Atlético Madrid’s poor form continued on Saturday at Mendizorroza — and they paid the price for it thanks to a Víctor Laguardia goal in the opening five minutes. There would be no comeback on this occasion, like we saw against Espanyol and Getafe in recent weeks, and for the first time this season Atlético lost a game.
If Atlético are indeed mired in crisis, this surely has to be the nadir. Alavés came into the game with five games played and five losses with only two goals scored and 11 conceded. Javi Calleja, the man who saved them from relegation at the end of last season, was an embattled coach going into the game. He comes out of it with a lifeline.
The problems that have plagued Atlético to start the season persisted on Saturday afternoon but a newer, possibly more problematic issue appeared. Laguardia popped up with a header from a set-piece with four minutes played and the finger has been pointed at Stefan Savić for poor marking.
“We let in a goal really quickly,” Jan Oblak said about the winner. “We are repeating the same thing in a lot of games. We have to go onto the field more concentrated. We didn’t start the game well today. We need more personality and to do better.”
Diego Simeone echoed his goalkeeper’s sentiment on slow starts and says the goal was not an issue with tactics, but rather a mental lapse.
“I don’t think the defensive system is the cause of the loss,” he said. “The goal came from a set-piece. It’s not a question of playing with four at the back or other systems. If there’s a weakness defensively or the amount of times we concede set-piece then we will study it, work on it and try to improve.”
Defensively, Atlético do seem more vulnerable, but that comes with a change in attacking principles. Simeone left Ángel Correa on the bench with Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suárez preferred in attack. The issues that persist are a lack of clarity up front and the lack of clear-cut chances.
“We aren’t direct enough to hurt the opponent,” Simeone said. “We have to improve and grow to play better and the results will come.”