After Diego Simeone took over the manager’s position at Atletico Madrid, the club have consistently been one of the best in Europe. Operating with a far limited budget compared to their La Liga opponents like Real Madrid and Barcelona, Simeone has managed to keep Atletico playing at the highest level even after losing his best players year after year.
Although, his style, defensive organisation and tactics are similar to Jose Mourinho’s, Simeone’s favoured formation is the 4-4-2 where as Mourinho has oscillated between the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1 at various points in his career. When even the Premier League teams have ditched the 4-4-2, Simeone’s interpretation of the same formation has allowed Atletico to play to it’s strengths. One of the most defensively sound units in Europe, Atletico are devastating on the counter.
Some salient features of the Simeone 4-4-2
- Atletico play a narrow and compact 4-4-2 in which every players has to contribute defensively and play according to the situation
- They choose particular moments to press and when the situation is perfect, they press really hard. These moments are generally low-risk/high-reward when the opposition player has a minimal chance to escape the press and the chance of a counter is high.
- The moment they win the ball, they attack at devastating speed. The risk is high of a turnover but because the ball is already in the opposite half, Atletico will have the time to get back in shape.
- They generally allow the opposition to play in central areas and away from the penalty box. The fanatical pressing starts when the ball switches to the wings. A player with the ball on the wings has far limited options to pass than a player in a central position. Because of Atletico’s narrow shape which leads to congestion in the middle, the opposition is naturally drawn to exploit the wings.
The below video beautifully explains all the aspects of Simeone’s formation and tactics especially the similarity with Sacchi’s system.