CRISIS Team Meeting Makes Zidane 90 Minutes Late For News Conference
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Are Real Madrid in CRISIS? Should they purchase Mohamed Salah, Mauro Icardi and Harry Kane tomorrow, forming the attacking trifecta SIK? In turn, should they offer BBC + Keylor Navas to Manchester United in exchange for David de Gea? After losing three of their opening 17 La Liga matches, these are the questions facing the back-to-back European champions and manager Zinedine Zidane.
Today, the French coach unequivocally responded to the grumblings while revealing that “clear-the-air talks” with the squad had caused him to be 90 minutes late for the press conference.
“I am not going to say what we talked about,” Zidane said about the player meeting. “These are talks that can happen in the team. You can analyze it as you like, say it is a ‘crisis moment,’ but we are here to look for solutions, to talk, and try to do things better. The chat was a bit longer than others, but this happens when we think it necessary, to get something out of it. When things are not going as we want, the answer is hard work.”
Real suffered their latest setback on Sunday in a 2-2 away draw to Celta Vigo in league play, putting them 16 points back on Barcelona at the top, although Real maintain a game in hand.
“That is what I believe in, and the players think the same,” Zidane continued. “We will work harder than ever now, in all senses. It is not about physical or mental, it is a bit of everything, and continuing stronger. There is nothing else to do but that.”
While Barcelona have greatly strengthened this window with the addition of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool, Zidane has remained adamant that neither he nor the club are looking for purchases this January.
“When things get a bit ugly, it is when we need more from everyone, as we do at the moment,” Zidane said. “We had two spectacular years and people should not forget that. I know the next game is the most important. We will not live in the past, but will not throw away what has been done either.
“To be very clear I do not want any [new players]. We began the season with a squad [and] I believe in these players. We still have everything in front of us. We will see what happens at the end of the season. Things can be analyzed then, and if a change is needed, then it will happen..”
Real’s most obvious issue this season has been the lack of a consistent goal threat. Cristiano Ronaldo has been brilliant in the Champions League, but he’s scored only four goals in La Liga.
Gareth Bale’s absence through injury deprived Real of the Welshman’s quality, but his fitness issues are nothing new for Los Blancos. After an ineffectual start to the season, Karim Benzema now finds himself sidelined with an injury of his own.
The attacking trio of BBC has been a shadow of its former self, the play of consistent performers like Luka Modric and Marcelo has dipped and Zidane was probably hoping for more from emerging talents Isco and Marco Asensio this season.
“I have to find the problem.”Zinedine Zidane says he accepts responsibility for Real Madrid's poor form in La Liga this season. pic.twitter.com/Uw2uw8yYmg
— Goal (@goal) January 8, 2018
“I believe in what we are doing, and my players,” Zidane said. “I will not throw in the towel due to some bad months. What annoys me more is what you [media] say that I will go to the president. People who say that do not know me. Real Madrid is above me, above everybody. People might think I am not the right person, maybe so, but I believe in what I do. I will keep doing it until I am out, nothing more.”
Before the close of the window, Real will play four hugely important matches. Barcelona are out of sight, out of mind at the top, but Real will undoubtedly want to improve on their league standing. There’s no real difference between finishing fourth and third this season (all top four Spanish teams will qualify directly for the 2018-19 Champions League group stage), but Real will want to catch and overtake Valencia in third, if not Atletico in second.
On Jan. 13, they host sixth-place Villarreal. On Jan 27., they travel to play third-place Valencia.
Between Jan. 17 and 24, they’ll also play the two legs of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal. With the league gone, capturing the Spanish Cup (which they haven’t won since 2013-14) and breaking Barca’s hegemony in the competition will become a priority for Real.
Should Real triumph in all four matches, they’ll approach their monumental Champions League Round of 16 tie versus Paris Saint-Germain with restored confidence in their method and manager.
However, should Los Blancos slip out of the La Liga top four or get dumped from the Copa del Rey in January, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a PSG thumping and complete overhaul in the summer.