Guillem Balague's weekly column: Real Madrid's two main problems after slow La Liga start
Last Updated: 30/10/17 8:41pm
Guillem Balague brings you his five main talking points from the weekend's La Liga action, plus he answers your questions...
What's up with Real?
Real's 2-1 loss to Girona comes off the back of four victories so it is not a huge crisis. But they lacked the right attitude - you consider the fact Marcelo did not want to play - Toni Kroos and Luka Modric missed lots of passes, there was no movement and they went to sleep after scoring first.
On the other hand, the attitude shown by Girona was fantastic. The atmosphere was great and it was absolutely ridiculous to suggest - as some did before the match - there might have been trouble at the stadium. That kind of talk came from people that didn't understand Catalans or people in Girona.
Real have two main problems. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored only one goal in six games - of course, he will click at some point - but the issue against Girona was they didn't create many chances.
Secondly, we have seen Zinedine Zidane successfully keep everyone in the squad happy - that was key to their title success last season. He was brave enough to make changes and to give rest to Ronaldo at important times.
But when things start to go wrong you need less of the man-manager and more of the coach. You don't get that from Zidane. He depends far too much on individual quality rather than the collective team.
On events in Catalonia
Let's address this perceived fear from some about going to Girona to play this game. Girona was a party, they are enjoying being in the top division - the sun was shining, the stadium was full.
But this thinking shows what feeling there is in the rest of Spain. Stories have been told about Catalonia, some parts of the media have been pushing the idea that Catalans are evil.
Catalans are not marching or protesting with the idea of creating violence. They just want to be heard. You may agree or disagree with the position of either side - those with a Catalan flag or the Spanish flag - but for me, nationalism of any kind is a step backwards.
Interestingly, Espanyol have taken a position ahead of Monday's game against Real Betis. They are asking people not to bring nationalist flags to the game but instead to bring Espanyol flags. This seems sensible, at the stadium we all must respect one another.
A new Barca?
Barcelona have been very impressive defensively. Everybody is working very hard without the ball and they have only shipped three goals so far.
But their football is not spectacular and there's a couple of reasons why. They are playing without wingers, which tightens everything up in the central areas. With little space to work, their play becomes more industrial and Luis Suarez suffers.
Now that Lionel Messi is working more through the middle, Suarez has to move wider. That's not his natural habitat.
Barca's flanks have been given to the full-backs and their midfield this season is less creative than previous years. Ivan Rakitic and Andre Gomes are not marvellous magicians in possession.
These factors mean Barcelona's football has shifted but everyone is happy with Ernesto Valverde and especially with his results.
I want to talk about Simone Zaza. His stats are amazing, he has scored in six consecutive weeks and has eight goals already.
It comes after a chat between Zaza and Valencia boss Marcelino, who asked the striker at the beginning of the season to stop committing so many fouls and to stop wasting energy on arguments.
He told Zaza to focus his attention on attacking and specifically on arriving at the far post. To his credit, Zaza is now focused and he has simplified his football.
He touches the ball much less often but is incredibly efficient and has found that mental state where things just come easy to him.
All not well at Atleti
Atletico Madrid have problems. First of all, five of the six goals they have conceded have been headers from crosses in wide areas. That's the worst record in La Liga at defending crosses and it's also very unlike Atletico Madrid.
They are not as intense, they are not as concentrated and they are not as strong defensively. Are the players tired of Diego Simeone's demands? The recent games make you wonder.
Also they have lacked a settled midfield. Koke was missing at the weekend and several key players - including Gabi - have not been at their best.
There's another issue - when they score they immediately drop deep, 15m or 20m back, but that's not doing the job. Three times this season they have scored the first goal but then conceded and dropped points.
It doesn't help when your superstar is struggling as well, and Antoine Griezmann has scored only three goals in all competitions.
Time for your questions - Guillem says...
Big fan of Pochettino! Where do you see him post-Spurs? My guess is either Man U or Real... - @Jenko440
Why is there an obsession about talking post-Spurs? Are you not listening to what the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Pochettino are saying? Everybody is saying this is a project they are excited about.
Any truth in Neymar regretting his transfer? What will happen to PSG if it is true? - @Cpundars
Neymar was in Barcelona to see his old team-mates at the weekend because he was suspended in Ligue 1. He ended up at Gerard Pique's house actually, which suggests there is no fall-out after that infamous tweet. But there is no sign whatsoever that he regrets leaving Barca. He needed a project and that's what he has at PSG.
In the long-term are Real Madrid going to regret not signing Mbappe? - AlanStylez29
It's very easy to say after losing to Girona. But let me remind you they won the league and Champions League last season so this is not a bad team. Mbappe clearly spoke to Real Madrid but he decided he wouldn't get the minutes with BBC still at the club. What he failed to see are the injuries to Gareth Bale, the rest for Ronaldo and the doubts of Benzema, all of which would have meant he probably would have played quite a bit.
How will the Spain U17s progress in La Liga - are there any talents we should look out for this year? - @Ahmedam112
They are talented. Ferran Torres is definitely one, Sergio Gomez is another one. These players can progress and they will be the given the opportunity, either in the first or second division. That's my worry for England U17s. Everybody is rightly celebrating England because they play like their European counterparts but they need the chance. So far Premier League clubs have favoured the proven stars. My suggestion to these youngsters is to play abroad, maybe somewhere like Spain. The issue is they earn more in England and they are surrounded by agents but players like Rhian Brewster or Phil Foden would get a first-team place in Spain within 12 months.
Why does Valverde keep insisting on 4-4-2? - @Cruyffta14
He doesn't actually play 4-4-2. He varies it quite a lot, it depends on the players and it all works around Messi. You can criticise the formation but the results tell you Valverde is maximising the potential of the team, including those bench players I criticised earlier in the season.
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