Real Madrid are really having a true rollercoaster ride of a season, to say the very least.
Before the ongoing 2019/20 campaign even kicked off, Los Blancos had been destined to fail. After all, they’ve experienced their worst pre-season in a total of 39 years and Zinedine Zidane’s scalp – if he had any hair to begin with – was bound to end up next to the ones of the Galacticos’ two previous managers.
But as the season went on, Real Madrid flew higher than most would expect, even staying unbeaten up until matchday nine in La Liga and enjoying the view from the very peak of the mountain until Barcelona ultimately leapfrogged them when they slipped in an away game at Mallorca.
Granted, they somewhat recovered from that upset with a narrow 1-0 triumph over Galatasaray, tallying their first Champions League victory in the ongoing competition after three games played.
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But if that unconvincing win was the indication that Zidane’s gala lineup, or rather his “plan A”, has certain issues to resolve, then the agonising defeat to Mallorca a couple of days prior to that certainly indicates that plan B doesn’t even exist.
If we take a look at the Galacticos the Frenchman chose to field against the newly-promoted side, we can easily see that rotation was the name of the game.
After all, the likes of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez and Daniel Carvajal were all absent due to various reasons – some were injured and some simply rested – and Real Madrid suddenly felt out of sorts, out of chances and out of their usual mojo.
Needless to say, for all the money they’ve spent during the summer, and all the banking for the future and squad depth those purchases were supposed to give them, their bench actually looks non-existent.
And sure, this might be a harsh verdict on the players that were rarely given a chance to begin with so it would be a stretch to expect top-notch performance from them whenever they are picked.
But if you spend €300m (£259.1m) on various signings, regardless of what role they’re supposed to play, you probably expect them to give you at least something in return.
And maybe it was just a fluke – after all, back when Real Madrid faced Osasuna on matchday six of La Liga, Zidane also opted to deploy a highly weakened and rotated squad and yet, they mustered a comfortable 2-0 victory and tallied three points against a tricky opponent.
That night, they were – once again – without the likes of Hazard, Bale, Modric and even Marcelo but it wasn’t really that felt in their display.
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If anything, that made us believe that Zidane could once again be utilising his tactic way back from 2016/17 when Real Madrid last won the league title.
Back then, rotations were a big part of their campaign and back then, Zidane’s plan B was almost as effective as his plan A.
The direct result of that? A coveted league title under their belts.
But many players were sold, some were never replaced and others were but their “copies” proved to be not as good as the “originals”, as it often is with everything in life.
The season has just started, however, and maybe the newcomers will start clicking and once they adapt, Real Madrid’s fortune may shift once again.
After all, we’ve seen them do that multiple times before, even as recently as this term.
Just when you feel that they are down, they claw their way back to the top. But this lack of any real squad depth or rather, quality squad depth, could cost them in the long run.
What happens when the players from the gala squad burn out? The likes of Benzema and Casemiro have barely had a day off since the very start of the season.
The duo are the two most-used players of the ongoing campaign and neither have replacements of adequate quality or any replacements at all – The Brazilian is the only natural defensive midfielder in the squad while the Frenchman’s substitute is a man with just 292 minutes to his name.
It’s quite ironic, isn’t it? A team that has an estimated value of over one billion pounds doesn’t have enough quality players to cover all positions properly.
By all standards, this is a major flaw in their squad and one Zidane will want to somehow address as quickly as possible.
After all, often it is the bench that wins you the title, and at the moment, it very much feels like Real Madrid don’t have a bench at all.