How quickly things can change in football. Not so long ago, Zinedine Zidane appeared to have a wealth of options on the bench, rotating throughout the season to peak at the right time. Now, however, things are not so clear as the French coach is currently encountering more doubts than solutions and clearly doesn't trust his subs when the going gets tough.
This was plain for all to see at San Mamés on Saturday evening as Los Blancos laboured to a 0-0 draw, despite being presented with a golden chance earlier in the day to close the gap at the top after Barcleona were held 2-2 by Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou. As Real struggled to find a way through the Athletic defence, Zidane waited until the 81st minute to act, bringing on Kovacic and Mayoral for Isco and Benzema. The fact that he didn't use Ceballos, Theo, Nacho or Lucas Vázquez tells its own story.
Use of resources
Moreover, Zidane's use of resources from the bench, or lack thereof, has been a running theme this season. From August to December he has failed to use his all available subs on five occasions, and in three of those when Madrid were being held, for instance against Spurs at the Bernabéu, Atlético at the Wanda Metropolitano and now at San Mamés. In the other two games his side won, away to Deportivo Alavés (1-2) and Fuenlabrada (0-2).