Many say that there are only 2 teams in a very one-sided La Liga division; Barcelona and Real Madrid. But I implore you to take a good long look at the rest of the teams that occupy Spain’s top division. Valencia for example, who won their last league title in 2003/04. Málaga, who are showing what a good club they are and finally Atlético Madrid, the team I will be analysing today.
Let’s flashback to 2010. They were a side with a few good players; David De Gea, Sergio and Diego Forlán. Nothing more than your average club but they still won the Europa League, beating Roy Hodgson’s Fulham in the final and Atlético soon followed it up with the European Super Cup.
May 2012 – Atlético humiliate Athletic Bilbao with a 3-0 victory to give them their second Europa League title in 3 seasons. August 2012 – Atlético take home another Super Cup at the expense of Chelsea, beating them 4-1 courtesy of Radamel Falcao’s sublime hat-trick and a goal from Miranda.
Move on to the present. Finally gaining recognition as a true force in football, Atlético have shown they are going to be fighting to win La Liga this year. Whilst being nowhere near as glamorous as their cross-city rivals Real Madrid or Catalan giants Barcelona, how exactly have Atléti managed to put together such a fantastic side?
The only real superstar in the side, Radamel Falcao has proven his worth consistently since he was bought from Porto. Falcao is the definition of a “defender’s nightmare”. He can shoot with both feet, has a great header for someone only 5’9″ and even the best struggle against him as Chelsea so emphatically found out.
Without an Iniesta or Ozil to call their own, Los Colchoneros have developed Spanish attacker Adrian into an immense talent and behind him, Atlético have great options in the middle of the park; Raul Garcia, Gabi, Koke to name a few. The way all of these players can combine has really helped stabilise the midfield, making them very difficult to play against.
Defensively, the side has proven it is more than capable of holding steady. Diego Godín and Miranda have been a major reason for success. Since Domínguez departed, Miranda has enjoyed a place in the starting XI and has let the fans and players see that he thoroughly deserves it.
These players would be absolutely nowhere without an orchestrator on the touch-lines to tell them how to play however. Since taking over 2 days before Christmas 2011, Diego Simeone has shown masterful tactics. His organisation of Atlético has brought them great success. His appointment turned the 2011/12 season around and after tightening the squad up as a unit, helped them regain an astute team mentality and focused on gaining positive results from then on. The counter attacking football they now play so successfully is thanks to Simeone’s work.
The aggressive passing style is also due to Simeone, he has moved the play from long passes to quicker, shorter passes. The way he turned them into such a great side has also given us a look at Cholo’s managerial ability.
Using the 4-4-1-1 formation allows every member of the side to be used effectively. The wide midfielders and the full-backs support each other when they are needed and the combination of Arda Turan with Filipe Luís has been fantastic this season.
Playing Falcao as a lone striker and putting Adrián in behind has worked wonders. Adrián’s ability to play a through ball has given Falcao all he needs to put the ball in the net.
Now a lot of people will label Atlético as a ‘one-man team’. Why? Falcao is not the only outstanding player. This is a team that has quality throughout, from the goalkeeper to the forwards.
Developing youngsters is also showing that Atlético want to have a solid future as well. Both Saul and Oliver Torres got a run out against Jaén with Jorge Pulido getting another game as well. It may be a little early to say, but I believe all of these players have a good future in the side.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have superior youth systems but Los Colchoneros seem to be working on it, and want to have a youthful team coming through. Developing greatly over the last few seasons I fully believe that this side can go beyond what people think and can win La Liga within the next couple of seasons. If they keep on at the rate they are going they will definitely be a big threat in the race for trophies, especially if Falcao honours his contract.
What I don’t understand is the doubters who don’t believe instant success can be achieved. Success has not been instant. Since 2009, Atlético have won 4 trophies; 2 Europa Leagues and 2 European Super Cups. They have been building for years to create a consistent, trophy winning side. Even the replacements brought in for departed players have showed desire and hunger to win silverware. It is the mentality of the team.
This is a club that want success. From the president, to the reserve players, right through the hierarchy. And soon, they will be recognised as a strong club. Maybe soon, they will be Madrid’s dominant side.