So I'm approaching this article without a well thought-out (or even coherent) narrative; normally, I come into writing an article with at least the bare bones of an outline in place in my mind. As such, this is going to be free-form and pretty ramble-prone. But hear me out: basically, what I'm going to do is look at some statistics that jump out at me from Real Madrid and Barcelona's la Liga campaigns to date. I'll do it in bullet form, and let you put the pieces together for me; maybe, I'll come back to this later and find an intriguing story arc that I want to drop some serious analysis on and see through to the end. At the moment, all I have are some interesting numbers.
- Real Madrid averages 61% possession overall. I don't know why, but this is a really underrated part of los blancos' game, especially because Madrid doesn't use possession as a defensive tool like Barcelona. It's no shock why Madrid's fantastic possession stats aren't ever mentioned: Barcelona averages an out-of-this-world 69%. Still, commentators seem to have missed that Madrid's possession stats have been utterly fantastic in la Liga so far, and I think it deserves more air time (and more analysis).
- At home, Barcelona win a whopping 59% of their aerial duels (moments when two players go up for the ball)--this is good for first place in la Liga...which is shocking because they're such a small team. Perhaps even more shocking: they only win 46% of their aerial duels away from home (which drops them out of the top 10). The only thing that can explain this phenomenon is simply a lack of effort away from home--which isn't shocking, considering how (comparatively) bad they've been away from the Camp Nou. Real Madrid win 56% of their aerial duals, with a much more normal home/road split of 58%/55%.
- Real Madrid's top two assist-ers, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Özil have combined for a whopping 23 assists this season, and are the number one and two assist-ers in la Liga. That's better than the next three players--who happen to be Barcelona's Leo Messi, Dani Alves and Xavi Hernandez--combined. This really makes you think about how much Madrid really misses Di Maria--he's leading the league in assists by three (13 to Özil's 10), and he has missed a bunch of games. It also puts how awesome he has been this season into perspective: his assists more than double Xavi's total.
- Cristiano Ronaldo averages more shots per game than any other player in the league. This is no shock. But he out-paces the next-closest player, Lionel Messi, by more than a shot per game. However, if you dig a little deeper you find something even more interesting: Real Madrid takes, on average, 19 shots per game; Cristiano is responsible for 6.3 of those--that's about 33%. Barça takes, on average, 16 shots per game; Messi is responsible for 5.2 of those--and that's about 32.5%. Ironically, despite the fact that Cristiano is thought of as a ball hog who takes tons of shots at the expense of the team, and Messi is thought of as a selfless distributor (which he is in some ways--see his assist rate), they're actually responsible for almost the same percent of their team's shots! Cristiano Ronaldo takes more shots than Messi because Real Madrid take more shots than Barcelona (and yes, I know this is simplistic, but it's definitely part of the reason).
- Oh, and Messi, with 22 goals is responsible for 39% of his team's goals, while Cristiano, with 24, is responsible for only 34%. And this, my friends, is because Real Madrid have scored 70 goals so far in la Liga, while Barcelona have scored "only" 57. Even more interesting? Messi's home/road splits, which have been discussed before: he has scored 18 of his 22 goals at home, and is responsible for 44% of his side's home goals (and he's responsible for 25% of Barça's away goals). Cristiano's splits are more normal, with a 32% at home and a 38% away (again, while he has scored more at home, the team as a whole have scored fewer away goals, thus putting more emphasis on each away goal).
- Real Madrid and Barcelona have scored the same number of home goals (41). The merengues are outpacing the culés by 13(!) away goals (29 to 16). That in itself should explain Barça's comparatively bad form away from home.
- Following from my first point in this article, Real Madrid have completed 85% of their passes overall. This is another incredibly underrated part of Madrid's game that gets ignored because of Barça's ridiculous 89%. Like the first point, it's worth noting that Real Madrid are an incredibly good passing team.
- Here are some non-Real Madrid or Barcelona stats of note: 1) Granada are the most carded team at home in the league with 35 yellows and 3 reds; but they completely drop off the map away for some reason, having only received 22 yellows and no reds. Incomprehensible. 2) Atlético Madrid average 16 shots per game overall, the same as Barcelona. But that number is inflated by a ridiculous 22 shots per home game--they only take 11 per game away. Weird, I know 3) In more Atleti news, Radamel Falcao is responsible for a whopping 47% of all of Atleti's goals. Wow.
Alright, that's about all I have to say for now. Thanks to all our Twitter followers for telling me good places to find soccer stats--thanks to you, you're going to see a lot more articles like this one. I hope you're ready for it.