37 days since the new season started, five wins, one loss, 17 goals scored, four conceded(all in La Liga). Two wins, eight goals scored, two conceded (Champions League). This isn't bad for any team to kick start their campaign, but does this apply fpr the expensively assembled new look Real Madrid?
Well luckily i was in a position to watch all the matches they have played so far, and I actually waited until the Sevilla game so i can see them play a really good opponent.
So i will try to pinpoint how far the team has come so far, and to analyse all areas from goal keeping to goal scoring.and from tactical angles to chemistry of the whole team, plus player by player assessment. So here goes nothing.
Watching the first few games and seeing that the two central defenders change every match because of injury (Metzelder), suspension (Pepe), or tactical decisions (Garay). It was hard to give a real time opinion on how good they are or how much is the chemistry between them.
But what i could notice is that Raul Albiol is actually the best of them, and he is the only one who has maintained a high standard game in game out so far. But since the return of Pepe, the two central defenders played much better and one can notice the good chemistry developing ,and fast.
One thing to notice is that since Pepe is back his partnership with Albiol is the only survivor of Pelligrini's rotation policy (we'll get to that later).
Full backs are still the main problem, Arbeloa performed really well up until he got injured, and luckily we got Ramos back at the same moment. Ramos, after being away all pre-season and the start of this season is still struggling to achieve peak performance.
He is still out of focus, although i have to give him credit that we are not conceding goals from set pieces anymore (that is until last night).
I actually believe that since last year Ramos hasn't give us the assurance we need from the right flank, I truly believe that Arbeloa is a better choice against teams like Valencia, Barcelona, or Manchester United.
Left side, oh what to say about it, it is the Achilles heel for this team, unless someone is drafted in January, it will be out worst nightmare, and by now every team knows that, because every manager saw what Navas did to Marcello. So imagine when Messi is there?
Up until today no one knows who is the starting 11 in the team,and this is by itself a weapon with two sides. Certain players must know that they are the chosen ones, in order to have that certain feeling and calmness regarding there posts...we have seen a 4-2-2-2 ,4-3-3,4-2-3-1 and still each plan there is different players.
We can't perform at the highest level if players doesn't know who is next to them to trust.
A new face, an old guard, and last years best forward. The main problem? We still don't know who is the number one forward and we are already eight games in.
Today it's Benzema, tomorrow, it's Raul, then Higuain. This is very confusing for the rest of the squad, each one of those players play a different rule in the match. But they are all a second striker, the only first striker we have is Van Nistelrooy, and he is out injured.
Benzema and Raul can't play together, it is obvious to everybody except Pellegrini.
And what does Higuain has to do to be chosen first? Score more than 20 goals? Hmmm he did, but that is still not enough.
Let me say it out loud: we need a five man midfield...4-2-2-2, or anything coming from that plan is just not gonna cut it. We need Cristiano Ronaldo on the wing, and Kaka as a second striker, it's what they do best, other than that...they will be anonymous.
Pellegrini has enough experience with the team, he should know by now who's who?
Casillas: What to say about this guy? He is simply the best in the world at the moment, he produced an out of this world save last night, without him we would have lost badly.
Albiol & Pepe: They will be a real assurance in the center of our defense, finally since the departure of the mighty Hierro, we have two guys to feel safe with when they are there, they have not gelled 100% together, but they will be there soon.
Ramos: Still not that player we expect him to be, maybe the lack of games after recovery is still affecting him, but he needs to rise up to the occasion, otherwise he should sit on the bench.
Arbeloa: Slow sometimes, doesn't like to attack, but defensively he is very effective. At the moment i rate him ahead of Ramos.
Marcelo & Drenthe: How lucky they are to be in a team like Real Madrid, they are just worse than each other, maybe Drenthe is better a little bit in defense, and Marcello in attack, but overall they need to leave, simple as that.
Granero: Started really well,and each time he is on the pitch he simply electrifies the whole team, lots of energy, good speed, clicks well with Kaka, and Xabi. I guess Pellegrini was wrong not playing him in the last two games (10 minutes against Sevilla), the team simply is not the same when he is not playing (he is the surprise package of the team).
Xabi, Lass & M.Diarra: People were wondering whether Xabi will do better, with Lass or Diarra. Well the answer was last night, I think the Xabi-Diarra partnership is much better than Lass-Xabi.
The problem with Lass, since he got his goal he has got a little ambitious, so he is not defending like he used to last season, that is making Xabi, covering for him and not playing the deep lying playmaker he was brought to do. If Lass regains last years performances then yes play him. But for now, Diarra is awesome with Xabi.
Gago: One would wonder why he is still on the team, bad passing, can't deal with fast midfielders, no vision, and can't attack. Well if Marcelo and Drenthe are there, why not him, right!
Guti & Raul: Well I always said this about Guti, he will never be more than a good player who occasionally plays good matches. And when he does, expect nothing more than a bad player for 10 matches to come, he started well this term, then faded badly, typical Guti.
Raul on the other hand, we all expected him to be benched from the start of the season, but he started strongly,scoring in the first match, and then in the CL first match. Then he disappeared. Even though i am a really big fan of him i truly believe he should not start..may be come on as a sub during matches, but not a starter anymore. He doesn't fit with the way the team plays, I am not saying he should leave, but less playing time.
Kaka, Benzema & Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo started really well, and is still doing well until the injury, he scored in most matches, and I think he is getting better, he should be playing more on the wings,we surely missed him against Sevilla. Besides, he is the only one with speed.
Kaka, still some good touches, and going forwards, but in my opinion he still hasn't found his game, he is most of the time out of position, and as long as he doesn't know who is playing in front of him. He can't give us what we expect. still lots of improvement is expected from him.
Benzema is still an enigma to me, one match he is really great, the other it's like he is not even on the pitch. He is still young, and lots to expect from him, but I think he needs to focus more on what he do best, score goals..that is why he was brought to do so in the first place.
Higuain: A little rusty, but still very active and very live whenever he is called upon, and I really think he should start a head of Benzema, it is quite a shame for the best goal scorer of the team last year to set on the bench.
Garay, Van Der Vaart, Metzelder: They really performed well whenever we needed them, and I think Metzelder and Garay should play whenever we are playing certain type of teams, like if we are against a slow pace attack. Van Der Vaart on the other hand I think he will get more time, he was good the times he stepped on the pitch..something to smile about our reserves this time.
The Rotation Policy:
Even if people and critics say it's a must, i will say not at this time of the season. who we want the players to know each others,and gel fast if four or five players keep changing every other game?
I know that Pellegrini wants to make everybody happy early on,but not on the expense of the team performance.we have the best of the best now, give them time to gel, play the same team for a couple of months and don't change except for injuries or suspension, and you can rotate starting February when the program gets harder.
I know lots of people will disagree with lots of what i said,but it's always debatable if we need five in the midfield, or two attackers,should we play Lass & Xabi, or Diarra & Xabi.
To me the best squad we should have on the pitch is as follows:
Casillas-Ramos, Pepe, Albiol, Arbeloa- Xabi-Lass/Diarra-Granero, Kaka, CR9-Higuain/Benzema (depending on the opponent).