Los Colchoneros are LaLiga champions once again. Here’s a run-through of the keys to their thrilling title win.
A heart-stopping 2-1 win at Real Valladolid on the final day of the season means Atlético de Madrid are champions of Spain for the eleventh time in their history. But what have been the keys to their success this campaign?
Simeone’s new system
Diego Simeone has been in the dugout at Atleti since late 2011 and has almost exclusively used a 4-4-2 system. As they say, if it ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But this season, Simeone and his new assistant Nelson Vivas shook things up, implementing a 3-5-2 formation that saw Kieran Trippier and Yannick Carrasco get forward down the wings. It’s worked beautifully and taken LaLiga by storm.
Over the course of the league season, Atleti scored 11 goals in the final 10 minutes of matches, displaying an ability to fight right until the final whistle. This was huge. Luis Suarez’s last-minute strikes for 2-1 wins at Alavés and Eibar in January, and the Uruguayan’s finish for a crucial 2-1 win on the penultimate day of the season against Osasuna come to mind. Only three teams score more goals in the final 10 minutes of games than Atleti did this year.
Llorente’s new position
Towards the end of last season, Diego Simeone started using Marcos Llorente in a more advanced role. The Spaniard, who had traditionally been a defensive midfielder, was used up front to great effect in the Champions League victory over Liverpool and, from there, he has made getting into the opposition penalty area his new party trick. In the 2020/21 LaLiga Santander season, Llorente produced 12 goals and 11 assists, and this was key to the team’s overall success. Only one other player in the whole league (RC Celta’s Iago Aspas) made double digits in both goals and assists. rf
Fortress Wanda Metropolitano
Atlético’s home form propelled them to this league title. Even though their passionate and loyal fans couldn’t attend matches due to the coronavirus pandemic, Atleti still felt comfortable enough at the Wanda Metropolitano to win 15, draw three and lose just one of their 19 matches at their home stadium. They had the best home record in the division, accounting for 48 of the 86 points with which they won the title.
The strong finish
After a tough month of April which saw Atleti drop points on away trips to Real Betis, Sevilla and Athletic Club, they managed to recover and finish the season in storming fashion. Simeone’s men won four and drew one of their final five fixtures, dropping points only away at fellow title challengers FC Barcelona. By showing a strong mentality and turning to sheer determination, they did enough to pip rivals Real Madrid to the post.