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Tactical Team Analysis: Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid

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Tactical Team Analysis: Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid
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Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid; a detailed tactical analysis on how Simeone has transformed Atletico Madrid this 2020/2021 season

Recent trends in football have seen more teams applying pressure to the ball carrier particularly high up the pitch. Atletico Madrid is one of these clubs, and are one of the most aggressive and high pressing teams in Europe so far this season.

Diego Simeone typically sets his side up to defend in a 4-4-2 shape when out of possession. They are an extremely aggressive and high pressing side which we will see through the following data and illustrations. A signature of Atletico’s defense, is their ability to stay compact in their shape even when pressing high. They manage to do this by adapting a few key principles.

  • The use of a high backline
  • Aggressive shifting both laterally and vertically
  • TEAM pressing

They are also very well to maintain shape and compactness due to their aggressive back pressing and intensity in all 3 lines. When a line of pressure is broken, they work to get to the ball side again, or simply apply pressure to the ball carrier from behind.

Atletico Madrid’s PPDA (Passes per defensive action) in the 2020/21 season so far

In the 2020/21 season, Atletico have a PPDA of 7.51. This is the highest PPDA among all teams in Europe´s top 5 leagues. This quantifies what can be seen when watching Atletico Madrid, sustained high pressures with aggression and intensity.

A deeper look at the underlying numbers can give a better understanding of the pressing system used by Atletico. With 146.1 pressures per 90, Atletico Madrid is rank second in La Liga in this metric. It is important to remember that this total number will be affected by the teams total time out of possession as well.

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Where we can really see the high pressing nature of Atletico’s system is pressures in the final third. With 41.1 pressures per 90 in the attacking third , Atletico Madrid lead the league by nearly 5 pressures. With so much emphasis on high pressures, their pressure in the middle third is off a bit, relative to the rest of the league.

Here they average 65.3 pressures per 90, third highest in the league. Their pressures in the defensive third also drop a little bit, due to the fact that most of their focus on pressing occurs high up the pitch.

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Here is a good example of their ability to press high up the pitch, with intensity and collectiveness:

Speed and energy of each individual’s pressure, combined with their front foot defending and understanding that their teammates will also be applying pressure and covering space behind.

What is so impressive in Atletico Madrid’s 2020/2021 system?

What is so impressive about Atletico Madrid’’s system, is the successful nature of their approach. It is not just simply aggression and intensity without a plan, their systematic approach allows them to win the ball at a very high rate. With 46.0 successful pressures per 90, they rank third in La Liga.

This is “the number of times the squad gained possession within 5 seconds of applying pressure.” Their successful pressure percentage of 31.5% (second in La Liga) is another metric which demonstrates the collectiveness in their pressing. This metric measures the “percentage of times the squad gained possession within 5 seconds of applying pressure.” I think it can be valuable to highlight that regaining possession does not always have to mean winning the ball high up the pitch. Atletico Madrid does such a great job of pressing and counter pressing that often they simply force the opposition into long passes or clearances, which they are able to recover due in part to their high backline and pressure all over the pitch. They are able to achieve this through one of the most common tactical concepts in football.

Atletico Madrid – Best at challenge intensity in all of Europe’s top five leagues this 2020/2021 season

Atletico Madrid’s impressive rankings in defensive metrics does not end here. In all of Europe´s top 5 leagues, they also rank second highest in Challenge Intensity, with 7.6. Challenge intensity measure the total number of duels, tackles and interceptions per minute of opponent possession. Making them concede the least number of goals(6) in Europe’s top 5 leagues.

This team’s intensity is also highlighted by the fact that Atletico Madrid also has the most recoveries (number of loose balls recovered) in La Liga so far this season with 1,259 recoveries.

The difference from previous seasons is, Atletico Madrid has been more aggressive without fouling their opponents. Which concludes the fact that their aggressive nature has been more innovative than before.

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