Antoine Griezmann Signing a Huge Improvement for Atletico Madrid's Liga Defence

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2014

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French attacking midfielder Antoine Griezmann is all but an Atletico Madrid player now after his club Real Sociedad confirmed the move was set to progress.

Marca reports that the left-footed attacker is ready to move for €30 million, and once he signs the expected long-term contract following a medical, Atletico will be ready to present their first real signing of the summer. Greizmann comes in to improve the title winners' squad rather than replace an outgoing star.

As they look to defend their La Liga title, Griezmann will not only prove a quality addition, but somebody who can keep them near the top even as Real Madrid and Barcelona spend twice as much on attackers, and plenty more besides.

"He's a very good player and is fast," Atletico manager Diego Simeone said of Griezmann, per Marca. "He could give us more attacking options. But there has been talk about a lot of players."


Griezmann's Roles

At La Real last season, Griezmann played a variety of roles, though his primary function was as a left-sided attacker for them.

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Earlier in the campaign he operated more centrally, even playing as a withdrawn centre-forward at times when the side had need of him. There, his movement and pace enabled him to get in behind the opposition defence and provide through-pass opportunities for his teammates.

Naturally, he can play from the right and cut infield—he did so for France at stages during the World Cup—but most of all, his combination of dribbling, crossing and willingness to attack the far post means that Griezmann was hugely effective for most of the campaign when playing off the left, on his favoured foot.


Atleti Attack

Last year's usual attack saw one of two combinations; two wide players—Koke and Arda Turan—with David Villa and Diego Costa up front, or else Raul Garcia coming in as a fifth midfielder, either from the right flank or behind the sole striker Costa.

Of course others came in and out at times, such as the now-departed Adrian and Diego, or Cristian Rodriguez on the flank, but by and large it was a settled side.

Factor in Griezmann's signing to that of Mario Mandzukic, and it seems rather likely that Atleti, barring another big striker signing, will favour a 4-2-3-1 more frequently than Simeone's version of 4-4-2 next term.

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 18:  Mario Mandzukic of Croatia celebrates scoring the third goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Croatia at Arena Amazonia on June 18, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Ima
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That could see Griezmann play off the Croatian, but he will more likely be on one flank with a combination of Turan and Koke occupying the other two roles. Plenty want to see Spaniard Koke playing centrally next season, but he has infrequently done so at club level under Simeone.

Either way, what is clear is that Atleti have themselves a very fluid attacking set-up and the addition of Griezmann brings increased pace and goal threat, more so than any of Atleti's attacking midfielders last season. His individuality and capacity for tactical improvement under one of Europe's most established coaches is also impressive.

Last of all, Griezmann is a hard worker who will bring more of the same of Atleti's great traits of team-work and solidity from last season. 


No Other Suitors?

It can be difficult to truly acknowledge the level of transfer activity going on at clubs, but it certainly seemed as though Atleti were the only serious party attempting to sign Griezmann this summer and have pulled off the deal quickly as a result.

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 05:  Chris Smalling of Manchester United battles with Antoine Griezmann of Real Sociedad during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Real Sociedad and Manchester United at Estadio Anoeta on November 5, 2013 in Sa
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Looking throughout Europe and the clubs in the Champions League who are buying attacking players—or attempting to—for sums of £20 or £25 million, it seems some teams missed an opportunity to not sign the Frenchman. 

A little more consistency on Griezmann's part could see him as one of the top-rated wide forwards in world football within a couple of years. He has already shown he can be a standout in a deep league. 

Arguing that the move will bolster Atletico's chances to retain the Spanish title, ESPN FC's Joseph Walker cited Griezmann's familiarity with the country and the league as a factor. He wrote:

In addition to electric pace, an eye for goal and the ability to play in a variety of different positions, Griezmann does not need to adapt to the league or culture—he also speaks the language fluently having lived in Spain since the age of 13. And so, he will look to hit the ground running and has the perfect opportunity to immediately earn himself a place in Atleti folklore -- his competitive debut is likely to come in the Spanish Supercup against Real Madrid.

Atletico have pulled off the deal, and though €30 million is certainly a hefty sum, it could quite easily be seen as a steal soon enough. Plenty of clubs might wish they had taken the leap of faith themselves.