Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad Tactical and Match Review

(Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
(Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /

Zinedine Zidane and his players earned their first win of the season against a very tough opponent (Real Sociedad) away from home at Anoeta. Anoeta is one of the toughest places for any team to visit and today, Real Madrid were able to walk away with a 3-0 victory.

Real Madrid vertical and horizontal compactness was their strength without the possession of the ball. Vertical compactness has always been one of Real Madrid weaknesses without the ball and it seems like Zidane has been working hard since last season to rectify that. His work has been fruitful because players were able to move in synchronization, filling in gaps for each other, and move in relation to each other.

The Goals

Real Madrid began the game in a 4-3-3 stance which quickly turned into a 4-5-1. For that formation to work, Zidane needed a spearhead who’s able to hold up the ball well. Zidane had exactly that in Morata.

Morata ability to hold up the ball long enough for his teammates to join the attack became the main focal point of Real Madrid’s attack. The team attacked in relation to his movements on and off the ball. The second goal which was scored by Asensio was due to Morata’s off the ball movement.

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Since Morata was devastating with his hold up play, strength, dribbling skills and mobility, his marker was obliged to follow him when he dropped into midfield. Morata’s movement without the ball gave Asensio a chance to utilized the space behind Sociedad’s defense. He was able to control a long through ball from Varane without breaking a sweat. The ultimate result of that move was a cheeky chip over the goalkeeper who was left in no man’s land.

Creation of Space In Midfield

The moves for the second goal was brilliant, but it seems to be choreograph by Zidane. The first goal also had similar choreography as the second. When Real Madrid had the ball on the left side, Kovacic move further to the left of zone 11 closer to zone 10. This move dragged Sociedad’s winger deep into midfield to compress space. Since Bale is already in central position in the box, Carvajal had plenty of space on the right side to use. The space Carvajal was afforded is due to Kovacic off the ball movement, and Zidane’s ability to create space in central position.

With plenty of space for Carvajal to exploit, Ramos was able to find him with a switch of play. He aimlessly control the ball, and delivered a perfect cross for Bale to headed into the net. Perfectly choreograph move!

First of 3 formations


Real Madrid started game in 4-3-3 which quickly turned into a 4-5-1 with both Asensio and Bale dropping on the wing sides of the midfield. This move helped Real Madrid be more congested through vertical and horizontal compactness. Real Sociedad had trouble breaking through the line because of Real Madrid’s short distance in relation to each other.

Real Madrid allowed Sociedad’s center back to have the ball in order to stay compact. Sociedad could have control the tempo of the game a lot better if Sociedad’s manager had instructed Illaremendi to control the game from the anchor position.

Halftime formation Change


Zidane changed formation at halftime knowing Real Sociedad will try to press in the second half. He dropped Casemiro closer to the Varane and Ramos. Throughout the second half, he was no more than 5-7 yards away from them. This was a brilliant move from Zidane. Both teams tried to control the game centrally which led to many turnovers between the two due to their vertical and horizontal compactness; especially from Real Madrid. With Casemiro alone between the two banks of four, he was able to do what he does best. He retrieved every loose balls and killed any counter attacking opportunities presented. This is perhaps the reason why Zidane value him so much!

Since the middle of the pitch is congested with Real Madrid players, Real Sociedad tried to attack through the wing sides! The work rate of Bale and Asensio/Lucas Vasquez(even when Marcelo was suspect in defense) and defensive solidarity of Casemiro was enough to kill any move from Real Sociedad.


Zidane used all his allotted substitutions. Asensio was replaced by Lucas Vasquez, Kroos by Isco and James came on for Morata around the 75th minutes. James was never great as a central midfielder whenever he plays because of his attacking mentality. Bale took the lead in attack and James played slightly behind.

The formation switched to 4-4-1-1 in the dying embers of the game. Since Real Sociedad tired themselves out pressing, Madrid finished them out with a goal from Bale assisted by James. With little time James had on the pitch, he was able to create numerous chances and assisted one goal.

Final Thoughts

Zidane have been superb so far with his tactics against many opponents. He was able to utilized Morata as the guidance for Real Madrid’s attack. A task he had passed with flying colors. Casemiro keeps making name for himself with performance like he had today.

If James is going to stay, he will need more playing time. He was able to showcase what he is capable of with 15 minutes of playing time. Today win is a moral booster for Real Madrid for their next game against Celta Vigo.