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Is Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone period coming to an finish after derby loss spotlights rising issues?

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When greatness turns into pallid, when the extraordinary turns into extraordinarily peculiar, it is virtually all the time a tough story to inform.

The explanation that Hans Christian Andersen’s fable of “The Emperor’s New Garments” remains to be well-known right now, the one the place the king loses sight of actuality and is conned by weavers into sporting nothing in any respect but the dominion’s topics extend his humiliation by saying nothing, is not simply to show us a lesson in regards to the societal urge to fawn on the toes of the excessive and mighty. One a part of this morality story additionally explains that it could actually really feel awkward, ungrateful, even opportunistic, to shout “Have a look within the mirror!” when the once-majestic has grow to be myopic, muddled and middling.

Which, after all, brings us to: the Madrid derbi, the state Atletico Madrid are in, the racism aimed toward Vinicius Jr., how Emperor Diego Simeone is performing and the way quickly somebody, just like the brutally sincere little one within the Danish fable will shout out: “Cholo’s received no garments on!” Please do not be fooled by Madrid’s single-goal victory margin from Sunday’s heated, generally spectacular, however disturbing derbi Madrileno.

Atleti had been largely atrocious. Once more.

The short-sighted, the misguidedly loyal, those that worry change, and people who quake at paying off Simeone’s eight determine annual wage multiplied by the 20 months remaining on his contract (roughly €33m if there’s not a specified, decrease, rescission clause quantity) will level out that Atleti’s two finest defenders, Stefan Savic and Jose Maria Gimenez, had been lacking.

They will bluster that Los Rojiblancos gained this derbi on the Metropolitano solely final Might. That the house aspect had an lively first quarter-hour on Sunday. They will say: “Cannot you see the fantastic thing about his ermine and the way finely tailor-made Cholo’s robes truly are?” They will say: “Cannot you be glad with earlier [trophy] magnificence?”

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However calling out the present decrepit state of Atleti’s match sharpness, match stamina, ways, defending, consideration to element, competitiveness, mentality, creativity, damage prevention, enjoying system and participant morale does not come solely from this defeat throughout which the 2021 champions had been limp, bewildered, third finest in a two-horse race and, finally, had been even gifted their comfort objective.

This pallid angle, this loss which already leaves them eight factors behind Madrid after solely six matches, is consultant of an alarming decline. It requires to be a turning level. Cholo Simeone’s postmatch evaluation like many managers underneath strain, bore little precise relationship to what occurred.

The onerous reality is that at no stage after Rodrygo ruthlessly scored Aurelien Tchouameni’s brilliantly crafted cross for the opening objective within the fifteenth minute, did Atleti actually consider they may win. No urgency, no forcefulness — scant self perception.

Simeone’s massively pleasing, deeply important and undeniably historic reign at Atleti has been predicated on aggressive self perception, proficient gamers squeezing each final drop of effort out of themselves, red-and-white-striped footballers making it totally horribly for opposition to play towards them, ultra-stingy defending and a real, palpable, concept that “We worry no one; blink for a second and we are going to haul you down whoever you might be.”

In comparison with that, the central identification of the previous 11 years of Atleti is totally unrecognisable. Rivals look on them as simple pickings. Final season virtually half of LaLiga conceded fewer objectives than them (together with Getafe who completed some extent off relegation). Atleti’s gamers look confused, half-hearted, out-of-form and leaden athletically.

The coach seems each unsure and frail tactically — not sure of the personnel in his finest XI, much more deeply not sure about which formation could make Atleti formidable once more. (Simeone skilled all week in a 5-3-2, began that manner, then modified to a 4-4-2 5 minutes into the match which was 12 minutes earlier than Madrid sliced by means of them to go 1-0 up!)

Solely 5 instances previously 59 aggressive matches have Atleti gone one objective behind and nonetheless gained. Massively decreased skill to bounce again. Final season, they misplaced three consecutive matches (Madrid, Sevilla, Granada) for the primary time since their Argentinian guru took over in December 2011.

This newest defeat signifies that they’re in peril of shedding three straight residence matches for the primary time in Simeone’s beforehand admirable tenure. (The truth that the following residence rival is lowly Girona would make that ultra-catastrophic if it got here to cross).

These criticisms, and there are a lot of extra, should be put in context of how proficient, how deep and the way expensively assembled a squad Atleti possess. To be truthful to Simeone, in two methods, it should not be forgotten that, final season, they beat the soon-to-be Italian champions away from residence and likewise gained at Previous Trafford and in Porto.

Nor ought to it’s thought that the final malaise is just Simeone’s fault. His health coach guru, Oscar Ortega, is not slicing the mustard, hasn’t for a very long time. The return to Madrid of Antonio Pintus, sparking Los Blancos’ totally superb capability to win or seal massive video games late on, has highlighted this.

It is clear that Simeone is unimpressed with a number of the membership’s most up-to-date signings. It is equally clear that El Cholo and Joao Felix take pleasure in what LaLiga TV’s match commentator Pete Jenson known as “a wedding of inconvenience.” The membership nonetheless love the proficient Portuguese, however Cholo would a lot relatively eliminate him and discover a new model of the younger Diego Costa.

In sensible phrases, what Atleti do about their coach’s state of affairs would possibly finally be closely influenced by a board debate over “which horse can we again right here? Our document €126m switch funding who’s nonetheless solely 22 … or the man to whom we pay over €20m a season and who’s at the moment serving up tepid soccer?”

One litmus take a look at, for you, not simply the lads who rule at Atleti, is to contemplate: “If Simeone had come from a workforce displaying the shape, angle and competitiveness which Atleti have proven during the last 16 months would he have been employed again in 2011?” Or: “Will Simeone’s substitute, each time that comes, get the job having proven the equal of Atleti’s kind during the last yr and a half?”

In the event you’re sincere, the reply is crystal clear.

Latest witnesses at coaching have heard Simeone roaring at his gamers: “You earn massive salaries … work more durable … anybody who does not wish to be right here does not need to be right here.” Not cutting-edge stuff.

There’s one thing else indicative of the good slough wherein this normally important, inspirational, likeable and ultra-hungry man finds himself. Take a look at his enjoying document. Not simply what he gained, however what these trophies and his arrival on the membership signified. When Simeone was Rojiblancos’ midfield enforcer, Atleti gained the league and cup double in 1995-96 — they’d by no means achieved that earlier than and have not since.

It was Atleti’s first Spanish Liga title in 19 years. One thing not repeated till he grew to become coach. At Inter, he helped them raise the UEFA Cup — solely their third trophy in 9 years. It took one other 12 years for the Nerazzurri to win one other European trophy. At Lazio, the Roman membership had solely gained three trophies within the earlier 25 years and so they’d solely gained Serie A as soon as. Simeone’s arrival in midfield impressed Sven Erikisson’s workforce to win 4 trophies in underneath a yr. Lazio have neither gained the title nor a European trophy since.

With Argentina in 1991, Simeone drove the Albiceleste to their first Copa America win for 32 years. As a coach, he gained the Argentinian Apertura with Estudiantes — their first trophy for 23 years.

Excuse the stats bomb, however together with his historic achievements in command of Atleti thrown in, you see the patterns do not you? Simeone, stripped right down to his uncooked core, is a catalyst. Pushed, formidable, hungry, proficient, inspirational — profitable.

Ferocious, insatiable, inspirational. Evaluate any of that data, that correct characterisation, to the present squad’s performances, its character, the apathy, the confusion, the fallibility — the Arsene Wenger-esque “prime 4 will do nice, thanks.” What’s your conclusion?

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Julien Laurens requires Atletico Madrid’s subsequent residence sport to be performed and not using a crowd after followers shouted racist chants about Vinicius Junior throughout Sunday’s Madrid derby.

It might be incredible if Atleti may maintain a summit with their coach — reignite his fireplace, demand increased, extra inspirational requirements in every day work. Freshness, ferocity, renewed drive, ambition and, briefly, an virtually full reset.

Nevertheless, I worry that the beastly legislation of diminishing returns, between membership, squad and coach, has set its steely claws and won’t relinquish. If that’s the case, the important thing query for Atleti is, “What to do?”

The one unacceptable reply is: “head within the sand.” The identical one Atletico Madrid have utilized to the atrocity of their “Extremely” followers who title themselves: “Frente Atletico.”

Different individuals can have extra direct, extra sustained expertise of this group that reveals disgusting attitudes, however I can say, with out query, the worst, most brutal racism I’ve ever witnessed throughout 20 years residing in Spain (or anyplace else for that matter) got here from that sector of Atleti’s followers.

It was a Copa Del Rey Madrid derbi, on the Bernabeu in February 2014. The 2 coaches had been … Diego Simeone and Carlo Ancelotti. Publish Madrid’s 3-0 win, Ancelotti’s unused gamers had been doing warm-down workout routines on the pitch and Marcelo had his 4-year-old son with him whereas the away followers, for safety functions, had been nonetheless locked of their part of the stadium.

What Atleti followers chanted and sang at Marcelo and his little son, merely due to their pores and skin color, was evil and unpardonable. I instantly phoned the TV station I labored with on the time to report that one thing horrific was going down. Truthful play — they instantly devoted their information bulletin to it.

Within the rapid aftermath, some Atleti followers and personnel had been angered and denied that the state of affairs had been so disgusting — till Marcelo, late at evening, tweeted a social media submit about how he, and his son, heard all of it however would by no means be daunted, modified or intimidated by such fools.

From then, till now, Atleti have performed so little of which means or impact {that a} sizable variety of their followers felt in a position to racially abuse Vinicius Jr. in similar manner this weekend. It is an ultra-serious state of affairs. It requires each extreme punishment (for any membership and or fan base, with stadium closure the one significant strategy to get the purpose throughout).

Nonetheless extra crucially, racism in soccer requires deep, everlasting and forceful training in any respect ranges of Spanish society. In each sporting and social phrases, it is time for all of us to inform Atletico that they’re engaged in self-delusion.

The emperor is with out garments.


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