Construction of the Empire State building had been completed, Dracula is dominating the box office and Uruguay have been World Champions for a year after winning the first ever World Cup. The year was 1931 and it is the season Real Madrid bought legendary goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora from Espanyol, but even he was powerless to stop Alaves from scoring in a 2-0 victory. They had to wait 87 years for their next scalp over the Madrid giants and it came on Saturday,
A scrappy 95th minute corner sure, but a goal is a goal. Not the kind of records new Madrid Coach Julen Lopetegui is looking to break. While we are looking back, only twice before in the club’s history have they gone four games without scoring. On both occasions, bosses Vujadin Boskov and Amancio Amaro were out of a job not long afterwards.
Eight league games into the season in a new role, there are already suggestions the former Spain boss is on the chopping block. There is much to prove for those at Real Madrid both for the Coach and the players. Many will rightly point to Cristiano Ronaldo as a source of most of their goals, and consequently success, over the past decade. With him gone some are justified in their queries as to how they replace that goal threat with a front three that only scored 26 league goals last season – just one more than Ronaldo managed all by himself.
One can look to the board’s decision not to sign a world class replacement, with Eden Hazard and Mauro Icardi touted as possible summer arrivals to the Bernabeu. But even without them, Real have world class players in every position. Ronaldo was supposed to be the sweet cherry on top what was an already decadent cake. Players of Ronaldo’s ilk have joined and left Real Madrid, and they have always remained fiercely competitive.
With Lopetegui’s deluge of central midfielders on Saturday came exactly what you would expect. Plenty of possession but little in the way of penetration. They had over 70% of the ball in their last two games but nothing to show for it. 26 shots with only four on target is a woeful conversion rate.
Many were critical of Spain’s aimless possession-led system which eventually saw them knocked out of the World Cup to hosts Russia. Sure, by this time he was not in the dugout, but it was his system, his players. Fans of Porto had similar complaints while Lopetegui oversaw them. More than his players, he himself has a lot to prove. He has landed three top jobs in Europe despite winning nothing at senior level, with the size of the job increasing every time.
Only two points from the top and with Barcelona dropping points it is a topsy-turvy season and anything can still happen. But while the Blaugrana do have their struggles, the difference are the glimpses of quality that inspire hope. Like Barca’s third goal in their 4-2 Champions League win over Tottenham last week. They strung together 23 passes before Messi slotted in Jordi Alba’s cutback. Passing and probing with a purpose and likely what Lopetegui is hoping to mimic at Madrid.
This latest loss highlighted how significant losses full-backs Marcelo and Dani Carvajal are, and their importance to a coherent attack. With Isco side-lined and Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema limping off injured It only makes the job harder.
With the international break and games against Levante and Vitoria Plzen to come, things must get better before what may prove to be a very painful first Clasico as a manager at the end of the month.