Zidane: five conflicts to sort out in the Real Madrid squad
Real Madrid came into the international break after four draws in a row. Zidane has problems to fix.
Zidane facing problems at Real Madrid
Real Madrid's four consecutive draws have brought an uneasy atmosphere to the Bernabéu. Although the alarm bells aren't ringing yet, because as Zidane said it's "only October", so this isn't a crisis, what is true is that the lack of a cutting edge against Eibar (1-1) is a serious cause for concern. To the lack of intensity that Zidane has recognised and demanded be fixed are five other dressing room fires Zidane needs to put out...
The midfielder is having his worst spell at Real Madrid and isn't trying to hide his unhappiness at the situation. He's gone as far as to say that if he doesn't play he'll look to leave. And there's no shortage of interested clubs. After a difficult summer, where Isco was put up for sale, the player insisted on making a go of it at Real Madrid. Zidane spoke to him to explain he'd struggle to get a place in the starting line up. And though he said "everyone will get a chance", Isco has indeed barely figured.
With Casemiro and Modric (and James too) out Isco started against Eibar, but didn't take his chance, having a forgettable game. He's only played 192 minutes and seems to now be thinking about leaving, meaning he's likely distracted from focusing on Real Madrid. But with the injuries in midfield stacking up for Zidane, the Frenchman needs to work out how to get the most of his twinkle-toed genius.
James injured himself during the warm-up to the Eibar game. He couldn't play, but then travelled to join up with the Colombia squad, which enraged many at Real Madrid. Pékerman, while saying he has to look out for Colombia's interests first, assured Real Madrid that James' recovery is being treated as it would be at the club. And he's hopeful the player, having flown 9,000km, will play against Uruguay on Tuesday 11 October. And the player too wants to play.
The situation though has annoyed and worried Zidane, who would much rather his player had stayed in Madrid to recover fully. Particularly given that with Modric and Casemiro out James had got his chance and seemed to be taking it. Zidane's plan is to have a chat with James when he gets back to discuss priorities. James had said he'd play for Colombia even if he was lame. Zidane wants him to remember who pays his wages.
The BBC, Morata and Lucas Vázquez
"I hope to play more, but by helping the team and being professional" said striker Álvaro Morata in an interview on the radio recently. Zidane's determination to play the BBC, when only Bale is playing to the level expected, has condemned the former Juventus man and Lucas Vázquez to the bench.
Something a significant portion of the Real Madrid fans consider unfair, given performances on the pitch. What's been particularly notable has been the change in attitude of Zidane to Lucas Vázquez: he played in the first eight games of the season, including decisive appearances against, for example Sporting Lisbon, only to end up being ostracised (e.g. Borussia Dortmund and Eibar).
Zidane needs to decide what he wants to do with his front line: continue backing a Benzema who looks like he's dozed off, or shake things up and give his youngsters a chance. They've already proved they can do it.
The injury list at Real Madrid is currently a horror story. The medical list has gone from being nearly empty (just Coentrao and Keylor out) to now feature: Casemiro, Marcelo, Modric, Coentrao (injured again) and James.
Zidane worries desperately about injuries. To reinforce the players' physiques and resistance and avoid the problems that beset Rafa Benítez last season, Zidane hired trainer Antonio Pintus.
The squad have improved their stamina, and in general there have been fewer injuries: but all of a sudden there is a spate of problems which have caused Zidane no end of bother. And as football is capricious the injury list includes Casemiro, one of the players with no natural replacement (and whose absence coincided with the four draws), Modric, who directs the team, and Marcelo, a guaranteed starter when fit and team talisman. And Marcelo's replacement Coentrao is yet to play this season and has now gone missing...
Poor footballing spectacle
In only one game this season, at Anoeta, against Real Sociedad, where Real Madrid won 0-3, have Zidane's side looked like a decent footballing outfit. In the remainder of the games they've lacked intensity and concentration. The low point came against Eibar, where the team looked shoddy to the point of enraging the Bernabéu (not the hardest thing to do in the world, it should be said). At the end of the side's fourth draw in a row the Real Madrid faithful whistled their team off the pitch.
ZIdane is aware that losing the fans is the biggest problem he personally faces. And he's rapped the players publicly a couple of times over their poor displays.
The Real Madrid coach has said this isn't a crisis, but he's demanded solutions. He's spending the international break meeting with his backroom staff to work out exactly what they'll be...
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