After a disastrous start to their la Liga campaign, Real Madrid have begun to find their form and recorded their third straight victory against Elche today. What can we take away from this victory looking forward?
1. The attack is finally starting to click and work well together, even with an altered formation. Carlo Ancelotti decided to ditch a recognized striker to start the game, instead opting to play a 4-4-2 with Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at the head. Going forward, this formation look spectacular at times, with Isco and James pushing up and creating very well together. The link-up play between the four midfield players was very fluid as well, with Kroos and Illarramendi carrying and widening the play excellently. While this formation won't make be used every game, its counterattacking potential will see it employed against higher pressing sides- and with some work it will be absolutely lethal.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo is finally healthy and back to frightening best. It's been clear since the end of last season that Cristiano Ronaldo has not been fully fit, and amazingly he still maintained a world class level. However, now that knee problems seem to be behind him, his ferocious attacking play has returned. Interestingly, Ronaldo has also been much more involved in nifty buildup play that saw him spread the ball very well to open up the game for his teammates. Leaping for another spectacular headed goal, burying two penalties and running on to the end of a slick Bale pass only furthered the notion that the world's best player is back at top form.
3. Asier Illarramendi is starting to prove his worth to this Real Madrid squad. Real Madrid's current squad is immensely talented, but is lacking a traditional holding midfielder. After Illarra failed to even come close to justifying his massive transfer fee last year, it finally seems as if the young Basque is coming into his own. A sense of calm was present when Illarra was on the ball today, and his distribution was outstanding. While he may not yet have the tooth to fill the gaping defensive void left by Xabi Alonso, his development should be very promising for Carlo Ancelotti.
4. Raphael Varane is Real Madrid's most complete center back. While the Frenchman will not provide the fireworks that Sergio Ramos or Pepe do, his sound technique provides a much needed solace for a riddled Real Madrid defensive back line. His sense of calm on the ball and immaculate distribution paired with his excellent positioning should see him lock down a spot in Carlo Ancelotti's starting XI at some this season- a spot that will remain his for years to come. While inserting Varane will not entirely ameliorate Real Madrid's shaky defense, it is definitely a step in the right direction.
5. Gareth Bale's role at Real Madrid is closer to being defined. Gareth Bale's hot and cold contribution has been somewhat of a mystery since his arrival at the Bernabeu, but no one questions his worth to this squad. While he may "disappear" for large parts of most matches, his lurking pace always has the attention of multiple markers. So while he may not always be directly involved in the buildup, his talent alone helps this Real Madrid side. However, when he does pop up, he tends to have a knack for the spectacular. His flick on header to draw Madrid level at 1-1 was clinically taken (albeit with a little help from poor goalkeeping) and while did attract a few whistles for poor play with the ball at his feet later in the match, his vision to set up Ronaldo for the 5th goal of the match solidified a solid performance for the Welshman. In summation, don't fret when you haven't heard Bale's name called for long stretches in a match, that's just his nature.
Real Madrid are looking more and more like the team we expect them to become, and ideally their upward trend will continue. Now enough talk about real football, it's time to go enjoy FIFA 15!