Zidane Is Probably Looking to Maximize Isco’s Abilities Whenever Possible in the Season Ahead
Real normally lineup in a 4-3-3, but today, they came out in a 4-2-3-1. Isco sat in front of the double-pivot of Modric and Kroos as Los Blancos’ #10, leaving Casemiro on the bench.
Now, this probably doesn’t mean that Casemiro will take a back-seat once the actual season begins, but it is interesting that Zizou chose to field Isco first and do so in a 4-2-3-1. Normally, when Isco plays with the “Gala XI,” he takes the left-hand side interior role in an inverted midfield three. This time, Isco was given an explicit role in the hole, something that benefits his skill-set more than any other position.
This isn’t the first time Zidane has done this sort of thing. When Bale was injured for the final stretch of the 16/17 campaign, the Frenchman changed Madrid’s formation to a 4-4-2 diamond in order to play Isco where he felt most comfortable. While this had it’s weaknesses from a team perspective, the gamble paid off, as Isco tore teams apart with his intelligent positioning, crafty footwork, and vision.
With Bale fit and back in the team, that sort of formation won’t work, meaning Zidane has to find another way to play Isco in his preferred position when the opportunity arises. Madrid’s 4-2-3-1 could be Zizou’s way of testing a formation that both maximizes Isco’s ability and accommodates Gareth Bale.
Expect to See Continued Improvements in Regards to Pressing
One of the motifs of Zidane’s progression as a coach has been his relationship with pressing. Just like the World Cup winner’s growth as a manager, his application of pressing principles has been erratic, but positive when looking at the overall trends. Over the course of a season and a half, Madrid are now capable of applying effective high pressure, though inconsistency in implementation has been a problem. Thus, it was impressive to see Real come out pressing in a fairly organized fashion, especially when considering that the players were rusty, unfit, and generally off-the-mark. That speaks to a deeper understanding of the pressing game that Zidane wants to implement, meaning that it is likely that Madrid will show greater consistency in that part of their game in the season ahead.
Achraf Hakimi is Making His Case to Be Considered Real Madrid’s Back-up Right Back
It is usually very difficult to discern the individual quality of players in pre-season due to a myriad of factors; fitness levels, lack of motivation to win, rustiness, decreased focus, etc., but in the case of youth players, that isn’t necessarily the case. While the regular first team’ers have nothing to prove in games designed for experimentation, pre-season friendlies are the few occasions where young dreamers like Achraf can show they’ve got what it takes to tango with the Big Boys. Granted, the playing level will still be lower than what is expected of a regular season game, but for players who spent all their time in the second division, this is a big step up in quality.
Much to the delight of the fans and probably Zidane, Hakimi raised his game to match the occasion. His touch was sharp, he was composed in his passing and ball carrying, he made intelligent runs off-the-ball to support attacks, and he showed excellent strength and determination to hold off opposing attackers (particularly Pogba at the end of regular time).
With Danilo having been recently sold to Manchester City, Zidane is surely in search of another back-up right back. While he would be fully justified in holding off on promoting Achraf in favor of buying someone else, performances like these must be asking Zidane to at least consider him. Even if the Frenchman doesn’t have any immediate plans for the Castilla fullback, Hakimi will surely be trying his hardest to change his manager’s mind.
Real Madrid Are Rusty & Nowhere Near Match-Ready
Los Merengues wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season if their first game was today. Besides looking unfit, there was little team cohesion and everyone’s passing was all over the place. That shouldn’t be a worry for anyone, as that is par for the course for pre-season, but it is worth noting that Real has some ways to go before they reach the level they achieved last season. Have patience.
Marouane Fellaini Shouldn’t Be a Professional Footballer
Pre-season friendlies in a nutshell pic.twitter.com/hZWZIJrM30— RF/Dembélé fanboy (@OmVArvind) July 23, 2017
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