Winning The Zidane Way

Editor´s Note: As Real Madrid won its 34th La Liga title, we look at what changed in their play and what we should be expecting from the Spanish Champions ahead of their Champions League game against Manchester City on the 8th of August. With 11 titles under the management of Zinedine Zidane, we look at how the legendary leader has influenced and shaped the team.

When Real Madrid started their season with a streak of losses, everyone deemed one of the most successful football managers in history, Zinedine Yazid Zidane to be sacked, while questioning his choices and tactical play. His side was outclassed 3-0 by Paris St-Germain (PSG) during a Champions League match in September and a month later, suffered their first league defeat against newcomers Mallorca. There were speculations of Jose Mourinho replacing him. Madrid was continuing to struggle with attacking midfielder Eden Hazard, Isco, Ferland Mendy, Luka Modrić. Then Zidane backed a young 21-year-old Fede Valverde who showed skill, dynamism, and reigning leadership. Another bold move was choosing Mendy over the second captain Marcelo Vieira. The younger French full-back’s capability to mark, track, and provide proved a stunning display of impact leading up to the defense. 

 Zidane used different formations this season  from 4-3-3, 4-4-2, and also 4-5-1  with regular rotations that he had promised  saying,I count on every player.’

But it wasn’t only the tactics and analysis and form of play that changed the game for Real Madrid this season. Zidane has maintained on keeping the locker room happy, that is keeping harmony between the players. One of the few coaches, who is not only respected but loved by his players. Zidane has 11 trophies in 209 matches. The most trophies out of any coach since the 2016 season.  “It takes a tremendous effort to win La Liga. After 38 matches, you have more points than anyone else. It’s bloody fantastic.” he said. A legend as a player and a manager.

The Benzema Angle

When Gary Lineker, one of the greatest strikers in English football history called Benzema overrated, Zidane said it was “embarrassing” that someone who understood football would say this. “For me, Karim is the best No. 9 in the world,” Zidane said in April 2019. Zidane, who like Benzema is son to Algerian immigrants and grew up in a tough neighborhood in France showed his trust and confidence in the striker. When Cristiano Ronaldo left the Bernabeu, the goal-scoring responsibility was bestowed on Karim. This season Benzema is has had with 21 goals from 37 games just two goals away from Messi. 

Benzema has a collective way of play, where he also provides assists to his teammates, dropping into the midfield, making his way to the right-wing. The Benzema and Hazard link is something to watch out for. It could just be the lethal attack Real needed.

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema (C) celebrates with Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos after scoring during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and Villarreal CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on July 16, 2020. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

The Defense Shield

With the best defensive record in the world, they have conceded just 23 goals in 37 league games which is not only the best in La Liga but across Europe’s Big Five leagues. They halved the number from last season which was 46. 

Zidane realized the problem, the root of Real’s fall was the defense. He recognized it and built the game from there.  Fernand Mendy uprooting from left-back and Raphael Varane have enjoyed a brilliant season. And  Sergio Ramos has undoubtedly not only shown his leadership skills as the captain but also proved the defensive tower that he holds for Real.  Not to forget the thundering defensive midfielder Casemiro. While Thibaut Courtois  this season:

• Most clean sheets in Europe (19)

• Least league goals conceded (21)

• Part of Real Madrid’s best defence in the last 35 years.

Major reason why Real Madrid statistically, have the best defence in Europe.

Goals

The goals of Real Madrid have come from literally everywhere.  21 different players have registered goals this season something never seen in La Liga before.   Benzema stepping up with 21, and the midfield together scoring 15 and Ramos chipping in 10 goals from his penalty spot. His penalties are an art in itself where Ramos stands on the edge of the penalty area before starting a run-up where he doesn’t look at the ball, only the goalkeeper, he can put the ball anywhere, switch decision last- minute which builds the pressure on the keeper.

With veterans like Ramos Ramos (34), Modric (34) and Benzema (32), Madrid has an influx of young players that they have been breeding and are only getting better Vinicius, Brahim, Rodrygo, Mendy, Valverde. And the ones on loan Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad), dazzling winger Take Kubo (Mallorca) and hard-charging left-back Sergio Reguilon (Sevilla) who have stood out in their season of the different clubs. 

Real Madrid in La Liga 2019/2020:

• Most Points (87)

• Most Wins (26)

• Most Cleansheets (19)

• Least Losses (3)

• Least Goals Allowed (25)

• Best Away Record (11)

• Unbeaten Home Record

• 21 different goalscorers

• 0 defeats against top 10 teams

The Champions. Rightly so. 

They have the next task of turning around their story in the Champions league match against Manchester city  and with this relentless side we expect nothing short of glory in this.

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