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3 things learned from Atlético Madrid’s 5-1 beatdown of Cádiz

Going second, Griezmann’s form and Molina’s record.

Atletico de Madrid v Cadiz CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Ruben de la Fuente Perez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid sealed another convincing home win as their fine form in 2023 continued with a 5-1 thrashing of relegation-threatened Cádiz, who couldn’t put up much of a fight against the force of Atleti.

Antoine Griezmann opened the floodgates after just two minutes and made it two before the half-hour mark, with Álvaro Morata making it three early in the second half before Yannick Carrasco scored a penalty. Choco Lozano gave Cádiz a brief glimmer of hope, but less than 60 seconds passed before Nahuel Molina restored the four-goal lead.

Here are three things that Colchoneros can learn from the game.

One team rules in the Spanish capital

With this win, Atlético de Madrid moved ahead of Real Madrid into second place in the LaLiga standings, thereby becoming FC Barcelona’s closest rival at the top of the table, (albeit one that is 13 points behind the leaders). It’s a remarkable turnaround from a team who were concerned about qualifying for Europe at the halfway point of the campaign.

If the league had started after the World Cup, 19 games ago, Atlético would be top, level on points with Barcelona but ahead on goal difference. Going into the World Cup, Atleti were fifth, with 1.71 points per game, and only three points clear of Villarreal in ninth.

Atletico de Madrid v Cadiz CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

Since the break, Atleti have registered 2.37 points per game, 2.05 goals scored per game (compared to 1.5 before) and 0.63 goals conceded per game (compared to 1). The improvement across the board has been off the charts.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid have dropped from an 11-point lead at the break to being behind, as their points per game has plummeted from 2.5 to 1.74. In equal measures, Atleti have improved while the white side of Madrid has gotten worse.

It’s been a vindication of sorts for Diego Simeone, but it does raise the question of “what if...” Atleti could have truly challenged Barcelona this season for the title, and Xavi’s team are far from the dominant force that the table would suggest. Maybe next year...

Antoine Griezmann can score, too

It’s almost easy to forget that Antoine Griezmann does score goals. After four assists in his last two LaLiga appearances, he had consolidated his position as Atleti’s creator in chief. Now he’s issued everyone a reminder of the fact that he is also a prolific goalscorer.

Only Girona’s Taty Castellanos has scored more in the last five matches than Griezmann, whose brace against Cádiz added to his double only a fortnight ago against Almería to give him a superb record of eight goal involvements in his last four games.

Again here, Griezmann’s goals were well-taken. The expected goal value was just 0.22 xG between the two goals, being the least likely of all five eventually scored given the position and quality of the chances. But his composure in front of goal continues to put Atleti’s other forward to shame with unrivalled quality.

And perhaps in the biggest indication of his character, Griezmann passed up the chance to seal a hat-trick by allowing Yannick Carrasco to take a penalty in the second half that would have given the Frenchman a treble.

Griezmann’s contribution to this team is enormous and simply cannot be underestimated on any front. A leader, a creative force and a goalscorer, Griezmann has had more quality than any other player in this team or in this competition this season. Against Cádiz, he proved it once again.

Is Nahuel Molina better without Marcos Llorente in front of him?

The revelatory form of Nahuel Molina since the World Cup is nothing new, and it’s something that has been mentioned regularly in this column in several games since the winter break. But in recent games, he’s looked better than ever.

With Marcos Llorente now missing for four games, Molina seems to only continue to improve. Without Llorente ahead of him, there was concern he could be exposed defensively and lose that connection point in the middle which had proved so fruitful.

Atletico de Madrid v Cadiz CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Ruben de la Fuente Perez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

However, he did benefit from pairing up with Rodrigo de Paul, who switched to the right with Llorente unavailable, and the pair have replicated the connection they generated during their time together with Udinese and Argentina.

De Paul is a very different player to Llorente, and his style has enable Molina more freedom down the right flank. Against Cádiz, we saw Molina link up with De Paul and then power beyond him to break into the final third, a move that would previously have been executed by passing onto Llorente and the Spaniard then pushing on.

The truth is that Molina is excelling. He has scored in his last two games by doing exactly that and running into the final third on the counter, finding a space he would not have been looking to occupy had Llorente been playing ahead of him on the right of midfield.

It’s been an intriguing change in Molina’s game and Atlético’s structure, and one that gives Diego Simeone a real selection headache for when the number 14 returns to fitness. He may well find that the form and connection between Molina and De Paul keeps him out of the team for longer than his injury will.