The debut of Aurelien Tchoumeni was one of the most eagerly awaited events of Real Madrid’s ongoing pre-season tour in the United States. Tchouameni played 106 minutes over his first three games vs. FC Barcelona, Club America, and Juventus. Real Madrid finally won a game in their last pre-season match vs Juve, and Tchouameni, with his early performances, ticked many boxes that he was expected to.
Tchouameni’s defensive screening in the first two games against Barcelona and Club America had a common trait: He tried to move horizontally across the pitch as much as he could to meet the ball carrier or the incoming ball vertically. Whether it was by design (from Carlo Ancelotti) or more of an instinctive move from Tchouameni, it’ll be interesting to follow over the next few matches. Here are three such instances:
Against Juventus, Tchouameni participated in defensive actions close to his box and sometimes even inside the box. The necessity for engaging in transition defense was lesser in this game, compared to the first two.
Press-resistance and moving into space
Tchouamnei is a calm character in possession. Real Madrid had lingering issues with Casemiro not being a viable passing outlet in the first build-up phase for years. Tchouameni firstly brings press resistance in this regard and secondly, allows the two interior midfielders to stay up while he works as the lone pivot. Here are three instances to illustrate how Tchouameni is a reliable single-pivot presence, deep within his half and how he is calm to evade pressure:
But that’s just his on-ball skill. Off the ball, he has been seen immediately moving into pockets of space and making himself a passing outlet after circulating the ball. The following sequences illustrate the above:
Horizontal and Vertical Passing
One of the critical things from Tchouameni’s scouting report prior to joining Madrid has been his vertical ball progression. Against Barcelona, we didn’t see much of that. In all fairness, it was his first game for the club and it was completely okay to be more conservative than usual. Against Club America, we saw more Tchouameni-esque passing as he was braver with his touches. He played slightly higher up the pitch against Club America but in the final game of pre-season, was once again pushed a little back.
The early signs are good. I would give him a solid 7/10 in the first three games although his potential is that of a 9/10 (at least) player. Tchouameni has a huge season ahead of him. He has already impressed the club with his impeccable physical condition and he is gradually gaining momentum to execute his sublime skills on the pitch.