Toni Kroos was the man-of-the-match in Lopetegui’s first league game of the season. Starting as a single-pivot defensive midfielder ahead of the rested Casemiro, Kroos made the complex look simple and controlled the game to such a degree that Getafe failed to register a significant shot on goal.
As can be seen in the Opta chart and the video above, many of Kroos’ passes were aimed sideways. But far from being insignificant, these passes proved to be central to Lopetegui’s patient possession-based game; flank-to-flank movements that constantly shifted the opposition’s defensive block. Aside from two stray balls, Kroos was perfect in his distribution and completed 16/16 long balls aimed at Marcelo and Carvajal on the touchline.
When the situation called for it, Toni was more than comfortable going vertical. This often meant firing passes into the feet of Ceballos, Isco, and Benzema within the split-second a gap in Getafe’s defensive line appeared.
Those lightning reactions transferred into situations where Kroos was pressed by Getafe’s high line. Often surrounded by two or three players, the German midfielder calmly glided past his markers and circulated the ball away from danger. This allowed Madrid to consistently work their way up the pitch and into the box, where Toni positioned himself in the central channel to pick up clearances and prevent counter-attacks as part of Lopetegui’s larger counterpressing strategy:
It can help us at certain times although each game is different. We want to win back the ball as soon as possible and if we can’t, we have to get back in. That helps us run less and better. - Julen Lopetegui on Madrid’s defensive scheme vs. Getafe
In the rare situations where Madrid were in danger, Kroos made smooth interventions to blunt attacking moves and regain possession of the ball.
As a result, by the time Casemiro and Modric came on to get some fitness minutes, the game was virtually over largely thanks to Kroos’ brilliant performance.