EL CHOLO SIMEONE’S3-5-2 ATLETICO 2023-2024
Atlético Madrid, under the strategic guidance of Diego Simeone, has undergone a significant transformation from a defensively solid team to an ambitious attacking force. The recent 3-1 victory over Real Madrid showcased their prowess, with Álvaro Morata leading the charge with a brace.
In the 2022/23 season, Atletico finished as the form side in Spain, emphasizing their attacking shift. Simeone's adoption of a modern 352 formation has allowed for a more expressive style, leading to an upsurge in goal-scoring opportunities. The team's midfield boasts a blend of experience and youthful energy, while the defensive trio of Giménez, Savić, and Hermoso, along with goalkeeper Jan Oblak, form a formidable structure.
The return of Antoine Griezmann in 2022 has been pivotal, with the Frenchman evolving into a playmaker, contributing significantly to the team's success. The squad's depth, experience, and European pedigree position Atlético Madrid as a serious contender in both domestic and international competitions.
Despite a setback in the UEFA Champions League group stage last year, the team's competitiveness and Simeone's tactical prowess make them strong contenders for silverware in the 2023-24 season.
Diego Simeone's strategic shift from the long-standing 4-4-2 formation to the 3-5-2 system has proven highly successful for Atlético Madrid. The new system, implemented seamlessly, offers defensive stability and enhances the team's attacking prowess.
In the 3-5-2 setup, one central midfielder drops deeper, providing the fullbacks with more freedom to advance, while forming a solid backline to prevent counters. Notably, Simeone often integrates a fullback from the previous 4-4-2 formation into the back three, creating a dynamic 5-man midfield.
The addition of a designated No. 10, like Àngel Correa, operating between the lines and linking with the midfield, adds a new dimension to Atlético's play. The formation allows for temporary numerical advantages in specific areas, especially with the far-side wingback stretching the pitch.
Remarkably, the 3-5-2 formation suits the strengths of each player, showcasing Simeone's understanding of their capabilities. The midfield stability is maintained through the "one up, one down" strategy with players like Koke and Saúl. The defense, a longstanding strength of Atlético, remains formidable, conceding only 25 goals in the season with Jan Oblak providing exceptional goalkeeping.
The off-the-ball structure is highly organized, making it challenging for opponents to find spaces between the lines. The defensive structure is adaptable, shifting between a back 5 and back 6 under pressure, showcasing Simeone's tactical flexibility.
ANALYSIS OF THE IN POSSESSION PHASE
Here's a summary of the key points:
Shift to Possession-Based Style: Atlético has transitioned from a direct approach to a possession-based style, facilitated by the presence of technical players like Luis Suárez (not more in the club) João Félix (currently at Barcelona) Ángel Correa, and Thomas Lemar.
Building with Three at the Back: The build-up phase starts with three players, providing a numerical advantage in the first phase. This allows for more options and flexibility in possession. The wing-backs push high, stretching the opposition and creating space through the middle.
Midfield Link in Build-Up: A midfielder often drops deep to aid in the build-up, creating passing angles and assisting in transitioning from defense to attack. The presence of a midfielder between the lines allows for dangerous passes through the middle.
Utilizing High Wing-Backs: Having high wing-backs stretches the opponent's defense, opening up more spaces through the middle. The wing-backs become viable options for long passes, offering a direct attacking option.
Adaptation of Center-Backs: Center-backs play a crucial role in the build-up, requiring good passing skills. Players between the lines must be well-positioned to receive passes and exploit spaces.
Mixing Direct Approaches: While Atlético primarily focuses on building from the back, they occasionally employ a more direct approach, especially with the mobility of their strikers like Suárez.
Smart Long Balls and Strategic Play: Long balls in behind the opposition can surprise defenders, and this strategy contributes to the overall build-up, making opponents more hesitant to press.
Marcos Llorente's Contribution: Marcos Llorente's attacking movements from midfield, his runs in behind, and flexibility provide additional options for Atlético. His ability to attack from deep adds dynamism to the team's play.
ANALYSIS OF ATLETICO'S SHAPE OUT OF POSSESSION
Atletico's shape out of possession was the key to the victory against Real Madrid on September 24th,
Here are some key points:
Formation Shift to 5-3-2: Atlético has transitioned from a traditional 4-4-2 defensive setup to a 5-3-2 formation when not in possession. This involves dropping a midfielder into the defensive line and using wing-backs to provide defensive width.
Defensive Flexibility: The shift to 5-3-2 allows Atlético to strengthen the central defensive areas, providing better coverage against passes between the lines. The presence of three central midfielders enhances flexibility in defensive positioning.
Center-Back Cover: When defenders step up to pressure opponents near the defensive line, having an additional centre-back in the 5-3-2 formation provides cover. This reduces the risk of leaving space behind the defensive line when pressing.
Potential Weakness to Smart Opponents: Smart opponents can exploit the movement of defenders stepping up, drawing them out of position and creating spaces behind. Well-timed movements can lead to opportunities for the attacking team.
Lateral Movement Challenge: The 5-3-2 formation can be challenging when the ball is switched from side to side, requiring the three central midfielders to shift laterally continuously. This can lead to fatigue over the course of the game.
Centre-Backs Pressing High: In some situations, the nearest centre-back jumps up to press the opponent when the midfielder is not close enough. While this helps in immediate pressing, it can create spaces behind if opponents exploit it intelligently.
Isolation of Opponent's Full-Back: When pressing high, Atlético may leave the opponent's full-back alone, providing an easy outlet for the opponent to play out from the back. The lack of traditional wingers makes it challenging to press both central and wide areas simultaneously.
Adaptability: Despite the shift to 5-3-2, Atlético retains the ability to revert to a 4-4-2 formation when needed. This adaptability allows them to switch between defensive setups based on the game situation.
Effective Defensive Record: Atlético's defensive changes have resulted in a solid defensive record, conceding only 14 goals in the league during the analyzed season, the lowest in La Liga at that time.
To Atletico's merit, they significantly limited Real's opportunities to create shots in the match. Despite Real's twenty attempts, their expected goals (xG) were only 0.85, highlighting a scarcity of clear-cut chances, especially considering that half of their shots originated from outside the penalty area. It's important not to oversimplify conclusions based solely on this game. However, the issues discussed here may reveal underlying challenges that Real Madrid could encounter throughout the season in European competitions and in crucial matchups like Clásicos and Derbis Madrileños, which might play a pivotal role in determining the Spanish title this season.
Atletico will aim to capitalize on this positive momentum as they face Osasuna on the road before hosting Cádiz, Feyenoord, and Real Sociedad at the beginning of October. On the other hand, Real Madrid made a comeback with a 2-0 victory against newly promoted Las Palmas. Brahim Díaz, given a rare start, opened the scoring before halftime, and Joselu added a second goal in the 54th minute.
In conclusion, Simeone’s out of possession phase works as follows:
The entire team demonstrates a collective commitment to defending, forcing opponents wide and limiting space in the final third.
Defending midfielders and recovering forwards play precise roles in protecting their designated areas.
Simeone emphasizes the basics of defending, drilling his players to work hard and minimize space in the defensive third.
The simplicity of defending, coupled with a strong work ethic, contributes to Atlético's defensive success.
Despite the defensive success, there are challenges in the transition to a back three, as seen in occasional defensive lapses.
Higher-quality teams with pace can exploit vulnerabilities in the new defensive shape, requiring improved comfort and adaptability.
Concentration and awareness are crucial in Simeone's defensive system, and lapses can be exploited by opponents.
The players need to be fully comfortable and aware of their roles in the new defensive setup.
Simeone has compromised his traditional "defend first" philosophy to allow more attacking freedom for creative players.
Atlético's defensive system limits the opposition's chances and forces them to shoot from range.
HOW TO EMULATE THIS TACTIC ON FOOTBALL MANAGER 2024
Let's explore how I replicated Simeone's strategy in Football Manager 2024.
As said before, Atlético Madrid adopts a 3-5-2 formation, relying on the width provided by their wing-backs and occasional overlapping of wide-centre backs, particularly on the left side. The right-sided central midfielder takes charge of advancing and attacking the right half-space, while the central and left-sided midfielder form a sort of double-pivot. The two forwards aim to engage central defenders, with Griezmann assuming a deep-lying foward role by dropping deep and exploiting the space created by his strike partner, who pins and pushes back defenses to create depth.
In defensive phases, the 3-5-2 transitions into a 5-3-2. They focus on keeping their midfield and forwards narrow, safeguarding central areas to force opponents out wide. When defending the flanks, the team shifts over to maintain a compact and narrow shape, ensuring protection of the channels.
Deploying three defenders provides Atletico with a numerical edge during the initial stages of constructing their plays. The central defenders take on the responsibility of initiating the team's actions. Simultaneously, midfielders positioned between the lines strive to locate open spaces within the midfield. Opting for this formation alleviates the need for wing-backs to contribute to the buildup, as their counterparts generate an advantage in the midfield. Consequently, the wing-backs operate in advanced positions, with Simeone's approach involving positioning them exceptionally wide, right along the touchlines. This strategic choice serves to stretch the opposing team, creating additional space in the midfield and providing ample room on the flanks.
- Team instructions
Mentality: Positive ( in the second tactic to use against stronger opponent, the mentality is Balanced)
Attacking width: Fairly wide
Play out of defense
Focus play through the middle: as said before, Simeone wants the 3 defenders and the midfielders to build the play overloading the central area while the two wing-backs stay wider to stretch the opposition defense creating middle spaces to be exploited.
Overlap left and right: wing-backs overlap on the two sides offering more passing options and also crossing the ball to the 2 forwards
Shorter passing: to help the team to retain more possession
Tempo: slightly higher
Pass into spaces: after overloading the central areas and stretching the opposition defense through the two wide wing-backs, Atletico exploits the middle spaces
Play for set pieces to control possession more
Work Ball Into Box
Be More Expressive: compared to the 4-4-2 used some years ago, Simeone now gives more freedom to his players, having many technical players like Saul, De Paul, Depay and of course Griezmann.
Regroup: when possession is lost, Simeone does not want his team to press high and win the ball immediately, instead he wants his players to stay back in their half and close all spaces until they win the ball back.
Counter: once possession is won, Simeone wants his team to launch fast counter-attacks exploiting spaces left behind by the opponent
- Pass to the central defenders: the 3 central defenders are responsible to build the play from the back
- Take short kicks
Out of possession
Pressing Line: higher. In the second tactic to use against stronger opponents, we use a mid block (against Manchester City I even used a low block combined with a lower defensive line)
Defensive Line: Higher In the second tactic we use a standard defensive line
Pressing: More Often
Prevent Short GK Distribution
Trap outside: as said before , opposition are forced to go wide and attempt to feed crosses into the area, this also can force the player with the ball to make wrong passes because the sideline can be used as an additional defender (since the opponent has only 3 directions where he can pass or dribble and not 4)
Stop crosses: I added this instruction because I want to reduce chances for the opposition to score.
Player Roles and Instructions
GK: Oblak: Sweeper-keeper on defend, no instructions
RCB:Gimenez: Wide Center-Back on defend, no instructions.
CD: Witsel: Ball-Playing Defender on defend, he helps the most with building the play from the back. Instructions: close down more, mark tighter,
LCB: Hermoso: Wide Center- Back on defend: dribble less.
The Wide Center Back role has already the “stay wider” instruction active, it’s a preset instruction on Football Manager. This is exactly what we want because in Simeone’s formation, the wide-center backs stay wider to cover spaces on the sides left by the overlapping wing-backs and sometimes they also move forward to support the attack. This is especially true for the left wide-center back (Mario Hermoso)
RFB: Nahuel Molina: Complete Wing- Back on support: run wide with ball, mark tighter, close down more.
LFB: Javi Galan (or Samuel Lino): Complete Wing- Back on support: run wide with ball, mark tighter, close down more, dribble more.
I chose the complete wing-back on support role for Molina and Galan because what Simeone wants from his wing-backs is that they stay much wider to stretch the opposition defense creating middle spaces and also they often overlap to receive ball and shoot or cross.
Why on support? Because in Football Manager, choosing a “support” mentality for a player instructs him to help in both defensive and attacking phases, another reason is the presence of 3 central defenders who are also helping to build the play more than defending. If I choose the attacking mentality for the 2 wing-backs too, this would probably harm the tactical balance and allow too many chances to the opponent. The support mentality for Molina and Galan is a good compromise.
DM: Koke: Deep-Lying Playmaker on defend: close down more.
Koke is the core of Atletico’s possession phase, he builds the play in the central area together with the other 2 midfielders and the three defenders.
RCM: Rodrigo De Paul: Box to Box Midfielder on support: mark tighter, shoot more often.
De Paul is good on both defensive and attacking play and he has 15 on long shots ( personally I think he should have a higher value but that’s what Football Manager creators decided) so I instructed him to shoot more often.
LCM: Saul: Mezzala-support: no instructions. I set him on support because I want him to help in building the play and overloading the central area, and controlling possession.
RF: Griezmann: for Griezmann, I chose a Deep-Lying Forward in support role, with no instructions. He will naturally drop down to link the play and receive the ball from the midfielders and I think it works better than a False 9 role.
LF: Alvaro Morata: Advanced Forward on attack: Dribble Less, Shoot More Often, Roam from Position
Morata has to focus only on scoring, I instructed him to roam from position because he is great off the ball (his value is 16) and in searching for the correct position to receive the ball and pass or shoot.
This is all for this tactic. I tested it with Atletico, won the Liga and Supercopa del Rey, and then tried it on holiday mode too with Monaco and finished 4 th in Ligue 1.
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