Real Madrid: 5 long-running problems the club must address this year

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

Playing better against the bus-parkers

I don’t know a more elegant term to succinctly describe the sorts of teams Real Madrid end up facing in La Liga frequently, so I will take inspiration from Jose Mourinho. (Yes, I know what a “low block” is, I just like invoking the term “parking the bus” out of pure bitterness while recollecting these defeats.)

La Liga is the toughest league in Europe. You can try to convince me that it’s the Premier League, but I have seen the difference in tactics, coaching, and technical quality between both leagues. The PL has gone backwards and most teams lack a true identity both tactically and as a unified force. La Liga, on the other hand, is a scary league to play in, because you cannot underestimate anyone. Look no further than what Deportivo Alaves did to Real Madrid, Barcelona, and, very nearly, league leaders Atletico Madrid.

Some of Real’s best games of the season have come against the big clubs in Atelti and Barcelona. They have not lost to either since the start of 2019-2020.

On the contrary, Real’s worst performances have come against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League (twice), Cadiz, relegation candidates Valencia, Alaves, and 18th-placed Elche, whom they tied 1-1 after a six-game winning streak.

Against these smaller clubs, Real Madrid look stagnant. They pass the ball around aimlessly, their forwards clumsily plod around the box, the press engages without rhyme or reason (let alone cohesion), and their defense acts as if they have forgotten to mark counterattacking players. Real play sloppy and show no urgency until the final 20 minutes when they finally realize, “Oh wait, we’re Real Madrid! We can’t drop points to (insert bottom-half side here) and still win this league!”

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It’s really embarrassing, and there are so many players who should be ashamed for being a part of these performances repeatedly. When we thought Real had turned the corner on their winning streak, they showed the same old habits at Elche. Real must figure out a way to change themselves tactically against these opponents and then mentally, the less experienced players need to take on responsibility in these matches and understand the intensity and quality expected for a FULL 90 minutes when they wear the Real Madrid kit.