Real Madrid struggled dealing with Girona today in so many different ways, which we’ll break down below. They lost 2-1 (Stuani, Portu; Isco), and continue to fall behind Barcelona and Valencia. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review
This was, um, not fun. Today’s reaction will be to the point:
- Real Madrid rolled into Girona today with their strongest XI available. Treading safely always made sense, even with Tottenham looming, given the obvious rawness of this year’s ‘B team’, and Zidane’s comments after the match against Fuenlabrada which hinted this year’s role players are still learning the ropes, unlike last season’s established players.
- And yet, even with most of the squad available, Real Madrid haven’t looked good — particularly tonight. They struggled dealing with Girona’s high-press, and as a consequence, gave away the ball (at least six times by count in the first 22 minutes) in dangerous areas which led the multiple conceded chances. Girona also hit the post twice in the first half, before they started to eventually find the back of the net in the second half.
- There were huge pockets of space in behind Girona’s midfield, given the sheer number of hounding players they sent high up the pitch, but Real Madrid could rarely exploit it. When they did, like the goal Isco scored in the first half from a wonderfully-worked counter-attack, they created chances. Those moments were rare, though, and apart from Isco (and on occasion Modric and Benzema), they were uncharacteristically bad at trying to get out of the their half. It’s still shocking to me how this team was doing all these fundamental things at the most elite level possible just a couple months ago.
- Luka Modric was uncharacteristically off. He had several unforced misplaced passes. In case you’re wondering, at the time I’m writing this in the second half, his passing accuracy was 7% lower than his season average.
- Obviously Varane is so key to everything Real Madrid do defensively. Even when the team was treading water, Varane was the one making key interventions to stop the bleeding. You could sense the lack of his presence in the second half when he left the field injured.
- Girona’s first goal from Stuani was brilliant.
- On the second goal conceded, Portu was offside, and the goal shouldn’t have stood, but that certainly doesn’t excuse the inexcusable decision to leave Maffeo completely unmarked on the rebound, particularly when there were three Real Madrid shirts jogging behind the play just behind Maffeo.
- After the goal, Girona obviously started to plug more gaps defensively and trying to catch Real Madrid on the counter. Zidane’s response was to bring on Lucas and Asensio for Achraf and Marcelo, which, was, curious — leaving everyone scratching their heads. I mean, Marcelo’s touch was heavy all game, and Achraf wasn’t contributing much offensively, so, it’s probably not as crazy as an idea as some people made it out to be. But the left flank in particular, was a mess. Asensio wasn’t defending, and Casemiro was spread thin trying to cover multiple channels. Maffeo was licking his lips.
- In the end, Real Madrid just couldn’t break through, and me, Kiyan Sobhani, a generally ‘glass-half-full’ type of dude, am completely miffed at how bad Real Madrid looked today, which has encapsulated their entire La Liga campaign, really. Daps to a very good Girona side.
- See you on tonight’s post-game podcast.