Zidane Played It Simple
Zinedine Zidane didn't have anything special planned for today, as he made massive rotations, bringing in Nacho for a suspended Ramos, Arbeloa in for Marcelo, Carvajal in for Danilo, James in for Kroos, Isco in for Modric, Lucas Vázquez in for Bale, and Jesé in for Benzema. Clearly banking on the quality of his individual stars rather than a cohesive attacking performance, Zidane implemented simple possession football tactics causing Real Madrid to dominate the game with a solid 61.5% possession statistic. But it wasn't a typical Madrid performance as Eibar made 100 attacking third passes to Real Madrid's 132, clearly indicating that Zidane told his team to play a relaxed game starting from the back. This put the onus on Real Madrid's midfield to play switch passes to the flanks and long balls to Madrid's attackers. Casemiro took on this responsibility with relish, completing 6 out of 8 long balls, while Isco and James also did this job rather ably; completing 5 out of 5 long balls and 4 out of 7 long balls respectively. While Los Blancos did create a couple of chances from open play using this method (most notably from James' clever passes and Lucas Vázquez's crosses), Real Madrid dominated Eibar on the counter-attack, snatching 3 out of their 4 goals on the break.
Eibar's Poor Defensive Organization Against Counter-Attacks Lost Them the Game
The oddest thing about this game was Eibar's defensive organization. Initially, they seemed to be playing it brave, as they pushed up with a high line and looked to suffocate the space Real Madrid could play the ball in. But instead of following through with that strategy, none of Eibar's midfielders or forwards pressed Madrid's players, allowing Los Blancos to pick through balls with ease. This led to a goal bonanza as Real scored from 3 fast breaks in the space of approximately 23 minutes.
Real Madrid's Second Goal
For Real Madrid's 1st goal on the fast break, there was a massive space between Eibar's right center back and fullback, allowing an easy through ball to be played down the channels. This was a result of poor communication between the Eibar back line and the strategy to push up high and not press.
As you can see here, Ronaldo used his superior strength to bully the Eibar center back off the ball. Immediately after winning the duel, Ronaldo was one-on-one with a defender, literally meaning that it took just one pass for Real Madrid to have a potential shot on goal. Yet Ronaldo didn't need to shoot, because as can be seen in this screenshot, he had help arriving to his right, with the rest of the Eibar defense left for dead.
This is the finishing move. The Eibar fullback is still not even close to the action and his fellow center backs are overwhelmed. Ronaldo unselfishly played the ball to Vazquez who finished smartly. This was just disastrous defending from Eibar.
Real Madrid's Third Goal
Again, look at the space between Eibar's fullback and centerback, it's nearly a criminal offense. Additionally, the massive space between the two centerbacks means that Jese will be in a one-vs-one situation.
Jesé latched onto the through ball and because of the poor positioning of the supporting center back, Jesé was free to run onto goal with an option to his left.
Such was the speed of the counter-attack that Ronaldo had time to take a touch before finishing emphatically.
Real Madrid's Fourth goal
Once again Ronaldo made use of the left channel, exploiting the poor positioning of Eibar's fullback, who is already miles behind Cristiano when the first ball is played. Also note how Eibar's left center back is far behind his right center back, clearly indicating the disorganization and lack of communication in Eibar's back line. This will also make it easier for Ronaldo to pick his pass, as Eibar's left center back won't arrive in the box on time.
Ronaldo danced into the box and played an easy ball to Jesé, who sticked it away gratefully. Too easy.
Important Player Performances
Ronaldo grabbed 1 goal and 2 unselfish assists in a dominant attacking display against Eibar. Additionally, his off-the-ball movement was excellent and he was Madrid's most consistent attacking threat throughout, with 7 shots and 3 key passes. Good all-round display ahead of the Wolfsburg clash.
Unlike Isco, who seemed rather lackluster, James was very involved in the game. Opening the scoring in the 4th minute with a classy free kick, James proceeded to torture Eibar with his restless movement and constant search for the final ball. He linked up with his teammates very well and even planted the ball on Ronaldo's head a couple times.
The final match stats are good reading for James: 87 touches, 1 goal, 3 key passes, 90.2% pass accuracy, 3 out of 9 crosses completed, 4 out of 7 long balls completed, and 6 tackles.
Bits and Pieces
Jesé and Lucas also played very well today and Casemiro had a solid game.
Isco looked worryingly disconnected from the final third apart from a few bright flashes. Zidane has to figure out how to get Isco ticking, because Perez's trigger-happy fingers are surely getting closer to pressing the button on the diminutive Spaniard's exit.
Real Madrid's defending from set-pieces was horrible.
Nacho was a warrior today, taking two crunching challenges to the ankle.