Real Madrid should give Vinicius Junior a bigger role off the bench

Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have a healthy Eden Hazard again, but that doesn’t mean Vinicius Junior can’t play a key role for the club.

All hands on deck. That needs to be the approach taken by Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, because the manager’s second-half adjustments continue to be poor. I received blowback for criticizing Zidane’s second-half performance in the 1-1 draw against Unai Emery’s Villarreal at the Estadio de la Ceramica, but I stand by my comments following the recent 0-0 draw with Osasuna; Zidane can be better.

And that starts with making use of Vinicius Junior off the bench.

We have seen what the Brazilian is capable of. Vinicius is the most dynamic player on Real Madrid when it comes to getting into the penalty box and creating goal-scoring chances for himself and his teammates. We can sit here and pick apart his end product, which I have already done, but in that same article, I made an important remark. Let me summarize that here. Vinicius Junior may be underperforming his xG by more than everyone else on the team, but the fact that his xG is that high says something.

When Real Madrid are struggling to find the back of the net, Vinicius can be the difference-maker. That was the case, of course, last year against Atletico Madrid when he played the key role in the move that broke the deadlock.

More from Analysis

Vinicius has made seven appearances off the bench in La Liga this season, including scoring the winning goal in his first sub appearance vs. Real Valladolid back on Sept. 30. But in the last three games he’s played, Vini has registered 12, 5, and 4 minutes off the bench. And on Saturday night in Pamplona, Vinicius did not even see the pitch despite Real Madrid having zero goals.

That is a mistake. Eden Hazard is healthy and playing at a high level, and even with Rodrygo Goes out, Marco Asensio has shown that he can be a better option on the left than on the right despite being a left-footed player. There is competition, yes.

However, who else can provide the magic Vinicius can off the bench? This is not a hypothetical either. Again, just ask Atletico Madrid and Real Valladolid what he is capable of doing over the course of the final half-hour when everyone else is gassed. Vinicius can take-on defenders, and those successful take-ons actually build his confidence as a passer and shooter in and around the penalty box.

Next. Thibaut Courtois is absolutely right to light into La Liga. dark

Real Madrid need a secret weapon to beat low-blocks. And in reality, I think they have two young players they aren’t making full use of. Martin Odegaard is one, and Vinicius is the other. In the case of the latter, we have seen clear evidence of him being an impact sub. A super sub, in fact. So, Zidane, it’s your move. You have Vinicius, who is ready and willing. Use him.