The problem Real Madrid has (and one it has yet to solve), is that it has a squad full of ex-winners — players that don’t necessarily feel the need to win anymore because they’ve already won so much. The squad lacks players who haven’t won trophies — and once those players arrive, things will be fine again.
But by appointing Zidane, we essentially extended that dangerous mindset of “win, lose or draw, I’m fine with it”. Why? Because Zidane doesn’t want to let go of the old guard. He trusts them too much — perhaps understandably. The ageing cores has gaven him everything, from respect to trophies.
But these players are most likely not going to give him everything anymore. They’ve become indifferent about results. It’s a cliché, but, Zidane can’t use his ‘passion’ as his saving grace anymore. He can’t fire these players up, and what the fanbase comically has deduced his managerial strengths to — clapping and shouting ‘vamos’ — is now beyond him. The way Zidane can be successful now is by not being Zidane. The old guard needs something different.
Luka Jovic wants to win; Vinicius Jr wants to win; Eden Hazard wants to win; Thibaut Courtois wants to win — but they’re surrounded by players who are indifferent about it. On paper, the team is good enough to compete for a treble. But it struggles to pull through its psychological stumbling blocks.
Just like in the work place, when a team isn’t psychologically able to motivate itself anymore — let alone win — you can eliminate that idea of relying on magically flipping a switch and becoming confident overnight. You need to give these players schematics and routines on positioning you can drill into their heads so they become automatisms. A quick look at Manchester City: build-up from the back, ball-playing goalkeepers passing it through the middle to Rodri Hernandez, Rodri distributes it to the left, it’s then switched to the right, advanced up the pitch, switched again (and again until space is opened up), vertical passes in the final third, cut backs, and finally a goal. Repeat.
That’s putting it simply, but these are fundamentals that Real Madrid lacks — but often got away with for so long because the players are individually so incredibly good and were psychologically 100% ready to sacrifice it all for a win. Now, it’s a squad filled with 4x Champions League winners. Who are you to tell them they aren’t the best at what they do?
Thinking Luka Modrić is going to run that extra mile in a game, or Carvajal is going to put in that extra tackle in with absolutely nothing to prove to anyone anymore is a silly thought. This team needs Reguilón’s and Hazard’s. But, expecting a rebuild like that within one summer is silly as well.
The main issue I had, and probably still have, with Zidane is that he does understand game principles, but doesn’t view them as his main tool to success, so his application of game principles is lacking dramatically, which he himself has admitted.
Sergio Ramos confirmed it too, and he even went on to say Madrid doesn’t need optimal application of game principles — it needs someone that keeps the locker room together. Ironically, when you can analyze problems of yourself and your surroundings that thoroughly, you can fix it yourself.
Before we start spelling doom and think the season is over before it has even begun, we have to understand football is chaotic and unpredictable. Real Madrid is, was, and will be on top if it wants to or not. There is new blood in the camp, and they, together with the old guard, might just have the tools to keep us going strong throughout the 2019/20 campaign.