Real Madrid 2020-2021 Quarter-Season Report Card: Thibaut Courtois

Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images) /
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How has Thibaut Courtois done through the first eight Real Madrid matches of the 2020-2021 season?

Real Madrid currently sit fourth in the league table after eight matches, obtaining exactly two points per match. It hasn’t been an ideal start to the campaign, and Real are stumbling into the November international break with injuries, coming off a 4-1 drubbing at the Mestalla.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was La Liga’s leader in clean sheets last season and the consensus best keeper in Spain’s top flight, ahead of stiff competition from the likes of Aitor Fernandez and Jan Oblak.

This season, Courtois has registered a clean sheet in fewer than half of his appearances. He’s also outside the top 10 in goals allowed per 90 minutes, according to FBRef.com.

So statistically speaking, it hasn’t been a banner year thus far for Courtios. Yet those stats hide the simple fact that Courtois has been let down badly by his defense. The right back position has become a problem spot since Dani Carvajal’s injury, and left back isn’t much better when Marcelo starts over Ferland Mendy, as he did against Valencia. And at center back, only Sergio Ramos has been playing up to his standard.

Thibaut Courtois has outperformed his expected stats

It’s telling that while Courtois is outside the top 10 in goals allowed per 90, he is seventh in the league in save percentage (76.9). In fact, out of all the players ahead of him, only Elche’s Edgar Badia is on a team averaging more goals per 90 allowed. And since Badia’s average is at 1.14, it’s basically a wash.

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Courtois is being let down by his defense. And if any one La Liga game can encapsulate this fact, then it is the loss to Valencia in which Real Madrid surrendered a hat-trick of penalties to Carlos Soler. Of course, those defensive issues popped up several times in other matches, such as the Champions League loss to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Real’s back four has to be embarrassed with the quality of chances they allowed, exposing Courtois’ goal to clear-cut opportunity after clear-cut opportunity without captain Sergio Ramos in the side.

A careful analysis of the statistics backs up what Madridistas have seen play out in front of their very eyes this season.

Courtois has played well, but the once-wonderful defense in front of him has shockingly failed to do the same. Hence why Courtois is no longer one of La Liga’s top leaders in goalkeeping statistics.

Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois
Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois (Photo by Baldesca/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

For Courtois, the key is to continue to make big saves and keep his head up, in case the defense doesn’t improve. The advanced stats show that Courtois has been above-average in terms of expected goals allowed from the shots at him, but he is 9th out of 22 qualifying La Liga keepers in this stat. And that means that while Courtois is not an issue, he can still afford to step up in his own way as well.

The concern with Courtois is rarely ever about shot-stopping, but rather about confidence and on-the-ball work. In the latter case, Courtois has actually improved this season. No, he isn’t graceful on the ball, but he’s been mistake-free despite facing some venomous presses to start the 2020-2021 campaign.

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As a whole, Courtois hasn’t been elite for Real Madrid as he was last season, but he’s still been very good, especially when you look at some of his performances to start the 2020-2021 season.

Final Grade: B, 7.5/10