2 ways Atletico Madrid can break out of their horrible form
Atletico Madrid is seriously sliding in the La Liga rankings as of late. After an impressive run of form through the first period of the season, Los Colchoneros seemed to seriously slow down over the past few weeks. They were right up there with Real Madrid and Sevilla, and miles ahead of Barcelona. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and Atletico is a massive 17 points behind the leader, nine behind Sevilla, and outside of the top four spots that guarantee Champions League football. Something went wrong for the squad led by coach Diego Simeone. To help them get out of their slump, here are two ways Atletico Madrid can break out of their horrible form.
Adopting a more attacking style of football
Interestingly enough, Atletico Madrid had seriously good stretches of football against their rivals, Real Madrid. In a game they ultimately lost 2-0 due to two counter-attacks, Los Colchoneros played attacking football and almost scored an equalizer at the start of the second half. Two chances by Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann could have turned the whole game upside down. With that, they could have built the momentum and not continued the major slid they had in the past few weeks.
Unfortunately for Atletico Madrid fans, it was not to be, and Atleti is now in a major issue. Truth be told, they are still within reach of the top four, but it is worrying, especially with a major clash with Manchester United in the Champions League. Even worse, after it did not work out against Real Madrid, Cholo Simeone decided to again employ the tactic of defensive football in their next two games, which cost him six points in two games against Sevilla and Granada.
It is really a shame that he still holds tight to the principles of his football. It is understandable, of course, as that type of football is what brought both Simeone and Atletico Madrid so much success in the last few years. However, he never had this amount of attacking talent on his roster. His bench sometimes looks stronger, offensively, than the starting pairing of most teams in European football. Joao Felix, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, Thomas Lemar, among others, are usually jokers from the bench that he uses at the end of games if the team is losing.
If he was to change, at least partly, and adapt to the plethora of attacking talent he has at his disposal, Atletico Madrid could be right back into the title race. It is absolutely true that some of the pieces, such as Felix, have not turned out as Atleti fans hoped. However, this team just needs a different approach. Surprising as it might seem, that approach has been tried and while not completely successful, it looked really good. Atletico Madrid is better than the fifth-place they currently occupy, so it is up to Simeone to make the necessary changes and turn it all around.
Dispose of teams earlier/Ask for better concentration from their players
One of the biggest storylines of the early season for Atletico Madrid was late goals. They secured a point against Villareal in the third game of the La Liga season with a late own goal. Just a week after, Lemar scored in the 99th minute to secure a win over Espanyol away from home. Against Getafe, it was two late goals by Luis Suarez, and against Osasuna it was Felipe Luis with the 87th-minute winner to get three points. This might be looked at as good composure and fighting until the end, but it also means that these teams were in the game until the dying seconds, some even winning.
Atletico Madrid has too much quality in their roster to even allow games to go the distance. There were positive examples this season of the squad getting a safe and secure win before the final few minutes. Cadiz, who just took a point from the Santiago Bernabeu, was disposed of with a 4-1 win away from home, while Atleti beat a top-four contender in Betis with an easy 3-0 at home. Similarly, Atleti got two first-half goals versus Barcelona at home earlier in the season and controlled the game until the end.
This approach of mostly leaving results until the end really bit back Atletico Madrid. Mallorca scored two goals in the last ten minutes in the game before El Madrileno to snatch all three points from Wanda Metropolitano. Sevilla got a goal from Lucas Ocampos in the 88th minute securing a pivotal win in the top-four race, while Granada snatched a winner in the 61st minute. Thus, it was four defeats in a row for Los Colchoneros and a ticket out of the championship race.
Maybe that is being too harsh, but it has already been half the season. With the other half to play, if Atletico Madrid wants to regain the title, they need some major dips in form from their rivals. At this point in time, however, that truly does not look likely. Real Madrid is firing on all cylinders, while Sevilla, Betis, and even Rayo Vallecano look more convincing than Atleti right now. Should the opportunity come, the experience of Simeone and his boys might prove pivotal for a top-four finish, but it is a legitimate question of will that opportunity come in the end.