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Post-Match Press Conference: Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Real Madrid

Zidane doesn’t seem to get it.

Athletic Club v Real Madrid - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Zidane took questions from the press and gave his thoughts after Madrid’s disappointing draw with Athletic Bilbao.

On Real Madrid’s Performance

"I go away from here feeling very disappointed, because after the good performance we put in, we deserved more from the game. We knew that this was a chance to cut the gap at the top. We deserved more from it. We played very well and had our chances, but the ball just didn't want to go in. I'm disappointed because my players put in a lot of effort. We can't change anything now and we must keep this same frame of mind."

On Real Madrid’s Luck

"Scoring goals is the most difficult thing to do and we managed to create the chances, but it just wouldn't go in for us. We have to keep going. We can't do anything about today at this stage. Last season we scored late on here, but it wasn't meant to be this time round and there's nothing we can do about it. Just as was the case with the Atlético game, today we deserved more than the opposition. Had we managed to score in both games we would have four more points and things would be different. It would have been great to claw some points back. We haven't managed to do so, but I'm sure that we'll get another chance to reduce the gap on the leading pack."

"The best approach to scoring goals is to put in the work in front of goal. Things are not going as planned at the moment in front of goal, especially away from home in our last two games. We will keep working hard and continue to believe that we'll have another chance later on int he season to cut the gap at the top."

On the Title Race

"There are three teams above us. That is the reality. We have six months left and if they are ahead then it’s because they deserve it. We are behind them, but there's a long way to go”.

On Chendo's dismissal

"I don’t know what he said to the referee. He was sent to the stands and that is that”.

Zidane’s keenness for diplomacy might explain his statement that Real Madrid created good chances and deserved to win, but instead, it feels like he genuinely believes that incorrect assumption. While Zizou has never been one to discuss tactics in-depth with the press, he has previously been fairly honest about how he feels matches went. In other words, he has not been afraid to say that Real Madrid played poorly or that they needed to work on some things. The fact that he thinks Los Blancos created lots of quality chances against Athletic should be a cause for concern, since that is objectively false.

Madrid’s best goal scoring opportunity came from a blocked Varane header (0.41 xG value).

If understat and 11tegen11’s models accounted for the number of men between the shot and the goal, then the expected goal value would likely have been lower (Stratabet is one of the companies that does build their xG model to account for such factors, but unfortunately, I was not able to find their expected goals chart for this match).

The other decent chance that Zidane must be talking about is the Benzema shot that went off the post. While the shot itself was close, it was an extremely difficult chance with a low probability of conversion. Not only was Isco’s key pass a lofted cross (which significantly reduces the probability of scoring due to the difficulty of converting those passes), but Benzema was backpedaling while attempting to strike a volley first-time after a chest control.

Those chances go in maybe 1/10 times, which is why understat gave it an expected goal value of 0.09.

You could also talk about Ronaldo’s shot off the post, but you don’t even need expected goals to tell you how difficult of a chance that was (but in case you’re interested, understat has it 0.04 xG).

He received the ball in the air, from an unfavorable angle, and with his back to goal. He then had to pivot to hit a first-time volley with his left foot, with maybe 12-16 inches of the goal to aim at.

Zidane believing that these were all “good” chances implies that he believes his match plan was sufficient to win the game.

We can't change anything now and we must keep this same frame of mind.

This is worrying, because Real Madrid’s offensive tactics have been generally awful ever since the dispiriting performance against Girona. Real Madrid’s attack has looked discombobulated, with players running wherever they please and the wrong zones being overloaded. This has affected Madrid’s ability to press, creating a leaky defensive structure that puts immense pressure on the back-line. Zidane’s current inability to realize this is a problem.

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