Tchouaméni isn’t the player Real Madrid signed from Monaco
After a good start to his Real Madrid career, summer signing Aurélien Tchouaméni’s form has dipped alarmingly in recent weeks.
Maybe it’s because he wasn’t ready to be Real Madrid’s sole anchorman, and is used to being accompanied in a double pivot with Monaco and France. Maybe he’s distracted by the imminent World Cup. Whatever the reason, Aurélien Tchouaméni has gone from being a hugely exciting new signing to a player surrounded by question marks, one who falls to pieces easier than a sugar cube in a hot cup of tea. If you’ll permit me to labour the analogy a little longer, he’s been sweetening cuppas for a month and a half now.
Can Tchouaméni slump really be about tiredness?
“Forcefulness.” That was the word repeated eight times by Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti as he faced the media after Monday’s LaLiga defeat to Rayo Vallecano. In the most purely physical sense, that’s exactly what Tchouaméni is failing to give Los Blancos. Ancelotti has put it down to tiredness, but while the France international is Madrid’s eighth-most used player, featuring more than midfield colleague Luka Modric, that surely can’t be a legitimate excuse. Including France games, Tchouaméni has played 1,312 minutes this season; at this stage of the 2021/22 campaign, he had many more minutes under his belt: 1,928.
Frenchman creating less than Casemiro at Man Utd
In other words: his start to last term was much more gruelling than this season. At Monaco, Tchouaméni generated 0.31 more goals per game than expected, according to statistics compiled by the artificial intelligence (AI) company Olocip. At the Spanish and European champions, that figure is down to 0.23. Meanwhile, former Madrid defensive midfielder Casemiro has overcome a lukewarm start to life at Manchester United to earn the trust of Old Trafford boss Erik ten Hag, and praise from both the UK media and AI. The Brazilian’s impact at United is 0.34 more goals than expected per 90 minutes.
The question, then, is why Tchouaméni’s performances have dropped off from the zenith of the wins over Celta Vigo, Espanyol and Atlético Madrid, to his current slump in form. At Madrid, there’s an eagerness to avoid using the term ‘World Cup’ as a reason for certain absences through muscle issues, but the fact remains that Tchouaméni has not only suffered a dip in performances, but has also missed two games with a muscle overload: the LaLiga draw with Girona and the Champions League stroll at home to Celtic, in which Madrid were already through to the last 16. With Toni Kroos suspended against Rayo, and with Ancelotti reluctant to play Eduardo Camavinga - he was the first player to be substituted against Girona - Madrid really needed Tchouaméni - and he didn’t deliver. Right after Rayo went 3-2 ahead at Vallecas, Ancelotti decided the team needed something different and replaced the 22-year-old with Camavinga.
Tchouaméni a different player alongside Kroos
A key question appears to be who is playing alongside Tchouaméni in the Madrid midfield. Ancelotti said as much in his press conference before Thursday’s LaLiga game against Cádiz, telling reporters: “The Tchouaméni with Kroos next to him and the Tchouaméni without Kroos next to him are not the same player.”
Madrid remain confident that the midfielder will turn his form around after Qatar 2022. They’re aware that he’s a €100m footballer - a state of affairs that can be a millstone around a youngster’s neck, even if he has no control over his price tag. But there are issues that are concerning; not least Tchouaméni’s seeming lack of on-field chemistry with Camavinga, another player earmarked to lead the Madrid midfield in the long term. The club are staying patient, though, as they believe that the pair, together with Fede Valverde, are a winning bet for the future. But Tchouaméni really needs to adapt to his role sooner rather than later…
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