Atletico de Madrid, 2020-21: Joao Felix's Breakout Year?

bosox4283

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Atletico returns the same team as last year. Keeping the team intact requires Atletico paying for Carrasco (who was sold to a Chinese club just a few years ago and is now being re-purchased) and giving the rest of the money for Morata.

Simeone needs to find a way to maximize his talent and increase his team's offensive fluidity. Arguably, the players have the ability to maintain the defensive steadiness while improving the general offensive flow. But it's up to Simeone to figure out this balance.

I really think Joao Felix needs to have a breakout season for Atletico to compete for La Liga or to make a run in the Champions League.

Oh, and Simeone has COVID.
 

bosox4283

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I don't know how good Granada is this year (though they did finish 7th in La Liga last season, earning a spot in the Europa League), so I hesitate to get too excited about Atletico's 6-1 victory today.

The team showed two of what I think are keys to the season: (1) Joao Felix playing at a high-level and (2) getting goals from the strikers -- Costa had one, Llorente had one, and Luis Suarez had two.

I also really think the two substitutions will favor Atletico this year. The team has a deep bench, and having the extra two substitutions will allow Simeone to rotate more, keep players in better game-shape, and have more in-game variations.
 

bosox4283

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In today's mid-week match against recently-promoted Huesca, Simeone has opted for Joao Felix and Luis Suarez up front. I think there will be a need to rotate during this abnormal year, so I like the idea of balancing Diego Costa's workload and trying to find the combinations that work. But I also wonder if Atletico is looking to sell Costa in order to gain some extra revenue -- the team is apparently in a tough spot and seeking any cash infusion to bring the gap.
 

bosox4283

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After an exhilarating 6-1 to start the season, Huesca grinds Atletico to a 0-0 draw.

The good news is that Joao Felix looks ready to take the leap forward. The bad news is that Vitolo, the player for whom Simeone pined for so long, seems to be cooked. I'd prefer Atletico to dump him to both save some money and give some younger prospect the chance to grow this year.
 

bosox4283

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That's now two matches in a row with a disappointing 0-0 draw.

The season is early and there's still room to grow, but after eight years of Simeone, we know what we're getting. For whatever reason, it seems that Simeone really struggles to fix his offensive flow. While there are moments when it all clicks, Simeone cannot get his team into a rhythm.
 

bosox4283

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I worry that losing Thomas will be a problem for Atletico given what seems to be a dip in form from Saul and Koke, especially since Thomas had really developed into that defensive-anchor for Simeone.
 

bosox4283

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That's now two matches in a row with a disappointing 0-0 draw.

The season is early and there's still room to grow, but after eight years of Simeone, we know what we're getting. For whatever reason, it seems that Simeone really struggles to fix his offensive flow. While there are moments when it all clicks, Simeone cannot get his team into a rhythm.
I'm happy to say that, at the moment, it appears that I was wrong about "we know what we're getting about Simeone". Over the last several games, Atletico looks different and has found a new offensive rhythm. Simeone seems to have found a way to keep the defense rock-solid while giving Joao Felix the space to be creative and create chances. The combination of Joao Felix, Luis Suarez, and Marcos Llorente is really exciting at this point. From my early pessimism to now my rising optimism, I'm feeling much better about Atletico this year if Simeone can continue to tap into and harness this offensive burst.
 

bosox4283

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Luis Suarez has apparently tested positive for COVID -- here's to a speedy and full recovery.

The timing is not ideal, as Atletico has Barcelona and a Champions League fixture in the next week. Simeone will likely have to go with some sort of "false 9" approach, with some combination of Joao Felix, Correa, Llorente, and Carrasco up front. I'm not certain if Diego Costa is fit after an injury, so I'm not yet counting on him.
 

bosox4283

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That's now two matches in a row with a disappointing 0-0 draw.

The season is early and there's still room to grow, but after eight years of Simeone, we know what we're getting. For whatever reason, it seems that Simeone really struggles to fix his offensive flow. While there are moments when it all clicks, Simeone cannot get his team into a rhythm.
I'm glad to eat my words. Simeone has changed his tactics to tap into the team's offensive potential. There may be lapses when Simeone retreats to his long-standing reliance on sitting back and waiting for the counter (such as the last 20 minutes against Bayern this past week), but he's mostly moved on from this style this year. And the results, at least in La Liga, have been impressive.

The key so far has been switching to a system with three CBs, a move that allows Trippier and (usually) Carrasco to play as wingers (is that the right name for that position?) and enter more into the playmaking. Both have been very solid offensively, and this move has the added benefit of reducing the risk of exposing their defensive weaknesses. Another benefit of utilizing a backline of three CBs and two wingers is that this system gives Marcos Llorente and Joao Felix more space to be creative and explosive, and provides Koke and Luis Suarez with roles that really suit them.

One downside is that the system really depends on having strong play from the striker. With Diego Costa battling yet another injury, Luis Suarez is really, really important to the team's success this year.
 

bosox4283

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Kiernan Trippier, who has played every minute so far this season, has been suspended by the FA for 10 weeks for gambling violations. On one hand, I'm glad he'll finally get a little rest. On the other, this suspension takes Trippier out of some important matching, including the first Champions League leg against Chelsea.
 

bosox4283

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Diego Costa is apparently asking Atletico to rescind his contract. The initial reporting suggested that Costa wanted out due to personal/family reasons. It now seems that Costa just wants out in order to secure his next deal.

I don't understand his urgency to leave. In my view, Costa incorrectly believes he can continue playing at a high, top-tier level. While he's only 32(!!), Costa has been through too many injuries for a top-tier team to take a chance on him. Instead of taking this risk, I'd advise Costa to finish his contract with Atletico, sign some silly deal in UAE or Qatar, make himself and his family millions, and then retire to Brazil at 35-36 with more money then he'll ever need.

His departure isn't good nor bad for Atletico. Suarez is the main striker, and when he's not on the pitch, Simeone has shown his ability to play an offensive line-up without Suarez or Costa (Marcos Llorente, Carrasco, Correa, Joao Felix, Koke, Lemar/Saul).
 

bosox4283

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Costa is gone. There are rumors that the Wolves may sign Costa. Atletico seems to be interested in taking Milik of Naples on loan.

The other move Atleti seem to be pursuing is for Marcos Alonso, who has not played at Chelsea since late-September. I like the potential of this move -- experienced player that adds depth.
 

bosox4283

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Atletico crashes out of the Copa del Rey, following to third-division Cornella. Simeone opted for his second team, leaving key players such as Koke, Suarez, Llorente, Carrasco, Oblak, Hermoso, and Trippier off the squad. Even with the second unit, there's no reason Atletico could not overcome a third division team. Que verguenza.
 

bosox4283

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Sid Low, "Joao Felix is La Liga's Best Player"

About two months later, Joao Felix has lost his placing in the starting eleven. The dip in form is concerning -- Joao may be dealing with a sore ankle or deciding he has no interest in running around on defense the way Simeone demands or just a young player who is struggling through a pandemic. Regaining his top performance is essential, even if Atletico currently has a comfortable lead in La Liga.
 

bosox4283

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Joao Felix, Mario Hermoso, and Yannick Carrasco all have COVID, so I presume they'll all be out for Monday's fixture against Celta. Trippier is also out, as he is serving his betting suspension.

I'm a bit skeptical that Simeone plays with three CBs again after Felipe looked terrible last game, so I'm eager to see how Simeone builds his line-up. Here's one possibility.

Oblak
Vrsalkjo-Gimenez-Savic-Lodi
Saul-Koke-Lemar
Llorente-Correa-Suarez

This match could be an opportunity to se Torreira, Kondogbia, or Hector Herrera.
 

bosox4283

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Joao Felix, Mario Hermoso, and Yannick Carrasco all have COVID, so I presume they'll all be out for Monday's fixture against Celta. Trippier is also out, as he is serving his betting suspension.

I'm a bit skeptical that Simeone plays with three CBs again after Felipe looked terrible last game, so I'm eager to see how Simeone builds his line-up. Here's one possibility.

Oblak
Vrsalkjo-Gimenez-Savic-Lodi
Saul-Koke-Lemar
Llorente-Correa-Suarez

This match could be an opportunity to se Torreira, Kondogbia, or Hector Herrera.
I was right: in yesterday's 2-2 draw with Celta, the three CB adventure with Felipe totally backfired -- he was terrible, as was Lodi. Both look lost in Simeone's new 5-3-1 approach. Lodi did look more settled in the second half when Simeone reverted to a 4-4-2.

The loss was bad, but it was worse to have Joao Felix, Mario Hermoso, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar, Hector Herrera, and Dembele all out with Covid -- four starters and two substitutes likely to be used. Including Trippier, that's five starters out. I thought the lack of fresh legs really hampered Atletico down the stretch and the short-handed squad put a lot of guys in some of their less-than-optimal positions.

Simeone apparently has zero trust in Vitolo who didn't play yesterday despite the totally nonexistent bench, and I have to assume that Vrsjalkjo is a little banged up since he didn't get on the pitch.

Atletico remain 8 points up on Real Madrid and Barcelona with one game in hand. Barcelona, in particular, seems to have found their rhythm, so I suspect they will be creeping up on Atletico throughout the rest of the season.
 
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Zososoxfan

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I was right: in yesterday's 2-2 draw with Celta, the three CB adventure with Felipe totally backfired -- he was terrible, as was Lodi. Both look lost in Simeone's new 5-3-1 approach. Lodi did look more settled in the second half when Simeone reverted to a 4-4-2.

The loss was bad, but it was worse to have Joao Felix, Mario Hermoso, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar, Hector Herrera, and Dembele all out with Covid -- four starters and two substitutes likely to be used. Including Trippier, that's five starters out. I thought the lack of fresh legs really hampered Atletico down the stretch and the short-handed squad put a lot of guys in some of their less-than-optimal positions.

Simeone apparently has zero trust in Vitolo who didn't play yesterday despite the totally nonexistent bench, and I have to assume that Vrsjalkjo is a little banged up since he didn't get on the pitch.

Atletico remain 8 points up on Real Madrid and Barcelona with one game in hand. Barcelona, in particular, seems to have found their rhythm, so I suspect they will be creeping up on Atletico throughout the rest of the season.
I don't think Barca is finding it's rhythm. FDJ still played CB in a liga match last week. Pedri has become close to a star and that's why we've seen slightly better performances lately. But with CB still a total mess and a veritable injury plague (Pique, Araujo, Fati, Coutinho, Dest, and Roberto) I don't think Barca's making any noise in Liga or UCL this year. I expect that PSG will dump them out with Neymar and Mbappe lighting up Barca's backline and that Barca will comfortably qualify for UCL.
 

bosox4283

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I don't think Barca is finding it's rhythm. FDJ still played CB in a liga match last week. Pedri has become close to a star and that's why we've seen slightly better performances lately. But with CB still a total mess and a veritable injury plague (Pique, Araujo, Fati, Coutinho, Dest, and Roberto) I don't think Barca's making any noise in Liga or UCL this year. I expect that PSG will dump them out with Neymar and Mbappe lighting up Barca's backline and that Barca will comfortably qualify for UCL.
Well, it seems like Neymar is now out, so that's a bit of luck for Barca.
 

Zososoxfan

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Well, it seems like Neymar is now out, so that's a bit of luck for Barca.
That certainly helps, but PSG is still going to have plenty of firepower with Mbappe, Di Maria, Kean, Draxler, Simons, and Icardi. Mbappe is basically impossible to defend for elite defensive sides, and Barca is...not that.
 

bosox4283

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Atletico enters this week's Champions League match against Chelsea in a bit of a slump after a concerning two-nil loss to Levante (Levante's second goal came in the last instant after Atletico brought up Oblak on the last corner). Atletico missed a bunch of chances, with Luis Suarez knocking one off the post and Joao Felix missing a one or two solid opportunities.

Between COVID, injuries, and the Trippier suspension, the team has lost both its defensiveness rigidity and its offensive flow. While Marco Llorente and Luis Suarez have absolutely carried this team, which is often enough to win, Atleti needs more from a handful of players. Most notably, Joao Felix needs to find his mental toughness after coming back from COVID. He was fantastic at the beginning of the season but has since been far from this game-changing level.

Surprisingly, Atletico's dip in form also coincides with Lemar's COVID spell -- it is surprising because he was basically a total nonfactor, almost a disappointment, for two years but has since found his best form.