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On Rebuilding And Rose-Colored Glasses

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Real Madrid’s Poor Form In Context

Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen - UEFA Champions League Group G Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

With the team’s current run of form, it is definitely a trying time to be a Real Madrid fan, and there are lots of things I miss when watching them this year:

I miss feeling like we were always one moment of brilliance away from a top class goal. Or any goal, at this point.

I miss seeing Ramos and Varane kicking @$$ and taking names on defense. Despite the occasional mistake, those two have been beasts on the back line for years, and it has always felt like a State Farm insurance policy having them back there. Lately, they have not exactly been good neighbors, suffering lapses in judgment and getting caught out more than we’re used to seeing. I need to feel like they are our rocks back there so that we can get back to getting consistently good results.

I miss having the two best wing backs in the world on the pitch together, and watching them bomb forward and overwhelm opposing defenses. Odriozola has a lot of talent, and Nacho can fill in on an as-needed basis, but nothing can compare to the one-two punch of Carvajal and Marcelo attacking from the back.

I miss Modric looking like he was from a different plane of existence, come to roam amongst us mortals. It’s not the fault of anyone at the club, as the hangover effect from a physically and psychologically draining World Cup campaign has been obvious. But whatever we need to do to help him get back in form is paramount at this point.

I miss Keylor Navas. I know he’s still there, but I miss him being our main guy between the sticks. I don’t know what Florentino’s obsession has been with signing a big name Spanish goal keeper, but that money could (should?) have gone toward someone who could help compensate for the offense we lost when Cristiano left.

In the midst of all this nostalgia, I recognize that there are a lot of rose-colored glasses to be found in how I remember seasons past. Last year, we had a distinctly disappointing start in La Liga, even if part of the reason for us being closer to Barça this time is down to the Catalans slipping up. The goal-less drought has been devastating, and there is no explaining that one away, but aside from a couple truly bad performances we haven’t looked particularly poor. If we didn’t have bad luck, we would have no luck at all this season, and I believe that is bound to turn around with the quality we have in the squad. And while the notion of “crisis” sets in with astounding severity due to the nature of the club, it feels harsh to be giving Lopetegui the boot at this point in his tenure.

I won’t argue that there aren’t serious concerns to be addressed with this current team, but this was always going to be a rebuilding project after the departure of CR7. In a way, the fast start made this current run of form look worse because it convinced us – falsely, I believe – that we were prepared to move into the new era without any sort of hicc-ups. What the recent results have shown us is that there will be an inevitable adjustment period, especially considering the lack of any big-name signings to patch up the holes in the line-up that Ronaldo left. I fully understand the position of many as to the necessity of Lopetegui’s departure, and I can’t say for sure what the correct decision is. But whether we keep him or not, I believe that the team is due to bounce back. Whether Lopetegui is the right man to guide that process I don’t know, and I suspect we won’t get the chance to find out. I just hope that when the decision is made, the club and its fans recognize that there is no cure-all to be found in changing the coach if the current squad remains as is, and dropping one coach doesn’t make much sense without a clear choice for a replacement.

Post-script:

When we sack Lopetegui, bring in Conte, and then go on an absurd winning streak, I would like my crow cooked medium rare and marinated in garlic. I am more than happy to eat it if it means we turn the season around.