Pep 5 Jose 0, you make a number of good points, not the least of which is that, based on performance alone, Benzema probably does deserve to be benched. And I agree that, individually, Ronaldo, Özil, DiMaria, and Kaka, are Madrid’s most potent offensive talent. The challenge, however, given their particular strengths of each, is to devise an effective system that gets the best from all four. None of them excels at holding up the ball, and I would argue that Real are a side that require someone in that role.
While Ronaldo unquestionably has the skills to play CF, what he lacks is the right disposition, which is to say that, on the typical play where he ought to be holding up the ball and bringing the wingers into the play, he is hard-pressed to overcome his tendency to make the turn himself. The problem is that, as the CF, he draws extra attention from the defence, and, starting with his back to goal, he has difficulty breaking through the double-team even with his fanciest footwork – indeed, tends to be unavailable for that type of pass in the first place.
And with respect, I don’t recall Lionel Messi ever lining up somewhere other than on the right wing (granted that there are games I haven’t seen). Even with Barca’s typical 4-3-3, there has historically been somebody in the middle who, in part, is tasked with holding up the ball – it used to be Sami; last year it was Ibra; now it tends to be Pedro. Barca also have the unique advantage of the Xavi-Iniesta duo, which enable them to play a system that is less reliant on CF who plays that role.
It would also be inadvisable to read too much into the Barca-Almeria score-line, as that particular result came just as the Catalans had begun to hit their stride with three previous impressive results against stronger opponents – beginning with five unanswered against Seville. For Almeria’s part, while their previous results failed to yield much in the way of points, with a win and six draws, they had by no means suffered anything close to this type of blow-out, as their worst loss was by a mere two goals. And subsequently they even managed to take a convincing three points away to Sevilla.
Similarly, the unconvincing 1-0 at Atletico is hardly evidence that Real are better without a natural CF leading the line. No, while the Almeria game would likely have gone Mourinho’s way if the likes of Di Maria, Marcelo, and Khedira had played better, the risk was always there, and the argument can be made that the change in the system contributed to the overall poor play.
Indeed, all of Mourinho’s manoeuvring and verbal sparring adds up to strong evidence that he too believes that he needs somebody other than Ronaldo to lead the line.
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