Ought to Atletico be nervous Simeone is following Wenger’s path forward of Madrid take a look at?


Even within the week main as much as a crucially vital, and doubtlessly career-defining, Madrid derby, along with his group high of La Liga as they’ve been just about all season, there are classes for Atletico supervisor Diego Simeone to be taught from former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. There is a lesson to keep away from turning into “glad” and never being scared to succeed in for the most important targets. A lesson about not settling for “protected” as a substitute of daring to dream. And a lesson about not letting monetary success, and its related private rewards, blunt the “who dares wins” angle with out which true glory can be perpetually elusive.

If you happen to put aside England‘s season-opening pleasant of the Charity/Neighborhood Protect, Wenger gained 10 main trophies in 22 years at Arsenal. In Simeone’s 9 full years in cost at Atleti, the Argentine has impressed Los Rojiblancos to seven — together with three in Europe — arguably one of the best spell within the membership’s historical past.

Simeone is already the coach with essentially the most trophy wins in Atleti’s 118-year existence and now, as he and his troops chase a primary league title since 2013-14, they need to go toe-to-toe with their nemesis, Actual Madrid, but once more.

It is a derby that gives Atleti a golden probability to go eight factors clear on the high of La Liga, with a sport in hand and 13 video games left. An enormous alternative, proper? The type of problem which makes the blood in your veins surge with endorphins; the “combat” intuition warns its “flight” sibling to depart city because the warrior mentality takes over. Or is it “squeaky bum time,” to borrow legendary Manchester United supervisor Sir Alex Ferguson’s notorious phrase? Is it the type of risk/alternative state of affairs which, lately, makes Simeone come over all conservative, risk-averse and fearful?

The actual fact is that Atleti, in latest seasons, have shrunk within the face of those assessments — they have not been fabricated from what NASA calls “the best stuff.” It is starting to really feel as in the event that they, and Simeone, could also be struggling a Wenger-isation.

It has been 5 years since Atleti beat Madrid in La Liga; six years since they beat them at house. Horrible stats. Granted, Los Colchoneros beat Barcelona 1-0 earlier this season, however even that was badly overdue – it was Simeone’s first win in 18 Liga matches towards the Catalans, a spell spanning the reigns of eight totally different Barca managers! One other horrible stat.

However with the notable exceptions of an exhilarating 4-2 win over Madrid within the 2018 European Tremendous Cup last and the profitable of the Europa League a couple of months earlier, Atleti’s incapacity to supply huge performances in huge matches since dropping the 2016 Champions League last is starting to make them appear to be a group that fluffs its traces.

Is it due to their supervisor? Simeone’s ex-international teammate, PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino, informed me lately that he yearns for his gamers to be “wolves, not domesticated pet canines.” Has Simeone, like Wenger, gone a bit tame?

In 2017, Atleti misplaced the Champions League semifinal first leg towards Madrid 3-0. The tie was successfully over and the ultimate out of attain after simply 90 minutes and even a 2-1 win within the reverse fixture could not save them.

A yr later, there was an excellent 3-0 win over Marseille within the Europa League last, however it was a chance that solely fell their means as a result of they initially misplaced at house to Chelsea and dropped 4 factors towards lowly Azerbaijani facet Qarabag to flop to third-place in Champions League Group C.

In 2019, Simeone’s group have been thrashed 4-0 at Sign Iduna Park by Borussia Dortmund which means the 2 groups tied on the high of Group A, however Atleti misplaced the head-to-head document and drew Juventus within the spherical of 16 because of coming second. Successful 2-0 within the first leg, they went to Turin and have been completely smashed 3-0 to crash out – a deeply inglorious end result from a group whose trademark has all the time been their unerring potential to defend a single-goal lead and win 1-0.

Final season, amid the enforced adjustments of the coronavirus pandemic, they have been second-best towards Liverpool over two legs within the spherical of 16 however due to a blunder by the Reds’ stand-in keeper Adrian and a late matchwinning cameo by substitute Marcos Llorente, who scored two objectives in extra-time, they went by way of 4-2 on combination. Nonetheless, they then suffered a meek 2-1 defeat towards RB Leipzig within the quarterfinals as Tyler Adams scored late on.

Atleti’s two greatest video games this season have added to their rising profile as a group that may grind out slim wins towards any lesser or off-form sides, however who’re neither ruthless nor “survive at any value.” First they have been dismantled 4-0 in Munich by the defending champions in Champions League Group A then, domestically, Madrid made them look naive like youngsters and athletically like pensioners in a 2-0 victory at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in December.

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Gab Marcotti reacts to Joao Felix’s ‘shush’ celebration and believes the striker nonetheless has so much to show forward of the Madrid derby.

The worrying factor, above and past cold performances in matches that may be the gateway to trophies, is whether or not Simeone is following a Wenger-style decline by dropping his edge and turning into “comfy.” Genuinely excellent although the Frenchman’s legacy at Arsenal will all the time be, Wenger’s starting to steer the group, the membership and his personal ambitions away from main trophy success had its roots in Arsenal constructing an formidable and massively costly new stadium. Ring any bells, Atleti followers?

Arsenal and their supervisor actually had the duty to earn as a lot cash as potential from each single alternative however Wenger’s watchword started to be “high 4.” Not profitable the title; not profitable the Champions League. No. Ending fourth within the league to ensure the cash that comes with enjoying European soccer for one more season.

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As early as 2012, Wenger, the supervisor who had conquered the fabled “Double” in 1998, had been courageous sufficient to go toe-to-toe with Ferguson at his fieriest and for whom the 2003-04 “Invincibles” went the additional mile time and time once more, started to say that “qualifying for the Champions League is sort of a trophy.”

It is not. Not within the least. It is vital, it is profitable and it might be the important thing to a coach protecting his job — however it’s not, and by no means will likely be, the identical as really profitable a trophy. Confuse the brutal effort it requires to be “winners” with the managed, actuarial calculations wanted to be financially profitable and in sporting phrases, you are already half-dead.

Wenger lasted six extra years, throughout which Arsenal have been uncompetitive for the English title; requirements slipped and “second finest” turned adequate all through the membership till they inevitably did not make the highest 4 in 2017 and have not performed Champions League soccer since.

It was a gradual and debilitating rot; unhappy to look at and nonetheless nowhere close to absolutely cured. After all, it should all be set towards the truth that 20 consecutive {qualifications} for the Champions League, and a number of FA Cup wins, earned many thousands and thousands for a membership which had a sizeable wage invoice, which tried to compete for first rate signings and which constructed a powerful £390m (about £590m in as we speak’s phrases) stadium.

By 2017, when Atleti opened their Wanda Metropolitano stadium it had value €310m. Even given participant transfers, the sale of their former Vicente Calderon stadium and mortgage services, this achievement would not have been potential, actually below the identical constructing schedule, with out the €530m-plus earned in UEFA income, from Simeone’s exploits in European soccer, since he joined.

Each in monetary and trophy phrases, Simeone is Atletico Madrid‘s “Golden Little one,” however that big-game document I detailed above discovered it is absolute lowest level final week towards Chelsea.

Not solely have been Atleti abject, the complete strategic idea was craven. Recent off the frustration of dropping 5 factors in two video games towards Levante — and seeing what was as soon as a yawning lead on the high of La Liga minimize to 3 factors to really feel the recent, indignant breath of Actual Madrid on their necks — Simeone plotted the “house” leg towards Chelsea as if Atleti have been a small membership. Their setup was listed as a 5-3-2, however Los Rojiblancos usually defended with six!

Chelsea knew that the 34-year-old Luis Suarez could not dash 30 metres into a niche, guessed that Simeone can be daft sufficient to maintain Moussa Dembele on the bench and that Marcos Llorente, who thrives off area to run in behind defences and create purpose scoring possibilities, can be relegated to proper wing-back (which was a calamitous mistake.) So the Blues defended excessive, pressed Atleti again and gained each single tactical guess that supervisor Thomas Tuchel made. They gained 1-0 — with an away purpose — too.

It was arguably the weakest, least acceptable and non-streetwise efficiency of the complete Simeone period. If a trainee coach making an attempt to earn his UEFA licence displayed that type of tactical, strategic maladroitness, he’d have failed earlier than being informed to come back again subsequent yr after a torrent of remedial homework.

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ESPN FC’s Sid Lowe provides the lowdown on Atletico Madrid’s latest struggles.

Final weekend, away to Villarreal, Atleti re-emerged: hard-nosed, recognisable, stubbornly dedicated to sustaining what little of their La Liga lead was left they usually took away a three-point haul that simply may show to be an important of their season.

After conceding in eight straight video games, the worst document in Simeone’s total reign, all of the sudden a clear sheet arrived in a 2-0 win. Actual Madrid subsequently dropped factors at house to Actual Sociedad and now, within the blink of a watch, redemption is hovering simply inside Simeone’s attain.

When this as soon as belligerent, hungry Argentinian first arrived to seize Atleti by the scruff of the neck and haul them again into competition he ended a 14-year run throughout which Atleti, someway, merely could not beat Madrid in a derby match.

The 2013 Copa del Rey last ended that brutal stain on Atleti’s historical past. Now, as beforehand acknowledged, it is as soon as once more six lengthy, sore years since they defeated Los Blancos on Atleti turf. When Simeone took over Los Rojiblancos hadn’t gained the title for 15 years — he sorted that too.

Whether or not or not he and Atleti can put proper the atrocious show towards Chelsea once they journey to Stamford Bridge later this month is not precisely irrelevant. However the important thing prize is turning into Spain‘s champions. Even within the absence of their extraordinary followers, Simeone has the enjoying assets and the factors complete, whereas there are adequate difficulties within the opponents’ camps, to haul Atleti to what can be solely their third Spanish title in 44 years.

What’s now in query is whether or not this as soon as ferocious, voracious man nonetheless has the tactical shrewdness, the electrical power, the ambition, the drive, the arrogance and admirable cheekiness which may drive Atleti over the ending line in Could. Or has Simeone, for comparable causes, after comparable success and with an nearly similar diploma of energy at a membership he is made nice, become a latter day, “comfy” Wenger? Sunday afternoon towards Madrid will present a partial reply.



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