Maite Oroz is one of the most versatile and complete central midfielders around, which was partly why ex-coach David Aznar deployed her at the base of his system/s. It had far from a negative effect on the team; Maite showcased her passing range, sense of tempo, and vision as a DM and proved to be an underrated force against the ball in 2020/21.
However, her potential to completely bend games to her will was always hindered by surprising and yet consistently-sporadic giveaways, as she sought to exploit passing windows that were too risky for her position. This hinted at subdued aggression in her tendencies, something that has been unleashed by new manager Alberto Toril’s willingness to play her further upfield (returning the diminutive magician to her Athletic Bilbao roots).
Not only has this empowered Maite to thread the eye of the needle at volume, but brought her ability in tight spaces to the fore. In the first video, we can observe her feel for manipulating the opposition’s cover shadow to get free between the lines and initiate.
Her body orientation as she receives back-to-goal is textbook, allowing her to fire off one-touch passes or flow into good progression angles.
Freeing up Maite to make a difference in advanced areas enables Madrid to access and manipulate some of the most valuable territory on the pitch in ways few of her teammates can replicate.
Nevertheless, with Asllani returning and Madrid’s glut of forward options in Esther, Nahikari, and Møller (you can even include Lorena, who is capable of playing anywhere in attack), this may not be a viable long-term role for Maite.
It’s also worth pointing out that the aforementioned benefits are not exclusive to the #10 position. In fact, Oroz might actually be best as the most attacking #8 in a midfield three, where she has the license to influence proceedings inside blocks while retaining a presence as a distributor and tempo controller. This would reduce the burden on her to be a regular goals and assists contributor — although she is good for occasional end-product, like on the equalizer — while keeping the essence of what she contributes as a CAM.
Her desire to help out in build-up was reflected in her performance vs. Sevilla, even though she operated as a #10, hinting at her mix of preferences.
The complication is that Alberto Toril has so far preferred a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1, leaving no room for the type of interior that might be perfect for Maite.
The good news is that the 23-year-old doesn’t need flawless conditions to thrive. Her passing, movement, tactical intelligence, close control, and defensive work mean that she can make a sizable impact in any midfield position, giving Toril the leeway to use his maestro in a diverse manner based on the available squad, opposition context, and particular game plan.
It’s just an added bonus for her and the team if those variables can coalesce to situate Maite higher up the pitch.