Real Madrid secured two hugely important and impressive wins over the course of the last five days. The club recorded a victory against Sevilla that ensured they didn’t lose too much ground in the league while their masterclass on Wednesday enabled their progression to the Round of 16 in the Champions League.
From Zidane’s renowned tactical flexibility and control based principles to the grandiose showing of the old guard in these two matches, there were several key factors at play in the team’s return to form — which their fans can only hope will persist over the next stretch of difficult fixtures.
¡Pleno de clasificaciones en la Fase de Grupos de la @LigadeCampeones!— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) December 10, 2020
2️⃣9️⃣ / 2️⃣9️⃣#RealFootball | #RMUCL pic.twitter.com/jboqPWlMlX
One of the notable features of the two games was the attacking trio selected by Zidane to lead the line. Benzema was unsurprisingly the pick for the striker position but the wing duo of the dynamic budding Brazilian stars introduced that crucial destabilization element that has been sorely missing from the team in recent seasons.
Vinicius and Rodrygo are both individually great instigators (with speed and electricity) with minor nuanced variations in how this manifests itself. Vinicius is a dribbler fundamentally, an experimental player that dares to create with his movement and skill. Rodrygo is cut from a different cloth. While the ex-Santos man’s dazzle on the ball can hit notes just as high, he appears to favour a more strategic or efficient style.
Rodrygo e Vinícius Júnior são os únicos brasileiros no top 10 de adolescentes mais caros da história do futebol. Eles dividem a nona posição, por transferências de 45 milhões de euroshttps://t.co/E9tLDuJqnq— Rafael Reis (@rafaelreis14) December 11, 2020
It’s quite curious to think how little Benzema, Rodrygo and Vinicius have actually played together. They have only played six of the 18 games this season to date. That means they have been on the field at the same time in only a third of the matches played. When you look at minutes, it’s even less as they only started three times and played in approximately 286 minutes of a total 1,593 minutes (or only 18%) .
While the sample is small — the team’s record when the three players played for any portion of the match together is outstanding. Their record is five wins and one draw in six games including some big challenges such as Barcelona, Inter Milan, Sevilla and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
However, it is worth noting that for some of these games, the trio was only on the field for the closing minutes and may not have significantly contributed to the score such as against Barcelona and Inter Milan. That being said, their offensive potency is clear as regardless of minutes, the team has scored at least once — except for the Real Sociedad match — whenever they have played together (averaging a goal every 48 minutes or so).
Is this the answer when Hazard is out?
One of Real Madrid’s biggest areas of concern since Ronaldo’s departure (with symptoms being visible even when the Portuguese was still at the club) has been offensive fluidity and productivity. This has been extensively analyzed but part of the issue has been the profile of the attacking players on the roster. And the one key that the club is hoping will act as a release valve or mechanical clutch to improve the team’s performance in the final third is Eden Hazard.
This has been proven to be somewhat true with evidence from Hazard’s participation suggesting he has a palpable positive effect on the team. But due to sustained injury concerns, the Belgian’s availability has been significantly limited and in his absence the team has yet to fully turn to the trio of Benzema, Rodrygo and Vinicius as mitigation. Even going back to the start of last season, they have only started together a mere five times. This offensive unit may need to become the unquestionable selection when Hazard is out as the early signs are incredibly promising of the value they can offer — especially when considering the subpar performances of players like Asensio and Isco this season.