El Centrocampista

La Liga by Numbers: Reflections on a record breaking start in the Spanish top flight

Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

After enjoying its annual winter break Spanish top flight football makes a welcome return tonight as Real Betis travel north to take on Real Zaragoza at La Romareda. With just 17 games having been played so far, La Liga has already thrown up some fascinating statistics and a number of clubs find themselves in positions that were far from expected at the the start of the current campaign.

Is the La Liga race over?

According to Jose Mourinho and Diego Simeone the title race is already over, with Barcelona going through the motions until they take the crown back to the Camp Nou after a one season absence. Despite Tito Vilanova’s side having made a record breaking start to the season, reigning champions Real Madrid are just as culpable as they look to have relinquished the title just one season after wrestling it from the Catalan giants.

It has been a frustrating season for Mourinho’s side and most people have been left puzzled over just what has gone wrong for los Blancos.  Well, one big reason could be the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t scored in Madrid’s four defeats this season, despite taking 27 shots.

The inaccuracy of Ronaldo this term has clearly hurt Madrid. The Portuguese star has taken 39% of Madrid’s shots during their defeats, while he has taken 36% in the other games. Even though his percentage of shots haven’t been a big factor, his accuracy has, as his percentage of shots on target is 37% during Madrid’s defeats and 45,36% in the other games.

Nonetheless, Ronaldo is not the only player to blame. After 19 game last season, Madrid scored on average one goal every 5,40 shots while so far season, they are scoring every 8,17. Apart from Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuaín, Karim Benzema, Jose Maria Callejón and Angel Di Maria all have inferior averages of goals per shot this season than last year.

Even Mesut Ozil, who has scored four goals so far compared to the zero he scored at the first half of last season, is not without blame as he produced nine assists last term compare to the three he has produced so far this season. Interestingly, Di Maria who contributed 13 assists by this stage last season, has made just one this campaign.

However, it is obviously not just about Madrid’s failings, it takes two to tango and Barcelona have clearly been imperious so far this season. Andres Iniesta leads La Liga in assists with 10 while Cesc Fabregas is a close second with nine. And of course there is the mercurial Lionel Messi who in the first 19 games last season scored 22 goals, while he has already notched 26 this time around.

Barca’s shooting accuracy has also been exemplary so far. At this stage last season, the Catalans scored 14% of their shots, while this year they have scored 25% and 48% of their shots on target. All enough reason to hand them a commanding 16 points lead over their bitter rivals from the Bernabeu, and also nine points over second placed Atlético.

Interesting individual stats and figures

La Liga has also produced great individual performances this season with a number of players playing at the height of their capabilities. Malaga’s Willy Caballero has been the best goalkeeper in the Spanish top flight, conceding just 12 goals and managing nine clean sheets. In fact Caballero has saved an impressive 82,26% of the shots on target he has faced.

Hugo Mallo has been one of the best defenders so far in La Liga, with the Celta full back leading the league in tackles with 79 and also interceptions plus tackles with 115. Alejandro Arribas of Osasuna leads the league  in clearances with 124, and also in attempts with 189.

With four goals and seven assists Óscar González has had a direct participation in an impressive 47,83% of Valladolid’s goals this season – the best of any non-striker in the league. Former Valencia striker Aritz Aduríz has the best percentage among all players on this front, having participated in 57,14% of Athletic’s goals this term.

Cristiano Ronaldo leads La Liga in shots with 124 and also in shots on target with 54. Víctor Rodríguez has made 45,45% of Zaragoza assists this season – leading the league in this category. Surprisingly, his teammate Helder Postiga heads the league in fouls with 50. Wakaso (Espanyol), Beñat (Betis), Sapunaro (Zaragoza) and Damiá (Osasuna) all lead La Liga in yellow cards with nine.

Ronaldo leads the league in games scoring at least one goal and an assist with three, while Fabregas is the only player who has recorded two or more assists in three games this season. Messi has had 12 games with at least two goals and has played only four games without scoring.

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