Real Madrid suffered a disastrous defeat on the road at the Wanda this past weekend in LaLiga.
From pretty much the moment the game kicked off, Los Blancos were second best to bitter crosstown rivals Atlético Madrid.
A brilliant individual effort from Toni Kroos gave them hope, but a second dagger from former Madrid man Álvaro Morata doomed them to a humbling 3-1 defeat.
There are plenty of things for the Merengues to learn from in the aftermath of this loss, but here are five issues that cannot be repeated in future fixtures.
Rodrygo Goes isolated up top
Perhaps Carlo Ancelotti wanted to put faith in Rodrygo Goes in the hopes that putting him in a huge spot like this one would instill confidence in the player, spurring him to a career day. Instead, Rodrygo was woeful against Atlético Madrid, offering no real threat on goal while, worse yet, isolating other players around him.
Rodrygo is so good in big matches in the Champions League, yet when the floor is his as a regular starter, he struggles, particularly in roles that are not on the left wing.
The striker experiment with Rodrygo is failing, just as it was last season, yet Carlo and Madrid continue to pretend as if he can be a long-term solution as a CF.
He is a left winger. That is who he is as a player. He can play off another forward in a front two, but asking him to lead the line is a recipe for disappointment, especially against quality opposition.
Real’s biggest problems against Atléti were on the defensive side. Forget assigning blame at the end of the goals they conceded.
The entire match was an exhibition in defensive failure from pretty much everyone involved. There is plenty of blame to go around and no point in throwing specific players under the bus, because you defend as a unit. And as a unit, Real Madrid failed miserably.
Carlo Ancelotti holds just as much culpability as the players, and what concerns Madridistas is that this is a trend that has developed under the veteran manager without any signs of real improvement.
The Merengues need to get serious about how they position their back four and shield those players.
Instead of relying on individual players to be alert 100 percent of the time or make unrealistic goal-saving interventions, Carletto needs to get back to the principles.
Luka Modric as a 10
With all due respect to Luka Modric and everything he has accomplished in this sport, we are past the point where the should be playing in important matches for Real Madrid.
There was a point in the middle of the 2022/23 season in which Modric’s play quietly fell off. He is still useful as a squad player, but how can Carletto reasonably expect him to start against one of the best teams in LaLiga?
Modric as a 10 is a dreadful idea. He is not an attacking midfielder at this stage of his career and in the modern game. The explosion necessary in tight spaces is no longer there.
Modric cannot deal with weaving through tight defenses in the final third. He was beyond ineffective in the first half of this defeat, offering nothing meaningful statistically on the offensive end. That’s honestly embarrassing for a player with his pedigree.
Not starting Tchouaméni
Every Real Madrid fan groaned when they saw Carlo Ancelotti sacrificed Aurélien Tchouaméni in order to start both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Tchouaméni is the only true anchor point for Real Madrid, because he is the only player who can defend and cover at an elite level, blocking passing lanes while also providing the passing quality to progress play.
The Frenchman is one of Real’s most important players tactically, particularly against teams that love to quickly counter and stretch defenses in transition.
Real Madrid were stretched past their limit, and they were sluggish without Tchouaméni. He is a unique talent in the defensive midfield, and it is just about unconscionable for a manager to leave him out of the lineup in a match like this one.
At this stage, Tchou’s name must be written in the XI in PEN for marquee matchups like El Derbi.
Joselu has helped Real Madrid’s forwards so much this season, just as he did for less loaded clubs like Espanyol and Deportivo Alavés. Maybe no striker in Europe is as adept at using his height to score goals in the box and, maybe most importantly, to get the ball to teammates as a target man.
With their current scheme and especially with Vinícius Júnior injured, Joselu’s role is even more important. As Diego Simeone pointed out in the press conference after the match, Real Madrid not having Joselu did Atlético Madrid a huge favor.
It isolated Jude Bellingham, who could not receive any help from a hopelessly overmatched Rodrygo. Not only was Bellingham hurt, but there was also no point in crossing or playing long balls without Joselu’s big frame.
Joselu has three goal contributions this season and has been a key source of chance creation. Honestly, Carlo might want to consider starting him over Rodrygo at this stage.