Atletico Madrid go back to basics to get results

Diego Costa

Atletico Madrid look to have recovered from their slow start to the season, with Diego Simeone’s side unbeaten in their last five games in La Liga and Champions League action.

Los Rojiblancos won just one of their opening four La Liga games, with underwhelming performances and just three goals scored.

Their start was particularly frustrating for fans after their impressive showing in the European Super Cup Final, where they beat bitter rivals Real Madrid in Tallinn.

However with inconsistency creeping in, Simeone has done what he has frequently done when Atletico have found themselves in a tricky situation, and return to the tactical qualities that have been the hallmarks of his tenure.

Clean sheets and defensive power have been key to Atletico under Simeone, and he rallied his back four in recent games, and his defenders responded with three clean sheets in their last four games.

The midfield look hungrier for possession, with the fight returning to them, with Koke, Thomas Partey shouldering the bulk of defensive responsibility to allow Rodrigo and Saul Niquez to dictate things from further forward.

Simeone has rotated his midfield, with Koke the only player to start all five games in their recent run, and the 26 year old has been symbolic of their gritty revival.

Koke had slipped under the radar last season, as the rise of Niguez had put him slightly into the shadows.

But he has responded with intent in 2018-19, excelling in a deeper role, and taking on greater leadership responsibility with the exit of veteran midfielder Gabi Fernandez.

In attack, Simeone has looked to blend the speed and creativity of Thomas Lemar and Antoine Griezmann with the line leading ability of Diego Costa.

The axis of French internationals Lemar and Griezmann in behind Costa allows for a varied forward threat, with Lemar’s speed allowing him to stretch defences, whilst also being adept at bursting in from wider areas to score and create chances.

Griezmann can operate wide or centrally, but Simeone allows his star man the greatest freedom within their system.

His goal in the 3-0 home win against Huesca demonstrated his ability to spring into life and arrive from deep, and utilise the decoy runs of Costa.

Former Chelsea man Costa is yet to score in the league so far this season, but his influence and ability to create space in key areas for his team mates remains a vital part of Atletico’s strategy.

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