Real Madrid: How playing LM in a 4-4-2 would impact Vinicius Jr.

Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr.(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr.(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid fans are already wondering how the lineup could look like for the 2022/23 season when Kylian Mbappe joins an attack that already includes Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr.

Mbappe’s best position is as a left winger in a 4-3-3 where he can cut inside, just like his footballing idol Cristiano Ronaldo. His second best position is as a striker, and he’s been fantastic through the middle on an otherwise mediocre PSG team this season. Mbappe can play in pretty much any system, though, and we all saw him win a World Cup as a star player on the right side of a three-pronged French attack.

But Real probably cannot play him on the right side. Not only would that be a waste of his talents as a scorer coming onto his favored foot, but he also seems to have no interest in playing this position as the centerpiece player in a sporting project.

The latest idea is that Real Madrid will transition to a 4-4-2 with Mbappe and Benzema as the strikers. But where does that leave 2021/22 breakout superstar Vinicius Jr.? Apparently, he would play as a left midfielder in a 4-4-2.

Vinicius Jr. could be a better LM than RW

As weird as it would seem to move Vinicius to a position that isn’t in the front line, especially after he did so well to upgrade his goal-scoring and finishing this season, he might be a better left midfielder than a right winger. Remember, Vini never lost the left wing job to Rodrygo Goes before 2021/22, partially because he is seen as being too uncomfortable on the right. Meanwhile, Rodrygo is passable on that side.

Vinicius is at his best when cutting inside as a winger, but he might actually be even better at carrying the ball than cutting inside. Before his uptick in scoring this season and improved finishing, it would not have been outrageous to suggest Vini play as a left midfielder in a 4-4-2.

So Vinicius would still be great as a left midfielder in a 4-4-2. He is a willing and able defender, an elite ball-carrier, and a talented primary creator. But the real dilemma is, how can Real Madrid still cultivate and take advantage of Vini’s talents as a disruptor in and around the penalty box and as an improved goal-scorer and assist-provider in a position that is further away from goal?

The best bet would be to play a fluid attack and to use Benzema as one of the two strikers who drops more deep, which is a more natural playing style for him anyway. That can allow Vinicius to occupy spaces further up the pitch and closer to goal. Having a better left back who can overlap and occupy the flank for him while providing a crossing and attacking threat would also help. Ferland Mendy is a smart enough passer and fast enough physically to be passable in this role, but Miguel Gutierrez could make a huge difference in the freedom Vinicius has to roam inside as a left midfielder in a 4-4-2.

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Vinicius Jr. can still be an elite player in this position. In some ways, he could be even better, even if the statistics aren’t splashy. An unselfish player with undying passion for the team, Vini would do everything to support his teammates in this role. And with some creative coaching, Real Madrid can still get 10 goals and 10 assists out of this version of Vini, too.