Real Madrid’s start to the 2018/19 campaign has been a prolific one, with plenty of goals from the likes of Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo after he moved to Juventus. Our tactical analysis through statistics will show how Julen Lopetegui may well be right in his assessment that one of his forwards will reach 40 goals this season, but has he chosen the right one?
It comes after coach Julen Lopetegui recently declared that Karim Benzema would hit 30 or 40 goals alone this season, having managed just five in La Liga in 2017/18. In the early weeks, he has been a key player for the new boss, despite the fact that in the past, the coach avoided playing a natural number nine whilst with the Spain team.
Now, he’s backing Karim Benzema to be that man and find his shooting boots in the process. Lopetegui recently spoke on how he believes that the Frenchman is the right man to take up the Real Madrid reigns and can continue his excellent start to the campaign.
“Why not? Why shouldn’t he finish with 30 or 40 goals? The most important thing is the team and goals are the work of the whole team. Benzema is a great player and always has been. What he’s doing is credit to him. He’s happy and is helping the team, and it’ll stay like this.”
Yet he is not the only one on fire, with Gareth Bale also having excelled in the early weeks of the season. The Welshman was tipped to be the man to step up in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence and that certainly appears to be the case based on his statistics.
Gareth Bale’s fitness struggles
It is no secret that Gareth Bale has been through an injury-hit few campaigns in Spain, and in truth, it has prohibited him from ever really getting going at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. In the past two seasons alone, he has missed 46% of matches through various muscle problems.
Yet, he has kept scoring even when given limited game time. He’s no stranger to wonder goals either, as his Champions League final effort proved, and with his fitness issues finally, seemingly behind him, he is showing what he has got to offer his team with regular game time and good form.
What’s more is that Bale has not been playing in a central role, as some had suggested he may do. The former Tottenham man has instead been featuring out wide, often cutting back inside and having a crack at goal, drifting in at the far post or racing through on the counter-attack. Despite that, he is scoring and is creating goals too with three assists to match his three goals in the opening five games of the campaign.
Karim Benzema is thriving
Julen Lopetegui clearly backs Karim Benzema as his star man in attack and for the very first time since joining the club in 2009, Benzema has played every minute of four matches in a row. Following on from the heartbreak of international exile and missing French victory at the World Cup, Benzema is enjoying some of the best form of his career in Spain, averaging a goal per game after five matches played.
Whilst all of his statistics appeared to show that he was on the decline, not only in terms of goals but also his all-round play, he has banished such thoughts. The former Lyon man is back at his best and looks a far more confident player than he has before.
With Cristiano Ronaldo out of the picture at Real Madrid, it seems that Benzema is relishing the role of being the main man. So used to being the supporting cast and creating space and opportunities for his attacking partner.
If he can maintain this early season form, then Lopetegui may be spot on in his statement that Benzema could reach 30 or 40 goals in this campaign. Finding consistency will be essential to that, something he has struggled with throughout his career, but he has the backing of his manager and many would say that he will never have a better opportunity to do so.
The best of the rest
“I don’t care who scores the goals” were the other words from Julen Lopetegui as he expanded on his aforementioned comments, and it’s easy to see why. His squad has a host of players who know exactly where to find the back of the net.
One of the key figures to contribute may well be Marco Asensio, whilst there are also players like Isco, who scored the equaliser against Athletic Club on Saturday night, and Lucas Vazquez who often chip in.
Then there are the summer arrivals, including Vinicius Junior, who is yet to feature for the Real Madrid first team but has impressed for Castilla in Segunda B and it is surely only a matter of time until he makes a breakthrough, and Mariano Diaz who followed in Benzema’s footsteps in moving from Lyon to Madrid after a previous spell was unsuccessful.
With so many options in the Real Madrid squad, this player analysis clearly shows how Lopetegui can be confident that one of his strikers will reach 30 or 40 goals this season. Despite that, it also reflects just how little the former Spain coach needs to rely solely on either Gareth Bale or Karim Benzema with the likes of Asensio, Isco, Mariano and Vinicius all waiting in the wings.