Managing Madrid's staff share their thoughts on Real Madrid's late struggles. What's the team main problem? Is it a lack of motivation? Are there any tactical issues?
There's been a big disconnect between the midfield and the forwards. As good as Isco and Kroos have been all season, they haven't been linking up with the BBC well lately. It could be poor off-the-ball movement, or an over-reliance on the wings, or something else. But the midfield and forwards don't seem like they've been on the same page.
In my opinion the team is in a funk due to fatigue and a lack of cohesion. Kroos and Isco are running themselves ragged and Ancelotti's insistence on playing Lucas Silva or Illara as box to box mids fails to capitalize on their defensive skills. The BBC are playing too far from the midfielders and when they do get the ball, they are wasteful. Here's hoping the return of Ramos and Modric adds some organization and fire in the side.
This team has little, if any cohesion, no real sense of what it is they're trying to do together. On the exceedingly rare occasion that the BBC decides to press, the midfield and defense stay back and leave huge gaps but, again, that's rare as the BBC can't seem to put in a defensive shift to save their lives. When it's time to attack, and especially on the counter, the BBC is gung-ho and up the pitch while the rest of the team slowly follows. We're seeing three separate units play three separate styles of ball, either getting in each others' way or not being able to find each other with a map. All sense of fluidity is gone.
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More on Real's struggles
As regards Real's recent struggles, I believe that primarily injuries have been the largest problem that the squad has had to deal with. Especially in conjunction with the lack of rotation which means that some of the players in the usual starting XI may have suffered from burn-out. Secondly to the injuries, I would say that motivation has been a problem within the squad too. In many games since the turn of the year we have not seen the players fight as hard as we would want them to. But in fact, the intensity had been declining previous to the start of this year. Even during the 22 match win streak, towards the end of it one could see the work-rate gradually becoming less and less, game by game. Injuries cannot be accounted for (to a certain extent). But motivation and intensity in matches is certainly something that can be restored.
I think what we're seeing is a case of tired legs exacerbated by injuries and lack of proper, coherent squad rotation. The loss of Luka Modric and the leadership of Sergio Ramos have been particularly damaging. I'm very weary of what I'll call the "Club World Cup Effect.' I saw it really damage Barcelona the last team Real won the league in 2011-12. That extra level of fixtures and travel seems to be more of a burden on players than it may initially seem. Lastly, I also think that Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid may have published a blueprint of sorts to effectively play against Ancelotti's system. People have obviously taken notice of their success in Spain and are applying it whenever they can.
It's all probably due to a number of factors, the biggest one being the tired legs and a lack of motivation. Ancelotti's self-proclaimed "softness" needs to change, as his players are performing without passion and intensity. There might be some other issues, but every team needs intensity to win, even Real Madrid. The other big problem is Ancelotti's lack of rotations early in the season. It's costing the team right now, as players like Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema and Isco are not as successful as they were months ago. The squad's thin bench isn't helping, but Ancelotti started the usual XI in the last Champions League Group Stage game against FC Basel, for instance. That wasn't needed and there were other games during the first half of the season in which the Italian coach should have given his starters a rest.