Retro-Diary: More Mladenovic in Rome (a.k.a. Part Two)

I will be the first to admit that I can be too lengthy in my writing. Even so, I’d never have thought a “Retro-Diary” of a football match would be even half as long as the one I posted last week. When considering that that one covered only one half of the match and was focused on just one player, it’s a bit absurd.

I’d blame it on the winter break, but I’d know I would be lying. I just like hearing the sound of my fingers typing, apparently.

So, with that in mind, as well as now having seen a bit of new FC acquisition Filip Mladenovic, I’ll going to at least try to make the diary of the second-half watch a bit thinner.

But I promise nothing.

Halftime: With the players emerging onto the turf, the commentator reminds viewers that the group situation remains somewhat precarious, with any of the three teams not named “FC Barcelona” capable of finishing anywhere from second to last with just 45 minutes left in group play.

For our purposes here, though, remember that BATE needed a win to have even a chance to become the first Belorusian team to advance to the knockout stages. AS Roma could have takem second with either a win or draw, depending on the final result in the Bayer Leverkusen – FC Barcelona tie.

46 – I was hoping to get deeper into the second half than the first minute before writing something, but I couldn’t let this one go.

Mladenovic took a throw-in that was whistled for a violation. From the gesticulating of the referee, he was bending too far over and/or did not pull the ball far enough behind his head before moving it forward.

I just have never seen anything like that called before. Carry on.

47 – Roma’s biggest chance of the match so far comes on an awful turnover in BATE’s own end. Our guy wasn’t really involved, so there’s nothing to discuss, effzeh-wise. (I am having a “What the hell was that?!” moment, though, for BATE fans.)

The Dzeko shot was deflected out of the area quite some distance. Mladenovic was trotting after the play with no chance of closing the gap. When the ball came back out, he peeled off and started going the other direction. Problem here is that Roma collect the ball and immediately send it back in.

Mladenovic slow getting back

You see when Mladenovic realizes his slacking might bite him in the ass. He puts on the speed, but was never going to help much here if Alessandro Florenzi could handle the ball dropped in to him there. Fortunately for BATE and Mladenovic, he couldn’t.

I assume over the course of a 90-minute game, you pick a few runs to not make in order to have enough energy to get to the end of it, but when the opposition has the ball and a penalty-area presence, that’s a poor time to choose to slack.

49 – Mladenovic got into a one-on-one battle with Juan Iturbe well away from the area. Used just enough grabbing and body to annoy Dzeko without risking a whistle. Annoyed Iturbe enough that instead of joining play as action continued, he stopped to complain to the linesman about a slight tug on the jersey. Meanwhile, Mladenovic got back to defend, which was good because Dzeko could have otherwise had the opportunity to find a teammate running unmarked to the post. Full marks.

52 – Not sure how BATE continues to avoid conceding. Mladenovic helps deal with Dzeko just inside area, but peels off to follow Florenzi deeper into the area.

54 – With Roma keeping a LOT of the ball right now and most of BATE hemmed into their own area, Mladenovic is occasionally drifting high to chase the ball. In one such case, he ends up in a footrace with Nainggolan toward the goal line and ultimately blocks a cross attempt for a corner. Considering the speed Nainggolan has shown in spots, I take this as another example of speed being one of Mladenovic’s key attributes. He runs well.

56OUCHAgain near touchline but closer to center line than own penalty area, Mladenovic and Iturbe do battle, chasing a bounding ball with spikes in the air. Iturbe wins the ball. Mladenovic goes down. We ran a full physical exam on this guy, yeah? That looked painful.

57 – After twelve minutes of mostly chasing Roma around deep in their own end, BATE get a chance to take a crack at goal. They tried the right side first, brought it back, and shifted to the left. Mladenovic made himself known and then drew his defender with him to leave space for Milunovic to bring the ball forward. Our guy finally cut inside on a run. The ball from Milunovic was fine, but Mladenovic’s first touch ended up striking a defender. A lucky bounce resulted in a shot attempt that Antonio Rudiger cleared. Everything looked promising until the fumbled touch. Na ja . . .

58 – Mladenovic and Florenzi sliding into a ball lying just outside the Roma area. Florenzi gets to it first to clear it away. Despite arriving at the same time, there is minimal contact between the two. Despite the minimal contact, the two start bitching at one another as if some grand injustice had been done. I’m going to go ahead and side with the guy in yellow. Florenzi is clearly in the wrong.

You want to be right? You have to become FC.

61 – More BATE offensive possession, this time on Mladenovic’s flank with Alex Hleb and Maksim Volodjko also there to create. Mladenovic’s primary role was making himself available for a pass while Hleb and Volodjko look for an opening. Eventually, Mladenovic pounces into the space behind the Roman defenders, and Volodjko sends the ball through for him. Mladenovic is in the clear for a cross, but the effort is an incredibly soft roller to Szczesny. Nobody in yellow gets anywhere near it until it’s settled into the keeper’s gloves.

cross to nobody

Again, it was the final touch that was a disappointment, though you could argue that it was also a poorly considered notion to send it across there.

OR, you could accuse the guys in yellow of being simply too slow to keep up with the monster pace of Filip Mladenovic. However you call it, the end result is a waste of one of BATE’s best possession situations.

64 – See what happens when you drop into position when the opponent has the ball?

in position

Dzeko is looking for recently subbed-on Mohamad Salah to his right, but Mladenovic is right where he needs to be and easily turns play the other direction. Defending is easy?

Sidebar: Kaspars Dubra entered the game as a sub with pink shoes/boots/cleats. Things were slightly easier when Mladenovic was the sole pink-footed guy in yellow. If you’ve trouble distinguishing in the pictures, send me a tweet and I’ll tell you which is Mladenovic, okay?

67 – Pop Quiz time!

Where and to whom is Dubra sending this ball?

quiz one

A: Mladenovic, of course, is the answer to the second part of the question. The first?

quiz two

WAAAAAY the hell down there!

If you got either part of the quiz correct, go to your liquor cabinet and reward yourself with a shot of whiskey (preferably bourbon). If you got both right, just bring the entire bottle with you back to your reading spot. You deserve it.

(The action after the succeeding throw-in should have resulted in an improbable BATE goal, except Szczesny made an astounding save on the play.)

68 – Now, it seems it must be noted that Mladenovic was not involved in the near-score that happened. The reason I note this is because the save from Szczesny went to Rüdiger, who booted the ball toward midfield and triggered a break for Roma.

breakout

Due to the way the cameras followed the action, I don’t know what Mladenovic was doing when his teammates nearly created a goal out of thin air. What I do know is that he ended up behind Salah with the entire right flank left uncovered, which is why Roma has decided to send that counter down that route.  Time for some speed?

win

What matters, ultimately, is that Mladenovic was able to overtake Salah as he slowed to take his touch. Our guy got between the ball and the goal before Salah could set himself for a shot and poked the ball away, ending the threat.

But for a second, it looked really dodgy.

73 – Consecutive chances for Roma, and our guy is in the picture on both.

The first involved a bit of misfortune. A missed attempt at intercepting a pass left Roman on the left flank with the ball and space to look for Dzeko rushing into the area. Mladenovic was rushing back with Milunovic to keep tabs on Dzeko. As both defenders were trailing Dzeko, Chernik didn’t want to risk it and punched the ball away. Unfortuantely, it went right to Salah, who was completely unmarked.

salah

As bad as it looks in screen-cap, it looked worse at live speed. Even worse, Salah isn’t too worried about settling the ball before Mladenovic gets to him, because Miralem Pjanic is about to arrive into that open stretch of green in front of the prone keeper and would have a much-easier shot at this point.

Except none of it is ever easy and less so for Roma currently. Pjanic’s strike is low and soft enough for Milunovic to clear away without much effort.

Again, feel for the Roma fans. This would have been torture to watch from their point-of-view. Are we blessed to not (yet) need to worry about such things as advancing in a UEFA competition?

The SECOND chance (did you forget there were two?) was a bit more of a built-up play than a quick counter. Essentially, Florenzi and Salah combined for a give-and-go, resulting in Florenzi receiving the second pass on his way into the area. On his way to that ball, though, he threw a bit of a deke that turned Mladenovic around completely and opened space for him to get a shot off. Made out guy look a bit lost, to be frank. Not his grandest moment.

Milunovic fluffed the shot though, but I think you knew that already.

75 – You know, some of this might be a perception problem. Perhaps I’m poorly perceiving that Mladenovic is a left back.

where

As a left back, I wonder how he can be so far out of the picture when Roma is settling into an attacking chance. Yes, this did come right after (yet another) bad BATE turnover in midfield, but how far up was Mladenovic cheating?

It all comes down to their philosophy, of course. The fact remains that BATE would need a goal to avoid finishing fourth in the group, missing the knockout stages of either UEFA competition. It’s entirely possible (and maybe even ‘likely’) that Mladenovic was just the guy being given the freedom to roam in the hopes of poaching a game-winner.

Or maybe he’s just tired.

74

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“Jecke”?

Is this a Kölle guy undercover as a Roma fan while scouting for talent?

78 – Despite all the words I’ve been typing over the course of two parts of this diary, I’ve yet to really have that one big moment that shows a flash of what our club has purchased. Up to now, Mladenovic has just been a basic play with a little extra speed.

Finally, in the 78th minute, the aforementioned speed combines with the earlier observations about him being a defender who likes to jump into the offensive frays to provide a moment.

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Mladenovic is in the lower right, chilling with Salah, watching the ball being chested down by they guy directly south of the “e” in “MasterCard” (Hleb, if you care). Now watch!

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Hleb plays back to Stasevich, who quickly plays forward to Volodjko (#42), and Salah realizes a split-second too late that IT IS ON!

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Salah continues pursuit enough to tell the defenders, “Hey, I had him for a little bit, but this is YOUR job!” Meanwhile, Volodjko is thinking, “I almost CANNOT screw this pass up, there is so much space over there!”

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Here’s where ball and player intersect for the first time. There’s not enough support for this to be some huge, glorious chance, but BATE has not had the ball this deep into Roman territory but a few times all night.

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Florenzi has to be thinking, “He’s gonna send it across.”

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Nope! And you are beat!

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For the power and the glory . . .

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Damn . . .

Still, it was a pretty nice run and move. Shot could have been better placed maybe, but that’s almost always true. So it goes.

82 – Again, Mladenovic really sees the entire field pretty well. Maybe anyone could have seen this. I don’t know.

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But I like to think this shows a knack for smart play. Unlike a few of the Roma defenders, Mladenovic wasn’t quick to boot the ball upfield in an effort to clear the area. The few long attempts he made were well-chosen and well-targeted. This one let Stasevic play it down without trouble and set up a shot on goal. We’ll take one of those every match day, for sure.

Obviously, things are a little more open than they’d otherwise be. I mean, both sides are chasing a goal to secure something, so there are chances being taken. This should not diminish the genius of Mladenovic.

89 – Roma is ripe for the picking, and Mladenovic is game. A ball is flicked out toward his flank and . . .

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There he goes again . . . with a big, gaping space waiting for him again . . .  what will it be this time?

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Looking for the one teammate moving with you, eh? Well, it’ll take a decent ball to work, as well as a solid controlling touch or insane one-time strike, but if you’re going to make Belarusian football history, what the hell?!

The action moved too fast to get a screen cap that was up to even my admittedly low standards, but I’ll tell you the pass was good enough to inspire reactions from the Roma fans who are now thinking they are going to lose it late at home to BATE.

vlcsnap-2016-01-13-22h09m59s184

We’ve all been there, bruh. We feel you.

You want to say that if BATE had a better finishing touch, they probably would snatch this one, but once you start playing that, you remember that Roma had piles of chances that went wanting that one great touch at the end. But it does feel like it’s about to happen, which explains the fellas above.

90– And it starts to drift into “Are you kidding me?!” mode. I mean, LOOK AT THIS!

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You’d think that this is some sort of counter with Roma getting back late, but the ball never really left this end after the last chance. They gained possession and bailed toward the other end while Rüdiger turned the ball back over the BATE. In response, Roma is just jogging around waiting for the heads of their fans to explode out of frustration.

Mladenovic ends up with the ball here and curls a pass to a teammate on the other end of the penalty area. Nothing comes of it, of course.

End – The game petered out with a little wild back-and-forth and a few errant shots, topped with a cacophony of whistles and boos from the annoyed home fans who couldn’t stay away despite the boycott. It turned out that a scoreless draw was enough to keep Roma second in the group anyhow. First had long been out of reach.

From a 90-minute glimpse at our newest effzeh, Filip Mladenovic is at least an interesting player. It cannot be said that we got to see a full array of defensive skills on display against Roma, but there was plenty to show that he has the mindset and skills to be useful in attack.

Ultimately, what I couldn’t stop thinking toward the end of the match is that he seems a lot more like Pawel Olkowski than he does Jonas Hector. I don’t mean that in a “guy-who-got-benched versus “guy-playing-for-German-national-team” way. Rather, his overall game seems a match for Olkowski . . . which makes me wonder whether Jörg Schmadtke wasn’t looking for a particular type for that position . . . which makes me wonder whether Stöger isn’t scheming ways to create more offense from his squad beginning with attacking wing backs . . .and I can go on like this a while, because I spend far too much time thinking about this football club.

In the Champions League, BATE Borisov was always going to be a bit of an underdog trying to hold ground against more powerful opponents. This season, our effzeh has found their greatest successes when in similar situations. From that aspect, Mladenovic should fit in fairly nicely.

Domestically, though, BATE is the giant. They won the Belarusian Premier League by twelve points this season and have not finished in a position other than first since 2005. Let’s just leave it at, “that’s not quite the situation with your new club, Filip. Cool?”

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