After eight years, the Diego Simeone tenure at Atletico Madrid will go on. The Argentine cemented himself as a household name in spells at Madrid, as well as winning seven titles with the team. His gesture on the touchline typical of the man. However, he purchased in the following summer Antoine Griezmann to become the leader after the Diego Costa departure to Chelsea. This season, the French talisman is more than ever THE KEY to success for Los Colchenoros who struggle more often than before. Whereas he is still good, a dependency has been created in the team.
At the end of their last Liga fixture vs Rayo Vallecano (0-1 win) certain sensations of déjà vu were clear. In one side, we could see the Raul de Tomas teammates a little disappointed of not taking their chance when they had it, and the other side, los rojiblancos felt immensely relieved. In the middle of this, Antoine Griezmann.
The problem with a world-class player is that his performance is taken as a valuable asset. We all will remember Angelo Charisteas in the Euro 2004 final, because it’s the lonely notable fact of his career, it was ordinary. Whereas, every special performance of Antoine Griezmann is quickly forgotten once the next one arrives. Each goal he scores, his dribble is spotlighted. Because he is constant. It seems that any question that concerns los rojiblancos lead to the number seven, usually considerate as the best of player behind Leonel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (when he was in Spain). Antoine Griezmann has been very effective this season, he has already contributed 19 of the 34 goals scored by Atletico Madrid in La Liga. He brings 13 points by himself. It proves that without Antoine Griezmann, Atletico would probably not be in second place, behind the Blaugranas.
Is the squad too weak?
On paper, Antoine Griezmann never has mediocre teammates. This campaign, no one argue that the squad isn’t great. The core of the team has been there since 2016 when they reached the UEFA Champions League final. For this actual campaign, they had several additions. In summer 2018, they bought Thomas Lemar who won the Ligue 1 with AS Monaco, and recently became World Cup winner, Santiago Arias, former full-back at FC Porto and an important element in the starting eleven of Colombia national team, Nikola Kalinic, former striker at AC Milan; Rodrigo, the natural successor of Sergio Busquets, and during the winter market, Alvaro Morata arrived. The only failure was Gelson Martins who didn’t succeed and has been transferred to AS Monaco.
To well understand this case, we have to apprehend the incapacity of his teammates to lift themselves to the same level consecutively and be decisive in the crucial moments. The French star counts 18 goals overall while the second at scoring is Koke with five. If we take a step back and look at how important Lucas Vazquez or Marco Asensio were during the campaign 2016/17 – particularly in Champions League where they were as decisive as Ronaldo. Are they better than Thomas Lemar or Saul Niguez? We don’t think so but they lifted their levels when it was necessary.
The guilty in chief is Diego Costa. After a spell at Chelsea, the bad boy came back last winter. But he wasn’t anymore the Diego Costa that terrified the opposition defenders in 2014 or this one who finished as the Chelsea top scorer in 2014/15. The Spaniard has one goal (scored vs Barcelona) in 12 games, and had several injuries since.
All by Griezmann
The 27-year-old often moves short in possession, dragging markers out of position and assisting with the build-up play. Despite this, he will always get himself into goalscoring positions, ready to finish moves off inside the penalty area.
As Atletico often use a deep defensive block, Griezmann is required to track back, blocking opposing forwards’ passing options. As he’s a very attack-minded player, however, he will often let his runner go without making a recovery run. This could be exploited with late runners from deep into Atletico’s penalty area.
The defences won the titles of course, but what about the attacks? If you consent to defend only, how do you want to win the fixtures? Atletico Madrid concede draw 33% of the time in La Liga fixtures. They register four shots on target per 90 minutes – which is the 13th best record in La Liga.
He is their leader at scoring (12 goals) whereas the second has only two; first at assisting with six assists (some websites give seven) whereas the second at this category, Thomas Partey has got only 3. With an xG per 90 at 0.45 and 2.27 key passes per game, he is a constant threat to the opponents’ defenders. The French talisman is everywhere with 0.58 xg Chain 90 (total xG of every possession the player is involved in per 90 minutes). As we can see in the image below
His biggest strengths lie exactly there: with the ball in his feet and his sights set on his opponents. He fuels the attack with 0.24 xG build-up per 90 (total xG of every possession the player is involved in, without key passes or shots, per 90 minutes) a notable fact for someone who is a striker. The World-Cup-winner has scored 130 goals and provided 42 assists in 242 games, making the Frenchman the fifth highest goalscorer of all-time with Atletico.
However, when you rely on a unique player, you can feel the consequences at an inopportune moment. In the Champions League final 2015/16, he missed the penalty that could have given his side the lead. He hit the crossbar.
In retrospective, this situation is not so uncommon. The other teams are also dependent of their goalscorer, Barcelona can’t win without Lionel Messi we have seen it recently in their confrontation with Real Valladolid (1-0), Girona count on Christian Stuani a lot. Only Manchester City have multiple threats, they have five players with more than five goals. His task can’t be simplified, he was helpful in the 2-0 victory over the Juventus. Antoine Griezmann is like a Sun, and his teammates orbit around.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the February issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.