Real Madrid: Ups, Downs And Observations From The Draw Against Villarreal

Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

The Downs

The team dismantled in the second half

This was a tough half to watch if you’re a Real Madrid fan. Villarreal dialled up their press significantly which caused Real Madrid a lot of trouble. On top of that, the influence of players like Toni Kroos, Martin Odegaard and many others just waned because of fatigue, which caused Villarreal to win a lot of duels, dominate possession and have more clear-cut chances in the second half.

Don’t get me wrong; Villarreal were excellent in the second half, and Unai Emery’s substitutions were game-changing (Pervis Estupinian and Samuel Chuckwueze shifted the whole shape of the team and helped them massively) and forced Real to be on the back foot and defend from deep. Villarreal started attacking the space behind the midfield and started noticing the holes in the defensive line that were present in the first half, but due to the lack of bite in Villarreal’s attack, weren’t noticed that much.

On the 88th minute, Real Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo even had a chance to win Villarreal the game but Nacho came up clutch with a last-ditch interception and stopped the sequence.

If you look at the second half alone, you could make an argument that Real Madrid were ‘lucky’ to escape with a draw. It certainly was a tale of two very contrasting halves, with Real performing way better in the first than in the second. We also have to keep in mind that, Real Madrid — no matter how much intensity or focus they had at the start — still had a very much depleted squad and Villarreal had their whole squad available.

Again, this is not an excuse for a draw, it’s just a fact. Fitness levels and injuries matter a lot in this game and even more so with the situation we have at hand this year. Villarreal were the far superior side in the second half, though, no two ways about it.

The pressing could’ve been A LOT better

It was a weird game in this regard. Real Madrid’s press and defensive shape in both halves was really surprising to me. Villarreal could’ve taken advantage of that in the first half, and they certainly did in the second. Real Madrid defended and pressed with a 4-2-3-1 at many points during the game.

It was weird because usually, teams prefer a more flat defensive shape to press the other team more efficiently. Instead, we saw Martin Odegaard being positioned behind Mariano Diaz, which raised a few eyebrows (or, well, at least my eyebrows). I’ve seen teams press like that before but I felt like this defensive shape, which, by the way, was not prevalent at all times, often sacrificed Odegaard’s pressing ability, which is elite. He only had seven presses all game.

Other than that, the press was loose and too flexible at many points. Firstly, one or two of the midfielders went forward to press Villarreal. At many points, it lacked intensity and fiddled with the team’s defensive shape. There was no high press, it was just bland, occasional pressing that, again, was largely inefficient. Sometimes it was Mariano and Vazquez who pressed Villarreal’s backline, sometimes it was Kroos and Modric, and all this without proper coverage from other players in the team led to visible spaces left behind, which were capitalized on in the second half. Even that died down to an extent because of fatigue in the second half.