Rafael Benitez did not get off to a dream start after taking over the reins from Carlo Ancelotti as Real Madrid were held to a goalless draw against newly promoted Sporting de Gijon. Without the services of Karim Benzema, Real Madrid seemed to lack precision in front of the goal despite the efforts of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Hoping to catch up with Barcelonaa s exploits, Real Madrid face several uncomfortable questions as Rafa Benitez takes charge of the dug-out. With a new era kicking off at Santiago Bernabeu, here are three talking points following Real Madrida s goalless draw against Sporting Gijon.
Are Real Madrid taking a gamble with the lack of strikers in the squad?
Sidelined due to a thigh injury, Real Madrid seemed to miss Karim Benzema as Jese Rodriguez took his position in front of Gareth Bale at El Molinon. The Spaniard failed to be an adequate replacement for Benzema as he lacked the precision and the tenacity to lead Real Madrida s attack. Despite piling on the pressure on their opponents, Real Madrid seemed to be over-relying on individual brilliance as they failed to successfully finish off a move on Rafa Beniteza s debut as the new manager at Real Madrid.
While questions will be raised regarding Real Madrida s glaring lack of a second striker in their squad, Beniteza s game-plan seemed unconvincing as the side failed to capitalize on the creative prowess of players such as Luka Modric and Isco. Instead of seeking to open up Sportinga s defence through the middle, Real Madrid concentrated on crossing the ball into the box, hoping for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to head the ball in.
Having refused to sign Chicharito from Manchester United, Rafa Benitez has been insistent that he is not on the lookout for a new No 9. While Karim Benzema has the ability to shoulder Real Madrida s attack, his absence could prove to be costly for the club as they turn over a new leaf under the watchful eye of Rafa Benitez.
Are Real Madrid benefiting from a centrally positioned Gareth Bale?
Rafa Beniteza s tenure at Real Madrid may well be dominated by the manner in which he uses Gareth Bale in the starting eleven. Florentino Pereza s favourite, Gareth Bale was promoted to a more a centrala role in the team, thus displacing Isco and James Rodriguez to the wings in order to make space for the Welshman.
While Bale is known for taking on defenders and successfully influencing the pace of the game, his strength lies in his ability to run past defenders and get into an advantageous, goal-scoring position. Though he seemed to be in the thick of the action against Sporting Gijon, Bale was often crowded out by midfielders and defenders alike, thus affecting his ability to influence the game.
Both Isco and James Rodriguez on the other hand seemed to lack the space to dominate the proceedings as they were pushed to the right flank due to Balea s apparent a promotiona in the squad. Known for their ability to dictate the pace of the game due to their shrewd sense of positioning and intelligent runs, the duo could not link up the attack with the defence as they were positioned out of their comfort zone at El Molinon.
Which brings us to the question- Is Real Madrid really benefitting from using Gareth Bale in a No 10 position?
Plenty of room for improvement in the Real Madrid defence
Despite his reputation for being a defensive manager, Rafa Beniteza s side were left exposed on multiple occasions as Sporting Gijon failed to capitalize on their opportunities. With Sporting coming close to scoring a goal, including rattling the bar in the first half of the game, Benitez is likely to be concerned that Real Madrid often lost possession in strategic moments of the game.
While Varane and Sergio Ramos seemed to be alert to all possible dangers, questions will be asked regarding Marceloa s performance as the Brazilian defender suffered a horrid outing under Rafa Benitez. In addition to losing the ball to his opponents, he seemed to be unable to defend his flank, often needing assistance from Sergio Ramos to cover for his glaring mistakes.
Danilo too failed to impress in his debut. The right-back will have to work hard on influencing the game if he is to successfully retain his position in the starting line-up against Dani Carvajal.
With both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid earning three crucial points from their opening La Liga fixtures, Real Madrid will have to get their act together under Rafa Benitez soon, if they are to challenge for the Spanish crown this season. Following Carlo Ancelottia s sacking from the club, the Spaniard will be well aware that there is little room for error at Santiago Bernabeu.