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Sergio Ramos, Marcelo: Joining The Attack Is Leaving Pepe and Carvalho Exposed To The Counter

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There are some smart football minds that visit us here at Managing Madrid, and Sunday's match proved it. As there's been a lot of discussion concerning Kaka, Coentrao and Marcelo's play on the pitch against Levante UD on Sunday - and it really goes back to the 1-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb as well.

Now of course Liga BBVA isn't as cool as say the English Premier League or even Major League Soccer so we don't have cool heat maps, or chalkboards that help us dissect a match.

Though ESPN does offer some cool stuff, not as advanced, but still it might help - and while a screen grab would most likely be the way to go - figured do it by hand (sort of). They have a game cast, and keep track of all kinds of stuff. One of them is where the starting XI, well started - and then their average place on the pitch once the match got underway.

So follow me through  the jump and see where they lined up for first kick. 

On the left is the starting XI as of first kick. On the right we have the average place on the pitch once the game got underway. Notice in the second one, how far up the pitch Marcelo and Ramos are.


Also the formation on the right, doesn't take into account sub's or the fact we went down and man. Which turned the formation in to a 4-2-3 without the lone striker up top.

With those two (Marcelo and Ramos) being so far up the pitch, it forced the center backs to push a higher line. This also exposes the defense. If there's a defensive issue it's this,  with the halfbacks pushing up into the attack - and in the box at times. Just go back and watch the Dinamo Zagreb match again. 

Why are those two skirting along the 18 yard box? At time's it looked as though Zagreb were going to exploit this - and actually did a few times on the counter attack. If you can counter against Real Madarid, you're going to score some goals and most likely cause either one of the fullbacks or the center backs to commit stupid fouls because they don't want to be beat flat out.

Oh wait, where were we? Oh, that's right the Levante match.

Now you might be thinking, with Khedira playing the CDM he's there to cover, and you'd be right to an extent. The problem lies with Xabi Alonso. We know Xabi's not out there for his defensive abilities, he being my favorite player even know he's not a defensive wiz. So Khedira really has two jobs, be his own CDM and pick up the slack for Xabi's lack of defending. So Khedira has his work cut out for him, to bad he got sucked into the 'trap' as Mou put it and found himself watching the rest of the match from the locker room.

This pushed Coentrao into the CDM role, a role personally I don't think he's fit for. Because like I stated above, not only does he have his defensive responsibility's but he's got to help cover for Xabi. Alonso had a great match and any attack that Real Madrid were able to patch together funneled through Xabi - as he was the lone pivot for most of the match post sending off. 

This played right into the hands of the Levante UD manager - he now had a better run at implementing counter attacking measures and it got them a goal - then they proceeded to play bunker ball the rest of the way out. Which was made easier by the fact - towards the end Real Madrid were playing long ball. That's always risky especially when as a team you rely on possession based football

It goes against everything the team was built around and that in itself reeks of panic and someone hitting the 'oh shit' button in the dugout. The thing to keep in mind though is that it's early in the season and while yes dropping points early sucks, it's not the end of the world. But there has to be adjustments made in the way the formation plays defense. Both Marcelo and Sergio Ramo's cannot push that high up the pitch, without there being repercussions on the other end of the pitch.

I'd bet lots of money that the tape of this match is making the rounds to the other la Liga teams. And I'm not talking about the whole sucker them in to stupid moves and go a man up. But if I can figure out that the best attack against Real Madrid is to run the counter as many times as you can, i.e. anytime you re-gain possession in your half and push the ball quickly up the field. You can't leave your center backs alone like that, and think they can put an end to the counter. It just can't and wont happen, to much space and not enough people.

So all of this brings up few questions.

  • How do we keep twiddle dee and tweedle dumb from exposing the center backs? Well; outside of pounding a stake into the pitch and just giving them enough rope to patrol their areas..
  • Outside of Khedira, do we need to pick up another CDM during the January window?
  • Surely Coentrao isn't the answer?

Would love to hear from the rest of you arm chair managers, what would you do?

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