One of the amusing things about the La Liga is the amount of panic rising through the ranks at Real Madrid after dropping 5 points from their first 8 league matches. As it has to be someone’s fault they’re already behind Barcelona by this much, the Spanish media has turned to Sami Khedira.
Some players make easy targets, and Khedira is one of them. Not being the most prolific of scorers or creative of midfielders, sometimes it’s hard to see on the stat sheet what’s so important about the German international, who was signed to Real Madrid by Jose Mourinho in 2010, shortly after the World Cup in South Africa, in which Khedira was one of the best players.
Defensive midfielders are often hard to appreciate without focusing on what they do during the match, but it’s not like Khedira isn’t involved in the offensive game, especially when it comes to set pieces, being an excellent player in the air. He’s also quite versatile in his positioning, and has filled out the right back position more than once when necessary, doing it quite well, including in the win against Manchester United in the Champions League last season.
But with Xabi Alonso out and players rotating next to Khedira in the defensive midfield – sometimes it’s Asier Illarramendi, sometimes it’s Luka Modric, things aren’t working like they should for Real Madrid. It’s not just the five points lost way too early in the impossible La Liga championship race, but the ability we’ve been seeing from this team, lucking out to get away wins against Levante and Elche, and displaying only one good half of football during their league matches so far this season.
When Illarramendi was purchased, there were many who thought that Khedira will be the one to pay the price, while Real Madrid drag out one or two more years out of Xabi Alonso. But Alonso’s injury has changed all that, and aside from Karim Benzema playing awfully since the beginning of the season, Khedira seems to be someone that’s easy to pick on.
Why? He’s not Spanish, he didn’t cost too much money compared to other stars, and he’s a Mourinho man. Maybe that’s his biggest fault of all. Khedira didn’t get any public time last season in the great dressing room war, not taking sides. Being left in the lineup, no one thought there’s any tension between the manager and the player, but those perceived as Mourinho men don’t earn too much love from the fans and especially from the media in Madrid, who waged war against the Portuguese manager last season until he was kicked out of the club.
Maybe Carlo Ancelotti should be the real person blamed in all of this, playing in tactics this group of Real Madrid players isn’t used to. Insisting to use Karim Benzema instead of Alvaro Morata has also been a huge source of problems for Real Madrid, with the team clearly playing better when the young Spanish striker is on the pitch.
As for Khedira, he’s pretty much been a stability point this season for Real Madrid. Expecting him to do things that he never did or could is simply turning the attention into the wrong direction.