What has gone wrong for Real Madrid?
Real Madrid had an extremely successful 2016-17 campaign, both domestically and in Europe. They finished top of the La Liga, after having tackled competition from their perennial rivals Barcelona and lifted a record 12th Champions League trophy.
The squad looked so strong that the likes of James, Pepe, Morata, Kovacic and Asensio were often left on the bench. Robust claims that this was the best Real Madrid team in history kept surfacing. But now, Madrid sit a massive 14 points behind Barcelona in the league and face a tough fixture in the next round of the UEFA Champions League against PSG, who in turn have ambitions to lift the trophy.
Qualification for the knock-out stages of the Champions League was not easy with Madrid having lost 3-1 at the Wembley Stadium to a Tottenham Hotspurs' side still inexperienced in Europe. They seldom looked like the defending champions, finishing second in their group. The next round will be huge in defining how the season will turn out for Zidane and co., with the tie against PSG looking like a difficult one to win.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the current holder of the Ballon d’Or trophy has been nowhere near his devastating best, at least domestically. In the Champions League though he still remains the top scorer with 9 goals in the group stage.
Gareth Bale has spent more time on the sidelines than on the pitch. His absence in the team has left Zinedine Zidane ill-equipped in terms of attacking options many times this season. This led to a change in formation as Madrid have been playing a 4-4-2 lately with Ronaldo partnering Benzema upfront and Isco/Asensio playing in the midfield. Madrid have rarely sparkled whenever they have lined up in this manner.
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Gareth Bale is not the only one on the club's long injury list with the likes of Marcelo, Carvajal, Navas and Kovacic all having spent time on the treatment table. It has been a headache for Zidane whenever a member of the first-team squad has gone down injured, with experienced campaigners like Pepe, Alvaro Morata, Danilo and James having left the squad in the summer and the management choosing to bring in a bunch of youngsters.
Florentino Perez has been in-charge of the club long enough to know how vital it is to have experienced backup players in the squad. Only having a strong starting 11 and expecting them to go through the season without getting injured was always a big gamble.
Dani Ceballos, Borja Mayoral, Jesus Vallejo and Achraf Hakimi are all hugely talented, but 20-somethings cannot be expected to perform immediately on the level a club like Real Madrid demands. Youngsters need time to develop their game. Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema are all struggling in front of goal. The once prolific BBC have scored a paltry 10 goals between them in the league this season.
There is no way to sugarcoat it anymore, the team needs new forwards who can find the net on a regular basis. Back-up's to Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos need to be brought in, while they also lack creativity in the midfield. Real Madrid is a club which challenges on all fronts every season, and so they need to act fast to beef up their squad. With the January transfer window approaching, Perez should be looking at potential signings if he does not want to end the season trophyless.