Benzema OUT! Bale is injured AGAIN! Bring back Cristiano!
It's been easy to throw the book at Real Madrid's seemingly out-of-form strikers in recent weeks. Saturday's 1-0 reverse at Alavés saw Lopetegui's men bring up the unwanted record of failing to score in four consecutive matches for the first time since 1985. Another failure to find the back of the net over 90 minutes will see Los Blancos match their worse run in front of goal ever.
It's natural to point the figure at the attackers. Their job is, after all, to find the back of the net and if they don't, fingers will be pointed. No striker has been lucky enough to avoid that criticism, not even Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bale, Benzema and Marco Asensio, the latter to a lesser extent, have all come under the spotlight. Mariano has failed to make the desired impact since his return to the Spanish capital from Lyon, while Vinicius Jr. has seemingly been thrown into the deep end when Plan A was to nurture the former Flamengo man in Castilla, Madrid's second team in the third tier of Spanish football.
Yet only a few weeks ago madridistas were left saying "Cristiano who?". While the Portuguese was misfiring at Juventus, Bale and Benzema were starting their season in great form. Benzema bagged five goals in his opening four matches, while Bale netted five in his first seven in all competitions. The only thing was, much of those goals came in winnable home matches against Getafe (2-0) and Leganes (4-1). The duo failed to come to Madrid's rescue in their bigger matches.
While the finger can be pointed at those players for failing to find the back of the net in Madrid's time of need, you also need to look deeper into Madrid's mini crisis.
Across the middle of the park Madrid have looked lifeless, tired and lacking in creativity. From the ever-dependent Toni Kroos, to the midfield rock of Casemiro and the magic of Isco. It's no surprise that Madrid's form has taken a big dip while the latter has been sidelined with appendicitis.
Indeed, perhaps Madrid's season-so-far was summed up in the first two minutes of their Champions League clash against CSKA in Moscow. Kroos, the man known for his assists and crisp, pin-point passing, did exactly that in the Russian capital, only to assist the decisive goal of the game - from CSKA.
Casemiro has looked like a player without direction and Luka Modric, who has been mopping up individual awards at the expensive of Cristiano, Lionel Messi and Mo Salah, has looked tired and short of his best. Whether all this comes down to a hangover after the summer World Cup or a lack of understanding, hunger and direction under the new management team remains to be seen.
Isco has shone in the matches he has featured in this season, as expected thanks to his form with Spain under Lopetegui, and his absence has arguably been Madrid's biggest of the season so far. Dani Ceballos has shone in certain moments but the former Real Betis man has failed to provide adequate back-up for Isco.
Fans will point to the opportunities that have been created in front of goal and the chances Madrid have squandered, but in midfield Los Blancos have looked flat and lacked ideas in the final third, despite their heavy possession. The CSKA clash in Moscow was almost too identical to Spain's elimination at the hands of Russia at the World Cup and that will leave fans worried going forward.
While Bale, Benzema and co. will make the headlines for the wrong reasons in the current Madrid crisis, thoughts must also turn to creating a better dynamic in the Madrid midfield. Los Blancos' attacking duo will score goals this season but the middle of the pitch needs to be an area that is heavily addressed by Lopetegui over the international break.