Isco adds layer of intrigue to an already difficult challenge for Carlo Ancelotti

Ian Walton

How exactly will Isco fit into Carlo Ancelotti's team? Will he fit at all?

As if the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti hadn't aroused enough debate already, Real Madrid went out and signed one of the world's most exciting young players, Isco. It's a swoop for an exciting attacking player, but unlike the long-rumored switch to Manchester City to echo in the footsteps of former boss Manuel Pellegrini, it's unclear exactly where he will fit into his new side.

The bigger question is the overarching one that addresses Ancelotti's approach to his new job. He's shown in the past a refreshing ability to work with his squad and to chop and change formations if necessary in order to suit those at his disposal.

Therefore, It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what Ancelotti's favored system is - indeed, it's difficult to describe exactly what his preferred playing style is. Ancelotti's not at either end of the 'spectrum' - he doesn't want to hoard possession, but not is he a disciple of rugged counter-attacking. He's somewhere in between. His teams always able to mix it up between philosophies and play with either strength, craft, or a blend of both.

The suggestion has been that he will use a 4-3-2-1, which seems to be drawn from his Chelsea experience. However, in London, he was oft described as a 4-3-3 man, and the truth is probably a cross between both, with Ancelotti asking the wide players, Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka, to play slightly narrow, tucked in behind Didier Drogba.

The personnel is significantly different in Madrid, but the possibility of using Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil behind a lone striker shouldn't be discounted. It would mean, though, there's no room for Isco, which would be a surprise. Not to mention Angel Di Maria would barely feature in this sort of shape, although he could theoretically be deployed deeper as is the case for Argentina.

Meanwhile, it seems likely that Luka Modric will feature deeper rather than in that advanced role that Jose Mourinho increasingly began to favor for the Croatian towards the end of his tenure.

Therefore, a formation of which Ancelotti is rarely associated with but one which Madrid seem intricately connected to, the 4-2-3-1, appears to be a good compromise. Given that neither Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain (reportedly off to Arsenal as it is) impressed all that much this season, Ancelotti could well consider using Ronaldo upfront, which would certainly allow Ancelotti to fit in all his exciting attacking players with Isco presumably slotting onto the left side of the attacking band.

That's a position he played quite often under Pellegrini, given license to drift inside into central playmaking positions. He feels more at home in those sort of zones, and after originally featuring on the flank, the Spain U21 side shifted him there temporarily in their recent European Championship triumph. But in some ways he's more effective coming in from the wing, as it makes him more difficult to track between the lines and drags defenders inside.

It is difficult not to get excited about the flow-on effects for the rest of the Madrid players. Ozil is a wonderfully creative player and would thrive in quick, close passing interchanges with Isco, but in a more intangible sense the German's movement into wide positions, which already helps facilitate the movement of Ronaldo into advance positions, would also complement Isco, whose narrowness wouldn't necessarily compromise Madrid's width.

Ancelotti spoke at great length in his introductory press conference about the need to play 'attractive football' - no matter what formation he plays, simply by throwing these attacking players out on the same pitch, he'll create excitement.

Incidentally, this was practically the case at PSG, where the individual quality of the capital's big name signings often won out against sides who nullified their system.

The major criticism of Ancelotti during his time in the French capital was that his side rarely found a cohesion, instead relying on this aforementioned individual quality.

It's tempting, then, to draw comparisons between PSG and Madrid - but it's also worth considering that this might be an entirely valid way for Madrid to succeed. In the context of their historical fascination with individuals, it wouldn't be out of keeping for Ancelotti's new side either.

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