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Grading Real Madrid’s squad at the halfway point in the season

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Grades from an A-F scale with key statistics and the reasoning behind my decisions.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Criteria

1. Only this season’s form will be taken into account.

2. Injuries factor into the grading and make it harder for players to get a higher score simply because they have played less.

3. Consistency is a key factor in achieving a high grade (this is also why injuries decrease the grade of a player).

4. Grades are subjective to the standards that we expect of each player (which are obviously different for each member of the squad). Ex: just because Ronaldo gets a low score compared to Lucas Vazquez, it doesn’t necessarily mean Lucas has been better than Ronaldo this season.

5. Grading Scale will be from an A+ to F- scale, with an A+ being nearly perfect and an F- being consistently terrible.

6. Statistics are taken from whoscored.com and only cover La Liga and the Champions League.

Goalkeepers

Keylor Navas
Grade: A+

Key Statistics:

Apps: 18

Total Saves: 45

Saves in Penalty Area: 21

Coming into the new season Keylor Navas could have been forgiven for being complacent in his play. Perez had clearly placed his faith in some lad called David De Gea, nearly openly stating his disbelief in Navas’s abilities. Yet the Costa Rican pulled off stunning save after stunning save to give Real Madrid a record breaking run of clean sheets and ultimately make Real Madrid’s defense look better than it was.

Kiko Casilla:
Grade: C+

Key Statistics:

Apps: 4

Total Saves: 8

Due to Navas’s amazing form keeping Kiko Casilla out of almost every single match, there isn’t much of a sample size to judge the Spanish keeper on. When Casilla has been selected he has been reliable in goal but he hasn’t really pulled off anything as spectacular or as decisive as his Costa Rican competitor.

Fullbacks

Marcelo
Grade: B+

Key Statistics:

Apps: 17

Dribbles per game in La Liga: 2.2

Key Passes: 26

Tackles per game: 2.1

Dribbled past per game: 1.1

After starting the season meekly, Marcelo got back into the swing of things against Las Palmas with a well-taken goal. Ever since then, Marcelo has been consistently solid, continually displaying his vital tactical role in the team as an offensive playmaker. Few on the Madrid squad can match his 2.2 dribbles per game in La Liga and his healthy number of key passes highlights his solid end product. On the defensive side of things he has been reasonably secure with 2.1 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game, but an area of concern for the fullback is that he beaten on average 1 per game by an attacker.

Daniel Carvajal
Grade: B

Key Statistics:

Apps: 11

Total Successful Dribbles: 10 out of 21

Key Passes: 14

Tackles per game: 1.9

Interceptions per game: 1.7

Carvajal also fits an important tactical role in the squad, arriving late to provide width, pace, and an incisive attacking quality. These qualities were seen in full in the match vs Atletico Madrid as he tore up the right flank and provided a superb assist to Benzema. However injury has prevented Dani from truly taking off this season and that hurts his grade. However his strong start to the season is a good sign and Madrid should be a much better team when he returns.

Danilo
Grade: B-

Key Statistics:

Apps: 15

Dribbles per game: 0.67

Key Passes: 12

Accurate Crosses: 6 out of 32

Tackles per game: 3.3

Many eyebrows were raised when Danilo was bought as Madrid already had a super talented fullback in Daniel Carvajal. It’s safe to say those eyebrows are still high up many people’s foreheads as Danilo has failed to truly kick-start his Madrid season in a convincing fashion. Instead of being the swashbuckling attacking force that we expected, he has been rather tentative, especially in his first 5-6 games. However the Brazilian has slowly been growing in confidence in recent weeks and this bodes well for Danilo’s second half of the season.

Alvaro Arbeloa
Grade: D

Key Statistics

Apps: 5

Successful Tackles: 5 out of 11

Total Interceptions: 6

Total Fouls: 5

His performance vs Atletico Madrid is still fresh in my mind but he has performed decently enough in the Champions League to see his grade rise from an F to a D. Not much else to say about the Spartan besides that.

Center Backs

Pepe
Grade: B+

Key Statistics

Apps: 11

Tackles per game: 1.3

Interceptions per game: 3

Clearances per game: 3.2

Aerial Battles won per game: 4.3

Blocks per game: 0.7

Total Fouls: 8

Pepe has once again quietly been solid and generally impressive at the back for Real Madrid. However, Pepe sees a drop in the A- I gave him for last season due to the fact that he has lost his place to Varane and because his decline in terms of physicals is clearly visible. However Pepe remains a perfectly reliable option for Madrid to turn to at any moment and we are truly lucky to have a 3rd center back with as much quality as the Portuguese veteran.

Raphael Varane
Grade: B+

Key Statistics

Apps: 17

Tackles per game: 1.2

Interceptions per game: 1.8

Clearances per game: 5.1

Aerial Battles won per game: 2.7

Blocks per game: 0.6

Total Fouls: 11

The young Frenchman’s supreme recovery pace and calmness on the ball has marked him out as one of the outstanding young defenders of his generation. For a long while however, it looked like injury could hold all that potential back. But with Varane looking fitter than ever this season, it looks like the 22 year old can finally make the jump from starlet to world-class defender.

Sergio Ramos
Grade: B-

Key Statistics

Apps: 12

Tackles per game: 1.7

Interceptions per game: 3.2

Clearances per game: 4.1

Aerial Battles won per game: 3.3

Blocks per game: 0.9

Total Fouls: 13

Sergio Ramos hasn’t done himself or Madrid any favors by prolonging his shoulder injury by playing in matches he isn't supposed to. Sure he got to score a bicycle kick vs Sevilla, but he also put his team into an awkward situation after he walked off injured as Los Blancos played with an unfamiliar back line and lost 3-2. Even when he has been fit Ramos play hasn’t been all that great when compared to his seasons of past. However, Madrid often look devoid of leadership at the back without him in the lineup, so a speedy (and PROPER) recovery is necessary if Madrid are going to get their mojo back in defense.

Nacho
Grade: B

Key Statistics

Apps: 12

Tackles per game: 1.1

Interceptions per game: 2.1

Clearances per game: 1.8

Aerial Battles won per game: 1.7

Blocks per game: 0.7

Total Fouls: 9

A man with no ego and no sense of entitlement, Nacho has very quietly picked up significant game time and gone about his business making few mistakes. His reliability at the back and ability to slot in anywhere across the back line is invaluable to Madrid and is something that often goes unnoticed.

Central Midfielders

Luka Modric
Grade: B+

Key Statistics

Apps: 20

Goals: 1

Assists: 3

Passes per game: 64.1

Pass Accuracy: 91.3%

Long Balls per game: 4.3

Key Passes per game: 2.1

Tackles per game: 1.5

Interceptions per game: 1.9

Mr. Reliable has put in typically good performances across the first half of the season. In a time when many of his teammates have dropped, Modric has picked up the slack and pushed Madrid through games. However, the strain has begun to show recently, as Modric has become uncharacteristically sloppy of late and (dare I say it) has been less than perfect. A nice calm winter break is just what the doctor ordered for the Croatian and all of Madrid’s fans will be holding their breath next season to see if he can stay fit for an entire campaign (I just jinxed it didn’t I?).

Toni Kroos
Grade: C+

Key Statistics

Apps: 19

Assists: 4

Passes per game: 78.7

Pass Accuracy: 93.6%

Long Balls per game: 6.2

Key Passes per game: 2

Tackles per game: 1.8

Interceptions per game: 0.9

Dribbled past per game: 1.3

With Kroos trumping Modric in nearly every stat category, it is clear that his fall from grace is something that can’t be analyzed by merely looking at the numbers. His passing and ball retention remains as good as ever, but his decision-making and big game capacity has fallen off dramatically this season. Kroos has often looked to pass off the responsibility for controlling the game to someone else and has looked defensively frail against fast counters. While Kroos’s weaknesses in defense are nothing new, his 0.9 interceptions per game are worryingly low, especially considering the fact that he spends most of his time as Madrid’s deepest midfielder when Casemiro isn’t on the pitch.

Casemiro
Grade: B+

Key Statistics

Apps: 16

Assists: 2

Passes per game: 51.4

Pass Accuracy: 86.7%

Long Balls per game: 6.1

Key Passes per game: 0.7

Tackles per game: 3.2

Interceptions per game: 2.1

Total Fouls: 30

As Madrid’s only defensive midfielder, Casemiro has shouldered the pressure of being one of the few men to stem attack after attack with the confidence of a lion. His defensive stats speak for themselves, and while fouls are usually a bad stat to pick up, they are good in Casemiro’s case because they show that he has the necessary aggression to play his role as a destroyer. Aside from that, his maturity on the ball has been impressive and his aptitude for the long ball has taken me by surprise. Casemiro is one to watch this season for anyone who is keeping an eye on underrated talents and his game time in the first half of 2016 is sure to be something impressive.

Mateo Kovacic
Grade: B

Key Statistics

Apps: 17

Goals: 1

Assists: 1

Passes per game: 38

Pass Accuracy: 91.3%

Long Balls per game: 0.7

Key Passes per game: 0.6

Dribbles per game: 0.7

Tackles per game: 1.7

I was highly apprehensive of Florentino Perez’s capture of the Croatian starlet from Inter Milan, but I have slowly warmed up to Kovacic’s work rate and desire to play for the team. He has only gotten 6 starts, but he has made the most of it by being tidy with the ball and by limiting the mistakes he has made. His attacking stats might be a little underwhelming but they don’t tell the full story. Kovacic has rarely had the freedom to be Madrid’s offensive reference point in midfield, and thus has been limited to one or two short bursts of dribbling every couple of games. He might never get the game time he needs to grow at the Santiago Bernabeu, so when some other team snaps him up, I think he will finally explode onto the scene like we all know he can.

Attacking Midfielders

James Rodriguez
Grade: B-

Key Statistics

Apps: 13

Goals: 3

Assists: 4

Key Passes per game: 2.5

Crosses per game: 2.1

Long Balls per game: 2.4

Through Balls per game: 0.6

Dribbles per game: 1.3

James started off the 2015/16 season in a scintillating manner, scoring a powerful set-piece and smashing in a mind-blowing bicycle kick. But injury cut the show short and James hasn’t been able to regain his old mojo since. Amid rumored clashes with Benitez and the tactical instability that currently surrounds this team, James has done decently well to remain the creative fulcrum for this side. However, he needs to do much, much, more if Madrid are to win anything by the end of this season.

Isco
Grade: C+

Key Statistics

Apps: 19

Goals: 1

Assists: 6

Key Passes per game: 2.2

Crosses per game: 0.9

Long Balls per game: 1.2

Through Balls per game: 0.3

Dribbles per game: 1.7

Amid Rafa’s tactical reshuffle at the beginning of this season, Isco was one of the biggest losers. In a bid to give Gareth Bale more freedom in a shadow striker role, Isco was shunted out to the right, where he failed to impress on numerous occasions. Nearly all of his bright moments have come from the left or the center of the pitch, and his inability to adapt to a right-winger role is evident in his poor 0.9 crosses per game stat (which is bested by James, a man who has barely touched the wings this season). Something is wrong with the Spaniard right now and that needs to change fast so Madrid can once again be considered one of the best teams in Europe.

Wingers/Wide Forwards

Cristiano Ronaldo
Grade: B-

Key Statistics

Apps: 22

Goals: 23

Assists: 7

Shots per game: 7.1

Dribbles per game: 1

Key Passes per game: 1.6

Fouled per game: 1

When Madrid endure changes of managers and go through tough transitory periods, the one man who has carried Madrid through the flames time and time and again has been Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet with Madrid looking more unstable than ever Ronaldo has oddly been missing this season. That seems difficult to say with his superb strike rate of 1.05 goals per game, but an undeniably large amount of his tally has come against sides much weaker than Madrid. He has been found wanting in the big games and for the first time in his career the accusation of him being a flat track bully is actually true. Despite these negatives, I still have faith that the Portuguese legend can turn things around after the winter break. His spectacular mental strength and qualities from the past give me this confidence. But the longer it takes for Ronaldo to get back to his best, the louder the calls to dump him for a new superstar will be.

Gareth Bale
Grade: B

Key Statistics

Apps: 13

Goals: 8

Assists: 7

Shots per game: 3.4

Dribbles per game: 1.1

Key Passes per game: 2.6

Fouled per game: 1

I desperately wanted to rate Bale higher but I simply haven’t seen enough of him this season due to injury and that has hurt his consistency. He has also padded his stats in matches like the one vs 9-men Rayo Vallecano (half of his goals came against them), but unlike Cristiano Ronaldo he has at least been offensively threatening in Madrid’s big matches. Bale hasn’t exactly set the world alight so far, but he looks to have improved individually over last season and if he can stay fit, I expect him to be one of Madrid’s most important and potent players in the second half of the season.

Lucas Vazquez
Grade: A-

Key Statistics

Apps: 12

Assists: 4

Dribbles per game: 1.2

Key Passes per game: 1.1

Crosses per game: 0.7

Fouled per game: 1.6

Tackles per game: 2.3

After being fairly average in pre-season Lucas Vazquez turned up his level of performance in the real season. He has made only 4 starts, yet his impact on this Madrid side feels so much greater than that. His work rate is probably the best on the team and he is 100% selfless as he has played at right back without complaint and has rode the bench when he maybe deserved to get more game time. Lucas has done everything expected of him at Madrid and I think he has been one of our best buy-backs in long time.

Denis Cheryshev
Grade: N/A

Key Statistics: N/A

Because of the fact Denis hasn’t gotten more than 70 minutes of action across La Liga and the Champions League, I have decided not to grade him.

Strikers

Karim Benzema
Grade: A-

Key Statistics

Apps: 15

Goals: 15

Shots per game: 3.3

Dribbles per game: 0.9

Key Passes per game: 1.1

Caught Offside per game: 0.7

Karim Benzema must’ve heard the calls at the beginning of the season for a "lethal" striker, because he has achieved a stunning ratio of 1 goal per game in his 15 appearances this season. And it’s not like he’s been piling them in against the sides at the bottom of the table either, as he has a match winning brace vs Athletic Bilbao and a goal vs Atletico Madrid. What brings Benzema down from an A+ is the fact that his scoring has been occurring at the expense of his creativity (0 assists) and the fact that his sex-tape disaster has kept him away and distracted him from football for what seemed like ages.

Jese
Grade: C+

Key Statistics

Apps: 12

Goals: 2

Assists: 1

Shots per game: 0.9

Dribbles per game: 1.2

Key Passes per game: 1.5

While it seems like Jese has spent and inordinate amount of time on the bench, he actually has a decent 6 starts and 6 sub appearances. It’s safe to say that he hasn’t made the most of this time, getting all his goals and assists in a 4-match span in October. It looks like Jese is getting increasingly disillusioned with his role on the bench and it is obvious to see that he thinks he deserves a bigger role at Madrid. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jese follow Alvaro Morata’s footsteps and leave his beloved Los Blancos for the sake of his career.