It’s been an up-and-down first quarter of the season for Atletico thus far. A disappointing start, which seen points dropped to two newly promoted sides in Alaves and Leganes, was followed by a much improved run of form. Contests against Barcelona and Bayern came and went with Atleti grabbing a draw at the Nou Camp before they managed to get the better of the Bundesliga champions for the second year running at the Vicente Calderon. Among these positive results were wins at Valencia and PSV while Granada and Sporting Gijon were thrashed heavily in home fixtures. Diego Simeone’s side were rolling, and found themselves on top of the standings both domestically and in Europe.
However, all it takes is one defeat to cast a dark and bleak atmosphere over a football team. Los Rojiblancos travelled to Sevilla after a 1-0 win against Russian outfit Rostov and it seemed as if Simeone’s men just couldn’t cope with the high intensity and quickness of their opponents. Atleti were brushed aside easily, too easily in fact, as Koke was sent off while Antoine Griezmann also struggled to make an impact during the defeat. The winning streak had to end at some point, but the Atletico faithful would have been hoping for more of a fighting performance from their team.
The recent defeat to Real Sociedad was more or less the same. Another away fixture following their Champions League outings, Atletico’s sluggishness was again exploited. Sociedad dominated possession and were much more prepared for the challenge than their opponents. The new-look trio of Griezmann, Kevin Gameiro and Yannick Carrasco were ineffective and unable to leave their stamp on a game which called out for a magical individual moment from either of the three. Apart from a Gameiro shot, which smacked off the woodwork, neither player looked like adding much in another disappointing away performance.
Two consecutive defeats after midweek matches has many questioning whether Simeone needs to rotate the squad much better than he has done these last couple of games. Only one change was made to the starting eleven that started in the 1-0 win over Rostov for the clash against Sevilla, as Gameiro came in for his first match against his former club. Playing two away matches in less than a week can be tiring for players, and a lack of rotation was bound to make the contest with Jorge Sampaoli’s side even tougher than it already was.
It was somewhat a familiar story as the team to face Sociedad was revealed. Two changes had been made this time around. Once again Gameiro returned to the starting line-up and was joined by Juanfran with Fernando Torres and Sime Vrsaljko dropping to the bench. Players like Griezmann, Gabi, Carrasco, Koke, Filipe Luis had been sent out for their second battle in just four days. Once again, El Cholo may have been asking for too much from his players.
Heading into the international break, Atletico’s last two away defeats have left a bitter feeling surrounding the club. The refusal to take advantage of what is arguably the strongest and deepest squad assembled in Simeone’s time as manager is the number one reason for the recent struggles. It may be due to a lack of trust in his substitutes or too much loyalty to his first-team players. Luckily, as the players and fans alike needed reminding of back in August during their poor start, there’s still a long way to go for Atleti to right the wrongs of the current campaign.