Late drama in the Calderón as Alavés frustrate Atlético

New boys strike with last kick of the match to grab a 1-1 draw in the capital

Gameiro rues one of many missed chances

Gameiro rues one of many missed chances

Atlético Madrid fell to a disappointing draw on the opening day against Alavés, as a last minute stunner from Manu García handed a point to the visitors in the Vicente Calderón.

The hosts had only gone in front minutes before, debutant Kevin Gameiro scoring from the penalty spot after Víctor Laguardia was controversially adjudged to have fouled Fernando Torres.

It had been looking like one of those nights for Cholo Simeone’s men, who tried everything they could but were unable to break down a stern Alavés defence on their return to the Spanish top flight.

After 27 shots – two of which came back off the woodwork – and 20 corners went to waste, it looked as if the hosts would have to settle for a goalless draw before referee Iglesias Villanueva pointed to the spot in injury time.

Having not had any luck all night, Atleti thought they had gotten out of jail despite replays showing that Laguardia’s tug on Torres had probably taken place just outside the box, and that the veteran striker looked to take the ball down on his hand.

Gameiro stepped up and found the net to grab a crucial debut goal from the spot, but the celebrations were to be shortlived as just two minutes later, Manu García rifled home the equaliser with Alavés’ first shot on target.

The visitors will feel that justice was served given the harsh decision that had just gone against them, and it was probably deserved given how well they had defended over 90 minutes.

Atleti on the other hand were left to rue their luck, switching off having worked so hard to get the goal and ultimately losing what could be a valuable two points on the opening day.

Next up is a local derby with Leganés in the Butarque next week, which will be the home side’s first ever match in La Liga. Thankfully, Antoine Griezmann is expected to return.

Player ratings

Jan Oblak – 5

Didn’t have a save to make, other than the goal which he could do nothing about.

Juanfran – 6

Got forward to good effect and put in some good crosses, many of which weren’t attacked by those inside the box.

Diego Godín – 6

Lead the defence and provided an aerial threat in the Alavés area, but will be as disappointed as anybody to lose his clean sheet in such frustrating circumstances late on.

Stefan Savic – 6

Looked fairly solid up until the equaliser. Perhaps guilty of switching off given how little Alavés had attacked up until then.

Filipe Luís – 7

Like Juanfran he got forward continuously and put in some excellent crosses. Would like to see him take the ball on his right foot more often when necessary.

Gabi – 6

Sacrificed as we chased the goal, and his presence was perhaps missed as we looked (and failed) to see out the result.

Tiago – 6

Looked no less influential and mobile as before his horrific leg break last year, but perhaps not the right choice for a game like this. Still, great to see him back.

Koke – 6

Was involved throughout but wasn’t quite with it with some of his final balls and deliveries. Look forward to seeing him play deeper this season.

Saúl Ñíguez – 7 (Man of the match)

Covered every blade in midfield and did everything he could to try and get us over the line. Feel this could be the season he becomes one of the leaders in the team.

Yannick Carrasco – 7

One of our more positive players, particularly in the first half. Always looking to get the ball and never shies away, was unlucky to hit the post just before half-time.

Kevin Gameiro – 6

Missed a couple of golden chances, but showed good nerve to step up and score the penalty. Promising early signs.


Fernando Torres – 6

Looked sharp and hungry. Very unlucky to hit the post and got himself into the right position to win the penalty. Could play more than people think this year.

Nico Gaitán – 6

Very interesting option, looks like he’ll provide creativity and threat between the lines we didn’t have last season. Needs to change his boots though, slipped over a few times.

Ángel Correa – 7

Despite being with Argentine throughout pre-season, he was straight back into the rhythm and did brilliantly when he had the ball. Deserves more minutes than he had last year.

What did you make of the result and performance? Should we be worried at all?

  • Adnan Khan

    This is hilarious. Thats a well deserved draw for Alaves, because Atleti played terrible today. Created alot of chances but could not capitalize any of them. Gameiro took that penalty well but i think he still played bad. I wanted a clinical attacker this year but it looks like it will be yet another year of chance wasting. And please lets just start playing Correa from the start. He still creates more than the rest of the attack in the limited time he gets.

    I know its too early to say this, but i don’t think Gameiro will score as many goals with Atletico as he did in Sevilla. I actually think Vietto is going to score more goals than Gameiro. But let’s hope i am wrong. Everyone likes to see a hard-working player succeed.

  • jodo

    Really need to work on corners. Not sure why ATM have become so bad at corners but they were pretty wasteful last season. Today was a farce with the number of corners launched followed by duds.

  • Paweł Kosiński

    Oh yes, let’s start assessing Gameiro after 90 minutes of competitive action.

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    Seriously? Saul is your man of the match? Smh. Despite only getting a draw I think this was the best opening game we’ve played in a long time to any season

  • Ratchet

    Not really good enough frankly. If we want to be up there around the top we need to be beating these kind of teams at home. To go ahead and not see the game out is pretty poor, not good.

  • Arjit Barua

    Nobody is mentioning one crucial moment, when Torres took the ball down (whether legally or illegally) Gamiero was 1 v 1 with the keeper and he shot wide. There was no whistle, penalty/foul claims weren’t thrown around until at least a few seconds after.

    I didn’t think much of Gamiero before he signed for Atleti, but I was giving him the benefit of the doubt all game until then. Doesn’t matter that he scored a penalty, that’s not why he was signed. I really hope I’m wrong about him, but yeah, at least Torres looked decently sharp (especially the passes he made to Correa and Godin).

  • Adnan Khan

    Could you point out which sentence in my previous comment indicated that i assessed Gameiro “after 90 minutes of competitive action”?

  • Adnan Khan

    Gameiro was ineffective. He missed 2 great chances today, 3 if we count the one prior to the penalty. He is a good player and he works really hard, the latter could be seen today, but today he had a bad game. I hope he turns out to be a effective striker for atleti because we really need that, it was a lot of missed chances last season.

  • Roberto

    2 things what went wrong: 1st: Atleti lost its strenghold in corners. I do not know why. Godin didn t score for a long time. There is no other good specialist in heading. That is a pitty. In 2013/14 Atleti got champion because of being strong in corners! Here they have to reinvent themselves. 2nd: LAck of concentration, seniority and intensity after the 1:0. Why? I do not know. 2 Years ago, when they got champions, atletic was very solid, positive and secure. Maybe the last-minute losses in the Champions-league finals broke the wings and stole a lot of confidence. I think the team needs now strong and breakthrough mental coaching to gain confidence and power again. Atleti is now on a crossroad. Either the closely lost chapions-league titles will through Atleti back to mediocre perforances or they get even stronger because of this defeats and start to be a real dominant team in Europe for the next 4 years. Being very strong, but slightly weaker then BArca and MAdrid but better in fighting, will not last anymore. Atleti has now to got one step upwards on the same level of BArca and MAdrid, or they will have the Valencia-Kissmate….Please take the right road, Atleti!

  • Chewie

    What the hell. I turned the TV off on the 93rd minute, hearing the triple whistle. And now it’s a draw. It’s just foolish. And also that’s exactly what many of us feared before the season – that sometimes playing for a 1-0 and 2-1 win can bite you in the ass. Good thing it happened in the first game, not 38th. As for the players’ performance, I wouldn’t judge so early. Let’s see what comes in the next 3 or so games.

  • Rowly

    1) Corners. Short corners are a pet hate of mine, closely followed by out-swinging corners which are easy to defend against. Nearly every corner last night was out-swinging with very little variety. We have players that can deliver good in-swinging corners and good targets such as Godin, so can we please start doing it.
    2) Midfield. Unlike some I’m not surprised that Simeone is sticking with his preferred 4-4-2, however I am surprised that he went with Tiago in CM, especially in a game like this. I expected him to tweak his system rather than completely change formation, evolution not revolution if you like, and play with Gaitan/Carrasco on the left as a genuine wide player and Koke on the right tucked in tighter. That would leave Gabi & Saul in CM which would be my preference. I think Gaitan is tactically more disciplined and consistent than Carrasco so my midfield in the 4-4-2 would be Koke-Gabi-Saul-Gaitan, defensively sound but with good quality going forward too. Bringing Tiago in made the midfield unnecessarily defensive.
    3) Squad. In Simeone’s 4-4-2 I think we have at least 2 players for each position but I’m not convinced Simeone wants that many players. The way I see it is as follows:
    GK: Oblak / Moya / Moreira
    RB: Juanfran / Manquillo
    CB: Savic / Gimenez
    CB: Godin / Lucas
    LB: Luis / Vrsaljko (Theo)
    RM: Koke / Oliver
    CM: Gabi / Tiago (Kranevitter)
    CM: Saul / Augusto / Partey
    LW: Gaitan / Carrasco (Jota)
    CF: Griezmann / Correa (Vietto)
    CF: Gameiro / Torres (Santos Borre)
    I think we could give Manquillo & Oliver more game time this season, which would probably be their last opportunities to force their way into Simeone’s plans. Particularly Oliver who I think could be moulded into a great alternative to Koke on the right, maybe allowing Koke to replace Gabi in time although I expect Kranevitter to do that. However, I fear that both will be out on loan & eventually leave which will be a great shame.
    4) Griezmann. We missed him, he can provide the extra bit of quality & composure that can make the difference on days like yesterday. I think & hope that he forms a great partnership with Gameiro.
    5) Gameiro. Worked hard, the goal will do him good but not his best performance, however in time I think he’ll turn out a good signing for us.
    In summary it was 2 points dropped, too many opportunities missed and who knows how important this game will be come the end of the season. Need 3pts next week.

  • Koke

    Crucify me for saying this, but I am almost glad this happened. The first game of the season is the only real right time to get that slap in the face/aha moment (well, I don’t think this will change Simeone’s mind or tactics, but let’s see.)

    1) You want to sell Borja, one of Spain’s best young strikers and a youth product who loves Atleti, and a proven scorer for 3 seasons in a row and last season in La Liga? For peanuts? Without a buyback clause? And then struggle to score goals in crucial matches? Sounds good.

    2) You want to push out Oliver Torres, the ONLY creative CAM we have in our squad, a player with a fantastic record of creating chances in the very few games he’s played, and sell him away, even though chance creation is perhaps our biggest problem? Sure.

    3) You want to start four holding players at the same time against a newly promoted minnow at HOME, all the while leaving the likes of Gaitan and Correa on the bench? (If you disagree that Saul and Koke count as holding midfielders, just look at how fine we functioned with them after Gabi and Tiago were taken off. Yes, the goal we conceded was bad but it wasn’t due to them being played out of position, it was due to inexperience and lack of time in their natural roles.)

    The “Simeone system” (overly defensive with extra DMs) is really only effective against 3 teams in the world: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich. MAYBE against lesser teams at the end of a game if we’re trying to defend a lead. But it is definitely not a system that can be applied to every team, especially not teams whose season goal is to not get relegated. While I am proud to have seen Simeone take off Gabi and Tiago for attacking players, you could see that even with all the attacking talent on the pitch the players had no idea what to do at times – they are so not used to playing this way. I really think that Gameiro and Gaitan will come good as they get more time, but I think the real key to success this season was never who we signed, but how we played. We need to see more of Correa, more of Oliver (although I’m sure he’s already gone, so more of Gaitan), and more of Koke in the center.

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    Preach my brother!!!

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Grizi deserves Ballon d’Or for masking all those problems and mistakes and leading us to fighting for La Liga title until the penultimate week and to UCL final .

    The man has been saving Simeone’s ass week in and week out for the last two seasons .

    I promised I will cut Simeone some slack, but only if we achieved results, even 1-0 wins, late 1-0 wins at home against very small teams like last season, but we even failed to achieve that on Sunday, and this is a good thing for the team, maybe Simeone will finally learn (I strongly doubt it) and a good thing for me, because I think it would have been very bad to my mental health to shut my mouth and not release my anger and frustration by criticizing this fucking bullshit .

  • Usavicente Calderon

    I would start with Correa and bring on Carassco and Gameiro at the 60. At least for the first couple of weeks.

  • Usavicente Calderon

    20 corners and not one goal. Horrible stat for any team. Of course

    Alavés goalie probably played the game of his career. Hats off to him. He is the man of the match.

  • Usavicente Calderon

    The game whistle should have been blown right after the penalty goal. I am tired of games not ending when they are supposed to.

  • Usavicente Calderon

    we should be worried. I know it is only one game, BUT it is the first
    game. I know, Griezmann was not on the field, but we should still
    dominate a newly regulated team with our substitutes. First game an we
    lost concentration for the last minute of the game and lost 2 points.
    Every team will lose, but this was one of our gimme’s and we lost. I do
    not want us to look great but lose. Atletico better wake up or we will be looking at 9th place all season long.

  • Usavicente Calderon

    Our entire defense should be rated a 4 or lower. They had no pressure the entire game until the 93rd minute and they failed us. All 5 of them are to blame for the loss.

  • lai

    Outsider Cule here,

    I have liked seeing Atletico succeeding the past few seasons. Watched almost all your games. I guess the average football would expect Simeone to focus more on increasing the offensive threats over time given the resources available now. Maybe, because I’m more interested in tactics and systems, I didn’t really expect such progression. If anybody has read some books or notes on coaches and related stuff, you’ll see many (but not all) revolutionary and noteworthy coaches have an almost religious devotion to the system the believe in. They talk about habits that need to be built over a period of time and by playing the same type of matches against different opponents multiple times. It’s similar to the thinking of some extraordinary talents in other professions too. The players coached also have to believe in the system religiously for the success.

    Many of the world class defensive nuances and players you have now were there before Simeone but never showed such till they believed in the system religiously and practiced those habits in the toughest tests. When you say its just Alaves, we don’t need to take that much precaution, how do you expect the players to believe religiously and maintain habits. If another much more offensive system was used against similar lower level teams and Atletico won 4-0 in most of the games, there would be players and club personnel that would start to think less positively of the defensive system and lose some of the habits. That might be no big deal and still be successful against some tougher teams. But when its needed on the ultimate stage vs Barca or Bayern, its not enough.

    Look at Juve that some say have a defence as good as Atletico, they play many other games with much more offensive styles but there is little chance they can knockout Barca and Bayern consecutively by depending on their world class defensive system. They tried to hold against bayern and were overrun. But a team that worships their defensive system religiously and practice it like every matchday would have a better chance of holding out with. There is a difference between a world class defence and a likely legendary defence, you don’t get a legendary defence by just using it for 10% of games in a season.

    So the main question should be whether its worth it to be devoted to such ‘legendary defensive system’ just to make sure you can compete at the very top. The downside is obvious, potential struggle vs Alaves or my neighbourhood team on some unlucky day. To Simeone, it is worth it. In fact, while some think this past game was a good lesson for him to learn, my opinion of such revolutionaries bets he’s probably thinking otherwise that because the players haven’t got their habits back in full flow yet, they lost concentration and conceded or that he went too offensive while chasing after the goal. It’s a total believe in the system. You live and die with it.

    And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s the best option for y’all especially with all the new money now, just what I think he’s thinking. I’m much more interested in stuff like that and systems, hence why I’ll be watching Sevilla games more this season. I think Sampaoli is on the opposite side of Simeone on the coaching system scales. He is still in that stage of building habits. Some sevilla fans were lamenting on blogs about how he should save the the extreme offensive system for lower teams and use the defend+counter in the super cups. Sampaoli probably preferred getting blasted 5-0 while building habits than losing 1-0 or 2-1. Coaches like this don’t easily compromise on such unless they have an epiphany. There might be some tweaks and gambles but the system is the religion. Ahmad said he has given up keenly hoping on some sudden system change for some type of games. I would do the same.

    Sorry for the long essay. I’ve been meaning to contribute for a while but just never had the time

  • Kris

    Wow. This was an wonderfully written, enjoyable read for me and a different perspective. This religious devotion to some “system” is very prevalent in the sports world, and in anything people do, really. The most successful people seem to be those who have a foundation, and act accordingly to that foundation.

    You should post more here. You are providing a lot of value on here, and if you were a blogger/writer/journalist, I would read every single one of your posts. This was so well done. Thanks for the read.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Hi lai, it’s always nice to see things through the eyes of an outsider, to have a different perspective and a calm and unbiased opinion .

    As I understood, your long analysis is going around one point :
    If we didn’t defend very strongly every single game, if we are not very conservative even against the very small teams we will lose our habit and we could forget how to have a very solid defense when we needed the most against the likes of Barca & Bayern .
    That’s what you are saying, right ?!

    Well, this is actually a very interesting theory, I respect it, but :
    1- I don’t agree with it, you can’t forget how to defend if you played offensively for 3 or 4 games .

    2- We actually do not defend at the Calderon against the likes of Alaves, Getafe & Rayo, or even against Villarreal, Sevilla & Valencia .
    On contrary, we dominate, we win the possession, we attack and attack, but we fail to score, or even to create real chances, because Gabi, Tiago, Augusto, Koke and Saul are not creative enough, yes, Koke, the third all-time top assistant of Atleti is not creative enough, more than half of his assists came from set-pieces, and most of the rest came from his through passes to Costa, Torres and others, but he can’t dribble, he cant sprint (he is actually very slow) and he doesn’t take shots at the goal .
    Our problem as someone here put it : We line up 8 or 9 defensive players and give them attacking roles . It will never work .
    You say you watch most of our games, have you watched the Calderon game against Gijon last season ?! in that game, Godin played almost the entire second half as a second striker, and he actually was the one who assist Griezmann’s 94th min. goal, and from an open play, not a set-piece, while Torres watched the whole game from the bench and didn’t come in for one of Gabi or Tiago, neither did Saul, who is not very creative and not a great attacking option (to me at least) but he is offensively better than both Gabi and Tiago .

    We didn’t defend against Alaves, we didn’t keep our habit and our faith, no, we attacked the whole game, we dominated, we were not conservative, we didn’t take precaution, but it was pointless attack and negative possession, because Simeone actually believe that Saul is a better winger than Gaitan and Correa, while the truth is that he is not a winger at all .
    Koke & Saul against Alaves were not precautions, Simeone actually believed that they are -along with overrated but trusted Carrasco- are the best 3 attacking options he has .

    I am not against the system, I’m not against that the defense starts from Gameiro or Torres, or Mandzukic and Costa before them, it doesn’t bother me that Grizi have a big defensive responsibilities, I actually like that, and I do that when I play football (for fun, rather than for major titles) with friends, and I order my teammates to do it .

    What I’m against, what most of Simeone’s criticizers are against is simply :
    His selection of the players .
    Koke can not make two back-to-back dribbles, I guess he runs the 100m in 20 seconds or so, but he is a fucking world-class holding midfielder and a deep-lying playmaker, and that should be his role, not a winger .
    Saul do can dribble, sometimes he can dribble 5 defenders and score a game-winning goal against a club as big as Bayern, but Correa can dribble 3 and 4 defenders every single fucking game, Gaitan too, and they can defend as good as Saul if that’s what El Cholo and Los Cholistas are worried about, they wouldn’t have worn Atleti’s shirt if they can’t defend very well .

    If you visit this website regularly then you have read several times from me and others about Simeone’s “trust issues”, -I just used it above- that’s what makes him use the wrong players for his “sacred” and actually good system .

    And let me end with this :
    There is a third theory adopted by some people in this website that suggests that our lack of creativity and our struggle against small teams with packed defenses is a result of lack of training on attacking approaches, on short passes, on one-tows, on through passes, on dribbles, on triangles, and all those stuff, because Simeone just doesn’t know how, he is simply unable to play beautiful, attacking, positively dominating football, no matter who the opponent is .
    Someone actually suggested that Simeone should hire an assistant who knows how to train the players on those attacking skills and help them develop them .
    I can’t agree or disagree with this theory, I think we will discover that this season, and if it’s true, then I think it’s time to say gracias Cholo, y adios .

    Note : don’t apologize for long posts, nobody should, because mine makes everybody else’s too short !

  • Alfred Rodriguez

    Lai makes an interesting argument and I extracted it to say similarly to what Ahmad Hossainy is saying, if you only play the anchor down defensive style against the teams that are “stronger” than Atleti, but then switch to a more offensive style against the “weaker” teams, then you will not have the system perfected for those big games. This is what makes Simeone’s system different compared to other teams who don’t commit to one playing style all season.

    I don’t totally agree with this argument also but it may very well be Simeone’s philosophy. The reason I disagree is for the simple fact that Atleti still lost 3 out of 4 games against Barcelona last year using this tactic. But if we assume that Simeone believes in what Lai is saying about one tactic, and also assume he prefers the two anchored down CM to minimize space in the middle for the opposing team, then it could explain why he pairs Gabi and Tiago all the time in the middle. Some critics always mention how Gabi and Tiago are the kind of players you need against a Barcelona or Bayern Munich but not against a Levante or Alaves. I am conflicted on these arguments.

    Ahmad Hossainy you said that Atletico struggled against weaker teams, and I assume you mean struggled scoring. I don’t disagree with you. I am will refer to the 13 teams that did not qualify for Europe as the weaker teams. In 26 games against weaker teams, Atleti had 11 games in which they only scored 1 goal (shutout once). So against teams who had a season not worthy of a top 7 finish, Atletico scored 1 goal or less in nearly half the games they played. Now I am not debating that this is ineffective, because only 10 out of 76 points were dropped in those in 26 games. But it does beg the question if Atleti are prone to more “heartbreak” ties or losses if they can’t put games away.

    So what is the issue???

    I agree creativity is the middle is needed when playing wide becomes ineffective. The liability with a creative midfielder is they may tend to push forward when the whole structure of Simeone may depend on a stay at home central midfield. If Simeone stays stubborn to an anchored central then Atleti will need a CM that can atleast shoot from distance. I also agree Correa needs to play way more but I am not sure where and at the cost of who. I almost wonder if Gaitan could play in the middle and have Carrasco and Correa on the wings. I have started to think that Koke may have already reached his max potential and one must question if that is good enough. What is also clear is that if this Atleti is structured on wing play, then they need a aerial threat. This may answer why Mandzukic was requested, but apparently a too one dimensional striker is not enough. I guess this is why Costa was his #1 this season and THAT makes perfect sense.

    Not sure what my entire point is but I guess I am saying that as long as Atleti can’t score from the wings, or get a scoring threat in the middle that fits Simeone’s defensive style, then Simeone’s current system will continue to fall short.

  • Kris

    In my comment yesterday, I mentioned the word foundation. We all know by now that Simeone’s foundation are the two defensive midfielders at the heart of the team. The pairing of two defensive midfielders, and emphasis on defensive duties from ALL players has allowed him to thrive as a coach for Atletico.

    And, in my opinion, he should never stop fielding two midfielders whose main duty is to stop attacks and scrape any ball from the opposing player’s feet in our half of the field. Needless to say, these two players are probably the most physically fit in the team. Look at Gabi, outruns every single player on the pitch every single match. A pairing of Gabi/Koke or any other combination of two central midfielders on there is enough. This should be done every match regardless of opponent.

    But then we need balance. If these two are already always there to stop attacks and bring the ball forward, we don’t need two extra central midfielders on there when we are trying to score goals. It’s just pointless. Plus, we have an extraordinary defense that can do its job very well, if the ball goes past the central midfielders.

    And, because emphasis is on defense, there is always going to be defensive solidarity no matter who plays. The ability to quickly regroup after losing the ball is what makes Atleti so good defensively. Griezmann defends every single game as a forward, and no doubt he is the most special player on the team. Why continue to play with four central midfielders if all they are offering to you is their ability to play the central midfielder role, which is to help stop any attacks, and be defensively compact. Why not add balance to the team by also including players who will give you attacking options?

    Gaitan will defend for you and give you a lot of sweet passes and dribbles. Same with Carrasco, same with Correa. But not exactly the same with Saul and Koke.

    And, I think Koke can’t get any better in the role that he plays for us now, which is “out wide”. He plays the best in his natural role as a CM, or a holding midfielder. Pair him up with Gabi, and you will see the best Koke you’ve ever seen. Better than the Koke of 2013/14.

    I don’t think we should play the 4-3-3 or anything else like that. A 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 is what has got us to where we are now, and we shouldn’t lose this identity.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Yeah Alfred, by struggle against small teams I obviously meant struggling to score or even to create clear chances despite dominating the game, especially at the Calderon .

    Your point and every Simeone’s criticizer’s point is simple :
    The system doesn’t work .
    It doesn’t matter if it’s a good system or a bad system, a right one or a wrong one, the one that fits us or is there another that fits us better, what only matters is does it work or not, and we think it doesn’t .

    And that’s the biggest argument, do you consider finishing as UCL runner up a success or a failure ?! do you look at Real Madrid as a club with more than double our budget, or as a club that we have a better head-to-head against them in the last 4 years, and a club that was very lucky to reach the last UCL final after playing against Roma, Wolfsburg & Man City, and wasn’t the better side at the final ?!

    Do you consider the 1-0s against Getafe, Rayo, Lavante (all were relegated last season), Las Palmas, Betis & Gijon good results or bad results ?!
    Do you think that a win is a win, or that playing to the edge is very dangerous, and if we failed to score or to defend that single goal in 4 or 5 games we could finish 4th or 5th ?!

    Do you still compare this Atleti to the Atleti of 2000, or to the real Atleti, the club that used to win at least 4 major trophies every decade, including at least 2 Liga titles ?!
    Do you consider Atleti winning trophies an exception, or -as Fernando Torres said in an interview last season- : “This is the normal” ?!

    Do you still compare Simeone to Aguirre, Quique and Manzano, or do you compare him to Mourinho, Pep, Ancelotti & Klopp ?!
    Do you compare our 240 million budget to the 500+ million of RM, Barca & Bayern, or to the 90M of Sevilla, the 62M of PSV, the 60M of Villarreal & the 32M of Eibar ?!
    Or to both ?!

    How do us fans look at Atleti, how does Simeone look at it, how do the players look at it, how does the board look at it ?!

    I think this is a very big and very important question right now .

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    All questions i raised for two seasons now. We are a big club now and we need to get rid of that small club mentality and I refuse to settle for mediocrity. Simeone needs to get his act together or bring someone who thinks of this club as a big club and wants to carry us to greater heights, it’s as simple as that!

  • AndersAT

    Great post. I think you have a good point. I was looking forward to a bit more flair and attacking football after the addition of players like Griezman, Oliver, Carrasco, Vietto and now Gaitan. But it has frustrated me to see the playing style remain the same over the last two seasons. And it is not because I dislike the defensive and counterattacking style. I enjoyed the 13/14 season very much. I liked the way we muscled the opposition down and wining through clinical counters and set pieces. Of course there were frustrating games but there will always be.

    The problem as many have pointed out before me, that we are playing the same style as 13/14 only worse. That is because we don’t have the right players for this style of play. We need a big powerful forward to pair up with griezman and we need a player like RG8 to come in from the bench and score important goals. And we need to be as clinical on set pieces as we were. In 13/14 getting a corner was like getting a half penalty. That gave the opposition a big problem because they had to defend against goal opportunities as well as not giving away set pieces which resulted in mistakes.

    On the other hand we tried with Mandzukic and Jackson and it didn’t work out. And perhaps the other teams have learned how to play against us. And perhaps we will see more free flowing attacking football this season. But I have my doubts.

  • Hannu

    Yeah we have wrong players. First we should not let RG8 go and then we need big striker and this is why I think Gameiro is wrong choice. Diego Costa ofcourse would be best but I quess we didnt have change to get him back. Actually Mandzukic was great but just too slow. And we let Borja go!

  • lai

    Sorry I am just getting around to the replies

    I understand most of what you are trying to say Ahmad but you need to understand me better I think. There is a difference between ‘defending’ and setting up defensively (or having a defensive backbone/base). I was talking more about the latter. If Simeone believes the system is the religion like I theorized, then he believes and feels more comfortable when he knows his legendary defensive skeleton is being maintained (or at least at the back of the players minds) even when Atletico is in all out attack mode. There might be a game where Atletico had 80% possession, 50 shots and won 7-0 but still started with and maintained the defensive skeleton throughout. It’s possible. They don’t have to be ‘defending’ to be faithful to the system. Simeone also can’t be uninteligent enough to have a system whose only aim is to ensure the team defends well.

    Moving on to the more contentious issue of the actual player selection for the roles in system’s skeleton. Let’s assume the following statement is the most obvious critique of Simeone at the moment. Even my non-spanish football friends would say similar to Simeone if they met him.
    “Yeah, we understand 442 with 2 DMs is the greatest formation ever but why can’t you just replace one of the wide midfielders with carrasco or some flair winger. We still have Godin and co at the back, we can attack better and still defend relatively better than most. And even if you aren’t comfortable with that against the big teams like Betis, how about against teams like Leganes at worst”
    I don’t know about you guys but I have read a couple of in-depth materials about Simeone’s 442 and why it’s defensively excellent. And the rough description of Koke and Saul’s role is wide midfielder. And the role is very important to the defensive excellence of the team. As most people know, one of the reasons 442 became obsolete not too long ago was because it was overun in the center. You could have Makhlele and Redondo there, and smaller teams with 3 no name CMs could eventually still find just enough space in that center to run directly at Maldini or whoever behind them. So the answer is No, Gabi and Thiago aren’t legendary enough to hold the center while carrasco and co do winger things outwide. The wide midfielders in this evolved 442 need to know exactly what positions to take at every phase of the game and their first instinct is to always drift inwards. The positions they take when they drift towards the center determines how difficult it would be for the oppositon to bypass the midfield line if they have originally had the superior number in the area. It’s very easy to get a run at Godin and co if Gabi and his partner are stretched too wide trying to cover. There have been many other attempts to protect the center and still use the 442 shape such as one of the forwards dropping deep but none has been as effective. Defending the center isn’t the same as defending the flanks. In summary, who ever is assigned the wide midfield role needs to be more comfortable protecting gabi thiago, godin and savic than juanfran and filipe.

    The battle for the center is at the forefront of many current trends (though all these things just go and come in cycles). That’s why the Bayern-Juve, Bayern-Atletico and Barca-Atletico games last year were the most intriguing. Pep developed the best wing attack around and tried to bypass the center battle. Eventually succeeded against Juve but came up short against Atletico. Personally, I’ve always felt the best way to get through Atletico is still through Juanfran and Filipe no matter how godly they might seem on the day. Easier said that done though. While teams like Barca (or Pep initially) feel it’s better to be superior in the center, Simeone decided its better to make sure he can defend it to the max. And like Alfred mentioned below, you can’t be prepared to defend it to the max if you only use it some of the time. Funny Real just sidestepped all these nonsense talk and lifted the cup lol.

    And don’t forget the discipline factor as well. Carrasco or another winger might be able to imitate koke and saul in the system defensively but can they maintain such discipline for 90 mins while trying to outsmart the opposing full back at the same time. Just one lapse that leads to a goal conceded is a significant setback for a system setup to concede ideally none. Gaitan is interesting because he has been shown to also have the mindset of someone that operates in the center attimes, just like Arda. Ideally, a koke/saul type gives the best system protection from that position but if Gaitan can provide just enough defensive protection there while contributing to the attack significantly, he could be one of the best buys of the season. He still needs to convert to the religion fully though :). For the current system, Carrasco is more of a specialist, not essential. Correa won’t work there either.

    Did nobody here notice when Villarreal suddenly switched from a sexy, one-touch-playing, our-training-is-70%-attacking spanish club to a mini Atletico, replacing their flair wingers with Jonathan Dos Santos and Dennis Suarez (2 CMs) and becoming one of the best defensive teams around, increasing the reputation of their defensive players. They now export central defenders to the EPL yearly for about 20-30m. How about how they also struggle trying to fit newly bought flair wingers into that evolved 442 skeleton, looking for the rare winger that knows how to position himself like a center midfielder. Sound familiar?

    Another point is that this is still the beginning of the season. Even if we assume that Simeone is not as stubborn with his religion like Bielsa and others, and that he can compromise when needed (like he has done in the past), there is still little chance he compromises this early in the season. There are new players around who he has to make believers even if they have an idea of what to expect (don’t understimate how tricky it is to make grown men believe in a new religion) and returning players that need to re-acclimatize to the habits that he believes got them this far. “Hey Griezmann, forgot all your ballon d’or campaigning and get back to grinding” is probably Simeone’s thinking.

    Lastly, I wanted to talk about Simeone’s competitiveness. These decisions aren’t always straightforward for such coaches. They are always conflicted. If they were easy and clear decisions, then we would have a million ‘great coaches. He probably spoke with Burgos long into the night before the game about whether he should sacrifice some of the defensive skeleton principles against lowly Leganes and live to suffer the ‘consequences’ later in the a champions league semi-final or away to Bilbao in January. Why would Simeone be ok with a 0-0 so far he got to maintain his principles if it was such an easy decision to just compromise it for Leganes, win 5-0 and be ready defensively for Barca n co without losing any devout worshiper like Saul. Coaches have gone through so many experiences and assimilated so much material that its safe to say we have different thought processes. While for someone like you, once you see the line up with 4 CMs, a bad memory is triggered and you might correctly predict a dull 0-0. For Simeone the memory experience triggered with selecting a more attacking lineup could be some past game where a coach abandoned his principles temporarily after losing to a lesser team, then subsequently going all guns blazing the next game against another shitty opponent but losing 0-1 to a 90th minute counter. There is no obvious correct choice. Even if he decided to go with a totally different and very attacking system, it would still be tricky to execute if they hadn’t been practicing and worshipping such. This is top level football, switching between clearly different systems comes with its downsides.

    I love football because there is no perfect system or easy answer at the highest level. Ahmad mentioned in one of his posts about the fact that if Atletico is only good for games against Barca, Bayern, Madrid and the likes, what about the other games which are like 70% of the season. Then what do you think of a team that is only good for those 70% games but useless against Barca and co. And if any of the teams in those 2 extreme examples was to win a trophy, you can bet that it would likely be the team good for games against Barca and co. If anybody finds the perfect system that works just as well for both extreme types of opponents, that’s the day football ends. But at the moment, the best team of the year is the team that just about does enough against both type of extreme opponents. And I can’t think of a better idea for Atletico (given your resources) than what Simeone has done. His hope is to be good enough to take out Barca and co while just doing enough against the likes of mighty Leganes. Even if you had all the money in the world and got MSN, you could still get eliminated twice in 3 years by another team called Atletico B and coached by Simeone B.

    Apologize for the likely grammatical errors. Too long to go through again. Just hope I made some sense.

  • lai

    Thanks Kris. I prefer conversing orally though. I just feel like there is a less stuff lost in transmission that way compared to commenting and replying to what you think the other person said.

  • lai

    Interesting angle, Alfred. I mentioned what I think about carrasco and correa on the flanks in my reply to Ahmad above

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    OK man, I surrender, you beat me in long comments .

    Look, when it comes to football tactics, I’m a simple guy, I said that before, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love and enjoy reading a long tactical analysis like yours .
    I love to make things very simple, I don’t like overthinking things, maybe this makes me a naive, but this is who I am .
    As I said before, the system is not working, that’s what I only care about .
    Yes, we fought for La Liga title until the penultimate week, and we reached UCL final again, but I and others have elaborated on that many times, we have been very lucky with many late goals and with shootout against teams like Bayer & PSV .
    We suffer to score goals, and you can’t win anything without scoring goals .
    If we have failed to score that one goal in our ten 1-0 wins last season (I can see this happening this season) then we would have dropped 20 points, would still have finished 3rd, but in most seasons 68 points are not enough to finish 3rd or sometimes to finish 4th .

    Maybe Saul can do all those tactical stuff you mentioned, but he is just not as good as Arda offensively .
    That’s the simple problem, I insist on it : players selection .
    We should have replaced Arda with someone like Çalhanoğlu or Cazorla and converted them to our religion, and they would have converted .
    You say Correa and Carrasco don’t fit in our system, other people say the same about Vietto & Oliver, so why the fuck did Simeone sign them ?!
    You suggest that Gaitan is a perfect replacement for Arda, and yet he isn’t playing .
    Why didn’t we replace Raul Garcia with players like Vitolo and Iborra ?!
    Why didn’t we even consider signing Lukaku who is the closest striker out there to Costa ?!

    What I think is that Simeone tried to change or at least tweak his system, but he discovered that he can’t, so he returned to the old faith, but this is not the old faith, this is absolutely not the 4-4-2 of 2012 to 2014 .

    Players selections, very simple, very naive maybe, but it’s a religion to me .
    Man, there is only one left back in the whole world that Simeone likes, he fell down in both UCL finals, he is 31, he is international player, there is a transfer ban hanging over our head, but yet he is our only left back !!!!!
    There are many great strikers in the world, but Simeone only likes Costa with all his injury and behavior problems .
    If there are only 14 or 15 players who fit Simeone’s style then it’s a fucked up style, we will be fucked up soon, and he will disappear from the coaching map in a couple of years .

    Last thing :
    The team that is only good against small teams is much closer to win league titles than the team that is only good against big teams, while the latter is closer to win cup competitions, but only when they are lucky and avoided a Real Madrid-esque path !!!

  • lai

    I feel you. Different perspectives. No big deal.

    Some quick replies:
    – you call the successful results of all those close tight games luck, Simeone likely just sees them as ‘successful results’. And a neutral person who doesn’t watch football would probably come to the same conclusion given its happened so many times

    – Correa can very much be useful upfront, I was speaking about the wide role. Common, many coaches and teams buy players that end up not fitting their system or whatever they imagined. That’s not specific to Atlético. It’s only after you actually trying it out before you know if they are perfect fits. Also, Carrasco is a specialist, there’ll be situations another system would be used. Also hope you aren’t insinuating gaitan would be benched mostly. The season just started and you already know about earning that famous ‘Simeone’s trust’. If gaitan earns it by October even, it might be a record.

    – it’s possible to change and revert systems. Even coaches with 100 years experience aren’t sure what’s perfect for a given set of conditions. If Simeone moves elsewhere and the conditions change (i.e. his rivals aren’t so overpowered that he needs a deeply learned system that gives him the best chance of defeating those rivals), he’ll most likely not stick to this system

    – my correction to your last paragraph:
    The team that is only good against small teams is much closer to win league titles (in a league without this era Barca and Real) than the team that is only good against big teams.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    In 2015/16 we dropped just one point against Real Madrid, but we dropped 4 against Villarreal who played like a small team and parked the bus, those 4 points would have made us finish with 92 points and win the title, despite losing home and away against Barca .

    And even if we have lost both games against Real Madrid (they would have been 95 points and us 87) three wins against the relegated Levante, the 17th Gijon, and the 8th Malaga -which all we lost- would have given us the title, despite losing all 4 games against Madrid & Barca .

    In 2014/15 we dropped nothing against Real Madrid, but we dropped 5 against Celta (interestingly, Celta’s games were the next week after Madrid’s games), 8 points against 4 teams who finished in the bottom half of the table, and 4 points against 2 teams who finished out of the top 6, those 17 points would have made us finish with 95 points and win the title, despite losing home and away against Barca .

    And even if we have lost both games against Real Madrid (they would have been 98 points and us 89), 5 more points against Valencia, 3 against Villarreal (we lost at home after dominating the game but failed to score) and 2 against Sevilla (another 0-0 draw) would have given us the title, despite losing all 4 games against Madrid & Barca .

    My paragraph didn’t need correction, it was just fine .

    P.S. if you haven’t noticed that from my old posts : I love numbers, and I’m very good at them .

  • lai

    I am not that interested in “what if” or revisionist discussions. If you think winning a league is as simple as a mathematical equation, there is not much I can say to convince you otherwise.

    I’ll just suggest you drop by Real blogs too and see them still describing a situation similar to what you just typed. If we had beat that team or this team and lost to this or that, we would have won the league (Obviously assuming all the other numerous factors magically stay the same). Also, the only season Simeone won the league was the season Atletico went undefeated vs Barca and Real

    Like I said before, different perspectives. You feel there is an alternative optimal system for your current set of players to win the league. I think not. Its that simple attimes

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    It’s not about “what if”, and not about winning this game or that game, almost every team in almost every league in the world must drop some points against very small teams, but in Atleti’s case, in my opinion, I’m starting to see a pattern, we are not talking about dropping 3 or 4 points against small teams -while achieving the double against Real Madrid- it’s much more .
    In 2105 we dropped 11 points against teams in the bottom half of the table, and 19 against teams out of the top 6, while in the same time we beat RM away and thrashed them at home, and did very well against Barca despite the two defeats (the one at Camp Nou was unfair, Barca’s second goal came after a clear handball from Messi) .
    In 2016 we lost the title at Ciutat de València (Simeone never won there) and El Molinón .

    This is a very big problem under all systems and all styles, and it should never be masked by doing well against Madrid & Barca, and against Juve & Bayern .

    It’s not “what if” or assumptions and theories, it’s basic mathematics, you play for 12 points against Madrid & Barca, and for 102 points against the rest of La Liga, and unless one of them achieved 100 points (only happened twice) you don’t need to beat them to win the title, you just have to stop dropping too much points against the last 5 or 6 teams on the table .