What a Saturday for Real Madrid and their loanee’s. Martin Odegaard was sensational for Real Sociedad, Jesus Vallejo got his first Premier League start in a humbling loss to Chelsea, Oscar and Leganes continue to spiral down, Mayoral return to the Bernabeu and scored, and Achraf was terrific in Dortmund’s 4-0 win over Leverkusen. Kiyan Sobhani and I will break all these performances down in detail on this week’s Loan Tracker pod, but below are some quick notes on today’s games:
Martin Odegaard vs Atletico Madrid:
The first game of the season at the newly dubbed “Reale Arena”, the refurbished and redesigned (formerly Anoeta) stadium in San Sebastian, was action packed. It took 20 minutes or so for Ødegaard and La Real to settle against a physical and tough Atleti side, but once they did they were the better team. Sociedad had two opportunities in the first stanza which should have been converted to goals, both stemming from Ødegaard’s feet.
Positioned in his right central midfield position, a little more advanced than Zubeldia and Merino behind him, Ødegaard had a good battle with Saul and Koke, and inarguably had the edge. At one point in the second half, he had Saul spinning and desperately trying to grab a hold of Martin’s shirt as he whizzed by.
The Norwegian was at another level in the second half. No one was able to touch him. His confidence continued to rise as the game wore on. It wouldn’t be long, just before the hour mark, when he demanded the ball at the top of the box and then converted his shot into the bottom right-hand corner of Oblak’s goal with that magic left foot. The stadium erupted and Sociedad have found their new idol.
Moments later, La Real would add another—Nacho Monreal on his debut. Again, it all started from an Ødegaard’s free-kick. The 20-year-old put in yet another MOTM performance. His consistency is incredible. It’s easy to forget he’s only one year older than €120M Joao Felix, and he had a far bigger impact than the latter. It’s fair to say Martin is already La Real’s best player. In my opinion, he’s Real Madrid’s best U21 talent.
Achraf vs Bayern Leverkusen:
Dortmund wanted to make a statement against Champions League side Bayern Leverkusen, and a statement they did make. Lucien Farve’s team is even better than last year. Achraf earned the start at his preferred right back position with Lucas Pisczezk falling to injury.
The match was played at such a fast pace— it was high octane football from both sides. Bellarabi was playing against Achraf and was a very direct dribbler, almost Vinicius-like. His speed and unpredictability is very difficult to defend against, but after a few early awkward encounters, Achraf kept the German quiet. It would be Bellarabi, who would need to learn how to contain Achraf rather than the opposite. The former canterano would rampage down the right wing at will. His attacking forays were eventually rewarded after he placed a perfect, pinpoint accurate, early cross for the in-form Paco Alcacer to finish.
On top of his assist, Achraf hit the cross-bar and nearly scored Dortmund’s second. It was a very strong performance from Achraf at right back. Dortmund would end up winning 4-0. It was a great recital prior to taking on Barcelona on Tuesday. Achraf should start that game as well with Piszczek injured. He certainly deserves it after his game today.
Mayoral vs Real Madrid:
With the “Fear-Clause” abandoned this season, Madrid now has a chance to see their loanee’s up close. Unfortunately for Madrid, that also means their loanee’s can inflict some damage and potentially derail their season with a defeat. So it was only fitting that Mayoral, who only scored 4 goals all of last season, managed to get one at the Bernabue and ignite Levante’s near comeback.
Real Madrid were in control for all of the first half and kept Mayoral and the whole Levante team very quiet. Though when fatigue started to hit, and Zidane was forced to substitute Casemiro, the control went out the window. Having flown across the Atlantic after the international break, it was unlikely Case could play the whole match, but Madrid has no other central midfield options on the bench.
It was during this period that Mayoral and Levante took advantage and nearly scored an unprecedented 3 goals to turn the game around. Borja had spoken before the match, claiming that if he were to score, he would not celebrate. The loanee was true to his word, and held his hands up instead of celebrating. After the match he was quoted as saying, “Real Madrid is my whole life” and there is no way he could have celebrated. Hopefully Borja Mayoral can push on from this performance and up his goal tally this season.
Jesus Vallejo vs Chelsea AND Oscar Rodriguez vs Villareal:
As expected, Jesus Vallejo got his first Premier League start after the international break. Though, it was far from an easy game—Wolves were taking on Chelsea. Vallejo started as the left center back in Wolves 3-5-2 formation. This wild match would end 5-2 in Chelsea’s favor, home-grown striker, Tammy Abraham, would run riot and score a hat-trick. Vallejo would have the second most touches for Wolves (70), but wasn’t as assured in his passing with only 70% pass accuracy. On Chelsea’s second goal, Vallejo should have done a better job of clearing the ball, instead he toe-poked it directly into Tammy Abraham’s path for him to turn and score his first of the day. On Chelsea’s third goal, there was some miscommunication between Vallejo and his center back partners, leaving huge gaps in between each center back for Chelsea to exploit and head home on a cross. And then the final goal, the fifth, Vallejo was turned inside out by Mason Mount who then slid home his finish after leaving Vallejo scrambling to find his feet. Hopefully Nuno Espirito Santos still gives Vallejo a starting birth despite a rocky start to life in the Premier League.
Oscar Rodriguez did not fare much better than his compatriot. Leganes site rock bottom of the La Liga table with 0 points and suffered another loss today, 3-0 to Villareal. Despite being a great manager, Pellegrino could be on borrowed time. Leganes have been playing in a 4-4-2 to fit both Braithewaite and En-Nesyri into the team, but it hasn’t worked like their 3-5-2 system from last season. Oscar has been stationed as a right midfielder in the 4-4-2 and has not impressed like he did last year, he operates best in a central position.