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    Tactical Analysis: Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid Out of Possession

    Excerpts of the following analysis by  Jaime Fernandez Valencia is from Breaking The from February 23, 2021.

    When you think of Atlético de Madrid’s playing style, you immediately think of a strictly defensive team that plays direct football and exploits counter-attacks. You get a flashback of the 2013/14 season where most of the games they would start winning and then defend in a low block 4-4-2 for the rest of the game.

    Well, that might be true for the past seasons, but this season, Diego Simeone has evolved. They still maintain their defensive solidness but now they prefer to have more possession and play more attacking football. Simeone has had many years to analyse the defensive advantages to using the 4-4-2, but he must have seen something in their defence last year that he did not like. I say this because this season he has completely changed their defensive positioning. 

    In this analysis, we will see how Atlético has changed the way they defend. We will see how they have managed to only concede 14 goals in the league this season, the lowest in La Liga.

    Defending in a 5-3-2

    It was very surprising to see Atlético transition into a 5-3-2 when defending. These past years they have defended in a 4-4-2 but Simeone has now decided to add another defender. Let’s see how they change into this shape during the game.

    The difference between both formations is that you move a player from the midfield and add him to the defensive line. The interesting thing is that Atlético are starting games with the same type of players they would if they played in a 4-4-2. The only change they are making is that one of the wide midfielders drops to become a wing-back and the full-back that is on their side then becomes a “new” centre-back.

    For clarification purposes, here is an example. The ball is on the right side of the pitch and Koke has come to this side to help out the wing-back so that he is not in a 2vs1 situation. Koke is one of the three midfielders who has had to shift over in order to help out.

    At the same time, the other wide midfielder Ángel Correa on the other side is the player who drops into the defensive line. In the picture, he is on his way to slotting himself as a right wing-back in the defence. There is always a predetermined wide midfielder who will join the defensive line. 

    When they are in the 5-3-2, Correa will now have the role of strengthening the defense on the right side. Meanwhile, the other wide midfielder will now join the two central midfielders to form a midfield of 3. His role will be to protect the middle and shift over to his side if the opponents are attacking through there.

    So what does changing to a 5-3-2 provide to the team defensively? First of all, it strengthens the middle as they now have 3 players there, compared to 2 players when they used the 4-4-2. By having 3 players there, they can protect the passes in between lines better which is important because these are usually the most dangerous passes. 

    For example, in the image shown below, Atlético’s central midfielder is following the player who is trying to get behind the midfield line. This provides Atlético more flexibility when protecting the passes through the middle because before, it usually had to be the centre-backs who came up when a pass was made in between the lines. 

    With the centre-backs jumping up to pressure the man in between the lines, it created space behind them that could be exploited by the opponents. Therefore, with this new formation, they have improved their solidity in the central lane.

    For the rest of the analysis by Jaime Fernandez Valencia, please go to the Breaking The Lines article at:

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