Further success on the horizon for red and whites?

We look at why Atleti can prove the doubters wrong once again this year

New faces starting to find their flow (Guardian)

New faces starting to find their flow (Guardian)

Following the exit of several star names over the summer, much has been made of Atlético in particular in front of goal this season, with many quick to judge our new signings and point the finger at the team’s apparent inability to score and make chances from open play.

Diego Costa, David Villa and Adrián López headlined the exodus of attacking talent from the Vicente Calderón during the summer, with José Sosa and Diego Ribas also moving on following the end of their loan spells.

However, a large chunk was re-invested to strengthen our frontline, with many predicting before the start of the season that we actually have more firepower now than before, if not in the starting line-up then throughout the squad as a whole.

€30m was thrown at Real Sociedad for Frenchman Antoine Griezmann, the marquee arrival alongside Bayern Munich star Mario Mandžukić. Fair investments were also made on Italian international Alessio Cerci and upcoming Mexico striker Raúl Jiménez, solid additions to the existing cast of Arda Turan, Koke, Raúl García and Cristian Rodríguez.

Since Simeone’s arrival though, the team has generally been very settled and consistent. The Argentine is not a rotator like some of his high-profile counterparts, and has great faith in the players that have brought him unprecedented success in his time at Atlético so far.

Last summer, Toby Alderweireld and Josuha Guilavogui came in for sizeable fees on the last day of the transfer window, but both struggled to make any real impact or challenge for a starting place, and have incidentally already moved on to pastures new.

Given our notably demanding system and the high physical level required, there is always a period of adaptation that new signings have to go through and this has been the case with a number of the summer’s acquisitions. Cholo wants players he can trust, and this can only be won over time.

It’s fair to say that, bar Miguel Ángel Moyá in goal, nobody has quite hit the ground running just yet, but the fact is, the team is still getting results, doing the job they need to do, and also remain solid in defence – the key foundation to all our recent success.

In a recent interview, Arda Turan said that when he first came in, Simeone told the team “stop the opposition from scoring and you only need to find one to win the game”. Regardless of the personnel, this won’t change and as the new players start to get to grips with the system, they will get better at grinding out results from this approach.

The team has continuously improved year upon year under Cholo, but just about everybody in both the Spanish and English press has ruled out our chances of silverware this year. Even more so after we were handed the toughest of routes to the Copa del Rey final in last week’s draw.

This piece from Graham Hunter categorically predicts that third place is the most we can aspire to this year, and seems to be the common opinion of the so-called La Liga experts.

Still though, we refuse to go away. After losing to Valencia at the start of October, the response couldn’t have been better; three wins, eight goals without reply and the gap closed to j­­ust two points from Barcelona in top spot.

As fans, we know better than anyone that this team will never lie down or accept second best. “I’m not going to come out and admit that anybody is better than us,” said Mandžukić in an interview last week, who gave the impression of a seasoned team member when speaking to press in his native Croatia.

It has to be said that with each game that passes by, the new players look closer and closer to the level desired by Simeone, in particular the big number nine. A true warrior, you can see just why the former Bayern man was chosen to succeed Diego Costa in our team.

Antoine Griezmann is also starting to hit his stride an d, slowly but surely, develop an understanding both with Mandžukić and the likes of Koke and Arda. The Frenchman didn’t have an easy start to life in red and white, as many were quick to point out, but looking at his talent and how he has applied himself so far, it was always going to be just a matter of time.

Those who expected us to come out all guns blazing like in the last couple of years with a much-changed team have been quick to jump to conclusions or call our success a flash in the pan, but for me this is the most exciting thing about our season so far.

For a team who “only score from set pieces”, “sold all their best players” and “wasted money on their replacements”, we’ve won the Spanish Super Cup, beaten the impenetrable Real Madrid not once but twice, thrashed Sevilla, and also edged out Juventus in a strong Champions League group, one which we currently top.

When the new players fully adapt, and I saw ‘when’ with confidence rather than ‘if’, you have to wonder what the limit is this season. Big players may have left, but the principles and ideologies that have served us so well are still as strong as ever, a factor that supersedes any individual.

It would be foolish to write us off, especially after last year, but the players and coaching staff won’t mind that at all. Partido a partido.

  • No long comment this time .. only two sentences :
    Those ” EXPERTS ” who ruled out Atleti DID NOT rule out Valencia & Sevilla,
    It’s very obvious that they are judging from their experiences .

  • Arjit Barua

    Valencia and Sevilla shouldn’t have to be ruled out, that’s kind of assumed… They play good football and make La Liga exciting but do you seriously see them making the kind of accomplishments we have done recently? When is the last time either of them made the champions league or even performed well in Europa league? We should expect more criticism because of our accomplishments. That’s the sole reason the media say what they say. Valencia and Sevilla’s early season form doesn’t merit that. With that said, I’m hoping for to us to start clicking soon, maybe try a different formation or something.

  • Urban

    Ehm ehm…. Sevilla won the Europa league last year lol

  • Kris

    Yehh, I don’t think Sevilla and Valencia were ever considered title contenders to be ruled out. What proves here of us being ruled out is that, we are still feared and they (“EXPERTS”) still consider us as a title contender (indirectly).

  • I can’t rule out Sevilla & Valencia, but also I can’t consider them contenders for the title or at least the 3rd place (although I tend to rule them out)
    It still too early, and they didn’t have real challenges yet

    Valencia play against Sevilla’s opponent from the previous week, so they have a very similar schedule,
    and after drawing against each other in week 1, they played against 7 same teams, 6 of them are now 10th, 12th, 16th, 17th, 18th & 19th
    on La Liga table,
    while their only challenge was us, and we thrashed Sevilla, while Valencia game was after a tough week for us, 64 hours after Juventus game, and it was very strange game, with a lot of good luck for them

    About us : of course we have some problems, but this is not the reason for the media and the “experts” to rule us out
    The reason is the same reason they kept saying last season :
    “Ya caerá el Atleti” (now Atleti will fall)
    And the same reason they started this season to call us a violent team
    (despite being 15th on fouls-committed list)
    And the same reason no single Atleti player won an award in Los Premios de La Liga

    They think they are fighting us, but in fact they are helping us,
    keeping a low profile and staying away from pressure is one of our strongest weapons

  • Arjit Barua

    You’re right, I forgot about that. But my point remains. These guys kneel to barca and real, or any proper elite team, while we’re the ones that refuse to. That’s why I just don’t see a comparison. We weren’t all that great when we soon Europa league…it was good football but the competition was so so. Bar one or two fixtures they were against CL hopefuls nothing more.