3 Reasons why Atletico Madrid are struggling this season | LaLiga 2019/2020
This was supposed to be a season of new beginnings for Atletico Madrid, with old warheads like Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, and Juanfran in addition to recent bigwigs like Antoine Griezmann, Rodri, and Lucas Hernandez all departing the Spanish capital for pastures anew.
The club were expected to build on their second-place finish last season although Diego Simeone tried to downplay expectations by stating that this a transition period for the club, but the fact that Los Colchoneros spent in excess of €250m on new arrivals means that his excuse does not hold much water.
Even if fans would have expected some mild struggles as the new players attempted to fit into their new system, the scale of underperformance so far has been dismal bordering on disastrous.
Atletico currently find themselves in the sixth spot on the log and it is very plausible that they would out on Champions League qualification, while they are also winless in their last five matches in all competitions.
They were shockingly eliminated from the Copa del Rey Round-of-32 by lowly Cultural Leonesa and given the imperious form that Liverpool are currently in, only the most optimistic of fans would give the Spaniards a chance in their Champions League clash.
Atletico Madrid are in serious danger of seeing their chances of silverware this term ended as quickly as the first week of March and this is a far cry from the highs of LaLiga and Europa League triumphs as well Champions League finals recorded few seasons ago.
Barring an improbable run to the latter stages in Europe, this season would be classified as a disaster by Atletico Madrid's recent standards and here, we shall be highlighting three reasons why Los Colchoneros have struggled this term.
#3 Their new additions have not stepped to the plate
It was always going to be a tall order replacing club legends like Diego Godin, Antoine Griezmann, Felipe Luis, and Juanfran, with all four men, especially the defenders playing a key role in increasing the club's profile over the last decade.
However, credit must be given to the Atleti board headed by president Enrique Cerezo for recruiting smartly, finding the perfect balance between youth and experience with their transfer additions.
Their business in the market was considered as one of the best from last summer and it was expected that the new players would play a key role in cushioning the effects of the departing stars.
However, that has proved to not be the case and apart from a handful, the majority of them have failed to prove their mettle at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Only full-backs Renan Rodi and Kieran Trippier, as well as central defender Felipe, have starred, which would come as no major surprise, given the emphasis placed on defence by Simeone.
In midfield, former Real Madrid man Marcos Llorente has been nothing more than an afterthought and Hector Herrera has drifted in and out of the team.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment has come in the form of Golden Boy Joao Felix who was signed for a club-record fee of €126m to replace Antoine Griezmann but the 20-year-old has scored just two goals from 17 league matches.
The failure of a majority of Atletico Madrid's new signings to hit the ground running has played a major role in their shortcomings and fans of the club would hope they can rediscover their best form in the coming weeks to salvage the rest of what has been a disappointing campaign.
#2 Their forwards are not clinical enough
Atletico Madrid's success of the recent past was not based on a gung ho, no-holds-barred attack but rather on a carefully orchestrated defence, with Diego Godin, Stefan Savic, and Jose Gimenez marshalling what was an almost unbreachable backline.
However, they did enough at the other end to win matches and the likes of Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa, and Antoine Griezmann were almost guaranteed to score at least 20 goals every season.
The same cannot be said of the current crop, with the aforementioned Joao Felix, as well as Alvaro Morata, Angel Correa, and Vitolo all failing to discharge their duties in front of goal effectively.
For context, Atletico Madrid have managed a paltry 22 goals from 22 LaLiga matches this season, a ratio of just one every game and this is 30 less than second-placed Barcelona, while relegation-threatened Levante have managed 27.
Furthermore, they have managed just one goal across their last eight-and-half hours of football in all competitions (against Cultural Leonesa) and this is nothing short of an aberration.
Atleti have never been a side to create many chances but whereas in the past, players like Griezmann and a prime Costa were clinical enough to take advantage of the few sniffs at goal they get, the same cannot be said of those currently on the books.
Their defence is still as resolute as ever, with their 15 goals conceded only bettered by the 13 of Real Madrid and the consequence of their compact defence and blunt attack is that Atleti have drawn far too many matches this season.
They have lost just four league games this season (the same number as Barcelona) but find themselves 10 points behind the Catalans, while their 10 draws is matched only by the equally goal-shy Athletic Bilbao in the upper half of the table.
#1 Diego Simeone might have reached the peak of his managerial powers
Diego Simeone is easily one of the best managers of his generation and he is of a few great footballers who managed to translate their success on the field to the dugout.
His contribution in transforming Atletico Madrid from an average LaLiga side into genuine heavyweights of the European game on a limited budget should rank high up there among the greatest managerial achievements in history.
The Argentine has cemented his legacy as a bonafide Atleti legend, with his displays as a player and manager granting him immortality in the eyes of the fans and a special place in the club's annals.
However, all good things must come to an end and this is especially true in a fast-moving sport like football where the ultra-competitive nature of the sport means that both players and coaches are left behind in a flash at the slightest sign of underperformance.
The 49-year-old was a breath of fresh air to a league that had grown weary of the ultra dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid and his vivaciousness and infectious tenacity on the sidelines rubbed off positively on his players.
December 2019 made it eight years since Diego Simeone was unveiled as Atletico Madrid manager and even his staunchest critic would admit it has been a productive period for the club.
The fact that he has stayed so long in this cut-throat era of club management is testament to the good work he has done in the Spanish capital but having stayed on top largely devoid of criticism for so long, there is no way else to go but down.
There is a feeling that the players have grown weary of his methods after so many years and as even the revered Pep Guardiola is finding out at Manchester City, a coach can only be successful for so long before questions start to be asked.Published 06 Feb 2020, 16:46 IST