Deportivo Alavés held Celta Vigo to a 0-0 draw at Balaídos, in a mostly impressive performance that saw Alavés display their typically solid defensive organization coupled with their collectively excellent work-rate.
Marcos Llorente, a player that rapidly rose from Castilla youngster to Alavés’ most important player in the space of only a couple months, put in a fairly quiet, but effective showing, where he did all the little things right.
Marcos played in a double-pivot midfield, which was the core of Alavés’ defensive 4-4-1-1. The obvious objective, was to bunker down in two banks of four and restrict access to the center in a classic “park-the-bus”-type move. But instead of sitting deep in their own half and allowing Celta to waltz their way into the middle third, Alavés formed a medium block and pressed vigorously with the front-men Deyverson and Camarasa in order to force quick and risky passes into Alavés’ well organized defensive wall.
This inevitably caused the match to enter a predictable pattern, where Celta would dominate possession until they either created a chance or lost the ball, thus allowing Alavés to counter.
In many ways, this led to Marcos having a quiet game in the traditional sense.
If whoscored or fourfourtwo tracked stats for the Copa del Rey, Marcos would’ve barely picked up 30 passes and most definitely no chances created.
Marcos even did little in terms of tackling and a casual observer of the game may have come away with the impression that Llorente did little to nothing the whole game, other than make a couple of well-timed interceptions.
But it must be emphasized, that while Llorente failed to make an “eye-catching” influence on the game, his defensive positioning and intelligence led him to make several preemptive moves that stopped attacks before they even started.
Sometimes his defensive runs failed to amount to anything because the danger was dealt with by someone else, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss the work he did. His mature unwillingness to take anything for granted and anticipate any possible danger is a sure sign that he can put in immense defensive performances if his teammates fail him in the future.
Aside from his excellent defensive positioning, positional intelligence, and anticipation, Marcos was also tasked with protecting his fullbacks when they forayed into the final third or moved up to press, something he did successfully, which should bode well for his future duties at Madrid.
As mentioned before, Marcos had little influence on offense due to Pelligrino’s defensive strategy and Alavés’ willingness to mainly attack on the counter.
However, it was nice to see Marcos make a couple surging runs into any gaps that Celta left him, demonstrating his confidence and his understanding of when to attack open space.
That confidence was even more evident with the way he warded off Celta’s sporadic counterpress with some sharp and clean ball control, which was often followed by a mature pass.
But perhaps the coolest thing on viewing for a Madrid fan, was the way Marcos commanded and instructed his teammates to pass the ball in a particular way or calm down and play smarter.
The above GIF is just one example of how Llorente has coolly assumed the leadership role of midfield general at the mere age of 21, something that speaks to his self-assurance and ability to see the undercurrents of the game.
Thus, while this game will most certainly not go down as one of Marcos’ most sparkling performances, his positionally intelligent, confident, and commanding 90 minutes vs. Celta demonstrates the promise he holds in the more subtle side of the game.
Casemiro will have some intense competition next season.