An annual tradition returns to Into the Calderón — the Seasonal Player Ratings! YAY!
We begin with a look at how Atlético Madrid’s forwards performed during the 2021/22 campaign, with key numbers listed for the five players and an analysis of each individual’s projected role for the 2022/23 season.
(Note: Giuliano Simeone did not receive enough minutes to warrant a rating.)
Let’s get started. All statistics referenced are culled from fbref.com.
The stats to know: 1,695 minutes/3 goals/4 assists in LaLiga, 0.16 goals per 90 minutes, 0.43 expected goals+expected assists per 90, 2.71 shot-creating actions p90, 11 goal-creating actions. 517 minutes/4 goals/3 assists in the Champions League.
The rating (out of 10): 5.5
I wrote at length about Griezmann earlier this month and I largely stand by what I said in that column. Despite a positive end to the season — which featured assists in big wins over Elche and Real Sociedad — Griezmann’s campaign was a grievous disappointment for the hype his return from Barcelona generated. This was enhanced by Diego Simeone’s insistence on naming the Frenchman to the starting 11 practically whenever he was available.
However, to be fair to him, Griezmann missed two months with a muscle injury this season. And he legitimately impressed during Atlético’s Champions League run. Only Yannick Carrasco registered more goal-creating actions (12) than Griezmann’s 11 in league play.
Simeone and the club firmly believe Griezmann is still among the top players in the world. Given the 31-year-old’s World Cup-winning track record and willingness to do the dirty work Cholo relishes from his forwards, it’s not difficult to back him as someone who will demonstrate and recoup some value on Atleti’s 2022/23 team. It will likely have to be from the midfield line or a floating role behind two forwards, though.
The stats to know: 1,835 minutes/11 goals/2 assists in LaLiga, 36 shot-creating actions, 0.64 goals+assists per 90 minutes, 0.33 non-penalty xG per 90.
The rating: 5.8
Started slowly, scoring just one goal from his first six appearances. A match-winning double against Getafe at the end of September kicked off a good run of form that carried him through the start of November — Suárez scored seven goals and assisted one more during a 10-game spell between Sept. 21 and Nov. 7.
But Suárez was losing prominence already as Simeone preferred other options in the starting 11. El Pistolero went three months without a league goal between November and February, with Simeone routinely opting for Griezmann’s “team play” or Correa’s agility before João Félix made himself an undroppable player.
Suárez’s final two goals for Atlético came in April’s 4-1 demolition of relegated Alavés, and the 35-year-old played only eight minutes across four Champions League knockout games.
The feeling is that Suárez gave everything he had left to give at an elite level during the 2020/21 league-winning campaign, and there’s no shame in that. Suárez has enjoyed a sensational career no matter where he goes next, and obviously he will be remembered as one of the greatest forwards in the game’s history — certainly among the most iconic figures ever to wear Atlético’s red-and-white stripes.
The stats to know: 1,856 minutes/12 goals/5 assists in LaLiga, 6.7 xG, 0.82 goals+assists per 90, 7.48 penalty-area touches p90, 4.76 progressive carries p90.
The rating: 6.8
Picked up right where he left off in 2021, notching three goals and an assist from the season’s opening three games. He then went three months without scoring before grabbing the eventual winning goal at Porto to escape the Champions League group of death.
Correa found form again at the start of 2022 via a scorching streak of seven goals from nine (including a lob from the halfway line at Villarreal). But he suffered a foot injury at Betis in March and ended the 2021/22 season with one goal and zero assists from his last 12 appearances, totaling 401 minutes.
Even though he set new career-highs in goals scored and in goal contributions, this season summed up Correa’s Atlético career in a nutshell. Granted, I think Simeone treated him unfairly this year and Griezmann’s return really hurt him. But Correa’s inconsistency has long been a key facet to his game — rich, wildly-productive veins of form preceding brutally-ineffective weeks or months.
For years, Correa has accepted his super-sub role without fuss. It’s not likely he leaves this summer, despite recent rumors. But with a World Cup this winter, and no easy path to minutes next season, how hard will the 27-year-old think about it?
The key stats: 1,063 minutes/6 goals/4 assists in LaLiga, 0.85 goals+assists per 90, 0.53 xG p90, 2.71 fouls drawn p90, 5.76 penalty-area touches p90, 10.3 attacking pressures p90.
The rating: 6.9
What a pleasant surprise this guy has been.
Atlético purchased Cunha from Hertha Berlin after he led Brazil to a gold medal at last year’s Olympic Games. Skepticism and uncertainty accompanied his arrival, but Cunha quickly became a fan-favorite with several energetic substitute appearances. The 23-year-old thrived in chaos and was key to comeback wins away at Getafe and home against Valencia and Espanyol.
Atleti outscored domestic opponents 28-14 with Cunha on the pitch, and his numbers might have been even stronger had he not missed six weeks with a knee injury between February and April.
Though he is still rough around the edges and made just eight league starts this season, there’s plenty to be excited about with Cunha. He has a number of enticing qualities — pace, vision, directness — that make it easy to see him developing into a top-tier number-nine over the next couple seasons.
The key stats: 1,263 minutes/8 goals/4 assists in LaLiga, 0.62 xG+xA per 90, 0.71 goal-creating actions p90, 6.57 progressive carries p90, 2.43 final-third carries p90, 4.79 fouls drawn p90.
The rating: 7
I’ve seen enough.
João Félix will become a superstar next season, because he’s finally bought into what Cholo Simeone is selling.
João did not score his first goal this season until Halloween. He had played well in a narrow home loss to Liverpool and a convincing home win over Barça earlier in the month, but he had also been ejected for mouthing off at the referee in a goalless draw with Athletic Club. He continued to cut a frustrated figure as opponents relentlessly targeted his surgically-repaired ankle to slow him down.
The 22-year-old looked ticketed for another listless season until February, when he caught fire and carried Atlético back into the top four to stay. Over a 10-game stretch between Feb. 12 and April 2, João notched seven goals and set up three more — Atleti went 8-1-1 during this time. It all seemed to click for the club’s record signing, who pressured the ball more frequently than ever before and could have fired his team into a Champions League semifinal with a bit more attacking support.
João injured his hamstring in mid-April and missed Atlético’s final five games. But the Portuguese should be fully healthy to start next season, and the expectations will appropriately be sky-high.
Who was Atlético’s top forward in 2021/22?
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