Real Madrid: Who should start at RW heading into 2021?

Real Madrid, Lucas Vazquez (Photo by Stanislav Vedmid/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Lucas Vazquez (Photo by Stanislav Vedmid/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have three players who could conceivably start at the right wing position, but who is the best option?

Before the 2020-2021 season started, Marco Asensio looked like the locked-in option to start as Real Madrid’s right winger. He was brilliant in the summer after returning from an ACL tear, scoring three times in Real’s pursuit of a 34th league title.

However, Asensio has been Real’s most disappointing player this season. He still has no goal contributions in 825 minutes across all competitions. Asensio has more minutes than Rodrygo, but the latter has five goal contributions. Per, Asensio is 10th on the team in xG, and only Vinicius Junior is underperforming his xG by more than Asensio’s -1.4 mark.

Zinedine Zidane needs to give Asensio every opportunity to bounce back, but in the biggest matches, he needs to pick the best possible player. And until Asensio gets out of his slump, he is not the best man for the job. The numbers paint the picture of a player who is wasteful and not creating chances either. There are 11 players with more shot-creating actions per 90 minutes than Asensio.

Two of those players are direct competition for the right wing position in Madrid. In fact, those two players are literally second and third in shot-creating actions, behind only world-class midfielder Toni Kroos – the leader in virtually every significant passing statistic.

Lucas Vazquez has been one of Real Madrid’s top chance-creators

Vazquez has created 4.03 shots in 2020-2021 thus far across all competitions, and that’s a fact made all the more remarkable by where he’s played positionally. Vazquez has made 8 of his 13 starts this season at right back due to injuries to Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola, acquitting himself at the position well. But now that Carvajal is back, Vazquez has been Real’s starting right winger lately, putting together a shutdown performance in front of Carvajal against Atletico Madrid and Joao Felix last weekend.

Rodrygo, meanwhile, is third in shot-creating actions per 90 and first in goal-creating actions. He is the team’s leader in assists, and only Karim Benzema is averaging more goals and assists per 90 minutes.

The 19-year-old is more of a left winger than a right winger, and the former should be his long-term position. It’s just tough for him to get minutes on the left with Eden Hazard and Vinicius Junior in the squad. But as my colleague Hridyam Arora recently wrote, Rodrygo could get minutes on the left whenever Hazard is out and Zidane decides to go with a more in-form option than Vini. Although Vinicius played well against Athletic Club, he was in a slump before that, and Zidane may not always have Vini play through those slumps.

Rodrygo has been most productive off the bench, too, which means Vazquez could very well be the best option at right winger with Asensio struggling for form. Vazquez’s crossing has hit the mark, and his chance-creation statistics are indicative of the influence he’s had on the attack. Whereas his poor touches, decisions, and deliveries made him ineffective in 2019-2020, he is playing some of the best football of his career right now. And of course, his running and defensive contributions make him an additional asset.

dark. Next. The 5 players Real Madrid should have never sold

So right now, Vazquez is the No. 1 guy, and Rodrygo is right behind him as a strong bench and rotational option. Asensio needs to get on the pitch to get back in form, but if we’re talking about the ideal starter at this very minute, it is, maybe surprisingly, Lucas Vazquez.