Manchester City, Bayern Munich highlight a serious weakness for Real Madrid

Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid made it to the Champions League semifinals last season, but it still feels like this team is a ways off from returning to its rightful place as one of Europe’s true title contenders. They have a chance at winning it all this year, especially if they catch lightning in a bottle, but there is something disheartening about watching a Madrid side struggle to score for most of the 90 minutes against opponents like Cadiz, Getafe, and Elche.

What’s striking is when you compare Real’s squad to the two most dominant teams in Europe right now, Manchester City and Bayern Munich who are both looking to run away with their leagues, the key issue becomes clear.

Real’s midfield is untouchable. Their center back duo is world-class, even after losing Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. Thibaut Courtois is the best goalkeeper in the world. Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema are likely Ballon d’Or contenders for 2022.

So the missing piece is what City and Bayern have that Real do not. And that is depth of attacking options, specifically on the wings.

Real Madrid have only two consistent attacking contributors

Let’s look at Bayern first, since they are the class of world football right now. In addition to Robert Lewandowski up top and Thomas Muller’s jaw-dropping 16 assists supporting him, Bayern have a trio of world-class wingers. Kingsley Coman has four goals in just 600 Bundesliga minutes. Serge Gnabry already has 10 goals. And Leroy Sane has been one of the world’s best players this season, six goals and seven assists to his name. You can even throw in Jamal Musiala, who has seven goal contributions at the age of 18 despite mostly coming off the bench.

Now we come to Manchester City. How have they managed to score so many goals and play such beautiful football without a striker? Depth, width, and fluid attacking play. Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan have stepped up from midfield (or in attacking roles) to score goals and provide assists. But there is also Bernardo Silva, who may be City’s best player in 2021-2022. Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, and Jack Grealish are three more world-class attacking talents who are either wingers or can play in a wide role. There is even Gabriel Jesus to mention.

But how about Real Madrid? Whereas City have eight attacking players with more than three goal contributions in league play and Bayern have six, Real have just three. Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr. have 29 goals and 12 assists between them in LaLiga. After them, Marco Asensio has five goals – three of them in one match against Mallorca – and zero assists.

That is a huge gap in depth and overall quality. Whereas City do not have anyone who is contributing to goals at Real’s rate, they have so much more depth. Meanwhile, Bayern have depth and three high-end contributors in Sane, Lewa, and Muller.

Real Madrid must compare themselves to the best of the best

Real Madrid cannot compare themselves to a struggling Atletico Madrid or Barcelona. The benchmark, the standard is the best teams in Europe, and those teams are City and Bayern, with PSG potentially joining them if they get things together.

Looking at how inconsistent Asensio, Eden Hazard, and Rodrygo Goes have been, how can we say that Real are meeting the standards set by these other elite clubs in Europe? Real’s big problem is depth on the wings and overall quality of attacking football.

A key reason why Real Madrid really does need Erling Haaland. dark. Next

It is funny, then, that people ask how Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland can co-exist, when fans should really be wondering if this attack can truly be at the Madrid level and the best in Europe without signings such as these. Real aims to be the best, and, right now, their attack is far from it. Because depth, especially in this era, matters a great deal.