Atletico Madrid’s win over Liverpool was one of their best performances of the season. But it did well to hide many of their flaws from the ongoing campaign. The performance was typical Atleti under Diego Simeone but the fact that it could’ve been a lot more has been their story of the season.
More than anything else, Simeone would have been regretting the club’s inability to sign Edinson Cavani in January. The margin could have easily been more than 1-0, if not for Alvaro Morata’s misses in the game. But Simeone has become used to it. From not just Morata, but from every player on the pitch.
In La Liga, Atleti have scored only 28 goals in the whole season. That is the sixth-lowest tally in the whole league, as they’ve scored less than Osasuna, Levante and Granada. There was a point last week when Ciro Immobile had scored more goals in the Serie A alone than the whole Atleti side combined.
There is certainly a flip side. The Los Rojiblancos have let in just 18 goals in the whole season. They have the second-best defence in the league, while Real Madrid have let in only 17 goals. But that sort of a record is hardly a strange one for Simeone’s side. They’ve always been known to be a side that keeps the back door bolted.
What brings their problems to the fore is their XG underperformance. Atleti have underperformed on their XG by a huge 11.18– that is one of the highest tallies in Europe and the highest underperformance in La Liga. Leganes have done the same but they’ve done it by 6.50.
But the XG stats show that while the side creates enough, they don’t score and convert what they get. At this point, Atleti should have scored 39 times and they have the fourth-highest XG in the league only Barcelona, Real and Valencia.
And perhaps, that is why they wanted to sign Edinson Cavani. Morata has been underperforming by 3.57, even though he has scored seven times so far. He’s also underperforming on his XA by 2.55- a sign that he’s not been doing well in creating chances for others too.
Joao Felix, who is still settling into a new system, has underperformed by 2.11. Diego Costa has done so by 1.55 as well. Three deeper midfielders in Koke, Thomas Partey and Marcos Llorente are the only players to not have been underperforming on their XG. That clearly shows the state of things at the club.
It does point to bad recruitment by the club. Unlike a club like Liverpool, they don’t rely on data to sign players. They have four forward players but they’ve still not met their expectations. That is a bad sign for the future for Simeone.
And missing out on Cavani shows that recruitment certainly has been bad. Cavani himself is known to be someone who misses chances. But every striker does that regularly.
Cavani has underperformed on his XG this season by 3.49. But that comes from him taking as many as 4.50 shots per 90 minutes. He has overperformed in the last two seasons by taking lesser shots per 90 minutes on goal. It isn’t to say that he’s a spotless finisher. But he could have added a lot of goals to the Atletico repertoire.
One thing that Cavani is known to be is that he’s a fighter. His Paris Saint-Germain teammate Marquinhos said that last year. He told Goal.com (via Le10Sport): He works a lot, he gives everything, he always does everything he can for his team-mates. He arrived almost at the same time as I did in Paris.”
Cavani indeed does bring the sort of edginess to games that Simeone loves. He has that fire about himself that Simeone wants in players. And considering Atleti play in a 4-4-2, a striker like him would benefit from the support of another fellow striker partner.
If Atletico had him, things could have been a lot of different. They can still have him next season but it is the now that matters.