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La Liga Review: Zinedine Zidane Tactics Questionable

This week's La Liga Review reflects on Zinedine Zidane in a tough weekend for him and Real Madrid while Barcelona played a 16 year-old.
Zinedine Zidane

Even without a marquee matchup this weekend, there are still plenty of La Liga talking points. The defending champions Barcelona faced Real Betis, the last team to win at the Camp Nou while Atletico Madrid faced a local derby against Leganes. But the big headlines will come from the Bernabeu where Real Madrid coughed up three points in a very concerning fashion. How will Zinedine Zidane respond, if at all, to change his club’s hopes around?

La Liga Review: Zinedine Zidane Tactics are Sketchy

Real Madrid 1-1 Real Valladolid

It was supposed to be a new-look Real Madrid to start the season. They made six, high profile new signings to strengthen the squad. However on Saturday only one of those signings, Luka Jovic, saw the field in their 1-1 draw with Real Valladolid. Instead, Zinedine Zidane fielded former cast-offs Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, and Isco.

With Luka Modric suspended and Eden Hazard out injured, maybe none of this matters. Maybe Zidane’s tactical plan will look smooth and coherent with those two world-class players in the lineup. However, that cannot change the issues that arose from Saturday’s performance.

This is because the issues from Saturday’s performance are exactly the ones that Madridistas left last season fearing. After Zidane took over for his second stint, their biggest issue was playing with a coherent set of ideas. They could create, there is so much individual talent on the roster that they will always be able to create glorious goals or moments.

But under Zinedine Zidane, the team has failed to display any coherent plan; even while they were winning Champions League titles. They were at their best against Valladolid late in the second half, after Luka Jovic and Vinicius had come on. It seems crazy to think that Zidane’s grand plan to beat Valladolid came down to getting crosses into the box for their big centre forwards.

To say it worked might be a stretch, but he finally got a go-ahead goal thanks to Karim Benzema. Their failure to see the game out probably works better for them in the long run. This is a project that is going to take some time as if there is every time at Real Madrid.

Barcelona 5-2 Real Betis

Speaking of time, what a difference a week makes for everyone involved with FC Barcelona. After their devastating loss in the opener, they brought the hammer down on Real Betis at home. There are plenty of places to start here, from Antoine Griezmann, Sergio Busquets, or Matteo Messi’s hilarious celebration.

The obvious place is Griezmann. The French World Cup winner showed up big-time in his Barcelona home debut. He did such a good job of linking with his teammates, it was like he had been playing with Barcelona for years. He had backheels, cross-field passes, and lovely curled goals, while also ‘LeBron’ing’ some Blaugrana confetti to celebrate.

A game like this is exactly the reason why Barcelona bought Griezmann. When Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Ousmane Dembele are all out they can turn to Griezmann and say, “Right son, it’s your night tonight.” And Griezmann has so much quality he can deliver on any night.

He does so many little things on the field, beyond the quality in creativity, that makes him an excellent player. Last night he was tracking back to win the ball, and pressing with conviction. He would drop into midfield and linkup, and combine with the overlapping full-backs on the wing. Exactly what any Barcelona fan would want to see.

Ansu Fati in La Liga

Those same Barcelona fans got to see something even better on Sunday, the future. In the second-half 16-year-old, Ansu Fati came on for his Barcelona debut. The Guinea-Bissau born, La Masia built youngster has become the hottest prospect at the famed academy. He so highly regarded that he jumped up from the Juvenil A side to play this game, skipping the B-team entirely.

Obviously, this would not have happened without all the injuries Barcelona have in attack. However this kid is special, he did not look out of place at all and even got a couple of chances to score for the senior side. After a performance like that the hype train is about to spin sickeningly out of control.

Valencia’s La Liga Struggle

There are going to be real problems in Valencia if things don’t turn around quickly. They looked devoid of invention as they lost haplessly on the road to Celta Vigo on Saturday. The concerning part about is with things so unstable at Valencia, any one result could be the end for the coach Marcelino or the Director Mateu Alemany.

Alemany has been the biggest reason why Valencia has bounced back so well these last two seasons. But issues with him and owner Peter Lim began to pop up over the summer. Twice Alemany called press conferences this summer where he said he was staying, for the moment.

Press conferences to announce that a director is staying is never a good sign for what is going on behind the scenes. Neither is a one-point-from-six start to the season. Especially when the team fails to break down the 17th place side in La Liga last season. Marcelino is going to need better to keep his job. The way things go at Valencia, another loss and he could be gone before the first international break is over.

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