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Post-defeat: 8 November 2022

Tuesday 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

The first La Liga defeat

After arguably the worst performance of the season so far, Real Madrid lost 3-2 to Rayo Vallecano. This same team, which was able to keep 16 games undefeated, has only won 1 game of the last 4.

Ancelotti talked about his impressions for the game:

We faced many difficulties tonight, under every aspect. Our quality wasn’t enough for this game.

We’ve played too many games. Players are tired. In these types of games when the rival puts a lot of pressure on you, you need freshness and we didn’t have it.

When I talked that we had difficulties building from the back, I talked about the strategy, which might not have been the most indicated. I’m not afraid to use long balls, sometimes we have to do it. Maybe in this issue the coach might have made a mistake: to not force the team to play from too much from the back. I think we could have used some long balls.

World Cup affected tonight’s game? I don’t think so. The players are focused and they try, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. They are tired.

However, per a report from Jose Luiz Sanchez, part of the coaching staff can’t wait for the end of the WC, as it has become impossible to keep the players focused.

Defense needs improving

Los Blancos have conceded 19 goals in 19 games this season so far. It’s a big problem that Ancelotti must fix. After yesterday’s game, Courtois said:

This year we have conceded too many silly goals for not being 100% in the game.

Champions League R16 fixtures

The other two news from yesterday is that Real Madrid will face Liverpool once again in the Champions League. About that, Ancelotti said:

Liverpool again? They will say Real Madrid again... It will be an entertaining and complicated tie, with a good atmosphere at Anfield and the Bernabéu. It will be a spectacular tie.

Another big team fixture is PSG and Bayern.

Brazil squad for WC

Three Madridistas have been called up to Brazil National Team squad for the World Cup: Militão, Vini Jr and Rodrygo. Former Real Madrid player Casemiro was also called as expected.

Conversation about tactics

Another 3 questions and answers from my conversation with Om Arvind (MM managing editor and host of Las Blancas pod) about tactics.

Felipe: Wasn’t Zidane’s Real Madrid sometimes too predictable, playing side to side, with many crosses into the box?

Om Arvind: When Ronaldo is the team, especially the older version of Ronaldo, there is a demand for a certain amount of crosses. But I also think this is a negative side of Zidane trying to mesh the different influences mentioned before.

The ideas of control and deep overloads came from Bielsa and Pep, but Zidane applied them without a positional-play logic. Bielsa or Guardiola have certain beliefs about how a team should be spaced and structured to ensure that you have relevant superiority all over the pitch. Zidane’s tactics, however, were much looser; he didn’t adhere to those principles in any strict way. When you apply modern ideas in a much looser sense, allowing your players to have more freedom and the profile of the player dictates they come deeper, this means you’ll be able to progress the ball very securely to the final third, but without destabilizing the opposition.

To destabilize the opposition, a team needs to break lines, needs to shift the opposition shape, and needs to get in behind the opposition. If the attacking team is switching side to side, the only way they are moving the opposition is laterally. So, it is easy for the opposition to reorganize, step back, reorganize and step back. Real Madrid would push the opposition in their own half and then would be like, “what we do now?” That’s where the imagination was lacking in terms of certain patterns of play that can be repeated to produce good shots. We relied on individual brilliance and, for the players we had, this meant putting crosses into the box.

However, I want to emphasize that many good teams use volume crossing to attack deep blocks. Pep’s teams are somewhat unique in that they manufacture a low number of crosses against these types of defenses, but their number of cutbacks are very high. That’s because they have patterns that get their wide players in all sorts of space and they attack the box in a very organized way, which always opens up space for the cutback. These are high-value shots, which are easier to convert than crosses.

The pros and cons of Zidane’s style is derived from implementing a Bielsa and Pep framework in a way that Carlo might do so.

Felipe: When did the Casemiro as pseudo #10 role start?

Om Arvind: To be clear, Casemiro didn’t always play higher up the pitch 100% of the time, but often Kroos and Modric dropped to form a double pivot and Casemiro moved higher up in possession. I think this started in 15/16 under Zidane, but it became a regular thing in 16/17. Against most teams that pressed us higher, it was possible to see Casemiro moving higher many times during the game, but it was in the 17/18 season that Real Madrid fans started to comment on that quite regularly. There was a change in Zidane’s second stint; he needed goals, so he basically transformed Casemiro into a second striker late in games.

Felipe: Do you think it was a pre-planned decision by Zidane or do the players start doing that themselves?

Om Arvind: That’s the tricky thing when it comes to evaluating coaching. Sometimes analysis sounds too certain about who is responsible for what happens on the pitch, but we don’t really know what instructions were given. It’s also a lot easier with coaches like Pep and Bielsa, who talk to the media a lot. They tell everyone their philosophy and there are many books and tactical pieces written about them. In contrast, Zidane is an enigma. He hates the press; he doesn’t tell the press anything. Therefore, he is tougher to understand. One of the reasons people say Zidane doesn’t have tactics or don’t understand what Zidane is doing is because he never talks about it. As a result, Zidane loses out on a legacy advantage. If a coach is nice to the media and tells them lots of things, the media will gas them up. That’s why Pep and Bielsa do it – it helps their legacy.

It’s very possible that, in training sessions or over the course of several games, Kroos and Modric made the decision to drop deep and control the build-up. They had the freedom to do it and had a good understanding with Casemiro. But, if Zidane sees it and doesn’t stop it, we can say Zidane is responsible for that decision and that it’s part of his tactics. It has more pros than cons and it is probably the best way to use these three players together.

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