Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has admitted that the midfield diamond system he has set his team up in this season has a critical weakness, but insists no formation is ever perfect.
Ancelotti has previously used the tried and tested 4-3-3 with Madrid, the system that underpinned their Champions League glory in 2022. But things have been different in 2023/24, with a 4-4-2 diamond in which Jude Bellingham plays behind two central strikers.
The most obvious flaw in the system is a lack of width, putting enormous pressure on full-backs to be both attackers and defenders, left to do the work of multiple players.
Leaving space on the flanks was also a contributing factor in the 3-1 defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the city derby over the weekend.
With not enough forwards and plenty of midfielders, Madrid arguably don’t have the personnel to play any other way at this moment in time and Ancelotti insists the problem can be fixed.
"Criticism is normal when things don't go well,” he said at a press conference prior to the upcoming La Liga clash with Las Palmas on Wednesday night.
"I don't care, it's part of being coach of Real Madrid. We have to see the things we have done well, which are many, and the things we have done wrong, which are few, but we have to concentrate.
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"My evaluation is different from everyone else. I know what we have to do, taking into account that until now we have done well, improving things.
"Each system has its weakness, the diamond is not the perfect system, but the 4-3-3 neither, each one has his weakness. The diamond allows you to press higher, be more energetic, but you can be caught out of position, because the [central players] do not always reach the [wings]. We are working on this. The problem is obvious and it can be fixed."
Madrid have conceded early first half goals against Getafe, Real Sociedad and Atletico in each of their last three La Liga games. They were able to come from behind and win against the former pair, but Atletico were more ruthless and were 2-0 up less than a quarter of the way through the derby.
Worryingly, these problems have emerged even though Ancelotti was speaking about the defensive frailty of the diamond system way 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 press with the full-backs," the Italian said at the time. "In terms of the defence, it is not the best system, but I have to adapt the characteristics of the players."