Real Madrid: Can Vinicius Jr challenge for Pichichi in 2022/23?

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 11: Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the LaLiga Santander match between Real Madrid CF and RCD Mallorca at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on September 11, 2022 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Fermin Rodriguez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 11: Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the LaLiga Santander match between Real Madrid CF and RCD Mallorca at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on September 11, 2022 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Fermin Rodriguez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid has had a sensational start to the 2022/23 season, winning all 9 games they have played across all competitions, prior to the ongoing international break. The team’s talisman, Karim Benzema, had a rough start to the season, as he picked up an injury before he could hit top gear. But the team’s second-best attacker from last season, Vinicius Jr, has taken the responsibility in the Frenchman’s absence and has had a fantastic start to the campaign.

According to stats from Transfermarkt, he has scored 5 goals and assisted 4 more in 9 appearances this season. Unfortunately, his world-class performances have been overshadowed by the fuss around his dances and goal celebrations. Still, the Brazilian’s performances indicate that he has been one of the best players in the world for a while.

The 22-year-old player has shown consistency in his performances apart from just numbers, as he has been influential in the games against Atletico Madrid and Almeria, in which he didn’t score or assist.

But there are some awards, which are purely decided on the basis of the numbers registered by players, such as the Pichichi, the Spanish Golden boot award. Does Vinicius have it in him to do the unthinkable for a 22-year-old, who was criticized for his finishing just over a year ago, and win the prize?

Vinicius does have the ability to win the Pichichi, but several factors will determine how far the Real Madrid star can go

As reported by MARCA, Vinicius is convinced that he can hit 30 goals this season across all competitions. That number is indeed a massive one, but that might not be enough for him to win the Pichichi this season, considering the competition he is facing.

Currently, Robert Lewandowski, Borja Iglesias and Iago Aspas are sitting ahead of Real Madrid’s #20 in the race. These three players have been brilliant this season till now and are expected to continue to score at a regular rate. But these guys won’t be the only competition for Vinicius, as his teammate Karim Benzema, whom he loves to assist, will soon be back in action and it only feels like a matter of time before he enters the race.

Being a second fiddle to Benzema, the winner of last season’s Pichichi award, it is a highly difficult task for Vini to overtake the Frenchman as the chief scorer of the team. But it’s difficult, and not impossible, so let’s explore the slight possibility of the Brazilian being a Pichichi winner.

We would have clearly picked Benzema as a favourite for the Pichichi this season, despite his recent injury, if not for Lewandowski’s entry into La Liga. The Polish striker has been lethal in front of the goal this season, and has 8 goals to his name already.

He is currently leading the race, playing for a Barcelona team that spent a fortune to get back to this position. It does look like he has the edge over both Benzema and Vinicius in the Pichichi race this season due to one simple reason – the mentality of the teams they play for.

Real Madrid is known for their relentless attacking football, but they have softened a bit in that regard and are not scoring in as much volume, happy with getting the three points, unlike Barcelona, who have been ruthless in front of goal this season, dominating almost every team they have come across.

There’s a reason why Real Madrid keeps registering a lot of narrow victories in general. On the other hand, Barcelona’s approach might be one reason which gives Lewandowski the edge.

Let’s keep competition aside for a moment, and focus on some other factors like fitness and consistency. Fitness is important to ensure a player’s continuity in a season, and Vinicius, whose last muscular injury was against Ajax in 2019, is one of Real Madrid’s fittest players. But teams are being more rough and physical in their approach to defending the Brazilian and he is being targeted as the danger man by the opposition. So nothing is really guaranteed over a 38-game window.

Another factor is consistency. Until 2020/21, Vinicius couldn’t show that consistency in front of goal, and there were only short bursts of goal streaks from time to time, with long barren spells in between them.

But 2021/22 was the turning point, as Vinicius became more lethal, and his goalscoring consistency improved tenfold. There were some occasional dry spells, but he continued contributing with assists and goal-creating actions. Even this season, he had a scoring streak for 5 games, which ended with the Madrid derby. These do point out that he has the ability to become a Pichichi winner, but there are some areas where he has to improve, to present a better case for the award. What are they?

First of all, Vinicius isn’t a designated set-piece taker for Real Madrid, and he won’t be one for the next 1-2 seasons at least, if ever. This is something that won’t help his case, but he can cover up for that by working on his ability to score from open play.

The Brazilian is someone who can create chances for himself by making well-timed off-the-ball runs on the blindside of the defence, and also through some unbelievable dribbles. But there might be some games in which he would be marked better and won’t get a lot of space inside the box. In such matches against rock-solid defenses, long-range shooting is something that’ll help him a lot.

Vini did score screamers from distance against Osasuna in 2019/20 and Sevilla last season, but his long-range shooting isn’t one of his strongest traits, and it is an area where he has to work a bit.

Two more things that should be considered by him are being more selfish and taking goals more seriously. One can easily point out from Vinicius’ primary aim on the pitch isn’t to score goals, but to create danger. He gets into creative positions more often than scoring positions. Record scorers have always been known for their selfishness and eye for goal. By selfishness, we don’t mean that the players have kept their personal interests ahead of the team’s needs, but about how players have always shown interest in scoring more and more. It’s more about their hunger for goals.

If you have a look at all of his goals from last season, there have been four braces, one hat-trick, and the rest all are games with a solitary goal. We can usually observe that Vinicius focuses more on dribbling, drawing fouls and creating occasional danger from the left after scoring, rather than looking to improve his tally.

Vinicius is absolutely fantastic in the way he is, but we are just highlighting these points only because we’re talking about him trying to win the Pichichi award, something won by legendary goalscorers.

Coming back to the main question of the article. Can Vinicius win the Pichichi? Yes, he does have the ability to do so. But will he win it? It’s difficult, and there is only a small chance of him winning the award.

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