Can Griezmann show World Cup form for Atletico in time for Barcelona’s exit?

The 2022 World Cup was special for many reasons.

It was the first World Cup held in the Middle East and the first in the middle of the season for Europe’s top clubs.

One thing that hasn’t changed, of course, is that players have been able to use the tournament as a platform to show what they can do on the biggest stage, and perhaps get big moves from it.

While Josko Gvardiol, Enzo Fernandez, Alexis Mac Allister and Jude Bellingham are among the players who likely fall into this category, Antoine Griezmann is different.

Griezmann is not a star-studded youngster, but he shone in Qatar as he has probably redefined his position in seven games.

That’s not to say Griezmann hasn’t impressed this season before the World Cup. Prior to the tournament, he directly contributed to 10 goals for Atletico Madrid, scoring five and creating as many.

Griezmann’s form came during the season where he had to settle for a reserve role until September 18 as Atleti tried to navigate a financial clause in a loan deal with Barcelona that would come into effect if the 31-year-old played a certain number of minutes.

Had this clause been activated, Atleti would have had to pay €40m to re-sign Griezmann. They have now paid less than half that amount to bring him back to the club on a permanent basis in October.

Barca are next for Atleti in the most important fixture of LaLiga matches this weekend. Going into this match, Griezmann is a reinvented player.

Antoine Griezmann was the main creator of France in Qatar

Creator at the helm

Griezmann returned from the World Cup with a vigor and verve to his game perhaps not seen since his best years at Atleti in 2017-2019.

His goal share is 13 (five more than any of his teammates) after three assists in two appearances since Atleti’s campaign restarted – one in La Liga and one in the Copa del Rey.

Griezmann leads the club’s goalscoring list alongside Alvaro Morata while his seven assists are four better than Joao Felix, who appears set to leave the club this month. None of his teammates came close to Griezmann’s 42 created chances, 35 of which came from open play.

But this setup for Griezmann is a really interesting aspect of his great form.

Didier Deschamps often used Griezmann as a second striker in international football. This was the position he played at Euro 2016 and during France’s successful performance at the 2018 World Cup.

In Qatar, however, Griezmann was fielded as the most advanced of the three midfielders, and there he showed his ability not only to find space in the last period, but also to lead games.

Only Kylian Mbappe has been involved in more shot-ending sequences for France

Only Kylian Mbappe has been involved in more shot-ending sequences for France

Only Kylian Mbappe (49) was involved in more offensive shot-finishes for France during the tournament than Griezmann (30).

However, of Griezmann’s 361 touches in open play, only 14 hit the opponent’s box, and the vast majority were concentrated in the center of the park.

Not that that stopped Griezmann from exerting influence. He provided three assists as he led the competition alongside Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes, Ivan Perisic and Lionel Messi. However, unlike all of these players, Griezmann’s expected assists (xA) of 3.6 were actually a bit lower. He basically created better odds for those assists than his counterparts.

Antoine Griezmann - from poacher to quarterback

Antoine Griezmann – from poacher to quarterback

Proof of this was the brilliant cross to Olivier Giroud that scored France’s second goal in a 2-1 quarter-final win over England, after having converted Aurelien Tchouameni’s strike ahead of Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry in terms of the most assists. Les Blues. Griezmann’s 28 assists are the most of any French player in his country in the last 50 years.

Griezmann’s 22 chances were the most in the tournament, although only nine of them came from open play. When it came to creativity, Griezmann was at the peak of his abilities.

From poacher to quarterback

It was certainly a case of restarting for Griezmann when Atleti faced Elche in LaLiga on December 29. Diego Simeone’s men won 2-0 and Griezmann was brilliant.

He set up both goals and created four chances. No player attempted more passes in the opponent’s half (37) or played more crosses (five).

Despite Atleti setting up in a 3-4-3 formation, with Griezmann nominally positioned on the right wing, his average position was just outside the halfway line.

A similar story happened on Wednesday against Real Oviedo in the Copa del Rey. While he reportedly played in the top two alongside Alvaro Morata, Griezmann’s touches were concentrated around the halfway line, with only two hitting the opponent’s box.

Interlocking with Morata in the front line and even playing as an inside striker in a 3-4-3 formation is basically perfect for Griezmann to step into a role similar to the one he flourished in at the World Cup.

Barca better watch out

It would seem that a two-man attack would provide Griezmann with the perfect platform to showcase what Barcelona have never been able to unlock in their two years at the club.

Not that his time at Barcelona was a complete failure. Griezmann scored 35 goals and assisted a further 16 in 102 appearances. But it looks like he’s got his mojo back now. In fact, no LaLiga player has assisted more goals in all competitions.

Morata should provide pace and work pace to stretch Barca’s backline, giving Griezmann space to get between the lines and pull strings.

Griezmann has been averaging 73.4 touches per 90 minutes for Atleti this season, but only 4.8 in the opposition box. His role gradually developed over the course of the campaign, and the World Cup showed just how effective he can be.

Barca lost the lead twice against Intercity Sant Joan d’Alacant in a Copa del Rey match, and with Inter and Bayern Munich showing in the Champions League, the Blaugrana’s defense can be won even if Xavi conceded just six goals in La Liga. times.

If Griezmann, who at least might be easier to spot with his bright pink hair, can replicate the impact he had in Qatar, Barcelona will be hard pressed to stop him.

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