How did Atletico Madrid lose their magic?

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Sports -

THESE are def­i­nitely not the best of times to be an Atletico Madrid fan, even though they are still play­ing in the Cham­pi­ons League and have re­cently moved to their new sta­dium this sea­son. The rea­son is that the team has ter­ri­ble of­fen­sive ef­fi­ciency, which has brought frus­trat­ing re­sults both in La Liga and the Cham­pi­ons Leagues.

Atletico has not been able to score more than two goals in each of their last seven games, which in­cluded draws with Qarabağ, Elche and Le­ganes. These re­sults have put the team’s clear down­fall on dis­play. They are al­most out of the Cham­pi­ons League and a full eight points away from La Liga lead­ers Barcelona. The ques­tion is what hap­pened to the once almighty Atletico Madrid that was, for the last five years, one of the best teams in Europe.

First of all, I al­most al­ways ad­vo­cate that a set­tled, so­phis­ti­cated strat­egy is the key for longterm suc­cess and Atletico Madrid owes their glory days to their coach Diego Sime­one’s in­sis­tence on their de­fen­sive strat­egy. Nev­er­the­less, in a Ni­et­zschean sense, strate­gies as con­cepts are his­tor­i­cal be­ings which are in con­stant con­flict. A strat­egy that is per­fect in a cer­tain con­text for one team isn’t al­ways suit­able for an­other, and that is what hap­pened to Atletico. Their op­po­nents have be­come fa­mil­iar­ized with their strat­egy and more im­por­tantly Diego Sime­one has not de­vel­oped his game since he took the reins. Through­out the years, their game has be­come a one-sided, pre­dictable and dull one, which is what we are watch­ing right now.

How­ever, their trans­fer ban and rel­a­tively lim­ited squad must also be noted in their wors­en­ing form. Sime­one could not re­place old play­ers with fresh faces and their only al­ter­na­tive on the bench is a 33-year-old Fer­nando Tor­res. This is­sue does not hurt them much when An­toine Griez­mann takes the of­fen­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity or Saul Niguez and Yan­nick Car­rasco con­trib­ute with their in­di­vid­ual tal­ent.

Then, and only then, is Atletico able to com­pen­sate their of­fen­sive dull­ness with their de­fen­sive ex­cel­lence. They sit deep in their half and do not let their op­po­nents come to in­side their penalty box. Nev­er­the­less, when their op­po­nents let Atletico take the ini­tia­tive, Sime­one’s team were left clue­less and this has hap­pened a lot this sea­son. Without an of­fen­sive op­po­nent, Atletico has no idea how to cre­ate time and space for Griez- mann to score.

The so­lu­tion is, I am afraid, a painful one which will re­quire Atletico to trans­form their game. Their strat­egy ruled football for some time, but as it hap­pens to al­most all strate­gies; it has been de­bunked by the dy­namic his­tor­i­cal process. If I was Diego Sime­one, I would use this pe­riod to cre­ate a new strat­egy with a new squad which would not de­mand huge trans­fers. For sure, this would mean that Atletico can lose this sea­son and prob­a­bly next sea­son too, but even­tu­ally they would re­turn much stronger.

Although their cur­rent form still holds them among the best in Europe, it is al­most cer­tain that they will not be able to hold on for much longer. Siemone must re­mem­ber that his courage to cre­ate a new strat­egy led to his suc­cess, and new suc­cesses re­quire new strate­gies.

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