DIiego Simeone had practically seen it all, but he had never seen this and he did not like it very much either. It was 8.15pm on a Tuesday night on the side of the M45 motorway, the last play before halftime in the sixth game of Atlético de Madrid’s title defense, and he watched as Stefan Mitrovic’s header collided with a post, opposite Jan Oblak’s. hand and on the net. They were behind again, and against Getafe of all teams, the league champions lost on the worst side of the division. This was not the way it was supposed to be. This was bad: it was also, Simeone later admitted, what they needed. It was a shock, that’s for sure.
The last time the Getafe fans were here they had whistled at their players. Now, as they headed into the tunnel 1-0 up at halftime, the fans rose to their feet and clapped. Back then, the sideline reporter on Spanish television noticed how they chanted their manager’s name under pressure. Which was true, it’s just that the word Michel was followed by two others: to go and now. That night, last Monday against Elche, Getafe had produced 25 minutes as bad as remembered, emotionally shot, with shaky legs, the coach lamenting a “mental block”. Then they had gone to Rayo Vallecano and let three in. “A lot is happening and everything is going against us,” he said.
He could say that again, so he did it last night. Míchel’s team had lost their first five games, the first club to do so since their Malaga team four years earlier. They had only scored once. And now here they beat Atlético de Madrid, which would have been great anyway, but it wasn’t that they were on their way to a first victory or even their second goal of the season. It wasn’t even that they could beat Simeone’s team for the first time; was that they I had scored against them for the first time. It had taken until Twentieth play. Getafe had not scored a goal against Atlético in a decade, returning to Diego Castro, now in Perth Glory, in a 3-2 victory in November 2011. With Simeone, the aggregate scoreboard had been Atlético de Madrid 34 Getafe nil .
However, in the end, it seemed like it didn’t mean much. Indeed, even though it was a glimmer of something good, something to hold on to, for Getafe it could have made the defeat even more cruel when it arrived, the hope they had briefly taken away from them and replaced by fatalism, emotional damage. Further inside. “It’s familiar this season – you have the feeling you’ve seen this movie before,” said Míchel after another loss by a solo goal against a great team, following 1-0 losses against Valencia and Sevilla and a 2- loss. 1 in Barcelona. , affected and hurt words to which he returned. “When things go wrong, blows come from everywhere. This is part of what is happening to us, ”he said.
What happened to them was that Carlos Aleñá was sent off and Atlético came back to win 2-1, Luis Suárez scoring in the 78th minute and then scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute. They had reacted: Suárez had seen a magnificent looping header off the crossbar and had seen David Soria make an exceptional double stop. They had needed it. “His goal made us see reality,” Simeone later admitted.
And the reality is that something is not quite right yet: “The intensity was lacking, the dynamism was lacking, the ball didn’t circulate well, the game was flat,” Simeone admitted and it wasn’t just this game either. Atlético had not scored in their two previous games, draws 0-0 against Athletic and Porto. It was not too late, but they had needed a goal in the second half to defeat Celta on the opening day. Against Elche the following week, it was a boring 1-0. They needed an own goal in the 95th minute to draw 2-2 with Villarreal losing twice. Against Espanyol they won 2-1 with goals in the 79th and 99th minutes, yes, 99. Now they had done the same in the 90th.
This morning Atlético is leading, but Simeone said: “We are not where we would like to be”. Something missing. Clarity to begin with. Some of that sense of collective destiny too. Last season they were based on late goals, there have been few matches like this, always on the edge, doing it the hard way, but this is not the same as then. It may be the best squad Atlético has ever had, it may even be the best in Spain, but it still doesn’t feel like a team, a process of (re) adaptation is still required, a mental state yet to slip. There are more pieces than before and Simeone is still looking for a way to make them all fit together, a slight feeling that he is trying almost too hard, the formations are changing and not fully formed yet, even if it is possible to see a virtue in the variety. .
Marcos Llorente was arguably the most decisive player in La Liga last season, but has gone through various roles, often in the same game. There has been less fluidity or creativity and a vulnerability that did not exist before. They have played with a three and a four, with wings and without them. Cunha has not scored or started. João Félix was sent off against Athletic after telling the referee that he was crazy. Suarez seemed slow, but he did it at times last season. There have been injuries: Koke, Thomas Lemar and Geoffrey Kondogbia were missing Tuesday night. Rodrigo de Paul has impressed, but it hasn’t always started. And then there is Antoine Griezmann, who has been squeezed in front, from the front and in the midfield, but has not yet scored or had a shot on goal. Atlético has not scored on the field either.
“This is a new Atlético, which is not the one he left,” insisted Simeone, underlining a key point largely overlooked. Griezmann is not the same player he was when he left and this Atlético keeps more of the ball, combines more, plays closer to the goal than that one. Or, at least, they are supposed to. That’s what Suarez needs, says Simeone, and the Uruguayan was the catalyst for his change of field last season. In the second part of Tuesday night, perhaps for the first time, that is what Suárez achieved. “He may not have other things, but when he’s there, he’s one of the best in the world,” said Mario Hermoso.
“You have all of the forwards. Well, I can explain that process, ”Simeone said, and he did. And there, things made a little more sense, a reminder that sometimes things just happen, a reminder also of the need to get away from the familiar trap of making final judgments about possibly temporary situations. Not only with Atlético, but also with Getafe. With everyone, in fact.
“Cunha arrived not long ago and from the Olympics. Correa was the first to arrive, but then he left for two weeks with the national team and now he is beginning to reconnect with the play. Suárez reached the end and since he was starting to pick up speed, he had to have his [knee] cleaned. Obviously, that delayed his preparation. And I said we had to be closer to the area, ”Simeone said. “I don’t remember João Félix starting a match in four months; He has recovered from an ankle problem and is close to a full return, but it is not the best preparation. Antoine had the return to Atlético that he loved so much and is in that process of adaptation, becoming the player he was for this team again. But we are lucky to have Griezmann with us and I have no doubt that he will act as we expect. You have to work, wait, be prepared … anyone would have removed Suárez today and scored two goals.
“The gunman is back,” said the Headlines. “Suárez has returned to what he is,” added Simeone. Atlético needed that. They needed to change about everything. And there is something small, intangible that is not quite the same at the moment, a hint of lost hunger that persisted in the analyzes. A hunger that, who knows, may have reawakened after the end of a decade-long career. A glimpse of a troubling reality, a reminder of how easily everything can be removed again.
“We needed a change of attitude in the first half of the games,” Hermoso said. “It cannot be that we go from an unrecognizable first half to the second. We do not know if what is happening at the beginning of the games is attitude, preparation, reading the game … I think it is attitude. The players have to take a step forward, we are practically the same group as last season and we are the ones who left. We have the quality to change the games, but there will be days when it will be difficult to do so. “
All of which invites another reflection: perhaps the very fact of being champions will change things, taking away a sense of rebellion or mission. “No, not at all,” Beautiful insisted. “You want to get that reward again. People say you get tired of winning – that’s false. Everybody wants to win, lift trophies, but for that to happen there are many things that have to happen first. Preparation, training, attitude – that’s the foundation on which success is built. The desire to prove yourself every day. We’re not showing it right now, but I know each and every man in the locker room. I know they want to change this and I am sure they will because that is the most beautiful thing in football and in life ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism