Lopetegui’s Real Madrid: Tactical analysis
After the departures of both Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid, it was something of an end of era situation for the defending European Champions.
These were two people whose impacts where instrumental in their team’s incredible run of three straight Champions League victories. Without Ronaldo’s important goals in big games and Zidane’s man management and underrated defensive strategies in those games, the team might not have attained that much success or any of it at all.
Julen Lopetegui was appointed to usher in a new era of success and longevity at the Bernabaeu stepping down from his Spain job before the World Cup.
The Spanish tactician who has also managed in Portugal was keen to bring a philosophy and a style of play to a club that’s not known to have a footballing identity.
In Zidane’s time, the Frenchman relied on the individual abilities of the players to provide the spark and win matches but Lopetegui prefers a team effort and a collectiveness in the football played.
In his first few matches as Real’s new manager these are the things I noticed:
Wingers constantly switching flanks:
As opposed to the 4-1-2-1-2 or 4-4-2 diamond formation Zidane used, Lopetegui deploys a 4-3-3 where Asensio and Bale start off playing on the left and right flank.
As the match progresses, both players use their initiative to judge times in the game to switch flanks thus causing confusion amongst defenders especially on occasions when the switch is actually happening.
Some times when it looks like it’s a switch, one both players simply dropped into attacking midfield positions to cause overloads in midfield and create space for the fullbacks who push higher up the pitch because at times, their movement in field will cause the opposition defenses to collapse.
This tactic has proven successful in situations that have led to goals like Gareth Bale’s goal in the Super Cup and the fact that the two penalties Marco Asensio won against Girona was from both sides of the box.
Once they loose the ball, they instantly engage in an aggressive counter press with most of their players being already high up the pitch. It’s pretty aggressive as they get as much bodies around the ball while cutting the player’s passing lanes in the process which will force him to either over think his next move and lose the ball or clear the ball away thus conceding possession.
Also, when they are pressing a team that plays out from the back, they take a 2-1-2-2-3 where the fullbacks are higher up and Casemiro drops deeper to shield the center backs and also cover the spaces in behind the midfielders.
The strikers take on the keeper and two Center backs while the fullbacks take on themselves and the midfielders either cut passing lanes or mark other midfielders man to man or both at the same time.
Real Madrid are so dangerous when they win the ball up field as they have so many players with presence of mind and awareness to find a deadly pass in an instant.
It’s a very effective press but proves very dangerous if beaten because of the spaces in behind especially on Real Madrid’s left due to the poor work rate of Marcelo tracking back.
Benzema and Kroos Roles:
Karim Benzema’s form at the start of the season has been good as he is playing with more confidence. His role in the team is a pivotal one up front as he drops deep to get the ball and his brilliant ball retention, vision and passing ability is used to bring his teammates into play and also create a fluidity amongst the front three with one of the wingers either dropping deep or making a run in behind.
Defenders have not been able cope with him because when he comes deep for the ball, he causes a problem for the defender who is unsure whether to follow him or stay in his position. If he follows, spaces will be created for runs in behind and if he stays, Benzema can easily look up to pick a pass in those pockets of space.
As for Toni Kroos, when Real are in posession, he moves to the center and becomes the deepest lying midfielder while Casemiro moves beside him. The Brazilian doesn’t move far away so as to move back in position when they loose the ball.
At times though, Kroos moves left where he can exchange passes with Marcelo and Sergio Ramos to move the ball upfield and his position at the pivot allows him to pick out passes out wide to the wingers or fullbacks in space. He rarely misses a pass and with his unlimited passing range, he is capable of causing much damage from deep.
It is important to note that Real have conceded goals in all the games they played this season with most of them being in situations where they were caught out especially in their left side.
Marcelo has been guilty of poor work rate at times this season as his inability to track back has led to their concession of goals.
At the moment Los Blancos looks like a team that would struggle to keep clean sheets this season.
A new Era has begun at the Bernabaeu and by the looks of it an exiting one as well. Will be interesting to see what happens in the months to come.