Not many coaches would want to be in Zinedine Zidane’s shoes right about now. Sure, being at the helm of one of the biggest teams on the planet sounds like a lot of fun but the Frenchman would probably pull out all of his hair at the moment, if he had any left, that is.
Judging by how their pre-season went and how they ended their 2018/19 campaign with defeat after defeat, it was easy to predict the same trends would continue in 2019/20. But they didn’t so far. Or they kind of didn’t, at the very least.
A win and a draw in the first two games is hardly the end of the world but seeing how every new day seems to bring new injuries to Los Blancos, if they continue like this they just might field their Castilla team come the latter stages of the season. And this is what most likely worries Zidane the most.
With six players already out for a while, it’s fair to say that he is very much right to be at least a tiny bit concerned about the whole situation. And to make matters even worse, or better, depending on how you look at it, most of the injured players are actually left-wingers on paper.
This means that Real Madrid will be short on wide players but it also means that they mostly have to worry about how to compensate for the absence of options in just one single area. Besides, not every left-winger in the squad is out injured.
As a matter of fact, Zidane has one more option that he should definitely keep in mind for this weekend’s clash and that’s his young Brazilian talisman, Vinicius Junior. With so many players out of commission for this game on the weekend, the wisest thing for Zidane would be not to tamper and experiment too much or the Galacticos might drop points once again.
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But it seems that going with Vinicius doesn’t seem like the best course of action for everyone at the capital. The youngster had a chance to impress in the last game against Real Valladolid but ended up just slipping under the radar.
He started off the bench and was only introduced in the second half but he failed to make an impression or make any palpable contribution to the result. Soon after that and after this summer’s newcomer Luka Jović was introduced, Vinicius was actually shifted to the opposite side, to the right-wing. And this is when things started going all the way down.
Right from the bat, it was visible the youngster wasn’t really comfortable on the side opposite to his natural position so his performance went mostly unnoticed or rather, noticed for all the wrong things. But if Zidane is going to take one thing from that game then it definitely should not be Vinicius’ “bad performance”.
In fact, he should learn from that mistake of slotting the youngsters into uncharted territory on the right and stick him where he belongs – on the left where he is comfortable and where he knows he’ll make an impact.
It is true that he doesn’t have many options down that flank but that’s even more reason not to put his only viable one out of position. That would most likely be shooting his own foot in the process.
Real Madrid had all sorts of problems in that second fixture of the new campaign but one that is still plaguing them even from last season is their lethality in front of goal or rather, a player who can decide the whole match with his contribution. When he was fit and when he was deployed on that left side, Vinicius was their spark that added pace, skills, constant danger and most important of all, plenty of goals.
His three goals and 12 assists across all competitions in 2018/19 can attest to that as well. The difference between that Vinicius and the one we saw against Valladolid is quite a big one and the funny thing is, most of that comes down to the positioning on the pitch.
It seems like such a trivial thing and yet it’s something that just might make or break Zidane’s next game. It’s not a particularly easy opponent either. Villarreal away from home would sound scary to anyone, let alone to a team that’s still trying to find its groove in the new campaign or even just in general.
Of course, at the moment it does seem like the French coach has a lot to think about in the preparation for the game against the Yellow Submarine but sorting that left-wing should definitely be up there around the very top of the list.