While much of the senior squad were off on international duty or relaxing ahead of a key stretch of the season, La Fabrica remained busy. Juvenil B recorded a 4-0 win over Atlético Madrileño (not to be confused with traditional group rivals Atletico Madrid B) while the under 19s supposedly took on Rayo Majadahonda, though I can’t find any details about the game. At the Alfredo Di Stefano, Raul’s Castilla team recorded another impressive home victory over Pontevedra, Abou and Baeza scoring the goals in a 2-1 win.
I’ve sort of fallen into a trap of writing about Raul every couple of months or so, especially during international breaks when there is nothing much going on. In truth, It’s very difficult not to write about him because his managerial journey so far has been so interesting. After he came bursting out of the gates early on with Cadete B and Juvenil B, Raul has struggled through some of the opening eight games of the Segunda B season.
The last three have seen a notable improvement in Raul’s Castilla side and, given his lack of managerial experience, its hard not to brag when one sees progress.
The victory over Pontevedra was the first time so far this season that Castilla has put together good performances in quick succession, as of yet we are still waiting for such performances to come consecutively. The biggest breakthrough for Raul in that time span is finding his best starting eleven
In the first eight games 24 players have played for Castilla and all but one have played more than once. Generally finding your best starting eleven isn’t something to celebrate, however, Raul’s case is different.
The Spanish manager is seriously inexperienced for the role he’s in and is having questions posed to him that he has never faced before, like picking his best starting eleven.
Raul also hasn’t just found his best starting eleven, he has found a team capable of playing the style of football he wishes to play. I had my doubts as to whether Raul could bring the fun, high pressing Juvenil B game plan to Castilla and for the first couple of games those concerns were well justified. Castilla struggled to break down deep defences in the opening games and, in playing against newly promoted teams, faced sides that were happy to watch possession played in front of them and attack on the counter.
No match was a better example of this than the 2-0 loss to Pena Deportiva, however since no footage is available from that game, I’ve picked a clip from a more recent match to demonstrate the point.
Alot of Raul’s early games consisted of this safe, zipless passes among a high pressing backline. Recently, Raul has found a midfield that provides him more vertical passing and running, namely Miguel Baeza and Antonio Blanco. Baeza plays at the point of midfield with Blanco and another midfielder, either Mario Gila or Abou, anchoring. Baeza has been one of Castilla most dangerous attackers so far this season. He’s the type of player that can just make things happen up front, even when you think an attack isn’t going anywhere. He was at his brilliant best last Saturday.
This type of run in behind isn’t uncommon from Baeza game, he will make it again to score the second goal for Castilla and has been making runs like this ever since he broke into the starting 11.
His midfield partner, Antonio Blanco has so far been the outstanding breakout star for Real Madrid across the Cantera. The teen is only some positive media away from joining an ever growing list of high potential youngsters under contract at the club and continued performances with Castilla might just get him on that list. Where Baeza provides the bite, Blanco has been tasked with control and despite his place in defensive position, he is a firmly technical force at the heart of Castilla’s midfield.
The 19-year-old also provides Castilla with that ever crucial verticality, often from deep positions which highlight what a brilliant passer he is.
Castilla's 2nd goal against Pontevedra. Blanco through-ball to Baeza pic.twitter.com/fiOGHsuwwS— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) October 12, 2019
As already mention note Baeza run, lots of these runs aren’t picked up by his own teammates and that he manages to find the space to make them across 90 minutes is very impressive.
Finding the right midfield is a big step in the right direction for Raul, but there remains issues that one hopes he will iron out. Castilla are yet to win away from home and, largely thanks to this record, are yet to get a winning streak going. The defence has also struggled with just two clean sheets so far.
With bigger tests on the horizon, its important for Raul to figure these issues out while he has the chance and prepare for even more challenges that are bound to pop up as the season goes on. Given his inexperience, I am not expecting too much from Castilla this season, however I am hopeful that its manager can continue make big and little steps in the right direction over the coming months and continue the positive signs we have seen so far.