For their last game of the year, Atletico Madrid were at Wanda Metropolitano up against a team in distress, Espanyol. With 35-year-old guest Gabi in the VIP stand, the best defensive team of La Liga overcame Espanyol 1-0 thanks to an Antoine Griezmann penalty. Here, our tactical analysis will use statistics to identify what key points Atletico can take from the game as they made it four consecutive wins in a row.
Starting XI: Jan Oblak- Santiago Arias, Godin, Savic, Saul Niguez- Rodrigo, Koke, Thomas Partey, Angel Correa- Griezmann, Kalinic
Substitutes: Antonio Adan, Juanfran, Borja Garces, Joaquin Munoz, Francisco Montero, Vitolo, Gelson Martins
Starting XI: Diego Lopez, Roberto Rosales, Naldo, David Lopez, Didac Vila, Oscar Duarte, Esteban Granero, Sergi Darder,Leo Baptistao, Sergio Garcia, Borja Iglesias
Substitutes: Hernan Perez, Victor Sanchez, Roberto Jimenez, Marc Roca, Adria Pedrosa, Pablo Piatti, Oscar Melendo,
Saul Niguez out of position at left-back once more
Since the injuries of Filipe Luis and Luis Hernandez, the number 8 has played as left-back. He showed his presence in this game, with his teammates finding him 59 times, the fourth most connected. If he wasn’t very good at passing (only 61.5% completed) he was vital in the aerial battles. He won four duels, higher than any other Rojiblanco.
The above heat map shows where the Spaniard steps forwards in an attempt to win possession for his team. The darker red extension stretches near to the box, a trait which his fellow defensive teammates did not share. However, we’re waiting for a better opposition to rate the world class midfielder.
Espanyol lack of precision
Espanyol were left without their best player, Miguel Hermoso, and struggled to play accurately from the back to their wingers despite the Atletico low-block line. They had a number of dangerous opportunities in the first half and they didn’t score. The game changed in the 54th minute, when Esteban Granero conceded a penalty after a foul upon Koke. The referee Mario Melero Lopez whistled quickly. Four minutes later, Antoine Griezmann scored with ease from the spot and reached 200 career goals for club and country.
After scoring, an understandably deep and compact defensive block ensured the 2013-2014 champions held out for another valuable home victory against a non-lethal Espanyol team. Overall, the Catalans kept the ball 63% of time, attempted 18 shots and found the target only four times. All these shots saved by the Slovenian keeper.
They were not able to find the right set-piece on their nine corners. With the minutes passing, the equalizer seemed more and more difficult. The only team to have scored against Saul Niguez’s fellows in the last ten minutes is none other than Barcelona back in November.
An ordinary night for Oblak
Statistics confirm that Jan Oblak was more impressive. In the first half, the shot-stopper didn’t panic when Esteban Granero and Borja Iglesias took their chances from long-range. Particulary on the lob attempted by Borja Iglesias. A magnificent save to keep his net safe. He followed that up with a similar stunning stop against Leo Baptistao in the 28th minute as former Rojiblanco, he had a second chance he struck the post.
In the second half, he oozed confidence and allowed his inedited back line to breathe easily as they nursed their lead all the way to full-time whistle. With four crucial saves, the Slovenian ruined Espanyol chances to score.
After 17 games, the former Benfica goalkeeper has eight clean sheets, whereas Simeone’s men concede 10.9 shots per game. He’s followed by four keepers with six clean sheets including Marc Andre Ter Stegen and Thibaut Courtois. With the drawn snatched by Sevilla against Leganes, Atletico is at the second place of the table.
Atletico Madrid keep racking up the wins in la Liga, but none of them are particularly creative. Even if he doesn’t write it, a 1-0 win is enough for Diego Pablo Simeone. By beating Espanyol by that same score line, it became the 50th time that Simeone has achieved the results, Atletico remain unbeaten at home, having won seven and drawn only two of their nine games at home. A narrow victory that reminds Gabi the good old days.
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