The night of the hard defeat of the classic in Arabia, Carlo Ancelotti appeared with a particularly low tone. “It has been a bad game in everything.” He had been warning in public for days and privately influencing the problems they were dragging, but they had crashed anyway. And with some noise. The Madrid coach seemed dejected. However, just before leaving the room, he left a flash of rebellion: “I have no doubt: Madrid is back. About this, I have no doubt.” A week later, in San Mamés, the change of course seemed consistent. Cornered, but not surrendered, the Italian reached him through a different route from his classic formula.
Last season, precisely in a game against Athletic, he coined his course formula: 60 minutes of quality and 30 of energy. He was referring to the fact that it worked for him to start the games with Casemiro, Kroos and Modric, so that after an hour the fresh legs of Rodrygo, Camavinga and Valverde would come in to support the effort. That December 2021 match at the Bernabéu had a harrowing end (1-0): “Suffering can win the same thing,” Ancelotti summed up.
On Sunday, the Italian, who saw his warnings about commitment and defensive application evaporate, left Modric and Kroos on the bench, and introduced them towards the end of the match to try to preserve the small advantage they had achieved. In the center of the field. Valverde and Ceballos accompanied Camavinga in his second complete game in a row as a pivot.
The Frenchman symbolizes Ancelotti’s leap of faith in the face of the urgency to find ways out of the quagmire in which his team was stuck. When he has not been able to count on Aurélien Tchouameni, he had almost always preferred to put Kroos in that position, despite the fact that the German does not like to play there. But that was where the technician thought he needed it.
During Camavinga’s first year at Madrid, Ancelotti often explained that he still lacked the tactical wisdom to master the defensive midfielder position. He saw him as an extraordinary agitator in the final stages of collective madness, but he doubted his ability to control his impulsiveness. It has been common to see how he removed it from the field at halftime after seeing a yellow card in the first half. The last time, in the semifinal of the Super Cup against Valencia.
Until last Thursday, in the round of 16 of the Cup against Villarreal, Camavinga saw a yellow card in minute 36 and Ancelotti kept it (2-3). The Frenchman ended up dispatching a very good game on a night that was the turning point for Madrid. The change of pace was consolidated on Sunday against Athletic (0-2), on a night in which Camavinga, even better than in Vila-real, added nine recoveries, his second best league game according to Opta. “The team has had a collective commitment that it has never had in recent games,” Ancelotti summed up.
He had been brooding over this discontent for some time, which he especially disliked in the game against Rayo in Vallecas, the penultimate game before the World Cup. He detected that day an alarming voltage drop in a squad that seemed to be looking only at Qatar. Upon returning from the World Cup, the Italian did not see any improvement, and has repeatedly demanded a change from his players quite firmly, according to a source with access to the dressing room. The last, at halftime in the Cup match against Villarreal, where he began the turn. There, Ceballos, Asensio and Camavinga stood out, who appeared in San Mamés in the starting eleven.
With Modric very squeezed after the World Cup and Kroos misplaced as a pivot, Ancelotti has found a new way to revitalize the group that does not start, as usual, with the hierarchy. He now has the management of the veterans against the mighty youngsters, after it worked the other way around last year: introducing the youngsters to complement the veterans, 60 minutes of quality and 30 of energy, that successful formula.
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