Leicester vs Madrid, the new counter-attacking order

ARDA ALAN IŞIK
ISTANBUL
Published 05.04.2016 00:22

There were two crucial games this weekend, one of them made Leicester City's championship chances more concrete than ever, and the other revived Real Madrid championship chances. What was really interesting in both of those games was that the dominant and offensive sides (Southampton and Barcelona), were defeated because of momentary glimpses of counter-attacks. Of course, as Leicester's confident run shows, they have a much-improved version of the classic counter attack, which Madrid still uses. Thus, the new way of confronting the Barcelona revolution is being shown by Claudio Ranieri, not by Zinedine Zidane.

First of all, what differentiates Ranieri's game from Zidane's is actually one simple principle, his game is as organized as Barcelona, but he just chooses to play defensively. Zidane, on the other hand, seems to have no intention to minimize his players' infinite autonomy and implement a pre-planned strategy. To be honest, the strategy Madrid implemented against Barcelona was putting at least six men in front of their penalty box, and leaving no space for Barcelona attacks. The offensive side of the game was completely up to individual talent, and magically 10 minutes of basic counter attacking was enough to finish off Barcelona.

However, there are many problematic aspects in this ancient Jose Mourinho way of counter attacking. Firstly, Barcelona could have taken a three or four goal lead before Madrid found their golden 10 minutes given there was constant pressure on the Madrid defense. Secondly, since everything was produced in chaos, there is no guarantee that Zidane's team can repeat this strategy and win the remaining seven games to clinch the championship. Thirdly, Madrid's real problem that put them seven points behind Barcelona is that they might no know what to do if their opponents do not leave any space in their half, unlike Barcelona, and choose to play defensively. If Zidane's players are finding a way to implement counter attacking, where they are supposed to dominate?

These rebuttals and questions are all arose from the fact that Real Madrid's tactics have no rational ground, which means Zinedine Zidane has not created a set of tactics to implement consistently.

Nonetheless, Claudio Ranieri, operating with the same kind of priorities as Zinedine Zidane, knows how to formulate a modern way of counter attacking in an organized way. His style is more focused on shock presses and interrupting the opponent's game before it starts, unlike Madrid's flat defensive intensity. Although Leicester City also have a strict defense, they start defending from the point of attack and they behave in a compact and holistic manner when they defend. Thus, it leaves much less space for the opponent, compared to classic counter attacking.

Added to that, even though it can be polished and interpreted in a different way, Leicester's offense is organized too. While Madrid tries to create chaos with its all power, Ranieri's team tries to get the ball to Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez with sufficient time and space left ahead them. Ranieri knows his athletic and talented players can only perform well when they have enough space and time, thus the strategy is based on a compact way of counter-pressing for catching the opponent's defense when they are not ready. I do not believe it is sufficient to compete with neo-total football yet, but there is no doubt that Ranieri and his players have reached the heights of counter attacking.

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