Atletico Madrid’s defense of their La Liga title has not gone according to the plan. They have been inconsistent since the start of the season and have suffered three successive losses in the league for the first time since Diego Simeone took over. Defensively, they look disjointed specifically in the recent games and have been leaking goals at the back, a scenario that is usually not associated with Simeone’s side. Atletico have conceded six goals from eight shots on target in their previous three games. Despite having a plethora of attacking talent, Atletico have not been clinical in front of the goal. They have been able to find the net just twice in their last three fixtures and are facing issues in converting their chances. Consequently, they have dropped down to fifth place in La Liga with eight wins, five draws, and four losses in 17 matches.
Another one of Atletico’s problems has been Koke’s decline in form. Over the years, Koke has slotted in multiple roles for Atletico. In the left midfield, central position, and now in a deeper position, Koke has been deployed almost everywhere in the midfield. He has been the core of Simeone’s team, who is at the centre of everything. Atletico’s dependency on Koke has become more evident in the past two seasons as they struggle to perform in his absence. The lack of a suitable replacement has created issues for the Rojiblanco at times when he has been injured.
In the recent defeat against Real Madrid, Atletico conceded the opening goal due to Koke’s misplaced pass, which allowed Karim Benzema to score. His lack of form and confidence has been evident in recent matches. The Atletico Madrid captain would need to find his best form soon if he is to aid his side in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
Let’s dive into his stats in the Champions League this season to gauge the key areas where the veteran midfielder would need to improve.
While Koke’s defensive stats have not been the best in the Champions League, his additional defensive duties in the current system demand him to be at his best when his side is under pressure. Koke could improve upon his defensive and loose ball duels, as aerial duels were never his best asset. In addition, his interceptions and recoveries in the opponent half could also use some improvement.
Over the years, Koke has been known for his impressive passing ability. He can pick out passes that unlock the opponents’ defense. The Atletico captain has established himself as one of the most effective passers in Europe. However, this season his passing has been slow and lackluster. Often, he has preferred to play sideways or backward passes, as indicated by his pass map. Koke needs to become more involved in the build-up play as his movement and ability are crucial for Atletico.
This season Koke has been deployed mostly in the defensive midfield, either on the centre or in the left side of midfield. Although his role has remained relatively the same, his defensive duties have increased in the deep-lying role. In the recent game against Real Madrid, gaps could be seen in Atletico’s midfield and defense, and it was Koke’s responsibility to cover that gap. A similar pattern of Koke not effectively closing down on the spaces could be seen in the defeat against Sevilla, where Koke’s failure to close down on Rakitic led to the opening goal. Koke’s lack of energy has been evident in recent games. He is nearing 30 years of age and cannot be expected to display the same levels of energy as when he was younger. He could improve with some rest.
Another one of Koke’s strengths which he displayed often in the previous seasons was his shot accuracy. While he is more of a creator than a goal-scorer, Koke can nonetheless test the defenders with his incisive shots. Koke could attempt to take more shots, although it would depend on Simeone’s overall tactics.
Over the years, Koke has been an important and prominent part of Atletico. In his absence, Atletico tend to underperform. The Rojiblanco would need to find a suitable alternative for Koke soon so that he can be rested and regain his best form. Simeone would need to come up with solutions to revive Koke’s form.