Atletico have operated with a new form of Cholismo, something more tactically flexible and attractive to the eye than the 4-4-2 with which coach Diego Simeone made his name.
Of key importance to this new system is Marcos Llorente, Atletico’s super-fit and multi-purpose midfield player. As intelligent as he is hard-running, Llorente has the ability to adapt to whatever system Cholo chooses.
Atletico suffered a setback last weekend when they lost the Madrid derby to their hated neighbours Real Madrid, losing the opportunity to put serious distance between themselves and their more aristocratic rivals.
Llorente insists, however, that the entire squad are simply taking things one game at a time. “The real goal is to win every game,” Llorente told Marca.
“There’s a lot to go until La Liga ends and nobody has ever won La Liga in December. That’s why we’re just thinking about Saturday. We’ve done well like this and don’t want to fall out of that line of thinking.
“We know there is no favourite at this point. One day you’re up, the next day you’re down. You just have to think about Saturday. That’s the line we follow and with which we’ve done well.”
Image courtesy of Marca
Especially in a season as condensed as this one, rigour, tenacity and consistency is imperative to any team looking to mount a serious title challenge. Llorente, and Atletico, are aware of this.
“To win La Liga you need consistency and the ability to take things game by game,” Llorente continued. “When the Champions League comes you think about the Champions League. Focus on each game to the maximum. If you think further than that things could go wrong.”
Llorente credited Simeone with his change in position, citing a game against Valencia last season where he shifted from a defensive pivot to a more attacking midfielder. He hasn’t looked back since.
“The change started at Mestalla, when I made the first goal,” Llorente said. “From that point on the coach had it in his mind to put me higher. At Anfield he did it and it came out so well that he continues to count on me in that position. After quarantine it came out very well, and I think it’s good that I can contribute in different positions.
Image courtesy of Marca
“If I didn’t meet Simeone there’s a good chance I’d still be playing as a pivot. All credit for envisioning me in another position belongs to Cholo. There are coaches who see things and he is one of them.
“Sometimes [his ideas] come out well, other times bad. With me he was completely right. If it comes out wrong it can depend a bit on the player, but for me it very much suited me and I have the ability to perform in a very different position. The credit lies with him for seeing it.
“I will always be grateful to him for discovering me in that position. He’s a different coach, and I’m learning a lot with him. Every training session with Simeone is like a war, with brutal intensity. It’s something you take home every day. I’m sure I have a lot to learn from him.”
Featured image courtesy of Marca