Real Madrid lost yesterday at Granada from an unlucky own-goal by Cristiano Ronaldo. You can’t fault him, it’s the first time in his career that his marvelous control has left him for that one split second in front of goal, but that’s not the reason why Real Madrid lost the game at Los Carmenes.
When you produce on 17 shots in all (with 4 shots on goal) in the entire game and many of them in desperation during the second half, you can’t just blame the players, that it’s about attitude or that certain players didn’t give it their all as Mourinho said after the game: “I don’t know why some players were tired, because on Wednesday they were on the bench or in the stands.” It’s a deflective measure that is as natural as breathing really. Jose Mourinho’s primary purpose as a professional isn’t merely winning as everyone says, it’s also maintaining his image even if he isn’t winning. So of course he’s going to blame his players, and Ramos, Coentrao and Di Maria get thrown under the bus again, but is it really their fault?
This game is one of matchups, and when the Real Madrid counter-attack is available and running it is devastating, but when it meets a club that is capable of meeting the physical challenges and seceding possession to spring their own counter, essentially pulling up a mirror to Real Madrid’s own game, then they’re in trouble. People talk of Barcelona or Arsenal’s reliance on one style of play with little divergence to necessity but Real Madrid under Mourinho are just as reliant on one facet of the game as they are. Don’t believe me? The stats prove it.
Granada had 30% of possession, one half the corners of Real Madrid (spending most of the game in their own third defending), 20 fewer attacks than their opponents, and more than double the fouls. In this sort of game you need creative players to take advantage of the possession and unlock the opponent’s press. The only player he had on the pitch in that role was Modric who has struggled to find his best form consistently in La Liga. Rather than bring in Ozil who has been sublime, the key offensive element in Wednesday’s match against Barca, he switched Benzema for Higuain who have both been consistently poor all season. Khedira might have helped, he plays a slightly more offensive role for Joachim Low’s Germany squad, but he was sticking close to Xabi, freeing him up for that long ball that never materialized.
Real Madrid didn’t lose this game because of bad luck or exhaustion, nor was it lack of attitude really, but an inability to unlock a club that played Mourinho at his own game. Granada won this match on their own efforts; even if the point comes from a Cristiano Ronaldo own goal. They shortened the game, played well defensively and put themselves in a position to win the game if fortune went their way. It’s as if they read Mou’s book on tactics.
Jose says that when Madrid wins it’s the players who get the credit and when they lose it’s because of him, or at least that’s what the press says, but that’s not it really. When Madrid won the league last year he received the well-deserved credit of changing the atmosphere at Real Madrid, molding it into his own image and knocking Barcelona off their perch, but if the club have regressed and/or the opponents have responded and caught up to Mourinho’s tactics, then he can’t have it both ways either.