Real Madrid new boss Rafael Benitez has been under pressure as the Blancos succumbed to a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Barcelona last month. Benitez, who is known for his defensively solid teams, hasn’t had the same effect on Madrid. Madrid haven’t conceded much, but the credit to that has to go to their Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas. Their defence has looked fragile every now and then, and it showed against Sevilla and Barcelona. But the major change in this season in Madrid’s play has been in Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo hasn’t had the best start to the season, though he has scored 21 goals in just 20 appearances. The Portuguese superstar has sometimes looked out of sorts and out of ideas in big matches. The fact that he hasn’t scored against Sevilla, Barcelona, PSG and Atletico Madrid is the proof of Ronaldo misfiring against bigger opponents. But is it his fault that he hasn’t been at his very best in these matches? Or is it his new role as a number 9 in the Madrid squad which is not suiting him?
Injuries to key players have played a major role in the downfall of Madrid this season so far. James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Danilo, Daniel Carvajal, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Keylor Navas for some time, injuries to these players have been significant for Madrid. But the most significant player to miss out on much playtime for Madrid has been Karim Benzema. The 27-year-old Frenchman has been injured for most part of the season, and has also been involved in some controversy with his French teammates. In his absence, Ronaldo was deployed in the number 9 role.
At first, many people thought that Ronaldo might fit in that role and will start scoring even more, if that was possible. The 30-year-old’s superb heading abilities, strong physique and all of his qualities were perfectly suitable for an out-and-out striker. But as it turned out, Ronaldo didn’t enjoy much of his football while playing as a number 9. Ronaldo was ripped of any free space, which he loves to have on the wing, and was therefore ineffective most of the times.
As per whoscored.com, Ronaldo has scored 15 goals in 13 games while playing on the left, as compared to his 6 goals in 7 games as a centre forward. Though his stats don’t show that dip in form, but the difference in his style of play has been enormous, and the team has suffered a lot from that.
With Benzema back into the side, Ronaldo has been given his favoured wing position, and has started to deliver already. He has already scored 8 goals in his last 4 games, while playing on the wing, and Benzema has also started scoring. Though it is very early to say, this might be the beginning of the revival of Madrid’s frontline, with Gareth Bale also in good form.