Real Madrid: Why is Marco Asensio anonymous in most games?

Real Madrid, Marco Asensio (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Marco Asensio (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images) /

Marco Asensio is a definite starter for Real Madrid, under Zinedine Zidane, and he has been Zidane’s first choice for the right-wing position. He has been highly disappointing this season, but he has continued to be Zidane’s trusted player, starting 15 games in all competitions, and he has missed just two games due to injury. Maybe the injuries to Rodrygo and Carvajal (due to which Lucas is playing as a fullback) are forcing Zidane to start Asensio in every game, but considering the Frenchman’s faith in Asensio, it isn’t surprising.

He has missed two games due to injury, but he has played in almost every game when available, except for the away game against Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League. But he has scored only 2 goals and assisted another two in 1778 minutes this season. The numbers look disappointing, but his performances and involvement have been even more disappointing.

His latest performance in the big game against Atalanta in UEFA Champions League has highlighted one aspect of his performances, which is his tendency to go anonymous, or invisible to be brutally honest, in a lot of games, and he isn’t involved much. This issue is concerning, considering his age and how few players are in the queue for the right-wing position.

On paper, he had 57 touches, completed two dribbles and 39 passes, but he looked relatively inactive compared to other players. This shows that his passes and dribbles didn’t lead to anything productive. He had two shots, including one from a free-kick, but in all honesty, he never looked like a goal threat throughout the 75 minutes he played.

Where is it going wrong for him? Is it a tactical issue or an individual issue?

Is Marco Asensio the perfect fit for the right-wing position?

Marco Asensio is a left-footed player and he can shoot well with his left boot, particularly from range. These qualities are often found in a right-winger, but these are the only qualities in Asensio which make him a right-winger. He is actually an attacking midfielder who plays well on the left-wing. Even in Zidane’s first term as a manager, Asensio was often used as a left-winger in a 4-3-3, or as a left-midfielder in a 4-4-2.

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We expect a right-winger to take on defenders, cut inside with his left foot and get into scoring positions. But Marco Asensio doesn’t have these qualities. His dribbling isn’t penetrative and direct, and he can cut inside onto his left only when he’s given some space. He doesn’t get into scoring positions and time those off-the-ball runs. He is a player who would stand in a position waiting for the ball, instead of making a run to receive the ball.

He isn’t quick enough to beat the defenders using pace like Vinicius Jr., and he often slows down a counter-attack, and is criticised for his tendency to be a ball-hogger, and sticking to the ball for a greater time than required. And his dribbling technique is quite peculiar. He isn’t an explosive dribbler, neither does he pick up some acceleration during his dribble. He tries to beat the defender using his touch and strength, and he does that comfortably on the left flank, using his stop-start nature, and then proceeds to cross the ball after taking it wide.

He has the ability to make some line-splitting passes, but the frequency of such passes have decreased a lot, as the defenders have understood that the simple trick to silence him is to push him wide towards the right. This leaves Asensio with only two options when he receives the ball on the right, either to make a back-pass or to cross the ball with his left or right foot.

All these factors only point to one thing. Asensio is better on the left, compared to the right. He is pretty much unidimensional from the right, and this explains why he looks so ineffective in games. He had actually started on the left for some games and registered two of his assists from that position. But with Eden Hazard and Vinicius in the team, Marco shouldn’t expect to be the long-term left-winger for Real Madrid.

Then who’s the perfect choice for the right wing? Real Madrid loanees Brahim Diaz and Takefusa Kubo are good options, but they’re still raw and need to develop. Sergio Arribas is an instant solution for Real Madrid, but it’s up to the manager’s faith in him.

Tactically, these are issues due to which Asensio often gets isolated and doesn’t get involved in productive moves.

Is the issue completely tactical?

Well, not completely. Sometimes things may look completely tactical or the fault might be completely from an individual. But it’s a combination of both in this case. Asensio doesn’t have that confident look on his face, and he often has those lapses of concentration. He can’t maintain his focus for 90 minutes and he often disconnects from the game.

At this age, he must step up as an attacking leader, but that isn’t visible in his case. I’ve written about this in more detail in another article. In the absence of Benzema, he was expected to lead the attack as the most experienced attacker alongside Mariano and Vinicius, but it didn’t happen. The lack of intent was clearly visible, and he looked to play it safe every time. But in football, you’ve got to take risks to produce something out of nothing.

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Two and a half months are remaining in this season, and there’s still some chance for Marco Asensio to turn around his season. A great end to the season is always good for a layer, and this helps them a lot. We have to wait and watch if he can do better from now. But one thing is for sure, Marco Asensio needs to show greater intent and improve his performances. If he continues like this, he should forget about the Real Madrid starting spot and may have to look for a future elsewhere.