Even in the week leading up to a crucially important, and potentially career-defining, Madrid derby, with his team top of La Liga as they have been virtually all season, there are lessons for Atletico manager Diego Simeone to learn from former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. There’s a lesson to avoid becoming “satisfied” and not being scared to reach for the biggest objectives. A lesson about not settling for “safe” instead of daring to dream. And a lesson about not letting financial success, and its associated personal rewards, blunt the “who dares wins” attitude without which true glory would be perpetually elusive.
If you set aside England’s season-opening friendly of the Charity/Community Shield, Wenger won 10 major trophies in 22 years at Arsenal. In Simeone’s nine full years in charge at Atleti, the Argentine has inspired Los Rojiblancos to seven — including three in Europe — arguably the best spell in the club’s history.
Simeone is already the coach with the most trophy wins in Atleti’s 118-year existence and now, as he and his troops chase a first league title since 2013-14, they have to go toe-to-toe with their nemesis, Real Madrid, yet again.
It’s a derby that offers Atleti a golden chance to go eight points clear at the top of La Liga, with a game in hand and 13 games left. A massive opportunity, right? The kind of challenge which makes the blood in your veins surge with endorphins; the “fight” instinct warns its “flight” sibling to leave town as the warrior mentality takes over. Or is it “squeaky bum time,” to borrow legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s infamous phrase? Is it the kind of threat/opportunity scenario which, these days, makes Simeone come over all conservative, risk-averse and fearful?
The fact is that Atleti, in recent seasons, have shrunk in the face of these tests — they haven’t been made of what NASA calls “the right stuff.” It’s beginning to feel as if they, and Simeone, may be suffering a Wenger-isation. Continue reading