Isco: What Ancelotti’s system holds for the Golden boy of Europe?


One of the major questions this season regarding Real Madrid is – how Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarez aka Isco will fit into the system of Carlo Ancelotti? While, no one harbors any doubt whatsoever about the 21-year-old’s talent, as he is indeed the golden boy of Europe, even at such a tender age, but trepidation lingers, because he is joining a star studded team at one of the biggest clubs in the world – Real Madrid.


Had Jose Mourinho been in charge, Isco probably wouldn’t have faced much problem in adjusting to the system, simply on the ground of familiarity. 4-2-3-1 was Jose’s favourite formation at Madrid and through-out the campaign, he stuck with that one particular system only.

Manuel Pellegrini, used the same system 29 times in the league for Malaga last season, so theoretically, one can easily assume that the prodigiously gifted midfielder would have adapted to Madrid’ five man midfield without a big fuss.

But, the truth is Isco and his fellow team-mates will be playing under a new manager who is most likely to bring in his own ideas and a different set of blueprint probably alien to the players. Ancelotti is known for his tactical acumen and the Italian has used various formations in his illustrious managerial career that has fetched him enormous success.

During his glorious stint with AC Milan, he used mainly 4-3-2-1 formation that resembled like a Christmas tree. In that system, he could accommodate so many creative midfielders that it became a trade mark formation for him. Though, Milan were hugely successful in Europe, reaching three European Cup finals in five years, the Italian giants won just one Serie A title under him.

Ancelotti was popular with his use of 4-4-2 diamond system at Chelsea. It has to be noted that the Italian also used the system to full effect during his time at Milan too. John Obi Mikel was inserted at the bottom of the diamond, while Frank Lampard sat at the apex, with wide areas usually covered up by any two of Malouda, Essien, Zhirkov, Ballack and Joe Cole.


Isco-Ronaldo-Ozil/Di Maria in a flexible 4-3-3 system

The 54-year-old used several formations for Paris Saint-Germain last season. He tried 4-1-2-1-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 but couldn’t stick with any one of them, until he changed his system into a more flexible 4-2-2-2, which he used 18 times last season. Isco won’t face any problem if Ancelotti deploys him as a conventional trequartista in a 4-2-3-1 or as a left sided player in a 4-3-3 system.


Isco playing as conventional trequartista in a 4-2-3-1

If the gaffer uses a diamond formation, then probably he would shift Isco at the apex of the diamond, while Asier Illaramendi or Xabi Alonso might form the base of the system.


Isco at the apex in a diamond formation

In the 4-1-2-1-2 system Isco probably will play the role that Javier Pastore played for PSG last season. Both 4-2-2-2 and 4-1-2-1-2 are flexible in nature, where depending on the situations especially while defending, the system takes the shape of 4-4-2 and 4-3-1-2 respectively.


4-1-2-1-2 formation can easily take the shape of 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2

The only advantage of playing Isco there is – he can easily operate as a fine central midfielder if he drops deep, depending on the situation of the game, because he possesses wide range of passing abilities too.

Since, Ancelotti has Mesut Ozil and Kaka as other two players, who can perform the similar sort of roles; therefore, the Italian might be tempted to use his Christmas tree formation again, where Isco and Ozil can act as two No10’s, giving extra beef to the attacking unit.

The young Illaramendi will add much needed energy to the midfield, allowing Alonso to play the role of a deep lying playmaker with Modric or Khedira can easily play as a holding midfielder.


Typical Christmas tree formation

The problem Milan faced with their midfield trio of Seedorf-Pirlo and Gattuso in 2004 & 2005, especially in Europe was – they were brutally exposed defensively, despite posing tremendous attacking threat. Lack of pace was the central reason for this, with both Gattuso and Seedorf were getting older and could not cover up the distance properly. By 2007, Ancelotti found the antidote by bringing Ambrosini in place of Seedorf and shifting the former Real Madrid star in the no10 role.

Ancelotti won’t face that problem here because he will get more agile and technically gifted midfielders in that position in the form of either Modric or Khedira, who can cover up the distance with pace.

Thus, amid the fears that Isco might get lost among so many stars, or Madrid might not utilize him properly, we can find, albeit theoretically that the talented youngster indeed has a major role to play in the side, without hampering others position.

Though, all equations can change dramatically, and with Madrid it is highly possible, if the Los Blancos sanction a deal for Tottenham’s Gareth Bale. In such a scenario, all the attention – both on and off the pitch will be on the Welshman, and Ancelotti may have to alter his systems, drop out best possible players for the position, sacrifice youngsters like Isco – just to accommodate a £100 million signing.  Hope, that won’t be the case.

All the chalkboards are taken from EPL Index

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  1. Suleiman Tj 22 July, 2013
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  6. Chitro 29 July, 2013