Real Madrid, once again, came from behind to win another crucial La Liga game that took them to the top of the league with goals from Vinicius Jr and Aurelien Tchouameni in the second half.
Here are my observations from the game.
A tale of two halves
Like many of the games we have seen from Real Madrid, this was a tale of two halves. In the first half, we saw Real Madrid struggle to create chances, and in the second half, Las Palmas were mostly pinned in their own half because Real Madrid made the right adjustments and started to dominate a little bit. Eventually, they scored the first, and then, Tchouameni scored the winner in the 84th minute to make sure Real Madrid keep winning.
The first half saw a sheer lack of creativity on the ball. Chances weren’t being made. Runs into the final third were inefficient as the ball was not getting to the players making those runs. This is a problem that has been present in the last two or three games. Sometimes, the players look lethargic, even if they haven’t played all that much in games past. Dani Ceballos, for example, did not play that well today. He looked sluggish and out of ideas except for that one chance for Rodrygo in the first half. Brahim — in probably his most ineffective game of the season — barely saw the ball in the first half before being subbed off in the second. I am not worried about Brahim, I am sure he’ll pick it up next game, but perhaps Real Madrid would want to start games better so that they are not in this situation so often.
Real Madrid did force Las Palmas into turnovers (while also seeing Las Palmas make some unforced ones), but the chances were wasted.
Things changed in the second half, and it felt much smoother and more fluid. More good chances were created. There were also better runs into the box and fresher legs.
One big, big factor that changed the game:
Eduardo Camavinga was immense, and everywhere
I’ll just get this out of the way: This was my favourite Camavinga performance of the season, and there have been plenty of awesome Camavinga performances this season.
Camavinga was, quite literally, everywhere; You would see him create a defense-carving run with the ball in the final third, and, when Las Palmas regained possession and started a counter, you’d see him close the man down and break the counter with an interception in Real Madrid’s half. And, yes, this was what we expected from him, but it wasn’t just that.
One observation I made was Camavinga’s presence and contribution in the attacking third. In the second half, he was given a more advanced role with more freedom to create chances. Camavinga was doing so many things offensively — including the beautiful assist to Vinicius’ goal — and all this was something we haven’t seen him do, at least at this rate, with this much involvement in the final third.
It’s the one thing I’ve always thought Camavinga could improve on, and to see him finally take risks and make those passes everyone knows he can make, is beautiful. He has tried to create offense on a number of occasions, but there was a sense of maturity with each of his passes and his surgical runs that I haven’t seen before, at least in recent memory.
I absolutely loved this Camavinga performance. I really wish to see him play like this more, imposing himself not just defensively but also offensively.
Fede Valverde’s contribution to Dani Carvajal’s game is bigger than everyone thinks
Not a huge pointer, but this is more of a tactical wrinkle that I have thought of while watching the game, which I might want to explore even further in a future article.
This may seem harsh, but the first half of the game vs Las Palmas, in my opinion, was Carvajal’s worst half this season, and I mean that very positively because it wasn’t even that he played poorly. He was OK, but his other performances have been a lot better.
The second half saw a massive improvement from Carvajal, and he was his usual self after a mini-blip. But I just feel like Fede Valverde’s role this season helps Carvajal a lot more than we give him credit for. Carvajal was pinned back because of a lack of coverage from Dani Ceballos, which usually is not the case when Fede plays. Fede offers plenty of defensive coverage, which allows Carvajal considerable freedom to do stuff on offense, sometimes even playing as a right-winger. In the attack, without Fede Valverde’s darting runs, Carvajal also loses that extra yard of space that he usually has because of how explosive the Uruguayan is, so his impact was lessened in the first half.
Dani Carvajal has had a phenomenal season — his best in years. And, of course, the gluten-free diet and his resilience have a lot to do with it. Ultimately, it is him that is performing, and not someone else because of him. He has been awesome, with or without anyone else’s help. My point is not to disregard his incredible improvement. But, this game made me realise Fede Valverde has helped elevate his game to a level that we did not think was achievable, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. I know everyone talks about it, but I still think it’s a very underrated part of Real Madrid’s entire system — the brilliant, nonchalant chemistry between Carvajal and Fede.