SYSTEM OF PLAY: 4-3-3
Zinedine Zidane has stuck relatively true to the exact same eleven that won him the 2019-20 La Liga title last season. A few injuries to the likes of Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal have forced them out of the side and allowed other players to come in, but Zidane has stuck by a very consistent set of fifteen or so players throughout the season. He has also stuck by his trusted 4-3-3 formation, which he has used throughout his career at Real Madrid but has experimented many times this season with various different shapes.
The biggest surprise of all is probably that Zidane has continued with a midfield three with an average age of 32. 29-year-old Casemiro remains the best and most consistent of the three as he was last season, but it’s remarkable how well Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have carried on into their thirties now. With Kroos and Modric no longer having the legs to be box-to-box play-makers, Casemiro often adopts the highest position of the midfield three. Simultaneously, when Madrid are defending, he reverts back into the lowest of the three. This tactical innovation from Zidane is quite unorthodox. But it’s helped Casemiro contribute with seven goal-involvements in La Liga this season, including the second-highest tally of goals in the side, with 6. With his higher position, Casemiro offers Los Blancos another threat in the air to get on the end of crosses, and another support system for Benzema to play with his back to goal. Uruguayan midfielder Federico Valverde also looks positive when he’s been given a role in the team, and should be the natural heir to edge out Luka Modric in the future. Zidane has remained flexible with Valverde, playing him at the top of a midfield diamond, on the right of a midfield four and even recently at right-back due to an injury to Lucas Vazquez. This kind of versatility is becoming more and more commonplace with young players, but shows much promise for Valverde’s future at the club.
Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy have been excellent as the two fullbacks this season, with Daniel Carvajal still recovering from a long-term injury. Vazquez in particular has been remarkably effective as a Jesus Navas-styled right-back who’s not actually a right-back, contributing massively to Madrid’s attack. The 29-year-old has assisted 5 goals this season and created nearly 2 chances per game for his team. Only Kroos has created more chances in the team. Thibaut Courtois also has had a decent season in goal, playing in every single La Liga and UEFA Champions League match so far this campaign.
In attack, Real Madrid don’t quite have the same firepower of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, but they still have their long-term striker Karim Benzema – who remains one of La Liga’s best. Benzema’s netted 21 goals and assisted 8 in 30 La Liga matches this campaign, in addition to burying 6 goals in 9 UEFA Champions League matches. Vinicius Junior’s also showed moments of brilliance this season and has come on particularly strong in the past few months. The 20-year-old Brazilian has scored 6 goals with 4 assists this season between his Champions League and La Liga games in 2020-21, showing much promise for the future. Marco Asensio’s also established himself as the club’s first-choice right-winger this season, also contributing 6 goals between the Champions League and La Liga games this term. So those are the players within the system, now let’s get into more on how Zinedine Zidane has achieved so much success in recent months.
Real Madrid had a rough start to the season, but they are now back on track to challenge for both the La Liga title and the UEFA Champions League. Zinedine Zidane has found innovative approaches to cope with his aging midfield unit, including pushing Casemiro further forward in attack. He’s also made smart tactical tweaks when Ramos and Varane have been out, and has improved the likes of Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Junior this season. With Karim Benzema operating as a goal-scoring false-nine and still at the top of his game, the French manager still has one of the deadliest scorers in the league that can help to propel the team to the very top once again. Zinedine Zidane’s done a remarkable job at Real Madrid once again, and this season will likely go down as another success, even if the team are unable to claim a trophy. So there it is! A tactical analysis of Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid in 2020-21. Be sure to check out more of our tactical analyses, and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Also be sure to share your thoughts on which team and manager you would like to see analyzed next, in either the comments below or on social media. Thanks for reading and see you soon!