The unique idiosyncrasy of understanding Atalanta football and the absence of attacking players (Benzema-Hazard) forced Zidane to look for occasional antidotes for the Bergamo match. It was about not being locked in by the advanced pressure of the opponent, to counteract their individual markings and, at a certain moment, take advantage of their tactical disorganization, in which they always incur in certain moments of the matches, to achieve the longed-for goal away from home with which all teams dream in the Champions League .
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For this reason he decided to play without a reference nine, exceptional situation for him technical. He placed Isco as a false offensive reference and invited the rest of the teammates the space that the Malaga player left free with his constant mobility. One of those chosen to dynamite Atalanta was Mendy. Since the shock started, the Frenchman moved through less usual positions. More advanced, more through the interior corridors than the band, with fewer defensive obligations. He went up and stayed in forward positions. What does Mendy do as a center forward? The commentators wondered. He did not go back at the moment to his side demarcation.
The play of the 17th minute that caused the expulsion of Freuler was the result of that peculiar role of the French. He was fouled and exactly in the area where he moved throughout the 90 minutes, as accurately reflected by the heat map of his movements. Mendy had a free bar from his coach to improvise, but above all he had to attack the natural spaces of the non-existent center forward and in that area he was seen frequently, participating more than ever in the team's collective game and, in addition, with some creativity.
That he also scored the winning goal from that area was more of a coincidence. Zidane confessed that the action of the short corner between Kroos and Modric was rehearsed, but that the finisher from the edge of the area did not have to be his compatriot. And less with his right leg, the same with which he had already scored against Getafe.
In order for Mendy to be able to deploy that versatile offensive role, the coach placed a luxury bodyguard on him: Toni Kroos. If the German has already bought a 20-square-meter folding plot in all the stadiums where he plays and from there masterfully handles the pieces of his team, this time his positioning was much more contained. He had to cover Mendy's zone and keep an eye on winger Maehle.
Since Sergio Ramos has been out of the left-handed center-back position, Kroos' group hierarchy has grown exponentially. The German has found his own space. A square split by the dividing line of the midfield. Ten meters forward, ten meters back, 20 in. From there he directs the maneuvers. He helps in the exit of the ball through the left lane and distributes the attack game with his interior passes or changes of orientation. All very simple. One or two touches. In short and long. He no longer comes out to pressure the opposing area as before and when he arrives he does it in a choral way with the rest of his teammates to, if he has the chance, take his right leg out in a mid-distance shot. Zidane, but evidently the game did not go as he had planned, except in everything related to Mendy. A multipurpose player of only 25 years old, at an age to improve concentration lapses and become a Marcelo with more defensive constancy if he continues to progress.