A new season brings with it new challenges and new goals, and after much deliberation Real Madrid kicked off their 2022/23 LaLiga campaign at the Power Horse Stadium in Almería with an unexpected level of difficulty.
Almería took an early lead and it was up to Lucas Vázquez and David Alaba, two of the team’s more unlikely goalscorers, to turn the tie back around to seal the victory to start the season on a high.
Here are three stats which help us understand the game:
6: The amount of LaLiga matches since a Real Madrid comeback win
Coming from behind to win is almost second nature by now. Last season, 20 points, or 23.3% of Real Madrid’s LaLiga total, came from comebacks where Ancelotti’s side came from behind. This season’s tally now already stands at three points.
Since Ancelotti’s return, this mental strength and belief has become a common theme. Last season’s Champions League run featured several historic comeback wins, and already this season, the theme seems to be continuing.
Any Madridista would prefer not to be going behind six minutes into a clash with a newly promoted team, but Almería were Segunda champions and had a raucous crowd behind them. Ancelotti and his team guided through the rough seas to find a way to victory in challenging circumstances.
The win was perhaps unsurprising given that Ancelotti has only suffered defeat in the opening game of the season once in 26 years as a coach, and this win was his 10th consecutive season with a victory in the first game.
It was another trip to Andalusia when Real Madrid last came from behind to win having been 2-0 down at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán against Sevilla. This time, Almería posed a very different challenge but the team rose to it.
That time, the win got one hand on the LaLiga title for Real Madrid, and already this weekend, it has allowed Real Madrid to open up a two-point lead over their rivals Barcelona. The season is a long one, but the statement and manner of this comeback victory could prove as significant as the three points come the close of the campaign.
0.08 - xG per shot for Real Madrid
There was a sense that nothing would go in at some points in this game. Los Blancos recorded an incredible 29 shots, averaging one every 3 minutes and 27 seconds.
The issue came in that many of those chances were low quality chances, with shots from distance and tight angles. That is reflected in that the xG per shot for Real Madrid in this game was just 0.08.
For context, last season’s average was a higher 0.12 and Real Madrid’s pre-season recorded an average 0.11 xG per shot. That reflects that Real Madrid were getting into better positions to have attempts on goal, where they were more likely to score from.
That was only 0.01 more than Almería’s 0.07 xG per shot, and half of their 10 attempts on goal came from outside the box. That was no major concern, as it was also lower than last season’s average of 0.11 xG per shot against, but does reflect that, despite the scoreline, Almería were struggling to provide a real threat on Thibaut Courtois’ goal.
An additional point was the performance of Real Madrid’s talisman, Karim Benzema. This game meant that, for the first time since September 2020, Benzema underscored his xG. With 1.24 xG and no goals, this game was the first in which Benzema has underscored by 1 xG or more since a game against Osasuna in April, but that was only the second time that it happened across the whole 2021/22 campaign.
36% - Aurelién Tchouaméni’s duel success rate
Only Eden Hazard recorded a lower duel success rate (winning one out of four) in his 36 minute cameo than the Frenchman who was a surprise pick in the lone holding midfield role, and that reflected in the youngster’s struggles to put his stamp on the game.
With only 11 duels throughout his 58 minutes of action, with a 36% success rate, he was some way off of Casemiro’s average of 22.29 duels per 90 with a 57.1% success rate. In fact, Tchouameni was way off his usual average of 20.48 with a 55.2% success rate. This was a quiet and subpar LaLiga debut from Tchouaméni, and that had an impact on Real Madrid’s inability to control the game and build fluidly from the back.
That was also reflected in that Real Madrid’s three most frequent passing combinations which involved Ferland Mendy and Toni Kroos, Mendy and Vinícius Júnior and then Lucas Vázquez and Fede Valverde. Rather than providing the link between defence and midfield, the game rather passed Tchouaméni somewhat and his influence was minimal.
Antonio Rüdiger and Nacho behind him were far deeper than David Alaba and Éder Militão often tend to be behind Casemiro, and it meant that Tchouaméni often found himself isolated.
It is too early to be worried by a performance like this. Tchouaméni is yet to adapt to Ancelotti’s system and this was a new and rotated line-up, unlike any which he has played in during pre-season.