Never has a team epitomized a coach more than Atletico Madrid and head coach Diego Simeone. On the pitch, Simeone was a fierce competitor, with a fantastic will to win. That is what his Atletico team have always been like, until this season that is.
Problems in attack
This season they have remained defensively solid, with the second-best defence in La Liga. However, they have lacked the attacking thrust of previous editions. Atletico has always been a team that ground out wins under Simeone, rather than producing free-flowing attacking football.
They produced results by being watertight in defence and hitting teams on the break. French forward Antoine Griezmann was the perfect forward for a team like Atleti, who needed a mobile and quick frontman. His summer exit to Barcelona wad controversial and bitter. However, it is proving more costly than anybody ever thought it would.
Los Rojiblancos have scored a meagre 22 times in 21 outings in the Spanish top-flight this season. That scoring tally is bettered by 14 teams in La Liga. That is incredible to think that such a good football team is struggling so badly in attack.
Morata and Felix not combining
Atletico knew that it was only a matter of time before Griezmann joined Barcelona in the summer. With that in mind, they broke their club-record transfer fee to sign Portuguese wonderkid Joao Felix from Benfica. For a club not accustomed to spending that sort of fee, the £113million splash on the youngster was a massive gamble.
Although he was scouted by many top European clubs, Atletico put their money where their mouth was in actually meeting Benfica’s asking price. After a bright few opening games, Felix has gone off the boil. Like any 20-year-old, he is still learning his trade, but there was huge expectation surrounding him on arrival.
There is talk from Spain that he is not being utilised in his best position. Arguably he is not an out and out striker and more of a player who plays off the main striker. That should work for him playing alongside Alvaro Morata, who is a more old-fashioned centre forward.
However, for some reason, the pairing has just not hit it off. Without much goal threat from elsewhere in the team, understandably Atletico has struggled to score goals. That has led to far too many draws this season, which were games they probably would have won in seasons gone by.
Doubts over Simeone for the first time in his Atletico career
Diego Simeone is one of the most respected head coaches in the world game. He has taken Atletico back to the top of the football tree and kept them fighting on a competitive basis for a long time. In reality, he has overachieved and sometimes people forget where they were prior to the Argentinian’s arrival at the club. However, for the first time on his career as Atleti coach, there are murmurs of discontent over Simeone’s management of the team.
There is even talk that the club’s hierarchy has looked at possible replacements for Cholo. This sounds ridiculous, but that is the nature of football. If a team is not playing well it must be the head coaches’ fault and he is sacked.
Simeone should not be immune from criticism, like anybody. However, surely, he is in enough credit with the club’s hierarchy and fans to be given slightly more time to turn things around.
Atletico are still one of the favourites to finish in La Liga’s top-four at odds of 4/11. That was always going to be their only real objective this season, as it is very much a transitional season with so many changes of personnel at the club.
If Simeone is to stay in his job, then he must find a system that gets the best out of Morata and Felix, before it is too late for him and Atletico.
Can Diego Simeone find a way to get more goals out of his team?
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