The Real Madrid job is one of the hardest in football. Managing a team of ‘Galacticos’ is never going to be easy, but Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics so far this season have shown him to be out of sorts in the Bernabeu hot seat.
Since taking over from Jose Mourinho, Ancelotti has consistently proven that he doesn’t know his best side. There was little need to rotate his starting XI for El Clasico, after Madrid had looked impressive against Juventus in the Champions League. Barcelona triumphed 2-1 after goals from Neymar and Alexis Sanchez, but Los Blancos were not helped by Ancelotti’s tactics, which were, to put it frankly, inept.
Ancelotti’s first problem is, he doesn’t know where to play Bale. It may be too early to judge the Welsh wizard with such a monumental price tag attached to his head, and his injury problems need to be taken into account.
Throughout his career, Gareth Bale has chopped and changed positions. He started out as a left-back at Southampton, before Harry Redknapp moved him further up-field, while also experimenting with the Welshman in a free role and even on the right wing.
In his last season at Spurs, Bale finally looked at home, but in contrast at Madrid, Ancelotti doesn’t yet know how to fit him into the team, which limited the effect Karim Benzema could have from the bench. Arbeloa or Benzema may have been a safer bet for a game of such huge importance.
In another tactical blunder, Sergio Ramos was pushed forward into midfield, but after being booked in the first half, he was unable to close Barcelona down and Madrid were run ragged in the centre of the park.
It is still not entirely clear how much control Ancelotti has at the Bernabeu. One senses that in terms of transfers, Zinedine Zidane runs the show, and that was certainly the case with the Bale saga. It says something about the scale of the job that Jose Mourinho looked out of his depth in club politics – this is a man who has spent half his career working for Roman Abramovich.
The defeat to Barca leaves them six points behind the Nou Camp outfit, with their city rivals Atletico looking more like title contenders. Ancelotti has a tough season ahead of him, but with the number of big personalities in the dressing room, it will be hard for him to settle on a regular eleven. Madrid must forget about tactical shuffling, go back to the drawing board, and pick themselves up in time for their next match against Sevilla.
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