Last season, Atletico Madrid had the best defense in La Liga, conceding 11 goals less than champion Barcelona, which scored an astonishing 49 goals more. It only scored four or more goals in one game, a 5-1 win over Real Betis in the 31st game of the campaign.
This season, the numbers tell a different story. Eight games in, Atletico still boasts the best defense, with only three goals conceded. But it’s now averaging 2.6 goals per game, compared to 1.6 last season, and it maintained the top spot in La Liga with a 7-1 win over Granada. This was the third time it has scored four or more goals and the latest evolution in the Diego Simeone project is gaining clarity. His side is no longer satisfied with three points in matches; now, just like Barcelona (a 4-0 winner over Deportivo) and Real Madrid (6-1 over Betis), it is now thumping the opposition.
Why is this? Simeone has changed his system to play Yannick Carrasco-Ferreira, Angel Correa, Kevin Gameiro and Antoine Griezmann in the same side; support comes from Koke, whose quiet improvement has earned him a deserved starting place in the Spain senior side.
Carrasco was the hero Saturday, with the first hat trick of his career a glimpse of the player that could next season replace Griezmann as the team’s main goal threat. Simeone is expected to leave the club in 2018, but before then he is shifting the concept of Cholismo: Atletico’s warrior spirit now has an added goal threat.