Eden Hazard is tasked with righting the Real ship

Photo by Aleksandr Osipov, CC BY 2.0

Last season was the worst one in memory for many of the club’s fans. It was also one that should not have come as a surprise to them. Zidane predicted just this situation, and it was the reason he walked away in the first place. The decline has been gradual, but it has been steady, and Real now find themselves in the position where, unless big (very big) changes are made, they are going to be cast adrift from the top two in the league. That scenario is just not something that anyone connected with Los Blancos can dare even to contemplate.

Going into this transfer window, Perez and Zidane had a choice to make as to how they were going to address the problem. Money needed to be spent—a lot of money. There was no doubt about that. But would they go down the old route, the Galactico one, or would they instead try for less instantly well-known, less tried-and-tested players who are younger and likely cheaper, but also potentially riskier?

No matter what happens in this transfer window, it will be unlikely that they will be anything other than the second or third favourites to win the league next season, which is something that fans—now including those in the US—will be able to take advantage of on Fox Bet starting in the fall. So, what changes need to be done, and do they look like they are achieving them?

2017 and 2018 Statistics

Perhaps the most important statistics of last season relate to the league table, where they lost 12 times, conceded 46 goals, and finished 19 points behind Barcelona and 8 behind Atletico. Unlike in the previous season, they performed equally as badly in the Champions League and Copa del Rey, meaning there was no silver lining and no shiny trophy to hide behind. That is a good thing in the long term, as long as fixes—the correct fixes—are made.

Looking deeper into the figures, the overall stats for last season show that Real had just one representative in the league’s top ten players: Benzema. Looking at the different parts of the pitch does not make for any prettier reading. Offensively, Benzema is again the only Real Madrid player to feature in the top ten, finishing fifth both times.

Taking the team as a whole, it makes for even more interesting reading. Over the season, Real managed more shots per game (15.6) than any other side. Barcelona managed 14.7 and Atletico just 11.7. Shots on target tells a slightly different story, with Real managing 5.7 per game, whereas Barcelona notched up 6.7. Out of those attempts, Barcelona successfully found the back of the net 90 times and Atletico did so 55 times. Real scored 63 goals—the second highest behind Barcelona.

Zidane’s team enjoyed 57.8% possession, the third highest behind Barcelona (61.4%) and Real Betis (59.4%). Their 87.5% pass completion record is the second highest in the league. They also had more dribbles than any other side—12.1 per game.

Taking a look at the defensive side of things, it is a similar story. Real Madrid made an average of 16.5 tackles per game and 9.8 interceptions. They also had fewer shots (10.2) coming at them than almost anyone else in the table (Eibar 8.8 and Getafe 10). Despite that, Real conceded 46 goals—the highest of any team in the top five.

All these figures point to a team that is doing okay—a team that is doing most things correctly but is also finding it hard to convert pressure or chances into meaningful results. They even point to a side that is “going through the motions” or lacks that cutting edge, that piece of world-class quality. Of course, “okay” is just not good enough for a team of Real Madrid’s stature or for a club with its expectations.

The Fix

Luka Jovic may not have had Hazard’s fanfare, but could be just as effective

Photo by Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro), CC BY 3.0

Perez has opened his wallet and rolled the dice. Hazard is the most high-profile addition so far and will certainly add a cutting thrust to the top third of the pitch. Those worried that the summer would just see an influx of big names, as opposed to players who will actually lift the team from their current dilemma, would have been relieved with Luka Jovic’s arrival. At 21 years old, the Serb striker is regarded as one of Europe’s hottest young strikers, registering 27 times for Eintracht Frankfurt last season. Other players will be added, and there is no doubt several will leave. As we sit here, it does look like round pegs are being brought in to fill round holes, and the policy does appear to be a refreshing one that balances star names with youthful potential. It will probably take more than one summer to completely reverse the malaise, but things certainly look like they are turning in the right direction.