Part of working and being in law school is that your schedule is fluid. So I'm scrapping this column's old name and renaming it "The Week That Was." Now maddi can't yell at me for not posting on Tuesdays. This is for the Lazio, @Sevilla, and Puertollano games.
- Robert Pires. Was he mad at missing out last week? If so, I should omit him again. Two goals against Lazio, the opening golazo against Sevilla, and a well-deserved rest against Puertollano (where the team dearly missed him). With Cazorla & Ibagaza out and Senna struggling to find his niche, Pires has driven our recent goalscoring. His free kick against Lazio reminded me of a classic Beckham ball: teasing but bending away from the keeper and amidst a pile of players. Any touch means a goal, and sometimes none is required (despite Nilmar's claims).
- Ruben Cani. What is Batman (Pires) without Robin (Cani)? Over the second half of last season, Cani started to find his form, and that has continued in the Valverde era. A wonderful goal against Lazio, but I was more impressed with his hustle to win the 3:0 penalty in that match. He created a turnover deep in the Lazio end, then sent a quick ball across the middle of the box, where Nilmar was dragged down. Now Cani is earning back his 11 million euro transfer fee, the club record prior to Nilmar.
- Giuseppe Rossi. It's a start for the Italian-American. Coolly converted the penalty to round off the 4:1 against Lazio, ran a lot and looked dangerous against Sevilla, and tapped in the only goal against Puertollano. We need more from Rossi, but goals are the end-all for strikers. Bottom line: he got the job done.
- Joseba Llorente. Four words: the dive against Lazio. If the Lazio captain Baronio even touched him, the contact was minimal and with his fingertips. Absolutely nothing that merited a red card; maybe it was a yellow for retaliation. If the ref makes a mistake and sends a player off, I understand that, but I will not condone embellishment. Joseba, that was shameful, and I hope Valverde sits you for a match.
- Gonzalo Rodriguez. I am tired of watching him. At one point, Gonzalo was one of the best central defenders in Europe. I even backed him for a spot in the Argentina starting XI (maybe that's more of an indictment of their defensive frailties). But right now, I'm not comfortable with him on the field. Being constantly out of position with a penchant for absurd fouls is not a good combination. He's now been sent off in all three competitions: against Real Madrid in La Liga, Puertollano in the first leg of the Copa del Rey, and now Lazio in the Europa League. Rocchi nearly bagged a brace before sending Gonzalo to the showers; going down to 10 men was the only way that Lazio remained ahead of us on goal difference. Frustrating.
- The Godin-Marcano partnership. I'm not sure what works in central defense, but the defending on Luis Fabiano's brace was appalling. Godin and Marcano were nearby and knew that Fabiano was in the box, but Godin ran away as the cross came in and Marcano was marking air. Our team is notoriously poor in the air; the last such display was against Fernando Llorente. A result was possible in Sevilla, but the 2:2 came immediately, and no one marked Kanoute on the 3:2. Godin was the assigned defender, but he just stood and watched as Kanoute reacted to the cross. Since I've already blasted Gonzalo, what's the solution? Kiko-Fuentes?
- David Fuster. I was unhappy with his play last week, but he proved me wrong against Sevilla. Nicely taken goal and an assist on Pires' wonderful volley. Great vision to play a quick 1-2, as if they had been playing together for years. In my defense, I criticized Fuster for his efforts as a substitute: when on the field with Rossi, Cani, and Pires, he looked much better. So maybe he needs quality around him to stand out. Whatever the case may be, he has earned another chance or two.
- Nilmar. No goals, but he terrorized the Lazio backline. Should have netted a brace, but I'm confident that the goals will come. Earned the 3:0 penalty converted by Pires and looked happy to be on the field. A sign of good things to come.