Ought to Atletico be apprehensive Simeone is following Wenger’s path forward of Madrid check?

Ought to Atletico be apprehensive Simeone is following Wenger’s path forward of Madrid check?

Even within the week main as much as a crucially necessary, and doubtlessly career-defining, Madrid derby, together with his team prime of La Liga as they’ve been nearly 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 changing into “glad” and never being scared to succeed in for the largest aims. A lesson about not settling for “secure” 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” perspective with out which true glory could be perpetually elusive.

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Should you put aside England’s season-opening pleasant of the Charity/Group 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 probably 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 must go toe-to-toe with their nemesis, Actual Madrid, but once more.

It is a derby that provides Atleti a golden likelihood to go eight factors clear on the prime of La Liga, with a sport in hand and 13 video games left. A large alternative, proper? The sort of problem which makes the blood in your veins surge with endorphins; the “struggle” intuition warns its “flight” sibling to go away 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 sort of risk/alternative situation which, as of late, makes Simeone come over all conservative, risk-averse and fearful?

The very fact is that Atleti, in current seasons, have shrunk within the face of those exams — they have not been manufactured from what NASA calls “the appropriate 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-Zero earlier this season, however even that was badly overdue – it was Simeone’s first win in 18 Liga matches in opposition to 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 remaining and the profitable of the Europa League just a few months earlier, Atleti’s incapability to supply huge performances in huge matches since dropping the 2016 Champions League remaining is starting to make them appear to be a team that fluffs its traces.

Diego Simeone has hauled Atletico to the highest of the league. Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Pictures

Is it due to their supervisor? Simeone’s ex-international teammate, PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino, informed me not too long ago 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 in opposition to 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 12 months later, there was an excellent 3-Zero win over Marseille within the Europa League remaining, however it was a possibility that solely fell their approach as a result of they initially misplaced at house to Chelsea and dropped 4 factors in opposition to lowly Azerbaijani facet Qarabag to flop to third-place in Champions League Group C.

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

Final season, amid the enforced modifications of the coronavirus pandemic, they have been second-best in opposition to 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 targets in extra-time, they went by 4-2 on combination. Nevertheless, they then suffered a meek 2-1 defeat in opposition to RB Leipzig within the quarterfinals as Tyler Adams scored late on.

Atleti’s two largest video games this season have added to their rising profile as a team that can grind out slender wins in opposition to any lesser or off-form sides, however who’re neither ruthless nor “survive at any value.” First they have been dismantled 4-Zero in Munich by the defending champions in Champions League Group A then, domestically, Madrid made them look naive like kids and athletically like pensioners in a 2-Zero 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 changing into “comfy.” Genuinely excellent although the Frenchman’s legacy at Arsenal will at all times be, Wenger’s starting to steer the team, 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 definitely had the duty to earn as a lot cash as potential from each single alternative however Wenger’s watchword started to be “prime 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 football 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 important, it is profitable and it could be the important thing to a coach conserving his job — however it’s not, and by no means shall 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 football 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 in opposition to 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 at present’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, definitely below the identical constructing schedule, with out the €530m-plus earned in UEFA income, from Simeone’s exploits in European football, since he joined.

Each in monetary and trophy phrases, Simeone is Atletico Madrid’s “Golden Baby,” however that big-game report I detailed above discovered it is absolute lowest level final week in opposition to 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 in opposition to Levante — and seeing what was as soon as a yawning lead on the prime of La Liga minimize to 3 factors to really feel the new, indignant breath of Actual Madrid on their necks — Simeone plotted the “house” leg in opposition to Chelsea as if Atleti have been a small membership. Their setup was listed as a 5-3-2, however Los Rojiblancos typically defended with six!

Chelsea knew that the 34-year-old Luis Suarez could not dash 30 metres into a niche, guessed that Simeone could 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 objective scoring possibilities, could be relegated to proper wing-back (which was a calamitous mistake.) So the Blues defended excessive, pressed Atleti again and gained each single tactical bet that supervisor Thomas Tuchel made. They gained 1-0 — with an away objective — 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 sort of tactical, strategic maladroitness, he’d have failed earlier than being informed to return again subsequent 12 months after a torrent of remedial homework.

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Football4cast FC’s Sid Lowe offers the lowdown on Atletico Madrid’s current 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 and so they 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 report in Simeone’s complete reign, all of a sudden a clear sheet arrived in a 2-Zero win. Actual Madrid subsequently dropped factors at house to Actual Sociedad and now, within the blink of an eye fixed, 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 remaining ended that brutal stain on Atleti’s historical past. Now, as beforehand said, 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 in opposition to Chelsea after they journey to Stamford Bridge later this month is not precisely irrelevant. However the important thing prize is changing into Spain’s champions. Even within the absence of their extraordinary followers, Simeone has the enjoying assets and the factors total, whereas there are enough difficulties within the opponents’ camps, to haul Atleti to what could 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 vitality, the ambition, the drive, the arrogance and admirable cheekiness which may pressure Atleti over the ending line in Could. Or has Simeone, for comparable causes, after comparable success and with an nearly equivalent diploma of energy at a membership he is made nice, become a latter day, “comfy” Wenger? Sunday afternoon in opposition to Madrid will present a partial reply.

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