Real Madrid: Firing Zinedine Zidane would be far, far too reactionary

Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have suffered several embarrassing defeats this season, including back-to-back losses to Deportivo Alaves and Shakhtar Donetsk. But firing Zinedine Zidane is not the answer.

Last season, Real Madrid went from being third in La Liga to the champions of the league. Yes, their opposition, primarily Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, was weaker, but they still showed great determination in securing their 34th league title under Zinedine Zidane in the manager’s first full season of his second stint.

The way Madrid won wasn’t pretty, but it needed to be gritty. Los Blancos had to lean on a rugged defense and composed midfield, because they didn’t have attacking juice outside of Karim Benzema as a result of Eden Hazard’s injury woes.

After a season without any new signings due to COVID-19, Real Madrid had the same issues in attack, including Hazard’s injuries. They knew they would have to rely on young players stepping up, such as former Real Sociedad star man Martin Odegaard.

Instead, nobody really has stepped up to the plate. Real’s personnel issues in attack remain and have been worsened by injury, such as Benzema’s absence at Deportivo Alaves in a 2-1 loss. Casemiro, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, and Fede Valverde are other key players who have missed significant time with injuries or due to COVID-19. These four players, plus Benzema and Hazard, are crucial to Los Blancos.

So why is firing Zinedine Zidane even a conversation?

MARCA’s Jose Felix Diaz writes that after Real’s 2-0 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk, having already lost 3-2 to the Ukrainian side in the Champions League, Zidane is on the hot seat. The legendary midfielder could be fired by the club, because confidence in him has decreased. There have been questions asked about his decisions.

Those questions should be asked. I will not hide the truth or lie. Zidane has made mistakes this season with his selections, such as playing Marcelo too much or, for example, starting Marco Asensio on the left and Rodrygo Goes on the right while playing a cross-heavy attack to Benzema in the middle. That is no winning formula. His insistence on playing his fullbacks so centrally – almost as if they are inverted fullbacks like Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich – is baffling.

Zidane can’t shoulder the blame alone. His tactical slips are a product of the squad’s issues. Both injuries and a lack of star power on the transfer market have hurt Real’s ability to score goals and create chances through individual quality, which is what is needed at Real Madrid against these pesky low blocks. Real beat clubs like Barcelona and Inter Milan, but sides like Alaves, Cadiz, and Shakhtar are nearly impossible to crack for this reason. Therefore, Zidane must take these risks, and the players thus get burned via counters.

The manager must get back to the drawing board and revise his strategy, but he cannot solve an equation when there exists no solution. Zidane cannot improve the finishing of wide forwards Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio, who have been disastrous since Oct. 4. He cannot will Hazard and Ramos to health every week. And he cannot tell his players to make better runs off the ball or more incisive, progressive passes.

Zidane can do a better job of using his fullbacks, dictating his press, aligning his wide forwards, and instructing his team to play faster. But he cannot change the tools he is working with; he cannot upgrade the individual quality of his squad so that they are more effective at breaking down low blocks.

Real Madrid’s problems are simple to explain and extend beyond Zidane, but they are far more complicated to solve. They require another summer and another piece to the puzzle in the attack. Madridistas have yearned for Kylian Mbappe for good reason. They know the club needs him in order to compete in the Champions League. So why pretend Zidane has an XI fitting Real Madrid, especially when Hazard is out? Why pretend Zidane has an ideal defense when Nacho Fernandez and Lucas Vazquez have to start for an injured Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal?

Next. Real Madrid Player Ratings From Loss To Shakhtar. dark

Be critical of Zidane for his errors tactically, but recognize why those errors exist. And know the truth. If Real Madrid fire Zidane, they will have fired a legend in the middle of the season who won them three Champions League titles, and they cannot guarantee they have a better replacement for the next five years and the hopeful Mbappe-led “Revolution” to follow.