On Saturday, Real Madrid clinched their 35th La Liga title following a 4-1 win over Espanyol — helping them go 15 points clear of second place with four games to go. Despite a heavily rotated lineup and deploying Eduardo Camavinga at center-back for a brief period, Madrid looked comfortable in the game. They looked like a champion side.
Despite the very obvious tactical deficiencies, Real Madrid were easily the most consistent La Liga side. Apart from Matchday 3, Ancelotti’s men consistently topped the lague table the entire campaign. Until Matchday 34, Madrid have recorded just three loses, which is the second lowest in Europe’s top fiv leagues, only behind Liverpool, and have only recorded six draws, which is the third best in Europe behind Manchster City and Bayern Munich. Carlo Ancelotti in turn became the first manager to win the league in every top five league.
There was a sense of inevitability with the side this season. They had the ability to push through for victories even when it seemed unlikely. A switch flipped in Real Madrid when it was the dying minutes of a game with Los Blancos recording the most number of shots (123) and scoring the most number of goals (22) after the 76th minute. This saw Madrid make multiple comebacks and win games late; the recent win against Sevilla was a prime example of it.
Real Madrid’s Vi(nicius) - Be(nzema):
Real Madrid’s offence heavily relied on two of its players: Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr, who developed a sort of telepathic connection with each other this season. Benzema scored a league high 26 goals and was responsible for scoring 36% of the team’s total league goals while his partner in crime, Vinicius, hit career best double digits this season with 14 league goals.
Karim Benzema enjoyed his best season in terms of direct goal contributions with him leading the charts for both goals scored (25) and assists provided (11) in the league currently. Only Ousmane Dembele recorded more passes into the penalty area (3.04) than Benzema’s 2.93 in the league, highlighting the Frenchman’s playmaking side. When Madrid needed someone to step up, Benzema was there deciding games and changing game-states on his own.
The duo didn’t just contribute as individuals having excellent seasons but their on-pitch connection was excellent to watch and was one of the best in the world. Vinicius assisted Benzema five times in La Liga, while the French talisman returned the favour playing the assist in four of Vinicius’s 14 goals. Vinicius constantly looked to find Benzema in the box either with a cutback or cross, while Benzema would play a perfect slip pass for the youngster to make a run in behind. It was poetic that the final goal of th game that clinched the title came off the same combination.
This was Vinicius’ coming-of-age season — a season where he blossomed from one of the hottest talents in Europe to a decisive player who can produce game changing moments on the regular. He was always electric but now that current could electrocute opponents. He created the most aggregate xT and xT per 90 among all Madrid players with 900 minutes or more. He created the third most shots in the league, picking up nic assists in the process.
His ball carrying and dribbling sliced through opposition defences like a hot knife through butter. His decision making after penetrating the opposition box improved, he took fewer touches and would now not overcook his shots — this saw him score a lot of goals.
Courtois - The WALL
Thibaut Courtois has been a consistent performer throughout his Madrid career excluding the first season. After winning the Zamora trophy for the third time in Real Madrid’s previous league title in the 2019-20 season, Courtois has come up big and clutch multiple times this season. When the defence was breached Courtois stood tall and produced some insane saves to keep the scoreline in check.
In La Liga this season, Courtois prevented 4.8 fewer goals than expected — the 2nd most of any goalkeeper — while having the highest save percentage in the league, underlining the Belgian’s importance to the side.
Timeless midfield trio of Kroos-Modric-Casemiro
Real Madrid have enjoyed the services of one of the best midfield trios of all time. The timeless brilliance of Luka Modric at 36, the Kroos control via his elite passing and Casemiro’s impeccable screening presence were major catalysts in Real Madrid’s league win. Luka still ran his legs off and was heavily influential in every phase of the game — scoring belters from outside the box and carrying the ball out of pressure
No one recorded more passes into the final third (11.4) and progressive passes (8.71) than the German in the league (among players with a minimum 900 minutes played). Casemiro’s 2.35 tackles won per 90 puts him at sixth best in the league. The young duo of Fede Valverde and Camavinga proved decisive as well and brought different elements to Madrid’s midfield.
Valverde offered impeccable ball carrying and pressing while Camavinga’s unfazed nature and ability to speed up the tempo with his touches and his pressing were both integral in the league journey.
Alaba and Militao’s partnership
Arguably the biggest change going into the 2021-22 season for Madrid was the CB partnership. With Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos both leaving in the same window, Madrid’s CB options looked pretty bleak on paper. Alaba’s arrival and seamless settlement into the team while Militao delivering on his potential resulted in making the transition look effortless.
Apart from a few games, Militao looked flawless in his defending. His box defending and aerial ability dealt with a lot of danger inside the penalty box. He provided good coverage for the right back to push up. His long ball switches were a great weapon at times for Madrid to kickstart an attack.
Alaba’s influence on Madrid’s buildup phase was crystal clear. He was the main outlet to bring the ball out from the back till the halfway line before using his brilliant passing skills to break lines. His crossing and general attacking tendencies also saw Madrid clinch important points away at Barcelona. Although aerially susceptible, Alaba’s impact on the team was a major positive beyond the defensive fundamentals. His constant communication at the back and barking orders saw him emerge as a leader at the back.