Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Real Madrid collapse on the ball rather than isolate the carrier

October 4, 2023 — Real Madrid did a better job of remaining compact to combine and play closer together against Napoli rather than back away from the ball to wait for the cross or long ball against Union Berlin.

Figure 1.1 - Real Madrid's spacing moving away from the ball against Union Berlin

A common theme throughout the match against Union Berlin was the huge spacing between players. They’d constantly back away from the ball carrier and wait for the long ball.

This made Union Berlin’s job easier because they could overload a wing and easily overwhelm the one or two Madrid midfielders and forwards surrounding the ball carrier. One player would check to the ball and the third man would be out of reach, so they had trouble advancing into the final third. If the ball carrier became too isolated, they would launch it long to no one.

They were of no threat over the top for pace with Joselu and Rodrygo, and a lot of their higher looping long passes were too difficult for both forwards to bring down.

Figure 2.1 - Eduardo Camavinga passes to Jude Bellingham

Against Napoli, Real Madrid played much tighter together, with the trio of Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Junior, and Rodrygo always close looking to combine.

A +1 of Modric, Camavinga, Valverde, Tchouaméni would join in to help overload one side, but the trio has more than enough collective talent to penetrate Napoli’s back-five.

This play in tight space complemented their flair and high level of technical ability better. They excel in close quarters, with their expert slaloming runs past defenders, and quick one-two combination passes.

Figure 2.2 - Vinicius Junior runs to the right to open the space for Jude Bellingham driving forward with the ball
Figure 2.3 - Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo both check to the ball
Figure 2.4 - Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo hold their runs to open up for the pass and create more space for Jude Bellingham
Figure 2.5 - Jude Bellingham scores

Both Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo showed a high level of intelligence to know where to go, when to check to the ball, when to hold their run, so they could create space for Jude Bellingham and open themselves as an option.

This blend of high IQs in close proximity to inundate the opponent’s back-line led to this goal and the other goal scored by Vinicius Junior. They win back the ball and then collapse on the ball carrier to combine.

When Madrid replicated this dynamic against Union Berlin, playing tight together, that was when they created their best chances. That was only in short spurts though. It is no surprise that they were able to score three goals playing like this for a majority of the match against Napoli.

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