Real Madrid was not ready to face the elements
“Barcelona have transformed under Xavi and, in a few months, have found a sympathetic face with classic Catalan features, chief among them control of the ball. It’s a signature style that cannot be destroyed by the willpower and talent of its players alone, you need careful preparation, tactical puzzles and the right attitude. Real Madrid didn’t have any of that in the Clasico, and they were also missing Benzema and Mendy.
The loss of two players in the starting line-up, Benzema among them, is very sensitive for a team that relies on individual class and “chemistry,” Ancelotti’s method involves achieving the maximum amount of skill while adding up the qualities of the players who enter the field. No one should have any doubt that Carlo is a great coach, but he has never been a great strategist or tactician.
We wanted to control the ball more and apply more pressure but, after the first goal we conceded, we went off plan and it hurt us. It was a bad plan. “Barcelona played better and won deservedly, but it did not sink us. We need to move on and look for balance. We still have a nine-point lead.
But he’s the best in the world at creating and controlling game freedoms, and knows how to get the most out of players inside his visibly frame-less style. Of course, Ancelotti’s teams do have frames, though they are blurred, but that’s already enough to call Real Madrid a team without style. The Madrid players are not tied to a certain philosophy, they play on instinct and skill. Sometimes it helps, like in the same game with PSG, and sometimes it goes wrong.
Real Madrid’s coaching staff fails the El Clasico
A systemic coach compensates for personnel losses by replacing departed leaders with players most suited to a particular role model, while a coach who puts momentary decisions above strategic ones assembles a team of available players with the maximum amount of skill at the moment. That’s what Ancelotti did in the Clasico: he chose 11 of the most ready players and found for each one the position that he understood to be most suitable. The Italian was not even embarrassed by the scheme – whether it was 4-2-4 or 4-2-2-2.
The loss of Mendy and Benzema was the first blow to Real Madrid, and the second was inflicted by the coaching staff, depriving the team of the opportunity to organize themselves within the framework of the usual 4-3-3. Ancelotti aggravated the absence of leaders by tactical changes, and Carlo deprived Real Madrid of points of support: Vinicius was isolated on the left flank, Modrić was given an unclear role. Real Madrid’s most played and high-quality line was deprived of all its trump cards, the redistribution of areas of responsibility in midfield allowed Barcelona to dominate, because Casemiro, Kroos, Modric and Valverde never shared their responsibilities.
It is unlikely that Real Madrid would have lost 0-4 if Ancelotti had replaced Karim Benzema in position. Of course, Jovic or Bale in the center of the attack is a fundamentally different quality, but such an approach would not have destroyed the team’s foundations. In fact, it was not too late to return to the clear option after the first half, when Real Madrid lost 0-2, but at half-time Ancelotti “went crazy” and made two substitutions, as a result of which only 1 of 4 defenders – Eder Militao – remained in his position in defense. Alaba left, Nacho moved to the right flank, and Casemiro dropped from midfield. A disorganized Real Madrid got two goals in five minutes and folded.
Ancelotti is a revanchist by nature
Ancelotti has over 1,000 games and 225 defeats in his coaching career. Carlo wouldn’t be a great coach with an armful of titles in his collection if he didn’t know how to get up, shake it off and move on after failures. The Italian admitted his guilt, but urged not to be dramatic. And it is reasonable, because even such a painful fiasco does not cancel the fact that two months before the end of the season Real Madrid are ahead of the nearest pursuer in La Liga by a double-digit number of points, ahead of the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and behind won trophy – the Spanish Super Cup.
A single defeat to Barcelona, however painful, does not affect Real Madrid’s tournament ambitions and does not make Carlo Ancelotti’s team any weaker. Rather, it makes it more wicked and calculating, and the coaching staff will not resort to overly original ideas in the next matches, looking at the scarecrow of the Clasico defeat. As for Ancelotti, everyone remembers the Champions League final in Istanbul, which he lost with Milan, leading 3-0 against Liverpool.
However, it should not be forgotten that Carlo had the last word in this rivalry: two years later, he met Liverpool and Benítez again in the final, the score was 2-1 in favor of AC Milan. Perhaps that defeat to Barcelona had a better chance of spurring Real Madrid on before the decisive phase of the season, rather than ruining it. Here, too, Ancelotti’s method works to the advantage of the club: the defeat at the Clasico was not a collapse of the system, but a failure of the local model, which will now be consigned to the dusty attic. No one expected Barcelona to be so outclassed by Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, but this result could benefit winners and losers alike.