Another Dark ending for the Whites: A Review of Real Madrid’s Season

 

Gareth Bale

Once again, Real Madrid’s 2014/2015 season culminated with a disappointing finish in the league. The “ideal” team that Ancelloti/Perez had built finished 2 points shy of their arch rivals Barcelona. They were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Juventus and sacked out of the Copa Del Rey in the Round of 16 by their city rivals, Atletico Madrid. By the standards of President Perez, those were one too many disappointments. The final blow to the team came when Carlo Ancelloti was unsurprisingly fired after the final game of the season. So with stars like the BBC and a top notch coach like Ancelloti, what really went wrong with the 2014/2015 Madrid squad? Let’s explore starting from the back:

Goalkeeping

As a staunch Real Madrid supporter, I cannot fault our last line of defense this season. Saint Iker and his counterpart Navas played well when called upon in the important games. If you recall, it was Iker Casillas that kept the second leg of that series at a respectable score. He made a combined 8 saves and 1 crucial one on Arturo Vidal in the 82nd minute to keep Real in the hunt. One can argue that his foul throw in cost Real the game, but if the Royal Whites had waited that long, they deserved to lose to a much less stacked Juventus side. On the brighter side for Real, it looks like Iker Casillas will be staying for another year even if De Gea is signed. In my opinion, having two world class players like De Gea and Casillas on the same squad is not only a waste of talent and money but it is also a great way to stir up locker room trouble. The question for whoever the new coach will be to decide the fate of Navas or Pacheco. I wish him the best.

Recommended Starting Goalkeepers for 2015/2016 Season: Casillas

Defense 

Where do I start? Real Madrid’s defense for the past 7 seasons have been horrendous to say the least. For a team that professes to play beautiful football, their defense is certainly lackluster. They gave up 38 goals compared to Barcelona’s measly 21. Even teams like Valencia and Villarreal gave up fewer goals with less known defenders. The temperament and lack of defensive aerial ability of Pepe and Ramos have cost Real a ton of goals. According to whoscored.com, the defense allowed an average of almost 12 shots per game putting a lot of pressure on Iker Casillas to make those saves. It also seemed very convenient for Pepe and especially Ramos to pick up obstruction fouls due to their lack of ability to read an attacker. Pepe and Ramos had a combined average of almost 3 fouls per game in their defensive halves and a total of 11 fouls per game. Although the only team that conceded fewer fouls were the eventual champions, for a team like Madrid that lacks defensive ability on set plays, it could prove costly. It doesn’t look like there is an immediate fix for the aerial defense issues but Real Madrid’s sporting committee’s plan for next season should be to build around their young talent Raphael Varane. The 22 year old Frenchman showed brilliant physical and mental ability throughout the season and he deserved the call up for the Juventus games. Considering how young he is, I have no doubt that his stellar performance will continue, keeping the veteran Pepe on the bench. Along with the beloved Spaniard Ramos whom I doubt could ever be benched or sold, I think Real can create a tandem in central defense that even Mourinho would be proud of.  On the flanks of defense, Marcelo was spectacular and no one on the Real team in my opinion had a higher work rate than Carvajal. Perhaps the exclusion of those two in a pivotal game at the end of season made a dent in the team that was impossible to recover from.

Recommended Starting Defense for 2015/2016 Season: Marcelo, Ramos, Varane, Carvajal

Players to Transfer Out: Pepe, Coentrao

Players to Transfer In: None

 Midfield

Time and again I have heard football pundits talk about how losing Xabi Alonso has been detrimental for Real Madrid and rightfully so. Alonso was to Madrid what Busquets is to Barca. Not only did he plug holes left by his defenders, but he also had the attacking mindset to supply balls to his strikers. We tried to find a replacement in that of a combination of Modric and Kroos but that still did not prove suitable; largely due to Modric’s injuries. The Croat brought to the team a lot of what Alonso did but his prolonged absence from the lineup was when it all began to fall apart. Case in point, around the time Modric was out was when the 22 game winning streak was brought to a sad end in Valencia. Toni Kroos tried to do it all on his own, sometimes accompanied by Illaramendi and other times by Isco but he occasionally looked sluggish and tired. This was obvious in the second leg of the Juventus series when the dying minutes saw Madrid lie down in defeat instead of putting Juve on the torture rack. Considering 42% of Real Madrid’s attacking chances came from the middle of the pitch, centrally to be specific, a slow and sluggish central midfield can slow down the whole team. Although Isco has been magnificent this season, his inability to keep possession and lack of defense will always keep him in the shadow of Modric. Since he doesn’t seem to understand why he is second to Modric, maybe this summer will be his chance to look for a starting role elsewhere. With the rumors of players like Pogba and Gundogan getting stronger, I expect him to fall even lower in the midfield pecking order. Since it is looking like Benitez will take the reins next year, perhaps it will be good for Madrid to experiment with a new player, one whom has worked with Benitez previously. Although Raheem Sterling has had a damaged relationship with Benitez, perhaps the money and atmosphere in Madrid can put a Band Aid on that relationship. The return of Modric coupled with a fast paced player like Sterling could be just what Madrid needs. With the return of Casemiro on loan from FC Porto, Real can have a strong bench for next season

Recommended Starting Midfield for 2015/2016 Season: James, Modric, Kroos,

Players to Transfer Out: Khedira

Players to Transfer In: Sterling (If he is willing to sit on the bench a few games for Champions League football). Develop players like Odegaard & Lucas Silva

Attacking

Not much to discuss here. The combination of Bale, Benzema, and Cristiano worked well until they actually needed to win. Bale and Cristiano seemed lost in the last few games of the season and were barely noticeable in the Juve and second Valencia games. I believe this was due to the overworking on their part since their defense gave up so many goals early in games and in the season. Ronaldo barely sat for any of the Copa Del Rey games and with the absence of Benzema, Bale had to play when available. If the defense and midfield of Real Madrid improve, they wouldn’t need to push and score 4 goals every game. This will reserve a lot of energy for the bigger games in the Champions League.

Recommended Starting Attackers for 2015/2016 Season: Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema

Players to Transfer Out: Jese (Loan)

Players to Transfer In: None. Develop young players like Borja Moya

Coaching

If I had written this post a week ago, I would have recommended Ancelloti as coach but since that is no longer realistic, the current and most viable option has to be Jurgen Klopp. Benitez’s CV has been less than desirable. He is known for not working well with his players and not commanding control in the locker room. If he couldn’t cut it at Liverpool and Inter, Madrid will not be the place. As usual, Perez has already made the wrong decision by firing Ancelloti and disrupting team chemistry. If Bentiez, does really become the man in charge, it will be up to the players to do it on their own and with the egos out there on that Madrid field, there will be another disappointing season. A more reasonable option even outside of Klopp and Zidane will be promoting Fernando Hierro or Paul Clement to Manager.

In all I do not think Real Madrid need much of an overhaul in their squad except for ones that necessitate change especially in defense. The return of Modric, a healthy Benzema, and the desire to avoid a consecutive trophy-less season can light some fire under this team. Here is an ideal starting XI:

image001

 

Photo Credits: lineupbuilder.com,

Stats: whoscored.com

If You’re Reading This, It’s About Damn Time

For the second consecutive year, the Washington Wizards were trounced from the NBA’s conference semi-finals in six games. The Wiz Kids squandered a two-to-one series lead over the Atlanta Hawks, albeit without their all-star point guard. Third year guard, Bradley Beal described the loss as “frustrating” and “every synonym of sad”. The disappointment was felt throughout the locker room, including Paul Pierce. “The Truth” appeared to hurt the most after failing to convert a potential game-tying three-point attempt prior to the end of regulation. The former finals MVP was so distraught, he couldn’t provide his teammates or fans any form of reassurance that he would return for a seventeenth season.  

The upcoming departure of Pierce would undoubtedly hurt the Wizards chances of contending in the eastern conference. Pierce’s arrival in the nations capital paid dividends not only to the Wizards psyche, but the development of second year forward, Otto Porter, who proves to be more than capable of supplanting Pierce in the starting rotation next season. Aside from his intangibles and veteran savvy, the Wizards will miss Pierce’s ability to slide over to the four position, which came as a surprise from head coach Randy Wittman in the beginning of the postseason. 

During the playoffs, Wittman integrated a smaller approach, which proved to be effective against the Toronto Raptors. The lineup included John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Paul Pierce, (In some instances, Drew Gooden) and Marcin Gortat anchoring the middle. Per NBA.com, in 31 minutes of play, they outscored the Raptors by 19 points. For the sake of comparison, the Wizards starting line-up of Wall, Beal, Pierce, Nene and Gortat managed only to outscore the Raptors by 1 point over the course of 54 minutes. 

Wittman’s adjustment led to the surprising emergence of Otto Porter. The former Georgetown Hoya, who averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds in over 30 minutes of play during the postseason, carved his name into relevance while guarding Demar DeRozan. According to the SportsVu, DeRozan shot no better than 23% when contested by Porter. Whittman and the rest of the Wizards brass should feel confident with Porter developing into a solid “3-and-D” type of player out on the wing to complement Wall and Beal.      

Despite the arrival of Porter this postseason, the Wizards will be left extremely thin at the three position and unable to employ their effective “small” lineup. Enter Paul Millsap. Millsap has made a career for himself alternating between the Power forward and small forward positions. Since his arrival in Atlanta during the ’13-’14 season, Millsap has averages of 17.3 ppg and 8.2 rebounds per game, two consecutive all-star appearances and partly responsible for the Hawks achieving a franchise best 60-wins through the regular season. Since dawning a hawks uniform, the Louisiana Tech alumni has shot no worse than 46% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. What the Wizards sacrifice in height with Millsap (6-foot-8), they make up with increased efficiency on the offensive end of the court.

 Even though the chances of Paul Millsap coming to the nation’s capital is as slim as Kevin Durant returning home in 2016, General Manager Ernie Grunfeld would be wise to explore the idea. Kevin Durant will command nothing short of a max contract. When you factor in the contracts of John Wall and soon Bradley Beal, who are expected to receive a max offer during this offseason, the Wizards could potentially have three max contracts on their payroll, threatening the luxury tax. Instead of paying Durant in excess of $20 million annually, Grunfeld would be smart to sign Millsap for $4-5 million less while maintaining the young nucleus of Wall, Beal and Porter.

The Washington Wizards are on the cusp of eastern conference supremacy. They cannot afford to stand pat with their current roster as many familiar faces return next season (alas Paul George with the Indiana Pacers, Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat, and Jabari Parker with the Milwaukee Bucks.) Difficult decisions must be made regarding Nene and his decline in play, Martell Webster and his inability to recover from back surgery, and the reluctance of Wittman to insert Kris Humphries into his lineup following a groin injury. The salaries of the players just mentioned equal well over $20 million, which is more than enough to sign a veteran such as Paul Millsap, or dare I say it, Kevin Love. 

Photo Credits:

www.hardwoodparoxysm.com

www.washingtonpost.com

 

Value of Y

“I’d rather hold my head high and die than live and duck” – Pain

Fab said that. Now I have a question to ask you … which would you choose?
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Why?

I ask this question because up until a year ago, I never even thought about it. Up until a year ago, I simply wanted to live. Up until a year ago, I valued nothing but fitting in, trying to get what most people value in this power driven economy … money.

If you are one of these people I personally don’t care, do you. If you truly know what you want, you’ll be better off not reading ahead. (Philosophy is indeed counterproductive to set ideals) If not, hopefully this can help you find your own meaning out of life.

There are many reasons I write. I write because I hate the unstated limits of freedom we have by those in power. I write because I believe in what I say and it is ultimately what I will die for. I write because the pen is mightier than the sword but it is the sword that inevitably kills out of impatient malice. I write because I will die to protect anyone who is severely persecuted for his or her beliefs, no matter how mundane. I write because I would steal from, lie to, or kill anyone who would force their beliefs on people I love. I write because I am far from an idealist but miles short of being anywhere realistic. I write because I want money. I really just write.

Prior to last year I was a slave.

Trust me when I say I don’t say mean that in the hyperbolic sense, I was literally a slave. Actually, I’m pretty sure I still am. Masters long ago with threats and whips have now become masters with contracts and conditions. My efforts to these write articles, songs, papers for school … are directly or indirectly my attempts to capitalize on various talents. The truth of the matter is I want money to own/do dope things. Dope things being homes, clothes, and hoes. But let me explain the ridiculousness of my situation … the money I will earn from doing such is not worth anything. Before I get accused of being a nihilist let’s take it back to that one crazy U.S. history teacher we all had. (Word to Mr. Bostaph!) Factually, our money is not backed by any tangible currency; it is Monopoly money. And just like the board game … we, as players, give the money it’s value.

Therefore, I write things > to earn U.S. bills that are representations of real wealth > to own/do dope things that I don’t need > … Y … ?

Y is my value

Y is the reason I am a slave to those who have real wealth

Y is what I will die for

If you’re buying a pair of Jordans or taking that trip to MiAmiii, (PND voice) can you honestly tell yourself why you want those things?

I’d want the Jordans because they are a cultural status symbol of exclusivity, not because I want shoes that look good. I’d want the trip because it’s where the birds seem to flock during the summer, not because I want a nice relaxing vacation. Childish? Maybe. Honest? You’re g**damn right. I’m not ashamed of my superficialities just like I’m not ashamed of my insecurities. I do not care what others do/think as long it does not affect myself or the ones I love, the ones I will die for. I try not to hold myself or anyone to some divine standard since we all are subjected to the same environment, generally speaking. Any dogma, whether it be religion, science, philosophy etc…, that threatens punishment for social order is a dictatorship at its very roots.

But I digress …

So once again I ask you a simple question. What will you die for? What is it you value so much that you have no hesitations in giving your life for? If you can answer that truthfully you may have found your meaning in this ugly/beautiful/horrendous/wonderful life. To be on my Janis Joplin for one quick second, most of us aren’t asked questions like this in our current education system. People who have financial power do not want thinkers, they want workers who will make them more wealth. But if you believe you are okay with that then I can’t object to what you feel is beneficial to your cause. I’m just giving you my Nayked Truth. The only cause that I can advocate is causality. The value of Y. I value honesty in my writing because there are those who will lie to get ahead. These people range from politicians who are notoriously vague in their responses to seemingly humble scholars who will try and prove histories most recent cultural paradigm. I’m not saying to be distrustful, I’m not saying to be stagnate; I’m simply saying to be wary.

I always tend notice two types of people:

B****es who crush the interview but can’t do the job. N****s who f**k the right women but just do them wrong. I don’t put them at fault but do believe I’d rather die than be under them.

Photo Credits:

www.yourppl.com

Making The Best Out of your Interview

comic-job-interview

So you applied and got the interview for your dream job, but of course it was only after you read our last post on how to pick the right career. You’ve researched the company, picked out what you’re going to wear, and can’t wait to meet your prospective employer. But since you asked yourself all of those questions before applying for that perfect job, there are also certain questions you definitely need to ask while on your interview. Here are 5 questions I have found worth asking throughout my hunt for a job:

1.)  What is the most important responsibility of the incumbent? There is nothing worse for an employer/employee relationship than when there is a disconnect between what the employer wants and what the employee wants. Asking the interviewer this questions not only shows them that you are thinking about the needs of the position but you are also already placing yourself in that position in their minds.  It is also a very open-ended question that allows the interviewer to tell you about the position and you can formulate more interesting questions based on their answer.

2.)  How likely is it that I will be promoted in the future? Put simply, what is the career path for this Branch Administrator position and are there other opportunities at the company that will fit my future career goals? Of course, you can eliminate a lot of the uncertainty for this question by only applying at companies you know are large enough to contain your lofty career goals. I have personally been in positions where I  have worked in places that neither had no relation to my education nor provided and future career growth. For an employee, there is nothing worse than waking up to get to a job in the morning that you know has no career advancement. I believe it is the interviewer’s duty to be honest and express the true potential of the position.

3.)  How would you describe the work culture/environment? Having good interpersonal skills with your boss, business unit and other coworkers is important because it affects your attitude at work. Understanding whether the current employees like to work independently or enjoy collaboration will allow you to gauge whether you will be happy there or not. I interviewed at a company that encouraged independent contribution and a few hours later interviewed at another company that looked like every office was a conference room. YOU just need to decide what works best for you.

4.)  Do you have any questions/concerns about my resume or qualifications for this position? This will be your opportunity to answer any questions why you may  not be in contention for this job after you shake hands and leave. Why your GPA is not as high as they would have liked. Why you only worked 6 months at your previous job.

5.)  What happened to the last person who held this position? Sometimes a position is a new one and this question may be irrelevant. But if not, this question is important because it may reveal an inherent fault in the company. I have been at companies with high turnover and with today’s resources, it is not impossible to find out why that is the case. If 15 former employees have complained online about the bad management of the company within the past year, perhaps that is a problem on the part of the company and not the 15 different unique employees.

Whatever you do, make sure you are well prepared for the interview by researching the company, preparing effective questions like these, and getting a good night’s rest. After acing the interview, don’t forget to ask for contact information for ALL interviewers and giving them a strong handshake and flash that winning smile.

Make yourself stand out!

Photo Credit:

http://myplacers.com/2014/01/6-lessons-from-comics-on-preparing-for-interviews/

Post Grad Life

Graduation season is right around the corner; and as a lot of college grads look to embark on a journey to the professional world, I felt that it was necessary for me to give my two cents on what to look for when applying for a full-time job (based on the premise that you chose this path in life).  A full time job is a huge commitment in one’s life; therefore, you need to ensure that whatever position you make this commitment to is one that is bound to benefit you holistically.  When I went on my post bachelor’s job hunt there were a few things I looked for.  I looked for a job that provided the chance for upward mobility, a job that I could learn from, a job that I would be comfortable doing, and a job that would enable me to maintain my standard of living.  Here are 5 questions you should look to answer  when going on this search.

1)      Do you have any interest whatsoever in this field of work? – To me, this was very important.  I wanted a job in a field that I was genuinely interested in knowing more about.  Real Estate is an industry that controls many other jobs and occupations in the world.  The opportunity to work with some of the best real estate attorneys in the state of Virginia presented an opportunity to not only learn the ins and outs of real estate settlements, but also a chance to see the field from a legal perspective.  Considering I am looking to become a lawyer, and a potential real estate investor, it was an opportunity to obtain knowledge that would one day supplement both pursuits.  In your job search, you should do the same.  What do you like, what interests you? Find an answer to that question, and go work in that field.

2)      Are you equipped for this job? – Do your skills translate?  If you are an English major who’s gift is writing, you have no place applying for a position as a book-keeper or a junior pricing analyst.  Know yourself! It is great to work on strengthening and improving your weaknesses; however, it is even more important to utilize your gifts.  Find a position that you are naturally prepared for, or one that you have trained yourself to be successful in.

3)      Is there room for upward mobility? – One thing you should always consider is whether or not you can see yourself at the job long term.  If the answer is yes, do you see yourself holding the same exact position, or do you see yourself being promoted to new roles with more responsibilities.   Stagnation is the enemy in the professional world, and you should always look to be on the rise.  In my case for example, I foresee myself becoming one of the branch attorneys at this company, if I chose to stay here in the long run.  Instead of focusing on the “right now,” I am already looking ahead and taking steps to do so i.e. enrolling into law school part time while working full-time.

4)      Is the work environment one that you can see yourself becoming a part of? – Prior to going on the interview (or even prior to applying for the job), one thing you should consider is the size of the company (or branch).  Are you more comfortable with a smaller office where everyone co-exists, or would you rather be one fish in a large pond? If you happen to go on the interview, you should pay close attention to how the employees interact; and more importantly how the employer interacts with the employees.  When I interviewed at my current job, one thing that won me over was how genuine my boss was from the get-go.  From our 45 minute conversation, I had already learned a ton from him.  He was able to give me insight on what law school is like, and even what LSAT prep course to take! Shortly after that interview, I had already made up my mind that I would accept the position if offered.  The work atmosphere created by my boss played a huge role in that, and that sentiments remains the same today.

5)      Are you being compensated adequately? – Money should never be the only reason why you take a job, and conversely no one will ever get paid as much as they would like; however, whether or not you are being compensated fairly is a different story.  Based on what is expected from you, are you being compensated fairly? This is a question that you may not be able to answer from the outset, as you won’t know the workload until you actually begin; however, you should be able to keep this in mind as you assess whether or not the job is still the right fit for you.  If you feel as though you aren’t being paid enough, you should perhaps consider asking for more responsibility.  If you feel as though you have an objectively heavy load with a check that doesn’t match up, it may be the time to consider taking your talents elsewhere.

Photo Credit:

bustedhalo.com