Having taken over the reins from Carlo Ancelotti earlier this summer, Rafael Beniteza s Real Madrid is currently sitting on the top of the table despite the squad suffering a string of critical injuries that threatened to derail their campaign early on this season. While the likes of James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema still remain sidelined due to injuries, a closer analysis reflects that this crisis couldna t have come at a better time for Rafael Benitez.
Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Danilo, Dani Carvajal, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Denis Cheryshev have all spent time in the medical room this season, forcing Rafael Benitez to modify and adapt his starting eleven over the course of his short duration at the Spanish capital.
It is better to end with a flourish than start with a bang
While the first half of the 2014-15 season saw Real Madrid etch a historic 22-game winning streak under Carlo Ancelotti, Luis Enriquea s Barcelona looked set for a dramatic fall out as reports suggesting a bust-up emerged from the dressing room. One team went on to win the treble that season while the other manager was sacked abruptly for failing to win any silverware.
Forced into a corner early on in the season, Beniteza s ability to adapt quickly helped salvage Real Madrida s start this season. However, having only recently assumed office, one might argue that had Real Madrid faltered, Rafael Benitez would have run a lesser risk of facing the sack as he would have been given time to put things right during the course of the season. As demonstrated by Barcelona last year, it is easier to recover from an early slump than face a late crisis towards the fag end of the season.
In this respect, Benitez is probably lucky to face an injury crisis during his first few months in charge as he has the time to recover from early set-backs.
Squad rotation and the emergence of young guns
Carlo Ancelotti was sacked for taking Gareth Bale off in a La Liga fixture. Thankfully for Benitez, the Spaniard hasna t been forced to bench a Galactico this season. While an Isco versus James Rodriguez debate would have almost definitely plagued Benitez had the squad been fit, the injury crisis has enabled the Spaniard to rotate his squad, providing him with ample opportunities to gauge individual players.
Fringe squad players such as Jese Rodriguez and Lucas Vazquez have had the opportunity to start matches for Real Madrid with both players notching up important game time as Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez remain sidelined with injuries. 9 games into the season, Jese has already played 224 minutes as compared to the last two seasons (530 minutes in 2014-15, 592 minutes in 2013-14 ) under Carlo Ancelotti. A similar case can be argued in Nachoa s favour who has been used effectively by Benitez in the absence of Sergio Ramos and Pepe.
Real Madrida s squad strength is perhaps best reflected in the midfield as Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic continue to display enormous potential early on this season. Casemiro demonstrated that he was no push-over following an exemplary performance in the Madrid derby and his presence in the team along with Kovacic guards Rafael Benitez from other untimely injuries. Shielding Madrida s midfield in the absence of other stalwarts, Casemiro and Kovacic provide Benitez with ample opportunities to tailor his starting eleven according to the varying demands of the opposition.
This is not to suggest that Rafael Benitez has emerged unscathed from the ongoing crisis at Real Madrid. The Spanish giants host Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in November before travelling to Seville to face Unai Emerya s men in La Liga. Rafael Benitez then must prepare for his first El Clasico in charge at Real Madrid, a fixture that is likely to determine his legacy with Los Blancos. However, analyzing his performance so far, it is safe to say that the Spaniard is not letting injuries get in the way of scripting a perfect start to his dream job.