There was an energy in the Bernabeu tonight stemming from Zidane's managerial debut. As the Bernabeu found themselves applauding unusually more than they're accustomed to, they were treated to a an enchanting match where Real Madrid launched wave after wave of attacks at Deportivo - always looking to build on their lead. Three points in style - just the way the fans like it. Despite some suspect moments defensively, the Zidane era is off to a an exciting start.
Here are three things we noted.
- Gareth Bale was fantastic. Come on, you just knew he was going to get a whole point to himself in this article the way he played. He's been in good form all season, but lately he's been even better - playing with confidence, setting up his teammates, finishing his chances, and dropping back to defend. Seriously, I especially hope that last point doesn't get overshadowed by his offensive stats. The way he dropped back to defend and tackle tonight was completely exemplary. De facto, BBC as a whole did really well to track back and apply pressure. Benzema had a solid match, and so did Ronaldo despite not scoring as he was very involved.
- The defense needs to improve as the season progresses. Pepe and Ramos both struggled in the first half, and so did Varane in the second half. It's interesting, because the team as a whole did well to defend as a unit, but there were lapses where players weren't picked up with their runs in behind the defense or not closed down well enough in the final third. This did somewhat improve in the second half, and some brilliant individual tackles by Pepe, Varane, Carvajal, and Bale prevented some damage by Lucas Perez and co.
- Admittedly there is a tiny sample size to make this statement, but it appears that the biggest difference between the Zidane era and the Rafa era will be that the team plays with a sense of freedom - a certain weight off their shoulders that they can play the way Real Madrid should be playing offensively. This is hard to explain, but if I were to break it down in one word, I would say that Real Madrid is inspired. Good win. Not perfect, but it's an encouraging start. A manita for Zizou!