Match 30
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Match 32
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Match 31
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Saudi Arabia
2:00 PM UTC Jun 25, 2018
Match 34
Game Details
2:00 PM UTC Jun 25, 2018
Match 33
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6:00 PM UTC Jun 25, 2018
Match 35
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6:00 PM UTC Jun 25, 2018
Match 36
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Transfer Rater: Milinkovic-Savic to Real Madrid

Football Whispers

Zidane has himself to blame for Real Madrid's poor display at Las Palmas

Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane's side were dominated at times against lowly Las Palmas on Sunday.

"Zidane's fed up," screamed the online version of Spanish newspaper Marca on Monday evening.

Pieces of similar tone had populated most printed media during the day, giving special importance to one specific sentence the French coach uttered at the end of this postmatch press conference in the Canary Islands: "We won't get anywhere like this."

The reasons for Zinedine Zidane's irritation after the last-gasp victory in Las Palmas were too apparent to be ignored.

Las PalmasLas Palmas
Real MadridReal Madrid
Game Details

Some could be easily quantified: Real Madrid lost the possession battle against the 15th-placed team in La Liga (48 percent vs. 52 percent), shot fewer times on goal (12 to 16) and passed the ball 30 fewer times than the hosts.

Given the differences in budget, these stats were already embarrassing enough for the Madridistas, but one can only start to grasp how poor their match was when, reviewing their La Liga performances, it became obvious that they hadn't had worse passing and possession numbers since their defeat against Barcelona, 17 matches ago.

The numbers, however, only tell a part of the story. Similarly to many of the pundits and supporters that voiced their frustration with the squad's poor display on Sunday night, Zidane showed his concern with their behaviour on the pitch, the poor attitude during specific plays.

That attitude not only generated such mediocre numbers, but also gave the opposition and their public the feeling that Los Blancos could be beaten.

"I've always said I'm not worried when we don't have the ball, but today I leave quite worried," said the Frenchman.

It's the first time Zidane has criticized his players publicly, but he may have to shoulder some part of the blame as well.

Before the trip to Las Palmas, this blog defined a short to-do list for the Frenchman to get the most out of his squad in order to put in a serious challenge for the Champions League title.

Zidane did follow the first item -- "Trust his bench" -- and fielded Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez, two of the few decent performers in the Canary Islands on Sunday. However, he may have taken it too far, to the extent that he started Alvaro Arbeloa, who hadn't played since his mistake against Atletico Madrid cost Real Madrid two points in October.

Using the current version of Arbeloa at this stage of the tournament probably sends the wrong signal to both his teammates and the opposition: If the willing, but obviously subpar full-back starts, it's probably because the match is not very important.

With that decision, Zidane forgot about item No. 2 -- "Do not throw away La Liga."

The fact that the left side of the team was Arbeloa, an out-of-form Isco and Gareth Bale -- who is still in need of a few more matches to find his rhythm -- sent a message along the lines of: "We can take a gamble in Las Palmas, I don't really care."

Incidentally, with that lineup on the left-hand side of the field, Zidane also broke another suggestion of this blog, No. 4, which was: "Cover the defensive hole on the left side."

The experiment with Arbeloa at left-back got Zidane no closer to solving that riddle. In fact, he wasted another match to fix it, leaving the issue still unanswered.

Marcelo played one useless minute, and Sergio Ramos offered another example of how his current physical limitations make him look like a cooler version of Abel Xavier.

Given the form of both players at this point of the season, a left side consisting of Marcelo and Ramos still looks doomed to fail in the final stages of the Champions League.

Another focus of work for Zidane -- No. 5, "Develop match-management skills" -- also went uncovered by Real in Las Palmas. Leading after Ramos' goal in the 24th minute, the visitors were unable to maintain possession and manage the match according to their interests.

Instead, they were careless with the ball, struggled to recover it and spent a long spell of the match chasing Las Palmas players who would not lose possession. The team was not capable of using the ball and defending effectively.

Zidane's frustration is understandable. It's obvious that most of his players did not show the will to win we've come to expect from Real Madrid players. Not even the biggest stars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale, did anything to justify their trip to the Island, let alone their price tag.

But if the players did not show the right attitude towards this match, Zidane should wonder what he could have done differently to increase their incentive to play as hard as he wanted them to.

A few of his decisions obviously sent the wrong message to anyone watching the match, and he also did little to build a stronger side for the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

Before airing so much frustration with his players in public, Zidane should examine his own preparation and decisions regarding this trip to the Canary Islands. He might be surprised by what he finds.

Eduardo Alvarez covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @alvarez.


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