Real Madrid have been called a lot of things by a lot of people over the years, but goal-shy is certainly not one of them. During the ‘galatico’ era they played by the simple rule of ‘score more than the opponents’, whilst even when they have not won titles, they have always found the net.
This season though things appear to be very different indeed. Jose Mourinho might have helped them to garner six points from six in the Champions League, but one thing he hasn’t done is turn an attack-minded squad into a goal machine.
Indeed, one needs to look no further than their last two games to see that in the final third, Madrid are struggling. Against newly-promoted Levante at the weekend they looked toothless and failed to find the net even once, whilst again Auxerre last night they left it until the last ten minutes to snatch a win.
Perhaps more interesting than the goal crisis itself is the fact that Mourinho’s arrival seems to have had a wholly negative effect on Gonzalo Higuain, a player who last season was scoring from angles and finished second top-scorer in La Primera.
So far this campaign the Argentine has found the net just once in the four matches he has played, a remarkable statistic considering the fact he is spear-heading an attack that possesses such mercurial talents as Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo.
With Higuain far from his best the responsibility of scoring has fallen mainly to the aforementioned players, with Di Maria and Ronaldo scoring half of the six goals Madrid have netted in the league this season.
Whilst it is hard to pinpoint exactly what has happened to Higuain, it does not take a genius to work out that his supposed striking partner, Karim Benzema, is far from content at the moment.
The Frenchman failed to make a mark in his first season in Madrid colours and this time around he is struggling even more to impress the fans, with most of his appearances so far this year coming from off the bench.
Reports in the press have suggested that Benzema is not at all happy with this role and whilst the relationship between him and Mourinho appears to be alright at the moment, it will be interesting to see how it develops this year.
Higuain and Benzema aside, it has also been a tough start to the season for Ronaldo who, despite a whopping 58 shots on goal in the seven games played this season, has managed just two goals, one of those from the penalty spot.
The Portuguese star has oft been criticised for not passing the ball enough and with the statistics showing his goal to shot ratio at 1:29 this campaign, his team-mates probably have a right to be slightly frustrated.
Despite the fact that between themselves Madrid have scored just nine goals from 159 shots though, there is a positive to be taken from the first seven games.
Just as surprisingly as the fact that they have failed to find the net regularly is the fact that they have also managed to keep their own net relatively well protected; conceding just one goal in the league this season.
This remarkable defensive solidarity is certainly the main reason they are keeping pace with the front-runners so far but the true tests will come when they face the likes of Barcelona, Valencia and Atletico, all of whom are far from shy in front of goal.
For now though the capital club have a couple of easy looking fixtures ahead of them and they will no doubt be hoping that by the time the big guns roll around, Higuain, Benzema and co. will be firing on all cylinders.