The excitement that came with the start of the new season and the Julen Lopetegui era seems to have dissipated at Real Madrid. After a barnstorming start to the season, there are troubling signs that he will need to fix.
In the Derbi de Madrileno against local rivals, Atletico Madrid, Real looked ponderous in front. Although the Atleti backline was excellent as usual, the Los Merengues' attack failed to threaten Jan Oblak's goal consistently.
There was a distinct lack of cutting edge in the attack. Once again, Karim Benzema failed to do anything meaningful. The midfield failed to create many clear-cut chances as well. Worse was to come. In the UEFA Champions League clash against CSKA Moscow, Real failed to muster enough chances after they had gone behind in the 2nd minute. Too many times, the front line failed to get into position to harm the Russian army side.
This has become a pattern to the team's play. In the early days, against the lesser lights in La Liga, Lopetegui's style looked like it would work a treat. In the tougher games, the possession-based style does not seem to be working. In the La Liga games against Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Sevilla and Atleti, Los Blancos have only scored two goals.
Injuries to players like Gareth Bale and Isco have not helped. However, a change of approach and tactics from Lopetegui may be needed. Karin Benzema as the attack's focal point is just not working. The Frenchman has not had a shot on target in six games. His mopey, distracted style keeps breaking down moves and making life difficult for the midfielders.
Now will be the time for Lopetegui to give Mariano Diaz an extended run as the team's main striker. The former Lyon man has shown drive and hustle in the games he has played. His drive and aerial abilities will give players like Marco Asensio, Luka Modric and others something to aim for.
With games against Alaves, Levante (La Liga) and Viktoria Plzen (UCL) before the 28th of October El Clásico clash with FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou, these games will provide the perfect opportunity for Lopetegui to try different formations and tactics before the drama/tension associated with the Clasico.
Lopetegui is surely regretting not adding more attacking quality in the summer. January is a notoriously bad time for buying strikers with reportedly main targets Mauro Icardi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe definitely not joining in the winter transfer window.
The current setup and style aren't working. Given Real Madrid and Florentino Perez's record with patience is not great so Lopetegui will need to fix the goalscoring issues as soon as possible.
Also Read: Karim Benzema may be Real Madrid's undoingPublished 04 Oct 2018, 17:34 IST