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Toni: 11 November 2022

Friday Edition of The Daily Merengue

The Daily Merengue is a place where you can feel free to discuss all things football. Do not be alarmed by the overt RMCF bias. It’s in the name!

Shoutout to the mods who do a fantastic job, Valyrian Steel, Kung_Fu_Zizou, Juninho, NeRObutBlanco and yours truly, Felipejack


  • 1 goal
  • 1 assist
  • 5 chances created
  • 88/94 passes completed (93% pass accuracy)
  • 11/14 long passes completed
  • 4/4 duels won
  • 8 ball recoveries
  • 3 tackles

Kroos talked after the game:

We played a good game but we suffered in the last 10 minutes. We lost the control

This year has been spectacular. We couldn’t do more. We are very happy. I hope we will do it again in 2023.

Is Carlo back to substitutions only after 80-minute mark?

We’ve seen this recently and today was the same thing. We conceded and then Carlo made a change in the team. He was asked about this in the presser:

The team were good and looked very fresh. Changes are made when you watch a tired player or to change something in the strategy, but my idea isn’t to change for the sake of it.

I didn’t want to substitute anyone tonight because all the players were good on the pitch. But then they scored so we needed something

Carlo was asked if Kroos has changed after Casemiro’s departure:

I don’t think he has changed. His position is always the same, maybe now he defends more because Tchouaméni likes moving more.

Off to World Cup

Real Madrid football returns only in 51 days. The next match is on 31 December, against Real Valladolid. Games on Bernabeu returns only at the end of January.

More players called to the World Cup:

  • Valverde
  • Rudiger
  • Courtois
  • Hazard

Continuing the tactics conversation

Two more questions and answers from my conversation with Om Arvind (MM managing editor and host of Las Blancas pod) about tactics. Tomorrow, I’ll post the remaining two questions.

Felipe: When Rodrygo played as a second striker vs Shakhtar, Carlo said it was due to defensive reasons – to put pressure on their CB. What do you think about it?

Om Arvind: I’ll preface this by saying that Carlo has slowly moved away from Zidane’s more conservative and slower style. Last season was still similar to Zidane in a lot of ways. Casemiro started and he pushed higher up. Now, he is gone. Tchouaméni is almost always starting. Rodrygo and Fede are becoming big factors. There is more expressiveness on the pitch; we’re seeing Carlo ball this season. This season is Carlo’s true departure from what Zidane was doing.

Nothing inhibits one team from having a defensive structure that is different from their offensive structure. This never happens, but theoretically, on a goal kick, the right back can pressure the opposition CB. The offensive structure doesn’t need to be designed to aid the set defensive structure (it needs to be designed to aid the transitional structure) because it doesn’t matter if you have the time to reorient players.

I don’t know if Carlo is keeping some cards close to the chest or what. Maybe he decides the defensive structure first and the rest follows from there. For whatever reason Carlo did his thing, it turned out to be similar offensively to what he did in the past. Fede Valverde on the right wing, coming inside, and Rodrygo as a second striker was like what Carlo did with Di Maria and Ronaldo on the left. Ronaldo was a second striker and Di Maria played like a left advanced midfielder, but went wide when Ronaldo moved to the center, so the system kept shifting between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. It worked in similar ways to what we saw vs. Shakhtar in destabilizing the opposition defense.

With these changes, we could really see how Rodrygo became a completely different player. He was already good before, but he has much greater potential when he is allowed to go the center.

I’m not denying that the defensive structure didn’t change – it just wasn’t what stood out to me when I watched that match. Usually, with Carlo, Benzema presses one CB and Vini presses the other. So, the free pass is to the right back, as it’s always a big distance for Mendy to cover. If Mendy presses the right back, the team needs to coordinate perfectly to shift to the left and cover. But we never achieved that. With Rodrygo (as a second striker) and Fede Valverde (pseudo RW), Carlo used a 4-4-2 press that Zidane used most often. It worked really well because it is simpler for the players.

Even though Carlo still hasn’t returned to it yet, Rodrygo has been playing more centrally since then and Carlo is trusting Rodrygo in the absence of Benzema. Maybe the lasting effect of this tactical experiment is that it revealed Rodrygo’s potential in a big way.

Felipe: What is the meaning of tactical flexibility?

Om Arvind: A tactically flexible coach is considered to be someone who can change from a high press to a low block; who doesn’t mind counter-attacking; who is not dogmatic and rigid in their ideas. You’d consider someone like that to not be a philosophy coach. Carlo is of that ilk. However, in the modern era, the most effective form of tactical flexibility tends to happen within comprehensive philosophies that are so sound and understood so well that different applications of the logic of that philosophy can produce radically different tactical results.

A good example is Arteta. He is a Pep disciple – many of the things Arteta does is a copy of Pep. However, whenever Arsenal had only 10 players or played against a big team (before this season), Arsenal defended extremely well in a deep block. They defended much better in a deep black than Real Madrid and also pressed high much better than Real Madrid in most games. Nevertheless, most people probably think Ancelotti is more flexible than Arteta. These new coaches, like Arteta and others, have much more comprehensive philosophies compared to the past. There is more flexibility to change what they are doing without moving outside of their original ideas.

When you talk about tactics, it’s not just formation and mentality – 4-4-2 vs 4-4-3 – or attacking vs defending. These are extremely basic conceptions of tactics that usually do not represent the reality on the pitch. Tactics, in a more fundamental sense, is management of space, structure, relationships on the field and, in the defensive sense, compactness. If a coach trains a team to be defensively compact and organized when the team is high up the pitch, it should not be so difficult to translate it to a deep block. It’s what Arteta has found.

That’s also what Diego Simeone has found. Atletico is a low-block team, but, in the past, they had elite high-pressing performances. It’s because Simeone understands the base logic behind defensive tactics. Coaches like Carlo may move between all these ideas radically, but their understanding is more old-school. They don’t extensively coach compactness and triggers. They are more concerned with the overall mentality of the approach: are we going to be aggressive today? Do I change a player’s positioning to be more aggressive?

Therefore, there are different kinds of flexibility. Carlo is one kind, coaches like Arteta and Pep are another kind, and Zidane is somewhere in between. I’m trying to argue that Zidane is a more modernized version of Carlo, but probably incomplete in his growth. He is so young in his managerial career. Zidane will return to coaching eventually. Let’s see what he tries next.

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