LaLiga More options compared to previous seasons
Losing Diego Godin, Juanfran and Lucas Hernandez in one single summer was supposed to be the death knell for Diego Simeone‘s famed defensive structure at Atletico Madrid, yet with a number of talented players arriving to replace those departing, it could be argued that Los Colchoneros have somehow managed to tighten their backline.
Kieran Trippier, Felipe, Mario Hermoso and Renan Lodi all arrived in the Spanish capital and settled in rather quickly, especially the Bury-born full-back, who has become somewhat of a cult figure for supporters.
At the moment it is only the team’s defensive solidity which is keeping them in the title race, mainly due to the fact the forward line is not yet firing, despite the vast amounts of money spent on it in the form of Alvaro Morata, Diego Costa, Thomas Lemar and Joao Felix.
In four successive matches now, Los Rojiblancos have kept clean sheets, including a domestic match with Real Madrid, their fiercest rivals.
Drawing 2-2 to Juventus was seen as a mini-crisis within the microcosm of a Champions League campaign, although that was mainly due to the fear created by their ill-fated venture in the tournament two years ago, where a bad start snowballed and ended up with the club dropping into the Europa League.
Simeone spent much of the pre-season working in close proximity with the new defenders, mainly because he hadn’t ever really needed to rebuild the defence from scratch before.
When Miranda left for Inter. Godin could still carry the flag and help Jose Gimenez develop, but this time he had up to four new players who needed to learn the system effectively.
This was especially apparent for Trippier and Lodi, both of whom are more natural attacking wing-backs with clear defensive deficiencies at their previous clubs.
Tottenham fans spent much of the 2018/19 season bemoaning Trippier‘s defensive lapses, but one summer with Simeone has turned him into a key cornerstone of the best defence in Spanish football.
With the central defenders playing a key role in Simeone’s teams, it was vitally important they got the Godin replacement right, and Felipe has been the standout performer thus far.
He took advantage of his chance to play in Moscow and against Real Mallorca and Celta Vigo domestically, proving more effective than Stefan Savic.
His burgeoning partnership with Gimenez helps Los Colchoneros guard against crosses, and the Brazilian is so confident with the ball at his feet that Jan Oblak can often roll the ball to him without fear of disaster.