Sep 16, 2012, 1:33 PM EDT
Eight points back after four rounds. This is not how Real Madrid’s title defense was supposed to start. After yesterday’s loss at the Sanchez Pizjuan, Los Merengues have one win through four rounds. Barcelona remains perfect.
With the premium on points in Spain, it’s tempting to look at that gap and wonder if Real Madrid’s already fallen too far behind. We approached the issue in a round-about way two weeks ago, but today’s point remains the same: It’s too soon too look directly at the table. As Barcelona reminded us when they almost came back last year, we have an unfortunate tendency to want to decide titles between rounds (with conjectures on the standings) rather than let things play out on the field. Manchester City’s comeback in England, FC Dallas’s current resurgence in Major League Soccer – even very late in seasons, it’s hard to tell when something is done and dusted. Spain’s barely 10 percent of the way through their season.
Madridistas should instead turn their attention to the performances – to finding explanations. After scoring 121 goals in 38 league games last year, Real Madrid has scored only five times this season. They never suffered such a feckless stretch last season. It seems something’s wrong. Only Gonzalo Higuain (three) and Cristiano Ronaldo (two) have gotten on the scoresheet, and Ronaldo’s one-in-two production is roughly half of his normal output.
Anytime you see that kind of downturn, it helps to ask whether it’s a lack in chances or bad finishing. Looking at Real Madrid’s shots and shots on target, it looks like the problem is finishing:
|Season||Shots/game||Lg. Rank||Shots OT/game||Lg. Rank|
Maybe it’s the quality of chances. Or maybe the opposing goalkeeping’s been great. Regardless, the numbers hint generating chances isn’t the problem.
Perhaps that’s why José Mourinho seems so frustrated. The Real Madrid coach can put in schemes to open up the attack, to break down an opposing defense – to generate chances – but he can’t do the finishing.
“I worry about my team and the fact that since the start of the official season we have only played well in the Super Cup, a little bit against Valencia and a little bit against Granada. That is my concern rather than points. At this moment I have no team.”
Quote from realmadrid.com by way of espnfc.com.
Not having a team is generally considered to be a problem, especially with a Champions League match against Manchester City looming on Tuesday.
The start of a second competition is a reminder: stakes are escalating. The margin of error in Champions League may be thinner than La Liga. There are only six group matches, and while it’s highly unlikely Real Madrid won’t make the knockout round, City and German champions Borussia Dortmund are set to make it uncomfortable. Even if a slip doesn’t cost Real a spot in the last 16, it could open the door for City to win the group, handing Real Madrid a much tougher road to the decima.
The answers probably aren’t that complicated. The team’s generating chances. Just finish them. Having allowed four goals in as many games, defending isn’t necessarily a problem, but until the attack gets on track, it will have to be better.
While there isn’t anything to worry about at the Bernabeu, there’s plenty of cause for frustration.
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