Who will prove to be Atlético Madrid’s best summer signing?
Jeremy Beren: I was tempted to switch my pick to Thomas Lemar after his Super Cup performance, but I’ll stick with Rodrigo Hernández. Depending on how Diego Simeone uses him, Rodri could be the ball-circulating metronome Atlético have needed for so long, and he could help Atleti transition into a new era where they can control games with the ball as well as without it.
Adam Saladino: Atlético’s best summer signing was Rodri. Although Lemar will add much-needed attacking flair on the left side, Rodri will fill Gabi’s shoes by anchoring the midfield and controlling a game’s tempo.
Forrest Rilling: Everyone talks about Lemar, but I think it’ll be Gelson Martins. He has shown neck-breaking pace in Portugal and drew many admirers from around the continent, some even comparing him to Cristiano Ronaldo. The 23-year-old’s transformation into an elite winger will happen in Madrid — if not all this year, then certainly throughout his career in red and white.
Who will be this season’s breakout player?
Adam: This season, Thomas Lemar will be Atleti’s breakout player. His skill, pace and work ethic off the ball are some of his best qualities, qualities that will fit perfectly into Diego Simeone’s system. The connection with Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernández from the French team is a bonus that should help him adjust quickly.
Rob Walker: I’ll go out on a limb and say Borja Garcés. I don’t expect him to get much playing time, but a scoring breakout in the Copa would be exciting. Garcés was good in preseason and hopefully did enough to convince Simeone he’s worth taking a flier on at some point this year.
Forrest: Santiago Arias. He has big boots to fill after Vrsaljko’s departure, but at PSV he was a menace on the right hand side. He and Gelson will wreak havoc on the left side of every Spanish defense. Look for Juanfran to start the season, but be replaced early and often by Arias.
In which position are Atlético lacking?
Jeremy: I wanted Atlético to add another central midfielder, but their current quartet will be really competitive and the wingers they added should play plenty. Full back seems like it could be a sore spot, though, particularly if Filipe Luís leaves the club in the next two weeks. Arias was excellent in the Eredivisie, but LaLiga is a totally different ball game. Juanfran is old. Lucas has really grown into his position, but he is a natural center back.
Rob: Defense, specifically full back. Filipe and Juanfran are aging out, Šime Vrsaljko has gone and Jonny arrived just to be loaned out immediately. Santiago Arias might be useful, but this will be an area that will need addressing next summer.
Forrest: Center back. Honestly, okay, they don’t have a “problem” at CB because Diego Godín is one of the best in the world; but other options are significantly less so. While Stefan Savić and José Giménez are serviceable, they may not be at the level required for Champions League glory, and Lucas Hernández will be playing left back.
True or false: by season’s end, Atleti will be playing in a 4-3-3 or another formation.
Adam: False. As much as I would like to see a 4-3-3 formation, I don’t think it will be played week in and week out by the end of the season.
Rob: Hopefully yes, but I’m not sure. Simeone has long been wed to the 4-4-2 and it will take him some time to become fully confident in the formation. Seemingly it would be the right fit for the players in the squad, especially central midfield.
Forrest: False. Simeone knows what he wants — it’s a 4-4-2. But if something changes and he needs to switch it up, the 4-4-2 can more easily be transformed into a 4-2-3-1 than it can a 4-3-3.
Which competition are Atlético are most likely to win?
Jeremy: The Champions League is a shorter, luck-fueled competition and Atlético are supremely motivated to reach its final this season. That said, pound-for-pound they probably have a squad that is built to withstand better the rigors of LaLiga. I think Atleti might be more capable than Barcelona of juggling two or three competitions — and if that’s the case, their versatility and wealth of attacking options could just win them the league.
Adam: Atlético are most likely to win LaLiga this year. With the new additions to the team and Real Madrid transitioning after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Atlético have a great shot at being crowned champions.
Rob: The Champions League is definitely possible, but far more of a crapshoot than LaLiga. With Real Madrid adapting to a new manager, Atlético have a clearer run to the title. Defeating Barcelona is the main obstacle, but with the summer additions, Atlético certainly have the chance to do so.
How far will Atlético go in the Copa, UCL and LaLiga?
Jeremy: Copa del Rey — semifinals. LaLiga — winners. UEFA Champions League — semifinals.
Adam: Copa del Rey — quarterfinals. LaLiga — winners. UEFA Champions League — winners.
Rob: Copa del Rey — semifinals. LaLiga — winners. UEFA Champions League — quarterfinals.
Forrest: Copa del Rey — final. LaLiga — winners. UEFA Champions League — semifinals.