Real Madrid, already crowned as the 35-time champions of Spain, have one little hurdle called the UEFA Champions League final before they close the curtains on a successful season, irrespective of what happens in Paris, on May 28. Although the injury situation was not nearly as chaotic as last season, Madrid had to go through some tactical challenges, injury, and a COVID-19 crisis en route to the league title. Dani Carvajal’s injury issues lingered for most of the season. Carlo Ancelotti had to call upon Lucas Vazquez to fill in for Carvajal more than he’d like to.
Lucas Vazquez may not be the most technically gifted player suited for every tactical profile. However, in the context of Real Madrid, he is a former Castilla jewel, who reliably fights for Real Madrid at a moment’s notice. As unfathomable as it may sound, Lucas is one of the few players who has punched above his weight at times purely with the sheer determination to give his all for the badge.
If he plays more than 16 minutes in total vs. Betis and in the final in Paris, 2021-22 will be his best season at Real Madrid in terms of game time. Vazquez played 1848 minutes under Zinedine Zidane last season (mostly at right-back), and he is currently on 1833 minutes (prior to the Betis game) this season - again mostly has a right-back.
Vazquez is not a traditional right back. He had always been a traditional winger on the right, but since the days of Rafa Benitez, all managers have trusted him at right-back whenever there was no one else to cover.
Lucas has the highest npxG+xA among all Real Madrid defenders this season — above the versatile David Alaba, Dani Carvajal, and Eder Militao. Only Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior, Luka Modric, and Toni Kroos have provided more passes into the penalty area than Lucas this season. Only Carvajal (13) has provided more successful crosses into the box than Lucas (12).
Only six players on the team have more successful dribbles than Vazquez this season. Most of his take-ons are in the opponent’s half, some in very tight areas. It’s been a less risky, more productive approach from Lucas while taking on opponents.
It is unrealistic to expect the performances of a seasoned defender from someone like Lucas when it comes to defending. However, Lucas has been reliable in this regard as well. He is within the top 10 players in the squad for most pressing sequences overall and within the top five players in the squad for most pressing sequences in the defensive third. Only three players in the squad have made more blocks than Vazquez this season. Only four players have made more tackles and interceptions than him during this season in all competitions. He is seventh in the squad for most clearances made. These are significant, underlying defensive numbers from a player who isn’t even a defender in the first place. As his defensive heatmap suggests, he has been a reliable man on the right this season:
Luck is an overused word in Sports. Yes, it sometimes aids you but I champion the notion of nothing happens by chance. Real Madrid have established their superpower of doing the unthinkable over and over again in the biggest stages. Of course, the superstars of the team lead from the front but the likes of Lucas Vazquez and their contribution to our triumphs must not be forgotten.