Benzema’s form has dropped off considerably since he last scored on September 1, and Mariano and Vinicius are now a threat to his starting place.
At the start of this season, after scoring five goals in the first four competitive games, it looked like Karim Benzema was going to shine without Cristiano Ronaldo. But since then he has disappeared. Not only has the Frenchman not scored in the last five games (against Athletic Bilbao, Roma, Espanyol, Sevilla and Atlético), he has not even had a shot on target from the mere four attempts he has had on goal.
In the nine games so far this season, he has had 11 attempts at goal – that is an average 1.2 per game. In fact he is shooting less than he was when Ronaldo was in the team, when it would be assumed that he would have had more chances without the Portuguese there to dominate the shots on goal stats. Last season, with Ronaldo by his side, he averaged 1.5 shots per game.
As his performance levels have dropped this season, it has been reflected in the number of minutes he has played. He competed in every minute of the first five games this season (the Uefa Supercup final and the first four LaLiga fixtures) and was looking untouchable for Julen Lopetegui.
But the problems began in San Mamés in the 1-1 draw against Athletic, in which he wasted a key opportunity in the final stretch of the match. Since then, he has been substituted by Lopetegui in every game – against Roma in the Champions League (after 62 minutes), Espanyol (60 minutes), Sevilla (59 minutes), and Atlético (88 minutes).
Not only is new signing Mariano now a threat to his starting place, so too is Vinicius. The young Brazilian, who has so far plied his trade with Real Madrid Castilla (the ‘B’ team), was called up to the bench for the game against Sevilla, and made his debut against Atlético, replacing Benzema in the 88th minute. If the Frenchman continues in the same vein, surely it will only be a matter of time before Mariano or Vinicius are chosen ahead of him. And surely he knows it.