Real Madrid: The best LB, RB partnership with Ferland Mendy, Dani Carvajal out

Real Madrid, Dani Carvajal (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Dani Carvajal (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid had a rough Saturday night at the Santiago Bernabeu, as they could muster very little offensively and were nearly in serious trouble defensively. In the end, Los Blancos managed to get a point in a 0-0 draw with Villarreal, thanks to plenty of heroics from Eder Militao, David Alaba, and Thibaut Courtois.

The rest of the defense, however, did not do the team any favors. With Dani Carvajal injured for about a month and Ferland Mendy still recovering from a difficult injury, Carlo Ancelotti decided to gamble on an unorthodox fullback pairing. He started Nacho Fernandez at left back again, but instead of opting for usual backup Lucas Vazquez, he moved the undroppable Fede Valverde back from his right center midfield post to right back.

And the results were abysmal.

Valverde struggled at right back, failing to influence the attack for the first time all season, and he was just as prone to positional errors as Vazquez. So Real Madrid lost attacking verve and did not gain anything defensively.

Save for a couple of charges up the pitch and one great tackle in his own box, Nacho was an even bigger disaster. He had been decent at left back in the other matches, including in a Champions League win over Inter Milan, but this was not a fine day at the office for the Spanish international.

Miguel Gutierrez, Lucas Vazquez are the best backup fullbacks

Real Madrid will be so much better when Mendy returns, and we all know how good and how important Carvajal is to this defense AND attack.

But in the meantime, Ancelotti needs to quit trying to get so cute with his fullbacks. The choices at left and right back are clear, just as they were under Zinedine Zidane in the 2020-2021 season. Miguel Gutierrez is the best backup option at left back when Mendy is out, and Vazquez is the best right back option when Carvajal is unavailable (which is unfortunately far too frequent at this point).

First, let’s discuss Miguel. If I hear someone argue that Nacho offers more defensive solidity than Miguel, I will lose my mind. Yes, Nacho is a center back who has experience and is strong in the tackle, But he is too slow to be an effective defensive left back, unless if you want to curtail attacks on the left-hand side so severely as to undermine the entire offense considerably. And you don’t want that. Miguel is not the finished product, but I fail to see how Nacho’s clearly inferior attacking quality is offset by any gap in defending. Obviously, Miguel is the answer at left back.

Vazquez is the best option at right back, because there is no other option. Playing Fede at right back is an insult to Fede. It is malpractice. It is a clear misuse of an incredible midfielder’s talent, and it should never happen again, unless absolutely necessary, such as in last season’s Champions League second leg against Liverpool.

There is no ideal solution when Carvajal is injured

The only other option people may toss out is Nacho at right back instead of left back. But Vazquez literally proved he was a better option at right back last season, so why go back to starting Nacho at this position? There may be one reason. Vazquez has serious flaws to his game defensively and looks completely clueless in his own box. So since Carlo Ancelotti is playing so attacking, it may be sensible to go with Nacho, who would be more accurate with his crossing from the right-hand side.

Yet Vazquez, again, showed he was the better option for an entire season. For all his problems, Vazquez does win the ball a lot and is great at creating chances from the right back position. For Real Madrid, that may be worth it, but a lot of the Vazquez argument hinges on Ancelotti fixing his structural issues. And these problems may fix themselves with Toni Kroos’ return. Plus, if Mendy is available at left back, Vazquez at right back is not as big of a problem defensively.

Next. 3 things we love the most about David Alaba. dark

It’s all about trade-offs, and, at the end of the day, Vazquez and Miguel are better than the other options behind them. In the case of Vazquez, it is not ideal for a right winger to be playing at right back, but since Real Madrid have failed to find an alternative to Carvajal, this is the option the club is stuck with whenever their regular starter is out.