Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the two heavyweights of football, in their long history, have shared one thing in common – their transfer policy. Real Madrid and Barcelona’s main idea is to build reputation by signing World Class players and winning trophies. From the days of General Franco, both the clubs have been involved in the signing of players with exceptional qualities. From Laszlo Kubala to Neymar, from Alfredo di Stefano to James Rodriguez both the clubs have parted with huge amounts of money just to win silverwares and expand their global fan base.

Barcelona, in the early stages of Luis Enrique as its manager, has signed six players out of which two are defenders. Atletico Madrid, which rose to prominence in the recent years, has rebuilt its squad by breaking club’s transfer records. Real Madrid has outspent these two clubs. But has only concentrated in signing forwards and midfielders.

Except Daniel Carvajal, who was brought back last season from Bayer Leverkusen, the defensive unit still remains the same. The region where Real are very weak still needs to be strengthened – not by signing a defender but by persuading di Maria to stay put at Madrid.

Yes, Real still needs Angel di Maria.

Real Madrid can make quick transitions from defending to attacking. That is why Carlo Ancelotti’s counter attacking tactic has been hugely successful.

But their transition from attack to defense takes more time. With di Maria leaving this could become a headache for Ancelotti. Is Toni Kroos not capable of doing what di Maria does? He is! But the problem still persists because di Maria takes Real’s attacking potential to another dimension.

Real play with a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 system with Rodriguez playing wide or centrally in 4-2-3-1 and positioning himself a bit deep in 4-3-3 to play along Luka Modric. The forwards – Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, will be aided by Rodriguez and the two wingbacks with plenty of through balls and crosses. While defending Real change their shape to 4-4-2.

Against Atleti, Rodriguez did not start and Ancelotti decided to play 4-3-3. Ancelotti selected experienced Xabi Alonso over Isco. Alonso played in between Modric and Kroos.

When James plays, he drifts wide and cuts inside a few times to aid the front three. So the gap between the midfielders and the forwards will always be covered by James Rodriguez. This allows both Modric and Kroos to play deep.

In his absence, to cover the huge gap between the front 3 and the three midfielders, Modric and Kroos had to step up, leaving Alonso alone. Atleti took advantage of this by launching a series of attacks through the middle throughout the match.

Atletico Madrid attacking thorough the center - whoscored.com
Atletico Madrid attacking thorough the center – whoscored.com

There are also chances of Alonso being outnumbered by Atletico’s players. Kroos and Modric who play higher up the pitch can be caught by surprise by the counter attacking style of Atleti. Wingbacks can be of no help – they will be in wide positions helping the wingers. As a result of this Alonso, Pepe and Sergio Ramos will come up against four Atletico Madrid players. 3 vs 4 situation.

3 vs 4
3 vs 4

di Maria with his pace and high work rate, can cover much of the space in the midfield. This makes Real Madrid defensively stronger. In addition to this, he can link defense and attack very well with his creative passing and running with the ball. When di Maria plays the central midfield triangle sets itself upright – two holding midfielders behind him.

The work rate of Kroos, Alonso and Modric is less compared to that of di Maria. In Real’s match against Atleti, in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, Alonso played around the center circle. To give back up for Kroos and Modric, Alonso pushed himself higher up the pitch, dragging along with him the defensive line of Real.

Alonso's first touches - whoscored.com
Alonso’s first touches – whoscored.com

Kroos' first touches - whoscored.com
Kroos’ first touches – whoscored.com

Modric's first touches - whoscored.com
Modric’s first touches – whoscored.com

First of all Pepe and Ramos lack concentration. Marcelo’s defensive positioning is not correct. Added to these is the fact that Real press while defending (either Pepe or Ramos steps up to close down the opponent).

Ancelotti should try his best to convince di Maria to play for Real Madrid for at least one more season. If di Maria ends his Madrid career, then Real Madrid will have some serious defensive problems.

All stats are provided by whoscored.com.

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2 thoughts on “Real Madrid still needs Angel di Maria. Why?

  1. If Di Maria leaves, Real Madrid will not only have defensive problems, but also attacking problems. Most of their games will be against teams which park the bus, and no one in RM has the ability to dribble in no space like Angel. It’s a major blow for RM unless Ancelotti changes his formation and go back to the one that the team used to play with Mourinho for three seasons, i.e. 4-2-3-1, with James as a play maker.

    Liked by 1 person

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