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Video: Real Madrid Will Miss Kroos’ Press Resistance vs. Atlético Madrid

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Kroos displays a level of tactical intelligence matched by few.

Real Betis Balompie v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
Toni Kroos' Press Resistance

Real Madrid are really going to miss Kroos' press resistance against Atlético. (Clips taken from the following youtube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3PCgGOYpLI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnUJp962APk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMBLH8s4Eb4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R84aTL0GFK4)

Posted by Managing Madrid on Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Toni Kroos is famed for many things; (his passing accuracy his long-balls, his shot from distance, his ability to set the tempo of a match, and his defensive positioning), but his most important quality is undoubtedly his underrated press resistance.

Possessing supreme tactical intelligence, Kroos is always aware of his surroundings, enabling him to beat opposition presses with a triumvirate of skills:

  1. Scanning to execute a purposeful 1st touch under pressure
  2. Ability to play pinpoint passes through opposition presses
  3. Off-the-ball movement to overload and defeat presses

The first quality is his most underrated, as few pundits or fans realize the non-negotiable importance of “scanning,” a skill well summed up by analytics expert Ted Knutson.

Scanning is the act of constantly looking beside and behind oneself on a football pitch. (Some coaches call this “shoulder checking”, but it’s a more comprehensive activity than that.)

To me, scanning is the single biggest skill that separates average from elite players.

It has also been heavily validated, so before we go too far, check out this link and this presentation + paper from the Sloan conference back in 2013.

The results show a clear positive relationship between visual exploratory behaviors (scanning) that are initiated before receiving the ball and performance with the ball. The best players explore more frequently than others and there is a positive relationship between exploratory behavior frequency and pass completion. The impact of exploratory behaviors is the largest for midfielders performing forward passes.

If you look closely, you will always notice that Kroos consistently checks his surroundings before taking a first touch under pressure, something that enables him to immediately escape danger.

From then on, he possesses a rare ability to play forward passes through a line of midfielders and defenders, something that completely destroys opposition presses and immediately puts Real Madrid’s attackers on the front foot.

But his press resistance isn’t only limited to his actions on the ball, as he consistently executes off-the-ball movements to create passing outlets that help his teammates progress play past high defensive lines.

This is probably his most underrated trait and is something he does better than any other player in the world bar none.

Considering the pressing machine that Diego Simeone’s side is, fans would be right to worry about how Real as a whole will be able to handle themselves without their most crucial press resistant link in midfield. Modric and Kovacic, as individuals, are extremely good at avoiding presses, but their off-the-ball movement to help their teammates do the same is questionable and is something that will really be put to the test this Sunday.