Four reasons behind Real Madrid’s historic double
What does the Data Say?
A Stable and a Cohesive Core
The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Karim Benzema form an impressive core — one which has been at the club for more than 5 years now and has overseen 3 Champions League Trophies in 4 seasons.
For a club habitually determined to buy one Galáctico after another, it’s been a distinctly settled side over the past three years, and that has created great relationships between various players across the pitch.
Taking account of this, we can see that Real Madrid have the least Year-on-Year starting 11 turnover in the whole of Europe, or in other words, their starting 11 players have been at the club for about 4.84 seasons on an average. This is the highest in all of Europe’s Top 5 Leagues.
Squad Management & Rotation
“ It was tempting to adapt Bill Shankly’s famous quote; There are two great teams in Madrid — Real Madrid and Real Madrid reserves ”
— Sid Lowe
Zidane managed to continue what he started last season and laid heavy emphasis on rotation so much so that 21 players accumulated 1000 minutes played in all competitions, which is unprecedented. This was more than any of their direct league and European competitors.
This can be illustrated by the contrast in the starting XIs away at Sporting Gijon and against Juventus in the Champions League, with minimal effect on performance. Only Sergio Ramos and Isco started in both games. Another point worth noting is how replacement players seamlessly integrated into Zidane’s larger tactical system. It can be said that every player had an iconic moment or two, last season.
Zidane’s Machine — Grit, Resolve, Away Performances And Stunning Comebacks
Through the course of the season, Real Madrid scored in each of their 52 games which included a 40 match unbeaten run spanning 4 different competitions.
We saw a preview of this team’s resolve last season against Wolfsburg in the 2015/16 UCL Quarters when the team came back from 2–0 down to win 3–2.
More of that continued this season — Real Madrid earned 18 points through comebacks in the Liga. All in all, Real Madrid scored 20 goals after the 80th minute mark from a position of dropping points — which is mightily impressive.
Real Madrid’s Away Dominance is another aspect which needs to be highlighted. Los Blancos registered 47 points from away games, the highest for any team in 6 years. Indeed, their away form beat their home form by a point — And more importantly Barca’s away record by 5 points (who had outperformed Real Madrid at home by 2 points). Real Madrid also outscored its home form by 10 goals (58 vs 48), which is again remarkable.
It’s worth noting that in both the instances (11/12 and 16/17) when Real Madrid won the league in the Messi Era, its away form outperformed its home form.
All in all, looking at the sheer amount of comebacks and the impressive away performances, it can be said that Zidane has instilled grit and resolve in this squad where it manages to flourish in the face of adversity.
Ronaldo’s evolution Part 4?
Come at the king, you best not miss.
— Omar Little
Zinedine Zidane came up with a plan in August to protect a 32 year old Ronaldo for important games. Zidane thought it was futile sailing through September & October only to struggle to reach the finish line in May, as he had done in the previous few seasons.
Zidane managed to convice Ronaldo of potential benefits considering his age — Ronaldo was rested quite a bit at the end of the season, in order to save him for UCL games and subsequent League Games.
And he duly delivered with 16 goals in his final 11 games, most of them in the UCL Knockouts. It can be seen that this is the first season that Ronaldo really ‘missed’ games because of rotation — rather than through injury.
Another aspect which needs to be lauded — His away performance in the League — which incidentally is in line with Real Madrid’s exceptional away form. He scored an away goal every 74 minutes he played as compared to 137 minutes for a home goal. A remarkable reversal for a player who was often criticized for ‘stat-padding’ his goals tally against weaker opposition at home.
Much has been said about Ronaldo’s role change to a ‘final third’ player from his previous stints as a playmaking forward playing on the wings. Comparing his positional heatmap from 3 seasons back to this season’s — we can see that he has occupied a far more Penalty Box hovering Central Role.
Although, this change has been gradually observed since the 2014/15 season, it seems like he completely embraced his role last season. His Shots Per Game Ratio, last season, was at its lowest ever — implying a striker trying to be more ruthless up front while receiving lesser of the ball reducing the scope of blasting unassisted shots off target, like in previous seasons.