Life after Di Maria and Xabi Alonso – The one-month report

Life after Di Maria and Xabi Alonso – The one-month report

Real Madrid blog

It’s been more than a month since the transfer market window closed and Real Madrid saw Xabi Alonso fly to Munich, just a few days after Angel di Maria had moved to Manchester. Much has been written and said about how wise those transfers were. Let’s take a look on how things are looking for Los Blancos since they lost two of last season’s starting midfielders.

The first two games without Alonso and Di Maria were a nightmare for Los Merengues. Carlo Ancelotti’s men let a two-goal lead slip to lose 4-2 at Real Sociedad, and lost again against arch-rivals Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Having collected only three points in the first three La Liga dates, fans and media turned against Florentino Perez, blaming him for having plotted two exits that had left the squad unbalanced and weakened.

Los Blancos seemed lost without Alonso’s guidance and Di Maria’s fury, having trouble to control the games and making terrible defensive mistakes. James Rodriguez struggled to adapt to his new role in a three-man midfield line alongside Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. The Colombian struggled in defence, leaving wide spaces for the opponents to threaten Iker Casillas.

Yet, Real’s forwards came to rescue when they were most needed, and critics turned into glorious praise. Three consecutive goal fests against Basel, Deportivo La Coruna and Elche brought Florentino some relief, and made many people think all of Madrid’s problems were finally solved.

Neither Los Blancos were so terrible after losing to Atletico, nor are they as solid as the latest results might show. Alonso and Di Maria’s exits have left terrible gaps that the new signings can’t fill. James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos are two of the world’s best football players, but they might not be exactly what Ancelotti needs.

Some might say that Real’s defence is looking great after the last few games. But the truth is it isn’t. During their recent good run, they have only kept one clean sheet. It was against Villarreal, and it truly was a miracle that the Yellow Submarine didn’t score a single goal. Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema barely helped the defence, and Villarreal found more spaces than they could have dreamed of. Real only survived because Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane were superb, clearing one ball after another.

The Ludogorets trip showed Los Blancos are still lacking the consistency needed to fight for all titles. Yes, they have put in some good performances, but always against low profile teams, and they have struggled or lost when they have faced a more solid opponent. When the time comes to meet Barcelona or Liverpool, it seems highly unlikely that Los Blancos midfielders can help stop Leo Messi, Neymar or Raheem Sterling.

In those kinds of games, Alonso and Di Maria’s defensive commitment would always make a difference. But with Sami Khedira injured and Asier Illarramendi still trying to reach his best level, there is no one in the squad who can play that part.

The recent goal feast against Athletic Bilbao is a good example of what Madrid can achieve when all the players are focused. Although that’s not a perfect example, since Ronaldo’s goal after just two minutes made things a lot easier for Real.

Ancelotti will need to convince Bale, Ronaldo or Benzema to play a different role if he wants to improve the balance while keeping the three of them in the team. Edison Cavani’s performance in last week’s PSG victory over Barcelona is a perfect example of how a striker can bring a team’s defence to the next level. Taking that as an example, Los Blancos can surely reach the highest level.