Reliance on teams' top goalscorers of La Liga clubs
Much of the Madrid media last week was focused on one issue - what length of ban Cristiano Ronaldo would get for his red card at Cordoba the previous weekend. La Liga’s disciplinary committee opted to be generous, to say the least, imposing just a two game punishment, meaning Ronaldo is free to play in next Saturday’s derby at Atletico Madrid.
Of Madrid’s 68 La Liga goals so far this season Ronaldo has scored 28 and assisted nine. But his Real Madrid teammates did not miss him when winning 4-1 at home to Real Sociedad on Saturday. Gareth Bale notched a personal season best of 10 shots without adding to his 10 league goals to date, while Karim Benzema’s double strike took him to 11 for the season, and ensured three points for the Primera Division leaders. However the Ronaldo brouhaha again raised the issue as to which teams in La Liga are most reliant on their main attacker.
Lionel Messi showed his importance to Barcelona by playing a part in all three goals in their thrilling 3-2 win over Villarreal on Sunday night. Of the blaugrana side’s 57 La Liga goals so far this term, Messi has scored 22 and assisted 10 - making him look marginally more important to his team than Ronaldo is to Real Madrid. However Barca also have Neymar [15 goals and four assists] and to a lesser extent Luis Suarez [two goals and eight assists] contributing significantly up front. Both also contributed in their own ways to the comeback against Villarreal.
The weekend also saw Atletico Madrid’s first choice front pairing contribute handsomely to their 3-0 win at Eibar. Antoine Griezmann’s opener took him to 11 goals in his first season for Los Colchoneros, while Mario Mandzukic’s brace means the Croatian has 10 so far in his debut campaign in Spain. Such figures mean that despite Fernando Torres’ Copa del Rey exploits, the returning Atletico fans hero remains mostly a reserve in La Liga. So the three title challengers are all well covered in attack. But what about those challenging for the remaining Champions League spot?
Fourth placed Sevilla decided to rest key attacker Carlos Bacca at home to Espanyol, due to a busy fixture list, and almost paid for it. At 2-2 with time running out coach Unai Emery sent on the Colombian, who set up the winner for teammate Iago Aspas. That meant Bacca has now scored 12 and assisted 4 of Sevilla’s 32 goals. Aspas' strike was well taken, but was his first in La Liga all season. Fellow forward Kevin Gameiro, now sidelined, has just two in 12 appearances [10 off the bench] and Sevilla’s top four hopes appear reliant on Bacca keeping his form going.
Fifth placed Valencia’s away struggles continued with a 1-0 loss at Malaga on Monday evening. However the way Nuno’s side share the attacking burden around looks a likely advantage. Five of Los Che’s squad have tallied at least six goals and assists combined this season: Paco Alcacer , Dani Parejo , Pablo Piatti , Rodrigo  and Sofiane Feghouli . Alvaro Negredo has just two goals and two assists but should improve on that tally now that he is back to full fitness. This all-round threat bodes well for their chances of Champions League football next season.
Next placed Villarreal are also far from reliant on one main attacker. Top scorer Luciano Vietto has scored 10 and assisted 2 of his side’s 35 goals in all in La Liga so far. Main creator Denis Cheryshev has the same total , made up of eight assists and four goals. Creator Moi Gomez has four goals and three assists, Ike Uche has five goals in La Liga, while youngster Gerard Moreno has mostly played in the Europa League and Copa del Rey - where he has nine goals in eight appearances. Again having so many in-form attackers bodes well for the rest of the Yellow Submarine's season, especially with battles ongoing on all three fronts.
Last year Athletic Club shared the goals around well as they finished fourth, but the Basque’s drop in creative effectiveness has seen them slip well down the table this term. Athletic now lean very heavily on centre-forward Aritz Aduriz for goals. He scored both in Sunday lunchtime’s 2-0 win at Levante, the Basque side’s first victory since November. The 33-year-old has now has scored seven and assisted two of his team’s 19 goals in La Liga, despite regular concerns over his fitness. Their next top scorer is centre-back-cum-defensive midfielder Mikel San Jose with three. If Aduriz misses many more games through injury, Los Leones could well get sucked into the relegation battle.
Athletic’s struggles this season can be contrasted with other teams who are not so reliant on just one player for goals. Eibar are sitting pretty in eighth in their first ever season in the top flight, and have joint top scorers in Federico Piovaccari and Mikel Arruabarrena, with just five each. The emphasis on everyone contributing was summed up by the Ipurua outfit’s first eight goals in the Primera Division being scored by eight different players.
Other over-performers where everyone mucks in are Malaga, with Javi Gracia’s well-balanced side managing to sustain a push for Europa League qualification despite top scorers Samuel and Nordin Ambrabat having just four goals each. Rayo Vallecano, in 11th, also have two players with an equal total of goals so far - Alberto Bueno and Leo Baptistao have seven each. 10th placed Espanyol have three regular scorers – Christian Stuani , Sergio Garcia  and Felipe Caicedo .
Of all the 20 Primera Division teams, Elche look the most reliant on just one player. Centre-forward Jonathas, who arrived at the financially-stricken outfit last summer with the help of third-party investors, has been a huge success. Of Elche’s 18 goals this season, the Brazilian has scored eight and assisted five. He was suspended last weekend, and his team unsurprisingly drew a blank while being beaten 1-0 at Granada. The 25-year-old looks sure to be in the top-flight next year, but if he misses many more games Elche surely will not.
Over-reliance on one scorer could also be a big issue for Real Sociedad. La Real attacker Carlos Vela has scored seven and assisted two of their 18 goals in La Liga, but is now out for two months after a knee operation. David Moyes will have to rely on Imanol Agirretxe - and he has found the net just twice in 16 La Liga games this season. Next in line is Icelandic striker Alfred Finnbogason, who has zero goals or assists in 14 La Liga appearances [albeit 10 coming as a sub].
Moyes reportedly wanted to bring in more attacking talent during the January transfer window, but was eventually unable to do so. In recent years the txuri-urdin also had Griezmann sharing the load up front. But now, without Vela, La Real could well slip right into the relegation battle. For most teams in La Liga, that’s what happens when most of your eggs are carried in one attacker’s basket.