Griezmann ineffectiveness on Atletico return sums up Barca spell as Messi takes matters into own hands

By Sports Desk December 01, 2019

It was all so predictable. From Lionel Messi's late heroics to Antoine Griezmann's frosty reception and his subsequent stunted display, very little about Barcelona's 1-0 win at Atletico Madrid on Sunday was even remotely surprising.

If it wasn't already, this had been arguably the most anticipated non-Clasico match in the Spanish football calendar ever since Griezmann's July move was confirmed.

That transfer ended a protracted saga that included one new contract, a 'documentary' and allegations of deception and shady negotiations.

Although Griezmann opted to remain with Atletico last season, documenting in excruciating detail his thought process in 'Le Decision', that contrived and narcissistic video certainly damaged his relationship with Colchoneros fans.

Perception of Griezmann worsened after it was alleged Barca and Griezmann began discussions before his release clause dropped from €200million to €120m, leaving Atletico adamant they were owed a further €80m.

If they didn't enjoy the soap opera that was the transfer saga, Atletico fans may at least have taken a hint of pleasure in Griezmann's early struggles at Barca.

The Frenchman doesn't appear to have improved them in any way, and that was the overriding feeling again after on Sunday.

Perhaps his sheepishness could be put down to the vociferous welcome reserved for him from the home support, some of whom added certain decorations to Griezmann's plaque outside the stadium before the match.

Every player to represent Atletico 100 times is honoured with a plaque outside their new stadium, though toy rats and a red cross were the most prominent new additions to Griezmann's on Sunday.

The abuse and scorn surely would've gone into overdrive had he found the net, though in reality he never looked a threat.

As has been the case for much of his career, Griezmann is at his most deadly when occupying a central position, where he can exploit even minimal spaces and do the unexpected.

Before the interval, however, he only popped up in such a position once, as he took up possession and found Luis Suarez, who lashed just wide from distance.

Otherwise he spent most of his time isolated and offering little on the left flank, the match passing him by.

After a cagey start to the second half, proceedings began to open up around the hour mark and you could be forgiven for expecting that to play into the hands of Griezmann and Barca.

Yet Griezmann remained on the periphery, barely making a squeak as chaos roared around him, the visitors clinging on for dear life.

"You wanted to be a name and you forgot to be a man," read a banner unfurled by Atletico fans, but he's failing to live up to his name at Barca.

He might have seen an opportunity for glory deep into the second half when he appeared to make a great run in behind Kieran Trippier, needing only to be fed by the marauding Messi.

But instead of slipping Griezmann through, which seemed to be the easier option, Messi used Suarez.

There was one exchange of passes and then – whack! Messi found the bottom-left corner, opting to stick to the tried and tested combination of himself and Suarez.

The ineffectiveness of Griezmann's display was entirely in keeping with the rest of his Barca career.

Suarez was the only outfield Blaugrana player – excluding substitutes – who touched the ball fewer times than Griezmann, yet the Uruguayan still proved more effective, teeing up Messi for that winner.

Although a night that began with a chorus of jeers ended with an embrace from Messi, Griezmann is feeling anything but the love after choosing to "be a name" at Barca.

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    Even in these extraordinary times, Barcelona letting Luis Suarez go to Atletico Madrid is starting to look like the oddest decision of the season.

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    It seems increasingly likely that Suarez, and certainly Atletico, will be at the top of the tree come the end of 2020-21.

    With the majority of sides having now played half of their matches, the Stats Perform AI team have run the numbers to simulate how the rest of the LaLiga campaign will play out – and it's good news for Diego Simeone.

     

    The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

    Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

    The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

    All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

    The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

     

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    Atletico have been given a 75.1 per cent chance of winning LaLiga, according to the model.

    Simeone's men are predicted to finish on 86 points, nine clear of the rest of the field. They are given just a 17.8 per cent chance of coming second and dropping outside the top four is considered practically impossible.

    Barcelona and reigning champions Real Madrid are predicted to end with 77 points apiece, with just a 12.4 per cent chance each of pipping Atleti to the title. Madrid have a 41 per cent chance of finishing second, slightly above Barca's 39.4, having beaten Ronald Koeman's side 3-1 in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou last October.

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    Odegaard is not part of Madrid's squad for Saturday's LaLiga trip to Alaves amid speculation he could be confirmed at Arsenal imminently. 

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    His contributions in terms of goals and assists helped La Real finish in sixth place. They also reached the Copa del Rey final, though that fixture against rivals Athletic Bilbao is yet to take place due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

     

    The addition of Odegaard would add some welcome creativity to Mikel Arteta's squad, the Gunners having managed just 23 goals in 19 league games so far in what has been a topsy-turvy 2020-21 season.  

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    Having been busy so far in January trimming the squad, including the impending departure of Mesut Ozil, Arteta has admitted he hopes to make additions before the transfer window closes. 

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