Atletico Madrid’s outlay in the transfer market this summer points towards a very realistic desire to reduce the authority that Barcelona and Real Madrid exert on Spanish football.
The initial steps of the process have begun but akin to switching from analogue to digital, there will be teething problems in Atletico’s endeavour. Over the coming weeks, however, you can expect to see a more clear, crisp and dynamic Atletico Madrid in action.
If winning La Liga in 2013-14 made Atletico fans dream, it made the owners of the club realise that they had a very special manager in Diego Simeone to go with the accumulated young talent that has come through the ranks. When you infuse the excellent signings of players like Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Jose Gimenez, you have the core of an excellent team. Sprinkle in some experience in the form of Diego Godin, Tiago and Juanfran and you have genuine contenders. Atletico’s ability to establish talent from South America and act is also a major part of their plan.
The personnel changes are one thing and have been a point of conversation during the preseason but the change of mentality and the introduction of expectation make the changes wholesale and that little bit more difficult to implement.
For the first time in Diego Simeone’s tenure at the Calderon, he is expected to produce results and Atletico are no longer looked upon as just the fiery underdogs with a chip on their shoulder.
They still carry that same abrasive nature to the point of being crass but Atletico are now expected to break you down by beating you through the creation of chances and possibly even passing you off the park.
After the Las Palmas victory, there was a sense that all the hullabaloo about Atletico’s signings and the new beginning were little more than hot-air. Someone had put a pin in the ballon and many came to the assumption that Atletico were no different than the team who were more likely to kick you off the park than pass you off it. At this point, however, patience is key.
For example, there is no change in how Simeone likes to control the game from what we have seen so far. By dominating the middle of the field, you restrict teams to filtering play down the wings. We should see no change in this approach. Gabi and Tiago have been the two men assigned to controlling that area of the field for the Argentinian and the kind of trust required from Simeone to operate the middle doesn’t happen over the course of a preseason.
While Simeone is all about bringing a new dimension to Atletico, he is loyal to his principles and is hesitant to close the door on a tactic that has served him well.
You can expect changes over the coming weeks with Carrasco installed as a left winger and Koke moved more centrally, Saul replacing Gabi to offer more of a defensive capacity along with an ability to move the ball out from the back and possibly the sighting of a progressive 4-3-3 with the plan to overwhelm opponents. It will happen but it’s just a matter of Simeone being comfortable with the change.
The period of transition at Atletico was inevitable and a 1-0 victory over Las Palmas amidst such far-reaching changes to the team is a part of this process.
It will take time, trust and opportunities but once it clicks, it will be worth every second.