This article is the final part of a short series examining how the team is doing in key statistical measures compared to previous seasons (the first revolved around offense and the second around defense). Having analyzed how the team performed offensively and defensively after 11 games compared to the previous six seasons, it would be interesting to see what the overall picture resembles once you combine both elements.
Goal difference shows the night and day contrast between pre-Ronaldo and post-Ronaldo as the team struggled to compensate for his lost goals while not doing sufficiently in defense to offset the decreased productivity in the final third. The one promising sign is that the goal difference this season to date is higher than last season’s meaning that there is a lot of time to rectify the issue and change course. On the other hand, it is exactly the same as the 2018-19 season which didn’t turn out as well.
Real Madrid had the lowest shots on target and highest conceded for the same measure in 2020-21 so it is no surprise to see the current season ranking in dead last once the two are combined. This is a particularly damning statistic as shots on target is in essence the most closely associated with tactical set-up and actual performance. It’s a bigger sample size than goals which are in the grand scheme a rare event/occurrence but it’s a more distilled and valuable number than overall shots which have a lot of noise.
Despite the aforementioend noise that can sometimes cloud the total shots statistic, the trend in this metric bears great resemblance to shots on target. Again, 2020-21 is the lowest point of the last six seasons after 11 games. There is a strong sign that the level of performance this season is not up to standard and likely needs to improve.
The Sober Look - Rationalizing the drop
The first and most valid factor to point to when examining the decline in these key performance statistics is the actual level of management and play by the coaches and players. Due to poor form, injuries, and in some cases misfortune with uncontrollable elements such as refereeing the quality of the football on the pitch has not been ideal.
However, there are other things to consider such as the vacuum left by Ronaldo which the team may never truly fill in a direct way but may have to workaround (as they did in 2019-20). The other major point is that the chess moves made by the club to address this very issue still haven’t had a full opportunity to realize their potential. Hazard has unluckily not been available for selection on a consistent basis limiting any impact (which is expected to be gamechanging) he could provide. Similarly, Odegaard and other players are still being integrated and/or evolving and could prove to be difference makers.
Lastly, while it has been stated in passing or framed as simply a momentary lapse, there is a bridging of the gap between La Liga’s elite and the rest. There is a veritable movement closer to the middle on both sides whether due to the Real Madrid and Barcelona getting worse or the rest of the league becoming more competitive,
It is almost an undeniable fact that it is seeming more challenging to sweep aside most teams in the league. What this means is that Real Madrid appearing to be a less formidable shadow of itself when comparing against previous seasons may not necessarily be a full indication of their ability to succeed in the league today. They still need to improve but perhaps not by as big of a jump as one would think.
Data: WhoScored for performance data for all league and UEFA competition matches; and ESPN Soccer for all performance data for other competitions.