Atletico Madrid has prided themselves on their defensive brilliance under the tenure of Diego Simeone since his arrival at the club in 2011. Los Rojiblancos have conceded over 30 goals in a season only twice under the tenure of the Argentine, but are now in severe danger of producing their worst defensive campaign in 12 years.

After 21 matches, Simeone’s men shipped 26 goals at the back, conceding more at just over the halfway stage of the campaign as they did in the entirety of last season. The defending LaLiga champions are almost certainly going to surrender their crown either to Real Madrid or Sevilla at the top of the table. As a result, if you’re betting on sites like Space Casino, priorities will have shifted from the LaLiga winner market to the top-four finish market, where they are backed at 11/50 to secure a Champions League place.

Not winning the LaLiga crown this term would not be a catastrophe for Atletico and Simeone has earned the benefit of the doubt after winning three titles during his 11-year tenure. However, the Argentine may have to alter his approach in the future to accommodate the players he has on his team rather than his preferred system.

The club has had an influx of attacking talent over the last three years, notably the signing of Joao Felix for £107m. Felix was touted as a generational talent, but his performances at the Wanda Metropolitano have been inconsistent, to say the least. Luis Suarez’s strikes were key to securing the crown last season, but now he appears to be on his last legs as a potent operator in the final third.

Antoine Griezmann returned on loan from Barcelona at the start of the 2021/22 season. Griezmann was sensational in his first spell with Los Rojiblancos before moving to the Catalan club, but the Frenchman has suffered a decline in form at Barca that has continued despite his return to Atletico.

At the other end of the pitch, Altetico’s resources have dwindled in front of Jan Oblak, so much so that Geoffrey Kondogbia has been pressed into the backline. Felipe and Mario Hermoso have failed to kick on after brilliant performances in the heart of the defense last season, struggling for form and discipline at key moments. Jose Gimenez has also been at fault, suffering a decline akin to Griezmann, where he once was heralded as one of the league’s best defenders, but is now experiencing fitness and disciplinary issues. Stefan Savic has tried to hold the defense together, although he is not the player that he was at the peak of his powers.

It is no surprise that Atletico have only kept six clean sheets after 21 matches. The usual standard for a Simeone-coached side would be double that amount. However, it is not just the fact that Atletico are conceding, it is the fact that they are shipping multiple goals per game. In a run of seven matches between December 4 and January 22, Atletico conceded two goals or more in six games. For a manager that has prided his teams on their resilience, Simeone will be furious with the standard of his side’s defending over the course of the campaign.

On occasions, the attacking talent in the side has bailed out their defensive counterparts and that might have to be the resolution moving forward for the Argentine until he can make corrections at the end of the season. These issues will not be rectified overnight and Simeone may have to go back to the drawing board to configure a new defensive philosophy to get his side back to the top of LaLiga.