What went wrong for Real Madrid in the 2022/23 season?

Real Madrid have been knocked out of the Champions League on the back of a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Manchester City.

While there are a few weeks still left in the season, it seems done and dusted for Real Madrid and their fans. The Spanish giants have nothing left to play for as their hopes of making it 15 Champions League titles were crushed by Manchester City.

Los Blancos squared up against Pep Guardiola’s in the Champions League semi-final for the second season in a row. Last term, the team in white pulled off a miracle in the final minutes of the second leg at home to progress into the final and eventually win it.

However, the story is not the same in the ongoing season. The first leg at the Santiago Bernabéu ended in a 1-1 draw. While the scores level, Manchester City seemed to be a more threatening team as a whole. However, Real Madrid fans expected Ancelotti to come up with a game plan that could help them go past Guardiola’s men again.

But, what happened on the night was not expected. Real Madrid were humiliated by Manchester City away from home in the second leg. Guardiola’s men went all out from the first whistle, and the team in white had no clue about what had hit them.

A team that thrived on the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos dictating the pace of the game were forced to run around. They tried their best to close down the Manchester City players and get the ball back. But, for the majority of the game, they could not come close to Guardioala’s charges. Los Blancos ended up losing 4-0 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate.

With Real Madrid’s exit from the UCL, they are left with nothing to fight for. While they might have won the Copa del Rey, it does not really look like a successful season according to their lofty standards. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at things and tries to analyse what went wrong for the team in white.

Departure of Casemiro: The Tank

Casemiro’s departure last summer arguably hurt Real Madrid. (Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images)

Initially, Real Madrid fans might not have realised his absence from the playing XI because the results were going their way and their new recruit Aurelien Tchouameni was showing signs of great promise. But, now, when we look back at the season, we realise just how important Casemiro was to this team.

Things would have been different if the Brazilian international was available for Real Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti could have played a more attacking brand of football with the 31-year-old there to protect his backline. Casemiro’s presence gave Luka Modric and Toni Kroos the license to go forward and dictate the pace of the game.

At the start of the season, it seemed Tchouameni was ready to be a starter and form this new trio with Modric and Kroos. However, injuries and inconsistency saw him get benched in big games. And, the Merengues were forced to start Modric, Kroos, or Camavinga in the holding role.

While Tchouameni has the potential and can eventually become a great defensive midfielder, he cannot really replace Casemiro that easily. Each member of the famous trio (Kroos, Casemiro & Modric) complimented each other, and it will take time for Los Blancos to find their next midfield three.

Had Real Madrid kept Casmiero at the club for another season or two and smoothened the transition from him to Tchouameni, things might not have gone the way they have done so far this season.

Ballon d’Or Benzema vs Karim Benzema

Benzema could not step up this season. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Karim Benzema’s form has dipped, which has affected Real Madrid. He, alongside, Vinicius Junior did the bulk of scoring for Los Blancos last season. The 35-year-old had the best season of his life and ended up winning the Ballon d’Or.

While he is still scoring goals, the Frenchman is not as effective as he was last season. And, his performance against Manchester City sums up his campaign. Benzema has been inconsistent this term, and he could not really have any sort of impact over the two legs against Pep Guardiola’s men.

Benzema has not really done anything wrong. However, the Frenchman was in sensational form last season and it’s not the same in the ongoing campaign. In the previous season, the Frenchman scored 44 goals and had 15 assists in his 46 outings. His exceptional performances resulted in him lifting the Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious individual award in world football.

Those numbers have taken a significant hit in the ongoing season as the 35-year-old has only scored 29 goals and has six assists in his 40 outings. Injuries have been a major roadblock for him in the ongoing campaign as the former French international has missed 17 matches due to injury. And that has invariably hampered his performance levels, which was clear to see on Wednesday.

Ancelotti’s stubborn loyalty to the 4-3-3 Formation

Ancelotti stuck to his guns and it did not work for Real Madrid. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Carlo Ancelotti is a big fan of the 4-3-3 formation, and that formation has undoubtedly done wonders for him over the years. However, this time around, it might have gone wrong for the Italian tactician.

Earlier in the year, Barcelona completed a three-peat over Real Madrid. The 4-3-3 was not working, and Ancelotti’s team were hammered at the hands of the Catalan giants thrice since the turn of the calendar. These results brought his position at the club under scrutiny. And, this is when he decided to shift to a 4-2-3-1 against Barcelona in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final.

The change in formation did wonders for him at Los Blancos managed to avenge the three losses with a 4-0 win courtesy of the 4-2-3-1 formation. While Ancelotti did gamble and change his tactics for the fixture against Barcelona, he has not really given it a shot post that big win. The fact that they managed to smash one of the best defences going around with a change in formation suggested that they could have used it more often.

The 4-2-3-1 formation allows them to have a double pivot in the centre of the park. And with Casemiro out and Aurelien Tchouameni inconsistent, it would have made a lot of sense to regularly use it in big games. However, Ancelotti stuck to his preferred tactic, and it backfired big time against Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s team did not allow them to have enough of the ball, and their midfielders were all over the park. If he had gone ahead with the 4-2-3-1, Real Madrid would have had more men in the centre of the park and things could have been different.

Real Madrid’s full-back frailty

Well past his best. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE /AFP/Getty Images)

In general, Real Madrid is a team full of superstars, and they tend to have world-class players for each position. Similar is the case for this bunch of players apart from a few of them who are well past their prime and have struggled in the ongoing season.

When you look at the team on paper, one can easily identify the fact that their full-backs are no longer the best in the business. And, they have struggled to keep opposition wingers quiet.

Ferland Mendy has struggled with injuries throughout the season and has been absent from the majority of the big games. As a result, they have been forced to play Eduardo Camavinga as a full-back which has worked at times but has also gone wrong on occasions.

Dani Carvajal, who has been a constant feature on the right side of Madrid’s defence, is well past his prime. While he is still good with the ball on his feet, the 31-year-old lacks pace and has often been found in no man’s land against some of the fastest wingers.

With both of their first-team full-backs struggling, Los Blancos need to enter the market and buy two top-quality full-backs who can give them a much-needed boost for next season.

It might not have gone according to plan for Real Madrid in the ongoing season. But they are a team full of champions who can surely bounce back next season. However, they might need a Galactico signing alongside a few others to make them competitive enough once again.

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