Atlético Madrid's 12-game La Liga Progress Report

Atlético Madrid's 12-game La Liga Progress Report


With the November international break coming to its end, we continue our series of 2015-16 progress reports with a look an Atlético Madrid side which had high expectations ahead of the new campaign.

What has gone right?

With heavy investment in the summer, optimism was high in the Spanish capital for Los Rojiblancos in competing against Barcelona and Real Madrid for La Liga glory, rather than another season battling the likes of Valencia and Sevilla for third and the automatic Champions League qualification spot. After a tough opening 11 fixtures that saw Atlético Madrid face the likes of Sevilla, Barcelona, Villarreal, Real Madrid and Valencia, Diego Simeone will be satisfied to see his side within four points from first place.

Atléti’s main reason for being within touching distance of league-leaders Barcelona, is purely down to the strength and performances of their defenders. Particularly Jan Oblak, who has been so impressive following his return to the starting lineup, that Miguel Ángel Moyà has not even had one minute of game time, even after also delivering exceptional performances last season. While the goals have not flourished as much as Simeone would have hoped for, the likes of Diego Godín, José Giménez, Juanfran, Filipe Luís and Oblak have all been rock-solid at the back, only letting in six goals, currently La Liga’s best defensive record.

What has gone wrong?

People may wonder what could be wrong with a side that is currently third and only four points adrift of the top of the table, however, it has not been as smooth and successful as expected prior to the opening of the season. The major concern for Simeone has been the misfiring that has occurred from his strikers and the inconsistency not truly representative rich depth and talent available. A team that has seen its defenders and midfielders do their job has been let down by their attackers, particularly in the fixtures against Villarreal and Deportivo de La Coruña, which resulted in a loss and draw respectively.

Especially in the second-half of the season Antoine Griezmann was on fire, scoring 22 league goals that helped get his new team to a third placed finish. Yet, from those 22 goals, only one was against a team that competes directly against Atléti. This season has seen the Frenchman continue his run of poor form against tougher domestic opponents. With a total of 28 shots and only five goals to his name, none against the elite La Liga outfits, Griezmann has been far from impressive this campaign.

Though he is not the only striker who has been an inconsistent in the opening of the season. Summer signing Jackson Martínez has been disappointing since arriving from FC Porto with a hefty price tag. His return of only two goals shows a striker struggling for form, a worrying concern since the man he replaced in Mario Mandžukić had a much better tally this time last year, yet was deemed both not suited, or proficient enough for Atléti. Fernando Torres has also stuttered, however, ideally being the third choice striker has scored the same amount of goals as Martínez, while also having better a better assist record so far then the Colombian. Simeone will need his strikers to find form, as they cannot afford to continue dropping important points.

Greizmann and his fellow strikers need to be more lethal to compete for the La Liga title
Greizmann and his fellow strikers need to be more lethal to compete for the La Liga title

Best player so far – Jan Oblak

Belgian winger Yannick-Ferreira Carrasco has been impressive in the past few games, providing the difference on numerous occasions as he has begun to gel with his new team and new league. But while not receiving much acclaim, Oblak has been completely reliable between the posts since taking over from the senior Moyà, has continuously been making key saves to maintain Atléti’s best defensive record in the Spanish first flight and more importantly, has helped the Rojiblancos to go unbeaten in the last five rounds.

After 11 fixtures, the 22-year-old has only conceded six goals in La Liga and alongside rival Keylor Navas, is the joint best custodian for clean sheets, again on six. The youngster has been so reliable within the posts, that while Simeone has utilised his strength in depth and rotated his squad at times, Oblak has played every minute of every competition so far this season, a measure to his ecent performances.

What is  next?

Having completed a continuous run against the top sides in La Liga, Atléti have a great chance to pick up valuable points against the opponents Simeone would expect three points from in their quest to challenge for first place. The next two months see Atléti face only one side currently within the top 10, with a tough home fixture against rivals Athletic Club Bilbao. Yet with their domestic rivals facing one another, particularly the upcoming El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid after the international break, Atléti have a great chance to take advantage of any points dropped to climb the table.

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With only Jose Giménez currently injured, Simeone has practically a full squad at his disposal. Even the loss of the impressive defender does not hurt the Madrid side, as the Uruguayan has been successfully replaced by new signing Stefan Savić, who has looked equally impressive alongside the experienced Godín. With a strong team of depth and talent, Simeone only needs his strikers, particularly Griezmann and Martínez, to find consistency and form as key players such as Koke, Tiago and Carrasco have been providing plenty of chances for their teammates. A seemingly easier run will hopefully be a great opportunity to build confidence and form for the hitmen to kick-start their quest to regain the La Liga title.

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