To be honest, I was one of those people who believed it is almost impossible to change long-term habits in football. Drastic changes could only come at the early stages, you cannot expect a 35-year-old player to change his mentality at the blink of an eye. However, later I figured out that there was a missing premise in my argument, which is this only applies for mediocre players and coaches. What made me think like this was the astonishing change of Thierry Henry at Barcelona. Henry, who played as the main striker at Arsenal and was spoiled a lot, suddenly transformed into a humble wing player at Barcelona. Of course, players can adapt to new positions, but in Henry's case, it meant throwing away his comfort zone for a new and more promising experience. Then, I understood that these little details create differences between mediocre sportsmen and legends.The man, whom I used to dislike, but now proving that he is able to adapt himself to the new variations of football is Carlo Ancelotti. Despite his success at Milan, Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain, I was not quite impressed by the way that he managed his teams, they looked to me ultra-defensive and definitely not entertaining for an observer. Nevertheless, give the devil his due, it is impossible to stay at the highest level of football for such a long time without being able to adapt. "Don" Ancelotti may one of the shrewdest and astute members of the European football community, but you can feel this guy's energy and childish eagerness to manage a team, and that deserves appreciation.
On the other hand, this ability to adapt must not be confused with bringing old traditional ways to a new habitat. Ottmar Hitzfeld, who managed Bayern Munich several times, perfectly fits the traditional coach definition. Whenever Munich got into a problem, he was always standing there like a statue with a sign saying "break the glass in case of emergency." What he simply did was bring the old methods back to save Munich. Given the age range of the Bayern Munich administration, it was not a surprise of course. However, today despite the same elderly team administrators at Munich, Hitzfeld stopped hanging around the city of Munich a long time ago. No one calls him to save Munich anymore, he is expired, but Ancelotti is still standing tall in one of the greatest football cities around the globe.
In his latest performance against Atletico Madrid, Ancelotti gave no chance to Diego Simeone. Atletico could barely get out of their own half to organize quick counter attacks and were forced to play a kick-and-rush strategy based around Mario Mandzukic. On the other hand, Real were mostly in the control and shaped the game for its strategy. But how come one of the most traditionally oriented organizations in the world has changed its game plan? It goes like this:
1-) Unlike Jose Mourinho, Ancelotti does not rush while building a play. Defenders do not directly give the ball to Ronaldo and stay away from the offensive action. All the players are actively involved in the game, no matter defensive or offensive.2-) Given the patience of the organization, Real dominated their rivals much more easily than normal. The opponent, as in Atletico's case, has to stay deep in its half. Thus, this not only takes the ball further from Real's goal but also allows the ball to circulate around the opponent's goal.
However, what is still problematic is the final stage of the strategy. Ancelotti starts to play his own way but he chooses to finish it Mourinho's way. Well, it is hard to stay away from fast and deadly counter attacks when you have Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. Nevertheless, mostly of these players' old habits and the impact of their existence on Ancelotti's strategy mostly distort Real's plans. It may work against mediocre Spanish clubs, but against tougher opponents Real has to be patient at the final stage too. I think that is the next challenge for Ancelotti, but he has shown us it is never too late to learn. So why not?
No offence to one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history, Iker Casillas, but sending Diego Lopez to Milan was, I think, Ancelotti's greatest mistake. It is obvious that Casillas has special importance in Madrid and has a deep emotional relationship with the fans, but Lopez was just better than him. Mourinho was brave enough to put Lopez into the lineup despite the critics. Seeing as Casillas is definitely out of form, I can say Carlo made a huge mistake.