Soccer

Carlo’s Conundrum

Attitude

“Quality won’t let you win if you don’t equal your opposition’s attitude.”

Carlo Ancelotti

Let’s start with attitude. It’s a simple concept. The primary and most important thing expected from Real Madrid players when entering a Clasico is fight. Attention to detail comes after. One must fight for their teammates and for the fans who support them in the stadium or through sacrifices from their homes. 

Yesterday, and for many games since the return from the international break, the passion and desire weren’t evident. The cause of this problem can be complacency, a sense of entitlement or simply a lack of hunger to win the matches. Whichever one it be, this shouldn’t occur because it completely contradicts the Real Madrid mentality and what the club stands for. 

Identity Crisis

Image Credit: REUTERS/Isabel Infantes

How do Los Blancos want to play? What’s our plan heading into games? Do we want to dominate possession? Generally, the answer is no. Do we want to soak up pressure then hit teams on the counter attack? More times than not, the answer is yes. So we want to play on the counter, but we’re counter attacking at walking pace. On many occasions throughout both Super Copa matches, there was space to be exploited and we lacked any sense of urgency to attack the space with aggression. 

Last season, we’d stay compact at the back then murder teams on the counterattack. Teams knew they couldn’t be brave against us as the Vinizema duo would be on their bikes receiving service from some of the best in the world, Kroos, Modric or Casemiro. 

This season, it’s easier to play against Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Teams aren’t as fearful as before therefore they are braver. Additionally, we aren’t as defensively solid as we were which adds to the reason why teams are opting to attack us more often. 

Real Madrid must rediscover their defensive solidity and play to the many strengths in their team. They have extremely talented players who can adapt to any situation or environment. 

Tactics

It’s known that Carlo Ancelotti is a manager who uses the “laissez-faire” approach with his teams. While he can do it, he isn’t a manager who implements excessive amounts of tactics in training and in games. He’s basically the complete opposite of a manager like Pep Guardiola. 

This has worked for him throughout his illustrious career so no one is saying to change it. However, there must be a point where you make small tweaks to your style. 

Teams have outplayed us this season and Carlo Ancelotti has rarely changed anything in game besides the personnel. Of course different players impact the game in different ways. But if the general system is still the same, how can one expect much difference from the initial situation? 

In the semi final against Valencia, Madrid dominated the first half. Moving the ball with intent, creating chances through great ideas, invention and movement from the players. The second half came and Valencia equalized in less than a minute and went on to dominate for large spells of the half. 

Carlo Ancelotti failed to respond to their dominance. Whether it be change to a 3 at the back and overload the midfield or move to a 4-4-2 and be more direct. He didn’t change anything. 

Another thing that has been happening throughout this bad run of form is Benzema is dropping deep too frequently to help with the creativity. Everyone knows that Benzema isn’t a typical number 9 who roams in the box hunting for any cross or second ball in order to score. He wants to link play and be involved throughout the 90 minutes.  However, due to a lack of service in the box, he drops deep to help with the ball progression and creativity. This leaves no one in the box which is one of the easiest things to defend against. 

There’s no willing runners from midfield to try to disrupt defensive lines and the striker is in the attacking midfield zones trying to help create something. 

In fact, Benzema’s goal against Barcelona came from him being in the box. Of course goals were needed which means that we commit more bodies, but the fact is when there’s bodies in the box, more goals are scored. 

Time running out for Carlo Ancelotti?

At Real Madrid, there isn’t any time for sentiment or nostalgia. Managers and players must win on a consistent basis or see themselves out of the door. 

Do I think that the Italian legend should be sacked now? No. He deserves time to ameliorate the situation and get the season back on track. However, if he doesn’t, there’s no doubt that he’ll be sacked. 

Rewatching highlights from the Barca and Atletico games earlier the season and it’s a total contradiction to what we’re now witnessing from Los Merengues. 

Image Credit: REUTERS/Susana Vera

Players looked passionate, tactics were spot on and everything just felt positive. This indicates that this group of players and management team are capable of playing and winning emphatically. 

Carlo Ancelotti, please improve

It’s completely normal to lose football matches and simultaneously titles. Some of the greatest fighters, track athletes and F1 drivers have lost fights and championships. But it’s never acceptable to lose without fighting. 

Real Madrid must look themselves in the mirror and dig deep to recover their form and winning mentality.

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