Griezmann, Wanda Metropolitano woes undermining Atletico Madrid season
Atletico Madrid are in a rut -- and that is putting it kindly. All but out of the Champions League and 10 points behind league leaders Barcelona, things do not look good at the new, soulless Wanda Metropolitano stadium. But what exactly is going on? Here's a look at three factors contributing to Los Rojiblancos' malaise and how they can remedy it.
1. Solve the Griezmann situation
A dramatic U-turn -- including a decision by a court in Switzerland -- was all that kept Antoine Griezmann from Manchester United's clutches this summer. While Atleti fans are used to their stars leaving and are willing to forgive and forget the fluttering of eyelashes or the declarations of "dreams" elsewhere.
One thing they will never forgive, however, is a lack of effort.
It seems incredible to say it, but given his performances of late it would have been better for all concerned if Griezmann had gone in the summer. Having not scored since September, Griezmann is visibly not at the races and has double the yellow cards (four) than he has league goals this season (two).
Granted, Diego Simeone's side are unbeaten in the league this season with six wins and as many draws from 12 games, but imagine how many of those stalemates would have been wins had the Frenchman been switched on and had his head in the game. The gap to Barca would be considerably less. Not to mention how different their desperate Champions League campaign might have looked had their No. 7 been firing.
Griezmann was whistled by fans as he was subbed off against Real Madrid -- the second consecutive game he has been hooked with Atleti chasing a winner -- and that speaks volumes. It has come to the point where Simeone has a big decision to make on whether he continues to use him or cuts his losses. A big game versus Roma is needed -- otherwise it may be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
2. Fix the 'head case'
At the moment it looks like Atleti will concede from every cross the opponent slings into the box. While they have shipped just six times in La Liga, five of those have been from headers. That is the same number they conceded in the whole of last season, while in 2015-16 that number was three. Taking European football into consideration, eight of the nine goals they have conceded this season have been headed.
Diego Godin -- a pillar of Atletico's recent success and so usually Mr. Reliable in the air--- has been caught out of position too many times for it to be a coincidence now and it appears to be a problem brought about by playing alongside Stefan Savic. The Montenegrin is a fine defender in his own right, however at times the two appear incompatible. You need to stick with one of them and there is only one winner: Godin.
The Uruguayan looks most comfortable next to compatriot Jose Maria Gimenez. However with Simeone seemingly freezing out the 22-year-old with his contract expiring next summer, perhaps the logical thing is to give Lucas Hernandez a go. He has impressed every time he has been deployed as a makeshift left-back and with Savic suspended against Roma on Wednesday, the time has come to give Lucas a chance to stake his claim to become Godin's regular partner.
3. Wanda woe factor
Stadium changes can take some getting used to. Atleti have gone from a crumbling, tight, old-school ground on the banks of the River Manzanares to a new building on the opposite side of the city. Games there feel more like a cup final in a neutral stadium, than a league or European match at the home of Atletico Madrid. The landscape around the Wanda is barren and the prematch light shows are more befitting of a Super Bowl than a dreary La Liga match on a freezing November night.
Sides used to fear coming to the Calderon. The crowd would intimidate the opposition, their fans and the match officials. It would win Atleti games. Nobody fears the Wanda. Fans are not enjoying it as much, and neither are the players.
Atletico have not won in their last five home matches, which has left them on the brink of elimination from the Champions League and all but out of title contention. They need to sort out their home form and quick. It feels as if the Wanda needs a big win for Atletico Madrid to truly feel like it is their home. Having failed to do so against Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid thus far, perhaps a win over Roma could be what is needed to breathe life into a stagnating season.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.