Rafael Benitez’s first game for Real Madrid got off to an embarrassingly slow start following a 0-0 draw with newly promoted Sporting Gijon.
The Spaniard played Gareth Bale in the number 10 position, playing behind Jese who was deployed as a striker in the absence of Karim Benzema.
Bale was supported by Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo who played on the flanks, yet the system lacked any sense or fluidity.
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Under Carlo Ancelotti last season, Real Madrid lacked tactical discipline, something that Benitez will certainly not allow under his system. However, it appears by playing Bale in the number 10 position it means Madrid lack any fluidity in attack.
Bale can only operate behind the striker if he is allowed space by the opposition, which allows him to use his pace directly at the opposition defence, as shown in the 30 minutes of the game.
Yet, the Welshman is a poor contributor when playing in that role in comparison to either Isco or James Rodriquez.
Against Sporting, Benitez allowed his front four to rotate positions, but so often the players would occupy space which was meant to be for another team-mate, meaning their attacking play lacked purpose and instead just looked a mess.
Benitez had used a tactic which meant that the players were not used in their natural positions, somewhat of a trademark during his managerial career. It might be better if the new Madrid boss simply plays it safer until the players understand what he demands of them, instead of trying to put round pegs in square holes.
Bale playing in the number 10 role will only work in certain matches where they spend most of the game in their own half, for example against possession teams such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Yet the world’s most expensive player lacks the attributes to play to his back to goal and the vision to create opportunities in a central role.
If Benitez continues to play players not in their preferred role and not use Isco or James behind the striker, then this will have a huge detrimental effect on Madrid this season.
The fact that they have not scored in five out of their last nine games (including pre-season) it is clear that the system Benitez wants to use is not working.
It seems like a common sense statement to play players in their correct positions, but common sense is something that has always been lacking at Real Madrid.