Atlético de Madrid have woken up right on time to save the season. The team led by Simeone has been able to get back on track after their painful lost to Levante a few weeks ago and the Argentinian coach has finally found the formula to count their games by wins as they have always been used to in the last decade. Let’s review the keys of the improvement from the ‘Rojiblancos’:
The wake up call from Miguel Ángel Gil:
It might have just gone unnoticed, but, tactical aspects apart, the meeting between Atlético’s CEO Miguel Ángel Gil along with the coaching staff and the players after their defeat versus Levante was really useful in order to leave the team’s poor dynamic behind.
Atlético’s CEO reminded them the importance of changing the course and ending within the Champions League spots, as that is the club’s main financial muscle, and the players have certainly responded on the field.
Gil Marín used as an example the similar situation that they experienced back in the 2019/2020 campaign, as they were 6th in the table by the time the league stop due to the lockdown and then ended up 3rd when games returned. Now they are on their way to repeat that achievement.
“There were movements from the club after the loss against Levante so this could be happening now”
Simeone after their win versus Real Betis
No doubt that Atlético’s biggest struggle this season was the defense, which is something unpublished under Simeone. It seems that there has been an improvement on that area in the last few games and most of the credit must be given to Reinildo Mandava and Renan Lodi.
Reinildo Mandava has barely been playing for Simeone for a couple of months, but he has already earned his spot. Atlético did not have any pure defensive left back and now they have it. His addition has allow the team to recover the solidity backwards in a five-man line on defensive and with him as the third central defender, which has subtracted defensive responsibility to Lodi and put him in the context where he shines the most.
Nobody doubts of the technical quality of Renan Lodi, as he has an extraordinary left foot, but sure they do on his defensive abilities, his biggest lack as a player. In fact, that shortage has been the reason why he has not played that much at Atlético, even though it seems like this problem has now been solved.
With the signing of Reinildo, Lodi has changed his role to a way more offensive winger, which has really increased his contribution in the last few games with goals and assists. Furthermore, now Carrasco can also have this role with someone watching his back. From my point of view, the key for Atlético’s defensive improvement relies on Reinildo.
Herrera-Kondogbia, the ideal duo in the midfield:
Héctor Herrera has proven to be the best midfielder of Atlético as soon as he has been given the opportunity to play. The Mexican has taken over the building process, one of the aspects Simoene’s teams have traditionally struggled on the most, and he completes perfect games (almost) where he barely looses the ball. He really makes the right choices on when to send long or short passes and always creates scoring chances thanks to his vision. He has certainly given some fresh air to the team.
On the other hand, Geoffrey Kondogbia has become the best possible partner for Herrera because he really protects his back on defensive transitions and is the leader at recovering the ball. His stealing capacity and long throws have relegated other players like Koke, who is dragging physical issues, or Rodrigo De Paul, one of the star signings in the last market who has been criticized for constantly losing the ball, to a secondary role. Right now the Herrera-Kondogbia’s duo in the midfield is irreplaceable.
The step forward of João Félix:
The ‘menino de ouro’ is meant to lead an era at Atlético and the impatience by many due to Simeone’s management will not prevent it. The Portuguese player has started to provide the team with his quality by having a real impact on the scoreboard, beyond the highlights, and he has finally realized that he would not play under Simeone if he does not also work on pressing.
It is important to remember that Griezmann, the leader of Atlético for many seasons, also went through an adaptation period when he first signed for Atlético and it took him a year to get used to Simeone’s demands. No need to say how much he has improved thanks to the Argentinian coach. Now the story repeats itself with João Félix and, after overcoming several injuries, it looks like he is starting to pass the acid test and to become into a better player once again thanks to Simeone, even though that fact might disturb.
“João will keep getting angry with me, but one day he will thank me for it”
Simeone after their win versus Betis
Atlético will still have to make a big effort in order to end within the Champions League spots, but they are already in the right path. They have finally found the formula and they have done it on time.
Main image: Twitter @Atleti.
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