Friday, October 31, 2008

A More Detailed Fiver

1. The aspect that pleases me most about the ‘Harry Houdini’ like acts at Tottenham Hotspur is the greater freedom offered to Luka Modric by Harry Redknapp, the new manager of Spurs. Tim Vickery of the BBC in a fascinating article describes how contemporary football’s emphasis on strength, pace and athleticism is destroying the role of 'foot on the ball' playmakers such as Juan Roman Riquelme.* Vickery talks about Riquelme’s role in keeping alive two unfashionable concepts in football, viz. (i) change of rhythm, the idea that the game can be slowed down before the application of the killer pass and (ii) surprise - the ball that no one was expecting that wrong foots the entire defence. Modric in my belief is capable of a similar impact as he finally seems to be coming into his own at Spurs. By playing him alongside Jenas and Huddlestone in the center of midfield, Redknapp has offered a greater deal of freedom to Modric and this is already reflective in his performances over the last couple of games. For reasons well documented, I certainly hope Modric can shine and bring back memories of the great playmakers of the years gone by.

2. I am extremely surprised that Rio Ferdinand does not find himself in the list of players nominated for either the Ballon d'Or or the FIFA World Player of the Year award. Ferdinand’s reading of the game and his positioning ability is second to none. One doesn’t see Ferdinand make last ditch tackles like a Carragher or a Terry largely because his superior positioning ensures that there is no need for such a tackle. I am not for one moment suggesting that Carragher and Terry are mediocre defenders, but their poor positioning at times requires them to come up with fantastic tackles. Paolo Maldini during his prime hardly ever went to ground and that is a hallmark of a truly great defender. Even as late as 2007, Maldini was at his imperious best in the Champions League semi final against Manchester United as he nullified the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo with minimum of fuss. Ferdinand’s form over the last couple of years should surely have at least got him a nomination for the awards.

3. ‘Compact’ is a word that Rafa Bentiez loves and Liverpool certainly displayed compactness in their highly impressive victory at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Chelsea sorely missed their ‘bully’ up front, Didier Drogba, who affords them a different avenue when they are unable to break their way through the midfield of an opposition. Against Liverpool, Chelsea were neither able to get their passing going nor did they have the option of knocking the ball up to Drogba. Liverpool however were brilliantly marshalled and although they were somewhat lucky with their goal, Benitez’s tactical nous shone through as they maintained their lead in typically resolute fashion. The performance at the Bridge was certainly more than a statement of intent from the Merseysiders.

4. Sachin Tendulkar rolled back the years to produce an innings of great style against Australia at the Kotla on Wednesday. However even as he was stroking the ball with great aplomb, there was always this feeling that he wouldn’t make a ton. Tendulkar has recently developed a bad habit of not converting his starts, which it must be said, is very unlike the Master Blaster. The quality of the innings though was very much like the ones we were used to seeing from Sachin at his best in the mid to the late 90s.

5. News has just filtered through that Gautham Gambhir has been given a one match ban for his needless elbow on Shane Watson. Having previously committed a similar offence, the match referee is thoroughly justified in banning Gambhir. This is where Gambhir needs to learn from his fellow double centurion of the first test, V.V.S. Laxman. In spite of having made the Aussies look almost pedestrian at times, not a single word of disrespect has been uttered by Laxman towards the Aussies and that is what wins the admiration of fans around the world.


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