in their 10 overs, which was 10 less than our front line bowlers!
And the fielding…good Lord… I’m really not sure what would help other than just sheer passion for it. Kohli fluffed a chance at slip, Bhajji let Strauss off early in the game (this was a killer). Raina had a few mishaps. More importantly, it’s just the lack of effort. In such a flat oupitch which doesn’t assist the bowlers too much, you need to raise your game collectively and give them hope, give yourself a chance, and give the fans to raise their voices even more to lift you up! I don’t recollect seeing 1 attempt at the stumps (granted, half the time there was nobody backing the stumps up!) . When the ball went towards Munaf at deep mid-wicket – it was a granted 2 runs for England. Sloppy sloppy sloppy!! When England were fielding, I remember us fans being amazed at how many times Pietersen just threw himself saving numerous boundaries!
2. Field placements/Bowling : These go hand in hand as well. How did Strauss manage to find more holes than swiss cheese through our fielding formation is beyond me. Or was it the bowlers who simply possibly refused to adhere to the field given to them?? Oh how I miss Kumble! 3 tight overs in the middle are so important. Having that happen around the 42nd over might sometimes be a little too late, as we found out.
June 3, 2010 Leave a comment
No matter how good or bad a German team looks during regular games and qualification phases , you can almost be assured that they come to the party when it matters most. For quite a while now, they’ve churned up teams that perform more often than not. Finalists in 1966, 1982, 1986, 2002 , 3rd place in 2006, and winners in 1974 and 1998. In fact, outside of a meagre 2nd round exit in 1978, Germany has at least reached the Quarter Finals every single time since 1954, when they lifted the cup for the first time! Call it what you may, it’s just hard to argue against that kind of consistency and pedigree. The German football team is very much like their automobile when it comes to performance, the parts just seamlessly fit in and operate in sync. Ever since 2002 though , there has been quite a lack of individual quality. In recent memory, only Ballack (who’s out injured) comes close to the genius of Muller, Beckenbauer, Klinsmann, Matthaus, or even Thomas Hassler and Andreas Moller. but make no mistake, it’s more about the team and the system than the individuals that make the German team click.
Germany got through their Euro group without too much of a sweat, winning 8 of their games, drawing 2 and losing none. It is fair to say that they weren’t too tested against the likes of Russia, Finland and Wales, but they did what they had to , scoring 24 goals and conceding just 5 in the process. The usual suspects Klose and Podolski emerged the top 2 goal scorers, and you can expect to see them feature prominently in Low’s plans.
After taking over as manager from Klinsmann in 2006, Joachim Low started his tenure quite brilliantly all the way upto Euro 2008, where they lost to Spain 1-0 in the finals. The ride hasn’t that smooth in recent times though, with some poor performances leading to the world cup. A 1-0 home defeat against Argentina (with Maradona at the helm of things there, you have to consider it quite a feat to lose to him!) was an indicator of how things can get difficult against quality opposition. With Ballack and a host of other important players out, the last friendly against Hungary threw out more questions than answers. Ballack’s loss is especially a big blow for Germany, for he is definitely one of the more creative players for Germany, not to mention the leadership and spirit that he brings about.
With Ballack out, Philip Lahm has been designated the captain of a squad that has 6 strikers, 7 midfielders , some potential and a lot more questions. You’ll find the usual suspects in the line up in front – with Klose and Podolski. However, Klose has had a pretty dull last season, and there are murmurs that Podolski may need to play a more withdrawn role to substitute the creativity and energy that Ballack brought. The subs are Gomez, who has yet to impress anyone, and Cacau, a brazilian born forward who has been fairly impressive in the recent few friendlies. The midfield will have Schweinsteiger, Kroos , Khedira (who’ll be counted upon to collectively fill Ballack’s role), Ozil and a young Marko Marin.
Strategy and Line-Up
Despite constant chopping and changes, there’s a high chance that Low will settle for what will be a somewhat defensive, yet organized 4-3-2-1 system.
Neuer, by recent accounts, will be honing the goalposts. In Defense , he’ll probably have Lahm , Mertesacker, Friedrich, and possibly Boeteng from left to right. Lahm and Boeteng often surge forward a little , offering support to the midfielders to keep possession. In a strange twist , Jerome Boateng will be meeting his half-brother K.P Boateng in the first round when Germany play Ghana. Guess who injured Ballack in the EPL game, thus rendering him unavailable for the world cup?
Khedira will be playing in front of the 4 man defense, often surging forward to aid in offense. He’s young and has tremendous potential, but in order to be the engine behind the team, he needs a lot of help from his team-mates. In front of him, but further wide will be Bastian Schweinsteiger, a bundle of energy down the flanks, and Ozil on the other side. Ozil is someone to keep an eye on, he has the vision , a tendency to get into goal scoring positions (especially if he plays further up front). In front of these 2, we’ll find Podolski, Kroos or Cacau and a lone-striker, probably Klose. In the last couple of games, Podolski has played a more withdrawn midfield role (exchanging him with Ozil here), in order to provide more thrust to the midfield, but it hasn’t worked too well of late.
The lumbering Mario Gomez, and Muller will be attacking options from the bench. For the X-factor, my pick is the tremendous Marko Marin, who has the speed, vision and trickery to match the best. The problem is that he is very raw and might not see much action.
The strategy from Germany will be retain as much possession. Don’t expect too many long/diagonal balls. The build-ups will be organized and non-fluffy, almost mundane. Expect some probing runs from Ozil, Podolski’s speed, Schweinsteiger’s crossing and Klose’s head to get the goals.
Germany are in Group D along with Australia, Ghana and Serbia. Kicking off on the 13th against Australia , they’ll meet Serbia on the 18th, before completing their first round endeavour against Ghana on the 23rd of June. Despite this not being one of the better teams in recent times, you’d think that the tournament mentality will see them through to the next round. These are tricky games, especially the one against Australia. Should they top the group, they’ll meet the runners-up of Group -C , possibly a very dangerous Team USA. A win here would set-up a feisty quarter finals game against Argentina or Mexico/Uruguay. It’s anybody’s game from there on.
We’ll know it. This team probably doesn’t hold a candle to many of the great German teams of yesteryear. We all know this too : never count Germany out in a big tournament. They’ll come the party all right. The key is Low and how he decides to break the monotony up front. Klose has not had the greatest of seasons, and pushing Podolski back further to midfield might stifle his talents even more. His best bets are probably Cacau and Podolski playing an attacking role. For this to happen, 2 things must happen. Ozil mainly needs to shine and be the playmaker. Secondly, Low must take risks. He must introduce a player like Marin to inject some life when things aren’t going well.
June 1, 2010 2 Comments
Perennial under-achievers till they won the Euro 2008, Spain has always had talent at its disposal but no trophies to show the world for that. With arguably the best league in the footballing world and couple of the best teams in the league, World Cup always comes with a lot of expectation. They were ranked no 1 in the FIFA rankings till a week back and are the second favourites with the bookies to lift the trophy on July 11.
Road to WC2010
Spain topped their qualifying group with a 100% record. Bosnia, Armenia and Estonia are not exactly the opponents who could have stopped them from qualifyinng, but Turkey and Belgium were. Coming at the back of their triumph at the Euros, the team didn’t have too much trouble beating the teams in the group twice over. They scored the second most goals in qualifying with 27 goals, conceding 5 in 10 matches. David Villa top scored with 7 goals and strangely enough Torres didn’t score a single goal through qualifying. Was it because of his injury I am not very sure but you cannot stop such a talented player from not scoring in the WC I am sure.
Strategy & Line-up
Despite going into the World Cup with three world class players who are still recovering from injury in Iniesta, Fabregas and Torres, Spain still will be strong favourites to win the cup. The quality of players are such that they can regain their touch in the first match they play coming back from injury. They have retained 15 of the squad who won the Euro 2008. Prominent among the players missing in action are Marcos Senna, the holding midfielder who was among the goals in the WC qualifiers. Then there is Ruben de la red, Guiza etc etc. Nevertheless, this Spanish team has enough ammunition to make the mark.
Before we talk of any other part of the field, we need to talk about the mid-field. Arguably the most creative midfield in this World Cup, the team boasts of Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Alonso, David Silva where Fabregas will most probably not get to play that regularly as Xabi Alonso will don the role of the holding midfielder manning the middle of the park allowing Xavi to push through the centre, Iniesta through the left and Silva through the right. And whenever they get the ball forward they probably have two of the most dangerous forwards in the world in Villa and Torres, who work very well in combo.
In defence the team will probably play with Pique and Puyol in the centre and Capdevila on the left and Sergio Ramos on the right. Capdevila is very effective going forward on the left and will always be an attacking threat. In goalkeeping this team again boasts three of the best shot stoppers in the never-replaceable Iker Casillas, Liverpool’s Pepe Reina and very capable Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes. I can bet that any club/country in the world will be willing to trade on these goalkeepers at any given poimnt of time.
Spain is in a relatively easy group with Honduras, Switzerland and Chile. Of these probably Chile will be able to trouble them a bit as they also play good attacking football. I expect them to top the group and get through to the next round easily. It is after the group stage that the real WC starts for Spain as they would most probably play the second placed team from the Group of Death – Brazil/Portugal/Ivory Coast/ North Korea.
Spain is one of the favourites and I think they will progress far in this tournament come what may. The team is so good that I do not think I need to mention anything about the coach. This one would do even without one