How does Real Madrid compare to last season? Are they worse than a year ago?
Is Ancelotti really doing such a bad job? Or are there more factors to the huge 12 point gap in LaLiga?
Football seasons are like parallel universes. You step out of the TARDIS and everything appears the same - the street signs, the people, the buildings, the weather - but there is something not quite right, not like before, back in our universe. Are those traffic lights blue? Are they putting the cheese on the outside of the sandwich and the bread in the middle? Is Donald Trump actually President of the USA? And is that ex-Brighton defender Bruno Saltor on the touchline at Stamford Bridge?
The same happens in football. As mentioned, Bruno is the new Chelsea manager, but Tuchel’s also gone to Bayern and Potter might go to Leicester. Football shakes things up so often, even Frank Lampard at Manchester City actually happened.
Real Madrid’s poor league form
In Spain, Real Madrid currently sit 12 points behind FC Barcelona, who have gone from the sublime to the Simeone in their pursuit of the title this season. This year, something has shifted in the intangibles: how did they go from league winners to having Atlético Madrid on their tail for a Champions League place? And what about Barça? is the answer simply that they’re just really good?
After 27 games of the 22/23 season, Real Madrid’s numbers are so similar to last years’ that I actually thought about questioning the computer skills of the boffin that put the graphic together, before the more intelligent half of my brain said to leave it. There are 0.14 points difference between the two season, and Madrid have even scored one more goal.
Scarily similar numbers
It’s staggering how similar the numbers are from last season to this: even possession is only split by less than 2%. Shots are up by just 2.6%, and they only have one clean sheet less than last term. Ancelotti’s training gear switch is the biggest difference; he’s wearing black and purple instead of black and blue. Ah, and then there’s the difference in LaLiga.
So, what’s wrong? Why are Madrid 12 points behind FC Barcelona?
If we look at FC Barcelona’s numbers, here we do see a difference between the two campaigns. And, if you look closely, there is one huge change: Barça have kept TWENTY clean sheets this season, compared to just 7 from last year, already beating the record set by Deportivo La Coruña in 1993/94 (16). Their shots are the same, more or less, as are the big chances.
But in defence, with Mar-Andre Ter Stegen between the sticks, Barça have been relentless: an opposition team has not scored a league goal against them from open play at Camp Nou all season (Joselu’s penalty and Ronaldo Araujo’s own goal are the two that they have conceded).
Xavi is finally working his magic at Barça
Xavi’s philosophy of maintaining possession in a 4-3-3 - with 4 midfielders and Lewandowski plus Dembélé/Raphinha - is working in LaLiga to score enough goals to see them through with a fantastic rate of 1-0 wins. They are past their record of 1-0 wins in the league (7 in 44 games in 1986/87 and 7 also in 42 games in 1995/96 and 1996/97, according to Opta) and Laporta’s levers with Christensen and Alonso look especially astute at this stage.
FC Barcelona take on Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday 5 April at 3p.m. ET, 12p.m. PT and Carlo Ancelotti’s side will be looking to overturn a 0-1 deficit that Barça inflicted on them in the first leg. Another one-nil, another step closer to victory for Xavi. And perhaps we’re not actually in a parallel universe, it might just be that Barça are really good.