Santiago Solari has got a dream debut run so far, immediately after the struggling period of Julen Lopetegui. What has changed to turn the draws and losses into wins?
Published By: Dalipinder Singh Sandhu (Bliss)
The new coach of Real Madrid bought in for interim relief, Santiago Solari has won 3 games with 12 goals scored and 0 goals conceded. His appointment came after sacking of Julen Lopetegui who had the backing of the dressing room but the team was struggling to win games. Solari prior to the new responsibility was managing the youth side of the club, Castilla. However, his record with Castilla was in contrast to that of the first team where he has 100% winning percentage. With Castilla, Solari had a winning percentage of only 38%.
Even Zinedine Zidane had a similar record with Castilla. Though the Frenchman managed to win the club 3 consecutive Champions League titles. Nonetheless, Zidane’s last season in LaLiga was an alarming sight of the foreseeable troubles for the club. This was overshadowed due to the success in Kiev but the issues came back to light when both Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid. The club then signed Julen Lopegetui who kept on showing signs of promise and impressed everyone in the initial games but later ran out of luck to win the games. So what exactly is the new man in charge of Real Madrid doing things differently to get the desired results?
Here are a couple of points why Solari hasn’t suffered a similar fate to that of Lopetegui yet:
- Personality and deja vu
Much like Zidane, Solari was a recent player in Real Madrid who took up the job of coaching in Castilla and was later promoted to take charge of the first team on interim-relief basis initially. Both the coaches share similar personality traits of calmness, professionalism, and extreme positivity while smiling all the time. Even their statements to the media follow a similar pattern of calmness and confidence.
It is also to be noted that Solari is used to being around big players and egos. He shared the dressing room with galacticos such as Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo Nazario, Zinedine Zidane, Raul, Guti, Luis Figo, and others. Hence, he can handle the current dressing room well enough. Thus, he checks the first requirement of the current club captain Sergio Ramos, who wanted to have a low profile manager to avoid the clash of egos. Nevertheless, even Julen Lopetegui had the backing of the dressing room.
- Trusting the bench
Though Julen Lopetegui is ridiculed for favoring Spanish players ahead of everyone else. There were some players he didn’t trust enough. Names like Odriozola, Reguilon, and Vinicius Jr didn’t feature much under the management of the former Spanish NT coach. He rather played Nacho as a full-back when Carvajal and Marcelo were injured while preferring Benzema, Asesnio, and Bale over Mariano, Vazquez, and Vinicius.
This is not the case with Solari who did not hesitate to trust the youngsters. Like Lopetegui he does play Ceballos a fair bit but he has also trusted the new faces like Vinicius Jr, Odriozola, Reguilon, etc. This also bought along the luck and hunger to win the game and perform. Hence, Real Madrid started winning games yet again.
The substitutions of Lopetegui were a bit confusing sometimes. It was not necessarily a relief to see who’s coming on the pitch for whom, barring a few instances. With Solari however, he’s been bold to bring in players he wants. The recent example could be seen against Real Valladolid where the Argentine subbed in Isco for Casemiro. A clear transition from defense to attack; a gamble that paid off eventually.
- Defensive tactics
Even if Solari has been struggling to register wins with Castilla. His side was reputed for a strong defensive system led by ‘The next Sergio Ramos’: Javi Sanchez. With 85 games on the sample size to study, Solari only lost 28% of the games. It can be said that a similar transition of a system can be seen in the first team as well. Though as of the first 3 games with the first side, Solari has not displayed a shift of tactical system.
It can be argued on paper that he hasn’t conceded any goal but in reality, there has been defensive sloppiness in the game against Valladolid who hit the bar twice eventually costing them the victory.
The sample size for comparing the two coaches is too little. Though it is evident that Lopetegui’s side had a minimum of three expected goals in each game. Thus, the chances were being created but they were not being finished. Sometimes it was missed due to a heavy first touch or the goalpost denied the ball from getting to the back of the net.
Solari so far has found the form of luck with players like Vinicus Jr converting from deflected balls and avoid conceding the goals by the help of goalposts. Something which never happened with Lopetegui.
Santiago Solari is the coach who is believed to be given the charge until the end of this season at least. While speculations regarding coaches such as Mourinho, Jardim, Conte, Guti, etc continue to fill up the headlines of news sources. It is a risk worth taking. Maybe with luck similar to that of Zidane, Solari may win Real Madrid their 4th consecutive Champions League title.
If rumors are to be believed then tonight’s game against Celta Vigo in Balaidos can confirm the future of Solari in Real Madrid. The game will be telecasted live all over the world via the official broadcasting partners of LaLiga. The kick off is scheduled for 20:45 CET.