Still under the formidable critical downpour after Real Madrid’s failure in the derby, Carlo Ancelotti reappeared in public yesterday morning in Valdebebas and opened the umbrella of perspective: “Balance in evaluating things is the most important thing. I have to have balance, and fortunately in genetics I have this: I am a balanced person and I am capable of evaluating well how things are,” he explained hours before receiving UD Las Palmas at the Bernabéu this Wednesday (7:00 p.m., Movistar). “Questioning everything after a team has won six games out of six, with all the problems we have had, and everyone knows it, seems too much to me.”
Until losing on Sunday at the Metropolitano, Madrid had gone through the first stretch of the season always on the edge, but successfully despite the losses of its best goalkeeper, Courtois; its best center back, Militão, and its best attacker, Vinicius, finally ready to return this Wednesday, after being injured on August 25 in Vigo. But the other day Atlético exploited the two main weaknesses of a team in formation.
On the one hand, the lack of tension at the beginning of the games: in three they had already scored before the first quarter of an hour, and Atlético scored two in 18 minutes. “It is a situation that has happened too many times. To enter the game we have to have a different attitude,” he lamented yesterday.
On the other hand, Simeone launched his team to attack Madrid’s sides, the weak point of the new diamond system. “Every system has its weakness. The system with the rhombus is not the perfect system, just as the 4-4-2 is not the perfect system. It is a system that allows us, first, to press higher, to be more energetic and stronger in recovering the ball. And we have done very well in almost all the games,” he recalled. But he also has his disadvantage: “It is a little more difficult for us to control the wings, especially in our field,” he explained. “We have to work on the weakness, and we have done it, because it already emerged in the preseason. Afterwards it turned out very well. We have conceded only three goals in the first six games, but against Atlético we have forgotten a little what to do.”
Ancelotti demands execution improvements from his players. At the moment he does not contemplate modifying his initial plan, as he did after a few weeks of his first season, when he could not adjust the forward pressure, too vulnerable, and decided to protect the team with a low block. This time he has not reached the point where he sees a rectification of the plan as necessary: “I think that the characteristics of the players we have adapt to this system,” he explained yesterday. There is no longer a number nine like Benzema, but rather a wide-ranging midfielder: “Bellingham’s position has given us an advantage,” he said, referring to the occasions in which the Englishman bursts into the area coming from behind.
Despite the three goals that Atlético scored against them taking advantage of the gaps in the scheme, Ancelotti wanted to remember that on most occasions the approach had helped them defend better: “There are many things that we have done very well with this system. I think we are more aggressive up front, because the two forwards put pressure on the center backs.” Especially in the first games, the diamond allowed them to press and steal higher than they had done in the previous two seasons. The change responded to the scheme, but also to the introduction of younger legs in the midfield: Tchouameni, Camavinga and Valverde, with Bellingham ahead. Kroos and Modric did not coincide in the starting lineup until the seventh game of the season, Sunday’s derby.
The plan is under construction, it has suffered its first major collapse and Ancelotti has seen the first great shower of criticism fall on him. But he maintains his balance, and clears up the conversation about his future: “Everyone knows I’m very happy here,” he recalled yesterday. “We will have time to talk about the future.” He is not even bothered by the names of substitutes that appeared after the derby: “I have had Alonso as a player. He has a knowledge of high-level football and is doing very well with Bayer Leverkusen. And I wish him, like Raúl and Arbeloa, that one day they will be coaches of Real Madrid. Because they are people I know and love very much.”
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