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Across Eleven Games: Real Madrid’s Defense Compared to Previous Seasons

Part 2: series looking at key offensive and defensive statistics between the current season and past campaigns.

Levante v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

This article is part of a short series examining how the team is doing in key statistical measures compared to previous seasons (Part 1 revolved around offense). Now we will look at how the team is doing defensively. Real Madrid made huge intentional and successful strides in this regard last season. This was evidenced by Thibaut Courtois winning the Zamora trophy with 19 clean sheets and only conceding 20 goals in 34 games. Altogether, the club only conceded 25 goals in the total 38 league games which is the best showing of all time for the team. Sergio Ramos and co haven’t appeared to maintain the same level of solidity this season from the eye test.

The numbers do not look great as Real Madrid have conceded the most goals (16) this season after 11 games than in any of the past six seasons. However, what’s interesting to note is that they had conceded the second most goals at this juncture last season and still went on to break a number of defensive records so all is not lost.

The fact remains that Los Merengues are not having a good start at the back. While the immensely impressive two goals (!) conceded by Benitez’s men in 2015-16 is an outlier, the 13, 9, and 12 scored against the team in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively all best the current season record.

Delving a little deeper into the numbers still confirms the defensive woes the team is experiencing. They have allowed the most shots on target this season compared to the previous six. Although the shots on targets statistics provide some mitigation for the goals allowed last season, it does not for 2020-21.

In 2019-20, despite conceding more goals than all other seasons except the current season, the team had allowed the second least amount of shots on target coming very close to the Benitez inspired defensive masterclass in 2015-16. This likely means that in the first 11 games last year, the team was dealing with strong finishing and conversion from opponents. That is not the case this year as Real Madrid ranks highest in both goals conceded and shots on targets conceded.

For overall shots conceded, the current season falls relatively in line with the last six seasons. 2019-20 again stands out as being a special year as the team recorded the least amount of shots conceded after 11 games. In theory, the total shots conceded generally could be considered the least correlated with tactics and/or defensive performance as low quality shots contribute to the count when they may not really create any danger. In summary, it certainly appears that there has been a regression on the defensive front for Zidane’s men.


Data: WhoScored for performance data for all league and UEFA competition matches; and ESPN Soccer for all performance data for other competitions.