Following a 1-1 draw against city rivals Atletico Madrid, much criticism has been directed towards Rafael Benitez who has been accused of being too defensive after Real Madrid took the lead in the early minutes of the game. In form striker Karim Benzema clearly expressed his frustration after being substituted for Mateo Kovacic with Sergio Ramos too seemingly pointing fingers at his manager.
After taking an early lead, Real Madrid dominated the game in the first half and put forth a convincing display which was otherwise marred by a reckless challenge made by Sergio Ramos, forcing Keylor Navas to once again save Real Madrid the blushes.
The electronic board always shows the No.9
1-0 up in the derby, Rafa Benitez was criticized for sitting deep and defending the slim lead instead of looking for opportunities to put pressure on Atletico Madrid. In a bid to bolster the midfield, Benitez took off Benzema in the second half as he introduced Mateo Kovacic into the game. However, with Cristiano Ronaldo isolated as a No 9, Real Madrid ended up inviting Atletico Madrid to dictate the game as Diego Simeonea s men found a way to crawl back into the game. Such was the change in momentum that at the end of the 90 minutes, Atletico Madrid seemed to be the ones who lost out on winning three points despite Real Madrida s heroics in the first half.
As reported earlier, Karim Benzema was vocal in expressing his frustration at Benitez and was later backed by Sergio Ramos who himself came under the scanner for giving away a cheap penalty. As reported by Marca, the defender did not take kindly to Beniteza s comments on his mistake and instead chose to bring up the issue of his substitutions.
“Anything that Ben tez has to say he can say when he sees me. I’m not concerned or bothered. We all make mistakes and we don’t do it on purpose. Luckily Keylor was on hand and it didn’t affect the final result. Just as people talk about my mistake, they’ll talk about the substitutions.”
Is the criticism against Rafael Benitez justified?
While the blame for the draw must lie with Benitez, it is worth noting the fact that Real Madrid have been surprisingly ineffective in front of the goal under their new manager. While a strong performance against Real Betis and Espanyol seemed to soothe the nerves initially, Real Madrid have dropped 6 points in 7 fixtures so far this season. Curiously, 11 of their 15 La Liga goals were scored during those 180 minutes, a sharp indicator of the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo and co have been far from consistent with regards to their goal-scoring responsibilities. With Barcelona continuing to misfire this season, it seems that Real Madrid are letting go of a valuable opportunity to get ahead in the title race.
As compared to last season, Real Madrid have scored 10 goals less under Rafael Benitez so far while drastically improving their defence. Last seasona s opening 7 La Liga fixtures saw Real Madrid score 25 goals, averaging 3.57 goals per game, as compared to the 15 goals they have scored under Benitez ( average 2.14 goals).
Defending the charge
Such was the criticism levelled against the Spanish manager that he was forced to offer an explanation in a talk show as reported by AS. Speaking about Karim Benzema, Benitez claimed that he himself would have been annoyed had he been in the Frenchmana s shoes but went on to challenge his striker to make himself indispensable in order to avoid being substituted.
a Ia d also be annoyed if the coach was taking me off. Ia d go out of my way to score twice to avoid get getting subbed.a
When questioned regarding his a defensive outlooka , Benitez put the onus on Atletico Madrid for pushing his team backwards while making it clear that it wasna t a part of his plan. The Spaniard singled out his attackers for failing to launch an effective counter-attack as he justified bringing on Kovacic to strengthen the wings.
a Do you believe I told the team to sit that deeply? I come from a Napoli team who scored 104 goals. Do you think Ia m going to be hyper-defensive with Real Madrid? A team that creates chances, and is great in possession is not defensive. Another matter is if Atl tico oblige you to defend. This was not something wea d practiced. We sent on Kovacic to strengthen the wing, but Ateti pushed and pushed.”
Despite his faults, the Spaniard seems to have laid a solid foundation after fortifying Real Madrida s defence. Having conceded just two goals so far this season, the addition of Casemiro and Kovacic has further strengthened the team, with the Brazilian especially putting forth a remarkable performance at Vicente Calderon. With the league still in its infant stage, the verdict is still not out on Rafael Benitez.