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“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Thoughts: The Simeone-Fication of Madrid

I’m intrigued by what Atletico Madrid is doing, tactically. The Bielsa-fication of football? Maybe more like the Simeone-fication.

The concept particularly of picking your spots on defence, manufacturing or setting up specific moments and areas in which you can win the ball, is intriguing. I’m not sure if this came across in the BSports article (http://www.bsports.com/statsinsights/football/la-liga-column-1). But yes, this concept of trapping in defence and exploding into offence was the overriding fascination of the piece.

And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe this strategy has been as explicitly used before as it is now by Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone.

More success to come?
The Simeone-Fication of Atletico
It is like in rugby, forcing turnovers at specific moments or areas by perhaps targeting a specific opposition player. New Zealand does it. Isolate a ‘weaker’ opponent (technically) and the win turnover (through Richie McCaw, Andrew Hore, these crazy guys). In basketball also? Trapping. Trapping a ‘dumb’ opponent, winning the ball and opening up for the fast break. That is Atletico right there, in fact.

Even so, the scope to do this in football is so much different. More difficult. The area of play is bigger, for one. Imagine trapping an opponent with three guys, say on the right flank. Not only do those three guys have to be exceptionally quick to get there in time, but if by chance they are unable to execute, you have opened up acres of space elsewhere.

But, it’s possible. Trap Antonio Valencia, for example. You more or less know what he will try to do. As soon as he gets the ball, a fullback blocks the pathway for the run forward, the central midfielder joins to block avenues for the pass sideways and the winger pressurises to win the ball.

So, it’s intriguing as a concept. It takes insane discipline from the players and they have to completely buy into the idea. Fortunately for Simeone, that is what Atletico’s players have done, and some.

The drawback is the physical nature of this tactic, its extreme demands on the body. It takes so much out of you, no wonder, for example, Atletico ran out of steam in La Liga last season.

It’s a template for smaller teams, though. Out-hustle. And then punish; ruthlessly, relentlessly.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please comment and share.


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