Zidane sets trends

Zinedine Zidane

With a Champions League, a UEFA Super Cup, and an impressive unbeaten run to his name, it still took a statement win in the Madrid derby for Zinedine Zidane to finally prove himself as an elite coach.

Like his fashion sense, his managerial style is understated. Everything fits together but he lets the pieces do the talking. His approach and persona may seem cool at times, perhaps distant, but it is far more confident and put together than people give him credit for.

Even with just one defeat in 32 LaLiga matches, the accepted opinion is that his Real Madrid side are, as a team at least, playing below their capabilities, stringing together results while waiting for a collective improvement in play to arrive.

And here lies the biggest difference between Zidane and his contemporaries.

For Zidane, the easiest way to improve a team is to bring out the best in his players, not create an intricate tactical system that'll look to dominate an encounter. This is rooted in a central truth that Zidane has internalised since his days as a galactico: in the history of football, the team with the most talented players often wins. It is about the individual.

Meanwhile, the Pep Guardiola revolution has supporters talking formations, repeated patterns of play, group pressing, or novel ways of playing out from the back. But in his early career as coach thus far, the man who has most influenced Zinedine Zidane is Guardiola's opposite, Carlo Ancelotti.

It is not only that the two shared a touchline, but more importantly when they did, since it came right when Zidane was just starting out. When making the transition from superstar player to coach, the first thing Zizou picked up on was the Italian's man management, his greatest skill.

So in this sense, the French boss is not following the dominant trend in modern coaching, and frustrating many who expect a symphony not a collection of solos.

This, of course, is not to say that the Frenchman's tactical knowledge isn't well developed, which it most certainly is, but rather that it isn't a central part of his strategy or philosophy. Advantages are developed elsewhere. His systems are simple so that his players have the freedom needed to prove their superiority.

For instance, at the start of the 2016/17 season, Zidane has sometimes employed a 4-2-3-1 formation (derby included), a decision that was made to get the best out of Isco or James Rodriguez, not with another, more collective intent in mind. By improving the individual only then do you improve the team.

This is Zidane's secret. Even with minimal playing time, and with both players almost leaving the squad in the summer, each felt important. The coach changed the system for players that aren't even usual starters! They still have a role to play, and the change in formation made their contribution feel even more significant.

Zidane isn't aloof, but rather very personal. His one on one coaching is some of the best in the game, precisely because he can draw on his past as a player, and what he's learned from Ancelotti.

The Champions League was won because Real Madrid outlasted their opponents. The sense of history, and inevitability was palpable, which Zidane was able to channel astutely. Some detractors absurdly credited the trophy down to luck (as if that were why a team who has won the competition ten times did so again), whereas Zidane pointed to the badge. To Real, the Champions League feels like a divine right, not something earned through hard work or tactical innovation.

So, the inevitable comparisons with Pep Guardiola, so fervently pushed in the Spanish capital and so despised in Barcelona, are quite difficult to interpret either way. Zidane is not only at another stage of his coaching career, but both approach the game very differently.

Isco roaming freely against the once elite defensive system of Atleti, Cristiano Ronaldo hat-tricks (vs. Wolfsburg and his most recent over the weekend), or Lucas Vazquez nonchalantly spinning the ball on his finger before the Champions League final penalty shoot out... these are all instances of individual brilliance that serve as testaments to Zidane's success as coach.

Vazquez especially comes to mind, as he has taken his coach's trust to become a more established squad player than perhaps his ability alone would have allowed him.

The derby was likely the first overwhelming tactical masterclass, but the real work was forged starting in January.

Zidane's style is classic. It is under-emphasised. What he has set out to do isn't a new phenomenon, but it is different from the norm right now, which has meant that he has been criticised for things he hasn't really focused on.

His Real Madrid have seen a re-Galacticoization, where the talent precedes the system. With charm and wit, this process is one of seduction and it is being led by the greatest Galactico of them all.

It is time we credit the individual.

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια

Από το Blogger.