Taken at face value, Santiago Solari’s Real Madrid project is going swimmingly. With a 2-0 win over Valencia in La Liga on Saturday, the coach has six wins from seven games in all competitions.
The Argentine is balancing the ship which was sinking under Julen Lopetegui and the European champions have scored 19 goals during his reign, conceding just five.
With just one blip, a bizarre 3-0 defeat by Eibar on November 24, Solari’s brief reign has thus far been a roaring success when it comes down to facts and numbers. Madrid have qualified for the Champions League last 16 as group winners, and although they are fifth in La Liga, sit provisionally just three points behind league leaders Sevilla.
The Santiago Bernabeu saw some encouraging signs during their victory over Valencia, with Dani Carvajal in particular impressing.
The right-back has recently returned from injury and looked fit as he tore into Valencia down the right, an attacking threat which Los Che could not handle.
It was Carvajal who forced the opening goal, with his cross headed into his own net by Daniel Wass.
And the defender surged forward in the move that led to the second, finished by Lucas Vazquez.
The Spanish winger was another impressive performer, building on his goal against Roma on Wednesday in the Champions League with another here, showing energy and grit.
And Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who excelled in the Italian capital, had another evening to be proud of, repelling anything that came his way.
But that Courtois needed to be at his best highlights a big problem for Madrid - their porous defence.
Solari’s side dominated in the first half, albeit in part due to Valencia’s extremely limited showing, enjoying what has become for them a rare comfortable half of football in the Spanish top flight.
However they were unable to add another goal to back up their control and when Valencia found the courage to attack after the break, suddenly Madrid were on the ropes.
The visitors created a string of inviting chances which could have seen them not only level but move ahead of the hosts, were it not for profligate finishing and Courtois.
Santi Mina, who has been in good form recently, blazed over the bar when sent through on goal, while Gabriel missed from close range at the back post.
Courtois produced a phenomenal save to deny Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi after he was played in, leaving the Chelsea loanee in disbelief.
Eventually Vazquez grabbed the second for Madrid which made the final minutes more comfortable, but on another day they could quite easily have thrown the game away.
While the victory suits Real Madrid just fine, along with the general change in momentum since Solari took charge, nobody should be fooled - they are still riding their luck and have a long way to go.
At least the coach gave midfielder Isco Alarcon an olive branch, bringing him on for the final 13 minutes after reports the pair have been at loggerheads.
Isco, whom Solari left out of the squad to face Roma, was bright after coming on, showing he has not downed tools despite the fractious relationship he has with his boss.
Given Madrid’s defensive fragility Solari would be wise to get the playmaker onside, because until he can sort out the back-line, Los Blancos will have to keep coming up with goals to outscore opponents who will be more clinical than Valencia.