With good one exercise from their final seven games, a humiliating cup exit, a prolonged injury record and a batch of contemporary avid gamers who’re struggling to assimilate, or no longer it’s peaceable to counsel that Atletico Madrid will no longer be exactly firing on all cylinders as they prepare for their Champions League meeting with Liverpool.
Why has this season, which started with such optimism, gone so putrid for Diego Simeone’s crew?
When Atletico Madrid splashed out 126m euros (£113m) final summer to compose Joao Felix the third most costly player in history, it seemed love a fundamental assertion of intent.
And after the Portuguese teen dazzled during pre-season, scoring as soon as and offering two assists in a important 7-3 thrashing of Trusty Madrid, it looked as even though Atletico were poised to enter a contemporary and thrilling technology of attacking soccer spearheaded by the enviornment’s most proficient teen.
Sadly for the Rojiblancos, the other has transpired. After a intellectual originate, Felix has feeble dramatically, scoring good four wishes in 23 appearances sooner than being ruled out by a hamstring injury on the head of January.
The considerations encountered by Felix sooner than his injury are a peaceable microcosm of the broader considerations facing Atletico: embrace inventive soccer inner the dreary framework of supervisor Simeone’s successfully-known defensive stress?
The finest steadiness has no longer been struck this season, with the crew’s lack of attacking intent mirrored in their paltry total of 25 wishes from 24 league games. They’ve drawn 9 of those encounters 0-0 or 1-1.
It be no accident that the completely Atletico forward who also can very successfully be notion about having a true season is the versatile Argentine Angel Correa, whose qualities owe more to tenacity and grit than technical attributes.
In disagreement, Felix and French winger Thomas Lemar, who’re purported to produce the unpredictable spark of ingenuity in an in any other case workmanlike crew, be pleased most frequently looked fully misplaced, and the crew’s lack of goalscoring possibility has already successfully ended their league title advise after falling 13 solutions in the aid of leaders Trusty Madrid.
The low level of Atletico’s season – and even possibly all the of Simeone’s eight-365 days reign – came in the home of five determined days final month after they offered an alarmingly limp performance to lose 2-0 at lowly Eibar, after which had a come-plump energy side knocked out of the Copa del Rey by third-tier Cultural Leonesa.
These consecutive losses precipitated unparalleled criticism in opposition to Simeone, who stood accused of being too inflexible, too dogmatic, too defensive and general incapable of taking Atletico to the next level.
The followers be pleased mostly kept the faith, giving Simeone loud ovations when his name used to be announced sooner than most up-to-date home meetings with Leganes and Granada. But there were outbreaks of whistled complaints in opposition to the crew’s efforts during those two games, and the overwhelming temper amongst Atletico followers is that one thing must switch if the crew must compete for fundamental titles.
For now, that ‘one thing’ is no longer anticipated to be the departure of Simeone, whose establish as iconic leader stays intact after his transformation of the club’s fortunes since his arrival in December 2011.
In its establish, the man anticipated to compose approach is his prolonged-time and deeply relied on assistant German Burgos, a passe Atletico goalkeeper who has been tipped to pass away in the summer to follow his possess coaching profession and enable Atletico avid gamers to be pleased the aid of a contemporary relate on the practising ground.
It is miles extremely mighty, on the other hand, that Simeone’s suitability to remain to blame is even being questioned – and Trusty Madrid followers satirically latched onto the contemporary insecurity of his establish by chanting “Don’t jog, please protect” on the opposition boss during the most modern derby, which Trusty received 1-0.
From a ferocious warrior to a establish of enjoyable, or no longer it has been a cosmopolitan few months for Simeone.
To be peaceable to Atletico, they be pleased got been confronted by a prolonged record of hurt absentees this season, forcing Simeone to straggle his pack on an practically weekly foundation.
The originate of 2020 has viewed express considerations in assault, with injuries to Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata depleting Simeone’s alternatives and forcing the club into the determined January re-recruitment of talented however inconsistent Belgian forward Yannick Carrasco from Chinese club Dalian Yifang.
Morata returned from injury as a replace in Friday evening’s demanding 2-2 intention at Valencia, and he’s anticipated to originate Tuesday’s first leg in opposition to Liverpool. Costa could perhaps perhaps also be in opponents after returning to plump practising, and the same applies to passe Tottenham good-aid Kieran Trippier, so Simeone could perhaps perhaps no longer be pleased the injuries excuse for a long way longer.
But one other advise to possess in thoughts, and a level often made by Simeone, is that it might possibly perhaps be peaceable to ask Atletico to be pleased a transitional season after present process a turbulent summer, which noticed key avid gamers Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, Juanfran, Filipe Luis, Rodri and Lucas Hernandez all leave.
On many events this season Atletico be pleased fielded a aid four consisting completely of contemporary signings, and that lack of mutual familiarity has led to a indispensable vulnerability in opposition to blueprint-objects. Nine of their 17 wishes conceded in La Liga (a establish that is seemingly to be worthy bigger with out the routine brilliance of goalkeeper Jan Oblak) be pleased come from pointless ball cases.
So Atletico can’t procure, they are able to’t play the ball via midfield and so that they accumulate no longer even secret agent specifically obtain on the aid.
In brief, they’re the weakest they be pleased got been at any level during Simeone’s tenure, and wants to be there for rampant Liverpool’s taking in Tuesday’s first leg on the Wanda Metropolitano.
Or will Simeone dig deep and summon one other managerial masterclass?
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