In the past few weeks, manager Rafael Benitez and his club Real Madrid have received a lot of criticism for their rather mediocre performances.
They suffered a 4-0 home drubbing at the heads of their bitter rivals Barcelona in the latest El Clasico. After the Clasico humiliation, the Spanish side just about scraped a win in the Champions League away to Shakhtar Donetsk, winning 4-3 despite being 4-0 up. At times, Real looked extremely fragile and lacked the dominating aura that surrounded them a few seasons back.
Recently, Benitez’s side bowed out of the Spanish Copa del Rey - despite winning their game - in rather comical fashion due to fielding an ineligible player. The Los Blancos player, Denis Cheryshev featured and scored in their Copa del Rey clash against little known Cadiz CF, despite having a one-match suspension. Such horrendous mistakes have not helped the manager, with many reports suggesting the Spaniard could be sacked in his first season itself.
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Real Madrid are having a torrid season and one of the potential reasons for their struggle this season could be their weak midfield.
No recognised Defensive Midfielder
The main problem that Real Madrid are facing this season is the absence of a recognised defensive midfielder. Ever since they let veteran Xabi Alonso move to Bayern Munich, they have failed to get a suitable replacement. The Real Madrid midfield can boast some world-class names like Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and James Rodriguez, but none of them are traditionally deep-lying midfield players.
Kroos and Modric have taken the onus this season to play the defensive role for the Los Blancos. However, their fragility and lack of experience in the position is being capitalised on by big teams. In the game against Barcelona, Benitez went all out attack, playing Rodriguez, Modric and Kroos in the midfield three, and this was their undoing in the match.
The Catalan side successfully broke the initial quick-press from the Madrid midfield, threading the ball into their attackers Neymar and Luis Suarez. The South American duo wrecked havoc at the Santiago Bernabeu, running at a Madrid defence who struggled to cope with their offensive talent.
Other options that Real Madrid could consider for their midfield could be the Croatian Mateo Kovacic or youngster Casemiro. The Brazilian has shown real promise and temperament as Real’s defensive midfielder but is still too young to become a regular in the side for higher profile matches.
It came as a total surprise to the footballing fraternity when it was announced that Real Madrid had signed Inter Milan midfielder Kovacic. The Croatian was a regular first team player for Inter producing some impressive displays in Serie A.
Despite the big money move, the 21-year-old has struggled to earn a regular place in the team despite Real Madrid’s defensive woes. He has only started three games in La Liga this season.
Lucas Silva loaned off
Real Madrid manager Benitez has been heavily criticised for his rather bizarre tactics on a few occasions. Loaning out Brazilian midfielder Lucas Silva to French club Marseille is yet another strange managerial decision which must fall into this bracket. The young Brazilian would have been an ideal fit in the current Real Madrid squad but was yet strangely loaned out.
Another transfer blunder that seems to be hurting Real Madrid is the sale of Asier Illarramendi to his former club Real Sociedad. The Spaniard wasn’t extremely successful during his tenure, however, the club would have been much more stable in big games with a recognised defensive midfielder.
Los Blancos have been struggling in a few instances this season because of their midfield woes, but most of those problems have been their own undoing. The club shouldn’t have sold their defensive midfielders which in turn would have helped Kroos and Modric to play their preferred attacking game.
A club the size of Real Madrid cannot operate without a recognised and powerful holding midfield player, and is exactly what the team requires at the moment if it wants to really push for the league title. Maybe the January transfer window will provide the answers to all these questions.
Do you think this is an issue for Real Madrid? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!