Collective Memory – La Liga Round 6

During the last Football World Cup played in South Africa, the teams that made it to the final game had one characteristic in common. Both teams kept the same players from the 2008 European Championship, held in Austria and Switzerland, until the 2010 World. With this common ground, both teams displayed their particular tactical game. The Spanish team kept possession of the ball through all its lines, played the ball neatly – despite constant pressure – and never lost the order of this premise. On the other side, the Dutch proved to be a balanced team: tactical discipline and physical strength combined with forcefulness in attack. Clearly, these teams thoroughly knew their weaknesses and strengths.

Beyond the different styles of play, both teams had a group of players who defined the team. Each player knew what role to play and, more importantly, each player knew when to stand in for their peers. Some players shared a sort of football intimacy within the field – as each one was involved in the right measure and all players shared an accomplice knowing look. These familiar interactions was one of the reasons that caused both teams, who held the same group of players for a period of two years, to succeed in reaching the summit of world football – despite only one team would be the champion. Long story short, the players surrendered to the collective memory of the team. Over a two year period, the players of the national teams of Spain and The Netherlands developed the confidence to achieve the objectives of the whole group, as a team.

Considering this background information, there are few teams in the Spanish Football League that can maintain constant group of players over a period of time. The big accumulation of official competitions stimulates players to rotate and, therefore, changing the combination of players set by coaches. Round 6 in particular had games with little clarity:

Granada 0 – Valencia 1: the visiting team won but their style and rhythm is not at all convincing.

Sevilla 4 – Rayo Vallecano 1: the most remarkable thing of the game is that the players entered the field with a flag on favour of organ donation: “Donate Life, donate your marrow! Become a donor!” On the field, the performance of the Sevilla F.C. players is ambivalent and this does not contribute towards defining the shape and the strategy of the team – even before one of the weakest teams in La Liga 2013-2014.

Getafe 2 – Celta de Vigo 0: The coach of Celta de Vigo, Luis Enrique, remarked that: “It was a boring game even for the coach.” The game reached the final score during the last minutes through two corner kicks.

Villarreal 2 – RCD Espanyol 1: this was one of intense matches of round 8 in which the two teams looked convincingly for the victory. “If you finish the game alive and the result is right, it gives you a better after taste.” In this case, “the opponent was better and that’s it” – said Javier Aguirre, coach of RCD Espanyol.

Levante 1 – Real Valladolid 1: a tie that was useful to collect another point for the two teams but it might be even more useful for both teams if they seek to improve empathy in the attack.

Athletic Bilbao 2 – Real Betis 1: after the visiting team scored the first goal, the home team came back and won the game with timely substitutions and mystique of the new San Mames stadium.

Malaga 2 – U.D. Almeria 0: the team of the city of Malaga continues to win games after starting the first rounds of the league with almost no points. The home team coach Bernd Schuster is German and trusts his luck.

Another factor that affects La Liga teams are the players that are classified as “stars”. Real Madrid is an example of how you can lose the collective memory if too much emphasis is given to the individual footballers. The players led by Carlo Ancelotti don’t seem to complement each other and sometimes they also fight on or off the field. In the short run, the results seem to go along with the white team:
Elche 1 – Real Madrid 2.

The two teams that worked to acquire a collective memory and are able to use it nowadays are F.C. Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

The Catalan team players know each other by heart. Their challenge now is to find variations in their game to be less predictable – reinvent the way in which they play to continue at the top of world football – and find a way to transmit this precious legacy to the next generation of players. On round 6:
F.C. Barcelona 4 – Real Sociedad 1.

The other team, Atletico de Madrid, shows that all players are important if they are used at the right time. The “colchoneros” are more united players, stretching the bond that links them together, after each match:
Atletico Madrid 2 – C.A. Osasuna 1.

Not surprisingly, these are the two teams that are leading the tournament!

Interesting is to note that La Liga 2013-2014 will finish right before the start of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Given the intense pace of the competition, the strengths (collective memory) and the areas for development (rising individuals catalogued as “stars” or “galacticos”) mentioned, the level of collective memory of the players in La Liga that become a part of their national teams will be a matter of debate. Time will tell!

About Nico Argentato

Spanish and English teacher, Sports Psychology student and music enthusiast. An innate passion for movement and rhythm prompted my early development in the sports world; participating in most sports that involve a ball. Now, I am also looking for the words that can best describe that vital energy: the music in football and world sports.
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