Diego Simeone impressed upon Antoine Griezmann the need to maintain high performance levels, after a Saturday afternoon in which his captain scored with a late strike in Atlético Madrid’s 3-0 victory over Alavés at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Nikola Kalinić put the hosts in front with a goal in the 25th minute, but Atlético had to withstand plenty of second half pressure from their visitors before Griezmann and Rodrigo relieved the tension with goals in the final ten minutes of the game.
“[Griezmann] has a big responsibility in our team,” Simeone told beIN SPORTS (as reported by ESPN). “He must be a leader for us."
The Frenchman took centre stage after being handed the armband because of injuries to other key players, and his manager believes his quality on the field will enable him to take command from the front.
“The most important leadership he can communicate is with his play above all," said the Argentine. "That is what the team needs from their best players.”
Simeone acknowledged that Alavés had pushed his side until the closing stages of the match.
“They are a very tough team, well prepared, know what they are playing at," he said. "We got ahead and from there, they stepped up and got closer to our area … We made a few changes to strengthen the midfield and defence, with [Antonio] Montoro at the back and Saul [Niguez] in midfield.
"From there we grew and the team found the other two goals, and the talent and experience of Griezmann made the difference."
Summer signing Kalinić chested home a whipped cross from Santiago Arias to net his first La Liga goal for the club since arriving from AC Milan, and Simeone was full of praise for the Croatian.
"He has been working hard a long time. He had a very difficult season at Milan last year. We had spoken.
In less positive news for the Rojiblancos, Lucas Hernández sustained what looked like a nasty knee injury in the first half after contesting a high ball with Alavés striker Calleri, and had to be replaced by José Giménez, himself only just returning after time out with a hamstring problem.
"It was important to play today as I was coming back from two different set-backs," said Giménez. "I felt good. It is a really unlucky run, with another teammate injured now.
"We must think that this happens at all teams, although it is not normal that all four of us have been injured. But we think about recovering well and hopefully Lucas is back with us soon."
Atlético have 28 points from 15 La Liga matches so far this season, with their impressive home form undermined by having only achieved one victory away (against Getafe in September), and Giménez is aware that this statistic will need to improve if his side are to challenge for the title.
"It is difficult away from home, but we want to make that step, and I believe we will," said the defender. "Atlético Madrid have a team to aim for a lot."