Real Madrid: Zidane's luck has run out
During his second tenure at Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane has lost 10 out of 50 games. In his first term, it took Madrid 105 games to reach 10 defeats.
Second tenures often don’t go well, as Zinedine Zidane is finding out.
He came to the rescue of Madrid in March last season, when the team were out of the running for all three titles – the league, the cup and the Champions League.
At the very least, things would have to go very badly for him not to be in the fight until the end of this season’s race for title, which currently sees Barcelona leading with a very low 58 points after 27 games. That is the lowest leading points tally at this point of the season since 2006-07, when Barcelona sat top of the table with 53 points (it is worth noting that Madrid went on to win the title that season).
However, there is one disturbing fact. Solari was sacked after being eliminated from the Copa (Barça) and Champions League (Ajax) and with 73% of the points available secured in the league (12 wins, 1 draw and 4 losses). Zidane, meanwhile, is also out of the Copa (Real Sociedad), has more than one foot out of the Champions League, with statistics giving him a 7% chance of getting passed City in the second leg, and has picked up 69% of available points in the league.
Zidane’s second tenure at Real Madrid
Zidane's luck has run out. The rotations and the famous Team ‘B’ that won him the league and Champions League double in 2016-17 have not worked for him during this campaign.
During the French coach's second tenure, Madrid have so far lost 10 out of 50 games. As pointed out by MisterChip, during his first term, it took Madrid 105 games to reach 10 defeats. Madrid have now suffered four defeats in their last seven games, in stark comparison to the two losses in the previous 32 games of the season (20 wins and 10 draws).
The defeat to Betis at the Villamarín that ended Madrid’s chance to regain the top spot has undone all the hard work in the Clásico. Everything is as it was before the win over Barça, but now with two games less: Madrid are two points behind. Though, at least, with a better goal difference.
Zidane’s management has had its pros and cons this season, in which the French coach has combined successful decisions with others that have been difficult to understand. Here are the main ones.
The constantly changing system has been chameleon-like, which, of course, can be a virtue. Zidane has already used a 4-3-3, a 4-4-2 and a 4-1-4-1. He received high praise for the latter with five midfielders, with which Madrid played their best game of the season.
However, on the other hand, with such constant change the team has been unable to build a dynamic. On Sunday, for example, he forgot about another system that he had tried out in the last two games of the preseason, against Rome and Salzburg, where he deployed three central defenders. That would have prevented Militao from tanking at the Villamarín.
Zidane’s management of the Welshman’s situation has also been strange to say the least. In the summer he was pushing him to leave. Nobody will forget his emphatic “if he leaves tomorrow, great” comments after the Bayern Munich game in the pre-season.
Then Bale’s move to China fell through and with the passage of time, Zidane has opted to use the Welshman in some big matches (PSG, Atlético, Sevilla, and the first Clásico) and has left him on the bench in others (the last Clásico and Manchester City). He didn’t even consider putting him on the field against Betis, despite the fact that it would have been a good change to make.
Mariano and Jovic
On the topic of ‘9’, Zidane’s shift has been extreme. For starters, he has not put his confidence in Luka Jovic at any point of the season. The Serbian striker has only started eight games, scoring two goals, both of which came in extra time.
Mariano, meanwhile, had been completely ostracized throughout the season. And then suddenly, pressured by the lack of goals, Zidane has decided to pull the Spanish-Dominican out of the abyss. Another strange decision.
Another mysterious case. He started against Galatasaray in Istanbul, which was the most important Champions League match before the game against City. Then, the young Brazilian suddenly disappeared, and has been left out of the squad completely on five occasions since the turn of the New Year, including the first leg against City.
The frustrated young Brazilian ended up losing his head playing with Castilla a few weeks ago, getting sent for off for provoking San Sebastián de los Reyes goalkeeper Xabi Irureta during his goal celebration. Zidane had him on the bench at the Villamarín but did not use him once again.
Saturday’s defeat to Betis forced Zidane to take the blame and for that he should be commended. “It's an off day and that can happen. I'm responsible… There's no explanation… I don't blame them… I'm to blame,” said the Frenchman after the game.
“There are 11 games left and we'll fight for LaLiga. This won't lose us the Liga.”
And the fact that he is almost guaranteed to fight for the league until the end is what makes his situation different to that of Solari last year.
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