Real Madrid vs. Alaves: Sometimes, there is no scapegoat in defeat

Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Want to blame Marcelo? Or even Zinedine Zidane? Real Madrid’s loss to Deportivo Alaves doesn’t need such reductive analysis.

The easiest thing to do when a person is frustrated is to find a scapegoat. Pick out one person making decisions or playing football at Real Madrid, target them relentlessly, and let all your frustrations out. It doesn’t matter if what you are saying is grounded in truth or at all productive. You will find thousands of frustrated fans ready to join in at the expense of someone else.

There’s room to criticize several players on Real Madrid as individuals for their mistakes or overall play against Deportivo Alaves this weekend. Even Zinedine Zidane, who conquered the Champions League three times in a row, is not absolved from criticism.

I am not saying you should avoid criticizing the team, the manager, or anyone else involved. Given that Real have suffered humiliating defeats to Cadiz, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, and now Alaves in the span of two months, there needs to be criticism.

But I do implore you to be mindful when you criticize. Be careful. Speak with purpose. Because it is categorically unfair to target one specific person for the failings of an entire team.

Real Madrid are rebuilding. We know that. The biggest headlines involving the team have nothing to do with the players on the position, but rather the futures of Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, Eduardo Camavinga, or whichever young center back happens to be the flavor of the week. Oh, and throw in Paul Pogba, too. His name hasn’t stopped making the rounds either.

The point is, Real Madrid know their team isn’t good enough to compete for the Champions League title yet. They know this team isn’t the finished product and requires at least one more active transfer window, much like the one in 2019. Except instead of spending on unproven young players, Real will have to spend even more and specifically add the cream of the crop. You know, guys like Mbappe.

So if we accept this and admit that we’ve spent the last several months pining for Mbappe as a must-sign for a sagging attack, then why pretend like Zidane has everyone he needs to field a juggernaut? Why compare the 2020-2021 Real Madrid to the 2017-2018 Real Madrid?

Now, what we’ve seen from Real recently is at another level of disappointment, yes. But you can’t forget the wins over Inter Milan and Barcelona either. Those wins matter, just as much as the disappointing losses do. The inconsistencies highlight how this team still has work to do, but, again, we already knew that.

The injuries? COVID-19 absences? They are but the overly-sweet, grainy, sticks-to-your-teeth icing on the stale sponge cake that is the 2020-2021 season for Los Blancos. These challenges all but guarantee that Real Madrid cannot consistently field their preferred XI. Do they absolve Real of losing to much smaller clubs like Alaves? Absolutely not. But they provide context to the team’s struggles and a reminder that overreactions – least of all those targeting individuals forced to start due to injuries – are unnecessary.

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A 2-1 loss to Alaves in which Real were uncreative and inconsistent is not worth praising. You don’t even have to pretend to find silver linings, because they are few and far between. But you don’t have to spend that same time searching for a scapegoat. There is no villain, nor is there a catastrophe. There is just a flawed, hobbled team fighting each week and hoping to make it to the finished line, where a busy and critical offseason awaits them.