After an excruciatingly bad pre-season, Zinedine Zidane is trying formations beyond the 4-3-3 in order to maximize the strength of the team and their new signings.
The issue here, is that there are still no new options for the right side of the team and that could cause a lot of issues for the upcoming season. Including making the team unbalanced on the pitch.
On paper, the club only has two right wingers, Gareth Bale and Lucas Vazquez while on the opposite side there are five wingers to choose from: Eden Hazard, Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio, Brahim Diaz and Rodrygo.
Both Bale and Vazquez have had good spells at Madrid but within recent years they each have their own issues to deal with which impacts the selection process for Zidane.
The Welshman has fallen out of favour with the French head coach and the Spaniard in response found ways to make the most of that opportunity. For the last two seasons, Zidane has preferred to start Vazquez who on the right yet his performance record has declined substantially and he offers less creativity than he did.
Looking at the choices for the left hand side, there is more option but injuries have slimmed the choices down (which is both a blessing and a curse).
Brahim Diaz, Rodrygo and Marco Asensio are all out due to the injury and the latter is expected to not return for another seven months. This then leaves Eden Hazard, and Vinicius Junior as the only other options.
Being the clubs most anticipated signing, the Belgian superstar will most likely take on the duty of dictating the left side of the pitch in both domestic and international competition under Zidane. It is in this position where he produced his best performances with his former club Chelsea FC.
Just last year, Hazard scored 16 goals and provided 15 assists for his teammates on the way to third place in the Premier League and the 2018/29 Europa League title. Taking him out of this position would be a very bad decision but also leaving him with no support up top is the same.
So what do we do with Vinicius Junior? Everyone knows that Real Madrid’s season last year was a combination of fatigue, loss of drive and humiliation all rolled into one but it is not hard to admit the Brazilian youngster was one of the better players.
With three goals and 12 assists across all competitions, the 19-year-old added some of that missing fire and drive to the club, showing he really is a class talent. So it would be a waste for him to sit on the bench behind Hazard, no? Well that might not be the case.
As mentioned before with Bale and Vazquez not seeming the greatest options for the right hand side, Zidane has thought to start Vinicius Junior opposite Hazard with Karim Benzema or Luka Jovic in the middle when playing a 4-3-3.
We saw this lineup in that International Champions Cup match against Atletico Madrid yet it looked as though Vinicius Junior was not quite comfortable on the right side. So naturally, most of the game went down along the left hand side through Hazard and Marcelo.
The route of play for Real Madrid could be drastically one sided if the formation stays like this and opposing teams can defend and easily counter attack down the lacking-in-strength right hand side game after game.
So where does the club go from here?
While it may seem as though the 4-3-3 formation is on its way out for the club, the managing staff hasn’t found another version that fits this new team with unbalanced wing strength.
The 3-4-2-1 against Red Bull Salzburg left too much space up top and the 3-2-3-1-1 against Roma limited the creative abilities of Hazard and Benzema which is not what the club would want for their attacking line.
Regardless of the formation choice for the starting XI, it all comes down to the fact that not having reliable right wingers at the club will cause major issues going forward.
Having limited time to complete more transfers and offload players in the process, it’s unsure if the club can sign a reinforcement for the right wing. The play they are still interested in Neymar Jr., also plays on the left side and could complicate the issue more.
So do we continue to put Vinicius Junior on the right rather than on the bench? Or sacrifice Hazard’s talents to the centre? Maybe we just cross our fingers and hope the two right wingers we have work well enough.
The situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible before it’s too far in the season to recover. Time is ticking.