Real Madrid have won one match, lost two and drawn one. This is their worst start to a season in over a decade and they are already eight points behind Barcelona in a league which is tightly contested between the two Spanish giants.
It's not often that their enigmatic manager Jose Mourinho looks clueless. But after the 0-1 loss to Sevilla, he said, "I don't have a team," and that means the club is in trouble.
More importantly, Jose's outspoken reign as manager is under threat from a galaxy of starts who are "a team without concentration, without the willingness to compete."
There are a few ways you can see this problem develop. Either it's Cristiano Ronaldo's shenanigans which have affected the team chemistry... or Jose is finally getting onto everyone's nerves. Or maybe both. But there's a feeling that one of them is trying to outdo the other in the dressing room and causing a rift.
Football is complicated. You can't point a finger at one person and say the blame completely lies on him. But something must have really gone bad for the whole team to play in such a nondescript manner.
Mourinho has gone on record saying, "I am the coach, and if there are people who aren't committed it is my fault. There is no doubt who is responsible. In my teams, if we win, we all win. If we lose, I am responsible" But that's the reason he's manager of the club. That is why they get the sack even if he has no role in missing a chance from two yards out like Sergio Ramos did.
Madrid haven't gone making a flurry of signings over the summer. So the usual excuse of 'too many stars' doesn't quite stand true here. They won the league with these same stars last year.
If you see the timeline of Real Madrid in La Liga this season, it somewhat goes like this:
- After the 1-1 draw against Valencia, Mourinho said, "I expected more from my team.To lose this game was difficult."
- Then came the 1-2 loss to Getafe. "We deserved to lose," Mourinho said. "We played very badly. An unacceptable game. It’s one of those games which I leave without feeling frustrated because the result wasn’t a surprise in the end."
- Then the bomb dropped. After their 3-0 win against Granada, Ronaldo told the media: "I am sad and the club knows it, that’s why I didn’t celebrate the goals. The people in the club know why."
- International break.
- Speculation follows about why Ronaldo is sad at Madrid. When asked on the subject, Mourinho says, "If Ronaldo is sad and plays like he plays, perfect for me. I don't have to worry about things that are superficial. I coach football and my responsibility is our results."
- After the loss to Sevilla though, Mourinho went completely all out against the team: "The problem is the attitude from minute one. At half-time, I changed two players and wanted to change seven."
That last quote means more than half of Madrid's players were not worthy of being on the pitch.
In all the games were Madrid failed to win, they conceded via set-pieces. And that's the worrisome part. "We cannot work more on set pieces. Every player knows his role, the opponent he has to mark, the zone he has to cover, and yet we concede a goal just a minute into the game. It is an image of a team without focus or a willingness to suffer."
'Willingness to suffer' are the words which stand out. When every players knows their role, then they're just plain scared to mark their man. Probably none of them want to mark a tall player in the box, shirking responsibility where they are most vulnerable.
It is quite perplexing. Either the team is split into two camps— one siding with Ronaldo and wanting more support from the manager when he was asked about his views on the no.7's sadness and the other— which sees Ronaldo as just another player who sulks like a baby.
There is also the issue of how Mourinho treated Ricardo Carvalho and Kaka during the summer, not hiding the fact that the former needs to find a new club and talking about Kaka as if he was some 20-year-old kid who has just learnt how to kick a ball.
These things pile up— insecurities develop in the team. Players question each other on the lines of: "It's happening to Kaka, will it happen to me? Will I be sold and left out?"
And this complacency has been typical of Real Madrid.
They had all the reason to rejoice at the start of the season after they beat Barcelona in the Super Copa but it's all gone downhill since then.
All we can do is conjure various theories in what is wrong and who is to blame, but the Real judges are the results... and with Manchester City coming up next, there isn't a better time to shut everyone up.