Despite starting as a Left Winger in the La Real set-up, he took up the role of a striker in the Los Rojiblancos, when he shifted to the Spanish capital. Under Simione, he played in a 4-4-2 formation with a physical forward alongside him. Having been rejected in most clubs around France and Spain during his youth for his short and meek demeanor, he developed the required skill and technique for a deep-lying forward. Considering David Silva and David Beckham as his idols, he acquires a lot of the similar style of play, blind-side runs behind the defence, movement from deep and goals from the edge of the penalty area.To reduce the rigidity of the 4-4-2 system at Atletico, he played as a false 9. Not just dropping deep to regulate the passage of play, but also to pick out good passes behind the defensive line. He enjoys the quick exchange of passes and one-twos with players, to help move the ball into dangerous areas. His quick decision making and abrupt movement help him in getting away from defenders.
Though his dribbling is not very good, he has nimble enough feet to get him through opponents in quick offensive transition. Unlike most left-footed footballers though, he is equally strong with both feet.Under Simione, he’s significantly improved in the defensive and physical parts of the game. He can not only receive the ball with his back to the goal, but also bring the ball down and score headers. Like most players at Atletico, he excels at pressing opponents and anticipating passes to win back the ball, while also being extremely focused while defending in a deep block in cover shadowing opponents to block pass lanes.Honours– He has not only won the world cup but scored the second-most goals in the tournament and won the Man of the Match of the final. At the Euro 2016 (runners-up), he won the golden boot and player of the tournament. He has also been 3rd in the Balon d’Or rankings twice in three years (taking his team to the UCL final, while winning the UEFA Europa League the following year). And has also been awarded the highest French order of merit in 2018.
Considering the laurels and strengths of such a world-class player, it’s disheartening how quickly it went wrong for him.Under both managers this season, he’s been thrust on the left of an attacking 3.(as depicted by the images below). This isolated role has disputed his natural abilities of freedom and lack of dribbling skills leaving him frustrated and diffident. Playing out as a lone striker doesn’t suit him very well either, as he prefers to drop deep.
The game against Real Betis/Valencia (as depicted by the images below) shows the kind of role he really likes. In the absence of Messi and Suarez along with the presence of real wingers, he was given the much-needed freedom he longed here.
Another problem has been the difference in style of play between the two teams, with Atletico playing quick counter-attacks, he could use his quick acceleration and decisive passing to get away from defenders. However at Barcelona, with more control in possession, the game is played in a slower pace with less space to run into.Extreme expectations at Barcelona are not uncommon, seeing Messi/Suarez score 30 goals a season. Griezmann didn’t get that many in any of his previous seasons, as he doesn’t fit the traditional striker profile.
We see very little difference in the type of stats that he puts in at both teams. The decrease in the number of touches indicates the wide position he has to maintain to give Messi space in the middle. but the lower number of shots for an almost same number of goals/game indicates the improved accuracy and the change in the style of the team. Also, the large number of interceptions + tackles per game indicates increased defensive responsibilities at his new team.
The Way Forward
Griezmann not only has the weight of a significant transfer fee on his shoulders but also documents for large wages. This coupled with his exuberant talent makes it imperative for Setien to try and help him settle into the team. As he provides defensive stability which the two other star forwards lack.In my opinion, Barcelona should permanently shift to a two-man forward with a CAM, as they did against Atletico Madrid, with Messi given a free role and Vidal playing a box to box role complementing the great Argentine.Griezmann is more than adept playing that sort of role. He not only excels in the defensive phase of the game but also provides more expertise in the attacking department. He can also move to the right, when Messi moves central, as he provides better switches and cut-ins than Semedo for Messi and Suarez to feed on. This can keep the latter much deeper, to improve the defensive structure.Other than personal benefits, this will also help the team, as it will mean that Griezmann will help out in bringing the ball out and let Messi engage higher up the field and give him the much-needed movement to thread passes in depth (using Messi’s gravity to slip behind unnoticed).