Overall it was a positive start to Atlético’s post-Diego era.
Los Rojiblancos’ injury-stricken squad showed promising signs in Levante that their struggles on the road could be a thing of the past, outplaying their opponents for most of the match and dominating possession (68%), though they were only able to take a single point back home with them.
Without critical starters Juanfran and Filipe Luís manning their positions on opposite defensive flanks, Diego Simeone felt compelled to improvise, rolling-out an experimental 3-4-3 formation featuring the trio of central defenders composed of Diego Godín, Miranda and Atleti debutant Cata Díaz.
Full-back Sílvio, who started for the first time since November, was deployed higher up the pitch than originally expected on the right-wing, but the Portuguese was largely ineffective over the span of 75 minutes he spent on the field.
Last year’s catastrophic visit to the Ciutat de València was probably on the minds of a lot of Atleti fans after the team went down 1-0 so early (5′), but Diego Simeone’s men brushed off the setback and took control of the clash, with their determination to right the ship paying off through a screamer by Arda in the 22nd minute.
Los Colchoneros, increasingly firmer at the back, continued to look for ways to pierce through Levante’s formidable defence, but the local side – pushed against the ropes – successfully averted a knockout blow.
Surely, Levante fans considered themselves lucky to have escaped the match with a point in hand.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Diego Simeone: “We paid for our mistakes of the first five minutes”
“It was a match with the ball in our possession against a closed team prepared to counterattack on any lost square ball,” Simeone said in the post-game press conference.
“The truth is, Levante work very well in that regard.”
Simeone continued: “We went in search of the goal however we could and with different alternatives such as the entries of Óliver, Raúl [García’s] in the inside, and Kader’s to give us more depth on the outside to see if we could break through.
“We had a couple of mild chances but never any clear ones because there were so many people there. It was difficult to get through.”
Arda looks ready to step up
Arda scored his sixth goal in an Atleti uniform, a strike well-worthy of opening up the club’s account for the season.
Aside from his spectacular blast, the Turkish international showed he’s ready to assume a more central role than he had become accustomed to last season, dictating play for long moments of the bout, though struggling to link-up with our strikers.
Adrián’s poor showing didn’t help Arda’s cause, as the Asturian, like Sílvio, failed to factor much, if at all, in the game.
Oliver and Kader impressive in senior debuts
With Sílvio and Adrián hardly contributing for Atleti in any meaningful way, El Cholo banked on Óliver Torres (who replaced Adrián in the 64th minute) and Kader (who replaced Sílvio in the 75th minute).
The youngsters, who both made their official debuts with the first team in the wee hours of Monday morning, provided a spark that – had it been lit sooner – may have borne Atleti more fruit.
Kader’s performance was the more impressive of the two, as the French-Tunisian canterano was a menace on the right flank, often forming an effective trio with Arda and ‘Oli’ and putting in a couple of very dangerous crosses that unfortunately weren’t capitalised on by a triple-teamed Falcao.
In fact, if supporters were polled after the game on who should replace Juanfran for next week’s match against Athletic Bilbao at the Vicente Calderón, it’s very possible that Kader would be the leading candidate–displacing Sílvio.
“Thanks to everyone for the support, truly, thank you, I’m very happy and still feel the nerves throughout my body!!” – @olitorres10.
“Happy about my debut, not so much about the result but we were able to add [a point]. Now, we must continue working. Thanks a lot everyone.” –@kadeer30.
- Cebolla Rodríguez also made his first appearance with Atleti, as expected, and a punch to the face by Levante defender David Navarro that drew massive amounts of blood left him a lumpy souvenir by which to remember the game by.
- One of the most negative signs of the match is that Falcao hasn’t really been mentioned in this recap until now, down here in these little footnotes that many of you may not even bother reading; nonetheless, ‘El Tigre’ picked up an assist on Arda’s goal. The Colombian was frequently surrounded by Levante defenders to the point of suffocation, only managing one shot on target–a weak one at that.
- On the way out: AS reports Borja and Joel will be loaned out shortly. Borja, the Spanish paper claims, feels returning to Atleti’s B team would be a step back in his career and he would be open to a move to Racing Santander, who are in talks with los Rojiblancos over the forward. Alcorcón are rumoured to be Joel’s likeliest destination at the moment.
- AS also claims club officials are still keen on cashing in on Diego Godín. If the Uruguayan’s performance on Sunday is any indication of how he personally feels about leaving, one can only conclude that he would like to stay put given his very poor display against Levante. At times, it seemed like he was purposely driving his value down so as not to attract any potential suitors.
- Diego Costa is also rumoured to be interested in a move to a side where he would take on a larger role than at Atleti, with Málaga and Deportivo looking like possible destinations for the Brazilian.
- Cholo’s men were out-Choloed by Levante, who committed 17 fouls to our 7.