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The (statistical) difference a year makes

Currently sitting in fifth place, Atlético Madrid have work to do if they hope to make a title push this season. The team statistics seem to suggest the problems are not as bad as the league position suggests.

David Ramos/Getty Images

When comparing the first 11 league games of this season to the first 11 of last season, there are some key statistics that show the differences in the team one year on. At this time last year, Atlético Madrid were in third with 24 points, and this year they’re in fifth (on head-to-head) with 21 points, so the differences will come in the specifics. Atlético have scored 25 goals so far this LaLiga campaign, nine more than last season’s 16.

These extra goals are coming from within the penalty area and the six-yard box, showing the importance of getting shots off in these dangerous positions. This could be attributed to better production from the forward players, as new additions Kevin Gameiro and Nico Gaitan have notched six non-penalty goals in LaLiga so far between them.

This is a clear upgrade from Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto’s three through 11 games last year. Coincidentally, the number of outside the box goals is the same as last year (5). Chance creation is also up this season from last year, with ten more key passes being made (94 to 104). Shot accuracy has also increased minimally from last year from 43% to 48% but more importantly, the difference from last year is that Atlético have become far more consistent with the amount of shots that they get on target.

Last year, the chart was much more up and down, while this year the percentage hovers around the 50% mark, with fluctuations. One of those was against Real Sociedad; Atlético registered its lowest shot accuracy of the season so far at 25% suggesting the result was more of an outlier than an endemic problem.The obvious problem for Atlético is not a secret; Gabi talked about it recently after the Real Sociedad loss. The problem is that their weakness this year has historically been their strength under Simeone: defense.

We have to go back to being a team which is solid at the back and we all have to do our job to make the team secure," Gabi said.Though that problem may not be as bad as it’s been made out to be, there has been a regression from last season. Both clearances and interceptions are down from last season, though blocks have remained the same.

Despite the recent defensive lapses, Atleti are still in finer form at the back than Real Madrid. Courtesy of Joel Turner/ have only conceded two goals more than last year in the league, which includes the insane free kick by Malaga’s Sandro Ramirez. It should be said, too, that Atleti have the second-best defensive record in the division in terms of goals conceded, bettered only by Villarreal.

It’s unclear how much these statistics have affected some of Atleti’s disappointing results, but none of the bad results have been particularly ugly in terms of score line.Conceding two penalties against Sociedad is annoying, as is losing to a Steven N’Zonzi goal, but neither the results nor the stats show any fatal flaws in terms of defending. Simeone will expect better from his defense, and he has shown over the years he can get the best out of his defenders. It seems much more likely that Atleti will tighten up defensively in coming weeks, rather than continue in this way. A great game for this tightening-up process to begin will take place Saturday against Real Madrid.