Barcelona (and Atletico Madrid as well if you care enough) won its opening fixture by a single goal margin. The only positive that came out of Barcelona performance against a very strong (at home only though) Athletic Bilbao team was, if you are a Real Madrid fan, that Messi did not score. He didn’t even get an assist.

But that’s okay because Ronaldo didn’t score or get an assist either (again Sporting Gijon). It’s not like he didn’t have chances. He did have chances.

The game against Gijon had a lot of interesting moments, twenty four of them are as follows:

  1. Ronaldo will do his tricks even when they don’t work no matter what the state of play is. He doesn’t care if the team is losing or winning.
    He wants to look good while on the pitch. He did one in towards the latter stages of the first half when he could have just cut the ball inside to pass to a teammate but no.
    He rolled a moving ball, with his right foot,behind him and then struck it with the inside of his trailing left foot in order to fool the defender. Only got a corner from it.
  2. Bale is not even in the league with Ronaldo and Messi. His finishing ability makes sure of that. Early in the first half he had a mildly difficult chance to score a goal when he found himself behind the defence and was, in a way, one on one with the keeper.
    One would can only imagine what Messi would have done in that situation. Bale missed that by going round the keeper and hitting the side netting from a fairly (fairly) tight angle.
  3. Gijon did not get intimidated by Real Madrid and had a chance of their own where a cross from the wings was met with a header which rattled the post past Keylor Navas.
    The ball was about seventy percent over the line. A few inch more and Benitez would have been looking at his first loss as a Real Madrid manager in his very first game.
  4. Isco had two fairly easy situations where he could have worked the keeper. His shooting ability let him down big time and the ball went sailing past, nowhere near the goal.
    And this was when no defender was closing him down or was in front of him blocking the shot. One would have thought that he would have at least hit the goalkeeper if not anything else.
    Rebounds are something Ronaldo is very good at.
  5. Ronaldo’s pace certainly has taken a hit since he hit 30 last season but his shooting power is right there at the top.
    His rifle shot towards the end of the first half was probably Real Madrid’s most exciting moment of the whole match.
  6. Gijon manhandled Real Madrid in air battles. Which is really something given that most of Gijon players had never played in La Liga before last night.
    In the midfield Modric,Kroos and Isco got physically dominated pretty easily. One can only imagine what would happen in an encounter with Atletico Madrid this season.
    The trio did manage to control the game though their good first touch and sharp short passing. Benitez made them run a lot which obviously affected their influence on the game attack wise when going forward.
    It would be much better if Benitez plays a defensive midfielder e.g Casemiro or even Kovacic to some extent and allow Isco, Modric or Kroos to move forward with more freedom.
    Tracking back is never fun for any midfielder who is good in the attacking third of the pitch.
  7. Ramos and Varane showcased great speed on the pitch. They might be faster than any attacker in La Liga if we take out Barcelona’s trio. Gijon just could not play any counter attack because Varane and Sergio Ramos would close down on their attackers so quickly.
    I think Ramos and Varane at the back gives Real Madrid the best of both worlds. They tackle really well, they run really well and both of them are good in the air.
    Varane isn’t great in the air but he is good and that is where Pepe comes in . It would be interesting to see how Pepe and Varane fight it out for first team starting place throughout the course of the season.
  8. Marcelo and Danilo were great going forward but didn’t look Real Madrid material when it came to their defensive duties.
    Danilo looked all over the place and Marcelo has very little sense of when to slide tackle or where to position himself in order to close down gaps in the defensive line.
    He looks great going forward but the amount of risk he puts into his play is something which should be given more attention.
    Teams like Barcelona and Chelsea (if we are talking about Champions League) know how to exploit a player who is not disciplined or weak as far as tactics go.
  9. Isco’s ball control is probably the best in this Real Madrid squad. The close control he showed in the midfield when surrounded by Gijon players was, sometimes, unreal.
    It is just sad that he can’t be assured of his place in the starting line up.
    May be if he works, like really hard, on his finishing ability he might get more chances to play in the starting line up even when Benzema is back from his injury.
  10. Modric and Kroos are very restricted in this system which we can safely assume Benitez will employ in almost every game.
    There only function is to pass the ball well amongst themselves, connect defense with attack quickly without too many touches and keep things organized and simple.
    There is very little question that Kroos and Modric can perform these duties very well but it suppresses their attacking instincts.
    Modric and Kroos both have a great shot and this system does not allow for that. Modric I think suffers the most when he has to play as a defensive midfield for most of the game.
    His control with the ball and passing ability in tight spaces is meant to be useful in the attacking third of the pitch, not in the defensive first.
    Kroos has a good long ball so he is more suited to the position Benitez has put him in but he does not have good tackling ability.
    Neither he knows how to slow down an opponent’s attacking play because naturally he is not a defensive midfielder.
  11. Ronaldo and Bale were given free roles throughout the game and both made full use of that. Ronaldo alternated between the two wings while Bale covered the whole pitch when he wanted to launch attacks by himself.
    As free as that sounds, I don’t think that is a good strategy at all. While switching positions this much might confuse defenders but it also affects the quality of attacks that Real Madrid put together.
    You will rarely find Messi on the left flank. Very rarely.
    But if Ronaldo and Bale keep changing wings at the frequency which they showed against Gijon, then that would do more harm than good to Real Madrid chances of scoring goals or disrupting stubborn defenses.
  12. Talking about defense. Gijon put on a great defensive display last night. They always defended with men behind the ball.
    Did not hesitate to close down Ronaldo, Bale and Jesse. Gave away very little space around the penalty area to Kroos Modric and Isco.
    It was only the speed of Ronaldo’s feet which allowed him to get some shots in towards Gijon goalkeeper but apart from that, hardly any Real Madrid player found the space to take shots.
  13. Jesse put in a really solid performance. He was quick, strong and showed great work ethic. Defensively he works very hard and that is an asset to any team let alone Real Madrid.
    He tracked back and pressurized the back four of Dijon almost throughout the 50 odd minutes he was allowed on the pitch by Benitez.
    He wore exactly the same shoes as Ronaldo did. Something tells me, he really wants to succeed at Real Madrid.
    He could have easily requested a transfer at the end of last season because lets be honest, Jesse is good enough to be in the starting line up of any team apart from Real Madrid, Barcelona and perhaps Bayern Munich.
  14. Ronaldo is known for scoring sitters. Some people nicknamed the great man as ‘penaldo’ and sometimes ‘tapnaldo’ and with good reason.
    Ronaldo was a master at scoring penalties and tap ins. He rarely missed these opportunities. But since he has turned 30, his effectiveness with both these simple skills has deteriorated.
    He missed some utter sitters last night against Gijon. One was a header from a perfect James cross from 3 yards out and the other was a tap in from 2 yards out after a low ball across the goal was put in by Danilo.
    Danilo is more creative and innovative than Carvajal when going forward. He is taller than Carvajal and thus can win air balls too.
    But he has to work on his positioning and defensive skills. Carvajal us much more solid than Danilo. It would be sad to see one of them go at the end of the season.
    Both of them are just too good to be playing as a back up at Real Madrid.
  15. Gareth Bale is not a number 10. Period. He cannot be given the whole pitch to do whatever he wants. Because whatever he wants, is not working.
    It didn’t work last night against Gijon so we don’t need to have a great imagination in order to realize his effectiveness against the likes of Barcelona etc.
    Bale is also pretty stupid. Number 10’s are usually the smartest people in the world of football. They know when to pass and when to shoot.
    They know when to release their pass because sometimes defenders (especially on counter attack) would foul them to break up play and allow their teammates to get back into their defensive positions.
    Real Madrid counts of the pace of Ronaldo and Bale to score goals from counter attacking positions. Bale doesn’t have a clue that defenders foul him not just because he is good or they can’t catch him but because they want to stop the counter attack.
    But Bale, like a little kid, takes a fall whenever he is fouled or takes too long to release Ronaldo or Jesse for counter attacking before being tackled, just to show to Benitez that he was fouled and therefore it’s not his fault that any counter attack move didn’t pay off.
    Benzema though not a playmaker by training, knows that defenders will try to foul him on the break when he has the ball in order to stop the game.
    His sense of timing of his pass is 2nd to none (actually 2nd to only Messi). These are fairly basic things but Bale seems ignorant about them.
    May be he is trying too hard to prove himself to Benitez.
  16. Benitez does make good subs. His reputation is fair. He made changes not just for the sake of it but made them to change what was happening on the pitch.
    Ancelotti on the other hand wasted his subs by making them on the 88th minute mark.
    That could have played a role in injuries suffered by the likes of James, Modric and Kroos which cost Real Madrid La Liga and possibly the Champions League because Real Madrid midfielder were exhausted from all the running the had to do for full 90 minutes every game for the whole season.
    Benitez made three changes and all of them were made when they were required i.e one at 50th minute, one at 70th and the last one after 80th minute mark.
    Good job with the subs Rafa.
  17. James has great lob crosses on his left foot. The cross with which he found Ronaldo was magical. Just a shame Ronaldo could not follow up.
    From the moment James came on in the 2nd half, the quality of passing and control in the midfield improved. I think he deserves a place in the team ahead of Bale.
    But we all know that won’t happen because Perez says so.
  18. Ronaldo is probably the only player in the last two decades who takes multiple shots at goal in every match. Not almost every match but every single match.
    He obviously doesn’t score with that frequency, though does come close sometimes but the point is, he doesn’t care if the state of play requires him to keep possession of the ball or maybe another player is in a better position.
    He just shoots when he feels like it. That sometimes can be a great asset to have but games which are tight, like last night’s, require you to be more mature and not give the ball away cheaply.
  19. Ronaldo may have lost a lot of pace since his days at Manchester but one things he has not lost is his ability to get past multiple defenders.
    Most of you should know by now that getting past players is less about pace and more about skill. Ronaldo made an excellent run in the 2nd half where he ran diagonally at the heart of Gijon defense and almost created an opportunity for goal.
    Gijon knew that the only player from Real Madrid’s side last night who would score a goal with his shot was Ronaldo. Isco, James and Bale have more shooting skills.
    They can produce power but have very little skills when it comes to directing their shots.
  20. Gareth Bale is too daft to be a number 10. We already knew that. But he is also too slow on his feet to be a number 10.
    He has big strides which are useful on the wing where there is space and margin for error. Bale played on the edge of the penalty area last night and it showed on him that he had slow feet for such a position.
    He constantly lost possession and control of the ball near the penalty area whereas Benzema would have gotten away a shot or two in those positions.
    Bale also is not a quick thinker. He needs time to assess the situation of play around him. At number 10, you don’t have that kind of a time slot. In short, Bale sucks as a number 10 in La Liga.
  21. Ronaldo’s reputation for taking a dive has started to grow on him. He had a clear penalty case last night towards the end of the first half but the referee deemed it otherwise.
    Gijon defender clearly pulled him back from meeting a lobbed ball into the 6 yard box for a header. I don’t know, but it seems like the saying ‘the first impression is the last impression’ is true.
    Ronaldo has been known as a diver since his teenage years and that reputation has not gone away after all these years.
  22. Free kicks are an important aspect of football these days. Defenders lock you up pretty good near the penalty area so when you do get fouled you better make sure you know how to take that free kick.
    Messi learned that the hard way and has improved his skill with free kicks immensely.
    Ronaldo (and Bale too now) have regressed in that aspect of their game. Last night both missed fairly good opportunities to at least hit the goalkeeper from free kicks.
    Both missed with their free kicks and let Gijon off the hook. Ronaldo has now not scored a good free kick in over 80 tries.
  23. Poor final balls cost Real Madrid the points last night. Kovacic came on far too late for me. His ability with the through ball would have caused problems for Gijon.
    Without Benzema, there is no other player in this Real Madrid squad who has a great shot. Ronaldo has great power on his shots but he is too dependant on the angles.
    He can’t score from any general position in and around the penalty area, which is a problem against stubborn defense lines such as that of Gijon last night.
  24. Lastly. I dislike draws in football games. I think they suck. But I absolutely loathe goalless draws.
    There needs to be another way to decide a football match when the score is 0-0 after 90 minutes even if it’s a simple league game.
    Otherwise, whats the point of watching 22 men fighting their heart out for over 90 minutes of running, grabbing and kicking without any result or a moment of celebration. It just is plain boring.