Villarreal may not have won today, but at least they looked far more committed to a gameplan, fought hard, and could have come up with a victory if not for our strikers’ continued inability to hit the target, and Octopus Jan Oblak in the Atleti goal.
Calleja went back to the 4-2-3-1 that served us so well last season when we were struggling with two strikers. It did produce much better play in midfield, with Manu Trigueros, Santi Cazorla and Alfonso Pedraza, and Jaume Costa was a star on the left.
After a scoreless first half, Atleti yanked Rodri and Kalinic off, replacing them with Correa and Lemar. It was a bit hard on Rodri, who had played well enough. Anyway, the mattress-makers took a lead through a Filipe Luis header in the 51st minute, but to their credit Villarreal came back well.
A move involving Pedraza led to a goal from Mario Gaspar in the 65th minute, and we had other opportunities to score, but Oblak was strong in the Atleti net.
18 shots (6 on target, 3 from Gerard) but only one goal.
A couple of controversial items late, a possible handball on Griezmann that wasn’t called and then Lemar headed wide when it would have been easier to score as Villarreal wanted play stopped for an injury. That would have been unduly harsh on us.
Three points would have been nice, but as long as we continue to play this way, results will come. One negative was an injury to Carlos Bacca, who appeared to injure his biceps trying a rabona. A pity if he is out, because he should be our lone striker right now in this formation.
MoM: Fornals, Cazorla.
Next up, Rapid Vienna at home on Thursday, then currently league-leading Alavés on Sunday.