Without having the midweek Copa del Rey involvement, the free time is allowing Zinedine Zidane and his new coaching team to take a deeper look at the playing staff they've inherited and form their own opinions. With another free week ahead on the calendar, they'll be able to continue to implement the changes they've made in the background and get their opinions across. Nearly every report comments on how the mood appears to have changed since the appointment of Zidane, with respect for his approach and professional attitude and attention to detail highlighted in various sources. It would be hard for anyone not to respect Zidane based on his achievements in the game; and now that he's in the pole position at Real Madrid he'll be able to translate his ideals to the players and assess for himself how well they respond.
It's can be difficult for players when there's a change of management since this often goes hand in hand with a change in routine. Early media reports discussing Zinedine Zidane's training methods indicate that he takes a different approach to Rafa Benitez in terms of placing a more physical emphasis on the sessions. Although still including plenty of work with the ball, Zidane appears to prefer working on the fitness aspect in a purely physical sense as opposed to integrating this with ball work. However, without midweek games, the opportunity exists to put in some heavy training in the knowledge that there's always going to be a couple of days to recover before the weekends. In the playing season it is important to organise the more intense sessions in such a manner that the players are given adequate time to recover between these in order to be able to perform at their best.
Judging from reports, the earlier part of the week started off lightly enough but the sessions progressed quickly in terms of intensity as the week went on; building up to the heavy day reported in Marca when the emphasis was on explosive strength and endurance using the power harness. We'll leave Marca to do the advertising for the product shown in their short video, but it's basically a resisted pulley system using a long harness that holds the players back as they sprint, thereby increasing the power in their legs. Systems like these are commonly used in football to develop strength, power and endurance; and with the ability to perform repeated sprints interspersed with short rest periods essential for a footballer, the players would be doing these in sets with a short break in between. The rest periods would likely get shorter as the session progressed, thus challenging their individual abilities.
Zidane is reported to place a great deal of emphasis on physical fitness in addition to the diet and nutritional aspect of football. Most coaches take a similar approach, but their delivery of these often varies. Eating the correct foods for football is a science on it's own and it's frequently an area where peoples' beliefs differ; with old habits dying hard in some cases. Some players will readily buy into the whole nutrition thing while others can be a bit more sceptical. Getting the players to eat together is always a good idea but at first team level it's as much about developing that sense of togetherness as much as ensuring that their diets are right. If you're having a double training session then it's important to eat the correct food after the first session in order to ensure the energy is there for the second.
It's not surprising that this was an area Zidane is reported to have focussed on at Castilla. A topic occurring regularly in football science discussions is whether the pre-match meal is an out-dated ritual or a valid nutritional intervention. The physical demands of the game require that the body can cope with the stresses placed on the energy systems; and while the senior players may be well-versed in the concepts of diet and nutrition, this isn't necessarily true of the younger ones setting out in their professional career. In terms of replenishing used energy stocks it's as important to eat the correct foods after the game or training session as it is to eat beforehand, making eating together in an organised setting a worthwhile way of ensuring everyone gets the correct intake.
With the first couple of weeks of Real Madrid's new era under Zinedine Zidane having now passed; he'll already have made his mark on the playing side. So far we've only heard positive comments from the players and with few injuries reported it looks as though he's managed to get a good start. He'll be more than happy if this is the shape of things to come. With another match-free week ahead Zidane will be able to further implement his own strategies, and by this time next week everyone at the club is going to be well versed in the way the new regime works.