Despite missing the chance to go top of La Liga for Christmas with defeat at Málaga late in the month, December was a good month for Atlético as they won 6 of their 7 matches.
The rojiblancos secured Champions League qualification as group leaders with an impressive triumph at Benfica, and also came from behind to beat Athletic in an exciting league clash.
After losing Tiago to a broken leg at the end of November, many forecasted a difficult month for Cholo’s men but they came through strongly, and are looking like serious contenders in all three competitions.
In the Portuguese midfielder’s absence, youngster Saúl Ñíguez has really come of age, and his performances in December were enough to win our Player of the Month award.
The 21 year-old started all seven games and fulfilled a number of different roles, finally getting a run in his preferred defensive midfield position where he shone alongside Gabi.
His maturity is beyond his years, and his positional sense, physical prowess and versatility make him a perfect player to have in the squad – the type that Simeone loves.
Notably, he has also added goals to his game, and is second only to Antoine Griezmann in the scoring stakes with five in all competitions this season.
In the first game of the month, he headed home the winner in our Copa del Rey trip to Reus, before opening the scoring with a composed finish at Benfica the following week.
Four days later, he scored a crucial equaliser that started the comeback against Athletic in the Calderón, and helped us to the three points with an all-action showing.
The biggest compliment we can pay to Saúl that so far, Tiago’s absence hasn’t really been noticeable. Many feared the worst when it was revealed that he would be out long term, but his injury has allowed a few players to take a step forward.
Another who has emerged recently is Thomas Partey, who has been decisive in numerous matches and deserves a mention for his form and hard-work.
With the January signings of Augusto Fernández and Matías Kranevitter, we are well covered in midfield for the rest of the season and ahead of our looming transfer ban.
The usual suspects such as Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godín and Jan Oblak also all enjoyed solid months, but Saúl has gone above and beyond lately and deserves recognition for his efforts.
Do you agree with our choice? Who else impressed you during December?