Real Madrid visited Germany and performed better against Borussia Moenchengladbach than they did against Cadiz and Shakhtar. The consolidation mechanisms were strong and despite some problems defending the talented Monchengladbach strikers at the counter, Real Madrid’s transfer defense proved stronger than last week. However, the team coached by the great duo Marco Rose-Renee Maric is also stronger and more talented than the opponents from Cadiz and Shakhtar. This wasn’t a bad match by Zidane’s men, but against a team of Moenchengladbach quality, “not bad” isn’t enough to win.
Let’s talk about some of the main tactical and statistical aspects of this game.
Compact deep block strength
In this game, Zidane started essentially the same group of players who defeated Barcelona soundly over the weekend, but they struggled a lot to create good chances this time. The big difference is that the Germans are a better thought out and more compact defensive unit than Blaugrana.
In the Bundesliga frenzy from week to week, Rose has teamed up his team to be even more powerful in pressing. Against Real, he chose a deeper defensive obstacle instead, giving priority to compact spacing between his lines and not conceding space for Real’s attackers. Mönchengladbach only pressed occasionally, during goal kicks or in open play situations when the Real Madrid defense passed the ball to Courtois.
Until the 70th minute, Real Madrid attacked Moenchengladbach just as wanted. They couldn’t break through the German defense post, so they always had to advance across the flanks. When they arrived in the final third, the Mönchengladbach defenders followed the Real back and wingers so well that their only option was to cross the penalty area.
The importance of shot quality versus shot quantity
During the first half, Real produced 11 surprising shots, but how many were in reality Hassan? As Om Arvind pointed out, only 2 of these were serious open-play opportunities.
5 shots from outside the penalty area, two shots from Vinicius that prevented shots from inside the penalty area, Benzema and Ramos header from the corners, Benzema’s chance from Lucas’ long ball, and Asensio’s shot from that narrow angle.
Not many of these were very dangerous. https://t.co/1a0riZbZFF
– About (OmVAsports) October 27, 2020
The best way to sum up the first half of this match: By the end of the match, Real had 11 shots while Mönchengladbach had only one goal – the goal.
Mönchengladbach’s deeper defense meant that they created fewer chances than usual, but their goal was to produce high-quality counter-attack opportunities. By the time Thuram scored the second goal in the 57th minute, his team had only scored 2 goals out of 4! Yes, you do need a fair amount of luck to score with that quality, but also to shine individual. Marcus Thuram’s brilliant passes and finishes, Alasan’s good play, and his superb pass led to the first goal. It felt as if the Monchengladbach strikers lacked the sting that the Real strikers lacked, which takes us to the next point …
Where do the real struggles come from in the last third?
As noted by our colleague Matt WeltseyThe main problem for Real in this game is the same as the main problem in recent seasons or more: creating dangerous chances to score goals once the team reaches the final third.
While Real can certainly use better moves and mechanisms in the field, getting things done in the final third usually depends more on individual intelligence than tactics. This principle is best illustrated by this popular analysis from Thierry Henry about Guardiola’s Barcelona tactics.
Henry explains that Pep – usually a control freak – gives his players more freedom once they reach the final third. Guardiola even told his players that “my job is to take you to the final third. Your mission is to finish it.”
I highlight this analysis from Henry because I want to emphasize that Tactics can only go far to improve real in the last third. If Benzema or Vinicius were having a bad day, for example, getting those good shots and goals would be an uphill climb regardless of how well the team performed. As of now, I see three tracks of improvement in the final third with the current squad:
- Hazard and Odegaard, the most talented playmakers on the team, are back from injury and have returned to their usual form.
- One of Asensio, Vinicius, Rodrigo suddenly “made the leap” to an offensive world level
- It made Jovi cool again, which Zidane just doesn’t seem ready to do
In other words, improvement in this area predominantly boils down to either improving individual players’ form or successfully recovering from injuries. Ironically, the last 20 minutes of this match gave us a good example of how we could improve in the final third by attacking the playmaker’s talent …
The creative influence of Modric and Hazard on the game
After Moenchengladbach’s second goal, Real struggled to strike back. The German side enjoyed 10 minutes of counter-attack opportunities against an increasingly desperate and disorganized Real. This could have resulted in a 3-0 win had it not been for some luck and great Courtois.
Thus came Modric and Hazard’s substitutions, and the duo creatively dominated the match. In the last twenty minutes of the match, Hazard touched more than any of the Real Madrid strikers (24) and Modric touched more than the two Real midfield players (36). The heat map shows the areas of the playing field they worked on.
The Belgian became the center of attention in the left-half space, with teammates giving him the ball and letting him pass or group passes with a teammate.
And because he replaced Kroos, Modric started on the left side as well. However, as the minutes passed by the Croatian maestro, he worked more freely, moving across the entire width of the field. This gave Hazard more space to do his things on the left and helped Modric create some passing combos with Valverde and Lucas Vasquez on the right side as well. It was one of Modric’s passes from the right that ultimately led to the second goal that leveled the match.