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Three stats which show Real Madrid’s room for offensive improvement in 2023

Real Madrid CF v Girona FC - LaLiga Santander Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

With 33 LaLiga goals from 14 games, Real Madrid are joint-top scorers in the competition alongside title rivals Barcelona. Remarkably, Los Blancos are in that position despite having 5.72 xG fewer than their Catalan rivals. Yet, there’s still room for improvement when we dig into the offensive stats of Carlo Ancelotti’s team.

Here, we consider three stats which show a significant change from 2021/22, and also where Real Madrid are lagging behind the rest of the competition to keep up. With the title looking likely to be decided by fine margins, these areas could be the difference between success and failure this season.

33.3% - Real Madrid’s shot accuracy, the 6th lowest in LaLiga

Real Madrid are usually known for their cutting edge and clinical advantage in front of goal, but this season it’s far from true. Los Blancos are scoring more goals than their xG would expect, making them the only side in Spain’s top four, and one of only three in the top half of LaLiga, but their accuracy when shooting this season has left something to be desired.

With a 33.3% accuracy rate, Real Madrid rank 15th in the league for this measure. That is a major change from last season, where Real Madrid topped LaLiga with a 40.6% accuracy rate. Much of that was down to Vinícius Júnior (57.33% last season, down to 37.84%) and Rodrygo Goes (53.33% in 2021/22, down to 34.21%), as well as the obvious case of Karim Benzema (46.4% down to 41.18%).

As can be seen in the below chart, many of Real Madrid’s most prolific finishers have seen a substantial drop-off in their accuracy. From last season’s most accurate shooters, all five have seen their accuracy drop this season.

Shooting accuracy comparison from 2021/22 to 2022/23. Data source: Wyscout.

That’s despite xG per shot coming in at 0.127, the joint-third best in the competition. Equally, the shooting distance this season (18.7 metres on average), is very similar to last season (18.6 metres on average), which would suggest that the quality of the chances created is not the issue here. Real Madrid are clearly generating goalscoring opportunities, but it is the finishing from the team’s forwards who are letting them down when it comes to converting. We can see that in that players like Vinícius Júnior, Rodrygo Goes and Luka Modrić have all seen their shooting accuracy drop by around 20% this season compared to last.

The highest shot accuracy in the squad from players with more than six shots belongs to Fede Valverde at 44.83%, while the lowest are David Alaba at 11.11% from nine shots and Aurélien Tchouaméni at 15.38% from 13 shots. The Uruaguayan’s improvements, as well as from Toni Kroos, have helped to compensate, but both are low in volume compared to some of their attacking counterparts.

While performance compared to xG remains strong for Real Madrid, this may not be a major concern. However, seeing players like Vinícius and Rodrygo recede for this stat may become a worry if it starts to stretch into a long-term trend.

161 - Crosses, the 3rd lowest in LaLiga

Long gone are the days of Zizou-ball where bombarding the penalty area with crosses in the search for a goal could have been the norm. This season, Real Madrid are one of the team’s least likely to deliver crosses into a penalty area, ranking third lowest for crosses in LaLiga.

Given the 29.8% completion rate, it’s perhaps understandable why Real Madrid don’t put more crosses into the box. That figure is surprisingly low given that only 18 of those crosses have been put into the six yard box, usually the most difficult area to complete a cross.

What we see is that crosses tend to be Ancelotti’s fall-back option when Real Madrid are chasing a game. The three games with most crosses (against Almería, Osasuna and Rayo Vallecano), all saw Los Blancos go behind on the scoreboard.

Real Madrid’s crossing results in 2022/23 in LaLiga. Data source: Wyscout.

It also explains why Real Madrid have only 16 headed shots, the second-lowest in LaLiga. As can be seen in the above graph, Real Madrid have averaged 3.43 shots from crosses per 90 this season, with 1.14 of those being headers.

It is worth noting, however, that despite only having 16 headed shots, three have been goals. That’s a 19% conversion rate. What’s more, all three have been scored by Éder Militão. The fact that no Real Madrid forward has scored a header after 14 games may be a concern, particularly given that Karim Benzema scored three last season.

That loss of Benzema in attack has been influential. None of the alternatives, particularly his most regular number nine alternative, Rodrygo, are built for aerial prowess. Without those physical characteristics, Real Madrid have had to adapt their game.

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

That fuels the idea that these stats will be more interesting to monitor over the course of a full season. From this selection over a period of 14 matches, 18% of the total number of crosses came in one single game, against Osasuna. Whether crosses emerge as a plan B later on in the campaign could be intriguing to monitor.

That game in particular was one where Ancelotti intriguingly threw in Mariano Díaz. While the 29-year-old forward may only have played 52 minutes of LaLiga action this season, they have been spread across four games, in which three have had more crosses than any other match since matchday one.

2.47 - Rodrygo’s xG underperformance

The 2022/23 campaign was always seen as a definitive one in the development and career of Rodrygo Goes. The Brazilian ended 2021/22 on a high and has come into the side looking to buil on that, boosted by the unexpected absence of Karim Benzema giving him more minutes than even he would have anticipated.

With 6.47 xG this season in the league, he ranks 25th across Europe’s top five leagues for xG. Impressive stuff. However, with only four goals, he is the lowest scoring of any of the top 35, with Werder Bremen’s Marvin Duksch’s three goals from 5.98 xG the highest ranking player to have scored fewer.

Between October and mid-November, Rodrygo’s five-match rolling average for xG performance saw him underperforming his xG by at least 0.5 for six consecutive matches in LaLiga. For context, the most substantial underperformance that same stat had ever been before that spell was 0.18 in March of this year, or 0.13 in December 2020.

Only Tammy Abraham of AS Roma has underperformed their xG more substantially across Europe’s top five leagues to date this season, and that stat is unlikely to fill him with confidence heading into the second part of the season. His World Cup involvement with Brazil, where his penalty miss would go on to cost his nation the chance to progress against Croatia, is unlikely to have done him any wonders either.

This is where Carlo Ancelotti’s influence is likely to come into play. Vinícius has spoken in the past about the coach giving him “the confidence that every player needs”, and a similar impact on Rodrygo is desperately needed.

Rodrygo’s performance compared to xG has fluctuated hugely throughout his career, with significant overperformance and now real underperformance. As he matures and seeks to gain more consistency, establishing a more stable performance will be what helps him to settle in to the starting XI at Real Madrid. It’s also what Los Blancos need for the second half of the season.

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