La Liga 2016-17: 5 Talking Points: Real Madrid 2 - 1 Atletico Bilbao
In an entertaining affair at the Santiago Bernabeu, the two age-old rivals battled it out toe to toe for the most part. After a series of botched attempts, Real Madrid finally made their way past the stubborn Basques of Athletic Bilbao.
They were sloppy, looked disjointed and uncoordinated at times, but their relentless waves of pressure finally paid off as Alvaro Morata scrambled the ball in late on to win the tie for the desperate home side. They remain on top of the table with 21 points off 9 games, while Bilbao stay put in 6th with 15 points in their 9 games.
Apart from all the shortcomings in the game, it also appeared to look like Cristiano Ronaldo was unhappy with Alvaro Morata scoring. Make what you will of his antics post the goal. We’re just leaving it here.
Barring that incident, here are the major talking points from today’s game
#1. Real Madrid have no clear identity under Zidane
Yes, it’s too early to judge Zinedine Zidane’s managerial tenure at Real Madrid. And even if you do evaluate it, it’s not too shabby at all. The enigmatic Frenchman has won 30 of his 39 games in charge of Real Madrid, and he’s lost only two. He’s done all this with his team having scored 2.85 goals per game.
He went on a 16 match winning run that equaled a record set by the Pep Guardiola and his terrifying Barcelona side in their indomitable heyday. All things considered, those are pretty nifty numbers – numbers that most managers would kill for.
But there is a larger question at stake here. When the equally inexperienced Pep Guardiola took over at arch rivals he not only brought instant success, but also a deeply customised style of play. It helped define his team and himself. This is something Zidane has not done yet.
In fact, he’s shown no sign of doing either. His Madrid side are neither a counter-attacking machine nor a possession based juggernaut. They play down the flanks at times, and they play down the middle during others. Sure they have looked fluid, dynamic and scarily fast at times, but without certain components of the system, they just look utterly confused.
It may not be a big deal now, but if he is to continue succeeding for the long term, the Frenchman will need to work out an identity for himself, and for his team.