The number of passes longer than 30 yards that Rodrigo De Paul successfully completed.
This is the primary reason Diego Simeone asked for (and received) De Paul this summer — Cholo’s compatriot has the final, line-breaking pass which Atlético Madrid’s midfield lacked last season. That quality offers Simeone an alternative to the Marcos Llorente-Kieran Trippier combination on the right side, as well as the Yannick Carrasco-Thomas Lemar pair on the left.
On Sunday, the Argentine connection between De Paul and Ángel Correa decided an otherwise-tight, tactical early-season game at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Atlético spent much of the first half waiting to strike on the counterattack. In the 38th minute, De Paul pounced on a loose ball and pinged it squarely into Correa’s path. This drew out Elche goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who missed everything and could only watch as Atleti’s #10 popped the game’s only goal into the net with a wicked outside-the-boot rip.
In addition to his long ball proficiency, De Paul completed a game-high seven passes that entered the final third and recorded six progressive carries — defined as moving the ball at least five yards in a goal-bound direction.
Including his winner on Sunday, the number of goals Correa has scored in his past 10 Atlético appearances. Combined with the two assists he’s also provided in this time, the Copa America winner has contributed 10 total goals over Atleti’s past 10 league games.
Since April 11, no player has scored more goals in all of Europe than Correa. The 26-year-old is playing with a confidence and a ruthlessness he has previously displayed only in short bursts. He is growing more and more decisive with each week — look back to the game-tying goal in the title-clinching win at Valladolid three months ago before flashing forward to the game-winners he’s notched against Celta Vigo and Elche already this season.
Correa has burned through hot streaks in his Atlético career before following them up with equally-frigid patches and repeating the cycle anew. But there might be something different about him now.
Elche’s expected goals tally on Sunday — from 58 percent possession.
Simeone’s Atlético offered Fran Escribá’s Elche the illusion of control at the Wanda Metropolitano — particularly after the visitors had gone behind.
True, Los Ilicitanos improved after halftime as Colombian fullbacks Johan Mojica and Helibelton Palacios stretched Atleti’s defense. But said defense conceded only four shots throughout the 90 minutes. Jan Oblak was called upon to make just two saves — both routine.
Escribá had his men target Geoffrey Kondogbia in the first half, but the converted center back put in such a strong performance that he received applause from the 24,926 Atlético socios in attendance. He was a near-perfect 22-for-23 on passes traveling between 15 and 30 yards — and one of his game-high four tackles won precipitated De Paul’s assist for Correa.
For the second consecutive week, José Giménez won all his aerial and ground duels without committing a single foul. Stefan Savić — who missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury — made a whopping 12 progressive carries and a team-best eight recoveries. Elche did not complete a single pass within 20 yards of Oblak’s goal, per Understat.
So, Simeone has to be pleased not only with his side’s sound defensive structure through two games, but also its physical condition following a tough preseason.