3 Real Madrid players who must step up the most after Aurélien Tchouaméni injury


08 Toni Kroos of Real Madrid during the La Liga "el clasico" match between FC Barcelona v Real Madrid at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona, Spain, on October 28th, 2023.

Real Madrid fans were in jubilation after their late 2-1 victory over rivals Barcelona on the road in El Clásico, courtesy of two very different but equally important goals from new superstar Jude Bellingham.

However, Bellingham wasn’t the only player who had a strong influence on the match. Defenders David Alaba and Dani Carvajal had goal-saving interventions, while Toni Kroos and Aurélien Tchouaméni were their usual stalwart selves in midfield against a very talented Barcelona trio.

Unfortunately, Madridistas joy has turned to concern the day after the massive match, as Los Blancos officially announced Tchouaméni suffered a stress fracture in the second metatarsal of his left foot.

This is an injury Real Madrid must take extremely seriously so that one of their most important players does not miss more time than he needs to. José Luis Sánchez reports the young star defensive midfielder will miss six to eight weeks, meaning we may have to wait until 2024 to see Tchouaméni back on the pitch.

In the meantime, his teammates will have to step up to the plate to fill his shoes, as what Tchouaméni provides to the Madrid XI is directly irreplaceable. There is a reason why Real Madrid have NEVER lost with the Frenchman in the lineup.

CM Toni Kroos

The first player to highlight is Toni Kroos, and he needs to step up not in the sense that he needs to be better overall, but rather that he needs to be more consistent defensively. Kroos has actually been very good on the defensive end these last two seasons since transitioning to a bit of a deeper role, but he has been caught out a couple of times this season.

For Kroos, the main problem is speed – or lack thereof. Kroos has never been a fast player, but now that he’s well over the age of 30, he can look really gassed if he steps too high up the pitch and gets caught out on the counter. With the way Real Madrid play, that can lead to clear opportunities for the opponent if the defensive midfielder is caught panting.

So Kroos needs to be at his cerebral best and err on the side of caution. He doesn’t have the range Tchouaméni does to cover ground, but he can be just as good at reading passing lanes and even better at organizing his teammates due to his experience. He’s going to need to get in the faces of his center backs, because they’ve been of real concern at times this season.

CB Antonio Rüdiger

On paper, you’d think Antonio Rüdiger and David Alaba would be able to stand toe-to-toe with any center back duo, especially since Real Madrid are paying both experienced defenders an awful lot of money as former free-agent signings. The reality is that while both men have their moments, they can make baffling errors that prove costly to Real Madrid in the table.

Alaba has drawn more ire from Madrid fans, because he’s the one they see flailing when a goal is scored. But that actually means he’s the one who is there and trying to stop the goal in the first place. So often, Rüdiger isn’t even in the picture, stuck with his head in the clouds and basically hoping that the defensive midfielder, right back, or other center back bails him out.

He receives admiration from Madridistas for his heart, passion, and the matches where he truly does look like a defensive colossus. Rüdiger clearly has it in him. With Tchouaméni out, though, we could see more of the bad habits of Rüdiger without that elite layer of protection.

Furthermore, Rüdiger is one of the most negative passers we have seen at Real Madrid from the center back position, arguably worse than Raphaël Varane. That’s not to say he is bad on the ball or makes too many mistakes. By “negative”, I mean that he rarely makes progressive passes or tries to stretch the defense vertically to feed the forwards, which is something both Alaba and Éder Militão are great at.

Without Tchouaméni, Rüdiger is going to have to be more progressive, too. A lot is going to be on the plate of the center backs, but Rüdiger is the one who has to step up the most because of his unfulfilled ceiling. Compared to the player we saw at Chelsea in the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons, the German international has been a bit of a disappointment in the Spanish capital.

CM Eduardo Camavinga

Meanwhile, Eduardo Camavinga has been the opposite of a disappointment, changing the game in El Clásico when he came on at left back for Ferland Mendy. Camavinga is obviously not a left back, but he is Real’s best left back because of Fran García’s adaptation issues and Mendy’s, well, issues.

With Tchouaméni out for around two months, Camavinga will get the brunt of the opportunities in the defensive midfield, sharing minutes there with Kroos. Camavinga has been good this season, but there is still a level to his game he has not reached in terms of off-the-ball consistency and the ability to pick out more difficult passes from the 6 position.

Although Camavinga is more of an 8 than a 6, he has improved through hard lessons, such as an early substitution in a Supercup Clásico, by becoming more disciplined defensively. He can be a great 6, even if playing left back takes away opportunities to grow there.

Tchouaméni’s injury should give Camavinga some opportunity now. Let’s see how he does and, especially, if he can start getting *closer* to the Kroos and Tchouaméni standard when it comes to picking out more difficult passes.

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