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Is the Club World Cup a good ‘break’ for Real Madrid? Plus: Arribas’s arrival, Obrador, and Vinicius

It’s extra games and extra trips, but maybe a break from La Liga is important for Ancelotti’s men.

Al Ahly v Real Madrid CF: Semi Final - FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2022 Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

These observations — where I look at Real Madrid’s history, its players on loan, Castilla, tactical tidbits, and other relevant thoughts — are now a regular thing. All previous editions can be found here.

As Real Madrid get ready to play yet another final tomorrow — the umpteenth of its history — they are doing so with a mentality that it’s an opportunity to turn their season around.

The Club World Cup has been seen by media, fans, and even internally, as an inconvenience — an extra trip that adds games to an already unhinged football schedule that orbits around injuries and fatigue.

But maybe there is something hidden here that could help spin this in a more positive way: Maybe Real Madrid need this. Maybe a break from La Liga — and a break from Spain in general — is good for everyone. Maybe lifting another trophy which labels you as ‘world champions’ is the mental re-shift needed. Maybe Aurelien Tchouameni getting reps in this tournament instead of La Liga as he eases back into prominence at the base of Real Madrid’s midfield is exactly what’s needed. And so on.

“Real Madrid have an obligation to win every title and we’ll work hard to win tomorrow,” Tchouameni said in today’s pre-game press conference before tomorrow’s final vs Al-Hilal. “This is an important tournament for the club to complete the success of last season. It’s a special moment and nice challenge.”

Real Madrid’s next three games on the schedule before travelling to Anfield: Al-Hilal in Morocco, Elche at the Bernabeu, and Osasuna away. The team would’ve had to have played games anyway at this stage of the season regardless — perhaps these specific reps will form a good potion. As always with Real Madrid, buying time through struggles can set the team up for success in the sprint.

Time will tell. Al-Hilal shouldn’t be underestimated, Elche at home has a slipperiness to it, and El Sadar is notoriously tough. The physical toll is heavy.

The Vinicius blame game

I have lots of sympathy for Vinicius Jr. He has suffered a whole buffet of aggressive, physical challenges, a ton of verbal abuse from the stands, disgusting hate, and tactical ideologies that put too much pressure on his shoulders without actually putting him in a position to succeed. Then he falls on the sword without being able to live up to a difficult expectation.

But Vinicius has to let the game come to him more. His take-on success rate has dipped to a significant career-low: down to 34.8% this season from 45.5% last season. He was four-of-11 against Al Ahly.

Vinicius could use less reliance — at least temporarily — to let him re-calibrate. Being away from the Spanish spotlight a bit could do him some good so that he can focus on the football itself, more than anything. Keep in mind he’ll also ‘be able to’ miss the next La Liga match due to yellow card accumulation.

Scenarios like this have a low probability of success, even for players as talented as Vinicius:

When Vinicius decides to dribble here, he has five Mallorca defenders ahead of him, and no Real Madrid players in the box or the left half-space. The decision-making in many of these instances needs to be recalculated.

Arribas and Obrador — a deadly connection

I hope wherever these two Castilla gems end up in the future, they’ll be able to link up together:

Sergio Arribas and Rafael Obrador are arguably Castilla’s two most influential players right now — although, there are more, and once Alvaro Rodriguez gets back from the South American Youth Championship he will have a strong case. Obrador carries the ball up the flank, makes devastating off-ball runs, and has an accurate cross on him. Arribas is everywhere, like ‘16-17 Isco — marauding the field vertically and horizontally. The above through-ball comes from his own half; but he’ll be hovering the opponents’ box as much as he’ll drop deep. He is both a deep-lying playmaker and a 10 — but can also play on the wings and put the ball in the back of the net.

Both Arribas and Obrador also play high-energy defense and press like maniacs — essential traits in Raul Gonzalez’s counter-pressing scheme.

Some of Arribas’s dribbling sequences show traits that some of the best dribblers in the world have: The ball sticks to his feet like glue. In the same game from above against Alcorcon, he got through multiple players in one go, and that he still had the ball in his feet while swarmed didn’t make sense — even if he temporarily lost it his left foot would attract the ball back like a magnet.

If the board decided to stay pat again in the transfer window, it would be worth giving these guys a run.

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