With five key players missing in Real Madrid's starting lineup, Zidane's men still managed to come away from San Sebastien with three goals and three points - further proving the 'lack of depth' theory is but a myth. In the absence of Navas, Pepe, Modric, Ronaldo, and Benzema; Casilla, Varane, Kovacic, Bale, Morata, and Asensio all stepped up.
There was a lot to takeaway from Real Madrid's massive win today, but here are three quick notes:
- After Bale's blitzing early goal - his fourth in four matches in Anoeta - to kickoff Real Madrid's campaign, Sociedad started to really frustrate Zidane's men with a high-press that caused all kinds of turnovers. Getting out of that initial high-press from Eusebio's men was laborious, and Real struggled to pass their way out of it - misplacing passes deep which led to several chances. Most notably, Ramos struggled the most to find an outlet, and misplaced four passes from deep on his own.
This meant that all of Real Madrid's chances in the first half would come either from occasionally breaking through the high-press and leaving Sociedad outnumbered in the final third, or launching counter attacks when Sociedad broke forward.
On the flipside, Real Madrid defended well without the ball, and most of their conceded chances came from their own miscalculated passes. When Sociedad pushed forward, Zidane's scheme morphed into a 4-5-1, with Morata making calculated pounces. Real Madrid doesn't look like it will be a pressing machine under Zidane, and tonight, they were more keen on snuffing out passing lanes and inviting their opponents to come at them. That's sound, to be sure, given that this team has some of the best counter-attacking players on the planet.
- There were a few players who stood out tonight. Even if the 0-3 scoreline was flattering, Real Madrid deserved the victory thoroughly. Marco Asensio had a bright game on the left, and once again proved his composure in front of goal with a Raulesque chip for for the 2nd goal of the game. Mateo Kovacic looks really confident playing in Modric's role. His hounding box-to-box presence is a huge asset to have and takes workload off the accompanying midfielders. Dani Carvajal was instrumental in providing the team with relief on both ends of the field, and his looping ball hooked onto Bale's head for the opener.
Most notably, it was Alvaro Morata who instigated danger all night. He clearly played with a chip on his shoulder, making darting runs, dribbling out of the most impossible of situations, and looking physically imposing in the final third. If there's one aspect of his game that needs to improve its his tunnel vision with the ball at times, but it was really impressive how well he dropped deep and held the ball for Real Madrid - something that was desperately missed when Benzema couldn't play last season.
Bale deserves his own point. Time and time against last season he stepped up - particularly in Ronaldo's absence. Tonight, he showed up too - and this is after carrying his national team on his back through a memorable summer. It really is mind-numbing how much luxury this team has, and relying on Bale for goals is something Zidane will be doing all season. After going through a slump as a Real Madrid sophomore, Bale is unquestionably back to his best. He wasn't perfect tonight by any means, but he was efficient, and he was exactly what Real Madrid needed.