In Saturday's defeat to Eibar, Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari succumbed to a number of the issues that plagued Julen Lopetegui's tenure.
Real Madrid's 3-0 defeat to Eibar on Saturday saw their recent resurgence under Santiago Solari come to a shuddering and spectacular halt. Indeed, it was a comprehensive beating that brought back memories of the problems and mistakes that led to Solari's predecessor, Julen Lopetegui, being sacked after just four months. In the Argentine's first game since being appointed Madrid boss on a permanent basis, there were many familiar failings on show...
Bale continues to enjoy unjustified first-team status
No doubt feeling in bullish frame of mind in the wake of THAT overhead kick, Gareth Bale had complained in Kiev that he needed to be playing "week in, week out". Well, this term he is, and has just one goal to his name since 19 September. Solari came into the job with a warning shot for the Welshman, calling on him to offer more. However, he hasn't had the courage to go one step further and drop him. Despite Bale's disastrous display at Ipurua (he lost the ball 21 times, made just 10 passes in the opposition half...), the 29-year-old still got the full 90 minutes.
Ceballos: a curious solution to Casemiro absence
Managing without Casemiro (who is out with a sprained ankle suffered in Vigo) is threatening to prove a major conundrum for the new man in charge - just as it was for his predecessor. Lopetegui wanted to play Toni Kroos there when need be, and the German was having none of it. Against Eibar, Solari placed his faith in Dani Ceballos, a player who had returned from the international break with the wind in his sails, rather than turning to a specialist anchorman such as Marcos Llorente (who didn't even make the squad, and will surely leave in January) or Fede Valverde. Ceballos was overrun time and time again in the Basque Country.
Unable to spark a second-half reaction
Judging by what we saw out on the pitch, it can hardly be said that Solari earned his corn when he got the team back in the dressing room for half time. Having been taken to the cleaners in his tactical battle with Eibar coach José Luis Mendilibar in an opening 45 in which Madrid could not live with the home side's suffocating high pressing, Solari proved powerless to change the course of the match at the break. The same had happened to Lopetegui in Moscow, for example; Seville, too. Indeed, Solari not only failed to kickstart his team's afternoon, but sent out a side which, within ten minutes of the game getting back underway, had conceded a second and a third...
Substitutions fail to have the desired effect
Solari's first purely tactical change against Eibar came when Madrid were already 3-0 down: Isco for Luka Modric in the 62nd minute. Before then, Dani Carvajal had come on for the injured Álvaro Odriozola. The introduction of Vinicius for Marco Asensio with just over a quarter of an hour to go had little effect, except to give the Brazilian a cameo of scant benefit to the Braziliam, and to put more pressure on Asensio, who is struggling to respond to the challenge of the more prominent role given to him in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo's departure. There was a lack of imagination to Solari's substitutions that did not leave him in a good light.
A team without "the right attitude"
Performances such as the 5-0 thumping of Viktoria Plzen appeared to herald a Real Madrid side that had awoken from its slumbers, but that certainly wasn't in evidence against Eibar. "When you don't show the right attitude, these things happen," said Sergio Ramos post-match. Madrid were once more the defensively fragile unit that they were under Lopetegui. There was no sign of the "balls" that Solari had demanded before the cup trip to Melilla. Los Blancos have now conceded 19 in LaLiga this term, more than they had at the same stage of any other season over the past decade. Five have come in their past two away games. They were leaky at the back under Lopetegui, and still have gaps to plug under Solari.