Wow, what a night!! I have to admit, I did say we will win this game. Despite the awful display of football presented during the pre-season. We had to win it. And we did. The team lined up tonight looked a much stronger side, thanks to our usual titular Luisao+Jardel, Enzo Perez (a joy to watch) and Gaitan. We finally looked like a team with some sort of potential.
This game gave us a good preview of what we will look like this season: a side with two strong and reliable central backs, a decent midfield, thanks to Enzo, Gaitan and Salvio. Jorge Jesus used Talisca as a false 10, which isn’t quite his natural position (he is an attacking midfielder, usually positioned less deeply and providing passes to the forward(s) instead of systematically going for goal). Lima isolated as the only striker of the squad… And Artur in the net!
ELISEU: I never thought I would say it, but he seems to be adapting nicely. Yes, he looks heavy and definitely needs to present himself in an acceptable shape as a sportsman. But tonight, this fact doesn’t even seem to have affected the quality he has brought to the back. Rapidity, quick to win and feed the ball, precise passing. I was really impressed and I hope he will continue growing to become a reliable Left back.
ENZO PEREZ: The Argentinian “craque” didn’t disappoint. As expected, he was the maestro leading the midfield, feeding beautiful balls to Talisca and Lima and recuperating when needed. I was captivated by his rhythm, his technical abilities and his great reading of the game.
LUISAO: The Captain is back!! Excellent in his position, our eternal captain was here to make sure Artur wouldn’t have too much work. Paired with Jardel as a central back, he instilled a much needed tranquillity in the squad. The pre-season may have looked a lot different had he not been injured.
Three saves from the unsung hero mean that we have cashed in on the prize. Artur has, through three beautiful dives on the correct side, brought us another trophy to the Museum. We should be grateful. And keep looking urgently for a first choice keeper. Cynical but necessary.
LIMA: He was meant to be our matador, but instead of netting the many opportunities that reached his foot, they all remained fruitless. The lethal Lima-Cardozo and last year’s dupla Lima-Rodrigo remind us that we need to contract another striker URGENTLY. We would only have needed 90 minutes to hold the Cup had Lima be paired with another quality forward.
SALVIO: I like Salvio, I really do. But when one sees him play, one can’t ignore that he seems somehow physically limited after some time on the field. He started off well but looked heavier and heavier as the minutes went by. At the time of being subbed during the 106 minute, he looked absolutely knackered. Will injury-proned Salvio be reliable enough to ensure the right wing position is filled for 2014-15?
TALISCA: Don’t get me wrong, the boy has a lot of bottle and energy to give to the team. He is very willing. But who didn’t cringe at all the failed occasions? It is with great despair that one watches him shoot incessantly the ball wide, high or directly to the goal keeper. For a team who pretends to defend the title, this is inadmissible. Talisca is definitely not a false 10 and JJ may have to reconsider his positioning in order to get the best out of his qualities.
The strange case of Artur:
Artur who has been defending our net since 2011 is far from securing a unanimous support from the fans. His antics have cast many a doubt about his capability of being titular in the club. His famous “frangos” (“chicken” in Portuguese, designating a grotesque play from the goal keeper, thus resulting in an unlikely goal, or in other terms an epic fail) have left his back restless, with the consequence of less depth of position. Indeed, his history of letting in goals that shouldn’t be means that the defensive line has the obligation to stay well back to protect as many balls as possible, and giving as little work as possible to Artur. We have seen the difference when Oblak was holding the fort, allowing the team to move forward a notch and install themselves more comfortably in the opponents’ half.
Unfortunately, tonight marked another poor display of goalkeeping, which could have cost us two goals if Rio Ave had been a little luckier, notably during minute 118, when Jardel had to head the ball to the post after an erratic clearance from Artur. The fans have been begging for a new goal keeper since the departure of the fallen hero Oblak, and it seems like Jorge Jesus keeps putting an unconditional trust in Artur.
However, tonight the scenario took a much different turn during the exercise of penalty takings. Three saves from the unsung hero mean that we have cashed in on the prize. Artur has, through three beautiful dives on the correct side, brought us another trophy to the Museum. We should be grateful. And keep looking urgently for a first choice keeper. Cynical but necessary.
Promises and Doubts:
Jesus has promised more signings will be taking place in August. Crucial positions such as striker, defensive midfield and goal keeper need to be purchased as soon as possible, in order to remain competitive in the Liga and the Champion’s league. We shall thus see who we can afford, considering the financial hardships of the club.
We saw tonight a very different team from what we had witnessed during the last few games, mainly thanks to the return of Enzo Perez and Gaitan. If those two can remain ours, we have a good chance of re-building a decent team based on a handful of quality core players. They will help the newbies integrate JJ’s ideas and concepts, while offering quality and depth to the game.
However, as we know too well, the newly rich Valencia and Monaco have their eyes set on the two midfielders, and I fear that after their excellent exhibition of tonight, they will have sparked an even greater interest from Leonardo Jardim and Espirito Santo. And Benfica desperately needs the money to stay afloat.
These next couple of weeks will be crucial to the final make-up of the team, and I am sure you and I will be avidly watching the transfer news!