Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has admitted there is a fundamental weakness in the midfield diamond system he has built his team into this season, but insists no formation is ever perfect.
Ancelotti has previously used the tried-and-true 4-3-3 with Madrid, a system that underpinned their UEFA Champions League glory in 2022. However, things were different in 2023/24, with a 4-4-2 diamond featuring Jude Bellingham . behind the two center forwards.
The most obvious flaw in the system is the lack of width, putting enormous pressure on the full-backs to be both attackers and defenders who have to do the work of multiple players.
Leaving space on the wings also contributed to the weekend’s 3-1 defeat by Atlético Madrid in the city derby.
With a lack of strikers and plenty of midfielders, Madrid probably don’t have the personnel to play any other way at the moment and Ancelotti insists the problem can be solved.
“Criticism is normal when things are not going well,” he told a press conference ahead of Wednesday night’s upcoming La Liga clash with Las Palmas.
“I don’t care, it’s part of being the coach of Real Madrid. We have to see the things we’ve done well, which are many, and the things we’ve done wrong, which are few, but we have to focus.”
“My assessment is different from everyone else’s. I know what we have to do, considering that we have been doing well so far, improving things.
“Every system has a weakness, the diamond is not a perfect system but neither is the 4-3-3, everyone has a weakness. The diamond allows you to push higher, be more energetic, but you can be caught out of position.” , because [midfielders] don’t always reach [the wings]. Working on it. The problem is obvious and can be fixed.”
Madrid have conceded first-half goals against Getafe, Real Sociedad and Atlético in each of their last three La Liga games. They were able to come from behind to win against the former pair, but Atletico were more ruthless and led 2-0 less than a quarter of the way into the derby.
Worryingly, these issues have emerged even though Ancelotti spoke of the defensive frailty of the diamond system back in July during pre-season.
“With the diamond in midfield, we have a lot of central pressure and less lateral pressure. You have to swing better and push with the full-backs,” the Italian said at the time. “Defensively, it’s not the best system, but I have to adapt to the characteristics of the players.