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Matchday: 7 November 2022

Monday 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


Kroos is out of this game due to red card he received vs Girona. Benzema is also out due to his muscle overload.

UCL Draw R16

Today at 12:00 CET the UCL R16 draw takes place. Real Madrid can draw the following teams: AC Milan, Club Brugge, Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, Inter Milan, Liverpool and PSG.

Brazil NT squad for the World Cup

Tite will announce his squad of 26 players for the World Cup. It’s schedule to start at 17:00 CET. I’ll post the list later.

Conversation about tactics

In this week, I’ll try to a new thing in the daily threads. I had a very interesting conversation with Om Arvind (MM managing editor and host of Las Blancas pod) about tactics, trying to understand and compare Zidane and Ancelotti’s tactics with other coaches. So, I’ll post some questions during this week threads.

Felipe: How do you see Zidane’s first stint as Real Madrid coach?

Om Arvind: The first thing to understand about Zidane is that he came in as a very fresh coach. He had no head coaching experience except at Castilla. When he was managing Castilla, there was a technicality where he didn’t have the required licenses to coach. The problem was eventually solved and it’s not a criticism of him, but it demonstrates how fresh Zidane was when he started in the job.

The classic way coaches learn about tactical knowledge, systems, and training methods is to have a coach be their tutor. For instance, Pep Guardiola’s tutor was Johan Cruyff.

It’s important to understand the two distinct influences on Zidane. Zidane had one season as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant before coaching Castilla. He saw how Carlo deals with man management, tactics, and training sessions. He also had conversations with two completely different coaches stylistically in Bielsa and Pep.

What we saw in his first stint was Zidane trying to combine these two distinct influences to form his personal style. It’s unconventional and sometimes produced what looked like strange tactical results to people.

Felipe: What were the main ideas behind Zidane’s tactics?

Om Arvind: In 15/16, Zidane didn’t have a preseason. He was building from what Benitez did, making different line-up choices and prioritizing different players. Benitez introduced Casemiro to the team, but Zidane made him a starter. Zidane made those types of decisions and managed the dressing room better.

It was only in the following season that we saw more of what Zidane wanted to do as a coach. He tried to emphasize control and a slow tempo of play and lots of deep overloads. We used to joke how deep Kroos and Modric would drop when we had the ball; we talked about Modric being like a right back.

Zidane really emphasized deep, wide overloads to be able to progress the ball very securely up the pitch. This seems like a very Pep thing to do, but the logic is different. Pep has balance across the entire pitch, while Zidane’s emphasis on overloads is more local. With Zidane, there were so many players in deep positions that there were few between the lines.

Zidane’s tactical ideas could be seen more fully in the 4-4-2 diamond of the 16/17 season. I think it was the peak of Zidane’s initial thought processes and it worked how he intended it to work. Isco, Kroos, Modric, and Casemiro dominated the center. But Isco didn’t play as a traditional #10 – he dropped so deep, often deeper than Casemiro.

To compare, if Pep does a diamond, he’d like his #10 to stay between the lines; if someone drops off, someone will have to go ahead. Pep wants the structure to be in a particular way. One player can roam, but only within the logic of the structure. Zidane allows the player to move within the broader logic of giving his team a general advantage. He gave more freedom for his players to do what they want and it’s why it looked messy at times – that’s the Carlo influence.

In 16/17 it worked well. Even though it was imperfect tactically due to a lack of presence between the lines and slow ball progression, it didn’t matter. As long as you ensure that they progress the ball, they can put the ball into the box for Ronaldo or Benzema and would create a chance and score. Real Madrid also dominated the games from this setup – that what’s happened vs Juventus.

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