Atlético Madrid remain five points behind Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga.
Yet, they also remain a team struggling and pushing hard to adapt to a new identity, with some key players failing to shine once more against Levante at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday afternoon.
Atlético overall were fine and some, including Ángel Correa and Kieran Trippier, were more than fine. But João Félix and Álvaro Morata failed to catch flight as the two attackers in Diego Simeone’s 4-4-2. Félix was taken off in the second half and is improving slowly as he tries to morph into the team’s fulcrum and find spaces to cause harm to opponents’ defenders.
Thomas Partey and Héctor Herrera partnered each other in midfield, and defensively Atlético remain solid. But this team needs a striker, and the game on Saturday will give Simeone more fuel for his argument that the mattress makers have to have a finisher, and they have to have one now. The coach recently said that Thomas Lemar might leave — at the very least, he didn’t say he wouldn’t leave — which probably pushed him one step further to the door. Edinson Cavani can fix Atlético’s issues with a lack of goals.
Creating chances was not the problem — rather, it was finishing them. Even with two goals scored, it could have been more. Correa had five shots, as did Saúl. Félix had four. The team registered over 10 shots inside the penalty area, too.
8 - No other @atletienglish player has been involved in more @LaLigaEN goals than Ángel Correa this season (three goals and five assists). Vital. pic.twitter.com/Un01v3IRW4— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 4, 2020
“You’ll have to ask him,” Simeone said when asked about Félix lacking enough energy to finish the game. “We saw him integrated in the team with a lot of desire. He is a difference-maker and every time we pass the ball to him, we get the feeling of danger. We need to find him a lot more, and he found the spaces to find better solutions for the team.
“The way he is going is what we had hoped for.”
There was praise for Jan Oblak too, who pulled off two miraculous saves to keep Atlético ahead.
“For us, he is the best in the world. He is one of our captains and today he performed in the most important part of the game,” the coach said.
Levante manager Paco López echoed those thoughts.
“They have the best goalkeeper in the world.” he said simply.
And Roger, who scored and saw Enis Bardhi denied by Oblak’s left hand, said: “We played until the last minute, but Oblak made an incredible save.”