Why sacking Carlo Ancelotti is not the answer to Real Madrid's problems
By the end of 2014, Carlo Ancelotti was being hailed as the greatest manager of Real Madrid post the Vicente del Bosque era. And why not? He had won four trophies in that calendar year and, with a 22-game winning run ongoing, looked set for more by the time the season ended. Fast forward five months and the Italian now faces scrutiny and the axe. Los Blancos have never been the type of club to give managers time to settle down for the long run; it’s either instant results or the manager is out.
Just ask Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean was the last Galacticos manager to not win a trophy by the end of the season and was sacked without hesitation by the Madrid hierarchy. To this day, quite a few believe that it was the wrong decision and he should have, rightly, been given more time. But patience, among many other things, is something that Florentino Perez lacks.
After a trophyless season, it is highly likely that the former Milan boss will be shown the door when the season ends – just 12 months after winning the much-coveted La Decima. However, Florentino Perez would make another mistake by sacking the Italian.
Ancelotti is not the only one to blame for Real Madrid’s failures
As a manager, some of the blame of Real Madrid’s failures should obviously be burdened on his shoulders. However, the problems run deeper than just him. When Angel Di Maria was sold in the last transfer window to accommodate James Rodriguez, it stunned many fans.
The Argentine was Real Madrid’s most important player in their historic season and selling him for a player who was not as tenacious as the current Manchester United man did not make sense – at least not in a strict tactical sense.
The Colombian had a fine season – of this there is no doubt. Both his goals and assists are in double figures and he has given good return for the money spent on him. But he couldn’t truly replace the former Benfica man.Di Maria was the engine of Real Madrid last season – someone whose directness and work-ethic made it possible to fit all the creative players in the team without compromising much on defending.
With Xabi Alonso replaced as well with the addition of Toni Kroos, no one could really fill the void left by the Argentine. It was really a rash move on the part of the club. While the commercial benefits of signing James were great, it has eventually come back to bite him in the back due to the absence of di Maria.
Injuries at crucial times hurt Madrid
The former PSG manager, to an extent, could be blamed for this. A lack of trust on Asier Illarramendi and Sami Khedira’s lacklustre attitude meant that Ancelotti truly relied on four players in three midfield positions for the first half of the season.
Initially, Isco struggled to find minutes because the trio of James, Kroos and Luka Modric was working flawlessly. Such was the fluidity and smoothness of that troi that Ancelotti kept playing the same midfield in every game which eventally resulted in the Croatian international getting injured. Isco then came in and filled in for Modric without any difficulty whatsoever. He dazzled the Bernabeu with his silky skills. The midfield of Kroos, James and Isco seemed equally unplayable and Ancelotti did the same mistake as before – overplayed them all.
By the end of 2014, the signs were visible. The midfield – especially Kroos after an arduous World Cup campaign – looked fatigued and the winter break came at the perfect time. Or at least they thought it did. After the break, the cracks were exploited and the lack of bite in midfield was apparent. Also, Gareth Bale’s atrocious form meant that Real Madrid were no longer threatening from the right wing, which made their attack very one-dimensional.
Soon after, James Rodriguez was injured for a couple of months and that put Real deeper in the mire. Lucas Silva was signed from Cruzeiro to ease the pressure, but adapting to a new league was never going to be easy for him. This was another signing made in haste. It gave one the impression that he was signed because of the lack of viable options in midfield – a temporary quick-fix – rather than securing a talent of the future.
One could blame Ancelotti for overplaying his midfielder and taking the juice out of them prematurely. But given the amount of options he had in midfield, his hands were tied. Illarramendi could have been given more chances, but he never really stamped his authority in the games he did play.
Real Madrid have a star-studded squad but lack the diversity it had last season. In many games, there wasn’t a single player on the bench who could actually be labelled as a match-winner. The lack of variety on the bench hindered the Merengues the most and Ancelotti couldn’t really be blamed for always playing his best players.
Real Madrid’s goalkeeping conundrum
To play Iker Casillas or not to play him. Ancelotti chose the former and, even though many Madridistas would not admit it, it cost Real Madrid to an extent. The Casillas situation was always going to be hard to handle. So Diego Lopez was sold and Keylor Navas was brought in.
At first, it worked. The media and the fans weren’t really hooked on about the fact that the Costa Rican wasn’t getting playing time like they did when Diego Lopez was at the club. However, once Real found themselves in a downward spiral, the fingers were pointed at both the captain and the coach for playing him.
It’s not easy to bench your captain, even though he should have been. Now, however, Ancelotti can claim that he gave the World Cup winning captain enough chances and can, without much ado, bench him next season – that is if he stays.
Who is to be blamed?
The real blame should be shouldered by Florentino Perez and the fans. The club president undid all the tactical work the Italian did when he sold di Maria and didn’t replace him adequately. The manager had to completely re-evaluate his system to fit in the star players and, even though it worked initially, it wasn’t enough.
And the fans. This season, they have been at their absolute worst. This is just speaking about the boo-boys who find it easier to swell their tonsils jeering their own rather than cheering them at hard times.
Sacking Carlo Ancelotti just a year after he delivered the Champions League won’t solve Real Madrid’s problems – it will just highlight one of their biggest problems: the inscrutable level of ungratefulness that both the board and the whistle-loving fans possess. The sensible thing to do right now would be to give the Italian another season with a big say on who leaves or joins in the upcoming summer transfer window.
And that looks unlikely.