It is no coincidence that both defeats against Sevilla and Real Sociedad have coincided with the absence or poor physical condition of Saul. In this article, I will try to understand why he is so important to Atletico and why Diego Simeone needs him to rediscover his best form going forward.
The canterano found a place in the team about a year ago when Tiago suffered a serious injury to his right left. Since then he has been an ever-present in Cholo’s central midfield. Regarding this season, a few weeks ago, he suffered an injury that prevented him from making his debut with the Spanish national side and since then we have not seen the fantastic box-to-box midfielder that Saul can be. At the moment, it does not seem to be a physical issue holding him back but a mental one.
Koke has to continue to play in a more central position, but Gabs was right when he said that the team is more fragile when the number six plays as a more progressive player. For this reason, the player in question, such as Saul, needs to have to defensive midfielders behind him to free himself of defensive work and get closer to the attackers and contribute in that phase of the game.
Two central midfielders seem to be sufficient for games that are considered simpler, playing at home or against inferior rivals who will defend very close to their own area. We have already seen that this season as Koke and Saul play together in that type of tactical arrangement. Thus, Gabi gets to indulge in some well-deserved rest and be able to save energy for parties in which the veteran is essential. For his part, Tiago does not seem to be physically ready to play full games or games of great physical demand.
On the other hand it will not surprise anyone to hear that Atleti are now weaker with respect to other seasons in set pieces that have given us so many moments of joy in the last number of years. The Colchoneros score less goals and concede more since they have the departures of players like Raul Garcia, Miranda and Mario Mandzukic. Saul is one player who does make a contribution in this area for his team, both offensively and defensively, as he is 1.84 meters tall and has a great ability in the air.
These are the just some of the reasons why we believe that Saul is so important to Atletico and his role becomes especially important in a game such as Saturday’s at the Vicente Calderon. The better and more involved Saul is in the game, the better chance Atletico have of getting all three points from El Derbi.