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Working through the low-block trauma
An attempt at post-match therapy and talking about what happened.
It was the last match of the year at the Santiago Bernabeu. There’s no way of ducking or averting our attention. Five points ahead of Sevilla — who have a game in hand — and we managed an agonizing draw. Cadiz crowded the area around the box with up to ten players. Much of the time it seemed like fifteen players were packed into the box. They had a couple token ventures up into our half, but nothing of real commitment. It was a trauma that has happened before and probably will again.
In the first half, Real Madrid went with the tactic of overloading the right wing / right midfield area. Valverde, Vazquez and Hazard took turns or often in tandem making runs deep into the attacking third; they had lots of fuel in the tank. The idea being that it should open the wide left for Vinicius Junior and Ferland Mendy. The problem was that Cadiz merely gave Real Madrid whatever space it wanted down the right, but denied entry into the box on the grass. This resulted in a situation where Real Madrid was left with free opportunities to play balls from the right midfield zone into the area around the penalty spot. And we tried that more times than was healthy. Blind, hopeful balls lobbed into the air were cleared long into touch or caught unchallenged by the Cadiz keeper, Jeremias Ledesma. We were drawn into a tactical trap and, by golly, attempted to plow through it. In general, it can make sense to take what your opponent offers to you, but not when it means playing balls into a mass of yellow shirts. If this were a chess match, Cadiz’s sacrifices put them well into what the supercomputers would say is a statistical advantage.
The second half showed much improvement on that tactic. Our midfielders and wingers patiently pulled the ball back instead of making those blind diagonal crosses. We looked for combination plays involving overlapping attackers to slice past defenders and get deep into the central area of box. In fairness to our attack overall and to Ancelotti’s game plan, these were often nicely worked plays with one-touches and flicks that are normally impossible to stop when executed well. The problem was that on the finishing move at least three yellow-wearing players were still crowding the space of our finisher. We hammered shot after shot directed at the corners of the net, only to find the shins of Cadiz defenders. A number of times Los Blancos cut out incisive passes that bypassed defenders – Kroos and Valverde hit a few good ones – but again defenders simply clogged up Vini’s or Benzema’s space, making it impossible to maneuver.
What was the problem for our attackers in finding space to finish? Finding individual players to pick on is too facile, since it was a long game with many different players, some of whom are supposed to be world class stars, failing to convert their chances created by the team. One suggestion is this: There is in these low-block games perhaps too much method, measuring and control in the final third. With Real Madrid’s brilliant midfield trio and Benzema’s skillful false nine movement to create overloads, this masterly technique, control and vision has been our defining platform on which creative attacks can be built. Perhaps more chaos and frenetic speed of play would allow for the chance for attacks to emerge in ways that teams like Cadiz who study our tapes cannot predict. The precondition for that good attacking chaos, however, is that Real Madrid willingly opens itself to the other side of that coin: having to recover the ball in transition more and to chase down attacks, a playstyle that we learned earlier this season doesn’t favor our personnel with their controlling style and declining mobility. Ultimately, we are who we are for now; our best players are more of the technical, elegant and cerebral types, rather than those who thrive in chaos and a higher intensity but less technical style of football. We must embrace who we are, strengths and weaknesses, and work more diligently to find clever ways to break down the low block teams.
Kiyan’s question to Cadiz’ boss
Our very own Kiyan Sobhani asked Cervera about his team’s defensive plan to subdue Vinicius Jr and Eden Hazard, particularly in the first half.
“We decided to give Vinicius space to go towards the baseline but instructed our players that every time he tried to cut inside they had to close him down and be there,” Cervera said. “For Hazard we didn’t plan anything specifically, but for Vinicius that’s what we went for: Give him the baseline so that he could cross but never the centre”
It’s a tactic of approaching Vinicius defensively that he and the club together will have to deal with.
Ancelotti’s post match
What the mister says is true, isn’t it?
️ @MrAncelotti: "We gave our all from the first minute until the end. This time it didn't work but have nothing to reproach my players for. Some matches are like this. We deserved all 3 points but sometimes you don't deserve to win and you do. We have to continue." pic.twitter.com/mSqlTKAE6z— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) December 19, 2021
Peter Federico got some first team experience and some big print
He didn’t get into the match, but still his presence was exciting news for La Fabrica and for fans of Real Madrid’s youth players.
Youth coach Xavi García Ferré, who discovered Peter eight years ago and has been a huge influence on his development, sat down with AS to look back on the player’s move to Madrid as a 13-year-old - and offer the lowdown on what the Bernabéu can expect from the young Spaniard.
When did Peter catch your eye?
In 2013/14, when he was an under-12s player […]. Right from the first moment, you could see he was a player who made the difference; he played with a degree of flair that would have been more characteristic of a Brazilian. He had no hesitation in taking players on and was a different kettle of fish to any other lad I’d seen previously. I knew right away that he’d make it as a professional; I never had any doubts about that.
If you missed it, make sure to watch:
Hazard earned this start
Don Ancelotti said this was not about the injuries to other players. Hazard has been training hard and well earned this start. Whether you are a supporter of Eden or would like to see him play elsewhere next season, it’s a positive development that he played in this game and logged the minutes for the club.
He’s going to start. Not because of the absences. He’s trained really well. His mentality hasn’t changed: he has the same desire and motivation as always, and he’s going to play because he’s trained well and he deserves it. The problem is that he hasn’t always been able to train at 100%.
A great strike by Real Madrid’s Athenea
Athenea del Castillo (21 years, Spanish, forward) is a brilliant player for Real Madrid Femenino and this is one not to be missed:
If anyone has any other plays or videos of Real Madrid Femenino that they feel are worthy of note, do share.