Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg encounter would be the sixth time Diego Simeone has managed an Atletico Madrid facet in opposition to 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 prime 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 0-0 draw and have been outplayed by nineteenth positioned Leganes,
Famend for constructing a crew with grit and resilience, Simeone has revitalised Atleti with a brand new period of open, attacking soccer constructed round tactical tweaks and participant function transformations, somewhat than a basic modern-day switch window splurge.
Actually, 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 season.
So how has Simeone reinvented Atletico and, with it, the notion of his personal managerial fashion?
An overhaul in formation
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 area between their compact strains.
It meant the forwards have been relied on to supply the attacking risk.
In early November, after irritating attracts in opposition to Huesca, Villareal and Lokomotiv Moscow, Simeone made the daring choice to make use of three centre-backs in a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3.
The instant end result was a powerful 4-0 win in opposition to Cadiz adopted by a victory over Barcelona.
Atletico’s file with this tactical setup has been very good – 18 video games, 13 wins, three attracts – and it has supplied extra targets, 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 function, they’ve a really snug ball-playing defender, who typically seems to be to go by means of the strains and possesses a extra expansive passing vary, typically switching play to the proper facet.
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Similar gamers, new jobs
Simeone’s previous 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 function in his second spell on the membership, whereas on the proper Kieran Trippier has been in a position showcase his potent crossing capability (till his betting-related suspension).
Simeone has typically paired this broad 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 ideas Atletico have been trying to promote the Frenchman final summer season.
Now, deployed in additional central areas as a left-sided eight (or typically as a quantity 10), he has remodeled his fortunes.
His management in tight areas, pace and dribbling on this new function have successfully supplied Atletico with a brand new profile of midfielder, one who can manipulate area for the progressive wing-backs.
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However maybe Simeone’s most intriguing transformation has been to the function of Marcos Llorente who, after being developed within the Actual Madrid youth setup as a defensive midfielder, didn’t impose himself in his pure place after crossing the inner-city divide in a transfer price £27m in June 2019.
It was not till final season’s Champions League last-16 second leg in opposition to Liverpool when a totally completely different kind of participant was unleashed, with Llorente substituted on to accomplice 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 targets and assists in 34 begins since that evening at Anfield, typically showing in additional offensive positions similar to a right-sided quantity eight (on the other facet to Lemar), a second striker or extra 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.
Distributed by Barcelona in the summertime, the Uruguayan has proven his former employers he’s nonetheless as prolific as ever, with 16 targets in 18 La Liga begins.
The 34-year-old has added a medical edge to Atleti’s play, over-performing his La Liga anticipated targets tally by 4.81 targets, that means he has scored virtually 5 extra targets than could be anticipated from the possibilities introduced to him.
In distinction, Diego Costa and Morata under-performed by 1.85 and a couple of.98 targets respectively final season.
Equally, Joao Felix, a participant who had beforehand didn’t 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, attributable to 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 targets 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 go to create probabilities, alongside a creating poacher’s intuition, with eight of his 9 targets this season coming from 12 yards or nearer.
But nonetheless defensive Scrooges?
Apparently, Atletico have nonetheless maintained their infamous defensive resilience, regardless of an general extra attacking fashion of play.
They’ve conceded simply 16 targets in 23 league video games, transport 0.69 targets per recreation 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 shield 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.