The month of March has been a turbulent one for Atlético fans. The performances have either been very, very good or very, very poor. At their best, the Atleti squad has looked worthy of a Champions League spot, at their worst they look like a team that deserves to be sitting in eighth in the Liga table.
Take a look at Atlético’s March fixtures and you’ll notice something intriguing. Upon the completion of the first leg of the tie against Hannover, los Rojiblancos will have played a remarkable eight games in one month. That’s two games more than the second busiest month of December.
Now, take a look at the results. We came into the first game of the current month against Sevilla full of confidence after a decent performance against Barcelona. The 1-1 draw, while not the best result, is one that can be looked upon positively when you consider the quality of our opposition and the fact we were playing away from home and with a depleted squad.
The following game, against Besiktas midweek in the Europa League, was almost flawless and the 3-1 result at the Calderón gave us the upper hand in the tie.
Granada was up next and sure enough ‘El Cholo’s’ men produced the goods, winning 2-0 albeit after a sloppy start.
Europa League progress was delivered in emphatic fashion in the following midweek encounter against Besiktas in Turkey. Any qualms about the team’s ability to travel and succeed were well and truly thrown out the window thanks to a 3-0 win which ended the tie 6-1 in our favour.
Just as fans could be forgiven for getting their hopes up about potential Champions League qualification, the players appeared to run out of gas with no petrol station in sight.
The 2-1 loss to Mallorca could have been dismissed as a mere dint in an otherwise good month to date, especially considering the team defeated an equally tired Athletic. The 1-0 loss against Zaragoza, on the other hand, proved that the players are becoming worn out and it’s easy to see why.
Put simply, our squad doesn’t have enough players in it to deal with the influx of games we’re experiencing at the moment. El Cholo hasn’t changed the squad around much for the games this month and as a result the players are beginning to look sluggish and tired.
Adrián and Koke have remarkably started all seven games in March. Juanfran, Gabi, Mario, Filipe and Falcao have started all but one. Miranda and Salvio have started in five.
Look at the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona and you’ll easily see why they consistently perform across the season. Should a player go down with injury or simply need a rest, they have a player of sufficient skill to call upon. Atlético doesn’t have this luxury.
The news doesn’t get much better either. We already have a whopping seven games scheduled for April and this could stretch to a ridiculous total of nine should the players find the energy to see off Hannover in the Europa League quarter-finals. The semi-finals take place on the 19th and 26th.
What the past month has shown is that a couple of players need to be added to the squad to make us more competitive when the going gets tough.
How nice would it be to be able to call upon another decent striker so Adrian or Falcao don’t have to carry the goalscoring expectation entirely on their shoulders? Or another central midfielder so Gabi, Koke and Mario aren’t being called upon to do the job in two to three games a week.
With nine La Liga games and at least two more Europa League matches to go, lets hope the squad can find enough energy to finish the season as strongly as possible.
What do you think? Do the players have the stamina to run out the rest of the season and finish in the European qualification places?