Despite having some serious concerns, Real Madrid currently leads LaLiga after seven Matchdays. Aside from defensive depth issues, particularly at fullback, the overall defensive structure has been suspect and can be exploited by better teams. Moreover, despite scoring a league-high 21 goals, Real has struggled to score against quality opponents Real Betis and Villarreal.
Despite this, they are first, outperforming their xG by nearly nine goals. That may not be sustainable, but they also have two of Europe's most in-form players in Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema. Those two players have been outstanding to begin the season, but who else has played a significant role in Real Madrid's first-place start in LaLiga under Carlo Ancelotti?
1: CF Karim Benzema
I always list Karim Benzema as a center-forward rather than a striker because I want to emphasize how much he contributes to the team in ways other than goals. Of course, goals are the most important thing for Real Madrid. Real would not be first without his league-leading eight goals, and they would not be first without his league-leading seven assists.
Attacks often begin with Benzema and end with the Frenchman. A total of 15 goals and assists in seven matches is ridiculous, and it is safe to say that no one in the world is playing at a higher level right now than Benzema.
2: Vinicius Junior
Vinicius Junior is not far behind Karim Benzema as the most in-form player on the planet right now. Certainly, he has been the second-best player in LaLiga to Benzema, and he is tied for second in the league with goals with Real Sociedad's sensational Mikel Oyarzabal. He has five at the moment.
Vinicius has been more assured and composed in front of goal. Vini's erratic steps and overthinking cost him in 2020-2021, but he has projected a commanding aura to begin 2021-2022. The Brazilian left winger has frequently come through for Real Madrid, proving the difference, for example, at the Mestalla with a goal and a delicious cross to help Los Blancos win a tough match.
Vini outperforms his xG by nearly two goals in 2021-2022 after being Real Madrid's most suspect finisher in 2020-2021. That isn't as impressive as Benzema's +4.9 xG overperformance, but it is when you consider that Benz usually outperforms his xG, whereas Vini was squandering chance after chance just months ago.
Vinicius has demonstrated that this is no fluke. His improved goal-scoring performance is due to a new mindset that will serve him well. He is developing into a true Real Madrid star, and he is already fulfilling his destiny by assisting Real in reaching first place with his individual quality. Vini provides so much more than goals in terms of energy and chance-creation. Defenders can't keep up with him charging at them.
3: GK Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois has been the best goalkeeper in LaLiga over the last two seasons after overcoming a rocky start at the Santiago Bernabeu. When Los Blancos won LaLiga in 2019-2020, the Belgian superstar won the Zamora Trophy, but he's somehow reached new heights to begin 2021-2022. It's frightening to think that Courtois is actually improving for Real Madrid, because it was difficult to see how he could improve after that fantastic second half of the 2019-2020 season.
But take a look at the numbers. In all competitions, Courtois has a save percentage of more than 85%. No Madridista will ever forget his performance as Man of the Match against Inter Milan. The score says Real Madrid defeated Inter 1-0, but we all know that without Courtois' heroics in goal, this would have been a 4-1 loss.
Even against Villarreal, Courtois made several saves to keep Real Madrid in the game, resulting in a 0-0 draw. Courtois has proven to be a reliable pair of hands in front of goal, making reflex saves, stifling counters, and saves that send the ball to safety time and time again. And his command of the back line has grown stronger with each passing season.
Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema have been instrumental in Real posting the league's most effective attack, but without Courtois, none of that goal-scoring work would be worth anything. Courtois has scored the same number of points as the forwards in the league and Champions League.
4: CB David Alaba
David Alaba is a recent addition to Real Madrid, whereas the first three men on this list have been with the club for at least three seasons. Nonetheless, Alaba appears to be just as "at home" as his teammates. In most matches, Karim Benzema wears the armband, but Alaba has been just as vocal and commands a lot of respect from his teammates.
Of course, this is not by chance. Alaba is the captain of the Austrian national team, which is in the midst of another successful run. And he was a world-class left back and center back for Bayern Munich, winning trebles and dominating the Bundesliga year after year.
Alaba, a model of consistency, has brought the same level of professionalism to both positions at Real Madrid. After beginning the season at left back, Alaba has settled into his expected role at center back, putting in some world-class performances, most notably in Saturday night's clean sheet draw with Villarreal.
Alaba's game reading is unrivaled, and his ability to influence build-up play is equally impressive. It was a contentious decision to let Sergio Ramos leave the club and replace him with Alaba, but Florentino Perez appears to have been vindicated in his decision to give the younger Alaba a big contract. Because I don't believe there is a single Madridista who would change the way things played out this summer.
5: CB Eder Militao
Finally, we have another central defender. It feels strange not to select a midfielder, given how important Fede Valverde and even super-sub Eduardo Camavinga have been. However, with Casemiro struggling, Toni Kroos injured, and Luka Modric unable to shine as brightly due to the situations of the other veteran midfielders, Eder Militao is given the nod.
Of course, he isn't in fifth place as a consolation prize. No, Militao has been outstanding in his own right. He was magnificent in the Champions League clean sheet against Inter, shutting down one of the world's most dangerous strikers, Lautaro Martinez. Militao was equally impressive against Villarreal, and he also made a couple of key saves in a win over Valencia.
Eder Militao has proven that he can play at the highest level at center back in both LaLiga and the Champions League. While not as skilled as former left back David Alaba, the young central defender is completing 91.1 percent of his passes in league play. And he isn't afraid to contribute to the attack by attempting a longer pass or even testing the goalkeeper with a header. Alternatively, volley.
With his brilliance to close the 2020-2021 season, Militao demonstrated that he can be the future of Real Madrid's defense, and he has essentially picked up where he left off in the current campaign. Real would not be first without his and his partner Alaba's efforts, as these two men have overcome numerous defensive issues at the fullback and midfield positions to ensure Los Blancos remain unbeaten in LaLiga.
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