Vinicius crucial for El Clasico after revelling in Real Madrid responsibility

By Sports Desk October 15, 2022

Fresh from winning the Champions League last season, Real Madrid stand unbeaten across all competitions in 2022-23, earning 11 wins from 13 matches.

Safe passage to the knockout stages of Europe's elite competition for Carlo Ancelotti's side comes alongside fine form in LaLiga, where Madrid sit second, only behind arch-rivals Barcelona on goal difference.

Neither have lost domestically this season, though Barcelona's endeavours in the Champions League have been somewhat less impressive, leaving the situation delicately poised ahead of Sunday's El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The time of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi shining in the fixture has long since passed, so the stage is set for the headlines to be grabbed by a new star and Madrid will look to Vinicius Junior to provide the edge.

Leading the line

With Karim Benzema's injury issues this season, Vinicius has stepped up to score seven goals and register three assists in all competitions, with a total of 10 goal involvements being the highest of any member of the squad.

Firmly established as one of the first names in Ancelotti's line-up, Vinicius has started all but one of Madrid's games this season, coming off the bench in Tuesday's 1-1 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk, with a total of 1079 minutes ranking him highest in that regard – missing just 91 minutes of Los Blancos' entire season.

Reliability in the final third has also been key, with Vinicius boasting 68.8 per cent shooting accuracy, behind only Dani Ceballos, and a 17.1 per cent conversion rate – the highest of any Madrid player with at least 30 attempts, while also significantly higher than the team average of 9.1 per cent.

Vinicius is also above the average for players across Europe's top five leagues in all competitions for those with at least 30 attempts this season, which stands at 15.4 per cent, and is high above team-mate Benzema, who has a conversion rate of 9.1 per cent.

Threat lacking substance

With the ball, Vinicius consistently puts the opposition under threat. The 22-year-old boasts 45 dribbles completed this season, sitting way ahead of his team-mates in that regard, with compatriot Rodrygo ranking second (16).

Vinicius also lays claim to the highest number of take-on attempts across Europe's top five leagues this season (70) but a success rate of 36 per cent is the third-worst for players with at least 50 attempts so far this term.

Often, Vinicius' take-ons lack a decisive impact, with only one resulting in a goal and an expected assists (xA) of just 0.03 in that regard. Only twice has a take-on seen Vinicius drive into the box, showing that the areas where take-ons are completed are not generally in positions to influence the game.

Improving in that area would likely result in an increased total of goals and assists, which may propel his numbers to be comparable with the highest calibre of players in Europe.

Core involvement

While Vinicius still has areas to improve, the influence of the Brazilian upon the Madrid squad is telling. No member of the squad has been involved in more sequences resulting in goals than Vinicius (7, tied with Aurelien Tchouameni), and he is also involved in more attacking sequences than any other player (352).

That shows Vinicius is involved in most of Madrid's attacking moves this season and displays the influential role he has, with the capability to improve even further if he increases his output in front of goal.

The absence of Benzema does affect that, though, with Vinicius creating 20 chances this season, tied with Toni Kroos for the most among Madrid's squad, and two assists. On five occasions, Vinicius' passes into the box have led to a high expected assists value, though the subsequent chances have not been taken.

While the lack of a central striker to take those opportunities has not affected Ancelotti's side so far this season, it is in the bigger games, like against Barcelona, where it could have a negative impact upon the final result.

Vinicius has stepped up in Benzema's absence but cannot provide the same impact in front of goal from his wide-left position, needing a central player to fill those gaps. With Benzema set to be available against Barcelona, it could be bad news for Xavi's side.

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