3 lineups for Real Madrid to make Toni Kroos the No. 6

Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Real Madrid (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images) /

3. 4-4-2 diamond, with Hazard as the No. 10

4-4-2 diamond isn’t any new formation for Real Madrid fans. Zinedine Zidane won two UEFA Champions League titles by relying on this formation, which involved the legendary KCM trio of Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Luka Modric, with Isco at the top of the diamond. Each of those players played at a different level those days, and we got to witness the best of Isco in that setup.

Isco has declined a lot in these four years, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t use this system. We can still use this system by using another No.10 like Eden Hazard. Hazard might not be a great presser like Isco was, but he can still bring a lot to the team with his positioning, link-up play, tricks and flicks. He isn’t really a player who focuses on scoring a lot of goals, but he does have an eye for the goal. Ancelotti seems to trust Isco more than Hazard in situations like these, but for the big games, the Belgian has to be the first-choice and he still has the quality to perform.

On paper, we haven’t used this formation yet, but on the field, this system was used a handful of times. Hazard formed a trio alongside Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr for some games, where people expected him to be a right-winger. But in reality, he was more of an attacker who played in the spaces occupied by a No. 10, acting as the bridge between the midfield and attack.

Ball progression would never be a problem in this system, and our performance in the final third will depend on Hazard’s activity. If used to perfection, we can expect free-flowing attacking football from the team. But this system has its own weaknesses, and the main weakness is the defence.

During 2016/17 and 2017/18, the midfield would often become narrow, allowing the full-backs to have acres of space in attack. They would also have the support from the free-roaming Isco, and the two strikers in the box. In defence, the team was exposed to counter-attacks, due to the overcommitment of the full-backs in the attack. But Casemiro would move towards the flank which is being attacked by the opponents, also forming an occasional back three with the centre-backs and helping the team in defence.

The main problem is that in this system, there is no Casemiro to cover for the full-backs. Kroos isn’t very good defensively, and even our full-backs are neither in great shape nor great form to do justice to this system. Valverde might help the right-flank, but he can’t do everything.

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So, I don’t see this formation being a practical option at the moment, though it proved to be successful in the past. Another variation of this system would be to have Luka Modric at the tip of the diamond, and he does have the experience of doing so, having played as an attacking midfielder in a 3-0 win against Valencia in June 2020. But I don’t think that Ancelotti might at least consider this option.