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Unique Thomas Lemar earns plaudits after Valencia display

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The 25-year-old has struggled for a long time now, but maybe the tide is turning back in his direction.

Valencia C.F. v Atletico De Madrid - La Liga Photo by Jose Miguel Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Everything is rosy in Atlético Madrid’s garden of late. They have conceded just two goals in nine LaLiga games this season and are joint-top of the table with a game in hand over Real Sociedad. After last week’s victory over Barcelona, they beat Valencia with an impressive performance at Mestalla on Saturday.

Atlético have been hit with injuries and positive coronavirus tests, but that hasn’t slowed them down. Even Thomas Lemar has earned praise after a good performance against Valencia.

The Frenchman has been in poor form for the best part of two years, but he has been carried along on the wave of Atlético’s new attack.

“Lemar played very well,” Yannick Carrasco said after the game. “He had a couple of good chances and the keeper did well to stop them. The team won and the whole team played well and that improves competition, meaning we all play better.”

Lemar started in the number 10 role with João Félix rested. The 25-year-old has struggled to adapt to Diego Simeone’s demands with defensive duties cramping his attacking instincts. More often than not, he is shunted out to the wing where he has to protect the full-back. But in the more central role, Lemar looked more comfortable.

Valencia CF v Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

“I’m very happy with Lemar’s performance,” Simeone said after the game. “He needed it.

“We don’t have players with his speed and build in the squad,” Simeone continued, highlighting Lemar’s uniqueness. “I hope we give him the confidence that he needs in order to give us what he has.”

Lemar moved to Atlético in 2018 for a then-club record €70 million. At 25, there is still a chance to turn things around. With Simeone embracing a new attacking strategy, several previously inconsistent players have been finding form. Ángel Correa is one of the best players in the team, Carrasco looks like a new player, Félix is in the kind of form that turned him into a €127 million player and Marcos Llorente remains relentless with an end product now to show for his work.

All of Atlético’s attacking numbers have improved. They had 68 percent possession against Valencia and look more comfortable than ever on the ball. Carrasco said the improvement elevates competition and performance.

Maybe all Lemar needed was a prod to attack, be creative and rediscover the form he showed at AS Monaco that turned Atlético onto him.

“One swallow does not a summer make” is as old an aphorism as there is, but Thomas Lemar’s poor form was no joke. Even the slightest move in the right direction is good news, and long may it continue.