3 reasons why Real Madrid aren’t recording as many clean sheets this season

Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Few tactical issues at Real Madrid

Zinedine Zidane has often been criticised for his stubborn nature and inability to adapt to changing times. He keeps believing in the same set of players and tactics which won him the UCL thrice. But he did try to adapt to modern football and tried to implement a counter-pressing strategy when the team loses the ball. Zidane’s team was never known for their pressing, but he did try something to improve the pressing structure and transition defense.

Though there were signs of an improvement in the pressing structure, it has been badly exposed at times. The structure required proper positioning and quick adaptation to the pressing shape immediately after they lose the ball, but the results haven’t been fruitful. The press looked disjointed most of the time due to improper understanding and poor execution from the players. Sometimes the higher positioning of fullbacks and Casemiro during the press also backfired, as all it took was a single pass from the opponents to break through that disjointed press at times. The buildup to Villarreal’s penalty against us and the buildup to Javi Galan’s goal against Real on Saturday are some great examples to show the imperfections of the press.

Another cause of concern is the way Real Madrid have defended set-pieces. Zinedine Zidane’s men have followed the policy of Zonal Marking for set-pieces, instead of going for man-marking. This ploy didn’t work out successfully multiple times this season, and Real Madrid almost conceded from set-pieces a lot of times. Joselu’s goal against us in the 4-1 win vs Alaves shows a clear picture of our weaknesses while defending a set-piece.

And Madrid have to improve the way they defend short corners as well, because there have been cases where the players lost their focus when corners were taken short (Ex: Levante’s second goal against us in a 2-1 loss), and struggled to clear a quick far post cross resulting after a short corner. And there’s a need for Madrid to cut down the space between the midfield and the defensive line, pack the central spaces and improve the way they defend crosses. Real Betis’ goals against us in the September 2020 fixture expose all these weaknesses.

There’s a popular saying that “Attack wins you games, Defense wins you titles.” This quote is enough to explain the reasons behind our 34th LaLiga title win. This season, the defense has struggled a lot, and the team have struggled on a whole in the league.

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There’s an urgent need for Real Madrid to improve in this department because few important fixtures are coming our way. Atalanta are dangerous in transitions and they would love to capitalise on that space offered by Real Madrid in transition. Let’s hope the team improves in this aspect and we get to see more clean sheets and defensive masterclasses in the coming weeks.