Injuries continue to shake up Atlético’s midfield

Carrasco injury forcing more Atleti players out of position

Tiago picked up an injury back in November

Tiago picked up an injury back in November

Early in the second half of an already hard-fought battle with Getafe, Atlético’s most promising young summer transfer went to the ground after a blow to the ankle. The Belgian was able to walk off the pitch, but paramedics carried him to the locker room on a stretcher in the latest injury to an Atlético midfielder.

Just as Augusto and Tiago start to make their return to training, another midfielder goes down.

The team has always been deep in the central midfield positions, boasting young players such as Óliver Torres and Thomas Partey. Both have already found the back of the net despite limited time on the pitch this season.

However, the wing positions are much thinner as Carassco and Ángel Correa are the only true wingers in the side.

Manager Diego Simeone must call upon his bench and his regular players for more time and the option of playing out of position. If Simeone chooses a 4-4-2 lineup, Óliver Torres is the most likely replacement off the bench for Carrasco because Simeone needs a box-to-box midfielder rather than Correa, who tends to go forward more.

If the Argentine manager selects a 4-3-3 formation, Correa is likely to slot in as the third forward, a position he played well towards the end of the match at Getafe on February 14th.

He has develped a solid rapport with Griezzman when he has played and will take to the position quickly. Atlético have looked much more clinical in the 4-3-3 so this is probably the better of the two options for right now.

The injuries to Augusto and Tiago also mean more playing time for two of the youngest players on the team, Thomas Partey and Matias Kranevitter. Partey has only appeared in three league games this season, but had the winning goal against Levante.

Kranevitter just came over in January, but has already played four times for Atlético, making his league debut off the bench at Getafe. Both players look solid on the ball, but Kranevitter appears to be a more defensive option for Simeone. They both will need to step up off the bench and may even play themselves into the starting lineup in Augusto and Tiago´s absence.

The final and most important piece of the puzzle will be higher expectations from Atlético´s healthy regulars in the midfield.

Gabi probably has the most to do as the best and only true defensive midfielder left in the side. He now effectively picks up both Tiago and Augusto´s roles in the middle of the field because Saúl, Koke, Óliver and others have more tendency to go forward and join the attack.

That strain was seen on Sunday as he was not very involved in the match against Villareal, often sending long balls into a congested middle of the pitch.

Carassco´s injury means Atlético lack width, a position that Koke and Ángel Correa will have to step into with help from full backs Filipe Luís and Juanfran. While Correa has played in the wide position before, and is more used to using the entire pitch, Koke works best in the middle and has not yet adapted to this new role.

Against Villareal he all too often found himself running into Saúl and Fernando Torres´ lanes as Atlético only used the middle third of the pitch.

The high number of injuries mean that almost every Atlético midfielder has to step into a new role that they have not played before.

This affects the defenders and forwards as well as the partnerships all over the pitch. What Atlético could really use right now is time on the training pitch so that every player could fully understand his role in an eleven that looks a lot different from the team that went out against Las Palmas in mid August.

Instead, the fixture list heats up with midweek games and Champions League on the schedule. If Atlético advance in the Champions League they could find themselves playing 13 games over the next 52 days, with four days between each match.

The next two weeks are some of the toughest of their schedule with games at Real Madrid and home against Real Sociedad before they travel to Valencia and finally host Deportivo and PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League.

Wins in all of these games will be tough, but they are what needed to advance to the final eight and keep together any chance of catching Barcelona.

Those two results are high above expectations going into the season. Every team faces injuries and adversity throughout a given season, it´s how Atlético comes out of this rough patch that will define their final standing.

  • Koke

    In some ways Simeone’s Atleti reminds me of Spain in the 2014 WC, and not in a good way. Spain would win almost all of their games 1-0, including the final. They barely made any chances despite having world class players. Why? Because they had too many central midfielders playing at the same time. VdB often started Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Fabregas at the same time, and the reality is that you only need 2 of those players max on the field at the same time. With too many similar players on the field at the same time, they just become redundant and ineffective… Reminds me of Koke-Augusto-Gabi-Saul midfields… You only need 2 of them max on the field, and by having all 4 at once you don’t have enough wingers or creative attacking mids to create good chances. Now, with all due respect to our players, if the best midfielders in the world (Spain’s in 2014) couldn’t create chances because of having too many CMs, how can our midfield create chances if we have the same problem but with less creative, more defensive players?

    Koke is not a winger or an attacking mid. Who here has ever seen him beat a player 1v1? Same goes for Saul, although he is slightly better at scoring goals. If Simeone really wants to stick to 4-4-2 with wide attacking mids, he should look for players like Mahrez, Dennis Suarez, or David Silva for those roles. In the meantime, I think we should play 4-3-3 with Oliver in the starting lineup. If Simeone doesn’t think Oliver is good enough to start (which I think he is) then he should at least buy or loan another CAM. When we were playing PSV and subbed Saul out for Correa, making the 4-4-2 into a 4-3-3, we instantly looked better. I am positive that there are plenty of coaches out there that could make our team score goals much more easily. Simeone’s gotta adapt.

    By the way, I don’t think we’re that thin with our squad right now. We could easily play Oliver-Koke-Gabi with Saul, Kranevitter, Thomas and Augusto as subs, and Correa-Vietto-Griezmann with Torres as a sub.

  • Usavicente Calderon

    I would prefer a 4-3-3 in Derby game. Keep Correa on the field so that we can stretch the field. Atleti do have a lot of injuries and now it is time for the youngsters to demonstrate what they can do.