Julen Lopetegui said he knows he is vulnerable but is not thinking about being sacked after Real Madrid were beaten 1-0 at Alaves on Saturday, bringing their run without a win — or even a goal — to four matches.
Madrid had five shots on goal in the first nine minutes, but the fast start fizzled out and before half-time, they had gone a full six hours without finding the net in any competition.
Lopetegui replaced Karim Benzema with Mariano Diaz at half-time, with Gareth Bale then limping off and teenager Vinicius Jr. entering, but Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco was never seriously troubled.
The final action was a 95th-minute corner, missed by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, leading to substitute Manu Garcia heading the winner from close range.
The last time Madrid went four games without scoring was in April 1985, when coach Amancio Ortega was immediately fired, but Lopetegui said it was much too early in the season for any such drastic action.
“Coaches are always exposed, but we are not thinking about [the sack],” Lopetegui said in a news conference. “The dynamic is negative. Things are not going as we wanted. We are disappointed, of course. We wanted to win. We know how the life of a coach is, and even more at Real Madrid.
“The coach is always responsible, ahead of the players, no doubt about that. But we are still in October and at worst three points off the top. We now have time to get some very important players back.”
Lopetegui’s team captain Sergio Ramos had the back of his manager after the game, saying it would be “crazy” to consider letting the first-year coach go so early in the campaign.
Ramos said: “There are other people to make those decisions, its not part of the player’s role. For a squad, it is never good to change coach. It is not in our hands. It would be crazy, the team is fighting for the top spots. We must keep our feet on the ground, be more calm, and try and turns things around.
“Everyone will have their own opinion. There are times when a change has been better, and others not, you never know. It is very soon to talk about changing coach. It is not up to the players, others have to take that decision.”
Lopetegui said Madrid’s issues in front of goal had not been helped by both Benzema and Bale, who again asked to come off with an abductor problem, injured — especially with full-backs Marcelo and Dani Carvajal and playmaker Isco also sidelined.
“We have had injuries again — with Karim and Gareth — that conditioned the game a lot,” Lopetegui said. “Negative things are coming together for us. We have the break now and can recuperate and recover and try to get back those feelings we had at the start of the season — of being a team, playing good football, being solid.”
Lopetegui said his side’s recent issues in front of goal — in defeats to Sevilla and CSKA Moscow, as well as a goalless draw with Atletico Madrid — had weighed on their minds when an initial good start did not bring a reward.
“The players went out with a very good attitude,” Lopetegui said. “We started the game well, attacking, making chances. Not scoring hurt us, and the dynamic changed, then the injuries and maybe recent games weighed on the team’s mentality.
“The defeat is an excessive punishment, but football is like that. We must try to lift ourselves up. [We’ll] get players back. We have had a lot of misfortune these two weeks. It can happen in football.
“We must get our freshness and energy back. This run we are on is not normal. Goals will come. We will win again.”