Marcelo Real Madrid Tactical Analysis

For almost 12 years, Real Madrid left-back Marcelo Vieira has been a standout defender for the club and has contributed some of the best footballing skills on the pitch.

At 30 years of age, the Brazilian’s 21 trophies are certainly impressive yet it is his innovative style of defending that makes him stand out as one of the best defenders in the world.

Marcelo’s preference to be an attack-minded defender is quite different from his fellow teammates and there is no doubt he has been a crucial part of Real Madrid.

However, while history supports this claim, Marcelo’s recent sub-par form has added to Madrid’s list of struggles and poses the question of whether or not his style of play is still valuable for the team.

Since the beginning of the season, Real Madrid has been struggling offensively and the likes of Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale have not put up the number of goals a club like Real Madrid demands.

Additionally, Marcelo’s recent muscle strain also contributed to the limited amount of creativity going forward, making the situation even worse.

During the scarce 1-0 victory against Rayo Vallecano on 16 December, Marcelo returned to the starting XI  and had an immediate impact in the clubs attacking abilities.

His addition to the squad allowed Real Madrid’s offence to open up again with more creativity going forward.

Marcelo Real Madrid Tactical Analysis Statistics
Heatmap of Marcelo’s positioning compared to the four defenders from Rayo Vallecano (WhoScored.com)

During the opening five minutes, there were two good opportunities for Real Madrid to get on the scoresheet and Marcelo was the player who operated this dynamic play.

His trademark passes allowed the route of play to switch from left to right and open up Lucas Vazquez along the right flank.

From here, his teammate had the ability to create passing opportunities for Benzema and Marco Asensio which almost resulted in the game’s first goal.

While Marcelo often lobs the ball across the pitch throughout the game, he also chooses to add to Real Madrid’s attack by positioning himself high up in opposition territory.

Placing himself at the top of the pitch often creates visually appealing football as he works alongside Benzema, Marco Asensio and Luka Modric but his decision to do so creates a big problem for the defensive line.

Marcelo is first and foremost a defender and while his moves going forward are enticing to the audience it leaves Real Madrid extremely vulnerable at the back.

By playing so high, Marcelo forces Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos to cover a lot more ground than originally anticipated.

While the two centre-backs have to cover the gaps left behind by playing so high, it also welcomes the opposition to move forward and have a chance on goal.

Marcelo Real Madrid Tactical Analysis Statistics
Example of Marcelo caught leaving space in the defence.
Marcelo Real Madrid Tactical Analysis Statistics
Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane are forced close down on their opponent and it becomes difficult to defend.

With Real Madrid’s lack of goals on their own, this creates the possibility of them potentially drawing or losing matches by giving up open lanes.

In some cases, Marcelo’s fluid positioning also means that players such as Toni Kroos are forced to drop back in defence to close the gap.

Marcelo Real Madrid Tactical Analysis
Another example of Marcelo’s placement on the pitch. He is positioned more in the midfield while teammate Toni Kroos drops back to try and close the defensive gap.

This itself can create more issues because the German then finds himself in an unfamiliar role and is easily exploited.

It is also important to note that the Brazillian himself has been slowing down defensively.

Marcelo has not been continuing to maintain the high-performance levels that once referred to him as the new Roberto Carlos.

Against Rayo, he only completed 33 per cent of his aerial duels and 44 per cent of one-on-one duels which are much lower than the team would like to have.

Overall, Marcelo’s particular style of play as a left-back has its pros and cons but how much is Real Madrid willing to gamble? And at what cost?

Yes, his creativity going forward is like no other and he is very influential up front by opening up play, providing assists, and scoring himself.

Yes, his speed still allows him to drop back into his starting position and help his teammates.

But, he still leaves gaps open at the back that are hard to cover throughout 90 mins which from a defence point of view is a recipe for disaster.

Is having an attack-minded left back as beneficial to the team as it once was?

Real Madrid cannot afford to have any more exploitations if they are wanting to improve their record this season and Marcelo’s recent technique has the potential to create more issues.

The defensive situation for Santiago Solari is tricky no doubt.