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The problem with Real Madrid and why there may not be a quick fix for it

Rudderless, identity-less but no longer winless

Real Madrid V Manchester City - Uefa Women Champions League Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images

There was a point, early in CD Tacón’s first season in the Primera Iberdrola, when it looked like the best thing for the club would be to cut their losses and say goodbye to coach David Aznar. But there was a great level of patience for the young coach who, just like Tacón/Real Madrid themselves, was adapting to his first season in the top-flight, with the history being forged a steep learning curve for all.

Even after the recriminations that followed Tacón’s first match in the top tier – a hapless 9-1 loss to Barcelona – there was the understanding that the team, that had only just come together, would improve. That time and continued investment would be the long-term first aid required and, as such, many gave Aznar the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, the team did improve, there were still issues and errors on the pitch but by their second season in the top-flight (and finally formally acknowledged as Real Madrid CF), the team had found a competent rhythm.

Scheduling nightmare

Not quite a side constantly smashing the F5 key and refreshing the entire squad, Real – as most promoted teams – have seen plenty of players come and go in their short time in the top tier. As such, it will always take time for new players to gel with each other, yet Madrid’s bigger issue has been the coach failing to understand how best to utilise his new charges.

To be fair to Aznar, Real were not given the kindest run of fixtures to start the 2021-22 season, and despite their best showing coming in their first competitive match [at home to Manchester City in the UWCL], things have gone downhill quickly. Left frustrated against Lyon in their own Champions League clash, Levante took all their frustrations out on Las Blancas in their first match of the season. Looking far less bright in Manchester, Real again found enough form against City to get through their first European test but back in Spain, things fast went from bad to worse.

Losing their first Madrid derby of the season to Atlético Madrid, Real were gifted a lone point in Tenerife thanks to a Patri own goal at the death. Yet the team from the Spanish capital couldn’t capitalise on that draw. Real Sociedad and Athletic Club completed a Basque one-two over Madrid’s next two outings before Las Blancas picked up their first win in four, away to Zhytlobud-1 Kharkiv. Then, finally, Real Madrid found a win in Spain, at home to Eibar this past Sunday.

Admittedly, the scheduling as well as slowly mounting injuries are worth mentioning, yet the team has far too frequently looked lost on the pitch, and despite finding a confidence boosting win in Kharkiv, the anxiety was, regardless of the result, palpable against Eibar.

Real Madrid V SD Eibar - Primera Division Femenina Photo by Oscar J. Barroso / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images

For as harsh as the scheduling has been to Real Madrid for the very start of the season, there is a kindness coming. Sevilla CF, Valencia CF and Rayo Vallecano are on the horizon for Real – the latter two home clashes for Las Blancas. The win in Kharkiv looked to be the moment that Real could begin to build wins and pick up a head of steam, the team propelled by confidence as much as anything. For Aznar, who has reportedly been under pressure to deliver wins, Lorena Navarro’s lone goal in the Ukraine might just have saved him from filing his P45 for this season. Yet, there have also been rumblings that the coach has lost his dressing room, with the team reportedly sending a letter to Begoña Sanz and Ana Rossell, asking for a managerial change.

Although the reports from El Confidencial have not been confirmed elsewhere, those at Managing Madrid suggest that even though there is a grain or two of salt to be taken with the article and its author Kike Marín, something is tangibly wrong with the players.

Identity

Real Madrid is a global brand, there are few around the world with an interest in football who don’t know who Real Madrid are; who are unfamiliar with the regal emblem and crisp white kits. To David Aznar’s credit, he managed to stop the squad from falling into the existential, “Are we Real or are we Tacón?” quagmire in their first and second seasons in the Primera Iberdrola. However, the football played by a team replete with Madridistas has continued to lack the near-arrogance that is so familiar with Real teams. Worst still, it’s the crisis of confidence that’s paralysing the entire team, the lack of identity and confusion over how they’re supposed to be playing that is feeding back into itself.

There is a deeper murkiness around the women’s side of the club from their time as Tacón, with Rossell, Manuel Merinero, and Carlos Murciano the three main players in an open FIFA lawsuit filed by a former player and her family. However, the combined testimonies as well as the recent clearing of [back of] house around the women’s teams with Rossell holding the top of the strings, it feels as though it doesn’t matter what happens on the pitch as Aznar is a favourite of Rossell.

Whether or not there are shockwaves still running through the players on the current team, there is unquestionably something wrong with those who take to the pitch. The main difference from last season to this is that the players are not lifting the team and picking up the potential slack left by the coach. The only thing for certain is that one way or another, the un-Real like performances cannot continue.