This is a tough time to be a Real Madrid fan. We lost a legendary coach and player over the summer, already chewed up and spit out our first attempt at a replacement on the touch line, and haven’t looked convincing against decent opposition since the first weeks of the season. The practice of fandom has always baffled me for just how much people will remain committed to something as ephemeral as a sports team, often over the course of generations, with no explicit form of payoff for long stretches of time. Fans of Los Merengues are considerably more fortunate than most, considering that we can be in crisis mode mere months after winning our third consecutive Champions League title, but it doesn’t make the current rough patch any easier to swallow. In some ways, it makes it worse because we know the team can and should be better than this.
With all this in mind, it might be a good time to look for a few silver linings in our present situation. Even if it’s just to keep our own sanity, a little sunshine, however cynical, can only be helpful to keep hope alive. Here are the best candidates for some sort of bright side:
- We’ve gotten the look at the youngsters that we’ve been clamoring for. Odriozola, Reguilon, Vinicius – guys we’ve been begging to see more of have gotten a decent run in the team. Ceballos, who is clearly on a slightly different level than those other players, has also figured more prominently and looked positive overall. There are plenty of arguments to be made about just how much this crop of young players has impressed, and even more so about how they have been utilized in the squad, but they have at least gotten minutes on the pitch, which is more than we have seen in the past. A little more faith in our backup options in midfield (Fede Valverde or Marcos Llorente, anyone?) would further aid in this bit of cold comfort.
- The fact that we need squad reinforcements continues to be painfully obvious, and if these poor results keep pouring in, it will be hard for the higher-ups to deny the argument for new signings. Moderate results might allow them to keep treading water in the hopes that things will improve. Being outright awful will at least be an agent for change.
- We were looking for someone to make the guys play as a team, and Solari has indeed achieved that against Eibar by getting virtually everyone to suck at the same time. That’s squad cohesion of a sort. Good on him for that one.
- We know what DOESN’T work – Ceballos as the single pivot, relying on the combo of Benzema and Bale for goal production, Thibaut Courtois in goal – so we can narrow down the options going forward. If we throw enough darts at the wall, eventually a couple of them have to find the target. Right? RIGHT??
- The consensus before his first game in charge was that Solari was not the guy and would need a tremendous stroke of luck or a remarkable uptick in coaching form in order to succeed. The first four games, almost all against substandard opposition, seemed to deliver on the luck and emotional commitment part of the equation, and they bought him time and cautious optimism. But if he is indeed a bad fit, as many suspected, then he might as well start failing now so the club has plenty of time to commit to moving him on and search for a proper replacement for next season.
- It’s hard to fall lower than losses to Alaves and Eibar, or the 5-1 drubbing in the Clasico, so any kind of decent results will look like steps in the right direction at this point.
Obviously, these are all extremely tongue in cheek observations. Solari has not had enough time for any sort of verdict to be passed on his adequacy as a coach, and one poor result does not a trend make. Even still, I don’t think it’s ridiculous for a number of alarm bells to be sounding, especially when you place this week’s loss within the context of the season as a whole. If new blood in the transfer window is not forthcoming, then improved results seem highly unlikely.
On the flip side, and in a completely unsarcastic vein, Barça are failing quite a bit themselves despite considerably more squad continuity and big money additions than we have enjoyed. Even with all our poor performances, we are only five points behind them and six behind the leaders. Does it portend silverware come the end of the season? Probably not, at least unless we undergo a remarkable turnaround. But it is a slight balm for our wounded pride and it may have to keep us going in the short term. I don’t know about you, but I’m running on fumes and will take consolation anywhere I can get it. Schadenfreude at the expense of the Blaugrana is as good a place as any.