Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Madrid 4-0 Spurs - Redknapp adds to the confusion

First of all, let me congratulate Real Madrid for an excellent and professional performance last night which saw them all but qualify for the semi-finals. In the second half in particular, Madrid demonstrated perfectly how to pressure and overrun 10 men and fully deserved their 4-0 win.

However I'm not here to talk about that, I'm here to complain bitterly and wonder how it is even possible for Tottenham to capitulate so fast into a confused and disorganised mess. First of all Aaron Lennon is taken ill in the tunnel minutes before kick-off. Then Jermaine Jenas is used to replace him, yet Redknapp decides not to do a straight swap, and finally after conceding an early goal, Peter Crouch loses all sense and gets himself sent off.

I blame Crouch the most, to get sent off for two identical tackles in the first 15 minutes is unforgivable. He let his team-mates down and made the rest of their evening pretty much impossible. Defending for 75 minutes in the Bernabeu with ten men, when already 1-0 down is such a difficult thing to do. Lennon missing was also a massive blow for Spurs. Lennon can often shine on the right hand side when all the attention is on Bale, and together they can be devastating on the counter attack, it is rather disappointing that we never got to see this full strength attack in action.

There is one person who doesn't seem to be getting enough criticism in the press today in my opinion - Harry Redknapp. I don't blame him for what happened after Crouch's sending off, but in the opening 15 minutes Spurs were a complete mess. To me, with Lennon being withdrawn so late, Jermaine Jenas should quite clearly have just slotted straight into Lennon's position on the right side of midfield. Jenas has pace and while this is not his position, I am sure that he could have adapted. This however did not happen, instead Redknapp decided to change the entire shape of the team to accommodate Jenas in the middle. Surely the team have spent the last few days preparing in a very specific way, with Modric and Sandro in the middle and Bale and Lennon on the wings. Redknapp's last minute adjustments meant that Modric was pushed out to the left and Bale didn't seem to know which wing he was playing on as he continually switched early on.

As you can see above, in the first 15 minutes (before Crouch got sent off) Tottenham's midfield was all over the place. It baffles me that after having such a clear formation and game-plan almost right up to kick-off, that the manager would move so many things around at the last minute. It can also be argued that the confusion caused by these changes led to Adebayor's first goal. As the teams were lining up on the pitch, Tottenham's coaching staff can be seen showing Jenas tactical information on a clipboard. In comes the first corner, and Adebayor is left free by Jenas to nod home the opening goal. Surely somebody was assigned to mark Adebayor, and it couldn't have been little Lennon.

Bad decision making from the boss resulted in mass confusion on the pitch, and terrible decision making from the lanky one up front ended all hope of limiting the damage.

Rant over - One bad result won't deter us Spurs fans, we forgive and forget quite easily. We'll just win the second leg 5-0 at White Hart Lane - COYS!

Chalkboard courtesy of the excellent Total Football - Champions League iPhone app.

Friday, 1 April 2011

David Villa - Born to Score (Part 1)

This week, David Villa made history as he moved past Raul to become Spain’s leading International goal scorer of all time. Villa has scored an incredible 46 goals in just 73 International matches, averaging more than a goal every other game. After being the top goal scorer at Euro 2008 and the joint top at last summer’s World Cup, the 29 year old’s International goal scoring record is the current pinnacle of world football. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned his haul of over 250 club goals yet either.

David Villa is a wonderful footballer, he has pace, bundles of technical ability and is a deadly and amazingly consistent finisher. He is arguably the best striker in the world and has a club and international goalscoring record to back that up. The thing is, there are two certain individuals who seem determined to keep Villa confined to the shadows when it comes to goals, and they aren’t even supposed to be strikers. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have left the rest of Europe in their dust by delivering a scarcely believable glut of goals over the last couple of seasons, but David Villa still remains one of the planet’s top forwards.

Arguably, David Villa’s greatest asset is his consistency. In each of the past ten years, Villa has scored 20 or more goals a season. This amazing record spans right back to when Villa first broke into the Sporting Gijon first team at the age of 19. Playing for Gijon in the Segunda División, David Villa scored 40 goals in 85 games before in 2003, newly promoted Real Zaragoza signed the 21 year old for approximately €3m.

In his first season with his new club Villa also won the first silverware of his career, scoring a goal in the Copa del Rey Final in which Zaragoza beat David Beckham’s Real Madrid 3-2 after Extra time. Villa’s time at Zaragoza was a success; in two seasons he helped the newly promoted team to two mid table finishes in La Liga and also got to play in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup as a result of their domestic Cup success. While at Zaragoza, Villa also made his International debut for Spain in February 2005. On the back of this success Quique Sánchez Flores brought the striker to Valencia for €12m in the summer of 2005.

Villa played at Valencia for 5 seasons, making 212 appearances and scoring 129 goals. During this time Valencia achieved 2 third place finishes in the league and also won the 2007/08 Copa del Rey. Villa was Valencia’s top scorer five seasons in a row and made 64 appearances for the Spanish National side during this time, scoring 42 goals. His magnificent record for both Club and Country over half a decade finally paved the way for his richly deserved big-money transfer.

In May 2010, just before the World Cup in South Africa, Barcelona signed David Villa for a fee of around €40 million. After a failed experiment with striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, David Villa was seen by many to be a much safer option than the unpredictable Swede. Already playing alongside many of his future teammates for the Spanish National team, Villa has settled into a familiar system rather effortlessly. Despite some light criticism at the start of the season, Villa has already scored over 20 goals this season, the tenth season in a row that he has achieved this. He has scored important goals too, in particular his brace in the 5-0 Clasico win as well as an important away goal in the Champions League Round of 16 tie against Arsenal.

Despite his wonderful ability to get goals wherever and whenever he plays, surprisingly Villa has never won the Pichichi, and he is almost certain not to win it this season either. David Villa is currently the third top scorer in La Liga 10 behind Messi and Ronaldo, but with Barcelona still fighting for 3 competitions, his goals could yet have a huge impact on where the dust settles in Spain this season.

In part two, I take a more in depth look at Villa’s incredible record for his Country.