What chance will Diego Simeone defeat Juergen Klopp?
Before Atletico faced Liverpool in the 1/8 round of the 2019/20 Champions League, coaches Diego Simeone and Juergen Klopp fought for the same issues over the years.
Diego Simeone’s first meeting with Juergen Klopp took place a long time ago, about 10 years ago, it’s easy to see the similarities between them. Both are new to the coaching circle. They inspired, raising their team Atletico Madrid, Dortmund and now Liverpool to new heights
Two versions of personality and difference
Coach Klopp joined Dortmund to win two Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012, then lost 1-2 to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final. Simeone coach brought Atletico to La Liga championship 2014 but fell to Real Madrid in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals.
Coach Klopp and Simeone own the same power. They cannot recruit superstars, while the stars they create themselves leave one after the other. However, they were offset by intensity and organization.
Both are proud of their tactical ability without following the ball control philosophy. Klopp’s team applied gegenpressing skill and counter-attacked quickly. And Simeone’s team stepped deep in defense, pressing two wings and actively breaking the game.
In an interview at the beginning of the 2019/20 season, Simeone referred to Klopp as the coach he admires most. The Argentine strategist emphasized: “He lost a lot of things and also won good things but always had the same style. I think he is very close to his players.”
In the opposite direction, Klopp assessed: “This will be a difficult game, between the two teams accustomed to intense play. Philosophy and organization are also different, but both are ready for the game with high intensity.”
Therefore, Klopp’s Liverpool confrontation with Simeone’s Atletico will be very special: High-speed, energetic and talented, so it may be so, but maybe not.
In the past 18 months, all developments of Liverpool and Atletico are completely opposite. Klopp is having the best season in his coaching career and Liverpool is set to become the Premier League champion 2019/20. Meanwhile, Atletico has fallen. Simeone was suspected for the first time.
Since then, his future has gradually become the subject of Spanish media. There was a time when Atletico was supposed to replace Real Madrid to become the No. 1 team in Madrid. But now they are even behind Getafe of coach Jose Bordalas – who is considered a perfect replacement for Simeone.
Now, the old image of Liverpool and Atletico with “warriors, players who can run non-stop” no longer exists but becomes other interesting things.
For Liverpool, that is not the most relevant factor to Klopp’s philosophy. They excel in almost every aspect, from coordination to counterattack and even fixed situations.
Atletico feels the same way. They have trauma and physical problems. The consistency and intensity of their gameplay are also gradually losing. The best example of that is when they lost 1-2 against third-team Leonesa in the round of 16 of Copa del Rey.
What happened to Atletico?
Continuing to play with high intensity has left Atletico’s squad exhausted and prone to injury this season. Alvaro Morata is having a problem with his groin, Joao Felix has missed the last 3 matches, and Diego Costa has also stopped playing since November 2019.
All three strikers can play in the match against Liverpool, but no one can guarantee 100% fitness. Hector Herrera and Jose Gimenez had a chance to return after recovering from the injury but Kieran Trippier did not.
In addition to injury issues, Simeone’s Atletico is becoming less cohesive. Two players who have played more than 80% of La Liga minutes this season are goalkeepers Jan Oblak and Saul Niguez. Even the position of Saul does not show stability when rotating on the right-wing, left-wing, left center midfielder and left defender.
This is not the intention to keep Atletico players fresh by the rotation of coach Simeone. Instead, Simeone is struggling to create consistency in the game because Atletico’s players are in decline. By comparison, Liverpool has six players who have played more than 80% of the Premier League minutes this season.
The growing list of injuries also negatively affects Atletico’s pressing play. There is no perfect number to measure pressing, but Opta’s “high-scoring shots” are not bad. In La Liga, Simeone’s Atletico is averaging 4.1 goals per game this season, the lowest number in their last few seasons.
In theory, Atletico’s inconclusive results are problematic. They can be proud to only have to accept 17 goals after 24 rounds in La Liga, 1 more than Real Madrid, but Atletico has only scored 25 goals. Certainly, Simeone’s approach is always based on a solid defense rather than a spectacular attack. However, these are still extremely relevant numbers.
The departure of Antoine Griezmann has been more concentrated. The French striker has been Atletico’s mainstay in recent seasons. However, Alvaro Morata was trusted in Atletico’s finishing mission. Here, he accounts for 30% of Atletico’s total xG (expected goal) in La Liga this season (with Griezmann 29% in the 2018/19 season).
Even in terms of converting goals into goals, Morata did better. Griezmann’s goals scored last season with 11% came from the live ball, while Morata’s record is 14% this season. Even if you remove the 3 goals that Griezmann scored on the penalty spot will show the minimum difference in scoring performance with Morata.
Atletico’s basic statistics make the analysis process particularly interesting. In terms of xG (expected goal), Atletico’s performance was much less expected. From the position of their finishes this season, Atletico should have added 12 goals in La Liga based on the opportunities created.
This is not a player’s fault. All Atletico attacking players have fewer goals than expected based on their chances. Alvaro Morata, Diego Costa, Joao Felix and Angel Correa should have scored more goals.
This is not simply a problem of Atletico. The truth is that they have achieved the third highest expected goal number in recent seasons. Always doing better than a steady range compared to their expected goal parameters, they suddenly fell behind that normal level. This may be more deadly than a fundamental flaw with Simeone’s Atletico.
If underestimating the expected goal parameters is the main and only problem of Atletico, no one sympathizes with Simeone more than Klopp.
During his last season in charge of Dortmund, the German strategist had a similar problem. The number of goals scored is far different from the expected number of goals. In the middle of the 2014/15 season, Klopp’s Dortmund drew attention when it came in second place from the bottom to the Bundesliga rankings, while the xG spec suggested that they should have been only a second-place just 1 point. The difference in actual goals is up to 16 goals better than the expected goal difference.
Statistical analysts have used these numbers and confidently predicted that although in the relegation zone in the middle of the season, Dortmund will be perfectly fine. They did it. During the second half of the 2014/15 season, they earned twice as many points as the first half (31 vs 15) and climbed to seventh place in the rankings.
Atletico’s instability is not so serious. This is largely due to their inefficiency in attacking, rather than defending. They do not have to struggle at the bottom of the rankings like Klopp’s Dortmund in the 2014/15 season. They are simply struggling in the race to qualify for the Champions League next season.
It remains to be seen whether Atletico’s actual number of goals will keep up with the expected goals. In other words, can Simeone convince Atletico’s management, fans and players that this is just a fundamental flaw. Klopp, when in this situation at Dortmund, decided to leave. However, there are few signs Simeone will make the same decision, and the basic statistics of Atletico have shown an imminent improvement.
Based on the results and especially the number of goals scored this season, Atletico will be lower than Liverpool. However, in Simeone’s mind, he would not think Atletico would be underestimated.