Not playing, Cristiano Ronaldo is just as influential when he’s on the pitch. Real Madrid looked lost for most of their first loss of the season without their best player despite the kind of money spent on new players, who might not be actually better than the ones they were bought to replace.
James Rodriguez won’t succeed with this kind of positioning and ideas from Carlo Ancelotti. On the other hand, Ancelotti had to take a lot of criticism last season, especially in the first half of the campaign, before things started clicking and Real Madrid ended up winning the Champions League title, although they did shoot themselves in the foot as the La Liga title slipped away from them.
Toni Kroos is a very good midfielder and considering age and form, he’s a better player right now than Xabi Alonso. But Kroos was part of a greater system at Bayern Munich. Right now, on a new team, he isn’t a leader or someone to be the motor and dynamo in the midfield. The same goes for Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema or the comedic duo of Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who continuously baffle everyone by how poor of defenders they can be when it comes to defending set pieces.
Marcelo is another interesting anecdote. A bad defender with some attacking magic from time to time. Still on the team, still costing them points, as it looked that way on at least two of the goals Real Sociedad scored off of his wing.
Carlo Ancelotti is a good enough manager to make this puzzle come together into one coherent picture, but the loss of someone like Angel di Maria is hard to understand. Xabi Alonso? A bit easier to replace in terms of ability, but influence? Leadership isn’t that easily swapped or interchangeable, and the loss through a painful collapse against Sociedad goes to show just how important mental skills are.
With that attribute currently at a low point for Real Madrid, the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo is easily inflamed and made worse. Five official matches into the new season and Real Madrid have looked good in just one of them. Ancelotti should work it out at some point, but maybe not to the level he’s expected to and hopefully for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, not soon enough.