One game into the season and it is clear that there is something different within the Real Madrid squad. This is not to take away from any success that Zinedine Zidane brought to the club, but rather a focus on what’s different when it comes to Carlo Ancelotti’s management. After all, Zidane did learn a lot from the current Real Madrid manager.

One thing that has always been Ancelotti’s strong suit is his impeccable man-management. The Italian never has a problem when it comes to the dressing room and when it comes to dealing with players one-on-one. For him, this is just as important as the tactics on the pitch. Keep the players happy and comfortable and everything will fall into place – especially when it comes to the type of players that Real Madrid have. After the game against Deportivo Alavés, Ancelotti very simply made it clear that there isn’t anything he can teach the players which means that he is focused more on the tactical side of things.

When it comes to the players on the pitch, there is a little more intensity and willingness to go forward from the players. Casemiro was higher up the pitch than we are traditionally used to seeing him while David Alaba (who was the team’s left-back on the night) was a constant threat going forward and switching with Eden Hazard on the flank. On the other side, we saw a similar situation with Lucas Vázquez and Gareth Bale. The manager knows that the team needs to be scoring more and be less dependable on Karim Benzema to be the sole threat when going forward – in the current squad, Bale and Hazard can do the job.

Eden Hazard hasn’t had the best start to his Real Madrid career as he aims to put it all behind him for this season. He looked good against Alavés on the opening day of Madrid’s season but the main focus was on Gareth Bale who started on the night after his return from loan to Tottenham Hotspur. Ancelotti can bring the best version of Bale, which he has done in his previous stint at the club, and even though age has played its part in Bale’s development and current abilities, he’s still a very big threat. However, he needs to be motivated and hungry for success in what is probably his final season at the club but that’s where it all goes back to the man-management abilities that Ancelotti possesses. Expect to see a lot more of Bale and a lot more moving forward from the midfielders when Real Madrid have the ball. Scoring goals is the priority while he will definitely need to ensure the defence stays strong.

Ancelotti is not a defensive coach by any stretch of the imagination and Real Madrid should be fine defensively but it’ll take time for them to get used to the new partnership at the back with the departures of Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane over the summer. He knows the players well and he’ll know how to get the best out of them with time. Expect the team to improve with each game and show constant hunger but that does not mean the manager doesn’t have his flaws.

His biggest flaw which arguably led to his downfall in his first stint at the club was the lack of rotations as we very clearly saw players were exhausted by the end of the campaign. They had no more fuel left in the tank while others were warming up the bench far more than they deserved to. However, early press conferences from the manager seem to point to change as he consistently said that the team is big, has great players and that he is impressed with many of the youngsters that have been coming through the ranks. Will they get significant playing time? Only time will tell but there will need to be rotations if the manager aims to get the best out of his squad throughout the course of the season.

It remains to be seen how things will progress from here onwards and it will be especially interesting to witness how Ancelotti’s thoughts translate onto the pitch with this squad. Comparing the Italian manager to Zinedine Zidane is a disservice to them both especially with everything the Frenchman accomplished at Real Madrid but it’s safe to say they have different approaches and maybe “different” is just what Real Madrid needs at the moment.

Ali Al-Hassan