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Has Danilo Really Been That Bad?

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An analysis of Danilo's defensive and offensive performance using key stats.

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Whenever tough times descend upon a football club (and there is no doubt Madrid are experiencing tough times), or even a society, people always search for someone to blame. Finding a scapegoat is always easier than searching for the root cause of a problem, and is much easier than trying to juggle all the complex factors that contribute to the problem to varying degrees. In the case of Real Madrid, the great scapegoat of the present is Danilo. He is not the first (look at Bale, Benzema, and Modric in the past) to experience this phenomenon, and he will not be the last. While the majority of vitriol aimed at Danilo will surely pass, that is not an adequate reason for leaving Danilo out to dry. Too few people have spoken up for Danilo and because of this, I have decided to present his case.

The stats prove that Danilo is on par with his other teammates

While statistics by themselves are not comprehensive in their assessment of a player (especially since the industry is in its fledgling stages in regard to football), they provide unbiased facts about specific areas of performance. They are key to forming an analysis of any player’s level of achievement and are a valuable indicator to the validity of one’s opinion. So let’s have a look at them.

Defensive Stats

(All statistics are taken from whoscored.com and are per 90 min, unless otherwise specified, as that is the fairest metric)

While fullbacks are more offensively inclined these days, their defensive stats are scrutinized just as much, if not more, than center backs’. Fullbacks must show a judicious balance between attacking and defending so that they can create overloads in offensive areas whilst preventing opposing teams from hitting their team on the break. Does Danilo have this quality in comparison to his teammates?

La Liga
Danilo

Apps: 14

Tackles: 3

Dribbled past: 0.6

Total attempted tackles: 3.6

Fouls: 1.8

Interceptions: 2.9

Clearances: 1.5

Shots blocked: 0.1

Crosses blocked: 0.2

Passes blocked: 1.2

Carvajal

Apps: 11

Tackles: 2.5

Dribbled past: 1.2

Total attempted tackles: 3.7

Fouls: 1.1

Interceptions: 2.7

Clearances: 1.8

Shots blocked: 0.5

Crosses blocked: 0.5

Passes blocked: 1.2

Marcelo

Apps: 18

Tackles: 2.9

Dribbled past: 1

Total attempted tackles: 3.9

Fouls: 0.6

Interceptions: 2.2

Clearances: 1.2

Shots blocked: 0.2

Crosses blocked: 0.5

Passes blocked: 1

UEFA Champions League (UCL)

Danilo

Apps: 4

Tackles: 4.4

Dribbled past: 0.3

Total attempted tackles: 4.7

Fouls: 1.1

Interceptions: 1.1

Clearances: 3.3

Shots blocked: 0

Crosses blocked: 0.3

Passes blocked: 0.3

Carvajal

Apps: 3

Tackles: 2.3

Dribbled past: 0.3

Total attempted tackles: 2.7

Fouls: 2.3

Interceptions: 1.3

Clearances: 1.3

Shots blocked: 0.3

Crosses blocked: 0

Passes blocked: 1.7

Marcelo

Apps: 4

Tackles: 0.7

Dribbled past: 1.8

Total attempted tackles: 2.5

Fouls: 0.4

Interceptions: 2.5

Clearances: 0.7

Shots blocked: 0.4

Crosses blocked: 0.4

Passes blocked: 0.7

Analysis

Despite all of the complaints about Danilo getting skinned alive by wingers, from the raw stats, it is clear that Danilo is getting the best of attackers whenever he goes up against them in comparison to his counterparts. Not only are his tackles per 90 minutes superior to Marcelo and Carvajal, but also his figures are the best across the entire defense. Only Kovacic, Vazquez, and Cheryshev, are better than Danilo’s, but their sample sizes are significantly smaller, with only 1,058 minutes between them in La Liga (Danilo has 1,228 minutes by himself in the league). Danilo is also tackling with remarkable efficiency, with 83.3% of his tackles completed in the league and 93.6% of this tackles completed in the UCL. But perhaps an even more significant statistic (especially for a fullback) is the number of times that he is dribbled past per 90 minutes. It means little if a fullback makes 9 tackles but is dribbled past 10 times. However this is not the case for Danilo, who is dribbled past less per 90 min than his counterparts. So impressive is his figure in this case, that he is nearly on par with Madrid’s center backs (La Liga: Pepe - 0.5, Ramos - 0.3, Varane - 0.5, Nacho - 0.3). For a player that supposedly gets beaten routinely every game, Danilo has very impressive stats. However, there is a caveat. He does foul players more in La Liga per 90 minutes than any other Los Blancos player aside from Cheryshev and Arbeloa (however in the UCL Danilo’s number of fouls per minute is medium), suggesting that Danilo maybe makes more tackles than necessary due to poor positioning. But it also may suggest that he is simply more aggressive than Madrid’s other fullbacks.

With the number of fouls Danilo commits, the question over his positioning has been raised. If Danilo is constantly being caught out than this would show in poor interception stats. But Danilo’s stats are actually remarkably good. Fullbacks are in less of a position than CDM’s and CB’s to intercept passes due to their wide positioning, but Danilo leads every one of his teammates in La Liga in this category, with the exception of Sergio Ramos and Denis Cheryshev. If Danilo was consistently caught out of position in games, it would be impossible for him to acquire such impressive figures.

Positioning is also related to the number of clearances a defender achieves. For defenders to reach the ball before his opponent and then dispose of it, they must be in the right place at the right time. Danilo’s stats are rather average in this area, with his clearances per 90 min paling in comparison to Madrid’s CB’s numbers and his clearances per game in the UCL slightly inflated due to the fact that he has only 4 apps in the competition. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Again, his numbers are close to or better than Carvajal’s and Marcelo’s and it is important to take into account that fullbacks rarely defend in their own box (which is where most clearances take place) as much as CB’s do. Thus, once again we can ascertain that Danilo has solid numbers.

The last category to assess is the art of blocking. Straight off the bat you can see that Danilo’s figures are not as impressive as Madrid’s other fullbacks. Neither in La Liga or the UCL does Danilo lead in shots blocked, crosses blocked, or passes blocked. This could suggest that Danilo isn’t managing to get himself into the best of positions to block balls. But, his low numbers could also be because he is shutting down opponents before they can release the ball (evidenced by his high tackle and foul rate). Either way, this last category isn’t as important for fullbacks as it is for center backs, so no true conclusions about Danilo’s defensive capacity can be drawn from this section alone.

So what’s the gripe with Danilo’s defending?

With all the key statistics present, it is clear that Danilo is actually a good defender. But with all the raucous around Danilo’s inability to defend, you would think he was worse than Don Arbeloa or something. But while Madrid fans are living in the realm of hyperbole, there is a molecule of truth to what is being said. While Danilo’s interception and clearances stats are good, they don’t fully represent the quality of a defender’s positioning. As of today, only the eye-test can confirm that, and from what I’ve seen, Danilo has been caught out too many times. But one has to wonder if that is because of Danilo’s inability to place himself correctly on the pitch, or whether it is because he plays in a team without the existing defensive structure to allow him to recover properly. The latter is logically the better reason for Danilo’s positional woes. Toni Kroos is dribbled past 1.4 times per 90 minutes in La Liga, with only Casemiro’s and Cheryshev’s numbers being worse. This evidence, along with the fact that no midfielder on Madrid besides Casemiro, Kovacic, and Vazquez (none of whom are regular starters) averages even 2 tackles per game in the league, suggests that Danilo along with the rest of the backline faces an inordinate amount of pressure per game. Yet we only seem to blame Danilo, or at the very least, give him more criticism than he deserves.

Attacking Stats

La Liga

Danilo

Apps: 14

Goals: 2 (Total)

Assists: 1 (Total)

Key passes: 0.7

Dribbles: 0.7/0.9

Unsuccessful touches: 0.2

Dispossessed: 0.4

Carvajal

Apps: 11

Goals: 0 (Total)

Assists: 3 (Total)

Key passes: 2.2

Dribbles: 1.5/2.7

Unsuccessful touches: 0.9

Dispossessed: 0.6

Marcelo

Apps: 18

Goals: 2 (Total)

Assists: 2 (Total)

Key passes: 1.7

Dribbles: 2.2/4

Unsuccessful touches: 1

Dispossessed: 0.6

UCL

Danilo

Apps: 4

Goals: 0 (Total)

Assists: 1 (Assists)

Key passes: 1.1

Dribbles: 1.1/1.4

Unsuccessful touches: 0.3

Dispossessed: 0.6

Carvajal

Apps: 3

Goals: 1 (Total)

Assists: 0 (Assists)

Key passes: 1

Dribbles: 0.3/1.3

Unsuccessful touches: 0.7

Dispossessed: 0

Marcelo

Apps: 4

Goals: 0 (Total)

Assists: (Assists)

Key passes: 1.8

Dribbles: 1.4/2.9

Unsuccessful touches: 1.1

Dispossessed: 1.4

Analysis

The eye-test suggests that Danilo hasn’t been as good at attacking as his fullback counterparts, and the statistics only confirm this. While all 3 defenders are pretty similar in the UCL due to the small sample size, the La Liga stats show how Marcelo and Carvajal are superior in terms of key passes and dribbles per 90 minutes. His goal and assist numbers flatters Danilo’s paltry return of 0.7 key passes and 0.7 dribbles per 90 in La Liga. After all the hype about his swashbuckling ability at Porto, his attacking numbers have not been up to par. But strangely, people continue to criticize Danilo defensively (when he is clearly better than Carvajal and Marcelo statistically) rather than giving him flak for his offensive output. It seems that Madrid fans have got their analysis of Danilo mixed up, maybe pointing to the fact that people are basing their opinions off of Danilo’s reputation from Porto rather than current form.

Conclusion: A large portion of the criticism Danilo has received is not deserved

The stats back it up; Danilo is actually a good defender. Careful, unbiased examination of Madrid’s games also provides more evidence for this fact. However, Danilo does deserve some criticism for poor positioning, which allows attackers to play in balls behind him or play balls past him too often. But some of the blame for Danilo’s woes must be attributed to the lack of defensive structure as a whole. A defender can only do so much when he faces wave of attack after attack.

In terms of offensive output, Danilo deserves a fair amount of criticism. Danilo was bought for his barnstorming and explosive style, and he hasn’t shown that so far at Madrid. However, it must be noted that all the criticism as clearly affected his confidence and he isn’t playing at the top of his game at the moment.

Thus, after analyzing Danilo’s defensive and attacking capabilities, it is safe to conclude that Danilo has not been nearly as bad as everyone says. He has had a decent season so far with Madrid, and with age on his side, the sky is the limit for the Brazilian.