From 'aligner' to fine strategist

The challenges posed by this unusual season enhance Zidane's versatility. Madrid has been superimposed with decisions that banish the clichés that were associated with the coach.


One of the biggest slabs that can fall on a coach is having a sanbenito hang on him. It is as easy to see yourself as it is difficult to get rid of it. Zidane was joined in his first stage as an aligner. The merits of the Frenchman were undervalued and his successes were the product of the staff he encountered, if not also of his flower. Time has made his figure emerge. The coach has seen how he lost bastions of the historic cycle in the Champions League, the depth of the bench was reduced and, in recent months, casualties have further reduced his squad. To all this, and to a "crazy" calendar, Madrid has been superimposed with decisions that banish the clichés that were associated with the coach. Zidane has gone from being an aligner to a complete strategist.

When Zidane, hardened with Castilla in the demanding Segunda B but a first-time in the elite, took over at Real Madrid, he took over from a coach with great prestige as a strategist, Rafa Benítez. The methods and decisions of the former Liverpool player did not work in the white dressing room. Zidane, on the other hand, still did not have a defined profile. In Castilla, away from the spotlight everything that may be in the case of an ex-footballer of his category, the pragmatism of the 4-2-3-1 prevailed over any attempt to print a personal stamp or establish a revolution. A practicality that led the first team, adapting to what (much) that template offered them. The BBC's trident was non-negotiable, but where Madrid had suffered in the first leg of the season was in midfield. Zidane had the recipe: the secret ingredient was Casemiro. Not even the Brazilian himself, who had to speak to the coach to find out about his plans with him, imagined it. "When you go out, you will never stop playing," the coach told him. So it happened.

Once Case was attached, the eleven type of Zidane and his 4-3-3 in the three European Cups was recited in a rush. What works is not touched. The coach only entered the variant at 4-4-2 to accommodate an Isco to the detriment of Bale in a huge moment and in the extreme rotations with that 'unit B' that guided the alirón of 2016-2017 while the Headlines were getting rid of rivals in Europe on their way to the Twelfth.

Difficulties and challenges

In its second stage, the BBC was dismantled. Cristiano had left and Bale, far from taking a step forward, had done so backwards. To this have been added challenges such as the management of the team after confinement or the difficulties it has faced this year on several fronts. Zidane has been forced to display unknown chapters from his booklet, showing that he saved more pages than he had shown so far.

"In the first years I was there, there were not many changes, but this time there will be," he warned at a press conference in the middle of the desert crossing that the first two months after his return entailed, with the team eliminated. of the Champions and without options in the domestic championship. "Next year LaLiga has to be in the first objective," he pointed out that same day. He was very serious.

The old aligner went on to make decisions. He knew how to exploit the potential of Valverde, whose lineup in the first derby against Atlético last season surprised everyone. An irruption, that of the charrúa, which opened new scenarios for Zidane, both to refresh the Modric-Casemiro-Kroos trident, and to reinforce it. Beyond names, his first hit on the table was in the Super Cup, where he strengthened the midfield with Valverde and Isco. Valencia was neutralized. In the resumption of the competition after confinement, he exploited his role as a manager of emotions. Madrid became cloistered with the bitter taste of giving up the leadership to Barça after having taken it from them in the Classic. It worked. The team pocketed the league by chaining ten victories in ten games. They had left over the last day.

The doubts with which the team began the season have given way to a team that opts for everything with an extensive repertoire of Zidane resources. He has had to look for innumerable solutions to the casualties on the left side. The final has been Lucas Vázquez, but he has come to place a Vinicius as a lane, whom he has instructed in the performance of defensive tasks. He has managed to maintain the performance of Casemiro, Modric and Kroos at the highest level without hardly being able to give them rest. In one of the most critical moments of the season, he passed over Atlético de Simeone, who had been overwhelming in the League but was unable to decode the game that Zidane proposed to him.

He has adapted his system with different drawings, finding accommodation for Marcelo and Isco, and has even managed to operate a line of three centrals with which he had experimented without success in the past. Not only his eleven have become unpredictable, but also his drawings and his approaches. When everyone thought that the line of three centrals against Eibar was a rehearsal for Liverpool, against the reds he recovered his characteristic 4-3-3. A versatility that leaves him closer to the Champions League and a League whose options go through a Clásico on Saturday from which he has emerged victorious on the last two occasions.

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