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Immediate Reaction: Alaves 1 - 0 Real Madrid

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Real Madrid lose at the death, and never really looked like scoring.

Deportivo Alaves v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Alaves defeat Real Madrid 1 - 0 (Manu Garcia). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.


Real Madrid have failed to score for their fourth consecutive match now, and concede on the last play of the match, in what was pretty well the worst case scenario.

If this was a one-off occurrence, you could chalk it up to transitory roadblocks — good defensive sides, an organized team in good form since Abelardo took over last season, bad luck, injuries, etc — but after four matches, laborious offensive sequences, stagnation without the ball, and a sparse amount of clear-cut chances, there are some issues that need to be addressed quickly.

In the first half, Real Madrid’s main issues came from their lack of presence in between the lines. Alaves, who defended in a 4-5-1 for the majority of this match, had little to worry about in terms of a central presence. Both Casemiro and Modric were receiving the ball from deep, while Kroos didn’t venture forward on the other side. Ceballos was pinned to the wings, and the only one popping up centrally off the ball was Benzema (occasionally).

For what it’s worth, amid some concern about Ceballos’s positioning, he did create some danger from the left hand side with cut-in shooting and dangerous crossing, but he didn’t stay on the left much, roamed without much clear direction, and was interchangeable with Bale on the flanks — which is not entirely his game.

Once Mariano came in at half-time for Benzema, there was at least a target to hit. Bale had three really great passes that generated chances in the box — one of which was to Mariano — but the chances just weren’t prolific enough. Isco or Marcelo might bail you out in a game like this — though that may even be a stretch given the funk the team is in right now. One thing we could probably guarantee is that Marcelo would’ve helped tremendously, as Nacho provided zero offensive threat. His overloads were tame, his crossing mediocre, and he hasn’t been able to take on wing-backs with confidence this season.

Some quick bullet points from my notebook

  • Odriozola was a mixed bag today. As always, his speed is ridiculous. He’s a constant threat to meet cross-field switches, and was very good at hitting in accurate crosses from tight spaces. He also gave the ball away twice in dangerous positions (which Varane mopped up), and kept Jony onside from a long-range heave which Courtois thankfully came out in time for.
  • Varane was a rare bright spot. He did everything right defensively and masked his teammates’ mistakes, and had six clearances — basically shielding Real Madrid to his best ability. (I wrote this point before Real Madrid conceded at the end, where Varane didn’t get to the ball at the far post).
  • Courtois didn’t look too comfortable with the ball at his feet, and while this loss isn’t really on him, he did come out with a lot of hesitation and got stuck in-between two worlds on the last play of the match which Manu Garcia scored from.
  • Kroos and Modric both had their good moments, as they always will in any given game, but there just wasn’t enough from them. Modric hasn’t really been himself since the World Cup (his role as more of a passenger this season isn’t necessarily helping), and Kroos, similarly to the match in Bilbao, really had little options to pass to vertically.
  • This season has taken a 180-degree turn, given how well the team started and how fluid the offense looked within the first few games of the season. To be sure, it may yet still turn in the right direction. Maybe the scouting report is out — but even that isn’t a satisfying excuse, because there are clear things that Real Madrid need to do better offensively, and a lot of that great movement from earlier this season has completely waned.

Sincerely,

- A man somehow looking forward to the international break.