Real Madrid maintained their flawless record in La Liga, registering five wins in five games this season so far. Carlo Ancelotti’s side stood strong coming up against the challenge of Imanol Alguacil’s Real Sociedad and another former Real Madrid player, Takefusa Kubo.
Goals from Fede Valverde and Joselu in the second half were enough to come back from a goal down to secure the win. ‘Los Blancos’ have collected the joint-most points from losing positions (nine, tied with Liverpool) across Europe’s top five leagues this season. Summer signing Joselu continued his hot streak at home, scoring in both home games this season.
Bellingham’s goalscoring streak came to an end but the English midfielder came agonizingly close to scoring and his ability to get into good positions inside the box is the most valuable and sustainable asset, unlike the scoring streaks. His movements suggest a high degree of repeatability in his goalscoring output.
Let’s take a look at some of the key numbers and performances from this game.
Madrid’s pass network is one with very good connections between all players with no player being isolated. Toni Kroos (#8) and Aurelien Tchouameni (#18) held the ground in the middle in a double pivot. It’s interesting, however, to note Fede Valverde’s (#15) positioning and proximity to Dani Carvajal (#2).
For Real Sociedad, Takefusa Kubo (#14) was the furthest forward player and La Real did try to find him fairly frequently. Alguacil’s side were able to move the ball around fairly well around Madrid’s block.
One interesting tactical wrinkle from the game was the dynamics on the right hand side of Madrid’s attack. We have seen Madrid benefit from the dynamism of Valverde multiple times in these scenarios in the past. The Uruguayan combines well with plays, facilitating Rodrygo’s inside movements by moving out wide.
Valverde addressed this specifically in his post-match comments, highlighting the interchangeability with the Spanish fullback:
Fede, on his tactical interchangeability with Carvajal: "When Dani goes up I go further back. Joselu and Rodrygo go more inside"— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) September 17, 2023
A quick look at their touchmap and territory map from the game we can notice how Valverde’s touches come close to the touchline and we can also note a greater volume of touches inside the field from Carvajal higher up the pitch. This is only possible due to Valverde holding the width in these situations.
Valverde’s dynamism is invaluable to making the tactical scheme at Madrid work with their narrow starting 4-4-2 diamond formation. The burden of providing width in such formations falls heavily on the fullback. With Valverde, Madrid can throw a curve ball at the opponent with these dynamic positional interchanges.
Speaking of width and fullbacks, we have to talk about the game-changing performance of Fran Garcia.
Fran is a bundle of infinite energy. Despite getting beaten and struggling to put a lid on La Real’s exploits in the first half, the 24-year-old was the catalyst of Madrid’s comeback in the second half. His relentlessness is incredible, he offers a lot of running into space and trying to put the ball in.
It was his running that produced the opportunity for the pullback and his incredible crossing ability to put an inch-perfect ball into Joselu to score from. These final deliveries played into his improvement in the second half. Defensively, he gets stuck in and likes to engage which can be a double edged sword at times. He was taken off in the 74th minute mark after picking up a yellow card but the youngster has been a breath of fresh air going forward with his final balls and unending energy.
“Players always score or assist against their former side” is one of the most unoriginal storylines in football but it’s true. In fact Madrid have conceded three goals in La Liga so far and a former Madrid player has had a hand in every single one of them. Kubo impressing was no surprise given his performances this season.
The Japanese international assisted La Real’s opener against Madrid and caused a lot of problems, especially in the first half. He started with a wide right position before coming inside and onto his dominant left foot and breaking lines with his vision. He got the better of both Fran Garcia and Kroos at times and his ball carrying was effective to a devastating degree. He created four chances for his teammates in the game and could have even picked up a goal with his amazing outside the box shots.
His three goals and one assist in five games is a testament to the leap Kubo has taken in terms of his development. However, him fading away in the second half was also a little nod to his streaky nature. He is unplayable in his purple patch and at the moment he is in one but his sustainability of these performances over the stretch of the season will be key in his potential Madrid future.