The 2022 World Cup was unique for many reasons.
It was the first World Cup played in the Middle East and the first mid-season World Cup for Europe’s top clubs.
One thing that hasn’t changed, of course, is that players can use the tournament as a platform to show off what they can do on the biggest stage, and maybe get some big moves behind it.
While Josko Gvardiol, Enzo Fernandez, Alexis Mac Allister and Jude Bellingham are among the players likely to fall into this category, Antoine Griezmann is different.
Griezmann isn’t a big name, but he shone in Qatar and has probably redefined his position in the span of seven games.
That doesn’t mean Griezmann isn’t impressive ahead of the World Cup this season. Prior to the tournament, he directly contributed to 10 goals for Atlético Madrid, scoring five goals and scoring numerous goals.
Griezmann’s form came in a season when Atleti had to settle for a substitute role until September 18 as he sought to manipulate a financial clause in his loan deal with Barcelona that would have come into play if he had been the 31-year-old. played for a while.
Had this clause been active, he would have had to pay €40 million to re-sign Atleti Griezmann. As it stands, they paid less than half that to bring him back to the club permanently in October.
Barça is next for Atleti in the highlight fixture of LaLiga matches this weekend. As he enters the match, Griezmann is a redesigned player.
Griezmann returned from the World Cup with a vitality and enthusiasm to play perhaps not seen since his heyday at Atleti from 2017 to 2019.
After three assists in two games since Atleti’s campaign resumed, his goal contributions are at 13 (five more than his teammates) – a game in LaLiga and a game in the King’s Cup.
Griezmann tops the club’s scoring charts alongside Alvaro Morata, with his seven assists tally four behind the next-best Joao Felix, who looks set to leave the club this month. None of his teammates came close to Griezmann’s 42 chances, of which 35 came from open play.
But the really interesting aspect of Griezmann’s good form is his position.
Didier Deschamps frequently used Griezmann as a second striker in international football. This was the position he played at Euro 2016 and during France’s successful run at the 2018 World Cup.
Still, Griezmann has been deployed as the most advanced of a midfield trio in Qatar, demonstrating his ability to not only find the last third there but also fully lead the games.
Only Kylian Mbappe (49) appeared in more end-of-shot scrimmages for France in the tournament than Griezmann (30).
However, of Griezmann’s 361 open play touches, only 14 came into the opponent’s penalty area, and the vast majority were clustered in the middle of the park.
Not because it prevented Griezmann from using his influence. He led the competition along with Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes, Ivan Perisic and Lionel Messi, providing three assists. However, unlike all these players, Griezmann’s expected assists (xA) of 3.6 actually underperformed. Essentially, he was creating better quality chances for those assists than their counterparts.
This quality is a fantastic cross to Olivier Giroud for France’s second goal in their 2-1 quarter-final win against England, who had previously stepped up Aurelien Tchouameni’s shot to beat Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry for the most assists. proven with Les Bleus. Griezmann’s 28 assists are the highest by any French player for his country in the past 50 years.
The 22 chances Griezmann created were the highest in the tournament, but only nine of them came from open play. When it comes to creativity, Griezmann was at the top of his game.
From poacher to quarterback
Atleti was definitely picking up for Griezmann when he faced Elche in LaLiga on December 29. Diego Simeone’s side won 2-0 and Griezmann was fantastic.
He set both goals and created four positions. Neither player has attempted more passes (37) or played more mid-position (five) in the opponent’s half.
Despite Atleti’s 3-4-3 formation and Griezmann’s nominal position on the right wing, his average position was slightly ahead of the midfield line.
There was a similar story against Real Oviedo in the King’s Cup on Wednesday. While allegedly playing in a front duo alongside Alvaro Morata, Griezmann’s touches were centered on the midfield line, with only two of them coming into the opponent’s penalty area.
Coming in with Morata on a forward line, or actually playing as an inside forward on a 3-4-3, is in principle ideal for Griezmann to fall into a role similar to the one he excelled at during the World Cup.
Barca must be careful
It looks like the two-man offense will provide Griezmann with the perfect platform to show off what Barça had never been able to bring out on a consistent basis during his two years at the club.
His time at Barca was not a complete failure. Griezmann scored 35 goals in 102 games and had 16 more assists. But now he seems to have regained his magic. In fact, no LaLiga player has scored more assists in all competitions.
Morata must provide speed and run rate to stretch Barca’s back line and give Griezmann space to fall between the lines and pull the ropes.
Griezmann averaged 73.4 touches in 90 minutes for Athlete this term, but only 4.8 in the opponent’s penalty area. His role gradually evolves throughout the campaign, and the World Cup has proven how effective he can be.
Barca took the lead twice against Intercity Sant Joan d’Alacant in a Copa del Rey draw and displayed Inter and Bayern Munich in the Champions League, while Blaugrana’s defense was achievable even though Xavi’s side conceded only six goals in LaLiga can be done. times.
At least easier to spot with his bright pink hair, if Griezmann can replicate the influence he had in Qatar, Barça will have a hard time stopping him.