Whilst much has been made of Mesut Ozil’s form in recent weeks, with the lack of a winter break seeming to be the cause of choice, his former club Real Madrid have not struggled in finding a replacement.
When Real Madrid unveiled Gareth Bale to hoards of fans in a packed out Bernabeau, there were chants of “don’t sell Ozil” from the crowd. However, following the signings of Bale and Isco in the summer, Ozil was deemed surplus to requirements by Madrid, opening the door for a £42 million move to Arsenal.
At the time there were more than a few surprised fans around the world, with Madrid seeming to have let go one of the best number 10s in the world, whilst Arsenal had actually spent big and unveiled a marque signing of their own.
Isco started brightly, with 5 goals and an assist in his first 7 games in the capital, it seemed that a natural replacement to Ozil had been found. However, his impact has waned somewhat since then, only starting a further 10 league games, scoring 4 more and adding 3 more assists.
These are particularly impressive figures, and are akin to those Ozil got in his last season in Madrid (9 goals, 13 assists) in considerably more games, but such is the competitive nature of the Real squad, especially in terms of attacking talent, that they have not been good enough to nail down a regular starting position under Ancelloti.
Instead, Ozil’s replacement is perhaps an unlikely source: Luka Modric. Signed for over £30 million from Spurs two years ago, Modric failed to make any real impact in his first year in Spain, scoring just 3 goals and creating 3 goals. However, he is now one of the first names on the Real team sheet.
Modric has quietly got on with life in Madrid, although he took his time to adjust he is now back to the form we once saw at Spurs. Whilst Modric has scored less goals than Isco, only registering 1 in the 19 La Liga games he’s started this season, in terms of creating chances his statistics are better. Modric has provided 6 assists so far this season and also has a superior pass accuracy (90% compared to 88%) than Isco. In fact Modric has the second highest pass accuracy of any Real player to have played over 10 games, only Arbeola has better passing, and as a defender his passes are generally safer than those Modric plays.
Defensively, Modric has boasts superior statistics as well, that is in part due to his ability to play as a deeper play maker. Modric makes an average of 2.4 tackles per game, more than twice as many as Isco (1.1) and also makes an average of 1.6 interceptions per game, again more than Isco (0.6).
Winning the ball high up the pitch is invaluable in the modern game, and that’s why Modric is such an important asset to Real and why he’s playing ahead of Isco. With Ancelotti shifting to a 4-3-3 in recent weeks that defensive contribution has become all the more important.
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored
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