In a few months time, Asensio will reach his 25th birthday. Once a “wonder-kid”, the Spaniard is beginning to enter what is expected to be his peak. Zidane has given his former starlet a run of games to rediscover his match rhythm and get his body re-acclimated to the demand of top-flight football after a horrific ACL rupture last season. Despite the stable consistency, the man from Mallorca is yet to score a goal or provide assist in his six consecutive starts and nine total appearances. Those who have suffered a season ending injury may have expected a slow return.
It will take time for Asensio to truly recover from his ACL injury. Zidane has acknowledged as much, “With Marco and Eden we know that they are at a point when then have to work hard. We all know that Asensio has been out for a while, just like Hazard.” It could take Asensio another three, six, or even nine months before he reaches his previous level. In the interim, his on field performances and habitual defensive errors have meant his involvement is costing the team crucial points. In three of his last six matches, Asensio’s repetitive lapses in concentration have directly led to goals conceded:
Against Barcelona, Marco Asensio was handed the difficult task of being an auxiliary right back with the engine to bomb forward. His defensive duties included tracking Jordi Alba. For most of the game, Asensio stuck to his task and did his job well, but one lapse in concentration and Alba was through to set-up Barcelona’s lone goal of the match. At the highest level, those errors are punished.
In Real Madrid’s last match vs Valencia, there were a calamity of individual mistakes leading up to each goal. The lead up to the third goal, and second penalty, was no different. Asensio followed Gaya into his own third (much like he had to do vs Alba in El Clasico) and intercepted Valencia’s pass with an attempted overhead kick. The kick ended up morphing into a failed clearance bouncing off Asensio’s chest back into Gaya’s path. Lucas Vazquez is quickest to react and switches marks with Asensio to latch on to the marauding Gaya. Unlike Vazquez, Asensio does not react. Instead, he stands and he watches. He waits in assumption that the defense will take care of it. It’s another defensive lapse from the right winger who is looking to make a home in the starting XI — a lapse which comes down to fatigue and laziness. Yes, Fede Valverde could also have helped by closing down one of Gaya or Cheryshev and yes, Lucas Vazquez should have dropped centrally after Varane stepped out to Gaya, but Asensio’s total lack of effort has to be held accountable.
The concerning thing about these clips is that the same mistake is made over and over again. It’s an easy fix, but Asensio does not stay “switched on” for his defensive duties and allows runners to move into the box unmarked and unopposed. Against the Netherlands, Van De Beek makes his run directly across Asensio. He had more than enough time to recognize that Reguilon was getting dragged centrally by his mark and that his services would be required to cover the back post. Instead, Asensio watches Van De Beek run by him and unleash a volley to level the game.
Marco Asensio has never been identified for his defensive prowess. The attributes that have provided Asensio with a positive reputation all come down to his contributions in the final third of the pitch, as well as his vision from midfield. But, as he battles to regain his fitness, form, and confidence, he has to ensure that the defensive side of his game is not a liability. If the defensive lapses continue as habitual errors without recognition, then Asensio’s position as a starter should be questioned.