Welcome to the Real Deal Report, your spot for incisive Real Madrid analysis.
On this edition Sid looks at Real Madrid’s finishing to start the season.
Last week’s report
Who’s Running Hot? Who’s Running Cold?
Mehedi setup rolling xG visuals for us, so we can now see how players are performing relative to expectation in a really neat way:
After a cold start to the season, Rodrygo is back in form. Looking at his finishing over the years:
- Good runs of finishing at the beginning of his Real Madrid career and at the end of the 21/22 season, including the Manchester City comeback.
2. One large slump last season, another this season.
3. Back in form now, though still 1 goal behind his season total of xG (8 goals from 9.1 xG). The encouraging thing is that Rodrygo is getting into enough good positions for a solid 20 goal season.
Seeing the way Rodrygo has regressed to the mean reminded me of Vinicius’ growing pains. Here is his chart for comparison:
Vinicius scored less than he should’ve for years, before an incredible 21/22 and 22/23. Ever since his goalscoring has just about been in line with expected goals for the past two seasons, like the vast majority of forwards in Europe.
Joselu has been inefficient at Real Madrid so far despite getting better service than at his previous stops - 6 goals from 8.7 xG - but based on his career he should bounce back.
As you see here, he finished slightly above expectation at both Alaves and Espanyol:
The one who’s running extremely hot right now is Jude Bellingham. It’s been a dream start for the English youngster, who looks mature beyond his years. He was hot at one point last season, but this level of efficiency is new even for him:
Jude is outpacing even the most optimistic expectations.
On a team level, Bellingham is allowing the team to weather a difficult start to the season defensively.
Over the past 5 seasons, chance creation peaked when all 4 of Benzema, Vinicius, Fede and Rodrygo were fit and firing under Ancelotti. Notable that the defense peaked under Zidane and is struggling this season.
This ties into the finishing discussion we had during our last episode. Madrid have had a really difficult slate of games, but are also giving up a large volume of chances in a way that won’t sustain if it continues against weaker opposition:
Top of the table after having played the most difficult schedule to date, Real Madrid are betting favorites in La Liga.— The Real Deal (@RealDealPods) November 29, 2023
But the defense is giving up 1 xG a game, a lot for a title contender.@alifakharany on why forecasting Real Madrid is tricky. pic.twitter.com/MUYd3i9obq
Even without Courtois, the team is conceding less goals than expected. Some of that is luck and some of that is Kepa and Lunin playing really well:
On a team level, the offense has also been scorching hot in front of goal for a lot of the season (largely thanks to Jude). The encouraging thing here is that the offense is getting better from a chance creation perspective as well:
The Evolution of Federico Valverde
The world’s best swiss army knife, Fede took a huge leap receiving the ball in more dangerous zones offensively in 21/22 and 22/23 (4.13 and 4.96 progressive receptions p90) compared to a less aggressive 20/21 (3.27).
This season, he’s sitting deeper again (3.48 receptions p90).
Defensively, Fede is a juggernaut:
3.85 tackles + interceptions p90 in 20/21 (inflated by a lesser role, but among the best in Europe).
3.07 in 21/22
2.05 in 22/23 (off-pitch issues)
3.23 this season. Also clearing balls twice as often in this deeper role.
Even in this deeper role - taking on more touches and responsibility in the defensive and middle third than ever before this season - Fede manages to join the attack.
Non-penalty xG and xG assisted p90 by season:
0.31 in 20/21
0.16 (only!) in 21/22
0.39 in 22/23
0.33 in 23/24
Fede is also averaging a career high in progressive passes and carries per game this season. He is currently at a career high in short and medium passes completed, as well as short and medium pass completion rates, indicative of his increased and improved usage in buildup play.
Career highs in buildup passing, ball progression and ball carrying. Still contributing offensively, just less than as a pure right winger. Back to being elite on defense in the metrics; tackling and clearing the ball more than ever in new role as a ‘safety’ at the back.
This is peak Federico Valverde. One of the best midfielders in the world, capable of dominating any matchup in any circumstance.
Can Atleti Finally Beat Barcelona?
Look at Atleti’s non-penalty xG and xGA - rolling half season average, starting with 2019/20.
This is the best Atleti’s offense has ever looked under Diego Simeone, scoring more goals this calendar year than most teams in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
In contrast, this is the worst Barca’s defense has looked since Xavi took over. Offensively, the sudden drop-off since El Clasico is visible at the end:
Barcelona have traditionally dominated this matchup, but the most attacking Atleti in years should be enough to give them issues.
We discuss Barcelona’s issues and more on our latest episode: