2016/17, though for different reasons. Real Madrid’s defense was better back then than it has been the last two seasons, but the offense was still the chief reason for our success. Now, it’s the defense that’s been doing it for us, with the offense looking pretty stunted of late.
Eden Hazard was the marquee signing over the summer, but injuries have blighted his season to this point. It doesn’t seem like RM have missed him, though. To what do you attribute this, and how much will he add when he regains fitness?
I’ve had the unpopular opinion that Eden Hazard wasn’t exactly a necessary signing since 2018. If you look at our primary weakness in attack, it comes down to a lack of goal scoring. Karim Benzema has had to shoulder an absurd load and his recent dip in form has been covered by unlikely goals from Casemiro and some set-pieces.
Hazard’s non-penalty goal production has been exceedingly mediocre for his entire career. What makes him world class is his dribbling, creation, and line-breaking abilities. His best self certainly raises Real Madrid’s ceiling because of how well he does those aforementioned things, but they’re also not areas where Madrid are weakest. So, it’s a case of Hazard not being the true solution for Madrid’s needs.
As for Madrid’s success without him — I already mentioned Benzema’s incredible season, but I have to reiterate how great our defense has been. Casemiro, Fede Valverde, and Sergio Ramos are all having career seasons and the collective structure has been steadily getting better, as well.
Obviously Dani Carvajal is there, but any concern about the right back position following Álvaro Odriozola’s departure for Bayern Munich?
Yes, I do have concerns. Nacho doesn’t cut it offensively anymore and has declined defensively. Zidane tried a sort of hybrid 4-4-2 diamond/4-3-3 vs. Real Valladolid, with Ferland Mendy and Nacho as the fullbacks, and we created almost nothing from out wide. It’s a big downgrade on the right side which should be solved with the return of Achraf Hakimi next season, meaning that Odriozola will probably be playing elsewhere in 2020/21.
Madrid’s attacking midfield of the future has lots of names — Vinícius Júnior, Rodrygo Goes, Martin Ødegaard, Takefusa Kubo, Brahim Díaz — but few places to put them all. How do you see the club resolving this situation over the summer?
Brahim being loaned; Kubo probably extending his loan or being loaned somewhere else; Ødegaard playing in central midfield, where Real Madrid are thinnest. It’s also possible that Lucas Vázquez is sold, leaving even more space for Vinícius Júnior and Rodyrgo Goes on the wings.
Not to look too far ahead, but are you confident about RM’s chances versus Manchester City?
I would say I’m mildly optimistic. Madridistas are underrating City virtue of our hatred of Pep Guardiola, but Liverpool’s presumed title victory has hurt their spirit and their defense continues to leak goals. Aymeric Laporte coming back in time could be a game changer, but I feel like this City side is wounded to the point that they’ll be vulnerable for the rest of the season. On the flip side, their offense is incredible and not fearing it is downright stupid.
Your scoreline prediction, please.
Real Madrid 1-1 Atlético Madrid. Casemiro set-piece and Atlético shithousing something. Fun.