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Atlético’s loss to Villarreal presents summer’s biggest need

Plus, more Theo Hernández rumors and Atleti turn 114.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Villarreal CF - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

There have been lots of good feelings around Atlético Madrid over the past eight weeks or so. The team rediscovered its essence after a lean few months cast doubts over a top-four LaLiga finish - of which it is now virtually assured. However, it’s better to finish third and avoid those pesky late-summer Champions League qualifiers, and Atlético complicated that possibility by losing 1-0 to Villarreal on Tuesday.

This was by no means a loss in which Atlético played poorly; in fact, los colchoneros played quite well, outshooting Villarreal 23-6 and forcing backup goalkeeper Andrés Fernández into nine saves. Atleti only just edged possession and were undone by an uncharacteristic Filipe Luís error which allowed substitute Roberto Soriano to complete the smash-and-grab.

Diego Simeone put it best after the game ended (and after he had castigated the officials): football is weird like this, as Atlético often win playing the Villarreal played Tuesday. But despite the creativity with which Atleti played and the chances it generated, the loss also reminded us that Simeone still does not have a killer #9 he can call upon.

Consider that 12 of Atleti’s 23 shots came from outside the box. The flowing, easy-on-the-eye passing moves created only a couple wonderful chances - like the one future Premier League player Nico Gaitán blew 1v1 - and again emphasized that this team remains most in its element playing on the counterattack.

Shots attempted, Atlético Madrid 0-1 Villarreal, 4/25/17. Courtesy of WhoScored.

While Antoine Griezmann was great and unlucky not to score, his strike partner Ángel Correa did not do well; the crafty Argentine needs to have the ball to have any kind of impact whatsoever. Kévin Gameiro looks rusty after a month out. Fernando Torres - bless him - hasn’t been in form for weeks.

This could change very quickly - with Real Madrid up next week, it kinda has to - and this is the first time in a while we have seen the lack of a lethal finisher come back to haunt Atlético. The club’s transfer ban may or may not be lifted next week, and if it is, expect another summer of whispers and tenuous links to some of Europe’s best forwards.

One year ago today, Saúl Ñíguez scored one of the greatest goals in Atlético Madrid’s history.

I was sitting in the back of an Uber when this goal was scored. I curse myself a lot for not watching it live.

Guess what, everyone? Theo Hernández rumors are back!

Ah, yes, the latest and greatest product of Atlético’s academy was said to be Bernabéu-bound earlier this month - but, predictably, that fizzled out into post-derbi nothingness. Now, there’s a report from Onda Cero which claims Barcelona have swooped in and convinced Theo to join, and as a reward for letting the 19-year-old join the Catalans, Atlético will receive JORDI ALBA ON LOAN.

Allow me to respond in GIF form to this very creative rumor:

Yesterday, Atlético celebrated its 114th birthday. Here are some of the highlights tweeted out by players past and present: