Why Diego Simeone Needs to Let Atletico Madrid off the Leash Against Sporting

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistNovember 6, 2015

Atletico's coach Diego Simeone gestures during the Champions League group C soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Astana at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015.  (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

As has been theatrically, brutally shown in the case of Jose Mourinho this season, no manager is ever immune from pressure.

The Chelsea boss continues to rail against anyone and everyone he feels is getting in his way, but what he seems to have lost sight of is that the best way to answer your critics is via good performances, something that the Blues are not producing enough of right now.

It’s not quite the same at Atletico Madrid, but Diego Simeone has found himself the subject of one or two grumbles following what has been a less-than-stellar week.

Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan defender Jose Maria Gimenez walks at the end of the Spanish league football match RC Deportivo La Coruna vs Club Atletico de Madrid at the Municipal de Riazor stadium in La Coruna on October 30, 2015.  The match finished with a

After looking in control of last Friday’s trip to Deportivo La Coruna, Atletico seemed content to sit back and protect their one-goal advantage, something that is never secure in football, as was shown with the error from Jose Gimenez that allowed Lucas Perez in to equalise.

Those dropped points coupled with the wins for Real Madrid and Barcelona meant that Atleti lost ground in La Liga. And they couldn't find solace in the Champions League, as they stuttered to a goalless draw against minnows Astana in Kazakhstan—a result that has let Benfica in to take control of Group C ahead of the pair’s meeting on the final matchday.

Those who didn’t see the Astana game would expect to read that Atletico dominated possession and peppered their opponents’ goal. According to UEFA’s official report on the game, though, both the hosts and visitors had the same number of shots on target (three), while Atletico’s 58 percent possession was hardly dominant.

Both the Depor and Astana results have left Atletico fans scratching their heads and wondering why a team possessing such attacking talent isn’t going out to dominate lesser opponents, with Simeone’s methods perhaps being questioned for the first time as the club’s manager.

Atletico Madrid's coach Diego Simeone attends a press conference in Astana on November 2, 2015 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League group C football match between FC Astana and Club Atletico de Madrid. AFP PHOTO / STANISLAV FILIPPOV        (Photo credi

Far too often we’ve seen the Argentinian’s side do all they can to score the opening goal, get it, and then revert to type as they sit back and try to protect their advantage.

Simeone might argue that it was this approach that took his side to La Liga glory and within a whisker of winning the Champions League in 2013/14, but the current version of Atletico would seem to suit a different approach.

A side containing Antoine Griezmann, Jackson Martinez (or indeed Fernando Torres), Oliver Torres and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco just seems to be crying out to be let off the leash, and Simeone must realise that Sunday evening’s clash at home to Sporting Gijon is the perfect time to do it.

It’s not that Abelardo Fernandez’s side are especially poor, and indeed their 12th-placed position in the table is pretty good for a newly promoted outfit, but Asturians might just be stumbling into the Vicente Calderon at just the wrong moment. Atletico need to make a statement, and they need to make one quickly.

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 21:  Jackson Arley Martinez  of Atletico de Madrid controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Astana at Vicente Calderon stadium on October 21, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (P
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Simeone should see this as the perfect chance to silence the doubters and show just what his side can do.

They might never be able to eclipse the star quality and attractive football on display at Barcelona and Real Madrid, but neither will they do that by turning three points into one as they did last week at the Riazor in La Coruna.

Establishing a clear hierarchy at the head of his team—with Martinez starting ahead of the willing-but-declining Fernando Torres more often than not—would help with this aim, and this could end up being a game that Simeone looks back on as one that resembled a turning point for his team.

A convincing win won’t completely remove the pressure he’s feeling, but it would help him feel a whole lot better.