The total progressive distance, in yards, that Stefan Savić carried the ball for Atlético Madrid against Getafe on Tuesday.
It’s no secret that right now, Atlético’s offense isn’t gelling. The colchoneros generated a less-than-stellar 1.48 expected goals at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez — and that was their highest total since Aug. 29. Atleti have pulled out results in dramatic fashion thanks to squad depth and Diego Simeone’s aggression in using it.
One way Atlético tried to get going early in Tuesday’s game was to let Stefan Savić drive the ball up Getafe’s gut.
Now, this strategy didn’t necessarily work, as the hosts were the better team and took a deserved lead in the 45th minute. But Savić’s immense positional improvement over the past two seasons and his comfort in a high line could indicate the next wrinkle to Atleti’s game — multiple defenders capable of reliably bringing out the ball from the back. We already know how good Mario Hermoso is at this. Savić and Giménez registered career seasons last year in this regard, too.
If nothing else, it remains curious. I want to see how often the team turns to it, and in what game state.
The successful ball pressures Antoine Griezmann made in his 65 minutes on the pitch. This means Atlético won back possession within five seconds of Griezmann pressing on seven occasions, a game-high.
“Griezmann is very enthusiastic about returning, and he is in the process of adapting to this new Atlético, which is not the one he left,” Simeone said Tuesday. “I have no doubt he will be what we expect.”
Griezmann’s second stint as a rojiblanco is not off to a flying start. He has zero shots on target in LaLiga this season and endured another frustrating hour on Tuesday. But the Frenchman has dug in to do some dirty work in the meantime as he continues to adjust to a team that changed nearly everything after he left for Barcelona.
This Atlético is more possession-based, and it functions best with more associative and combination play closer to goal. The 69 percent possession figure Atleti rang up on Tuesday was a rarity during Griezmann’s first stint at the club. There’s a new primary formation, and new players — like Llorente and De Paul — with whom to establish chemistry, not to mention old Barça colleague Luis Suárez (who scored both his goals Tuesday with Griezmann off the pitch).
Simeone doesn’t seem worried, and he’s confident a forward of Griezmann’s caliber is going to figure it out. One way he’ll do that is through attacking third pressures and linking up quickly with teammates.
The progressive carries Rodrigo De Paul registered across the 60 percent of the pitch considered “attacking.”
Almost immediately, De Paul gave Atlético’s midfield drive and cohesion it lacked with Koke and Thomas Lemar unavailable. In only 28 minutes against Getafe, he racked up 72 yards of progressive distance — over a full game, that works out to over 230 yards, which would have led all players. He completed 89 percent of his passes and five of those completed passes entered the final third.
Again, even while facing a team reduced to 10 men, De Paul did all this in less than half an hour.
Maybe we didn’t have De Paul pegged properly. Perhaps he’s more than Saúl Ñíguez’s replacement — he’s a stand-in for Koke, too. The ex-Udinese midfielder is capable of tying moves together with short, tidy passing and relentlessly pushing the ball up the field via his feet or via 30-yard bombs. It won’t be much longer before he’s indispensable to the team.
The recoveries Marcos Llorente made — also a game-high.
This is an impressive statistic, but one that sparks some concern as well — just because Llorente is capable of doing this doesn’t mean he should be doing it.
The potential issue circles back to Griezmann’s arrival and the knock-on effect it has had on team structure already. With Griezmann starting as one of the two forwards, Ángel Correa dropped back to the right wing. In turn, this more or less forced Llorente into a classic pivot role, especially with Geoffrey Kondogbia injured. When Kieran Trippier was substituted, Llorente then moved to right back for a while before Šime Vrsaljko entered and supplied the game-winning assist from that position.
It’s early days, but Llorente’s versatility is doing him few favors at the moment — he has no goals and no assists in six league games after breaking out for 12 and 11 respectively in 2020/21. Atlético miss the 26-year-old’s explosiveness and game-changing connection with Trippier (who doesn’t look fully fit, either). This will need to be reincorporated into the offensive plan, given how significant a weapon it is for Atleti.
(Statistics courtesy of fbref.com.)