Real Madrid's coach Julen Lopetegui shouts instructions to his players, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Levante at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, October 20, 2018. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Cristiano Ronaldo moving to Juventus over the summer and not being replaced by Real Madrid, appears to be the only answer to explain why Los Blancos have suffered their worst-ever goal drought of 481-minutes this season. However, it can’t be the only reason. Here is a look at the five less obvious excuses:

Bale unreliable

If you are not going to replace Ronaldo with proven strikers like Kylian Mbappe, Eden Hazard or Neymar, and instead bring in unproven youth up front like Mariano and Vinicius Junior, then you had better hope that what you’ve got can fill the void until these youngsters develop. While Gareth Bale appeared to be that man, he’s injury-prone and struggles for fitness, begging the question: why did Real spend on an unnecessary keeper in Thibaut Courtois (when they already had Keylor Navas) instead of spending that money on bringing in a proven striker?

Lopetegui joined under a cloud

As if Madrid players won’t be struggling enough with those questionable transfer decisions, they also have to contend with the fact that the man who replaced the unshakeable Zinedine Zidane — Julen Lopetegui — walked out on Spain on the eve of the World Cup to join Real. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he also wasn’t much of a player and isn’t much of a name, having represented Real once, even worse going on to play for their hated rivals Barcelona five times. In a game of character, he may not be the man to win the respect of these players.

Age and World Cup weariness

If you look through the spine of the team, the foundation from which attacks are built from the defence to midfield, from Sergio Ramos to Marcelo and Luka Modric; is not only ageing, but also tired from advanced runs at the World Cup, particularly in Modric’s case, whose Croatia side reached the final. The reverse of this is that the two main players at the front of this equation, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, are undercooked having not featured in Russia, with Wales having not qualified and France having left Benzema out for alleged ‘tactical reasons’.

Benzema’s lost confidence

It can’t all be down to Bale to provide the answers post Ronaldo, and to his credit Benzema has stepped up, top scoring with five goals across all competitions this season. However, his alleged involvement in a blackmail scandal has seen him left out of the France squad since 2015, and he hasn’t developed. Confidence has taken a knock, and not being part of this summer’s World Cup win makes it worse. Real have stuck by him, and he remains a vice-captain, but is someone never far from controversy the level head Real needs in such a position?

Others have improved

As well as struggling to score, Real also have to admit that their rivals have just got better. Of the three teams Real have lost against in the league so far this season — Sevilla, Alaves and Levante — all are on a much better goal difference than they were at this stage last season, and Alaves and Levante are on much better points (Sevilla are on the same points as they were at this stage last season). This explains why we see these three occupy top seven positions, Alaves and Sevilla are second and third, while Real are down in fifth.