Benzema and Jovic: the chemistry missing for Real Madrid strikers
Zinedine Zidane is trying to find the right blend for his new Real Madrid starting XI and the early signs from his main strikers are causing doubts.
Real Madrid tried something fresh against Villarreal at the Estadio de La Cerámica on Sunday as Zinedine Zidane came out with a 4-4-2 formation rather than the well-versed 4-3-3 of seasons stretching back some time. It did, as often happens, have a tendancy to slide into a 4-2-4 shape, with Gareth Bale and Lucas Vázquez taking to the attacking wide areas, the Welshman back on the left causing danger.
Benzema and Jovic: not yet a duet
With only two pure central midfielders in Casemiro and Toni Kroos, and two strikers, Luka Jovic and Karim Benzema, there was a sense of the 1990s, a style that some of Los Blancos' younger fans will have been less familiar with. For Zidane it was something rather novel, but seemed a fairly logical solution given that Madrid are lacking the finishing touch to the numerous opportunities created. This is especially important given the failings at the other end.
In their previous game against Valladolid, they had 22 efforts on goal, and came away with just the one reward. The refreshed line-up, therefore, gave a chance for us to see what chemistry there was between his favourite number nine and the new striker that the club threw 60 million euros at Eintracht Frankfurt for in the summer.
And the conclusion that was reached following the pairs first start together is that both are able to contribute plenty to the team, however, they are not yet gelling. It's not that they didn't interact much, it's that they did not connect at all. Between them they made an impressive total of 39 completed passes in Villarreal - 22 by Benzema, 17 by Jovic - but not one of those passes went to each other in the 68 minutes they shared on the grass.
Despite this fact, they both left positives from the game. Benzema fired a blistering shot off the upright in the first half after creating the chance himself, and was a constant link to the midfield of casemiro and Kroos. Jovic had two efforts, both off target, but was also the author of that delicious backheel that set Carvajal free to lay the ball on a plate for Bale's first equaliser. The Serbian can be a bull when he needs to be, but has also shown his class and link-up play.
The expectation, as with the other new recruits in Zidane's summer upheaval, is that time will be their most valuable asset, and once the team's chemistry is realised, they could be a real force this season. The question is, how long is that going to take.