Is it time for Real Madrid to panic?

zizou-headacheFive games into the 2017/18 La Liga season and Real Madrid is already seven points off the pace and currently sits seventh in the table. They’ve won a meagre two games, drawn two and lost one.

Zidane’s men haven’t played terribly so far this season but they have been abhorrent in front of goal, creating a myriad of chances but failing to put them away. An incredulous feat from a team that has Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema.

Ronaldo was banned for five games for shoving the referee in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. He missed the return leg of the Super Copa and the first four La Liga games, so naturally, Real Madrid was happy about his expected return against Betis but that went sour pretty quickly.

Before last night’s game against Betis, Real Madrid had scored in 73 consecutive games but the team was unable to get anything past ex-Madrid man Adán, who made a number of man-of-the-match worthy saves. Coupled with the Betis goalkeeper’s spectacular display, both Bale and Ronaldo weren’t at their best. Ronaldo had a torrid time in front of goal, skying numerous shots and Bale on the other hand, was in and out of the game but had one brilliant shot on goal that saw Adán conjure up a miraculous save to deny him.

While los Merengues have struggled to bury their scoring opportunities, both Mariano and Morata have hit the ground running for their new clubs. The latter was sort of a saviour last season, coming on as a substitute to score or lay-off the winning goal.

Bale has had a slow start to the season scoring only once and has thus far contributed very little to the team’s play and dynamic. Benzema, before his injury against Levante, was creating chances but hadn’t put away any of his efforts.

Mayoral’s presence in the squad was already a bit risky and his introduction into last night’s game says the club needed a striker in the summer and should have made the effort to replace Mariano and Morata’s departure. He’s a promising player with an abundance of potential and his unfortunate loan stint at Wolfsburg means he hardly had the chance to really hone his skills and therefore, including him as the only backup to Benzema was an absurd decision and could prove to be truly disastrous. Will he be able to provide the team with goals in dire moments the way Morata was able to?

Zidane initially said the club needed a new striker but as the possibility of signing M’bappe dwindled, he then changed his initial assessment and said he was happy with the squad and that it didn’t need any more players. Last night’s debacle begs to differ and indicates that his original evaluation remains true.

Real Madrid find themselves in a precarious predicament and it will be difficult to claw themselves out of this position. They have failed to make the Bernabéu a sanctuary so far this season and have picked up a paltry two points out of a possible nine. And of the five official games they’ve played at home, the team’s won two, drawn two and lost one.

Los Blancos will certainly find form as the season drags on, but in a league where so little points are dropped and there’s very little between the top two, seven points behind a Barça team that seems in fine form, despite their troubles in the boardroom, will be a tough ask for the whites. Even more so, as they have yet to meet their toughest opponents- the likes of Sevilla, cross-town rivals Atlético and arch-rivals Barcelona.

In his post-game press conference, the ever so composed Zidane said, the team has to “remain calm and focus on the next game. La Liga is a long competition”.  He may be right but his team no longer holds their destiny in their own hands.

In defence of Dembélé

dembeleAs we’ve known for the past few weeks, Ousmane Demebélé has been AWOL since he’s gotten word that Barcelona desperately wants him. He’s refused to show up for training and has since been fined and suspended by Dortmund for his lack of professionalism. According to German newspaper Bild, he’s last been sighted in Monaco.

It’s never easy for players to resist the allure of playing for a top club, especially when that club is two-time treble winners Barcelona, which also has one of the world’s best players of all-time on their team.

It’s also difficult to resist the enticement of playing in the best league— based on UEFA’s ranking. And while both Dortmund and the Bundesliga, in their own right, are right up there with the best teams and leagues respectively, Barça and La Liga are far more attractive options.

So who could really forgo all that allure? Established players, the likes of Suarez, Rakitic, Modric, Ronaldo and Bale were all unable to fight the temptation to join their current clubs and immediately made the move when the opportunity presented itself. If those players couldn’t resist the urge, how could a 20-year-old rising star possibly do so?

Another perspective

There’s this theory from psychologist Frederick Herzberg, called the Two-Factor Theory. This premise basically suggests there are factors in the workplace, which affect job satisfaction and those which affect job dissatisfaction. The theory makes a distinction between two groups: Motivators and Hygiene factors.

Motivators are described as intrinsic factors arising from work conditions and affect job satisfaction. Some examples of them are: self-actualisation, recognition, opportunity to do something meaningful and a sense of importance.

Hygiene factors, on the other hand, are extrinsic to the work and affect job dissatisfaction. Examples of these factors are: salary/wages, benefits, status, work conditions and good pay.

According to Herzberg, hygiene factors don’t lead to higher motivation or job satisfaction but a lack of these factors can lead to job dissatisfaction. Motivators, conversely, lead to job satisfaction and increased motivation but don’t necessarily eliminate job dissatisfaction.

It’s worth noting here that Herzberg didn’t see job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction as opposites. He saw it the following way:

  • the opposite of job satisfaction as no job satisfaction and,
  • the opposite of job dissatisfaction as no job dissatisfaction.

Considering the information available to us, Dembélé already earns above average wages, works under fairly good conditions and seems to get along with the majority of his peers, which means the likelihood dissatisfaction exists is pretty low— conclusion: no dissatisfaction. He, however, feels that he’s done enough at Dortmund and achieved all he could, which means he sees no job satisfaction and the only way to achieve this is to seek a new challenge, currently offered by Barça. What normal, ambitious person doesn’t have a desire to accomplish more and even more so when the opportunity to do so is banging at the door?

So, while most of us may think Dembélé only wants this move because of the increased pay which comes with it, it is worth considering that it’s equally likely and possibly more logical that he’s pushing for a transfer to Barça because he:

  • has the opportunity to “do something meaningful” like win the Champions League— an unlikely feat for Dortmund this season, with or without him.
  • has the opportunity to “do something meaningful” like win the league and though plausible at Dortmund will prove difficult to do, considering Bayern is so dominant.
  • has the opportunity to “do something meaningful” like take on a new challenge in a new and better league
  • can feel a “sense of importance” by being able to compete and win every possible trophy.
  • can feel a “sense of importance” by becoming a regular at a top club and playing with one of the world’s all-time greats.
  • can feel a “sense of responsibility” by becoming the player who satisfactorily fills the colossal aperture left behind by Neymar.

So before we condemn and bemoan him and deem him a money grubber, it’s worth considering the need to fulfil his potential, something Dortmund can no longer offer him.

Dortmund have also resigned themselves to a sale, as was revealed earlier today by the club’s sporting director Michael Zorc before the team’s Bundesliga kick-off, and we should too.

 

Croatia could go all the way

At every championship there is at least one team we expect to cause all sorts of problems for the household names and this year’s Euro had names such as Belgium, Poland and Croatia being tossed around for but only Croatia has really laid claim to that label and ran with it.

They had an impressive showing against Turkey in their opening game but only secured a narrow win through a brilliant Modric volleyed-goal, but they controlled the game, created chances and defended resolutely.

In their next game, they dashed into a two-goal lead against the Czech Republic but a few of their nitwit fans decided to interrupt the game by throwing flares onto the field, which ended up doing their team more harm than good and moments after the restart they conceded the equaliser. A disappointing end to what was an otherwise great performance from the Croatians.

croespThey went into the final game of the group in second, two points behind the Spanish. La Roja were expected to have a fairly easy game and to finish top of their group. However, that wasn’t the case and the Croats came out aggressive, pressed the Spaniards ad prevented them from playing their possession-based game. They also did well forcing Iniesta out of the game, not allowing the little wizard any chance to dictate play. Majority of the Spanish’s play came through either Silva or Fabregas and a combination between the two led to the eventual opening goal. It wouldn’t last long though, as the Croatians would hit Spain on a perfectly executed counterattack just before the half through Perisic, who galloped down the left wing, broke Juanfran’s ankles and whipped in a lovely cross for Kalinic, who flicked the ball pass De Gea.

In the second half, the Croats didn’t change their game plan and continued to press the Spaniards, creating loads of chances but just couldn’t finish. The referee almost gave Spain an opportunity to “restore the order” by awarding them an incorrect penalty but justice was served because Ramos hit his penalty straight at the goalkeeper and later, the Croatians would deliver the knockout punch of the night in the 88th minute from a blitz counterattack with the scorer of the first, Kalinic returning the favour for Perisic to beat De Gea at his near post.

The Croatians shocked La Roja by not only defeating them through some lovely football and steadfast defending but to finish as group winners, thus leaving Spain to face Italy in the next round.

perisicTheir performance was commendable considering they had to do without Modric, who was injured. Additionally, Brozovic was rested, neither Strinic nor Vida played and Mandzukic was replaced by Kalinic. It was an outstanding game for the Croats, who’ve really been performing amazingly in the championship and this win will have given them bags of confidence. Their winning the group was probably more a let off the hook for the Italians than it was for the Croatians.

They have a wealth of talent, the likes of Modric- he picked up his second Champions League trophy with Real Madrid this season; Rakitic- was key in helping Barcelona win the domestic double; Mandzukic- an erratic character but the Juventus man can be clinical and though he’s struggling to hit form in this tournament can still deliver an unexpected blow to opponents; Brozovic- an undoubtedly talented, energetic and creative midfielder; Perisic- the Inter Milan man is a talented attacker who has a few tricky moves and can deliver deadly crosses into the box; and then there are the stallions: Corluka and Srna. Additionally, they have young players, who possess bags of talent, like Rog, who had a tremendous game in midfield against Spain, which was his fourth game for the national team. There’s Jedvaj, another 20-year-old, who had a terrific game in defence against the Spanish- also his fourth appearance for Croatia. Kalinic started the game in place of Mandzukic and did what the Juve man had failed to in the previous two games- not only scoring but providing an assist. Pjaca also made his 9th start against Spain and turned in a tremendous performance on the right. They also have Real Madrid’s talented young midfielder, Kovacic, who can play in a range of midfield positions.

The Croatians have a well-balanced team of both youth and experienced players and they have showed us that they possess all the right ingredients to be our Cinderella at the ball and I’m looking forward to them fulfilling that role and making it all the way to the final.