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Real Madrid’s season so far, has been anticlimactic, to say the least. The reigning Spanish and European champions started off things with a bang, beating Manchester United to win the UEFA Super Cup and following it up with a dismantling of arch-rivals Barcelona over two legs to take home the Spanish Super Cup as well.
However, things have hardly gone according to plans for manager Zinedine Zidane ever since, as his side languishes at 4th place in the La Liga table after 17 rounds of fixtures – a whopping 14 points behind leaders Barcelona. Their UEFA Champions League campaign too hasn’t been all that great, as they finished second in their group, behind eventual leaders Tottenham Hotspur.
The recent mauling at the hands of Barca in the El Clasico just before Christmas, which followed just after the club had successfully retained the FIFA Club World Cup, will have left Zidane with a lot of work to do ahead of the second half of the season. Comparing the Madrid squad of this season to last season’s, it is clear that Madrid are lacking several aspects and need some serious strengthening over the January window.
Here we look at what possible businesses that Zidane and President Florentino Perez could do to make it the perfect window for Los Blancos.
Having sold Danilo in the summer to Manchester City, Madrid failed to replace the Brazilian with another full-back and that has come to haunt them at a number of stages this term, when the only senior right-back in the side, Dani Carvajal, has had to miss out due to injuries and suspensions.
While academy graduate Achraf Hakimi looks like a decent player, he cannot be trusted to perform at this level week in week out and a new right-back is something that the Galacticos should consider investing in.
The centre-back department too could use some reinforcement, with Madrid having not brought in a replacement for Pepe. Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos are the only two recognised centre-halves in the Madrid ranks, with utility man Nacho and youngster Jesus Vallejo as backups. A more experienced pro to fill the void left behind by Pepe wouldn’t be the worst deal for the reigning Spanish champions, amidst reports claiming Chelsea’s David Luiz is a target for the club.
Madrid’s midfield boasts of some of the best players in the game – Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, and in Casemiro, they have a perfect defensive midfielder. With the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Dani Ceballos fighting for places, things look fine and dandy for the Spanish capital outfit in the middle of the park.
However, the same cannot be said of their attacking department. Gareth Bale’s injury issues have left the club frustrated and they could very well look to cut their losses on the Welshman in the summer, if not in January. Karim Benzema is going through his worst patch of form, while Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t been all that great in the league either.
Letting go of the likes of Alvaro Morata, Mariano Diaz and James Rodriguez in the summer, seems like a foolish decision by the Madrid hierarchy, with all the aforementioned players thriving at their new clubs and Zidane’s side struggling for goals. While there is plenty of promise shown by the young guns of Spain – Isco and Marco Asensio, the club needs more firepower in their attack.
For Madrid to be able to get back in the La Liga title race, they need to sign a new striker, it is as simple as that. Benzema just isn’t cutting it anymore and Ronaldo’s misfiring form in the La Liga leaves them short of options and with reports linking the Merengues with a move for Inter Milan’s Argentine forward Mauro Icardi and his fellow countryman Sergio Aguero of Manchester City, signing either of the two will be a great piece of business for the club.
One deal that is very much likely to be done, is the signing of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao. The 23-year old has been heavily linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu over the past couple of months, despite Keylor Navas’ impressive performances.
With the deal for Arrizabalaga set to be sealed, Madrid should work hard to strengthen their defensive ranks, but it is a new striker that is the most important piece of business the club should look to get done in January. If they get their hands on proven performers like Aguero or Icardi, things could change fast for them in the La Liga and things will definitely be on the rise in the second half of the campaign.