Atlético observations: Koke’s form and the new Cholismo

The solar did rise once more after Atlético Madrid’s crushing collapse at Valencia. The temperature continues to the touch the mid-80s Fahrenheit in Arizona, even in the second week of November (who is aware of what might be inflicting this, hmm). The season rolls on…after one other FIFA break, in fact, to which Atlético have ceded 13 gamers.

This worldwide break happens at roughly the one-third mark of the 2021/22 LaLiga season, and Atlético sit fourth in the league with a recreation in hand on most groups in the division. The defending champions are doing a little issues rather well, scoring no less than two objectives in seven of the previous eight.

Marcos Llorente, whose 23 purpose contributions helped hearth Atlético to the title final season, has missed most of the season. Thomas Lemar has been injured twice, and Diego Simeone has discovered options to maintain his assault buzzing anyway.

Atleti are doing a little issues poorly, although.

After permitting a couple of anticipated purpose on solely two events over the season’s first 10 video games (conserving 4 clear sheets alongside the means), the rojiblancos have been hit for 12 objectives over the previous half-dozen video games.

A regression from the often-superhuman Jan Oblak has confirmed catastrophic for this protection, the place focus has been a problem — and the place there aren’t any apparent in-house options, given the squad’s imbalance with respect to defensive-minded midfielders or rugged central defenders in the basic Cholismo mould.

This appears pretty much as good a time as any to take inventory of the place Atlético are, and to attempt to get at the place Simeone’s males are heading.

Valencia CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Santander

Photograph by Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Photos

Let’s begin with some good.

I feel there’s a notion Atlético have misplaced its identification this season, the purpose leakage over the previous month exhibiting a group flailing in disarray.

I feel this notion is inaccurate, and that Simeone started actively fashioning the new Atleti — “Cholismo 2.0” — two seasons in the past.

What we’re seeing now, positively and negatively, might be construed as Cholismo 2.0’s remaining form.

Atlético couldn’t purchase a purpose earlier than the remaining week of September. Porto and Athletic Membership got here to Madrid and stored clear sheets, and Alavés had few issues shutting down the champs in a surprising win on Sept. 25.

Since the 1-0 loss at Mendizorroza, Atlético have generated no less than 1.5 anticipated objectives 5 instances from 10 video games and haven’t misplaced once more in LaLiga (although the Levante and Valencia attracts actually felt worse).

Antoine Griezmann’s re-adaptation has been key. (Is it nonetheless bizarre to anybody else that he’s truly come again?) Cholo has made it some extent to mattress Griezmann in to a starkly-different group from the 2018/19 version, when he was the main mild in a inflexible, fragile setup that mainly succeeded or failed primarily based upon his particular person form.

Griezmann has been “recovered,” so to talk, and he’s stored his one-time substitute João Félix on the bench the previous two league video games. The 30-year-old has scored 5 instances in his previous seven appearances — together with an astonishing golazo at Mestalla final weekend that on one other day, possibly in one other season, would have sealed a win.

However this varieties a part of Atlético’s new identification as effectively! Leads aren’t as safe as they as soon as had been. Now not can Simeone lock the door and toss the key into the Manzanares — Atleti should insist, insist, and insist some extra.

Griezmann is performing effectively inside an even-newer Atlético’s stream, lining up currently on the left-hand aspect of a fluid 3-4-3 that morphs right into a 5-2-3 out of possession. The Frenchman nonetheless drops into the midfield line to obtain the ball — however Ángel Correa has joined him on the reverse aspect, which is why the 3-4-3 is profitable from an offensive standpoint.

We noticed this most prominently in Atlético’s convincing win over Actual Betis, a 3-0 romp at a wet Wanda Metropolitano.

Screen Shot 2021 11 10 at 4.02.55 PM

Fairly than persisting with one major level of assault, a number of gamers are dropping behind the ahead line to progress the play with out shedding any chew round the penalty space. This was a stumbling block for Atlético in previous seasons — clever opponents would zero in on Griezmann, thus funneling the ball vast and slowing down the recreation right into a battle of attrition. Too typically, Atleti’s outcomes hinged on particular person brilliance and/or a defensive mistake to compensate for that unimaginative attacking scheme.

(Talking of biting — Luis Suárez’s seven objectives lead the group, and this additional offensive progress explains how he continues to supply regardless of shifting like a cadaver in most matches.)

This superb graphic, through Twitter’s @DatoBHJ, reveals Atlético are urgent forward decisively with its evolution away from that staid, stolid model.

The colchoneros work to advance the ball into higher and higher taking pictures positions and are relying extra on lengthy passes than correct crossing. They construct by means of passing extra typically now than at any prior level in the Simeone Period, and they’re enjoying at considered one of LaLiga’s highest tempos.

Dashboard 1


These are the good developments. Now for the not-so-good.

The place Atlético have been going fallacious is on the different finish. Simeone’s aspect now not actually resembles the defensive juggernaut from the previous half-decade. It’s the purpose why whilst Griezmann hits form, his objectives aren’t guiding Atleti to victories — his game-tying purpose in opposition to AC Milan in September is the solely time he’s scored in a win this season.

Valencia registered 0.93 anticipated objectives from set items in Sunday’s recreation, per BetweenThe Posts’s metric. Hugo Duro’s second purpose — the 96th-minute equalizer — was a dead-ball disasterclass from Atlético. Stefan Savić and Héctor Herrera (who doesn’t have an actual position on this squad) had been out of place on the straightforward near-post header that nestled in behind Oblak.

Levante generated 1.79 xG from set items in Atlético’s 2-2 draw at the Ciutat de València. The granotas’ objectives got here from two penalties, however additionally they tortured Atleti on the counter. Quick attackers and lax refereeing created a positive local weather for the frogs, who outplayed the champions on the evening and had been honest worth for the draw regardless of Pablo González Fuertes’s lack of ability to get a grip on the recreation.

Accidents and particular person errors at the again are seeping into Atlético’s midfield, which has needed to deal with Lemar and Llorente’s absences for weeks. This leads us to Koke, who’s neither enjoying how he desires nor how Atleti want him to play.

The draw back to Atlético’s 3-4-3/5-2-3 is it’s placing Koke in a blender every recreation. This imbalanced setup, which creates thrilling showdowns with Atleti’s opponents, has corresponded immediately with the captain’s decreased influence after an extended season for membership and nation.

It might not appear true, however it’s — Koke turns 30 in January. He made his 515th look for the membership final weekend, and the video games file will probably be all his if he trots out 39 extra instances. That’s a gaudy quantity. He appears certain to get there in 2022.

Nevertheless, I’m tempted to surprise if we’re seeing the begin of Atlético shifting past its captain in the means it moved previous earlier skippers Gabi (2018) and Diego Godín (2019).

Koke’s present statistics in league play, through, don’t make for glad studying:

  • He’s delivering passes into the 18-yard field at a clip 15 p.c decrease than his glorious 2020/21 season — the first marketing campaign the place Simeone totally entrusted him with setting the group’s tempo.
  • His 0.46 key passes (per 90 minutes) are a profession low, and he’s seen a 30 p.c minimize to his shot-creating actions.
  • His 2.64 mixed tackles and interceptions are his lowest since no less than 2017/18, and he’s being dispossessed at a fee 40 p.c greater than final season.

A extra attack-oriented, possession-based Atleti aspect needs to be enjoying to Koke’s strengths as a hub for the group’s buildup play, however he stays caught doing the “Koke Work” he did 4, 5, six seasons in the past. He’s the single pivot in the group’s formation(s) of alternative — and as a substitute, Rodrigo De Paul (4 shot-creating actions, eight progressive carries per 90) has been behind a lot of the hazard from the center.

Atletico Madrid v Villarreal - La Liga Santander

Photograph by Rubén de la Fuente Pérez/NurPhoto through Getty Photos

Simeone received’t take an unwise choice and bench the membership captain. We’re nowhere close to that time. Koke is only one season faraway from marshaling this squad to the title, and his performances for Luis Enrique’s Spain — the place he at all times performs subsequent to an anchor like Rodri or Sergio Busquets — stay high-caliber. He captained La Roja of their 1-0 win over Greece on Thursday, when he took 113 touches and accomplished 90 passes on the proper aspect of a midfield three.

Atlético’s current setup doesn’t go well with Koke from a enjoying standpoint. And regardless of the way you slice it, 2021 has been a lengthy 12 months for him. Extra relaxation (or a extra defensive-minded companion) might be simply what he wants — however it’s what considered one of the most necessary gamers in membership historical past is unlikely to get.

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