Progress after the departure of Zinedine Zidane was always going to be tough for Real Madrid. Although the Frenchman didn’t rely on tactical intricacies or a pioneering philosophy to win trophies in the Spanish capital, his presence and command of a difficult dressing room has been tough to replace.
Julen Lopetegui was appointed in the summer, an experienced coach within Spain’s youth ranks, with the aim being a tactical revolution for a young squad. Club president Florentino Perez had sourced a range of home-grown talents to be placed at Lopetegui’s disposal, but the ex-Porto boss was not afforded the time to put the building blocks in place.
His sacking after an embarrassing performance in El Clasico led to the promotion of Santiago Solari from within the club’s own set-up. Despite getting a positive reaction at first, merely through allowing Real Madrid’s players to enjoy themselves and trust in their own ability as they had done under Zidane, it hasn’t taken long for Los Blancos to plateau once more. Though there is a wide range of issues, three stand out above all else after the club’s most recent disastrous performance.
Reliance on Vinicius Jr (£6.82)
What became painfully obviously during Real Madrid’s recent 2-0 defeat at the hands of Real Sociedad, was that one of the world’s biggest clubs was relying on the talents of an 18-year-old. Not a teenager who had proven himself a match winner in the past, nor one with solid foundations at Real Madrid, but one who has been juggled between first and B team this campaign.
Vinicius is incredibly talented, but should not be asked to shoulder such a large burden so early in his career in Spain. In a squad that boasts Karim Benzema, Isco, Lucas Vazquez and Dani Ceballos as midfield or forward presences, the young Brazilian needn’t be the only player to look dangerous in the final third as he was last weekend.
The signing of Brahim Diaz from Manchester City will offer another fit and confident option to Solari’s creative arsenal, but with Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale struggling due to injury, Real Madrid are looking light in wide areas. Vinicius can beat players in one-on-one situations and was a menace when cutting inside against Real Sociedad – but his introduction to the first-team picture should not have to be so demanding.
Lacking striking competition
Scoring seven goals in his opening 18 league appearances, Karim Benzema (£2.11) has already bettered his LaLiga tally of five during 2017/18. Seven goals for a team that has title ambitions in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era, however, is nowhere even close to being good enough.
Benzema helped to bring the best out of those around him in campaigns gone by, combining well with the likes of Ronaldo, Bale, Lucas Vazquez and Asensio, but when the collective is underperforming, it is rare that the Frenchman can grab the game by the scruff of the neck and turn it around with a game-defining moment.
Mariano Diaz was brought in as a second-choice striker in the summer, but has made just five league appearances due to injuries or technical decisions, while 21-year-old Cristo Gonzalez is expected to get some chances after working with Solari in the club’s B team. Frankly, there is nowhere near enough firepower to bridge the gap post-Ronaldo.
Fragility at left back
Marcelo is one of Real Madrid’s most creative outlets, all the way from left back. Last season saw the Brazilian produced six assists in LaLiga, as well as four in the Champions League, while 2016/17 witnessed Marcelo chip in with ten in the league alone. When Los Blancos are confident and playing on the front foot, there is scarcely a more dangerous left back in world football.
As it stands, the 30-year-old is a defensive liability. There have always been huge question marks about his defensive ability, but those criticism were easily overlooked due to the fact that his contributions in the final third were so profound. Yet to produce an assist this term, in no small part down to the fact that if the collective aren’t performing well he rarely has the chance to add the quality required to break a resilient opponent which is sitting deep, Marcelo is a luxury that Solari currently can’t afford.
Sergio Reguilon replaced Marcelo as a like-for-like change in a game in which Real Madrid were trailing against Real Sociedad. So often under Zidane, the Brazilian would pop up with a goal or a piece of skill to help unlock a sturdy door. As it stands, the left back is devoid of confidence and lacking any kind of presence on front foot – making his deficiencies on the back foot plainly obvious for a critical world to see. Young and inexperienced Reguilon may be the short-term solution until the squad get back on their feet.
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