Going into a critical derby clash vs. Atlético Madrid on Sunday, Las Blancas sit in third, having accumulated 44 points, 46 goals scored, and 24 goals conceded in 21 matches.
The team-level underlying numbers paint them as a sustainable offensive force — creating 2.1 expected goals (xG) and 2.06 goals per game — and a solid defensive one — conceding 1.18 xG and 1.13 goals per game — relative to the rest of the league.
But who are the players driving this success on both the offensive and defensive end? Let’s find out.
Note: All statistics have been taken from Wyscout, where the dataset is incomplete due to some matches having not been televised or parsed for event data. The sample size is still large enough to conduct analysis, but keep in mind that the numbers may look different if those games are ever incorporated.
All stats in the visualizations are calculated on a per ninety minute (p90) basis.
Daiane, Malena Ortíz Cruz, Samara Ortíz Cruz, Claudia Florentino, Chioma Ubogagu, and Ariana Arias have all been left out due to a lack of minutes.
Real Madrid have managed to become one of the best offensive sides in the league without regularly deploying someone optimized for the “classic” number nine role. Long-time followers of the team have been crying out for this type of player, with only Jessica Martínez fitting that profile (no one else in the squad comes close to her 3.37 aerial duel wins p90).
Kosovare Asllani, who is much more of a natural #10, has had to shoulder most of the responsibility leading from the front and has done an admirable job. 12 goals on 0.91 xG p90 and 3.1 shots p90 are superb figures, though they are buttressed by her 3 converted penalties.
Asllani’s record-breaking 155 second hat-trick vs. Valencia was an excellent showcase of the type of goal scorer she can be when on form.
However, outside of her, the vaunted combination of voluminous and qualitative shot production and lofty goal scoring is hard to find. Jessica Martínez’s 0.63 xG p90 and team-high 3.38 shots p90 are laudable, but she has been a victim of David Aznar’s decision to lean on a 4-3-3 formation, logging only 560 minutes out of a possible ~1900.
She has still managed to net 3 goals (1 penalty) — a total that Lorena Navarro has surpassed despite featuring in 277 less minutes. Now, one of those is also a penalty, which she notched in the 8-1 goal bonanza vs. 10-women Espanyol (in addition to an open play strike), but she has also been clutch off of the bench and remains a viable tertiary option at the center forward spot with 4 goals thus far.
The rest of the end-product comes from the wings. If Asllani has been guilty of being a little wasteful at times — underperforming her xG a tad in the available sample — Marta Cardona has been downright ruthless; Madrid’s #11 has bagged 8 goals on marginal volume and shot quality, surpassing her available xG by over 30%.
This is no shock, considering that several of her decisive blows have come from absolutely nothing:
Sofia Jakobsson is somewhat similar in this regard, though she has less bangers to her name this season, leading her to a lower — but still respectable — 5 league goals.
Attacking left back Olga Carmona would be the last player to touch on if I had all the numbers, but, given that only one of her goals is registered on Wyscout, it is hard to comment on the nature of her scoring profile and probable future contributions. It doesn’t help that 2 of her 4 goals came in the Espanyol outlier and that her latest was a penalty vs. Barcelona.
Nevertheless, as a defender, it would be surprising to see her become a significant contributor on the scoresheet over the long run.
Of course, shooting is simply one part of the offensive equation and, when it comes to ball progression and chance creation, more names start to feature.
Maite Oroz is the standout ball progressor for Real Madrid. Often deployed as a lone pivot, her 87.4% passing accuracy on volume that leads the team is a testament to her technical quality and decision-making as the player most responsible for moving proceedings forward. When isolating to just passes into the final third, she only drops off by about 3 percentage points.
The next best mark is Aurélie Kaci at 6.18 passes into the final third p90, though her overall precision falters comparatively at 83%, as does her mark — 74.5% — when looking at that specific type of pass on the X-axis. In fact, no one but Babett Peter touches 80% passing accuracy into the opponent’s defensive third on relevant volume, while no other central midfielder surpasses Kaci’s overall passing accuracy.
This is perhaps a little stupefying for those who know both Teresa Abelleira’s and Ivana Andrés’ quality, but some context is needed here. Teresa has largely been deployed in a much more advanced role than she had been in prior seasons with Deportivo La Coruña, and Ivana handles the greatest passing load of the back line alongside being a more aggressive ground passer than any of her center-back counterparts.
What isn’t bewildering at all is Kenti Robles’ domination of the Y-axis in the left chart. Operating as a right back, she is by far Madrid’s most prolific touchline threat, completing an elite 36.9% of her 5.48 crosses p90 and 41.7% of her 4.53 passes into the box p90.
The chance creation graph brings us back to star wingers Marta Cardona and Sofia Jakobsson, who bear the onus of fashioning most of their teammates’ goals. As the prior viz hints at, the Swede has gotten a majority of her 6 assists from traditional crosses. On the flip side, Cardona has picked up most of her 4 from ground deliveries. This clocks with the eye-test, as Cardona loves to jink her way to the byline before firing off a cut-back.
As expected, Kenti Robles and Olga Carmona continue to look good and Asllani’s influence as a shot facilitator appears decidedly average due to her role in the team. While Aznar has suppressed that part of his #9’s game, his decision to play Teresa higher up has burgeoned her strong creative output, making the debate over whether she and Maite should swap places a difficult one.
The final player I want to discuss in this section is Marta Corredera. No single individual has had to adapt to the team’s needs more than her this season, as she has almost exclusively operated at left back despite being a natural on the other flank. On first glance at the above numbers, it looks like she’s holding her own in a more inverted role regardless of her unimpressive shot creation.
And, while that wouldn’t necessarily be an inaccurate way of describing her performances, additional data shows that it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. She is second in attempted passes into the final third and, yet, only fourth in completions at 57% accuracy — the lowest in the team — which is worrying for Madrid’s ability to move forward while managing risk. There is still time for her to improve, but purchasing an actual left back should probably be of high priority going into the next transfer window.
Wow, what a revelation — Cardona, Carmona, and Jakobsson are the team’s best dribblers and ball carriers and Ivana Andrés is an offensive-minded center-back.
The more interesting bits seem to be in the right two boxes. I was honestly a little stunned to see Cardona’s dribble success rate rank in the bottom four, though this is less astounding when looking back at the tape. While someone like Jakobsson prefers to attempt more of her take-ons in isolations out wide, Cardona occasionally likes to gallop infield and split multiple defenders. Notwithstanding her undeniable skill at doing this, these movements are simply more difficult and therefore less likely to come off than her patented drives toward the byline.
On the other end of the spectrum, Olga’s insane completion rate on a sizable number of attempts has to be highlighted, and it solidifies her as one of the best young talents in world football. Imagine if she got to play up a position!
The only other statistic that stands out to me is the amount of fouls that Jessica has drawn. There is the possibility of some noise for her sample size, but her aforementioned aerial duel figures adds some credibility to the idea that she is an especially combative presence.
The defensive numbers back this up, too. Marta Cardona is the only attacker that comes close to recovering the ball as often in the opposition half on a p90 basis and Jessica is far and away the best at winning loose ball duels. This, more than anything, probably explains why she gets knocked down so often.
Maite Oroz is another player that catches the eye. There have been many discussions about Thaisa and Kaci being the defensive stalwarts in midfield and, though both their recovery and duel numbers look good, the 5’1” Oroz has the statistical silhouette of a defender. It is by no means a closed debate as to whether she should be used more offensively or not, but it is hard to dispute that she is performing extremely well as the anchor of the side.
Teresa also comes off impressively when keeping in mind her advanced role. In fact, it may surprise some to see that both she and Maite average more successful defensive duels p90 than Kaci or Thaisa. Nevertheless, the latter two do outperform everyone except Jessica in battling for fifty-fifties, offering credence to the belief that they are more combative than their more technical, diminutive midfield partners.
Moving to the back four, Olga continues to show why she’s such a gift for this side. For someone who made her name as a left winger, it’s crazy to see her lead the team in defensive duels won p90, with Ivana Andrés being the only defender ahead of her in the loose ball category.
It’s difficult to formulate hard opinions on defensive quality from just these numbers — as defense is notoriously hard to quantify from an impact perspective — but they do tell us something about style and role. If Ivana is so engaged in trying to win second balls, it is perhaps indicative of her aggressive, proactive style of play. Just like when she has possession, she likes to take the initiative and grab control of the situation.
This step up by @IvanaAndresSanz to intercept the vertical pass is absolutely elite for its timing, physicality, & artful poke of a challenge. It's what I like to call 'defensive playmaking' for how the CB takes control & forces a dispossession.— Om (@OmVAsports) February 6, 2021
Her action created the 2nd goal. pic.twitter.com/gfDkSUizgo
This likely gives her greater impact than what the numbers might suggest, as it is rare for defenders to be the one playmaking — and with such skill — while the other team has the ball.
There is a lot here that is simply confirmation of what diehard Femenino fans have been watching all season. You don’t need the data to tell you that the team is maybe too over-reliant on Asllani for quality shots, or that Cardona and Jakobsson are geniuses with the ball at their feet.
Nonetheless, even when ignoring the value of confirming the eye-test, there are some insights in the data that might take some people aback. Marta Cardona’s low dribble success rate was unexpected and spoke to the value of using stats to aid stylistic inferences, as was the case with Jessica Martínez’s foul numbers.
But, possibly, the most interesting data points had to do with the midfield area, revealing Corredera’s struggles as an inverted left back, Maite’s and Teresa’s ability to hold their own from a defensive activity perspective vs. Kaci and Thaisa, and the former duo’s effectiveness in their respective offensive roles, though the optimal solution might yet be to swap them.
Let me know what about the data interests you and don’t forget to click the hyperlinks on each chart to be able to interact with the vizzes!