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Evolution or Revolution – Real Sociedad

 

Evolution or Revolution is a new series from Stats Perform looking at which teams need only a few tweaks ahead of the 2020/21 season and which require a fundamental reboot. After a great start to the season, Real Sociedad fell away after LaLiga restarted earlier this year. Vanessa Marina looks at the key areas where Sociedad must address in order to challenge for the Champions League places this year. 

By: Vanessa Marina

Off To A Flying Start

Up until matchday 27, played in March 2020, Real Sociedad’s performance improved on that of its previous seasons. Only once in their previous 13 seasons had the Basque side collected more points at this stage of the competition (48 in 2017/18) and only in one of their previous 17 seasons they had conceded fewer goals (32 in the 2018/19).

Real Sociedad Points After 27 Games - LaLiga

SeasonPlayedWDLFAPts
2003/04278811313832
2004/05279513343932
2005/06278415355128
2006/07273915193618
2010/112711214384435
2011/12279612303733
2012/13271287443444
2013/14271278483943
2014/15278910303633
2015/16279711363834
2016/17271539423848
2017/18279612494833
2018/19279810323235
2019/20271449453346

At this stage in the season, only Barcelona (18) and Real Madrid (16) had won more games than Sociedad (14) in LaLiga and only these sides had scored more goals (Barcelona 63, Real Madrid 49) than the Basque team (45).

Real Sociedad were one of the best teams in attack. Seven teams had taken more total shots after the opening 27 matchdays in LaLiga than Real Sociedad (312) but the txuri-urdin had the third-best shot conversion rate (14.4%), after Barcelona (18.3%) and Valencia (15.4%).

At this stage of the season, Real Sociedad were one of only five teams with a positive difference between goals and expected goals (xG), highlighting their clinical goal-scoring edge.

xG Differential Up To LaLiga Matchday 27

Team  Goals  Expected Goals  Difference
Barcelona6348.214.8
Getafe3731.55.5
Real Sociedad4539.85.2
Valencia CF3834.33.7
Granada CF3331.31.7

LaLiga’s Stoppage Slows Real Sociedad’s Momentum

But Real Sociedad performances dropped significantly after LaLiga restarted in June. They only scored 11 goals in the last 11 matchdays (fewer than 12 other teams in the competition) and their shot conversion rate dropped to 9.4%.

After the restart of LaLiga, Real Sociedad’s attacking averages dropped across the board. One of their goals next season will be to improve the consistency of their offensive output.

Sociedad Pre v Post Lockdown Form

PeriodGames PlayedGoalsGoals/GameTotal ShotsShots/GameShots On TargetShots On Target/Game
Pre-Lockdown27451.6731211.561073.96
Post-Lockdown1111111710.64393.55
Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Huge Dependence On Mikel Oyarzabal

Mikel Oyarzabal was a key piece for Real Sociedad in LaLiga last year. He was involved in 21 goals this season (10 goals and 11 assists), more than in any other LaLiga term. Only one Spanish player was involved in more goals in LaLiga 2019/20 than Mikel Oyarzabal (Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno: 23, 18 goals and 5 assists).

Oyarzabal’s role was important in the opening 27 LaLiga 2019/20 matchdays but it was especially key after the competition restarted.  The Basque player was involved in 14 of Real Sociedad’s 45 goals in the first 27 MD (31.1%) and in seven of the 11 Real Sociedad’s goals post-lockdown 11 matchdays this season (63.6%).

Indeed, since LaLiga restarted in June, only Lionel Messi provided more assists (9) than Mikel Oyarzabal (5). It is clear that while the performances of his teammates dropped off considerably post-lockdown, Oyarzabal stood up to be counted.

But will Oyarzabal be able to replicate these numbers next season or will Real Sociedad have to look for other resources? Only Messi had a bigger positive difference between his assists and expected assists (xA) in LaLiga 2019/20, suggesting Oyarzabal has his teammates to thank for some excellent finishing that boosted his assist numbers.  With that said, Oyarzabal maintaining this level of goal involvement will be key for Real Sociedad.

LaLiga - Expected Assists Differential

Player  Assists  Expected Assists  Assists - xA
Messi, Lionel2113.97.1
Oyarzabal, Mikel115.75.3
Suárez, Luis82.85.2
Moreno, Rodrigo72.84.2
Modric, Luka73.43.6

Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Dealing With The Loss of Martin Ødegaard

Martin Ødegaard has been an important piece in Real Sociedad this season. How will the Basque team deal with his departure?

Ødegaard scored four goals and provided six assists in LaLiga 2019/20. Aside from Oyarzabal, Ødegaard was Sociedad’s chief creator and ball progressor. His 0.14 expected assists per 90 led the team, and he was involved in 40 chance creating carriers, the fourth highest in the entire league.

Not only this but he attempted 221 passes into the final third (only Mikel Merino attempted more belong the Real Sociedad’s players).

Real Sociedad signed David Silva over the summer with the Spaniard returning to LaLiga ten years after his move to Manchester City. He may be the Ødegaard replacement in the Basque side. Silva has provided at least seven assists in each of his 10 seasons in Premier League and Sociedad will be hoping that there a few years left in the legs of the diminutive Spaniard.

David Silva All Time Premier League Stats

Season Goals  Assists  Passes Into Final Third  
PL 2010/201147180
PL 2011/2012615212
PL 2012/201348246
PL 2013/201479197
PL 2014/2015127213
PL 2015/2016211169
PL 2016/201747241
PL 2017/2018911245
PL 2018/201968172
PL 2019/2020610110
Stats Perform Verdict: Revolution Required

Review other pieces in this series:
Arsenal
Manchester United
Manchester City
Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City
Leeds United
West Brom
Fulham
Barcelona


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