Atletico Madrid: How Diego Simeone has reinvented Chelsea’s Champions League opponents


Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg encounter would be the sixth time Diego Simeone has managed an Atletico Madrid aspect towards Chelsea.

Throughout his 9 years on the membership, the longest of any Atletico boss, Chelsea have appointed eight completely different managers.

And whereas Los Colchoneros are actually thriving once more, sitting high of La Liga even after Saturday’s shock defeat by Levante, it was simply 12 months in the past that Simeone was being whistled by giant swathes of the Wanda Metropolitano crowd, as Atleti limped to a 0-Zero draw and had been outplayed by 19th positioned Leganes,

Famend for constructing a staff with grit and resilience, Simeone has revitalised Atleti with a brand new period of open, attacking soccer constructed round tactical tweaks and participant position transformations, slightly than a traditional modern-day switch window splurge.

The truth is, lots of Simeone’s chief lieutenants sought pastures new with the departures of Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Hernandez, Rodri, Filipe Luis, Diego Godin and Juanfran in the summertime of 2019, adopted by the gross sales of Thomas Partey and Alvaro Morata final summer time.

So how has Simeone reinvented Atletico and, with it, the notion of his personal managerial type?

An overhaul in formation

An instance of how Simeone’s re-imagined Atletico line-up

For the overwhelming majority of Simeone’s tenure he had remained wedded to a staple 4-4-2 formation, characterised by defensive self-discipline and denying the opposition house between their compact traces.

It meant the forwards had been relied on to offer the attacking risk.

In early November, after irritating attracts towards Huesca, Villareal and Lokomotiv Moscow, Simeone made the daring determination to make use of three centre-backs in a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3.

The instant consequence was a powerful 4-Zero win towards Cadiz adopted by a victory over Barcelona.

Atletico’s file with this tactical setup has been excellent – 18 video games, 13 wins, three attracts – and it has offered extra objectives, with 45 in La Liga this season already in comparison with 51 for the entire of the final marketing campaign.

Three centre-backs has additionally seen a change to a extra affected person build-up of play – Atletico averaged 48.9% possession in La Liga final season, however 52.4% this season.

In Mario Hermoso, who fills the left-sided centre-back position, they’ve a really comfy ball-playing defender, who typically seems to move by means of the traces and possesses a extra expansive passing vary, typically switching play to the suitable aspect.

Accomplished passes per 90 min
Mario Hermoso 57
Stefan Savic 45
Jose Gimenez 44
Felipe 30
La Liga solely

Identical gamers, new jobs

Simeone’s outdated 4-4-2 strategy required wingers and full-backs to stay defensively disciplined, however now the wing-backs in his new system are liberated to fly ahead.

At left wing-back, speedy Belgian Yannick Carrasco has performed a starring position in his second spell on the membership, whereas on the suitable Kieran Trippier has been in a position showcase his potent crossing skill (till his betting-related suspension).

On the left is Atletico's average position in their Champions League last-16 second-leg victory over Liverpool in March, while on the right is the comparatively more attacking shape against Bayern Munich in December
On the left is Atletico’s common place of their Champions League last-16 second-leg victory over Liverpool in March, whereas on the suitable is the comparatively extra attacking form towards Bayern Munich in December

Simeone has typically paired this vast risk with two midfield ‘quantity eights’ within the 3-5-2 variation of his system.

Thomas Lemar had an unremarkable first two seasons within the Spanish capital, plying his commerce on the left wing, resulting in recommendations Atletico had been seeking to promote the Frenchman final summer time.

Now, deployed in additional central areas as a left-sided eight (or generally as a quantity 10), he has reworked his fortunes.

His management in tight areas, velocity and dribbling on this new position have successfully offered Atletico with a brand new profile of midfielder, one who can manipulate house for the progressive wing-backs.

Season Probabilities created per 90 min Touches in last third per 90 min Accomplished passes per 90 min
2019-20 0.6 19.9 31
2020-21 1.5 24.2 41.3
La Liga solely

However maybe Simeone’s most intriguing transformation has been to the position of Marcos Llorente who, after being developed within the Actual Madrid youth setup as a defensive midfielder, did not impose himself in his pure place after crossing the inner-city divide in a transfer value £27m in June 2019.

It was not till final season’s Champions League last-16 second leg towards Liverpool when a very completely different kind of participant was unleashed, with Llorente substituted on to companion Joao Felix as a striker.

The change labored spectacularly with Llorente scoring a brace to assist knock out the reigning European champions.

The Spaniard has gone on to register a outstanding 26 mixed objectives and assists in 34 begins since that night time at Anfield, typically showing in additional offensive positions equivalent to a right-sided quantity eight (on the other aspect to Lemar), a second striker or extra just lately deputising at wing-back for the suspended Trippier and injured Sime Vrsaljko.

Life in Suarez but and the £100m man

All of this has benefitted the evergreen Luis Suarez.

Disbursed by Barcelona in the summertime, the Uruguayan has proven his former employers he’s nonetheless as prolific as ever, with 16 objectives in 18 La Liga begins.

The 34-year-old has added a medical edge to Atleti’s play, over-performing his La Liga anticipated objectives tally by 4.81 objectives, that means he has scored nearly 5 extra objectives than could be anticipated from the possibilities introduced to him.

In distinction, Diego Costa and Morata under-performed by 1.85 and a pair of.98 objectives respectively final season.

Equally, Joao Felix, a participant who had beforehand did not match the expectations of his £100m transfer from Benfica in the summertime of 2019, has began to flourish.

After beginning solely 28 matches in all competitions final season, because of accidents and a conservative system, this time period he has been given extra common game-time within the entrance two (19 begins) and has already surpassed his mixed objectives and assists tally from final season with 14 in comparison with 12.

The Portuguese has proven tempo to get in behind defences and a weight of move to create possibilities, alongside a creating poacher’s intuition, with eight of his 9 objectives this season coming from 12 yards or nearer.

But nonetheless defensive Scrooges?

Curiously, Atletico have nonetheless maintained their infamous defensive resilience, regardless of an total extra attacking type of play.

They’ve conceded simply 16 objectives in 23 league video games, transport 0.69 objectives per sport in comparison with 0.71 final season.

Simeone ensures his three centre-back system has steadiness; when one wing-back flies ahead, the opposite typically stays in a extra disciplined place.

And Simeone has not been reluctant to take a seat deeper when forward, with defensive midfielders Lucas Torreira, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Hector Herrera making 25 substitute league appearances between them this season, typically coming into the fray to assist defend leads.

General, Atletico are considerably extra well-rounded than once they knocked Liverpool out on the identical stage final season, and can pose a real risk to Chelsea.

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