Season in review: Homesick Atletico Madrid accidentally spring talk of revolution

Position: 4th – 76 points
Grade: C
 
Record: 24-4-10
Goals Scored: 70
Goals Conceded: 43

Top Scorer: Antoine Griezmann – 24

Top Assister: Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Lino – 8

 

Story of the season

It’s easy to forget at the start of the season that Atletico Madrid were – more than usual – dark horses for the La Liga title, after an excellent first half of 2023. Antoine Griezmann was the best player in Spain across that calendar year, and they started well. An early 7-0 win over Rayo Vallecano, and a 3-1 win over Real Madrid were good reasons for optimism, the only black mark on against their form was the one-off 3-0 away loss to Valencia.

Except it kept happening. Again and again Atletico went away from home and were denatured entirely by their opposition. The defensive structure gradually disintegrated, and by the time it returned in the second half of the season somewhat, Alvaro Morata had stopped scoring. Huge wins over Inter and Real Madrid demonstrated what they were capable of, and so did crushing defeats to Athletic Club, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund.

Eventually saw off the challenge of Athletic Club for the Champions League, and finished eight points above Los Leones, and five off Girona, but the reality is they were closer to the Basques in performances. The worst season defensively since Simeone arrived.

 

Grade Explanation

A season defined by inconsistency, their trip to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and victories over Los Blancos saved a season in which they finished lower than third for the first time since Simeone has had a full season. His consistency over the long-term is remarkable, but it seems little explanation for their inability to perform against Las Palmas and Cadiz.

Los Rojiblancos moved towards a more offensive system, but made it clear they don’t have the pieces to sustain that over a season. Even within the club, there have been disagreements between the players over whether this is a good season or not.

It’s a season in which Atletico gave their fans some moments they will remember forever, and their finishing positions in each competition met expectations. Yet the direction of travel is decidedly sideways, and if it was indeed a good season, there wouldn’t be quite as many articles in the Madrid papers about revolution.

 

Standout moment: Antoine Griezmann driving down the line, finding his way past Vinicius Junior, and bursting the net against Real Madrid in extra time, in the Copa del Rey. Metropolitano madness, you dream that sequence up if you’re Rojiblanco.

Key player: It’s all Antoine Griezmann. He became the club’s leading scorer in the club’s history this season, and were it not for an ankle injury, you never know if he might have pulled out more magic in Europe. Crack.

Surprise of the season: Axel Witsel. After a decent season last year, Witsel confusingly became Atletico’s best defender this year. Even handled Vinicius as well as anyone has this season. Props to Samuel Lino too for an excellent debut year.

 

Glass half full

It seems that change is on the horizon. A fit Antoine Griezmann, dare you say with less streaky striker and a reformed backline makes this side look really quite good. There are some holes in this squad, and it probably needs two summers of work before Andrea Berta can rest easier, but they’ve shown how good they can be – they just need to raise the floor, traditionally Simeone’s strong point.

Glass half empty

Many an Atleti fan will only believe that investment is coming when new players are presented in a red and white shirt. Since the Thomas Lemar and Joao Felix deals, it’s been a frugal approach – understandably – but if Atletico do not commit to reshaping their team properly, it could see them move further from the big two and drag them closer to the free-for-all below. Atletico cannot cut corners, and must make signings El Cholo actually wants – Javi Galan and Caglar Soyuncu might be good players, the Metropolitano never had the chance to find out.

Tags Antoine Griezmann Atletico Madrid Diego Simeone

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