New Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui has a big task on his hands
New Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui was not the one many predicted would ultimately become Zinedine Zidane’s successor. The then-undefeated Spanish national team coach had signed a renewal with the federation only three weeks prior to his appointment as new Real coach. He coached the Spain youth teams in the early 2000s to win the U21 European Championships in 2013, nurturing the likes of Isco, Thiago, David de Gea, etc. along the way. He also coached FC Porto before being handed the big keys to coach the Spanish National team in 2016. And being no stranger to seizing an opportunity, he agreed to join Real Madrid despite being associated with the Spain National team.
Julen Lopetegui arrives at Real Madrid with fluid attacking football but with no trophies to show as a manager in the club level. During his previous tenure as Spain coach, his team have not only gone undefeated but they have also played brilliant attacking football. Lopetegui has not been afraid to show his tactical versatility, throwing out a 3-5-2 when his teams sit deep and defend, a 4-2-3-1 with a playmaker to help build up play, and a 4-3-3 with inverted wingers to provide the confidence to roam as they please. Just like Zidane, there is no predicted success with Lopetegui. But the Madrid board moved swiftly to appoint an astute coach who is proven in his ability to manage transitions and nurture young talents.
Until now, Julen Lopetegui has enjoyed a relatively calm and relaxing first few months in charge at Real Madrid. However, it is reaching a point where he will need to start making big decisions on the squad at his disposal. He must also start making decisions on how he will approach the new La Liga season and win back the trophy they lost to Barcelona last season. So, his decisions must fit with those at the top of the club and the fans – which is not an easy thing to do.
Filling the void that the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo leaves – a player who has averaged 50 goals over the past nine seasons – is a big task. So it will be a challenge for Lopetegui to replace Ronaldo’s goal threat. The onus will eventually fall on Gareth Bale to become Real Madrid’s new main man, but the manager can also call upon Marco Asensio (21 goals in two seasons) and Isco (7 goals and 7 assists in La Liga last season) to help the team when needed. But the herculean task of averaging 50 goals a season will possibly be too much for any player in Lopetegui’s current Real Madrid squad.
This is where the team game comes into the Real Madrid squad. With their dependence on Ronaldo for goals during the past seasons, Lopetegui will surely want his attackers to up their ante this coming season. The Basque manager currently has three strikers in his squad: Benzema, Mayoral, and De Tomas. Between the three of them, they scored 43 goals during the whole 2017/18 season, one less than Ronaldo. So the Manager must look to the attacking midfielders to improve not only their own return but also to assist their strikers to significantly increase their goal scoring chances.
Last season, Real Madrid conceded too many goals in the league. They conceded 15 more than Barcelona and 22 more than Atletico. This proves Lopetegui has a bigger task than many expected. He likes his team to play more directly and with speed. He will surely want to build an offensive team that hurts oppositions swiftly. So, Lopetegui is not known for being a defensive coach and it is something he will need a solution for.
Leading Real Madrid to defend the Champions League title and winning the La Liga will be a tough task for the former Spain coach. But he knows he has a strong squad to apply to his game styles depending on the game situations and oppositions. The versatility of players like Luka Modric, Isco, Toni Kroos, etc. provides a wealth of options in midfield that would envy any elite coach. Whatever way we look at it, the new Real Madrid coach faces a tough task in getting his new side up and running for the new season.