*Article has been edited to clarify Real Madrid have signed two defence supports, not one.
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Real Madrid’s 2019 International Champions Cup has officially come to a close and it was well in doubt a campaign that sparked a lot of conversation.
Before the tournament, club President Florentino Perez and head coach Zinedine Zidane wanted to start the new season with fresh feet and brought in over 300 million euros worth of signings to the club.
The spending spree was already making headlines across the world and as the team made their way to the United States of America, every football fan was waiting to see a ‘new and improved Real Madrid’ but of course, that is easier said than done.
The Spanish finished the preseason with a 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich, a 3-2 win over Arsenal thanks to penalties and most notably, a 3-7 annihilation from city rivals Atletico Madrid.
So here’s what we learned after the team’s time across the pond...
- The goal scoring issue still lingers
A big issue last season resulted in a lack of goals. Veteran forwards Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz had trouble scoring as many goals as the club usually sees and it was this drought that created major problems for the team.
As a result, the club brought in Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Rodrygo Goes to help the front line. These players, however, are set to come in and help the club’s situation but they aren’t going to save the situation. It’s the consistency of scoring the goals that remain an issue.
As beautiful as it was, Rodrygo’s free-kick against Bayern was a consolation one. Against Arsenal, Marco Asensio’s goal was one of the few we’ve seen created out of play and Bales was simply a toe-poke. Then Benzema’s penalty and the deflections from Nacho Fernandez and Javier Hernandez were fortunate ones.
The team still needs to find ways to link up on the pitch and put the ball in the back of the net from the route of play if they want to improve.
2. Thibaut Courtois or Keylor Navas? It’s still up in the air.
As much as there are still issues upfront, there’s still more at the back. The club has always had interesting relationships with their goalkeepers and it continues to do so this season.
For the last few seasons, Keylor Navas has been the clubs man between the sticks but just last year, the club brought in reinforcements. On paper, both Navas and Courtois are two impeccable keepers but that just creates a question on its own, who starts?
In the tournament, both keepers featured in all three games with the Belgian getting the start 2/3 times under Zidane yet the players look more comfortable with Navas.
Both Courtois and Navas haven’t been putting on their best performances having let in 12 goals across the campaign so picking between the two remains to be a struggle for the club.
3. Don’t count Hazard out just yet
The former Chelsea No. 10 has finally arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu after a few flirtatious summers and given the status he has, he is expected to perform.
His first appearances in the white and gold jersey weren’t the best. Hazard has been physically tested game after game and has yet to find his footing on the left-wing.
When he gets the chances though, the talent shines right through and it is very easy to the quality that this player has on the ball.
So while fans of the club might start to deem him overrated given his first few appearances, it is important that we give him time to properly adjust to his new club and find ways to pull out his best performances. Time will tell.
4. Brazilian youngsters bring much-needed life into the club
A consistent flaw in the club stems from the player’s drop in attitude when they are losing. If things seem to not be clicking on the pitch then the performance rate drops substantially.
There are two players, however, who continue to run at the opposition at full speed with the intentions of still moving forward: Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.
At just 19 and 18 years of age, the youngsters bring a lot of energy into the squad and even when the game is going against them, they never fail to test the defence and try to place the ball in the back of the net.
Rodrygo’s performance and goal against Bayern is a perfect example. He took opportunity after opportunity to score one for his club, whether it be a consolation one or not.
Vinicius Junior’s performance against Atletico Madrid is another one. With the team playing so poorly, the attitudes down-dropped fast and so did the performances but not for this particular Brazilian. Vinicius was one of the better players on the pitch for Zidane and did a lot of work along the right-wing trying to pull one back for his club. Unfortunate for his shot to hit the post.
5. The gaps in midfield and defence need to be sorted, fast.
For years the midfield and defence at the club has been a solid system. With, Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Marcelo changing the dynamic at the back and Toni Kroos and Luka Modric creating an unparalleled midfield.
But after the recent season and the results of the 2019 ICC, the dominance the world once knew might not be there. Of course, this is normal as teams get older but with only two of the summer signings reinforcing the backline (Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy), it remains an ageing one.
Limited defensive midfielders also restricts the team’s creativity and therefore results in a lack of movement going forward. A drastic change in the lineup needs to be seriously considered if Zidane wants to regain the dominance he once had across all competitions and the sooner the done the better.