Villarreal – Atlético de Madrid: Superhuman Oblak saves Atlético a point against dominant Villarreal (1-1)
After a close, uneventful first half, Villarreal shifted from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 scheme and dominated an Atlético who still struggled to find good offensive mechanisms. The saves of Jan Oblak were vital to prevent a Villarreal victory.
Villarreal came into this match as the biggest expected goal underperformers in LaLiga, with only 6 goals to show for their chance total worth 11.3 expected goals.
Such underperformance resulted, for the most part, from the early season struggles of Gerard Moreno, Villarreal’s star striker. After an outstanding 2017-2018 season with Espanyol, Moreno still plays very well—drifting wide, dropping deep, linking up, getting into scoring positions—but his finishing constantly disappoints. Unfortunately, this means that Villarreal remains in the bottom half of the league table despite having one of the 5 biggest expected goal differences in the league.
As expected of Atlético, they are the strongest defense in LaLiga, both in terms of expected goals against (8) and actual goals against (4). Offensively, however, things haven’t gone so well. On an individual level, both Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann have been in relatively poor form. On the collective level, it is hard not to feel that there is a bit of a contradiction between Simeone—an inherently conservative coach—and a very talented Atlético squad that has more offensive players than ever.
Despite this issue, the irregularity of Real Madrid and Barcelona this season opens the door for Atlético to fight strongly . . .