Real Madrid: Where Do the Club Need to Upgrade During the Transfer Window?
It would be extremely strange if Real Madrid moved with any note during the January transfer window.
It would be even more strange if the club could not find internal solutions to their problems on the field.
The supremely talented squad Jose Mourinho has at his disposal has seen no major departures since their La Liga title win, and yet problems have arisen as they currently sit 13 points behind Barcelona.
Even if the club are not totally happy with the style of football Mourinho puts out on the pitch, the team still have plenty to successfully play out his orders. But is there anything lacking?
We've seen a noticeable drop off in Xabi Alonso's contributions to the attack, where the Spaniard now seems restricted to his own half of the pitch and as the deepest midfield player.
Real Madrid's consistent lack of results can be attributed to a number of problems, the most obvious is the spiky atmosphere that has been created in and around the club.
But how has that directly limited Alonso's effectiveness during games?
Perhaps it's the opposition who have caught on to Real's strengths and have restricted their chances to counterattack. Teams will sit deep and wait for their own opportunities to advance on Iker Casillas' goal, but it takes away so much of what makes Real's attacking so devastating.
Mourinho's team do not play in the same manner as Barcelona, where the Catalans have schemers who can pick locks in stubborn defences.
If the manager is going to get the best out of his current group and against this type of opposition, he needs to identify and raise the game of individuals who know how to play in a congested final third.
Or maybe the team are lacking one player, one important ingredient that was needed to build on their title-winning squad of last season.
Was there any real need to go and buy Luka Modric? Maybe somewhere down the line, but wasn't it an idea to have him rotate with Alonso, who plays a totally different game?
Surely a player like Benat from Real Betis would have been a far better target for the team and a player who can double-up in the deep-lying role and advanced midfield position.
But the lack of a real ball-winning, defensive midfielder is what is holding Real Madrid back on the pitch.
Sami Khedira and Alonso have formed Real's best midfield partnership, and their combination led to much of the team's success last season. But something is now missing, something that should be freeing Alonso from defensive duties.
Alonso is not a runner and he won't carry the ball up the pitch, but he should be the focal point of the team should they wish to continue playing the rapid counterattack system. With no recognisable defensive midfielder next to him, he's had to take on a number of other duties in the centre of the pitch.
So what about Khedira? He's almost always the most advanced of the two, running late into the opposition penalty area to aid in the attack. That was fine last season, and perhaps when other teams weren't wise to Real's game plan, but he needs to curb his desire to get forward as much.
If not, then the club simply must look to buy a player who can complement Alonso and help protect the back four.
Sergio Ramos and the two full-backs are instructed to get forward and play the ball out from the defence, but it is always Alonso who has to shuffle over to cover. His abilities to initiate the lightning-quick attacks have been reduced by the need to make up for a lack of defensive strength in midfield.
And how would a tall, powerful figure help on set pieces? Real have let in eight goals from set pieces this season, and while it could be attributed to mental frailties, it certainly shows that the team are lacking something when defending.
Had Yann M'Vila's career not stalled somewhat this season and following Euro 2012, he would have been an ideal candidate to line up alongside Alonso.
While at Liverpool, Alonso enjoyed a fantastic season in which the club came desperately close to landing their first Premier League title. During that season, the Spaniard was partnered with Javier Mascherano, who took on plenty of defensive responsibilities and allowed Alonso and Steven Gerrard to unleash Fernando Torres on goal.
Real's system on the field may have to change if they're to get the best out of what they have. If Mourinho wants to continue in the same manner that won him the league title last season, he must reinforce the midfield and add a player who excels in the defensive aspect of the game.
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