Analysis: Do Atletico Madrid need a new defensive lynchpin?

Atletico Madrid find themselves approaching something of a crossroads ahead of the return of the 2022/23 La Liga season.

Diego Simeone’s side have already been dumped out of Europe before the end of the calendar year as their Champions League challenge ended at the group stages.

Los Rojiblancos have built themselves on defensive resilience and grit, following Simeone’s return to the club in 2011, but that image is fading, as Real Madrid and Barcelona leave them behind.

2021/22 saw their highest goals conceded tally in La Liga since 2012, and the most during a full season Simeone, as the Atletico back line leaked 43 goals in 38 league games.

In the previous eight campaigns they shipped less than 30 goals per season, with an incredible return of just 18 goals let in during the 2015/16 season, at a rate of less than 0.5 per game.

Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez were Simeone’s first choice centre back pair last season, with 23 goals let in, with them on the field.

Nahuel Molina has bolstered the right back slot, following his arrival ahead of the 2022/23 season, but Simeone unconvinced by Savic in the long term.

One potential option for Simeone could be Polish international Jakub Kiwior from Serie A side Spezia.

The 22-year-old impressed in his debut campaign in Italy, after joining from Slovakian side Zilina, ahead of the 2021/22 season,

According to reports from Mundo Deportivo, Atletico are tracking his impressive progress, alongside defending Italian champions Milan, with international teammate Robert Lewandowski already hailing Kiwior as one of Poland’s best emerging prospects.

Simeone is likely to offload certain players in the January transfer window, as the club aims to balance their finances after the Champions League debacle, but Kiwior could be a summer option, to partner Molina, in a new look defensive unit in Madrid.

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