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Alessio Cerci Signing a Predictable Disappointment for Atletico Madrid

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2014

Atletico's Alessio Cerci controls the ball during the Group A Champions League soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Malmo at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

Atletico Madrid enjoyed one of their most successful and exciting seasons in their history last year, with manager Diego Simeone leading the team to a La Liga title and the Champions League final.

Although a handful of players departed the Vicente Calderon thereafter, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis among them to Chelsea, Atleti were generally able to identify good replacements to allow the club to remain competitive at home and abroad.

Mario Mandzukic, Guilherme Siqueira and Antoine Griezmann have enjoyed high points while goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya has been excellent throughout—but one signing seemed out of place at the time and, indeed, has gone on to have no impact whatsoever so far: Alessio Cerci.

Simeone's Style

Taking into account the style of play and tempo that boss Simeone likes from his side, Cerci always stood out as a somewhat left field option as a summer transfer.

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 01:  Head coach Diego Simeone of Club Atletico de Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Cordoba CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Get
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Atleti are at their best letting teams push on to them, holding a strong and compact shape in their own defensive third then winning possession, switching the ball quickly and breaking at pace. They are quick down the flanks but don't play particularly wide, instead targeting the channels and getting numbers into the box from the second line of attack.

Cerci is neither an extravagantly hard worker off the ball nor a particularly quick option to shift from a deep position on the pitch into one in the final third. Technical with good vision and delivery perhaps he is, but he doesn't seem to suit the counter-attacking style of Atletico, and he has shown no aptitude for really fitting into the team ethic as of yet.

TURIN, ITALY - APRIL 13:  Alessio Cerci (L) of Torino FC scored  their second goal during the Serie A match between Torino FC and Genoa CFC at Stadio Olimpico di Torino on April 13, 2014 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Set pieces are of course a big part of Atletico's offensive weaponry while Simeone also expects his midfielders to chip in with goals to support the main strikers. The additions of Griezmann and Raul Jimenez were expected to help in this regard along with Cerci, who scored 13 last season for Torino but had never previously managed double figures.

Competition

Despite winning the league and reaching the Champions League final last season, Atletico didn't have a huge squad to choose from; Simeone mainly let the same players keep their places if they played well and rotated in perhaps half a dozen additional squad members—Adriano, Cristian Rodriguez, Toby Alderweireld and so on—when starters were unavailable.

The summer window saw Costa, Adriano and David Villa leave, so Mandzukic, Jimenez and Griezmann, plus the return from loan of Saul Niguez, offset those departures in attack.

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 01:  Antoine Griezmann of Club Atletico de Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Cordoba CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Madrid,
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

With Arda Turan excelling, Raul Garcia enjoying a total renaissance and Koke going from strength to strength, it meant Atletico had themselves at least half a dozen, perhaps more, options for the front four positions, not counting the usual midfield double pivot. Uruguayan wide workhorse Rodriguez also remains in the squad.

So why Cerci as well? He was almost a deadline-day signing, came in after the club-record addition of Griezmann—proven in La Liga, younger, more dynamic—and did not seem to fill a specific role at the club at all.

"He's going to give us more alternatives in our attacking play," stated Atletico sporting director Jose Luis Perez Caminero when Cerci signed, per BBC Sport.

If it was all about alternatives rather than adding more quality to the starting XI, there were surely other more suited targets available, quite possibly younger ones who would have had more time to adjust to Atleti's demands and still have a reasonable sell-on fee if things didn't work out. Cerci will have only two years left on his deal, pretty much decision-making time already, and will be 28 years old in the summer.

As Siempre Atleti puts it: "We remember the best thing Cerci has done at Atleti..."

Cerci:"En el banquillo me pongo nervioso, veremos que pasa en enero" Recordemos lo mejor que ha hecho en el #Atleti https://t.co/mwP3btAQR1

— Siempre Atleti (@_SiempreAtleti) November 19, 2014

Hope for Future

So far, Cerci's impact in La Liga can be summed up thus: as many red cards as chances created in less than one full match of game time. One sending off, no goals, no assists, 80 minutes of action—per WhoScored.com.

He has been an unused sub for Simeone in the last three league games, but he will retain some hope of making an impact in the current campaign even if he has to wait until after the winter break to do so.

Cerci: "At Torino I was a protagonist, I can't stay on the bench at Atletico, I'll lose my patience"

— Marco Messina (@Marcocalcio22) November 18, 2014

Simeone demands such a work rate, such intensity from his players, that it is natural that some will fall by the wayside either due to loss in form or injury at some point during the season. Raul Jimenez hasn't hit the ground running in attack, yet to score in La Liga, and Simeone frequently shifts between pairing two centre-forwards and one attacker playing just off a lone striker.

Cerci has versatility and, as the season goes on, perhaps lowered expectations on his side. If he possesses the strong mentality required to stick with it while looking on from the sidelines, Simeone has habitually rewarded those who show effort and results when the chance is handed to them.

The Italian needs to offer far more than he has done so far, but the season is long with many unexpected turns ahead. In the defence of a league title, everyone can yet have a part to play—even if the call comes late.

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