“We don’t lose when Kaká and I are in the starting XI,” a more than complimentary Özil told Kicker. He’s not wrong. In the 12 games that they have lined up together, Real Madrid have won nine and drawn on the other three occasions. With them in the team from the kick off, the Spanish giants score an average of 3.88 goals per game. Without them, that ratio falls to 2.82.
Really interesting piece on Kaká’s resurgence and Mourinho’s “Magic Square” (4-2-2-2). You can see the Kaká vs Espanyol performance referenced here — it’s simultaneously encouraging and somehow hard to watch? He is literally huffing and puffing. He’s a winded 29, for sure. You can see his vision and quick thinking are still there. Form/class, etc.
If you look at this front four, it’s hard not to be tickled. Too bad about all those louche destroyers roaming the back half.
Also, obligatory Özil quote/fawning. I hadta.
At the same time Arsenal have become selectively direct, their attack dwindled to a surgical point. Essentially they have a man who runs fast and a man who kicks the ball into the goal (you know: Him), while everyone else is charged with giving the ball either to the goal-running man or the goal-kicking man. It is a peculiarly English way of playing, a refined version of direct football whereby, rather than hoofing hopefully for the corners Arsenal instead instruct Walcott to run hopefully for the corner. Under this system the speeding Walcott is basically a punt downfield made flesh, a living breathing percentage-launch and chief instrument of, not so much kick and rush football, as rush and rush football.
Ronay made a similar point on Twitter about Arsenal just “moving the mixer” or some such Ronay-ism, and it’s an interesting point indeed. I think it underestimates Rosicky’s direct, turn-and-run presence in the center of midfield over the key four wins (Spurs, Liverpool, Milan, Newcastle), but it’s a worthwhile (and encouraging!) new look Arsenal/Theo indeed.
City should be delighted Balotelli has become the defining figure of their season, rather than it being, say, Carlos Tevez, who is essentially a ham actor providing portable passion for a fee, a footballing Chuck Norris summoning up his grimacing patina of real football passion for the highest bidder; or the rousing Yaya Touré, whose stampeding attacking midfield role appears to have been modelled in style and intended effects on the massive round boulder in the Indiana Jones films that keeps emerging from mine shafts and booby-trapped tunnels scattering the squawking natives. Instead it is Balotelli who has humanised the City project, offering a sense of something unstyled and spontaneous even within the annihilating mid-term certainties of carbon-dollar success.