Atletico Madrid suffered a 2-1 loss at home to Mallorca at the weekend, with two late goals handing them their second league defeat of the season.
While they have lost just twice in La Liga, five draws mean they are now trailing Real Madrid by 10 points. After their league title triumph under Diego Simeone in the previous campaign, there are reasons to be worried.
Returning striker Antoine Griezmann is not the player he used to be for them, and their €1 billion debt threatens to hold them back in the long term. We asked Eurosport Spain’s Agustin Galan for his expert insight.
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What has gone wrong since Atleti won La Liga last season?

Asking Galan for the reasons for the drop off in form, he says: “There are some differences between this Atletico and the one that won La Liga last season. From a defensive point of view, Jan Oblak has lost his ability to intimidate opponents with his mere presence and the team concedes so many goals from set pieces.
“There’s a major worry in midfield as well. Simeone signed Geoffrey Kondogbia expecting him to be the natural replacement for Thomas Partey. It turns out that he slows the pace and his presence is sometimes confusing. Koke and Rodrigo De Paul are struggling to identify their best positions. During the last game, Atletico fans started to boo their own players.
“The strikers’ performances leave room for improvement as well, but their star quality means this is a small issue compared to the defence and midfield.”

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What impact has Saul's departure to Chelsea had on the team?

Saul has struggled at Chelsea, with suggestions that his loan spell could be prematurely ended. Galan is not sure that his return would be of use.
“Saul had lost influence in the last two years,” Galan explains.
“Simeone tried to turn him into a versatile midfielder while he considered himself a box-to-box player. When the coach started to assign him the left-wing role, his motivation faded away so he was not as pivotal as Koke for Simeone.”

Does Simeone's brand of football still work?

Galan believes that Simeone may revert to his old strategy in order to grind out results, saying: “Any time that Simeone has tried to evolve and propose a more attractive style of play, the results haven’t been favourable. I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to return to his basics (4-4-2) in order to regroup everything and get some points back.
“Simeone has resurrected several times in the past, so his philosophy shouldn’t be considered outdated, because he will probably rise again sooner or later."

Do his tactics suit the players in his squad?

Despite the troubles at the Wanda Metropolitano, Galan points out we have been here before with Simeone and with other players. He does not think the decline is terminal.
“We have seen so many players leave Atletico because of that (Eduardo Salvio, Nicolas Gaitan, Jackson Martinez, Luciano Vietto...). He is very clear with what he demands of his players, starting with the defensive sacrifice,” he says.
“Players like Saul reached a point where they couldn’t stand Simeone’s requirements, but we wouldn’t be fair just blaming Simeone. [Angel] Correa or [Yannick] Carrasco are good examples of players that suited Simeone's tactics after hard work and a fair amount of patience. Could they be even better with another coach? We don’t know, but we are far from seeing a divorce between him and the squad in the near future.”
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