Casemiro gave Atletico Madrid a taste of their own medicine in the midfield the other day in the derby match. He tackled hard and made life difficult for the likes of Griezmann and Torres on the pitch.
Even though the game was played at an exceptionally fast pace, Casemiro was able to make his presence felt on the field which allowed Real Madrid to attack Atletico Madrid with purpose without holding back lest a counter attack from Atletico Madrid.
On top of that, Casemiro has just turned 23 years old. So there is a good possibility of him being a long term project for Benitez at Real Madrid.
It goes without saying that just one astounding performance against Atletico Madrid, early in the season, should not warrant any comparisons with, probably the greatest defensive midfielder of all times, Claude Makelele but given that Casemiro was considered a fringe player just a year ago when he was shipped to Porto on loan, his progression has been nothing but dazzling.
It is true that Casemiro has not shown the consistency in his level of play that is required to become a starter for Real Madrid (or even to sit on the bench for Real Madrid,) but we must remember that Atletico Madrid is a side that had been given Real Madrid a ton of problems for the past two seasons.
Real Madrid have won just one game out of the last nine game (not including extra time in Champion League final 2014) and most of the losses were down to Atletico Madrid’s domination in the midfield.
Previous weekend, Real Madrid were able to go toe to toe with Atletico Madrid especially in the midfield area. Why?
Well, it certainly wasn’t because of Kroos and Modric because, even though they played well, Real Madrid had been suffering against Atletico Madrid for two seasons before when Modric and Kroos were still the major players in the midfield for Real Madrid.
The only difference this time was the presence of Casemiro in the midfield.
A tough tackling midfielder who has notable passing range and can run with the ball if a need arises. Modric and Kroos were able to relax much more than before knowing that they had the extra cushion at the back in the form of Casemiro .
Whenever Atletico Madrid opened up Real Madrid on the wings with slick one two passes, Casemiro always came across to suffocate their attacking players.
His, several, interceptions in the midfield saw Atletico Madrid get frustrated and turn to wing play which is always better than to let a team run through you from the center midfield.
Kroos seemed to be much more focused this time around because of Casimiro playing behind him. He helped out in defense by closing down Atletico players quickly when they got near Real Madrid’s penalty area and that gave Atletico no second bites at the cherry. They had to play flawless football to get through the middle against Real Madrid.
Real Madrid built their attack comfortably from the back and were able to go through Atletico Madrid in the first half with ease. In the second half, Simeone was able to change their style and were able to push back at Real Madrid which eventually resulted in a goal in the 85th minute of the game.
Like so many Brazilians before him, even though Casemiro is naturally a defensive midfield player, he can run with the ball like a winger. He can get past his man easily to act as an extra man in attack but when it come to making crunching tackles in the midfield, he can do that as well.
Casemiro long balls to Marcelo and Carvajal on the wings, from deep midfield also allowed Real Madrid to bypass Atletico Madrid’s crowded midfield and attack their defense directly. Sadly, Ronaldo along with Benzema and Isco, were not up to the challenge.
Based on the performance against Atletico Madrid, the trio of Kroos, Modric and Casemiro seem like the perfect one.
Kroos’s expertise in closing down space for attacker coming through the middle and Modric’s dribbling ability to play the ball from defense to attack with neat little delicate touches coupled with Casemiro stopping ability in the midfield makes this combination a winning one for Benitez.
As we witnessed against Atletico Madrid, Modric is an all round player. He can defend, attack and act as a deep playmaker.
But he has the tendency to lose the ball sometimes when trying too hard to get past players. Casemiro covered Modric’s hole in the midfield particularly well against Atletico Madrid. That meant that even when Modric did end up losing possession, Real Madrid were safe from a counter attack because of Casimiro’s classy positional ability on the football field.
Casemiro, fundamentally saved Real Madrid’s night against Atletico Madrid by constantly blocking shots taken towards Real Madrid’s goal and getting stuck in the thick of things when Atletico came forward with the ball.
He did get a yellow card for all his hard work in the middle but that is to be expected of a holding player who acts as an anchorman in the midfield for any team.
Modric’s attacking prowess combined with Kroos’s ball control, already gives Real Madrid a pretty established midfield. With the addition of a Casemiro we saw against Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid’s midfield would become the foundation of a title winning squad.
Casemiro certainly doesn’t have the tackling ability or ball distribution skill of Makelele but one area where he does excel a lot is his long ball ability. He dropped an epic 75 yard diagonal long ball from a half volley in the midfield on a thimble for Marcelo on the wing which stumped Atletico Madrid players for half a second.
Casemiro’s seamless passing with Marcelo on the wings and mind numbing pass reading ability close to the penalty area was something that made life extremely hard for Atletico Madrid. Even the goal they did end up scoring had to come from some inspired wing play and not through the middle.
It would not be extravagant to say that Casemiro was the steel in the midfield for Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid and must have changed Benitez’s mind about keeping him on the subs bench for future matches.
With that said, Casemiro’s ball control and ground pass accuracy remain a hurdle in him becoming a world beater for Real Madrid in the midfield.
Against Atletico Madrid and Malmo, there were instances where Casermiro’s lack of control on the ball caused him to lose possession a couple of times in dangerous situations near Real Madrid penalty box.
Elite players would punish Real Madrid on those mistakes. Casemiro has time on his side and can certainly become the mainstay in the Real Madrid midfield.