It's well-known that Atletico Madrid have issues in midfield. Since Augusto Fernandez’ knee injury in September, Diego Simeone has lacked all of his key components in midfield, and this has been a problem that has manifested itself in the team’s buildup play and ability to provide adequate cover for the back four. Koke’s transition from a wing to a more centered role was key in the planning of the squad for the current season. This change theoretically allows the team to be better balanced and the entrance of players like Angel Correa or Nico Gaitán in the XI would be more natural. The canterano supplied the team with an improvement in the build-up of plays but the team lost balance and defensive strength. The Sanchez Pizjuan game on Oct. 23 may be the best sample.
And then Tiago (re)appeared. The Portuguese carried out a massive performance against Osasuna and we were able to see one of Atletico's best versions of this season. His seniority and positioning outfits the team while attacking and defending. But Tiago is 35 and his physical state is not the most suitable which make him suffer in physically tough games, like the one played in Villarreal earlier this month - a 3-0 whitewashing. The midfielder (and the team in general) was crushed by the Yellow Submarine’s intensity and has played no minutes since then, with a knee injury leaving him sidelined and unable to work normally with the rest of the team.
In addition to these problems, Simeone will have to face the absences of Thomas Partey and Caio Henrique who will have to fulfill their commitments with their national teams during the African Cup of Nations and the South American squad of U20 teams respectively. Neither of them is central to Cholo’s plans but could be useful as spare parts to give Koke or Saul Niguez some rest.
This is the situation of the rojiblancos’ midfield and we wonder what possibilities Simeone has thought up to change the situation of his team. Atletico will not be able to resort to making a signing during the winter market due to the transfer ban. A possible remedy would be to recover Matias Kranevitter from his assignment in Seville. The Argentine midfielder is not enjoying too many minutes in the Andalusian club although it is unknown if there is any kind of clause that would break the agreement between both clubs and if FIFA would allow such a measure. On the other hand, Cholo could turn his eyes to the academy, where Keidi seems to be the most suitable to occupy that role of midfielder which the team needs most at this time. The 19-year-old Alvanese has already made his international debut and has a physical and character profile the coach loves.
At any rate, Atleti’s midfield has rarely looked so shaky, and a successful 2017 hinges on returning it to its past solidity. Whether that is borne through playing Tiago whenever fit, turning to the academy or performing some act of voodoo, a reliable quartet (or quintet?) has to show itself at some point.