This pre-season has made Real Madrid look very strong in the eyes of the world, beating teams like Chelsea, Inter Milan, and PSG. There are evident strengths that will make Real Madrid a threat this year like their offensive midfield and speed, however some issues have also come to light. This article will focus on two key issues that may cost Real Madrid a point or two.
Firstly, Real Madrid’s defense has been their Achilles heel for the past few seasons as individual errors and injuries have left the team exposed. It was very well known that the best way to score against Real Madrid was through aerial play, and rivals did not hesitate to take advantage of this. This issue diminished with the arrival of Diego Lopez and the emergence of Raphael Varane as their height gave the team a big boost, although it never fully left.
The arrival of Dani Carvajal has given Carlo Ancelotti an advantage in having Carvajal and Arbeloa, two skilled players who serve different purposes. While Arbeloa is noticeably better at defending, Carvajal is better at attacking and compliments the team with his passes up front. The team lacked this last year and we saw Mourinho improvising with Essien and even Callejon in a few instances. In this past game against Real Betis, Carvajal’s weaknesses were visible as he failed to cover up the attackers on time in multiple occasions.
On the left side, Ancelotti was gifted with Coentrão and Marcelo who, like Arbeloa and Carvajal, serve opposite purposes. This allows for the coach to plan his starting eleven depending on the rival and needs of the team. Unfortunately, it has been announced that Coentrão has asked to leave the team, a decision that Real Madrid will honor. This will mean a huge blow for Madrid as Coentrão has majorly improved in recent years. After Marcelo’s long injury break, he gained a lot of weight and lost form that he is just now finishing recovering from, which is why having the option of Coentrão benefited the team so much.
Now Ancelotti is left with Denis Cheryshev, whose natural position is attacking, the reason why he committed so many mistakes in the pre-season. Another option in case Marcelo is unavailable would be playing Carvajal on the right and Arbeloa on the left; we saw this option against Inter and it did not look bad at all. Of course, the last option would include the incorporation of Gareth Bale to the squad, which would be great as he can play in so many different positions including left back. In this first game against Betis, Marcelo showed how fit he is, and although one game does not determine a player’s reality, it was a good sighting.
In terms of central backs, Real Madrid have Sergio Ramos as the key player. Varane is currently injured and his recovery process seems to be taking a little more than expected, while Pepe has significantly dropped his form from 2012 and this gives the fans a big reason to worry. Pepe is nowhere near his best form and he was left exposed many times in this pre-season. Against Betis, both Ramos and Pepe committed errors that could have led to a different result had it not been for Diego Lopez’s interventions and a bit of luck.
Other options include Nacho, Casado, and Mateos who, to be honest, did not transmit that “confidence” that a center-back should have in the pre-season. Real Madrid’s youth system is very big and filled with talent from where a great center-back can be easily found. Two better options than the three being handled, in my opinion, are Derik Osede and Diego Llorente. They made their debut last season with Jose Mourinho and had an outstanding, but unfortunately short, U20 World Cup with Spain, receiving compliments from Gary Neville himself.
Center-backs, because of their role on the pitch, are more prone to being suspended. Sergio Ramos has been sent off more than any other player in Real Madrid’s history, and Pepe can be, although has not been in a very long time, hot-headed. Varane has only received one yellow card in his career with Real Madrid for a non-violent action against Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, and we can rest assured that Varane is the least likely to be suspended. Suspensions will happen throughout the season for which it is good to have capable defenders ready to assume important roles, potentially in decisive games against the biggest teams in Europe.
The second issue is the lack of goal-scorers in Real Madrid. If you take away Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid do not score nearly as many goals as they should, and it is not because of the lack of opportunities but because of the poor finishing. With Gonzalo Higuain gone, which amounts at least 20 goals per season, there has been no adequate replacement signed. Karim Benzema can have a fantastic day, just like he can have a day where he does not appear at all, and with the two legal issues he is facing, we might see him away around February, which will be a key month. Against Betis, Benzema had a plethora of opportunities, many of which he wasted by being offside and caused the fans their first headache of the season.
The other two forwards are Alvaro Morata and Jesé Rodriguez, something very unusual for Real Madrid. Los Blancos, by default, always signs the best in the world, and although both youth have a lot of potential, neither is anywhere near the world’s top strikers. Looking back, Real Madrid has always had at least two strikers who made the top 15 as per everyone’s opinion. Raul and Ronaldo, Van Nistelrooy and Higuain, Higuain and Benzema and so on. Perhaps this is a new approach, to play your cards on the youth, but to me it seems risky and very unlike the team’s philosophy.
Of course the transfer window is not closed yet, and it would not be at all surprising to see Bale join, which would mean a solid 20-30 goals per season. If we look at positioning, Benzema and Morata are the only options as 9’s. Jese playing as a 9 loses his creativity and the space he needs to be more deadly. He played as a 9 in the first few games with Spain U20 in the World Cup and his impact was noticeably diminished.
Aside from these two issues that have the potential to be costly, Real Madrid have a very strong team this season and a lot of money will be bet on them to win it all. Even with Alonso out of the picture right now, a strong midfield in Luka Modric, Sami Khedira, Illarramendi, and Casemiro have given the fans a reason to dream.
To add on to them, the chemistry with which they communicate with the line up front is amazing. Isco, Di Maria, Ozil, Cristiano, and Kaka will be benefiting from a lot of good passing, fast play, and different trickery from each other. The midfield is undoubtedly Real Madrid’s strongest point and it has the necessary depth to last the whole season, even when injuries and suspensions are brought up, although this is not necessarily the case with the forwards and the center-backs.
Written by RMadridGirl