Real Madrid have recemtly surpassed their club record by staying unbeaten for 35 games. Although there are some impressive results displaying their strength and fire-power, a surprising amount of unconvincing results are sprinkled in. There has been much debate about how Real Madrid have navigated past this: some say through luck, whilst others argue it is down to Real Madrid’s characteristic ‘steely resolve’. A simple approach to this would suggest Zinedine Zidane himself has orchestrated this feat, and numbers firmly support his claim with the team losing only 2 of the 53 games in 2016, however, many are tentative to suggest this is only a partial answer. So what is it?
To find an example of an ‘unconvincing’ display we only need to rewind back to their last league game against Deportivo de La Coruña. Heading into the 80’ minute 2-1 down, they were able to turn around the deficit to win with a side missing Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, all on the bench. People will give you the tired old answer of how real Champions are able to ‘win ugly’ and they are perhaps right as no one can question the fact that Real are already 3 points ahead with a game in hand (which is against 17th placed Valencia) over Barcelona. In their Champions League quarter-final tie against Wolfsburg last season, they managed to overturn a 2-0 score line at home to progress 3-2 on aggregate. Further evidence to support this comes when we observe that La Real have won a quarter of their games this year coming from behind, with Sergio Ramos himself saving 4 points this season on his own from losing situations.
Although luck may not be a prominent feature this year Real have certainly benefitted from it: a recollection of the 2-1 win over Sporting Gijon is proof. Sporting were the dominant team in that clash and Abelardo Fernandez’s men even won a late penalty but it wasn’t to be as Duje Cop blasted the spot-kick over.
Zidane’s contribution to the team cannot be overlooked, especially considering the state of affairs Rafael Benitez left the side in. For Real to comeback from that and win the Champions League was special. Zidane isn't a standout tactician but he has shown understanding of tactics, visible from how he set up the team against Atletico Madrid. A rigid 4-4-1-1 allowed Real Madrid to counterattack and eliminate their defensive vulnerabilities by tightening up. But perhaps his key skill is his man-management, which certainly his predecessors lacked. In a dressing room full of bloated egos and prides, Zidane has managed to convince the squad to buy into his ideas, with the exception of James Rodriguez. Zidane has even convinced Ronaldo to rest in certain games and has got the best out of his second string players to keep Real churning out points; Lucas Vazquez and Mariano Diaz Mejia have both stepped up to plug the gaps when key players like Bale have been injured.
This Real side with Zidane at the helm have been terrific this calendar year and their relentless passion and hunger for the win has brought them points, with the aid of some luck, but Zidane deserves as much praise as his valiant team.
Spanish Football Expert