Real Madrid: What’s wrong with Cristiano Ronaldo and Co?

Two defeats in four games has left major question marks over Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. 

Seven trophies in 19 months gives him enough credit for now but Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was an embarrassed spectator at Wembley and he also made his way down to the dressing room after the game. 

The official line is that that was to tell the players to keep their chins up, but his mere presence after a defeat rarely bodes well for a manager. 

Sportsmail looks at the five biggest problems facing the club, who is to blame for them, and how they can be fixed.

Zinedine Zidane finds himself under pressure after Wednesday’s defeat by Tottenham 

Where have all the goals gone?

Karim Benzema remains stuck on one goal so far this season. Ronaldo now has four in the Champions League but he has only scored once in the league. 

Alvaro Morata got 20 goals off the bench last campaign but he was sold without being replaced and Gareth Bale can’t pitch in because he is injured. 

It wasn’t Zidane’s idea to sell Morata and it’s not his fault Bale is not fit. But he needs to find away to get Ronaldo, in particular, firing again. 

Using Borja Mayoral more is a possible solution. He, at least, is comfortable playing at centre forward. 

Madrid could also make a signing in January. They don’t like doing it but they have done it before with Emmanuel Adebayor on loan in 2011.

Karim Benzema has underwhelmed this season and has scored just once in all competitions

Karim Benzema has underwhelmed this season and has scored just once in all competitions

Walking wounded

Bale is close to a return. He just didn’t feel rushing into Real Madrid’s biggest game of the season so far at Wembley and it was a sensible idea in view of the long season ahead. 

In his absence, his fiercest critics have learned that far from being the source of most of Real Madrid’s problems, he is the solution to many of them. He will be welcomed back with open arms. 

Dani Carvajal has also been a huge miss. The Spain right back has recovered from a virus that had affected his heart. Now he needs to get back to full fitness.

Zidane’s tactics

Twice in four days Zidane faced a team playing three centre backs and two wing backs and he could not handle it. 

It was not lost on his critics that against both Girona on Sunday and Tottenham on Wednesday, he picked the same starting XI and then made the same changes both in terms of tactics and personnel. The players looked poorly drilled next to their Spurs rivals. 

Casemiro was one of the club’s best players last season but suddenly he doesn’t seem to know in which direction to run. He plays as the holding midfielder but Zidane does not like him coming deep to collect the ball, so he runs forward and it is Modric and Kroos who drop deep to receive it. As a tactic it works about as well as Harry Kane taking corners. 

Zidane needs to trust Casemiro or replace him. At least then Kroos and Modric can receive the ball higher up the pitch where they can hurt the opposition.

Give youth a chance

Marco Asensio won young player of the year and then seemed to fall off the edge of cliff. Zidane doesn’t seem to trust him any more. 

He was a late sub in both Madrid defeats. But he has the pace to get beyond defenders and open space up for the likes of Isco to play in. 

Ronaldo needs young legs around him and Asensio can provide the spark so sorely missing in Real Madrid’s most recent performances.

What ever happened to the indomitable spirit?

It was a feature of last season’s Champions League and La Liga double that the dressing room stayed together and that even those who were upset because they were not playing as much as they wanted to, pulled their weight and put the team first. 

This season discord has replaced harmony and it’s no longer ‘one for all and all for one’. Marcelo’s verbal spat with Modric at the weekend was proof of that. 

Real Madrid go to Dubai next month for the World Club Cup. The time away together could make or break their season. 

If they come back having retained their crown then it will set them up for the second half of the season. If things do not go as planned then the first few months of 2018 will be spent scouting new players for the summer… and a new manager.