Real Madrid under Zinedine Zidane are probably meant to be a very good team. Now that isn’t just because of how they won the Champions League thrice and a La Liga title once, but because of how they’ve come leaps and bounds this season. Last season wasn’t exactly the best, but Zidane has shown that he isn’t just a manager who wins trophies.
There was this perception about Zidane when he had won the Champions League on three occasions. It was that Zidane is only a manager who can win trophies with a team that he’s been given by previous managers. He obviously had the foundation to win things with the team that he had in the past. But this season has shown that he’s much more than that.
But this season has been proof of improvement. Multiple stats show that.
XG per 90
As per Understat, Real Madrid’s XG per 90 last season stood at 1.8 under Santiago Solari at the end of the campaign. Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure had an impact and chief creator Isco was clearly underperforming.
But this season, their XG per 90 stands at exactly 2.0- a sign of how the club’s attacking output has increased. While Eden Hazard is currently injured and slowly coming back, he has made a statement in multiple games. Isco is having a much better season and Karim Benzema is firing on all cylinders.
The inclusion of younger players like Vinicius and Rodrygo Goes is paying dividends too.
Last season, Real’s tally of goals conceded per game was at 1.2. This season, they have the best defence in La Liga, having let in only 13 goals in the division. As a result, their goals conceded per game tally is at an impressive 0.59.
A well-functioning midfield has been helping out a well-oiled defence. Casemiro has been crucial and it was evident from how the club lost to Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey recently. But the emergence of Federico Valverde has been key too.
Shots taken from inside the box
The closer the shot is from goal, the higher it is likely to end up in the net. As per Whoscored, last season saw Real take only 0.8 shots per game from inside the box. That certainly reduces the likelihood of scoring and leads to a lower XG.
But this season has seen that tally rise to 1.2 under Zidane. There is much more cohesiveness about they play. It can root from how the players are familiar to Zidane’s flexible approach to the game.
More aerial duels won
Defending stoutly in the bigger games was a feature of Real under Zidane previously. One of those features was to be dominant aerially.
Last season, Real won only 13.1 aerial duels per game in the whole season. This season, that tally has increased to 16.4. And that shows an increase in the quality of aerial duels and maybe a return to the old Zidane style has brought this reliance back. And Real thrive on it.
When Real Madrid won the La Liga in the 2016-17 season, they had embarked on an impressive 16-game unbeaten run in the league. This season has seen them embark on a 13-game long unbeaten streak in La Liga. That has been their best run in the league since the 2016-17 season. And that is probably the biggest sign that things might just be returning to normalcy once again.