Where is James Rodriguez? Real Madrid keeps him benched
REAL Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane closed the exit door on Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez despite leaving the 2014 World Cup’s top scorer on the bench once more for Real’s 2-1 win over Celta Vigo on August 27.
Rodriguez has fallen down the pecking order at the Bernabeu since Zidane took charge in January with Madrid’s latest sensation Marco Asensio joining the likes of Isco, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric ahead of him for a place in Real’s congested midfield.
However, Zidane insisted Rodriguez will remain in the Spanish capital beyond the transfer deadline on Wednesday with even the Premier League’s cash-rich clubs unlikely to match the reported 80 million euros (US$90 million) Real paid for him after the World Cup two years ago.
Rodriguez only came on for the final 21 minutes as Kroos’ fine longrange effort 10 minutes from time salvaged all three points for the hosts despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema from Zidane’s starting line-up through injury.
“I thought James played well. It is not easy to come and have to make the difference,” said Zidane. “He is going to stay here.” Kroos’s strike maintained Madrid’s 14-match winning run in La Liga, but victory disguised a sub-standard Real display.
Without Ronaldo and Benzema, Gareth Bale failed to build on his fine start to the campaign with two goals in a 3-0 win at Real Sociedad to start the season.
However, Zidane highlighted the need to win even without shining, particularly with a two-week international break to come.
“It is true that we didn’t shine. In some game we can’t play as we want,” said Zidane.
“We can improve, but I feel calm with how we have started the season. Two league games won and another official game [UEFA Super Cup] won.
“Now there are the international games and many players will leave, but that is something we can’t change.”
And Zidane hailed his players belief to keep going until the end despite being far from their best.
“I am left with the fact the players believed until the end and we achieved what we wanted.”
Spanish international Lucas Vazquez started alongside Rodriguez on the bench and was introduced before his teammate in search of a winner.
And Vazquez was less comprehensive than his coach when questioned whether Rodriguez had played his last game in the white shirt.
“I don’t think it was his last game, but we have to wait and see what happens.” – ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has urged Mesut Ozil to build on his scoring start to the season after admitting the one element the midfielder’s game has lacked is goals.
Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez were on target in the Gunners’ 3-1 Premier League win at Watford on August 26, their first victory of the campaign.
It was only the Germany international’s 21st goal for the north London club since joining them from Real Madrid in 2013 – and Wenger admitted that for a player widely regarded as world-class it is an area he can still improve.
Asked if Ozil’s presence had made a difference for the Gunners, Wenger replied, “Especially in the first half. In the second half he dropped physically. But of course we need him.
“I think what we have seen from him today is what we want from him. To give assists but as well to score goals.
“So I’m very happy that he scored today because that›s what he has to add to his game.
“We paid a heavy price in our first game [the 4-3 defeat to Liverpool] because we were not ready, we had not the players back at home.
Now Mesut is nearly there, not completely, but he just goes again. For us, the break is not welcome.”
The pressure had been on Wenger and his side heading into the weekend after perfect starts from both Manchester clubs had left them playing catch-up.
This, then, was just the performance and outcome required heading into the international break.
“I believe we shot ourselves in the foot in first game [a 4-3 defeat to Liverpool] and were under huge pressure. We had two difficult away games [against Leicester City and Watford] but today I believe we had a good solid performance,” Wenger said.
“We had a good cushion at halftime. At the moment we are not completely there physically and you could see that in the second half.”
The imminent arrivals of defender Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia and striker Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna, both of whom Wenger confirmed had passed medicals, should go a step further towards placating fans left frustrated by their sluggish start.
“I think they should go through, both of them,” he said.
“They’ve had medicals and we have to finish the paperwork. I don›t know exactly when we’ll announce it, but I think we’ll announce it in the middle of the week.”
Speaking to Sky Sports, he added, “They will integrate into the team now and we will help them join the squad.
“We had to work very hard to get signings done. We have not got any plans for anyone else now.”
A 57th-minute debut goal from Hornets substitute Roberto Pereyra gave Walter Mazzarri’s side hope, yet ultimately it proved in vain as their wait for a maiden win of their own continues – placing their manager under scrutiny even at this early stage.
“A lot of players are new so we have to prepare later. The organisational things are still missing and two starting players were out last-minute and this really didn’t help,” Mazzarri said.
Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale (right) vies with Celta Vigo’s Serbian midfielder Nemanja Radoja in their match on August 27. Missing in this shot is James Rodriguez, who continues to sit out due to a crowded midfield.