Why Alvaro Morata has fit in well at Atlético

He was a Chelsea castoff after a five-goal return in the Premier League, but Morata has almost immediately impressed in Madrid.

Why are Atlético Madrid and LaLiga so much more suitable for Álvaro Morata?

Let’s start at the beginning of his second rojiblanco tenure — remember, he was an academy kid many years ago. Morata had a goal taken away for offside position against Real Madrid, then lost another on a questionable VAR decision vs. Juventus. He also drew an uncalled penalty at Real Betis in addition to one against Madrid. But in all, it took just five matches for the 26-year-old to find the back of the net. His first goal came early against Villarreal, and the Spaniard followed up with two first-half goals at Real Sociedad over the weekend.

Not only did Morata score two goals against La Real, but he helped Atletico vanquish a formidable rival. Atletico had not defeated (or even drawn) Real Sociedad at Anoeta since Oct. 2015.

Perhaps the number one reason Morata has fit in so well so far is the reduced pressure and criticism. Ask anyone who follows the Premier League, and they’ll tell you Morata was a flop at Chelsea, not at all worth his 60 million pound fee.

Real Sociedad v Club Atletico de Madrid - La LigaPhoto by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

However, he totaled 11 goals and six assists last season. The Spaniard’s goals plus assists mark was just two below the 19 he put up at Real Madrid in LaLiga two seasons prior.Morata did not perform worse at Chelsea — he stayed the same. It was just the expectations that were higher. In the right system, Morata could still have that breakout capability, but he was marginalized at Chelsea.

Chelsea also employed rigid tactical managers with different styles than the technical systems under which Morata had played. Like many Spanish players adjudged to be Premier League flops, Morata thrives in free flowing systems. Chelsea, on the other hand, are married to tactics-heavy, cerebral managers.

Whether it was Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 or Maurizio Sarri’s attention to detail, both tried to put Morata into a certain box. On the other hand, Diego Simeone’s players are allowed to play off each other more in the 4-4-2 formation’s buildup. This is especially true of the strikers.

The third problem at Chelsea may have been the cultural and language barrier that comes with every English club. Morata’s immediate affinity for two of his countrymen — Koke and Saúl, both academy grads — makes sense because they have played together on the Spanish national team. Of the 13 players to make at least 20 Premier League starts for Chelsea in 2017/18, only four including Morata were Spanish. Of the 14 Atlético players with at least 13 2018/19 league appearances, there are not only three Spanish players, but also two Uruguayan players and an Argentine player.

Whatever the exact reason might be, Morata’s loan move to Atlético has him booming with confidence again, and he looks ready to inspire the mattress makers as the business end of the season looms.

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