Full time. Celta 2-0 Atleti. That was the end of an eventful week where we saw the best and worst of our beloved Atleti. The team now sit seven points behind Real Madrid, and six behind Barcelona.
After such a defeat, we must look upon ourselves, see what went wrong and try to correct it, right?
I mean we are the La Liga champions, we just won 4-0 against our arch-nemesis!
If this is the train of thought running through our players’ heads right now, then it’s no wonder we lost. The thought that we should win easily, with no big effort. Nothing will derail a season more than overconfidence.
“We were missing important players,” said Godin after the match. He was talking about Arda and Koke, the most creative players in the team. The last time both players were missing from the starting XI, Atlético went down three goals to nil against Osasuna.
It’s true that the team did look disjointed in the first half, and Simeone admitted as much.
“I chose the wrong side in the first half. I wasted 45 minutes, I made a mistake,” the Argentina told the media after the game. The decision to start the trio of Mario Mandzukic, Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann backfired.
Cholo tried to correct his mistake at half-time, by sending new recruit Cani into the fray. The barely-used midfielder replaced Fernando Torres, who had an extremely quiet first half. We looked bright and threatened in bursts following the change, yet the damage to us was done following the break, when Celta scored their two goals.
One could blame the formation or the refereeing decisions. Others could blame the pitch, the absences to the side. I only see one reason – complacency. I should be more precise.
Complacency after the 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid. I like to call it the ‘big game syndrome’.
After every so called ‘big game’ – whether it’s a Champions League match against a top team, a cup final, or especially a match against Real or Barcelona – where Atleti upset the odds and win with a show of will and heart, we tend to drop in intensity in the match right after.
It’s a real syndrome. Here’s the proof.
It is true we are missing key players. It is also true we were unbalanced in formation. If anything separates Atletico from the rest, it is that we don’t rely on individuals to win games.
That our forte has always been counter-attacking, and not creating chances. How many games have we won by defending sturdily and taking advantage of dead ball situations? Yes – most of them.
But fear not my fellow rojiblancos, for after each match where we display ‘big game syndrome’, we’ve recorded a win, along with a remarkable improvement in the tempo of our players.
It’s as if each loss fires up the team and return them to the golden rule of ‘partido a partido’. One game at a time.
Will we compete for the title this year? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I only care about our match on Saturday against Almeria, and I am sure Simeone and the team share my thoughts.
Tarek is an Atlético fan from Lebanon who is clearly just as annoyed at losing to Celta as the rest of us. You can find him on Twitter at @hachem_tarek.