After being knocked out of the Champions League by bitter rivals Real Madrid last year in a bland and overly defensive performance, it resonated with the Atletico that they needed to add more firepower to their squad and perhaps alter their playing style. The latter thesis might still be in the works as in their early La Liga games, Atletico tried to take the initiative to teams but looked laborious and disjointed in their build-up play. However, Diego Simeone’s team have maintained their tough exterior and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco is beginning to settle and add some sparkle to their attacking play.
Ferreira-Carrasco’s integration into Atletico’s grinding and hardworking style and Simeone’s high-energy demands initially looked to be getting the better of him but his performances of late prove that he is adjusting. Two goals in his last two La Liga games against Real Sociedad and Valencia with a man of the match performance against Astana in a mid-week Champions League match are testament to the will-power he has shown. Ferreira-Carrasco joined from Monaco as a fine and exciting individual like Antoine Griezmann from Real Sociedad and Alessio Cerci from Torino but had to adjust to Simeone’s grueling training regime and gain a stronger sense of team ethic.
He looked to be struggling but the same trajectory was taken by the aforementioned players as Griezmann showed the will to become an integral part of the team while Cerci fell through the cracks. Only time will tell where Carrasco’s career will go but the early indications show that he is on the precipice of landing up a first team place. He plays on the left-wing, a position Simeone normally reserves for a technically gifted player who has the creativity to help the front two while having the grit and graft to uphold his defensive responsibilities.
Arda Turan played the position before he joined Barcelona while at the start of the season Oliver Torres played there. Torres is talented but not a natural winger and although he helped Atletico keep the ball for larger spells of games, he didn’t bring the sheer industry that Simeone needed from the role. So, in stepped the Belgian youngster who has not missed a beat since his 45 minutes in the derby draw against Real Madrid.
Carrasco is a winger who possesses the ability to go past his man with enchanting dribbles and deft turns of pace. He currently plays in a midfield where Gabi and Tiago martial the central positions while Koke plays as an interior on the right-hand side. Koke is good at keeping the ball and pinging in searching crosses into the box for the likes of Jackson Martinez. However, Carrasco is a player who enjoys playing on the front foot, driving at defences while is also a threat on the counter-attack. He now shows a willingness to help out his fullback and add defensively as he is beginning to feel at home in Simeone’s rough and tumble playing style.
Carrasco loves to cut-in and work the central spaces but is also adept in the wide areas, going on the outside of his fullback to cross while also being quick to fall back into the two-banks of four low block synonymous with Simeone’s Atletico. Against Valencia, he was tied with Gabi for the most ball recoveries at 9 including 5 interceptions as he becomes more amalgamated with Los Rojiblanos’ streetwise style of play.
After the match, Simeone took time to commend his player on his specialty and gave a feeling that we should expect more goals from the Belgian. Last season he was an important part of Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco side who fought their way into the latter stages of the Champions League and also notably scored a goal against Arsenal in a victory at the Emirates Stadium.
“Carrasco is growing based on the effort he made to suit the characteristics of the team,” he said. “We’re happy for his performance. Goals is his specialty. He’s a guy who is used to scoring important goals. He is a player that has certain attributes, that’s why he is at Atletico,” he continued.
The 22 year-old needs to sustain this upward trend to cement his place in the side and become a vital cog in the Atletico machine. He came off to rousing applause from the supporters at the Vicente Calderon and his manager Simeone against Valencia after a fine and typically enterprising Atletico performance. His team will rely on him to bring an element of unpredictability in an attacking sense as he needs to add output to his repertoire of fleet-footed dribbles and darting runs.