Atletico troubles convey recent scrutiny on Simeone forward of Porto decider

“There are two responses,” Diego Simeone mentioned after Atletico Madrid misplaced to Mallorca on Saturday in La Liga, 4 days earlier than needing to win away at Porto within the Champions League — “melancholy or rebel.”

Solely a victory will do in Portugal in any other case Atletico will exit within the group stage for under the second time below Simeone, who has issues domestically as effectively. After 15 video games, Atletico are fourth, 10 factors behind Actual Madrid.

Simeone has heard it earlier than, the questions on his strategies and relevance, and whether or not he’s nonetheless a power for good at Atletico Madrid, who solely six months in the past had been celebrating successful the Spanish title in a parking lot at Actual Valladolid.

Extra broadly, Simeone is rightly revered for remodeling an also-ran workforce in La Liga into a longtime member of Europe’s aristocracy.

Later this month, it is going to be precisely a decade since Simeone took over with Atletico 10th within the desk and having not completed within the high three for 16 years, aside from once they as soon as completed first, within the second division.

In 9 full seasons below Simeone, they’ve by no means been out of La Liga’s high three.

They’ve damaged the Barcelona-Actual Madrid duopoly to win La Liga twice and are available inside a whisker of two Champions League triumphs, denied solely by Sergio Ramos within the 93rd minute and Cristiano Ronaldo in a penalty shoot-out.

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It stays extremely seemingly the years instantly after Simeone finally leaves Atletico will probably be worse than those who went earlier than.

When Simeone known as on Saturday for “rebel” towards Porto, it was a well-recognized reflex for a coach who in a disaster seems to be to the psychological components, demanding extra work, focus, focus, combat and togetherness.

It’s why the failures this season have been notably jarring for an Atletico workforce so famend for his or her self-discipline and defence.

Atletico all of a sudden appear to be a aspect with a soft-centre, weak at set-pieces and fragile in key moments.

“Generally it’s tough to search out options for issues that occur repeatedly,” Simeone mentioned after Mallorca scored twice within the final 10 minutes to win 2-1.

“With two photographs on objective they scored two targets and that may’t occur.”

Decline

One issue is personnel, a signing not adequately changing a sale and when that occurs repeatedly, the standard could be shortly decreased. Felipe and Mario Hermoso are amongst these to have struggled defensively this season.

There was a shift in emphasis as effectively, a renewed give attention to the assault, the place Atletico now boast probably the most exiting rosters in Europe.

Antoine Griezmann’s return on mortgage final summer time was a chance too good to show down however discovering a technique to swimsuit any mixture of Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Angel Correa is an issue nonetheless being resolved.

Regardless of the protestations of Jurgen Klopp and others, Atletico are not the Atletico of previous.

Even when defence stays the precedence, they’re higher to observe, assault extra freely and rating extra targets however because of this, they’re additionally leakier on the again and simpler to beat.

But the larger challenge is whether or not the growing regularity of Atletico’s dips counsel Simeone’s time on the apex of European teaching has now handed.

It’s credit score to him that he has outlasted different outstanding defence-first coaches like Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez however probably the most coveted tacticians at the moment are proponents of a unique model, of front-foot soccer primarily based on urgent and possession.

Atletico’s decline within the Champions League is evident. Since reaching the ultimate in 2016, their yearly stage of exit reads semi-final, group stage, final 16, quarter-final, final 16.

Within the final three years, they’ve been outplayed by Klopp’s Lverpool, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund below Lucien Favre.

Even domestically, this present hunch shouldn’t be a one-off. They had been treading water for many of the second half of final season, successful solely six video games out of 16 between February and April.

They bought over the road with 4 wins out of 5 in Might, two of them with late targets.

It was one other instance of Atletico’s enduring grit within the face of adversity and Simeone’s mastery at producing solidarity and resilience.

Atletico will imagine that very same sense of “rebel” can flip the tide towards Porto, one other revival nonetheless of their grasp. The deeper decline might be more durable to reverse.

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