With the transfer windows now closed, Real Madrid squad is more or less final. January transfer windows is usually useless as clubs only buy players on an emergency basis rather than for long term projects.
That leaves Real Madrid with two players who can play in the striking role for Real Madrid.
Benitez must have learned from Ancelotti’s last season’s mistakes and thus will try his best to ensure that Benzema (along with Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos) is available for all possible big matches either in the league or the Champions League.
If both of them are fit then what does Benitez do? It is bit of a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation as was the case with Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid when he had Benzema and Higuain competing for the same position.
Benitez just can’t let Benzema play as many games as he possibly can because that would risk Benzema getting injured right before a big match (even if it’s two weeks before, it would still count as a huge loss).
So obviously Benitez has to mix it up between Benzema and Jesse. Lets put them head to head:
- Lets start of with his most unique skill and that is, his two footedness. He can shoot with the right and shoot with the left. He can pass the ball with the right as well as with the left. His two footedness is unlike that of Ronaldo’s (which is basically a swinger rather than a working left foot) and far far superior to Messi’s two footedness (which he uses to boost up his stats for goals scored with the right foot by scoring open goals with his right foot instead of his stronger left). Benzema’s left foot shot against Manchester United in the Champions League a while ago, when Benzema played for Lyon, is the prime example of Benzema’s ability to do anything with his left foot. That keeps defenders off balanced and makes it hard to cover Benzema as he has more room to take shots at the goal. Benzema’s right foot needs no introduction really as time after time again he has scored some magnificent goals for Real Madrid with his right foot. Last season against Barcelona at Bernabeu pops up in them mind which was a clean strikers placed finish rather than a thoughtless bazooka shot.
- Benzema is good in the air. He can head the ball very well and can be used as a target man upfront as he can hold off defenders to win air balls or steal a knock on for other teammates to run into. Header goal against Barcelona last season at Bernabeu again comes to mind when talking about Benzema’s heading ability.
- He is a two footed player there is no doubt about it. But even then, his finishing skills with his right foot are exceptional. Most of the time, players who put in time to develop shots from both foot tend to be mediocre at finishing from each side. Benzema isn’t one of those players. He can finish expertly with his right foot.
- Benzema is a very intelligent guy for a striker. Mostly, strikers only know how to run and take a shot to score a goal. Benzema is very different in this regard. He knows when to make runs, when to take a shot and when to play as a target man and lay off the ball for other teammates into spaces to create opportunities. Benzema is a the bridge which links Ronaldo and Bale. Two seasons ago when Real Madrid destroyed Bayern Munich in the Champions League, it was Benzema who acted as the link between Ronaldo and Bale. He passed the ball on the first touch to either of the two (depending on who was free from his marker) which resulted in many Real Madrid counter attacks that were generally lethal against all teams.
- Benzema also has good ball control around the penalty area. He can think with the ball at his feet and that is why he rarely loses possession once he receives the ball around the penalty area.
- Benzema’s defensive work is also something sorely missed by Real Madrid last season when Benzema was injured. He is not the most hard working of strikers but he has enough sense of the game to cut out passing lanes for opposing defenders who like to play the ball from the back. Defenders like Pique if you have a hard time imagining things. Benzema’s positional sense when defending and attacking is the main reason why he is so successful as a striker and as a link between the two wide Real Madrid men.
- His fitness is a big issue. He runs out of steam pretty quickly towards the end of the match and then plays recklessly which leads to wasted chances. He gets injured a lot too. Ancelotti wasn’t careful with him and hence ended up injuring him and Real Madrid’s title chances last season.
- Benzema’s dribbling ability has come to a naught in recent years (may be he is taking lessons for Cristiano Ronaldo, I don’t know). In his younger days at Lyon, Benzema used to dribble past defenders with regular ease. Since coming to Real Madrid, apart from the first season, he has become a more traditional striker. He has now come to a point where one can hardly see him taking on players, let alone defenders.
- Benzema’s passing ability, (that is short passing ability as who cares about long balls when talking about a pure striker), can also use some training. Generally it is good but when defenders cut down his breathing space, he tends to give away possession when passing the ball to his teammates on the edge of the area. Otherwise, in general play his passing ability is good.
- Great speed. Sometimes I mistake him for Ronaldo. He really is that fast. One of the other reasons why I mistake him for Ronaldo is his physique and the fact that he always puts on the same shoes as Ronaldo does.
- Fast acceleration. Jesse’s acceleration might be up there with the world’s best. Perhaps not as fast as Raheem Sterling or Lionel Messi but still, he is explosive enough to get away from most defenders in a blink of an eye.
- Can get past players. Multiple of them. Speed and acceleration definitely help but we all know that getting past defenders takes a bit more than just those two traits. Valencia (Manchester United’s winger/defender) is a prime example of someone who has great speed and strength but still cannot get past players easily. The most Valencia can do is knock the ball a mile in front of him and then race other players to get to the ball first.
- Closes down on opponents very quickly. His work rate is the prime reason why he excelled so much under Jose Mourinho. Mourinho loves players who can attack and defend simultaneously and hence almost made Jesse a permanent figure at Real Madrid before Jesse got injured badly which put him out for a whole nine to ten months. There was a time when Jesse was actually ahead of Isco in the pecking order at Real Madrid.
- poor shooting skills. For someone who wants to be a striker one day, his finishing skills are at par with Pique.
- poor crossing skills. Right now, he is a winger. For a winger, Casillas might give Jesse a run for his money when it comes to crosses in the box. Jesse’s just doesn’t have the body movement and neither that soft touch on the ball to deliver effective crosses into the penalty area. Which is a shame since he can really make double use of his speed to get past his markers and put in crosses when he has some ground on them.
- ball control lets him down in tight spaces. He is young and may be will improve on this vital stat in future years.
Between the two, one has youth and enthusiasm to work for the team (that is Jesse) and the other has experience and quality (that is Benzema). Benzema having achieved a lot already with Real Madrid would have a hard time getting out of bed for training sessions nowadays. May be that is why he got injured in the first place.
Jesse might be able to displace Benzema by being more punctual and more intense in training sessions because Benitez is known for selecting his starting eleven based on training performances (same was the case with Jose Mourinho when he was at Real Madrid).