Competition
  • Europa League

Lopetegui's high pressing; Bale and Vinicius...

Probably the best part of Julen Lopetegui’s first game in charge at Real Madrid was how the team pressed in attack. That was a quality which Guardiola’s Barça had – as did Spain’s national team under Lopetegui. Pressing after losing possession is a relatively new idea in football. It didn’t make as much sense with the backpass rule. Now it’s more of a risk to play the ball back to the keeper and that is something which coaches have picked up on; now they encourage their players to apply pressure as soon as their rivals attempt to take the ball out of defence. Once they manage that, it’s a question of keeping the ball as far away as possible from your own goal. As soon as the ball is lost, the whole process begins all over again.

Gareth Bale in action against Manchester United

Madrid couldn't press with Cristiano

It’s a brief and intense tactic, which saves players from having to make long runs back to defend then take the ball upfield again once they’ve won it back. I have a feeling it’s going to be Lopetegui's hallmark at this early stage of his tenure at Madrid. During the past few seasons it was difficult for Madrid to press their opponents - Cristiano wouldn’t do it and was allowed to as it meant he could focus solely on his attacking powers while Benzema and Bale did the bare minimum. But it looks like now both forwards are going to have to press more. Whether Lopetegui manages to get them to do it - and do it always rather than now and again, will determine how successful it will be for Madrid. I can’t see it being too much of a hassle for Madrid’s other forwards.

Sergio Reguilón tussles with Alexis Sánchez

Promising glimpses in Madrid's first outing

Bale by the way, looked like he thought he was still unwinding on the beach; he was a little disappointing. But he’s the one who has been designated to claim the crown – he’s got tremendous qualities but I fear he lacks consistency. Aside from that, we saw some flashes of brilliance from Vinicius who looks promising, Ceballos (who Zidane neglected) enjoyed himself, Odriozola teared up and down the wing well, Federico Valverde looked decent in the second half and youth team promise Sergio Reguilón impressed. Reguilón is a left-back. Theo will be leaving that position (both of United’s goals came because he was caught out of position- even if he did set up Benzema for Madrid’s goal) and that means it’s an opportunity for Reguilón. That more or less was what I took from the match. All of that and the defeat, which wasn’t too much of a big deal but losing, even in a friendly, always rankles.