From runners-up to early-season strugglers, if misfiring Real Madrid have designs on becoming a powerhouse of the women’s game, they’ll need to find a winning formula, writes Martin Whiteley.
After the high of an impressive first season under the iconic name, Real Madrid have been brought back down to earth with a bang this season.
The goal drought continued for last season’s Primera Division runners-up as they slumped to another 2-0 defeat on the road to Athletic Bilbao at the weekend. That reversal leaves them languishing on a solitary point — 14 points behind the top two Barcelona and Real Sociedad — and history tells you even at this early stage those points can’t be made up.
Although several squad players left Las Blancas during the off-season, their replacements were seen as genuine challengers for a place in coach David Aznar’s starting line-up. Esther Gonzalez, Claudia Zornoza, and Rocio Galvez all joined from Levante, who had finished one spot below Real in third place last time around.
Spain striker Gonzalez had scored 29 league goals last term and her predatory instincts had proved to be a nightmare for defences both domestically and internationally.
More attacking personnel also headed to the side from the capital in the shape of Spanish recruits Nahikari Garcia and Athenea del Castillo. Denmark striker Caroline Moller was also brought in from Inter Milan and between them the trio bagged 24 goals for their former sides.
Garcia found the net 11 times for Real Sociedad, three more than del Castillo managed for relegated Deportivo la Coruna.
Wide player Sofia Jakobsson was the only significant first-team starter to depart Real as she made the switch to Bayern Munich. Already on their books, though, were the pacy Olga Carmona and Marta Corredera who could both operate on the left side.
The team is, however, without the services currently of Marta Cardona who is out with a knee injury, having scored 14 goals last season.
Although not an easy start to proceedings this term for last season’s runners-up — their first four games being against sides that finished the previous campaign in the top six — nobody envisaged how hard it would be.
The manner of the three losses against Levante, Atletico Madrid, and Real Sociedad —conceding seven without reply — will be the biggest disappointment for all connected with the club.
In fact, it could have been four straight defeats had it not been for a late own goal from Patri Gavira for Real to scramble one point away to UDG Tenerife on matchday three. The inability to dictate a match from the outset is leaving the Real players unable to function as a unit.
Defensively the backline gets separated from the midfielders, allowing attacks to result in the concession of goals. The reliance of the wide players to quickly move the ball forward also leaves little time for the now retreating midfielders to join the most forward player in the box. That limits the numbers that are able to attack the crosses that are being put into the danger area.
Sides battling towards the top very rarely go two league matches without scoring but the Real players have now not found the net in their first five top-flight outings.
Aznar’s team does have a chance to start from scratch once more in the Champions League when they open their Group B run of games on October 6th, away to Ukrainian side WFC Kharkiv.
If Las Blancas aspires to become one of the true powerhouses of the women’s game, they will have to find a way to keep churning out winning performances. Operating at near-perfection can only be attained by a few teams, but that is the reality of the level needed to reach the very top.
Follow Martin on Twitter @673martin