Atlético Madrid played their second match at A Stadium Called Wanda Saturday afternoon against second-place Sevilla. Atlético managed a 2-0 win after a poor first half by flipping the switch in the second half and are now in second place themselves. The Wanda and los rojiblancos remain undefeated this season, and the new stadium has yet to see an away goal.
Diego Simeone heavily rotated the 4-4-2 formation again after a busy week and with a tough Champions League match coming up against an in-form Chelsea. It is key to Atlético's season that they minimise wear and stay healthy until January. It is perhaps some bad luck that Atleti faced Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés, followed by an always strong Sevilla side, to then cap it off with the Premier League champions — all within a seven-day span. But el pupas, right?
Šime Vrsaljko made his return to the starting XI alongside Stefan Savić, Lucas Hernández and Filipe Luís. Gabi returned replacing Thomas Partey in the midfield. Yannick Carrasco also made his return to the left side of midfield, scoring early in the second half by capitalising on a Steven N'Zonzi mistake. Koke and Saúl continue to see a lot of minutes, but Simeone doesn't really have a choice there. They are both crucial pieces in Simone's system.
Up top, Luciano Vietto got another start; he continues to show that he has the talent to see regular playing time, and he made an impact by playing the through ball on Carrasco’s goal. Sevilla midfielder N’Zonzi got to the ball first but was forced into making a mistake that allowed Carrasco the opportunity to score. It was the great vision on Vietto’s part to spot Carrasco as he was moving across the pitch away from his teammate. He is consistently in a good attacking position and has a high work rate dropping deep to help out on defence. With a bit of good luck and growing confidence, the goals will come for him. He has a good understanding of what Simeone wants tactically from his forwards.
Antoine Griezmann continued his strong start at the Wanda Metropolitano — he now has two goals and an assist in two matches. Griezmann's role continues to shift depending on who he is paired with, showing his versatility as number 9 or a number 10 depending on the opponent and the needs of the team. Ángel Correa came on in the 57th minute, working down the right side and injecting the energy and solid play that we have seen from him so far this season. He completed all of his 15 passes and got a shot on goal in another solid showing.
Atlético have favoured the left side for a majority of the season, attacking down the left at a 40 percent clip. The matches against Valencia and Málaga saw the numbers balance a bit, but against Sevilla, there was a concerted effort to utilise the right flank. Vrsaljko spent much of the afternoon running the wing, playing much higher on the pitch than when Juanfran or José Giménez get the start. The Croatian international’s return should add more balance to Atleti's offensive organisation. We should expect a return to the tactics seen in previous seasons where width and wing play from the fullbacks is key.
Filipe Luís continues to show his quality too despite his years. He had a good chance early, hitting the bar after showing excellent control from a close-range Carrasco rocket pass. He played a bit deeper than usual as the focus was down the right and Lucas made his presence known at the offensive end with attacking runs from central defense.
Atleti relinquished much of the possession on Saturday, with Sevilla holding 61 percent of the ball — a number only eclipsed by the 62 percent awarded to Las Palmas in week two. Both possession numbers are bit deceiving as they came after Atlético scored multiple goals with a good amount of time left and shifted into a more defensive position. Until that point, the possession numbers were a bit more balanced.
Some of the credit for Atleti's lack of crispness throughout the afternoon was the midfield press implemented by Eduardo Berizzo’s side. Not allowing Atlético's midfield any space to turn and find a teammate. Many of Atleti's chances came because they were able to break through from a mistake in Sevilla's press.
While Atlético were able to break through Sevilla’s press the deeper the game went, it seemed as if the hosts’ defensive structure simply grew stronger in the second half. Five of Sevilla’s 11 shots came off set pieces despite the huge possession advantage. Gabi made a key stop on a Sevilla counter, but there were not many other clear-cut chances. Jan Oblak had an easy day at the office overall, with the one close call being a deflection off Savić that hit the frame. Lucas showed his quality again, showing good combination play with Saúl as the counterattack below demonstrates.
Coming away with all six points against two perennially good Liga Santander sides is a great sign going into a big midweek matchup. We have yet to see the best out of Atlético so far this year. The new stadium has been a distraction, and Atleti are just getting over some early-season niggles and Griezmann’s opening night suspension after surviving a dramatic summer complicated by a registration ban. As the actual football starts to become the focus, I think we can expect to see Simeone focus his team off the field and we will start to see that play out on the pitch.