At this moment in time, we are seven games into the 2015 2016 La Liga season. If you look at wins and losses, Real Madrid are technically doing better this season than they were at the same point a year ago. Indeed, seven games into the 2014 2015 La Liga, the Vikings were in fourth place on the league standings table, having lost two games and won five. Their point total was 15. This year, their seven-game total is 15 points once again, but they're in second place instead of fourth, and they're also still undefeated, having won four games and drawn the other three. But, with the arrival of Rafa Benitez at Real Madrid some commentators are criticizing the changing style of the team and particularly a 'cowardly' style of play.

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The Lingering Affection for Carlo Ancelotti

Despite the fact that Real Madrid haven't lost a La Liga fixture since March, some fans and football pundits are already feeling disgruntled with the leadership of coach Rafael Benitez. Benitez, of course, came aboard at Real last spring, after the unceremonious sacking of Carlo Ancelotti.

From the beginning, many people-including, according to reports, Cristiano Ronaldo-weren't happy about Ancelotti's dismissal. The Italian manager had only been at the Santiago Real Madrid Home Shirt 2015 - 2016Bernabeu since 2013, but he'd managed to coach the Vikings to a long-awaited 10th Champions League win, a Copa del Rey title, a UEFA Super Cup victory, and a FIFA Club World Cup.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez fired Ancelotti for failing to win a La Liga title, but not even that was fair. Ancelotti coached a third-place team in 2013 2014 and a runner-up squad in 2014 2015. In the latter season, the Vikings were only two points behind FC Barcelona, despite the fact that Barca were enjoying a near-era-defining campaign that ended in a treble victory. Unsurprisingly, plenty of fans in the Real Madrid home jersey 2015 2016 still believe that Perez made the wrong decision in sacking Ancelotti.

Benitez and His Tactical Style of Play

All of this lingering affection for Ancelotti has left Rafa Benitez with big shoes to fill. So far, the impression is that the new manager is simply the wrong choice for a football club like Real Madrid. He's a very tactical coach, with a style not dissimilar to that of Chelsea's Jose Mourinho. Mourinho's tactics, of course, drew plenty of ire and criticism last season, with Chelsea being lambasted for a "boring" or "cowardly" style of play.

The Vikings have arguably been boring and cowardly in similar ways this season, taking the lead in the early parts of the match and then defending it. In other words, Benitez will often ask his team to hold onto the ball and kill the game clock, rather than spurring them to attack and score more goals. The aim of this coaching style is to keep the opposing team from getting possession of the ball.

Of course, this tactic can be problematic in certain situations. For instance, on October 4th, the Vikings drew 1-1 with their crosstown rivals, Atletico Madrid. As in many other games this season, Real took the lead early on-with a nine-minute goal from Carlo Ancelotti-and then went on the defensive to hold the lead. The strategy almost worked, with Atletico remaining scoreless late into the second half. But when the Mattress Makers did score-at the 83-minute mark-it was too late for the Vikings to formulate another successful attack. Thus, a game that Real Madrid should have won ended as an unnecessary draw, simply because of a misguided tactical approach.

Real's Low-Scoring Season

Even when Benitez's defensive tactics result in wins, though, they aren't particularly exciting ones. Real Real Madrid Away Shirt 2015 - 2016Madrid have some of the best offensive soccer players in the world in their lineup, from Cristiano Ronaldo to Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. A year ago, at the seven-game mark of the 2014 2015 season, that impressive lineup had already scored 25 goals. Ronaldo alone had tallied 13.

This season, seven games in, the entire Real Madrid soccer squad has only scored a combined total of 15 goals. Ronaldo has played in all seven matches but has only tallied five goals so far. All five came in a September 12th fixture against Espanyol-the only time this season when Ronaldo looked like he was allowed to play the way he always has.

Why isn't Rafael Benitez playing to his football club's considerable offensive strengths? Could his tactical coaching style drive Cristiano Ronaldo to seek a transfer to Manchester United (or some other club) next summer? Or will Florentino Perez be sacking another manager come May? Share your thoughts by connecting with Soccer Box on social media! We are active on multiple social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Google +.