Whenever Real Madrid are said, an array of attackers spring to mind. Los Blancos are famed for their Galácticos and those folks, with the exception of some, typically operated in the last third of the pitch.
Zinedine Zidane added the newest Galáctico, Eden Hazard, to his positions during the summer along with starlets Rodrygo and Luka Jović.
When looking at the Frenchman’s squad, it’s easy to become fixated on the attackers they have at their disposal.
Yet 23 games to the LaLiga season, Los Blancos are averaging only 1.9 goals per 90. Zidane’s side are still the second-highest scoring team in the Spanish top-flight but 11 goals separate them from their Catalan competitions, and Barça have been fighting this term.
However, the 1.9 they are managing today is up on the 1.67 they averaged last season. However, this Real Madrid side is far removed from the one that included Cristiano Ronaldo.
The absence of goals, in contrast, means what Zidane’s team is doing right now is going under the radar.
They’re 3 points clear at the peak of the table and, unexpectedly, have the best defensive record in the league.
Zidane’s side have been breached on just 14 occasions this period, a rate of 0.61 per 90. Barcelona are conceding 1.21 each 90 and each other group, besides Atleti and Athletic Club, have surrendered over 20 goals up to now.
It’s a substantial improvement on the 1.21 goals Real conceded per 90 last season and the 1.15 they sent during 2017/18. Zidane has transformed his group and he has done it under the radar.
Real Madrid went from having the perfect atmosphere for Ronaldo to rival Lionel Messi to providing Thibaut Courtois a chance to wrestle the Zamora Trophy from Jan Oblak’s grasp after winning it in each of the previous four seasons.
Since that time, Atleti keepers have won it on six occasions and Barcelona’s No.1s are given it five times.
The massive Belgian is back to his best after a disappointing maiden effort with Real Madrid and was instrumental in the club’s Super Cup success.
Zidane’s men needed penalties to conquer neighbours Atleti but the game only reached that stage due to the exploits of the No.13. Courtois thwarted his former team on a variety of events, five to be precise during normal play, prior to saving two attempts in the shootout.
The prior Chelsea guy was arguably Real Madrid’s Player of the Season, also. A stark contrast to last season when his location at the club seemed to be under some threat.
However, the dramatic turnaround in fortunes is not solely down to the 6ft 5in shot-stopper. Zidane’s defence is far more resilient this year and they shield their goalkeeper.
Real also allowed the opposition to take loads of shots from around and around the penalty spot. It meant that in open play throughout 2018/19, the resistance had an expected goals average of 1.10 and a post-shot anticipated goals average of 1.12 per 90.
By comparing this to real goals conceded you are ready to determine which keepers performed better than they ought to have.
Real Madrid’s typical of 1.12 shows they gave up several great opportunities but conceded 1.21 goals in open-play, meaning that the keepers employed by Los Blancos underperformed. While 0.09 doesn’t look like a major gap, over a 38-game year it has 3.5 goals. That’s enough to flip three wins into three draws, a six-point swing.
This season, Real Madrid are quitting their opponents before they enter the six-yard box. There are still a few shots coming from there, as shown previously, but not the identical quantity as the last term.
What’s more, the post-shot anticipated goals of 0.7 per 90 is greater compared to goals surrendered an average of 0.61. This time around the 0.09 gap is in Madrid’s favour, meaning the possible draws are currently being turned into wins on account of the exploits of the goalkeepers, namely Courtois. With no Belgian between the sticks, Real Madrid lost 4-3 to Real Sociedad at the Copa del Rey last week.
The improvement is a blend of superb goalkeeping and adopting a system that prevents the opposition from getting deep into the penalty area on a regular basis.
Zidane deserves a good deal of credit for making Madrid so tricky to break down. This team may not be the easiest on the eye, but they are on track to win their initial LaLiga name since 2017 and only their second since 2012.