Atletico Madrid have not been the same force that they were last season, as they have struggled to score goals on a regular basis this time around. A lot of it has to do with the numerous personnel changes that have happened in the summer. Star striker Diego Costa, who contributed most of the goals last season is now playing for Chelsea, is being felt since Mario Mandzukic is not exactly the same kind of player. In order to continue getting the results, Atletico have had to modify their style of football in the last few months.
They have been getting more number of goals from set pieces than most of the teams from Spain or Italy. This, in turn, has led to the criticism of the team’s style of football from various quarters. Due to the Spanish league being highly technical, teams do not often resort to physical style of football. Their manager, Diego Simeone, who was recently voted as the best manager in Spain last season, says that he is happy with the threat from set pieces and he finds no in using them to the benefit of his team. Atletico managed a 1-0 win over Getafe in the latest league encounter. Summer signing Mandzukic scored the only goal of the game in the 40th minute.
“It happened again today. It’s a tool in football, it seems like it’s a bad thing to score goals like this. It’s normal to have these types of options. After playing three games this week, it’s not an easy thing to score eight goals and keep three clean sheets,” said Atletico manager. They have been finding it difficult to match the exploits of last season. It is not surprising that they are fifth in the table, but they are just two points below Barcelona.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman says that he is fully in support of the England national team boss Roy Hodgson selecting his fullbacks Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne. The duo have been the star performers in the Premier league up until now. They have contributed much to the attacking potential of Southampton, which has seen them score an incredible 20 goals in the opening nine matches. In fact, Southampton are the second highest scorers in the division and are only four behind table leaders Chelsea. Ryan Bertrand is on a loan from Chelsea till the end of the season, but he is widely expected to convert the loan deal into a permanent one.
The full-back has been an understudy to the likes of Ashley Cole for a long time, but it became clear that manager Jose Mourinho did not see him as part of the plans even though he is one of the players to have lifted the Champions League title. Since his move to Southampton, the full-back has been getting regular game time and this has shot him in the limelight once again. Apart from scoring a goal, Bertrand has also contributed in numerous attacks. The same can be said of right back Clyne, who also has one goal to his name. Both fullbacks have featured in all league matches until now.
“Clyne was already selected in the squad, and now Ryan has had the opportunity to play, and every weekend here, which is what he missed in Chelsea. Ryan’s still a young player and the best way to develop is to play every weekend. I spoke to him about that, and both are full-backs that I like, because one is defending, but another, if you like to dominate and play offensively, you need attacking full-backs and I’m very happy about that,” said Koeman.
Former Chelsea midfielder Tiago claims that he was given a great offer by his former club at to return to Stamford Bridge, but he elected to rejoin Atletico Madrid instead. Tiago decided not to renew his contract with Atletico after the end of last season. He was a free agent for a few months before deciding to rejoin the Spanish champions. During the period as a free agent, the intense rumours about Tiago rejoining Chelsea surfaced. After losing legend Frank Lampard on a free transfer, Chelsea were reportedly looking at Tiago as a backup to the likes of Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas.
However, the deal never progressed and Tiago ended up returning to the Vicente Calderon. After signing for Atletico, Tiago said in a statement that this was the best move in his career since he is very happy with the club as a whole. The 33-year-old Portuguese midfielder was a major reason behind Atletico’s incredible campaign last season. Apart from winning the league title, they also came close to winning the Champions League for the first time in their history. Atletico were only a few minutes away from winning the prestigious title before losing 4-1 to Real Madrid in the final of the competition.
“The summer was very difficult. I want to explain to the fans what happened but there are some things I cannot explain because they are not important. At the end of last season, I received a great offer (from Chelsea) and it made me think about making a change. But I realised that the most important thing was to feel important at a club. I spoke to Cholo (Diego Simeone) and he told me he wanted me in the squad in the next training session,” said the midfielder. Atletico have already lost a number of key players from last season.
Former Atletico Madrid striker David Villa has claimed that he feels that his former team will compete for trophies once again this campaign. Atletico emerged as the surprise winners of the la Liga title last season after they managed to hold off competition from both Real Madrid and Barcelona. They became the first winners, outside the top two, of the league title since Valencia did this feat in 2004. Valencia, however, were unable to maintain the standards for long as they lost a number of their good players to top clubs in the subsequent summers.
This has been the case with Atletico as well. Diego Simeone has already seen players like Diego Costa, David Villa, and Filipe Luis leave the club. They have also been unable to convert the loan deal of Thibaut Courtois into a permanent one and the Chelsea goalkeeper has returned to his parent club. Due to a number of players, who were influential last season, leaving the club this summer, there have been doubts as to whether Atletico will be able to stay competitive. Villa, who recently moved on a free transfer to New York City FC says that Simeone is a manager who can adapt to these changes extremely well.
He expects Atletico to remain competitive even after the numerous changes.
“They are very good in all positions and will make do without the players who are gone. They will be a competitive team again and have a great season. It’s not only the city, but the project. This company has franchises around the world such as Manchester City and will make the team big. I’ve done a lot in Europe already, a very good career; an opportunity to start from zero, to start over again is something I thought was exciting,” said the Spanish international.