Real Madrid continued its impressive run of six straight victories in La Liga, with a comfortable 2-0 win over Numancia. As has been typical of the team under new coach Juande Ramos, the team looked organized and confident throughout the encounter.
The shaky defensive performances of the team earlier this year are quickly fading into the past, giving way to a defensively solid unit.
After each week it is becoming more apparent that this new defensive approach is Ramos’ way of preparing the team for the Champions League, where clean sheets become vital.
This new defensive strength does have one unfortunate downside: a Madrid attack lacking prowess. Instead of controlling and dominating games, the team defends and waits for lighting fast counter-attacks.
To the teams’ credit, the tactic has worked very efficiently. However, the very troubling fact remains that the catalyst for basically all Madrid’s offense is the very injury prone Arjen Robben.
While there is very little doubt that he is currently Madrid’s best offensive player and therefore should be the main threat offensively, the team still needs a plan B.
This is where it gets difficult for Juande Ramos.
Ramos has brought back Capello’s infamous “double pivot”, in which two holding midfielders sit in front of the back four. This only leaves four true attacking options, three of which are filled by Robben, Higuain, and Raul, as these are three players that will always start when healthy.
This only leaves one spot open for Guti, Sneijder, and Van Der Vaart, three of the team’s best offensive weapons. All three of these players have struggled under Juande due to injuries and lack of consistent play.
Under this new system, it is going to be difficult for any of these players to shine simply due to the fact that they have very few players to connect with.
Sneijder was at his best when he had Guti next to him to play off. Van der Vaart’s best run was when he was played alongside Sneijder. Of all three, Guti looks the best bet to perform well alone but his season has been ravaged by injuries.
If the formation stays the way it is, is appears to me that whichever one of the three players is in will have little option but to lay the ball off to Robben and let him create whatever he can.
Another option is the recently acquired right winger, Julien Faubert. Juande has been asking for a right sided player for a while, and now with this player Juande can play the 4-4-2 he’s wanted to play all along.
This adds yet another attack-minded player to fill the lone offensive spot left open on the team.
This weekend’s match against Racing Santander will be a very interesting game to watch, as Fernando Gago is out due to suspension. For the first time, Juande’s double pivot will have to be sacrificed. Which player will he bring in? This decision will be very telling as to who Juande thinks can best man the open spot.
For now, we should all have confidence in Juande Ramos, as I do think that he is showing he is the right man for the job. Remember that he was Sevilla’s coach when many considered them to be the best team in the world and who played very open exciting football.
That was then, and this is now.
He took the team Real Madrid when they giving up goals left, right and center, and he told the team that their new objective was to keep the clean sheet. I have no doubt that as soon as he feels confident enough in his defense, he will tell the team to open up the play and attack more.