With Real Madrid shipping goals and languishing in 7th with only one win to their name before tonight, perhaps playing two attack-minded midfielders in Luka Modric and Toni Kroos is not the best idea - and a more defensive option may be the way to go.
Real Madrid put eight past Deportivo, but still conceded twice in the process. In fact, Ancelotti’s side have only managed one clean sheet in seven matches, conceding eleven goals in the process; hardy resolute.
Atletico Madrid have already shown the importance a solid defence plays in a successful title challenge, and Barcelona currently top the table, with not a single ball yet to hit the back of their net.
While much of the defensive responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the back four, the midfielders also shoulder some responsibility.
In a squad heaving with talent, the only way Madrid can seemingly cram all their stars into their one starting XI is to play a 4-2-3-1, with James Rodriguez at home in attacking midfield and Modric & Kroos the two in midfield; A quality but imbalanced midfield trio. All are forward-thinking players, and defending is hardly their forte.
The ‘double pivot’ is the eloquent term given to the tactical role employed by Modric and Kroos. It is predicated on both the midfielders being able to attack and defend in equal measure, with one dropping off while another attempts to link the play and vice versa.
The role requires both great restraint and intelligence. The desire to bomb forward may at times be too great, especially at times where Madrid are seemingly in control, which leaves gaps at the back. And with all due respect to Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, and what they bring to Madrid offensively, they often flatter to deceive defensively.
Luka Modric is perhaps the more defensively proficient of the two. However leaving Modric to do the gritty work would be unjust, and a gross mismanagement of his extraordinary vision and passing ability, all of which was very much on display during Real Madrid’s 5 -1 Champions League win over Basel.
Kroos has also operated in a deeper role at times for, but is far from suited for the role, with the likes of Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Philip Lahm protecting the defence and allowing him freedom in forward positions.
Of course, such a set-up also negates the possibility of playing the 4-3-3 formation which brought them much success. It gave Real far more stability in midfield, whilst also allowing the forward trio of Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo (BBC) to play with absolute freedom.
Xabi Alonso, who Kroos replaced, possesses exceptional passing ability, but was also capable of defending thanks to his penchant for well-timed interceptions.
Despite the departure Alonso, Madrid do still have a number of defensive midfield options at their disposal.
Sami Khedira is as close to a true anchor man as Ancelotti has in his squad. The problem is getting him onto the pitch, with constant injury niggles holding him back. The World Cup winner’s quality however is undoubted, and though he is still constantly linked with a move to Arsenal, Ancelotti may want to hold onto the German a little longer.
Ancelotti called upon Asier Illarramendi against Deportivo to provide midfield stability after conceding, at the expense of Karim Benzema. The reversion to the 4-3-3 formation which had brought them much success saw them score another five goals, with many of the forward-thinking players left to their own devices.
The Spaniard is very much in the mould of the departed Xabi Alonso, but is yet to display such quality, and at 24 is hardly a starlet. But his solid display against Deportivo is a stepping stone.
Either could replace the current midfield duo or James Rodriguez, offering stability and aiding the team both defensively and subsequently offensively. But dropping players of the calibre of Modric or Kroos is a tough decision, and neither would want to sit on the bench. Food for thought for Carlo Ancelotti.
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