Sergio Aguero is still just 21 years old, yet already he is considered one of the most impressive players in the world, an international regular and a key player for Atletico Madrid, a team that seems to be in decline. Atletico have gone from being challengers for a Champions’ League spot to sitting in the relegation zone after 9 league matches this season. They have won just one league game all season and have just been knocked out of the Champions League despite a draw against Chelsea. How Atletico have gone from being European challengers to such a poor side over the summer is extremely unclear; other than the departures of their senior goalkeepers in favour of signing talent Sergio Asenjo, who has already proved himself in the top flight, the team remains mainly the same as last year’s, the signing of Spain defender Juanito apart. You could say that Atletico have been unlucky, they have thrown away winning margins a number of times this season, by more than one goal as well. But they have clearly had a share of luck too, grabbing a draw at Valencia not long ago that really wasn’t deserved. They’re leaky at the back and unimpressive in the middle.
Their attack however remains as potent as ever. Diego Forlan has proven since his move to Spain that he is a top quality striker (you wouldn’t have believed it during his days at Man Utd!) and can be relied on to get a number of goals, which he does – It’s no wonder Barcelona attempted to sign Forlan back in the summer. Then there’s Aguero, the creative spark of the team and it is Aguero who has the potential to save Atletico from their predicament. He showed that last night against Chelsea with two superb goals, scoring a volley and a free kick. Aguero has scored pretty often for Atletico since arriving at the club in 2006 but it’s time for him to step up a notch. Aguero’s overall play is excellent but, given his tremendous talent, he needs to prove Atletico’s main attacking outlet. Forlan is a very capable striker but his speciality is lurking around the penalty area, it’s Aguero who has the ability to run from midfield with the ball and create some magic.
Obviously Aguero cannot do anything about Atletico’s defensive frailties and new manager Quique Sanchez Flores will have to do something to rectify this as soon as he can. Flores will also have to wonder why a midfield which includes Maxi Rodriguez and Simao is failing to create many chances against the likes of Athletic Bilbao and Mallorca who both appear to have inferior teams. Strengthening the squad is not the only way out of this, this Atletico squad was good enough to challenge for Europe last year, they should manage it again. Confidence is needed and a better tactical approach than Abel Resino was using. Whether Flores is the man to bring it to Atletico or not is yet to be seen, he did extremely well when in charge of unfancied Getafe but has failed to make any significant strides with bigger clubs like Valencia and Benfica.
Atletico need their key men to step up and perform given how they are struggling. We know that the likes of Simao, Maxi Rodriguez, Forlan, Raul Garcia and Aguero himself are capable of doing well, it’s about time they did so. Young Aguero is the key for their improvement, he’s enthusiastic and has more magic than his fellow stars (the highly-rated Simao for example) can imagine. No wonder he’s often linked with a move to a bigger club. And Atletico need to qualify for Europe to ensure that they can keep their key men. Their finances are poor but not to the stage where they will have to sell like Valencia’s are. A failure to quality for at least the UEFA Cup would deny them a major financial windfall though which could prove crucial. Plus, Aguero and Forlan will not want to miss out on continental competition and there will be plenty of clubs looking to snap them up should Atletico miss out.