Two seasons ago, Real Madrid’s season was derailed by both fatigue and injury. These two problems affected some of Madrid’s best players, including Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Gareth Bale among others. Los Blancos went from being the best team on the planet, to having a trophyless season. What started as a promising year ended in disaster. A 22-game win streak amounted to nothing, and to make matters worse, Barcelona won another treble.
That 2014-2015 team had one fatal flaw that kept it from winning any hardware — a complete lack of depth. At the back, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao were the only potential replacements at the fullback positions when either starter went down to injury. The former was old, and hardly even serviceable at that point in his career, while the latter could never (and still can’t) stay off the trainer’s table. In midfield there was decent depth, but the team never had a defensive midfielder that could’ve helped solve their huge defensive problems. While the squad did have two central midfielders in Khedira and Illarramendi, both lacked confidence. Sami Khedira spent large portions of the season injured as well. At the forward positions, there was only Jese and Chicharito to back up the front 3.
As the season progressed, more and more players went down to injury, and more Madridistas blamed manager Carlo Ancelotti for failing to properly rotate. While blaming the Italian for not rotating does hold some validity, the squad really didn’t have much depth to rotate in the first place. Ultimately, Perez didn’t care that Carlo had won Real Madrid La Décima just the year before, and he sacked the manager at season’s end.
Madrid Strengthens its Squad
Over the next few windows, Real Madrid began to create the deepest squad on the planet, and it all started with Madridistas returning home. Madrid bought back Casemiro from Porto, and Alvaro Morata from Juventus, while Lucas Vazquez, and Marco Asensio returned from highly successful loan spells.
But Los Blancos didn’t just stop with players who were formerly at the club, they also bought a successful blend of both veterans, and talented youngsters. After allowing club legend Iker Casillas to leave on a free transfer, Real Madrid signed Espanyol Goalkeeper Kiko Casilla for just over 5 million Euros. Real Madrid bought cover for Carvajal, purchasing the promising Danilo for around 30 million, a massive fee for a fullback. Mateo Kovacic was purchased for around the same fee as Danilo, but was thought at first to be an unnecessary signing. The Croatian midfielder was recommended by his countryman Luka Modric, however, at the time many Madridistas thought he would have no place in the squad. When Zidane became manager, and no longer used a number 10 in his 4-3-3 setup, the chances for Mateo Kovacic to play increased ten-fold, even if it was at the expense of James Rodriguez and Isco.
Even though during Zidane’s first season as manager, Kovacic was sparsely used, this season he has been given the opportunity to show his incredible ability, and has impressed both his manager and fans alike. Marco Asensio and Jesus Vallejo were both bought in the summer of 2015, and immediately sent on loan. While Vallejo has yet to play an official match for Real Madrid, Marco Asensio returned for this season and has shown signs of his sky-high potential.
Coping with this seasons’ Injuries
In regards to injuries, this season has been very similar to that of the 2014-2015 season. While the injuries two years ago were more impactful, the injuries this season are more numerous. There are only a handful of players this season that haven’t been injured. Despite all these injuries that would’ve been devastating to other top teams, Real Madrid finally suffered its first loss of the year just this past weekend to one of the most intimidating footballing atmospheres in all of Europe.
The best example that showcases Real Madrid’s depth is through the injury of Gareth Bale in attack. The position most affected by injuries this season has undoubtedly been the Right Wing, as Gareth Bale, and his injury-prone nature have once again proved problematic for Los Blancos. In his place, Madrid has been able to play World Class players like James Rodriguez, and Isco, as well as young studs such as Lucas and Asensio.
No team on Earth can bring James Rodriguez on as a substitute as a 3rd, or even 4th choice off the bench. This speaks to the level of the competitiveness within the squad. Both world class and young players raise each other’s levels to get the best out of the other. Despite this competitiveness, there have been no reports of any player outside of Rodriguez who are/were seeking a move. There is an obvious cohesion within the group, and that only helps reinforce the term “next man up”.
Is any team as deep as Real Madrid?
So with all of this depth, what teams in world football compare? Before the season started, only 2 teams could have a legitimate argument that their squad had similar talent and depth, and those two were Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Now, however, there is no longer an argument. While both teams have starting XI’s that compete with Real Madrid’s, neither have the quality of depth that Los Blancos do. Barcelona have depth, but the quality of said depth doesn’t hold a candle to that of Madrid’s. Bayern on the other hand does possess high quality depth, but still not as much as Real Madrid.
Madridistas are extremely lucky to be able to witness a team with the quality that this current team has. When top players go down, it is always a worry about who can fill their role within the team. But so far this season (not including the last two matches), any worries we might have had have been emphatically put down. Real Madrid has been through a devastating season in terms of injuries, and yet they are still in excellent position to win silverware this season. Over the next few weeks, this squad will be seriously tested. Depth has kept the season afloat, and this depth is the primary reason Real Madrid are pushing for trophies.