Here’s why Rodrygo hasn’t been able to nail down his spot in the Real Madrid XI

Real Madrid, Rodrygo Goes (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Rodrygo Goes (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Rodrygo Goes
Real Madrid, Rodrygo Goes (Photo by Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images) /

Some things that aren’t working out for Rodrygo in the right-wing

Rodrygo is a natural left-winger, a position in which he would have the opportunity to cut in using his stronger right foot. Right-footed players will find it easy to dribble from the left-wing and take shots with their stronger foot. With players like Vinicius and Hazard fighting for the left wing, Rodrygo had to move to the right to get regular opportunities. And it becomes tough when a natural left-winger is asked to play on the right-wing.

As a right-footed player on the right-wing, you need two attributes to beat a defender in a 1v1 situation. They are pace and strength. You need pace to beat the defender and strength to hold off any physical challenge from the opponent. Rodrygo isn’t the quickest at Real Madrid, but he’s quick enough to beat a player, recording a top speed of 32.94 kmph in 2020. But the issue is with his physical strength.

People who watch Rodrygo closely will easily know that Rodrygo is a bit weak for a winger. He can be easily be bullied by a defender legally, and he’ll end up losing possession, which becomes a frustrating sight for any fan. According to FBRef, Rodrygo has completed 358 carries in his 3 seasons at Real Madrid, out of which only 61 carries have been completed into the 18-yard box while being dispossessed 68 times and failed to gain control of the ball around 92 times. These numbers suggest that he hasn’t really been a great dribbler from the right.

This kinda limits him to wide areas, from where he attempts a cross or tries cut inside with his right and attempt a cutback. Even his last two assists in the Supercopa have been cutbacks from the right, both of them coming on counter-attacks during which he found more space and time to make a decision.

And coming to goal-scoring from the right, the most important skill needed is off-the-ball movement. Rodrygo does have the finishing technique, but his movement hasn’t been that great. The Off-the-ball movement is an art, and people who admire Cristiano Ronaldo can easily understand how important it is. Rodrygo isn’t that tall and strong to be an aerial threat, but looking at his performances one can conclude that he is not the kind of a winger who gets into half-spaces and attempts to run beyond the defence, chasing a ball that has been passed by the midfield behind him. Instead, he is the kind of a player who prepares himself for cutbacks and low crosses, who doesn’t get past the defensive line but instead stays in between the lines.

But in LaLiga, where opponents park the bus with tightly spaced defensive lines, it becomes very difficult for Rodrygo to be on the receiving end of low crosses or cutbacks.

This is Rodrygo’s territory map from a game against Shakhtar Donetsk, in which he had scored a goal. As you can observe, Rodrygo is mostly limited to wide areas, and he rarely drifts inside. But when the ball is out wide on the left, he does drift inside and tries to get onto the end of a cutback. With the goal coming from a similar situation in which Vinicius was able to find him with a cutback.

And he is not really a player with a killer instinct who has the tendency to shoot on sight, whenever presented with an opportunity. He doesn’t attempt a lot of shots and is happy to pass on the responsibility of others to score. Being selfless is never a bad trait, but sometimes the lack of confidence and focus is visible in his game. He needs to be more confident, keep the fear of failure aside and just capitalize on the moment. He needs to believe more in himself, and take risks.

These are the issues faced by Rodrygo on the right-wing, that prohibit him from unleashing the Brazilian inside him. I mean no disrespect with this statement, but a player who was supposed to be the next Neymar is being limited to a Lucas Vazquez role, due to his weaknesses and the troubles faced by him.

I can write that the solution to this problem faced by Rodrygo is simple, and he needs to stick to his strengths and work on his weaknesses. But it is not as simple as it appears, and it is a long process, especially the working on his physical strength part. Rodrygo will face more challenges in the coming days, with matches becoming tougher and increasing workload. But he needs to face any challenge with confidence, and look to clear them with self-belief.

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This article is not any form of Rodrygo criticism and is only an analysis of the reasons why Rodrygo hasn’t been able to nail down his spot in the starting XI. I have focused more on what’s stopping Rodrygo from becoming a star, but I believe in Rodrygo. There have been times this season when I was frustrated with Rodrygo’s performances, but I have always believed that Rodrygo will surely become better. He has been superb in the recently concluded Supercopa De Espana, and I hope that he continues in the same way.