What We Talk About When We Talk About Marcello Gallardo
The Question, for today, is Marcello Gallardo. Specifically, why do opinions diverge on his performance so much? The same game that has some writers and commenters raving about him is the same game that leaves other observers scratching their heads and saying "I don't get it, what's so special?" Is he a genius, or is he making passes according to a game in his head that he, and no one else on the pitch, is really playing.
The easy answer is to say "well, the truth is somewhere in between." That answer is wrong. Marcello Gallardo neatly illustrates one of the truths about soccer that makes it so enjoyable, and yet so frustrating. There are a few positions that are difficult to objectively judge when watching. Sometimes it is a limitation of TV. You can see an attacker dribble around a keeper after a long through ball, but who was supposed to be marking him? Why wasn't the defense organized? Sadly, that is probably cropped off your image making a judgement about a goal difficult. But if you're at the game, or get a replay with a wide angle, you can probably piece it all together.
The problem is a bit more difficult when you're talking about a holding midfielder. Are they man marking? Are they playing more zonally? Where should they be, when should they get forward, who is making the run that they need to be aware of. Plays at a distance affect the center of your attention.
With an attacking midfielder, especially one that plays like Gallardo as opposed to Gomez, the problem is even greater. Marcello thinks in longer passes than Christian Gomez, which means where fellow players are (and where defenders aren't) is more of an issue. Also, since more time elapses during the pass, the vectors of the ball and the run are longer (remember those arrows in math?) Which means the potential space you are looking at is expanded. Christian was great at a one touch pass, playing short, dribbling around a marker, and slipping a ball through. Gallardo plays the long ball, but it's not Route 1. It's a speculative highway that another player may or may not see.
So the answer is that Gallardo is great, right, and that the other players are to blame for not making those runs? Not so fast. Gallardo does see these runs, and plays the ball for them, but that doesn't necessarily make it the right choice. Players can check to him, and he'll play over their head, when he should play it short and take the return pass. The longer pass is more speculative, and sometimes improbable to a fault. Even if Gallardo believes he can perfectly weight the ball, he also must assume that the run will have the right line, and that the player gets the right jump. Sometimes the easy play is right.
To look at Gallardo's play is, to some extent, to look at yourself as an observer. How are you feeling today? Adventurous? Artistic? Then Gallardo will no doubt manifest himself as a genius, and you and he are simpatico. Are you feeling cautious, prudent, and efficient? Then the play of Gallardo is no doubt extravagant and foolhardy and does not pay as much attention to his teammates as it should.
We see the Gallardo we want to see on the field, and that colors our perceptions of him. Perhaps the doll is not just diminuitive, but also he is dressed up by each observer to fit their own feelings. It is not that the truth lies in between for Gallardo. No, it is that both extremes are true, but say more about the observer than the observed.
Labels: Marcelo Gallardo