When Antoine Griezmann left Barcelona to return to Atletico Madrid, it was notable that Barcelona fans weren’t sad to see him leave and Atletico fans weren’t happy to see him arrive either. The fears of Colchoneros have been realised in the opening weeks of his time back in the Spanish capital.
Having played 305 minutes across five appearances, he has failed to register a single shot on target, let alone a goal, and has registered only 0.5 xG, even less xA at 0.1, also yet to record an assist.
It’s evident that Griezmann’s arrival was never going to produce an overnight impact, but he’s a player who knows the club, the coach and many of his team-mates, and so such a slow start comes as a surprise.
But the real concern for Atletico is not whether or not Griezmann can get himself on the scoresheet, but it’s the impact he’s having on the rest of the team around him. In his 305 minutes on the field, Atletico Madrid have failed to score. In the 415 minutes played without him this season, Atleti have scored nine.
There’s a reason for that. Griezmann serves to slow down the pace, taking needless touches and dropping deep. While last season’s form was all about the energy and pace of Marcos Llorente and Yannick Carrasco driving from wide positions to produce a quick transition, Griezmann has sapped that from the team’s set-up.
When he drops deep, Griezman isn’t only reducing his own impact in attack, but he’s also overloading an area which is a key part of Atletico’s strategy. Time after time, he drops on the right, interrupting the strong connection between Kieran Trippier and Llorente. Without space to operate in and overlap, their influence is limited.
Griezmann also robs more effective players of their chance. His arrival and Diego Simeone’s reluctance to drop him has seen Angel Correa dropped, despite having started the season in fine form with three goals and an assist in his first three appearances of the campaign. Against Alaves, Correa recorded more touches in the box than Griezmann despite playing 59 minutes less.
Defeat to Alaves was Griezmann’s first 90 minutes since his return. But it wasn’t the first time that he’s been behind. Since his return, Atletico have not taken the lead in any game while he has been on the pitch. 0-0 draws against Porto and Athletic Club saw neither side take the lead, whilst against both Espanyol and Getafe, Atleti were behind with Griezmann on the pitch and twice mounted comebacks after he was withdrawn.
Having got results after taking Griezmann off twice before, Simeone stuck with him in Vitoria and it didn’t work out as he may have hoped. The first defeat of the season was one that many had seen coming, and that many have attributed to Griezmann. Simeone is clearly backing his man, otherwise he wouldn’t have brought him back in the first place, but the coach desperately needs the forward to start producing the goods and justifying the Argentine’s faith in his talents.