After a week when a local radio station in Maidstone, Kent reported that there was to be an increase in charges at a nearby crematorium – this, they said was due to an increase in the cost of living ! – Real Mallorca, along with the other 19 La Liga Santander sides, have no game this weekend because of the international break. Four players, Kang In Lee, Baba, Valjent and Muriqi, are away on international duty with their respective countries, South Korea, Ghana, Slovakia and Kosovo, plus second choice goalkeeper from Ibiza, Leo Roman, is on Spanish Under 21 duties.
The Palma side put an end to the 2pm curse last Saturday winning 1-0 against Almeria. Last season we had 11 kick-offs at the unpopular time and took only three points from three draws. There’s no doubt which player took all the plaudits from the local media after the game – Pablo Maffeo.
The 25-year-old Catalan is a key part of our team and his quality is beyond question. Arriving last Summer on loan from Stuttgart, his signing in July excited Mallorquinistas and he quickly made the right wing back position his own. He banished local player Joan Sastre to the bench and indirectly forced him to pack his “maletas” and sign for Greek Super League club Paok.
Last season Maffeo missed just three games (one to suspension) and his physical stamina is quite unbelievable, despite finishing on the verge of cramp every game. Our staying up last May saw Mallorca take up the obligation to pay 3.5 million euros (a snip) for him as a mandatory purchase clause. A great piece of business from our director of football Pablo Ortells. There’s no question Maffeo sets the pace for this Mallorca side and is without doubt the best right back weve ever had. Let’s just hope we can hold on to this prodigious talent.
PLAYING WITHOUT WINGERS.
The winger is traditionally a player who hits the byeline with pace and skill and who can find his striker with relative ease. I grew up with archetypal wingers like Celtic’s Jimmy Johnstone or Luis Figo of Real Madrid/Barcelona, both played far up the pitch and had little defensive responsibility.
Even here at Real Mallorca, iconic players like Jovan Stankovic and Chori Castro used to jink past defenders putting over perfect crosses for the front men to score. However, this breed of entertainers is a dying one and players are seldom seen hugging the touchline any more.
Nowadays few teams display a 4-3-3 system with out and out wide men. The favoured formation of the day at club level would appear to be 4-2-3-1 which uses three attacking midfielders rather than two wingers and a central player.
A few seasons ago the winger was supposed to support his full back in defence and then support the striker in attack, mainly with crosses. His job was mostly supporting, scoring was never really in his job description. We now have the rise of the attacking full back like Maffeo who roams up and down the touchline and receives much more of the ball unlike previously.
Regular readers of this column will know I’m not keen on the five-man defensive system Mallorca’s Mexican coach Javier Aguirre has adopted. I’m all for entertaining football if the team has the necessary players to provide that scenario.
The system Aguirre uses is not pretty to watch but as long as we carry on with the five at the back set-up and we stay up to record a third consecutive season in top flight Spanish football then it’s mission accomplished.
Aguirre is giving this team an identity so the system he uses is paying dividends no matter what I think! Permanency in La Liga is vital. Stay up for a third season and we get more money to buy better players. It’s far from champagne football but we are taking small steps towards that stability.
Of course it’s still way too early after just six games to draw any conclusions in this strange season. Two teams, Elche and Espanyol, are in serious trouble at the moment as we sit comfortably in mid table with eight points. Two positions from a European position and four over the relegation zone !!
There is of course a downside to what could happen after the World Cup in December. With our on-loan Zimbabwean striker Tino Kadewere out for four months with a serious knee injury, the question is what will happen when injuries and suspensions take out Muriqi, Kang In Lee, Maffeo, Costa, Galarreta and company as our bench is barely at La Liga level.
Grenier in mid field isn’t able to play 90 minutes and Dani Rodriguez is a shadow of the player he was a couple of seasons ago. Mid field is an area in which there is great room for improvement. Luckily “Gala” is almost back to his best in the engine room and he does bring another air and dynamism to the team.
Next up for us is a damage-limitation game against “high scoring” Barcelona in the Son Moix next Saturday at 9pm. Although chances of a Mallorca win are remote, we must attack them from the start. If we sit back and let them attack us – the game’s up !
AND FINALLY, back in the Wild West days a cowboy walks into a bar and orders a whisky. When the bartender delivers the drink the cowboy says “This town’s deserted. Where is everybody ?”
The bartender replies “They’re all at the hanging.” The cowboy enquires “Hanging ? Who are they hanging?”
The bartender tells him “Brown Paper Pete, so called because he wears a brown paper hat, a brown paper shirt, brown paper trousers and brown paper shoes.” The cowboy asks “So why are they hanging him ?” “Rustling !”