Autumn arrived two weeks ago; the last vestiges of summer sun being swallowed up by the cloud and drizzle that herald the arrival of the dark nights, the big coats, and – never as soon as it seems – winter.
Speaking of which, remember when the title race in La Liga was going to be fresh and exciting?
Sevilla started like a house on fire (before losing to Real, Barça and, erm, Eibar), Granada beat Barcelona and went into this weekend in second place (before losing to Real and dropping to fourth), and La Real were second on the day that autumn officially started (before losing their next two games.)
Real Madrid is an accident waiting to happen this season, for me...— Scott Saunders (@_scottsaunders) August 2, 2019
Summer ends. Autumn comes. Bright starts fade. The top three in La Liga – for the first time this season – are Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atleti. Hope evaporates into the clouds. Monoliths rise.
But none of that's a surprise. Nobody came into the opening day on 16th August saying 'yes, Monchi's summer overhaul will take Sevilla to a point where they'll challenge for the title, a seismic change is coming'.
The changes the summer did signal were for the 'big three', with Real Madrid spending the best part of €300m on a rebuild which – as opined on 90min at the time – was destined to be an expensive failure.
Atleti were finally forced into a complete teardown of their historically successful back line, losing three of their four starting defenders along with Rodri – who had anchored the midfield magnificently in 2018/19. Out went the talismanic Antoine Griezmann, and in came Joao Felix, Renan Lodi, Kieran Trippier and a 'new mentality'.
Atleti were going to be an attacking team. Simeoneball dismantled at last, an exciting attacking side with a reborn Alvaro Morata, Thomas Lemar, Felix and two flying full-backs. They put seven – SEVEN – goals past Real in the first 70 minutes of their pre-season clash in the US.
Lionel Messi: Completed 10 dribbles in Barcelona's 4-0 win over Sevilla, a record in a LaLiga match this season; He is also the first player to land a perfect WhoScored 10 rating in a LaLiga game— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) October 7, 2019
For more match stats -- https://t.co/y27UWs1ekm pic.twitter.com/DgYJwKKLOH
Completing the triumvirate of summer shakedowns were Barcelona, who finally brought in a non-Lionel Messi figure who could take a game by the scruff of the neck by himself. Antoine Griezmann was there to lessen the reliance on the world's leading footballer, giving him time to recover from injuries properly and take a match off every now and again.
That was summer. This is autumn.
Real Madrid, messy rebuild and all, are the only unbeaten team in La Liga. Their struggles in Europe suggest that there might be some truth in the crisis talks, and the disharmony behind the scenes is real. But they're top of the league, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale are back in the fold and firing.
The new, free-flowing Atleti have scored seven goals in their first eight league games – the slowest goalscoring start to any of Diego Simeone's seasons in charge of the club. The last five games have seen them score just twice; both goals coming in a 2-0 win away at Mallorca. Five games, four blanks. They have the best defence in the league again.
Goles del Atlético de Simeone en la 8ª jornada:— Pedro Martin (@pedritonumeros) October 6, 2019
19 en 2012-13
21 en 2013-14
14 en 2014-15
12 en 2015-16
21 en 2016-17
13 en 2017-18
9 en 2018-19
7 en 2019-20
And Barcelona. Reliable Barcelona. Barcelona, who––– what's that? In the seven games Messi hasn't started, Barcelona have only won three? And they've won all of the games he's started? And Griezmann hasn't scored or assisted in any of the five away games he's played in Barça colours? Right.
So let's recap. Atletico Madrid are still a stodgy side who need to nick a goal to win games, Barcelona need Lionel Messi on the pitch and firing to do anything at all, and Real Madrid are...alright? They're okay? They'll do the job most of the time?
The summer narratives have been washed away by the October rain, and La Liga is normal again.