The Bernabéu classic was extreme in unexpected aspects and in those extreme conditions the symptoms of wear and tear on the last of Real Madrid’s old guard stood out: Benzema (35 years old), Kroos (33) and Modric (37), all in their year contract term. Barcelona resisted walled around Ter Stegen’s area with less ball than ever since Opta began recording the data, in the 2013-14 season. Carlo Ancelotti’s team, blocked without spaces, resorted to another excess: they tried 40 crosses, more than in any other classic since that same season. no fruit He failed to get a single shot between the three sticks, something that had not happened to him at home since at least January 2010.
The uselessness of the crosses into the area points to an anomaly of this season: Benzema has yet to score a header. Since Cristiano Ronaldo left Madrid, the Frenchman frequented the area more and became one of the most prolific headers in Europe: between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons he scored 22% of his headed goals, according to Opt.
This drought for Benzema can be attributed to two factors. On the one hand, his success in the goal, shot last season, has fallen in this one. Penalties aside, the Frenchman is in his second worst scoring season in the League at Madrid, only behind his collapse in 2017-2018, his worst year for white. He then scored 0.13 goals per game, while now he is at 0.45. To find a lower figure in his career, you have to go back to 2006-07, at Lyon, when he scored 0.31 per game.
His aim is also failing him almost as much as in that unfortunate season. Now 32.2% of his shots are on target, while no other course, except that 17-18, fell below 40% accuracy, according to fbref.com records.
This has meant that this season is also the only one, with 17-18, in which he has scored fewer goals in the League than the models predict. The one from Statsbomb calculated eight, but he has only scored six, not counting the penalties.
The other factor that influences the French header drought is more specific. Since Cristiano’s departure, it is the course that attempts these shots the least (0.42 per game), partly because it attacks those hot areas of the area a little less. It is also the course in which he does it with less accuracy: only one out of every four headers goes on goal.
He continues without recovering his best physical point after his limping start to the course, the chained injuries before the World Cup and the painful way in which he was expelled from the French concentration after relapsing. This physical deficit affects his presence near the goal and also his usual participation in creating the game. That minus point of his is also mixed with the increasing energy limitations of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, both starters against Barça, after alternating starts in the two previous games, against Liverpool and Atlético de Madrid.
Several sources with access to the locker room agree that the presence of both on the field at the same time slows down the game after the first few minutes for which the gas still reaches them. They also say that Ancelotti’s tact with the status of the two legends causes him to take a long time to withdraw them from the field. In addition, the rotations to dose their efforts lead to too many changes in the configuration of the midfield, which reduces the stability of the automatisms of a line of the team that sustained the recent successes.
In the classic on Thursday, these limitations contributed to accentuate Vinicius’s desperation on the left wing, where Benzema and Kroos usually fall, and which also housed Nacho, less offensive than Mendy, Alaba or Camavinga. The Brazilian drowned even more in the trap of Araujo and his assistants. His partnership with Benzema, who fired at both last season, suffers and Vinicius is unable to revive it only in extremely narrow matches like the one played by Xavi’s team at the Bernabéu.
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