Atletico have had a topsy-turvy start to this season. After a busy summer, it was always going to take some time for the team to settle down. The draw against city rivals, Real could just be the fillip needed for Simeone’s men, says Jamie Currie.
The 20th minute summed up Atletico Madrid’s start to the season so far. On the back of two defeats away to Villarreal and Benfica in recent weeks, and already finding themselves behind to Real Madrid – thanks to Benzema’s free-header. They had a golden chance to get level and kick-start their season, but Keylor Navas showed cat-like reflexes to deny Antoine Griezmann from the spot after Tiago had been tripped by Sergio Ramos.
It just summed up everything and how the luck is going against them at the minute. But the next hour gave Simeone, the fans, and the players some hope for the remainder of the season and how they can take the positives from the game and move forward – and rightly so.
The opening 20 was very much the most un-Atletico-like performance you could imagine: they sat off the game and allowed Kroos and Modric to dictate the tempo of the game and of course, that’s where the Madrid goal came from. They were patient and popped the ball out wide. The quality of the cross and Gimenez’s defensive naivety allowed Benzema to open the scoring with a free header.
There was a moment of stunned silence, but just a moment. The fans woke up and in their own unique, passionate way, they got right behind their team and helped them achieve a point, one before the game that they would have taken considering their form.
A few things stood out within the game: Ronaldo was completely anonymous; he struggled throughout to make any sort of impact on the game. Diego Godin played him absolutely perfectly. It will be a match that the Portuguese superstar will want to get out of his mind, and quickly.
Atletico’s full-backs – Juanfran and Filipe Luis, were outstanding on both sides of the ball. Especially in the attacking areas in the second half, which allowed Atletico to cause a constant threat to Real Madrid’s backline, and in truth, they may well have won the game in the end, if Navas didn’t produce a fine save to deny Jackson Martinez from a powerful shot inside the area.
Furthermore, the start to the season as a whole has highlighted the way the team is still progressing and how much Arda Turan and Miranda have been missed. Oliver, although possessing massive potential, is not at the level of Arda just yet. The way the Turk could control the pace of certain games is something that is missed within this new-look side. And it’s also not by accident that with Miranda leaving the club in the summer, the goals to set-pieces ratio has been inferior to that of last season
But the result and especially the performance after the first 20 minutes will be cause for optimism for Simeone. His signings can improve over the next few matches just like Jan Oblak has. It took him a considerable amount of time to become no.1 keeper at the club after a big-money move from Benfica. Simeone will be pleased about the goal from Vietto and the performances of Carrasco and Jackson during their time on the pitch and the pace and new variations of attack they brought to the fore.
It’s not often a draw after missing a penalty could be considered a favourable result, but in this instance, it’s one they can build upon. Now, they need to take the bull by the horns and get back in amongst the top three of La Liga. They need to go on a significant run, and put that second-half performance on DVD and use it as a reference point when their standards drop – like the in the Benfica and Villarreal matches.
They have three fixtures coming up: Real Sociedad away from home, Astana away from home and Valencia at home. They will have to take maximum points from these games to restore some of that famous self-belief that Simeone had installed in his squad – which has been lacking over the previous games.
But the proof will be in the pudding. Jackson and the rest of the new signings will have to step up to the plate and stick the ball into the net to repay Simeone’s faith. Most of all, Jackson will want to prove to himself that he can be the world-class striker that he has portrayed to be.
The 4-4-2 system is something that Simeone has stuck to rigidly since he became the top man at the Vicente Calderon, but with his new attacking options, he has the opportunity to play Koke as part of a middle three, which going by the start to the season, 4-3-3 may be the best way to move forward system-wise.
It’s choppy waters for Simeone at the moment, but the fans are behind him and this weekend will kick-start their season as they move to challenge the top two in what is shaping up to be the most unpredictable La Liga season for a long time.
Written by Jamie Currie
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