They trail neighbours Atletico Madrid by two points and after their recent humiliation against Barcelona, are already six points behind the Catalan juggernaut. The white handkerchiefs were being waved after that defeat, but is it fair to pin the blame for Real’s current slump on Rafa Benitez or do the problems lie elsewhere?
SportsMatrix examined the data to see what has fundamentally changed in the way Real Madrid have played in the first 12 games of this season under Benitez, compared to how they performed under Carlo Ancelotti (2013-14, 2014-15) and under Jose Mourinho in his final two seasons (2011-12, 2012-13).
The data reveals that Real Madrid have adopted a more passive approach to their play, something which is apparent in both the attacking and defensive statistics.
When it comes to attacking effectiveness Real Madrid have declined under Rafa Benitez, averaging fewer goals per game (2.17), than under both Ancelotti and Mourinho (2.9); this despite Real Madrid averaging more shots per game (19.6) under Benitez, than under his predecessors (Ancelotti 18.8, Mourinho 18.7). But there has been a clear decline in quality of Real’s shooting, with the percentage of on-target shots down from 42.5% under Ancelotti and Mourinho to 39.2% under Benitez. The quality of chances created has declined significantly, with a higher percentage of gilt edged chances coming under Ancelotti (2.5%) and Mourinho (2.3%) compared to Benitez (1.7%); suggesting that despite their best efforts, the Real Madrid players have struggled to break down opposition defences this season.
Another parameter revealing a more passive approach is number of fouls committed under Benitez (10.5 per game), compared to Ancelotti (11.3) and especially Mourinho (13.1). This is reflected in Real Madrid’s regained possessions as a percentage of their opponents’ actions. Under Benitez they regained possession from 6.27% of their opponents’ actions, compared to 6.66% under Ancelotti and 6.56% under Mourinho.
Defensively the one statistic to improve under Benitez is goals conceded per game (0.92), better than both Ancelotti (1.0) and Mourinho (0.98); although perhaps this is thanks to outstanding goalkeeping performances from
Keylor Navas; because Real have allowed their opponents to create 20% more chances under Benitez than under Ancelotti and 57% more chances than under Mourinho. Likewise, under Benitez, Real’s opponents’ averaged 12.5 shots per game, compared to 11.5 under Ancelotti and only 10.85 under Mourinho.
A lack of pressing from Real Madrid when their opponents have the ball is another tell-tale sign of this lack of aggression. When Mourinho managed the club, almost 15% of opposition actions ended with possession being lost; under Ancelotti this fell to 11.7% and under Benitez only 10.5% of opposition actions end in a loss of possession.
One final statistic reveals that since the start of the season Real have allowed their opponents to perform on average 9.4% more actions in building their attacks than under Carlo Ancelotti and 12.3% more than under Jose Mourinho.
This change in style may be intentional or could be because Benitez is being let down by his players; either way it is unlikely that the gap between Real Madrid and Barcelona will be allowed to grow much bigger before action is taken.