My piece for the Bootroom on Atletico’s Time Going to An End
It wasn’t supposed to go like this. The progress Los Rojiblancos have built up in the last few seasons has seemingly ground to a halt in 2016/17.
Diego Simeone’s introduction as manager in 2011 culminated in an impressive rise for Atletico Madrid. The team that has Barcelona and Real Madrid looking over their shoulders domestically, and European clubs hoping to avoid them at all costs, is no longer an immovable object. Some of that is down to the struggles of a change in style this season coupled with a lack of form of key players. The fact that La Liga has been extremely competitive this season is another reason.
Atletico are currently six points off the pace in La Liga and have played one game more than the league leaders, Real Madrid. They are in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey and the Round of 16 in the Champions League. This has become the norm for Atletico under Simeone, but the club might be on the tail end of a good run.
Rumours and speculation continue to surround Simeone and the club’s star man, Antoine Griezmann, as time goes on. The future doesn’t seem particularly set in stone, especially after ESPNFC reported on the shortening of Simeone’s contract and Griezmann’s comments about playing club football with his good friend Paul Pogba. The club, players and otherwise, would surely have been affected by those actions.
Simeone has forged this team into perennial contenders and this may just be an off year. If the club comes up empty for a second season running, after five seasons with a trophy, then the two big names may head to greener pastures. They may do so even in the event they do grab silverware and there would be no better trophy to leave with than the Champions League.
Atletico has little chance of reeling in Real Madrid at this stage unless there is a monumental collapse. The Copa del Rey will add some gloss but leave an even deeper sense of missed opportunities elsewhere. It’s in the Champions League that Simeone and his side have unfinished business.
While Atletico stumbled early on in La Liga they were perfect until it no longer mattered in the group stages. The home win over Bayern Munich was typical of this side and a reminder of the approach that resulted in two trips to the Champions League finals in the last three seasons. Teams will still fear facing Atletico during a two-legged tie and the road to Cardiff begins with familiar opponents in Bayer Leverkusen. Griezmann is rounding into form with three goals in three games to start the year after a barren spell in December.
There is no clear favourite in the competition currently, though Real Madrid will likely get the nod given their recent streak. It is still unknown how Zinedine Zidane will react to any period of real adversity, and that period will come at some point this season. The other big guns, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, have faced their own struggles this season and Atletico will feel confident enough given their performances against that duo already this season. It’s hard not to see them stifling the likes of Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City as well.
If Simeone decides its best to hold off on plans to introduce a more fluid, forward-minded Atletico to grab the silverware that has eluded him he must do so quickly. Atletico can gain some steam with a decent schedule in the league coming up, along with Eibar in the Copa del Rey. Should they get knocked out of the Copa then the quest for Champions League glory increases tenfold. Jan Oblak, a key part of the club’s defensive fortitude, could return in time for the tie against Leverkusen.
Atletico will be heading to a new stadium next season, per ESPNFC, and there would be no better way to celebrate that than with a Champions League trophy in hand. They might be without their two biggest stars, Simeone and Griezmann, but arguably the biggest trophy available would convince them to stay. Third times the charm Atletico.
From the top down Atletico have progressed exponentially. I didn’t realize Peter Kenyon was helping them as well. The signing of Gaitan would be one more step in their attacking evolution. I hope Atletico can keep this up
Agreed. I really hope the final will be a spectacle with these two teams fully fit and firing. Atletico Madrid can finish one of the best UCL campaigns in a while, having already beaten two teams favoured to win the entire competition ahead of them, and could add the third with Madrid. Madrid could add further gloss to an illustrious history with an impressive 11th title.
It’s definitely a good start to the summer for Atletico if they continue to lock up any more contracts as needed. If the rumoured Edinson Cavani move comes through then that may well be the difference for them next season.
What Atletico has done while dealing with the turnover they have is quite impressive. For those who think Real Madrid will be the favourites in the Champions League final, think again. Atletico has won or drawn every match since basically the 2013/14 season, aside from the Champions League final of course. They’ll probably do it with the defense again but as one of the articles said, that’s not what they’re all about. I do think they could still be better against the weaker teams, as some of their really tight games show, but then the defense gets them through it. The results are all that matter in the end.
Agreed. Barcelona may not be doing much resting after today’s game though, as they only have La Liga to think of. The two Madrid teams have a lot to think about with Champions League games on the horizon.
It will be such a fascinating tactical battle between these two sides. Atletico may even be favorites considering what they did to Barcelona. It will be a tight tie from start to finish.
Nobody can do what Atletico does at such a high-level. The organization, intensity and intelligence in their defending is fantastic. Have to give credit where its due. Sometimes it’s annoying to see 10 men all bottled in and around the box but it’s up to the opposition to beat it and Atletico’s is tough to beat. I still think that they won’t go up a level without a consistent and elite attacking threat/more expansive play, as the PSV tie showed how much they can struggle. Still takes nothing away from the defense.
And another piece of mine on Atletico Madrid and Their Problems in Attack
Atletico Madrid fans will breathe sighs of relief upon seeing their club return to the Champions League quarterfinals once more. This is Atletico’s third consecutive season appearing in the quarterfinals, adding strength to their growing claim as one of Europe’s best teams.
It took more than three hours for Atletico to breach PSV Eindhoven in their Round of 16 clash. That moment came in the form of Antoine Griezmann‘s penalty in the penalty shootout. Atletico, the favorites to progress, never truly lived up to the billing in either leg.
Diego Simeone has, quite appropriately, been praised in many corners for revitalizing the Spanish club. Atletico did the unthinkable in winning La Liga two seasons ago while making it to the Champions League final. The 2014-15 season saw a bit of sophomore slump, but Los Rojiblancos are back again, keeping things somewhat competitive in La Liga and returning to the latter stages of club football’s elite competition.
Despite these successes, the fact remains that Atletico will never be truly elite unless their attacking style improves.
Simeone has built a team in his image. Hard-working, tenacious, passionate, team-oriented and with a never-say-die attitude. Atletico have quality footballers in every department, yet they are still better in the underdog role. Tasked as they were against PSV, with the aim of controlling both games, Simeone’s charges mainly failed to sparkle. There were chances aplenty, especially for golden boy Fernando Torres and new talisman Greizmann, but it never seemed that PSV were ever really threatened. The images of Simeone consistently active and flailing his arms on the sideline, waving the crowd on and yelling “vamos” suggested a manager who could think of little else to get past a well-organized opponent.
Passion, hard work and teamwork can get you so far, but a clinical edge or useful strategy in attack is needed to be truly elite. When the usual avenues, counter-attacks and set-pieces in this case are closed, then a team needs something more. Atletico are still missing that. They are one clinical striker away from being truly feared across Europe. Torres used to be that player, and Griezmann seems to be heading down that path so there is some hope. In the interim, Simeone needs to get his side to the point where controlling games comes as naturally as playing the underdog.
Atletico did not have full control in either leg, and the failure to score against 10-men in latter part of the first leg showcased their weakness. The Spanish side did create chances, but the failure to find the finishing touch almost came back to haunt them.
Simeone does have the tools at his disposal to produce a team that is dominant in both aspects. Griezmann and Torres are backed by the likes of Koke, Saul and Oliver Torres in midfield. All those players possess the unique blends of creativity, skill and vision necessary, and Gabi, too, possesses the ability to play in a more refined manner. Atletico need not alter their hardened mental attributes but further progress requires, well, progress.
It matters little now.
Atletico head into the quarterfinals likely to regain their underdog status given the teams they will face. The majority of teams remaining will prefer to control the ball. That means Atletico can get back to their best, harrying teams that prefer possession and delivering the killer blow when given the chance. Simeone will need to go back to the drawing board when the summer comes, though. Many thought this season would result in a change in style for the Argentine manager’s squad considering the recruits brought in. That didn’t occur, but these two games against PSV, and indeed last season’s tight Round of 16 clash with Bayer Leverkusen, means that process needs to happen sooner than later.
Simeone has gotten his charges to this point by harboring a mentality and style very much in the mold of Simeone the player. Having shared the pitch with the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron and Youri Djorkaeff, among others, he knows there is more his players can do. He will need to add that level of control and creativity to his squad if he is to really put Atletico among the elite.
I still harbor my doubts of a full-on title challenge from this side. I think Diego Simeone is right to be wary. They passed against Sevilla, yes, but lost to Barcelona yesterday after taking the lead. That’s why Barcelona is still ahead. For me, the midfield, unless Koke plays there in a 4-3-3 regularly is a question mark and central defense could become a real issues should Godin or Gimenez get a severe injury.