Atletico Madrid’s pursuit of Diego Costa has been a lengthy process.
At times it appeared as though Chelsea were going to be successful in their resolve to not lose face in the transfer market at the behest of a player, yet with confirmation of a £57 million switch coming last week, Los Colchoneros’ attacking corps will receive a timely boost in January.
It would be inaccurate to say that the club’s current attacking power is limited, Diego Simeone has excelled with a one-striker system throughout his time in the Spanish capital, yet there is a feeling that at times there is too much pressure on Antoine Griezmann to deliver.
Early in the summer, it was made abundantly clear to those in power at Atleti that their transfer ban would be upheld and adding players would not be possible in that window. Under the current regulations though, completing the act of signing a player is not actually forbidden, merely registering them is.
Despite the sanction, Simeone made a specific request that two players were signed in order to take his squad to a level where they could improve both domestically and in the Champions League.
These two players were in fact, Costa and Vitolo. Simeone has been backed by his employers with both individuals now being owned, or at least technically, by the Madrid club. Vitolo was rather controversially signed from Sevilla and then loaned to Las Palmas until January.
Both players will be eligible for registration from January 1 and in the Spanish centre-forward, the Argentine coach is getting a player that will totally energise his forward line.
Griezmann is an exceptional talent and I think most would agree that with his buy-out clause standing at a seemingly paltry, £87 million, he will be right at the top of most elite club’s summer transfer lists for 2018.
With that said, for six months there is the potential for a quite wonderful partnership between the Frenchman and Costa, their respective styles would complement the other rather well whilst individually they both work as hard as anyone for the team.
Atletico haven’t tended to use a two-striker system in recent years, at least not in the traditional sense. You definitely lose something in midfield, yet the potential for goals becomes increasingly higher.
The 0-0 draw against Roma in the Champions League illustrated the struggles the team has if Griezmann cannot find a goal. Atletico simply couldn’t break the Italian defence down and when they made chances for themselves, they didn’t convert.
Malaga were the visitors for the grand opening of the newly constructed Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, they suffered a 1-0 defeat but it wasn’t until the former Real Sociedad forward scored that a share of the points were taken away from them.
Got that killer instinct
Los Rojiblancos were too nice that evening, they kept possession comfortably and played some very fine football indeed, yet you couldn’t label them incisive. They lacked a killer instinct.
Few could make the case for the former Chelsea striker being too nice, he is quite the opposite on the pitch and he will bring an extra dimension to Atletico Madrid’s play.
He can create goals through sheer perseverance, he can put pressure on defenders which inevitably forces them into a mistake and when things aren’t going well for his team, he is incredibly clinical when a chance falls to him, something that is vital in the Champions League.
Vitolo’s arrival in January will hand Simeone another creative option, the Spaniard is a clever footballer who is capable of cutting inside, yet he is equally adept at putting crosses into the box. These crosses are of a high standard and it is well known that Costa thrives on service.
In all likelihood Griezmann will play alongside him up front, the benefit of Vitolo is that he can quite fluidly play as either a central midfielder or a left-sided attacking midfielder within the same system. Whether or not Simeone can trust a midfield two of Koke and Saul, without a holder behind them, remains to be seen.
Atletico need goals and Griezmann needs the right partner
Defensively, a team marshalled by Diego Godin will always be strong. Atletico are so well drilled in this area that it could be argued they are the finest defensive team in Europe. Goals have been the general problem and you can see why Simeone was so desperate for Diego Costa to join.
In his first spell in the Spanish capital he was such a hit with the supporters due to his work-rate and goal-scoring prowess, there is a fight within the Brazilian born forward that connects him with a fan-base, albeit only that of the club he is representing at that time.
Atleti have lost a bit of this fight since he departed with it understood that the shift to using Griezmann as a lone striker would be a totally different proposition.
There is now the opportunity to blend their styles and become more of an attacking force.
You have to feel that the time for success for Atletico is now: Griezmann is likely to leave in the summer, on paper Barcelona’s squad is the weakest it has been in years and Real Madrid will have a lot of matches to play in multiple competitions this term with it likely they will eventually slip up as a result of fixture congestion.
Los Colchoneros have a settled squad as a result of the transfer ban and they will be significantly boosted by two arrivals in January.
Results at the start of the La Liga season have generally been positive, although not spectacular, Diego Costa’s arrival will give them a truly world-class striker to partner Griezmann for the last six months of the season.
All the ingredients are now in place for Simeone and co to enjoy a successful season.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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