Its official, Gareth Bale is Real Madrid’s new "no ll" a lot about this move was mostly mental (the need to sign a big player to continue Perez's Galactico era or spend ridiculous amounts to keep Madrid's ego high or maybe as a rebuttal to Barca signing Neymar), because technically speaking, there were other areas in the team that probably needed reinforcement more than the left wing where Bale has made his name, especially when you consider the fact that Real already have in their ranks the best left sided player of his generation. I am not here to criticize Real for this signing, even though I have to state my opinion that the sale of Ozil makes it more ridiculous. I want to state the obvious in saying that now that Bale is bought, he will need to be inducted into a team that already has a similar but better player than him. One thing that makes it more exciting is the fact that both Bale and Ronaldo are versatile players and they have a manager that is more than up to the task of fitting in big players that have been shoved down his throat by owners into a system (afterall the man kinda pioneered the tree formation when Berlosconi went shopping while he was at Milan). I am doing this under the assumption that Real-Madrid did not sign Bale for a record amount of money to keep him on the bench, and while playing, Bale must not hinder Ronaldo's existence, I am looking to explain all the wonderful opinions Carlo Ancelotti has in solving the latest challenge handed to him by his latest (and probably craziest) rich owner/president.
Before we jump into wonderland, there are some safety hints. In each system I have put out, I put a starting XI that I feel suits the team. My player selections are purely based on who I believe can play a certain position best. For example: if I have to choose between Isco and Di-Maria on the right. It could be Di-Maria, because I may feel he’s better there. But my mind may change if its on the other flank or in another system.
Since the article is based on fitting Bale and Ronaldo in the same XI, we will be looking at how the team will look with each player playing different positions.
BOTH UP FRONT
Ancelotti so far seems to favour a 4-4-2 formation with Ronaldo and Benzema upfront, so its not impossible that Bale would be seemlesly fit into the system by disloging Benzema. Both Ronaldo and Bale have had a decent amount of experience playing at centre forward, so its not totally new to them. The four in midfield could be flat (Isco and Di Maria flanking Modric and Khedira/Illarramendi), or could form a diamond/4312 (Khedira/llaramendi deep, Modric and Di Maria/Khedira as shuttlers and Isco in the hole).
With Ronaldo and Bale upfront it means Real can have a defensively balanced side with players that won’t feel too shackled by defensive duties in the midfield band. Players like Isco, Dimaria and Modric do not shy away from defensive duties, and such duties don’t affect their influence as much as it would to Bale or Ronaldo. It allows Ancelotti to comfortably defend with 2 banks of four, something he seems to favour judging by the matches so far.
By extension, Bale and Ronaldo won’t have huge defensively duties that could limit their offensive effectiveness and this even allows them to take up good positions on the counter when Real don’t have the ball. Trust me, Bale and Ronaldo on the counter is a nightmare.
Another perk to this system is that it allows fluidity. I don’t really expect Bale amd Ronaldo to be stagnant up front, there will be a lot of drifting wide and dropping deep to combine withing the midfielders and cause overloads where its needed.
As an attacking unit, I have my reservations that playing Ronaldo and Bale upfront would mean a good combination for Real. It’s a common saying but they could be “too like to play together” one of them may have to play a supporting roles which none of them can play at their best. I just don’t think this system would bring out the best of these two players.
HOW MUCH SENSE DOES IT MAKE?
I can say that the system makes a good deal of sense. The flaws in it can be proved out in training and who knows? Both Bale and Cristiano can form a good partnership. Ancelotti is already using this system so its not hard to imagine him just putting in Bale for for Benzema instead of changing his system.
BOTH ON THE WINGS
Its entirely possible that we could see Bale and Cristiano bombing down Madrid’s right and left wings respectively both are very dangerous as inverted wingers. This could happen in a 4-2-3-1 with Isco in the hole and Benzema up front which leaves Di Maria out.
Having both players on opposing wings could be a nightmare to defend agaist, both players run like trains and are perfectly capable of cutting into preffered feet and blowing the roof off the keeper's net with piledrivers. Another perk is that it will also enable Isco to play in the position where he will be able to influence the play more.
Having 2 players like Bale and Ronaldo on the wigns could leave the full backs massively exposed. Real already had a problem with Ronaldo on the left exposing Marcelo a lot last season, most notably against BVB where Blaszczylosky and Piszczek destroyed Marcelo, having Di Maria on the other wings helps counter balance this problem as the Argentine works very hard.
Its not hard to imagine Bale doing the same, but its gonna be very hard for him to prove his worth while being shackled by defensive duties. And it kind of makes the essence of the whole more stupid.
HOW MUCH SENSE DOES IT MAKE?
I think this is a move that has more cons that pros, while it could be nice to see Bale and Ronaldo on the wings doing that could see Real massively exposing at the back.
I see this as something Ancelotti could experiment with and then later decide that it isn’t the best going forward. But there also a high chance that it could be use it when Real are chasing a game.
RONALDO UPFRONT AND BALE ON THE WINGS
Cristiano Ronaldo is a player that has a good amount of experience, playing up front and he is good at it, Bale has played his best football so far on the wing.
This combination can happen in a few ways, it could be a 4-2-3-1 with Isco starting in the centre and Di Maria on the right wing (with the propensity to change wings with Bale). Or could be 4-4-2 with Cristiano and Benzema upfront, and Bale and Di Maria/Isco flanking them, or lastly, a 4-3-3 with Isco joining the Midfield and Di Maria and Bale flanking Ronaldo.
It allows for better defensive solidity especially in the 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 variations of this format with Di Maria and Bale on the wings, one of the flanks will be covered. Another thing is that it would allow Bale and Ronaldo to focus on attacking and little regards for the defence without having the team exposed.
If Ancelotti uses this format with a 4-4-2 he would have to choose either drop Isco or either play him on the other flank to Bale, or in the centre of midfield, both of which would make Real a tad weaker defensively.
The biggest flaw to me through is Ronaldo upfront, one of Ronaldo’s biggest weapons is his ability to make a runs that wonderfully exploit the channels from deep, playing from the left allows him to do this, another issue is that playing up front makes him a tad easier to mark, because from the left he gives a team a big problem. Who will mark him? He is lining up against the fullback but is also attacking the centre backs. Ronaldo wreaks ten times more havoc on the left that up front. Playing at CF could see Ronaldo gain less touches and as such his influence is reduced, he will also get little chances to run at players with the ball at speed (except on the counter). I also dont think Ronaldo is very adept at making runs off the last defender, his runs from deep are far more dangerous.
There is also a psychological issue, how would Ronaldo feel about being made to evacuate his position for a new player.
HOW MUCH SENSE DOES IT MAKE?
I’d say it makes a decent amount of sense but it doesn’t play to the strength of teams best player. Any stratergy that doesn’t do that needs to be reviewed.
BALE UPFRONT AND RONALDO ON THE LEFT
Gareth Bale has not played up front a lot of times. The most notable of such an occurrence was at White Hart Lane against Arsenal where the welshman played up front and made a brilliant run off the last defender to score the first goal of the game. And as we all know Cristiano Ronaldo is the best left sided player on the planet and this allows him to keep playing there.
This format is the almost the same as the last one, only the positions of Bale and Ronaldo were changed, the rest is pretty much the same.
Obviously it allows Cristiano Ronaldo to play where Cristiano Ronaldo plays best and is more comfortable.
Secondly Bale has shown brilliant adaptability making the transition from a left back to a 26-gola a second winger is no mean feat, making the final transition to a CF is something that cannot be ruled out. I think he can do it. Last season he showed that playing up front does not reduce his potency and he could always drift wide and drop deep to create space for Ronaldo to exploit from the left. Another thing is, I noticed Bale at CF last season making the kind of runs and keeping the kind of positions that a CF would. He has age on his side and has the potential to be a world class striker there is also decent defensive solidity and freedom for Bale and Ronaldo from the last format, nothing changes there.
One thing I noticed last season about Bale as a striker is that, while he didn’t stop scoring, his overall influence of games somewhat reduced and he tends to struggle a bit in the centre in tight spaces and doesn’t get as many toucheson the ball as he would want. This happened against Man City, the moment AVB moved him to the right and he scored.
And also the disadvantage from the last format about a possible reduction in defemsive solidity if Ancelotti uses a 4-4-2 also applies here.
HOW MUCH SENSE DOES IT MAKE?
Any tactic that has Ronaldo on the left wing makes sense to me because having your best player in his best position is a plus for any team.
At the end of the day, I see the manager settling for a 4231 with Ronaldo on the left, Isco in the hole, Di Maria on the right, and Bale up front. That to me is the best way for Ancelotti to get the best out of his new galaxy of stars that he has been asked to squeeze into a team.
While Bale playing up front has its flaws, I dont see it as a big issue that he may not influence games much as he may not need to, there are other players in the team that are perfectly capable. And if at the end of the day, he scores goals, his effect will be felt even if its not spread out over thhe duration of the game.
While I don't see it as a big issue though, I have to point out that Bale is a young man and is still developing, there is a high chance that he will improve on his deficiencies at CF and make a good career there.
Integrating new players in a squad is always tricky especially when they are worth ridiculous amounts of money and you already have decent talent, and one has to assume that Bale must be in the starting XI immediately. So all eyes are on Carlo Ancelotti to see what he can make of this new and exciting Real-Madrid team.
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