Thomas Lemar continues to make questionable decisions.
Atlético Madrid’s €70 million man has zero goals and one pre-assist as we enter November. Diego Simeone’s patience may be running low with the mercurial midfielder, as the Argentine hooked him at halftime for another struggler in Diego Costa.
Though you can’t see the pass directions in this chart, I looked at each of Lemar’s 18 first half passes and counted only five that could qualify as going forward.
Going to write about this postgame. Of Thomas Lemar's 18 first-half passes, only five went forward. pic.twitter.com/HEoJ2PFgjB— Jeremy Beren (@JBBeren) November 2, 2019
Lemar was effectively too aggressive when he tried to drive play, running into defenders at the edge of the area after determining he could not pass. This has been the Frenchman’s biggest issue since his arrival and Simeone hasn’t done enough to turn around the player’s mentality.
Atlético desperately need a player of Lemar’s capabilities, but he hasn’t displayed the form that made him so wanted while he was at Monaco. Another couple of months with little to no production could see the conversation shift to when Atleti could move him on.
But where one Thomas struggled, another flourished (after halftime).
The Rojiblancos were, once again, poor in the first half. They managed only two shots and it almost immediately became clear that the defensive gameplan — funneling all action toward the middle of the pitch — was not going to work. Cross-happy Sevilla moved the ball quickly enough to get favorable matchups and expose both Atlético fullbacks’ defensive susceptibilities. Kieran Trippier had such a rough time against Sergio Reguilón that he had to come off at halftime. Renán Lodi gave away the free kick which led to Sevilla’s goal and didn’t make it 90 minutes, either.
With neither an effective Lemar nor marauding fullbacks to count on, Atlético turned to Thomas Partey. The Ghanaian single-handedly dragged Atleti back into the game with powerful, purposeful charges into the final third. He completed five dribbles to lead his team and drove all the counterattacks that woke up this sleepy side. Without his efforts, Simeone’s men don’t get back into this game, and Santiago Arias doesn’t find the space to set up Álvaro Morata’s fourth goal in four games.
Thomas’ form had dipped some in recent games, but he reminded everyone on Saturday why he’s been Simeone’s best midfielder this season.
VAR starred and compounded Atlético’s set piece woes.
Referee González González and video assistant referee Martínez Munuera had dismal games, and that could very well take a headline or two on Sunday morning. The former routinely screamed at players, struggled to keep control of the match and seemed indecisive on what really marked a foul. Of the three big calls in this match (more on that below), the duo combined to get only one right — the Ángel Correa offside decision before the hour which negated what would have been a Costa goal.
In the 68th minute, Reguilón caught Koke’s ankle on the boundary of the 18-yard box. Atlético were initially awarded a free kick — which was the right call, as even though there was contact, it was not strong for Koke to go to ground right away. The captain fell outside the box, but Atleti were awarded a penalty anyway.
And as the old axiom goes, “ball don’t lie” — Costa’s took his run-up at a snail’s pace and he telegraphed his spot kick, which Tomáš Vaclík saved. It’s yet another case where the mattress makers could not aid themselves through their set piece-taking or set piece-defending — after all, Lodi left Franco Vázquez alone at the penalty spot before he headed beyond a visibly-stunned Oblak.
Deep into stoppage time, Sevilla defender Jules Koundé took care of a Correa-facilitated goal line scramble by LITERALLY sitting on the ball, squeezing it between his legs after he nestled it under with his forearm. Morata tried to poke it free, but could not. In a more galling development, *Sevilla* were awarded a free kick — and not even by VAR, as González González made the call. There was no handball called against the hosts, nor another penalty given. Atlético weren’t even awarded their own free kick. Amazing.
In the end, the result is fair as both teams had one superior half. Atleti did gain a point on Barcelona, but again could not pick up three.