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Sporting 0 - 0 Real Madrid: Initial reactions

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Real start the season with a scoreless draw

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

  1. One of the most chaotic games Real Madrid has played in recent memory. After a frantic and fiery start to the match, one could justifiably assume that the pace of the game would eventually settle down. Of course, that didn't happen - the pace of the game was sustained right up until the final whistle. That kind of flow usually suits Real Madrid well, but somehow - and all credit to them - Gijon maintained their defensively compact shape well throughout the game and the chances that came by for Real Madrid were difficult ones to take.
  2. The offensive shape looked at times conducive, and at other times confused. By the end of the first half, it was clear that Gareth Bale on the left wing is infinitely more dangerous than Gareth Bale on the right wing. But while he was able to get involved heavily during the opening portion of the half, he shifted back to the right wing to end the half. This kind of free role for Bale is something I've been asking for since the Carlo era because it keeps the opposing defenders guessing. This is why Bale starting as a CAM doesn't actually mean he's playing in the middle - it means he can roam around to whichever wing he deems fit. The problem, however, is that the bounds of these free roles aren't clear. It is not a stagnant attack, and it's taken to extreme levels. Free roles work if you have one or two players roaming, not the entire offense. Bale wasn't the only one who had this freedom. Ronaldo was switching flanks, as were Jese and Isco. James' introduction came a bit too late, and when he came in, he went to the left flank which is a complete waste of James' abilities. After a few ensuing possessions he drifted to the middle and right flank. The whole system seems confusing. I hope to elaborate on it on a future article.
  3. Marcelo was a walking disaster tonight defensively. He had some good moments in the final third, but gave away the ball carelessly at the back and fell asleep defensively at a moment which nearly led to a goal. After 9 seasons, we have to just accept that this is who Marcelo is. He won't change now.
  4. Varane. Along with Modric, he was our best player on the pitch tonight. Did really well to shut down Gijon's attacks and recover the ball as the result of lapses from his teammates.
  5. Danilo is growing. He started the game quite shy, just making the simple passes. But as the game progressed, you could see his form from Porto starting to resurface. Nice bold runs and crosses. His acquisition excites me to no end.
  6. Not the best start to the season, but I'm willing to give Rafa the benefit of the doubt. It will take time for this team to settle.