Why are Real Madrid struggling?
Real Madrid are staring at a mini-crisis as they struggle to score and win, they have now gone 4 games on a run without scoring, something that the Real Madrid fans are not used to. Especially as they saw a goalscoring demon in Cristiano Ronaldo play for them for over the last decade. This goal drought has coincided with a poor start to La Liga and an away game defeat to minnows CSKA Moscow.
This mini-crisis has led to Madrid fans calling for the sacking of Julen Lopetegui's, the newly appointed coach and also for some of the players in the squad.
So is there a real reason for Madrid fans to worry or the team has just hit a bad patch and maybe the fans need to be a bit more patient? Let's take a look into the matter.
Real Madrid lost their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo over the summer and they failed to sign someone who can replace the astronomical number of goals that he used to provide, pinning their hopes on veterans like Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale and youngsters like Asensio to collectively make up for it. They did sign Mariano but he was signed more as a backup to Benzema than anything else.
The league season started well as both Benzema and Bale scored seven goals between them in the first three games and Madrid played some amazing football to send a feel-good factor across the fanbase. However, things turned bad pretty quickly as well.
After playing a 1-1 draw against Bilbao away and a narrow 1-0 win at home against Espanyol, Madrid was trounced 3-0 away at Sevilla. Since then, they have failed to score a single goal and played a goalless draw against Atletico Madrid at home and lost to CSKA Moscow and Alaves 1-0 in away games.
Even though Madrid have been able to dominate possession, they have failed to capitalize on it and put the ball into the opposition's net. Injuries to important players like Marcelo, Carvajal, Isco hasn't helped their cause either.
The problem for Madrid at the moment is that they miss a player who provides a constant goalscoring threat like Ronaldo used to. Bale and Benzema have lost their early season touch and the decision of Real Madrid hierarchy to trust them even though they were below par for the last two seasons seems to be backfiring.
Karim Benzema has been finding it hard to score goals for the last two seasons, people thought that Ronaldo's move will allow him to score more but the early season form just looks like a flash in the pan. Gareth Bale, on the other hand, has been suffering from constant injury problems and his woes seem to continue.
With both the forward line veterans suffering, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Madrid is struggling to score goals. Moreover, Asensio has been struggling too, just like the rest of the forward line and Madrid just don't have enough options to rely upon from the bench.
To add to the woes, they have missed players like Marcelo and Isco who provide penetration against deep defenses like the one Alaves and CSKA Moscow came up with. The teams have been sitting deep against Madrid's possession football and have not allowed them any space in the attacking third for the Madrid attackers to take advantage of.
Marcelo and Isco are useful in these situations as they are brilliant in closed spaces and provide something that no other player in the team provides. Their exclusion due to injuries hasn't helped the cause of Madrid as they have struggled to create goal scoring opportunities.
In the absence of an established goal scorer, Madrid needs to be creating a lot of opportunities to score goals, but the failure to do so has hurt them in the last few games. They will hope that Isco and Marcelo return quickly to provide them with that incisiveness that they have been missing in the final third.
Julen Lopetegui has come under a lot of fire because of the team's recent form and there have been calls from certain quarters to sack him. However, the Madrid board needs to be patient as this poor start is more because of their failure to land a goalscorer in the summer than because of any other thing. No player can replace Cristiano Ronaldo, but as it turns out, they desperately require someone who can make up considerably for his lost goals.
Madrid seems to be relying a lot on youngsters this season, but asking youngsters to perform consistently is a lot to ask for. Development of youth takes time and Madrid board and fans will be well served if they can remain patient as that will surely bear fruit.
Madrid has an excellent pool of young talents in the likes of Asensio, Ceballos, Vinicius Jr but they need time to develop. Julen Lopetegui has shown in the past that he can develop youngsters with his early stints with younger age teams and he should be given time to produce the results.
Real Madrid till last season relied on individual brilliance to take them through on most occasions and the player who showed up the most times for them is now gone.
In the absence of that, Madrid needs to build a collective system that makes up for that and Julen Lopetegui knows how to do that. However, it takes time before that is achieved and the Madrid board will be well served to give him time.
His blueprint is already clear with the way Madrid is playing, as they now dominate possession and press much more collectively than they used to. They require some time to fine tune it and hopefully for the fans and Lopetegui himself, they will be able to do that quickly.
At a club like Madrid, you don't really have much time. You need to be producing results to continue or else you are gone. But considering that they have changed their tactics in the transfer market by shifting their focus to signing youngsters instead of Galacticos, they need to give some time to coaches too so that they can develop the youngsters and get results out of them. If Florentino Perez wants to continue with this transfer market strategy, then he will have to change the way he treats the managers too.
For the current season and with the current squad Madrid have (considering they don't sign any big names in the winter transfer window), Madrid board and Perez should be alright if Julen Lopetegui can bring satisfactory result even if he doesn't win any titles. The focus should be on getting better at playing as a combined unit and producing results.