Thomas Lemar is back. He didn’t go anywhere in mind or body but his spirit had floated up and out of the Wanda Metropolitano and was drifting aimlessly around Madrid. The same French attacker who could break an ankle with a swivel and dupe an entire back four with a drop of his hips was gone and had been replaced by the husk of a professional footballer, shunted to the wing and left there to perish.

But a high tide rises all boats, you may have heard. And Atletico Madrid’s new attacking style means Lemar has found himself again.

Diego Simeone said after the Valencia game that they had no players like Lemar in his squad. He had shone in that game but was replaced before he could enjoy the fruits of his labor. Carrasco forced an own goal after the 25-year-old had been replaced. Against Valladolid, the score was 0-0 with Atletico teetering dangerously close to what might have been a crippling draw at the beginning of a massive week for them.

Lemar was looking over his shoulder to the sideline where Koke and João Félix were getting ready to come on. It was about that time. Another good performance, two in a row for Lemar in LaLiga, but Simeone needed to make a change. Lemar has not survived beyond 64 minutes in any of the games he has started this season and there were 56 on the clock when Kieran Trippier broke down the right and swung a fizzy cross low into the box.

Lemar was not the ball’s intended target — Luis Suárez was but couldn’t reach it — but he latched on to it at the back post and his first time finish from a difficult angle was his first goal since April 2019. It wasn’t easy, but nothing has been for Lemar, an effortlessly elegant player on the ball, since he moved to Atlético. Continue reading

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