In the space of three days, Atlético Madrid turned in their worst performance of the season and their best one.
From a 4-0 humbling away at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League to overcoming Real Sociedad 2-0 in front of their own fans in LaLiga, los rojiblancos turned things around quickly. They went from conceding four goals in one match to being so solid in defence that Jan Oblak didn’t have a save to make in the next one.
Sure, the opponent quality was different, with Dortmund one of the most exciting teams in Europe this season and Real Sociedad hovering around mid-table. But Saturday’s victory was yet another example of Atlético’s extremely commendable “bouncebackability.”
Since Diego Simeone took over at the club in 2011, the mattress makers have only twice suffered back-to-back defeats in LaLiga and on both occasions the second loss was in a Madrid derby — painful, sure, but not overly shock-inducing. Considering all competitions, there have been a few more consecutive losses, but even then they’ve not had a run of two defeats in a row since 2016.
Not only have Atlético been able to follow up their recent losses by avoiding another reverse, but they usually win the match after a defeat. Since the start of 2017, Atleti have lost 16 times and have been able to win the following match on 11 occasions, drawing the other five. Not bad at all.
There have been two defeats this season and the responses on both occasions were excellent. In addition to the Real Sociedad victory, which came after the Dortmund disaster, there was the 1-1 draw with Eibar, which came after the 2-0 reverse in Vigo. Atleti may not have won that day against Eibar, but they turned in one of their best-ever performances at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano and only failed to win because visiting goalkeeper Marko Dimitrović played like an octopus on steroids on his way to making eight saves. On that occasion, Atleti found out what it’s like to be Oblak’ed, but that shouldn’t take away from the super response — one which was followed up by an excellent month of results as they won five of the next six.
It can be easy to dismiss the merits of such “bouncebackability” by assuming that all top European clubs should possess this. But as Atlético fans will know from a look at their neighbours, it’s not always so simple to pull yourself out of the quicksand that is a poor run of form. Sometimes losses become contagious, and the fact that los colchoneros can so often put a defeat behind them and return to winning ways in the next match cannot to be underestimated.