By Bulldog Drummond
Last Sunday Atlético Madrid beat Deportivo Alavés 1-0 away and once again had a player sent off while Fernando Torres had a penalty saved. Seven minutes later Atlético won another penalty, which Kevin Gameiro scored before Angel Correa was sent off in injury time for two bookings. Antoine Griezmann, Saul Niguez and Jan Oblak were all rested.
As a result of these exertions the club is still second in the Spanish League eight points behind Barcelona. As has been pretty much expected since before the start of the season Barcelona will win La Liga: a draw in their next match (away to Deportivo La Coruna) will do it.
There will be celebrations. No one however will be surprised. There will be no tension. This is the Spanish League after all.
There’s been a lot of up-talking of Atlético Madrid which has hidden the fact that in their last three games they have had two draws and one victory (that one noted above away to Deportivo Alavés), scoring two goals and conceding one (to Arsenal) in the three games added together. Here’s their league table.
Real Madrid could still catch Atlético given their game in hand and better goal difference. But sadly, instead of the development of football in Spain being seen as a warning of how uncompetitive a league can quickly become in terms of who wins it, it has been seen as a role model for the Premier League which is now even more uncompetitive. If you want to make a bookmaker laugh, ask him for the odds on Manchester City winning the league next year. (Although come to think of it, why would anyone want to make a bookie laugh?)
But it is a time of change for Atlético as Torres is certainly packing his bags and moving on, and no one seems to be exactly sure what is going to happen to Antoine Griezmann up front and Jan Oblak at the back.
For the point is that the Atlético team is getting on a bit. Gabi is 34, Juanfran at right back is 33 while in the centre of the defence Diego Godin is 33. Filipe Luis is 32, although he is currently out injured. But for the squad in general this is their last chance to play for a trophy, just as it is for Mr Wenger at Arsenal. It also looks likely that Real Madrid will have a resurgence next year, and this could challenge Atlético’s ability to stay in the top two.
Atlético Madrid won the Spanish Super Cup (the equivalent of the Community Shield but without any false pretence that any of the money goes to worthy causes – whatever did happen to all that money that was raised at the Cup Final?) in August 2014, but nothing since. Arsenal you might recall won the FA Cup in 2017 although as we have noted before under the heading “FA CUP FINALS, 1872-TODAY: A complete list of previous Finals and Winners in The FA Cup” on the FA’s own official FA Cup site the FA are still in total denial of this.
Speaking of this game Mr Wenger said, “We know exactly what we need to do and that is an advantage. We need to score and to have a clear approach in our heads. The only thing we don’t know is will Atlético do the same or have a more cautious approach and try to catch us on the break? Atlético’s history has to stop somewhere. We created chances in the first leg and we have to recreate those situations.”
The historical reference relates to the number of time the club has not conceded at home.
What Mr Wenger suggests he wants is to recreate is the feeling from Madrid 2006. This is his first return to the city with Arsenal for his 250th European match; he sits second on the all-time list behind Sir Alex Ferguson. “We come to a place with a good history for us,” the Frenchman added. “We came here with a very young team and beat Real Madrid, who had fantastic names. I will try to repeat that.”
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