By: Rusty Gorelick
Real Madrid’s post-Ronaldo struggles have continued, as they fell 3-0 to ninth-placed Eibar, falling to sixth place in La Liga. Only three points separate Los Blancos from 12th place in the league, so room for error is limited.
The sale of Ronaldo is clearly the reason why Madrid has played such uninspired soccer so far this season: a team cannot sell a player who scores 50 goals per season, not sign anyone to replace him, and expect to pick up where they left off.
Eibar’s victory was not a fluke: they attacked Real Madrid with courage right out of the gate and hit the post with a shot before three minutes had elapsed. Gareth Bale hit a volley into the goal shortly after, but he had wandered offside so the referee disallowed the goal. Eibar made a clutch goal-line clearance and then scored the opening goal in the 16th minute.
Real Madrid has major issues: Marco Asensio and Bale, the two men called upon to fill Ronaldo’s shoes on the wings, have hardly scored. Bale has three goals in 12 league matches this year and Asensio has just one in 13 games. Karim Benzema, their striker, has always played in a deeper role to connect midfield and attack, so the club never relied on him as their primary goal threat because they had Ronaldo next to him. He has scored five goals in 12 La Liga starts, the highest number on the team.
The second highest-scorer this season for Los Blancos? Sergio Ramos, their center back. Clearly, he has taken responsibility as the club’s captain to help replace Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals, but the club simply cannot rely on him as a consistent goal threat since that is not his job.
Real Madrid made Gareth Bale the most expensive player in the world in 2013 to complement Ronaldo and score loads of goals. He never led Tottenham to any trophies, and he will not win anything with Real if he is the biggest attacking threat on his team. Madrid needs a new superstar, so look for them to make some moves in January.
In England, Chelsea lost their first match of the season to Tottenham at Wembley, 3-1. Olivier Giroud, a former Arsenal player, scored the consolation goal against his old club’s biggest rival, but that provided the only consolation for Chelsea in a masterful coaching performance from Mauricio Pocchetino.
The Argentine manager took Jorginho out of the game as he had his men press the Chelsea back line and force them to punt the ball downfield in a panic on most occasions. This meant the Italian-Brazilian midfielder could not dictate the flow of the game and the attack for his team, and that foiled Sarri’s only plan.
Thanks to his infatuation for Jorgino, Maurizio Sarri has misused his best midfielder, N’Golo Kante, for most of this season, using him as a box-to-box midfielder with actual offensive responsibilities instead of putting him in the defensive, ball-winning role where he would just chase the ball on defense and provide a deep outlet in midfield after he won the ball for his side.
Kante has just entered his fourth Premier League season, and up to this point, he has only scored four goals in England’s best league. Making him use energy to burst forward and try to provide a goal threat is a waste of his time, stamina, and talent.
Sarri needs to swallow his pride and acknowledge that before more team emulates Tottenham’s approach.