The reinvention of Simeone

Cholo has given one more turn to his new system with three centrals. With Koke at the pivot, Lemar on the inside and Correa on the wing, he is impregnable.


Atlético dominate LaLiga and against Sevilla took a giant step to consummate the winter championship despite having played two rounds less than Real Madrid and Barcelona, their first pursuers. A team led for more than nine years by a Simeone who, far from having settled into immobility, is more innovative than ever.

El Cholo, along with Nélson Vivas as second, has put into practice the saying 'renew or die' and has done so with a daring style and so far with unappealable results. Atlético started the season with their traditional 4-4-2 that they have been accompanying the coach for so many years (the favorite system since the 2012-13 season, with the pair above Falcao and Diego Costa), but with certain modifications. Against Granada, in a close game with a 6-1 win, Koke started playing double pivot, something he had been doing sporadically every year, but without regularity, since the captain always ended up on the wing. A midfielder with Saúl who allowed him to place two vertical and very offensive players on the sides (Correa and Carrasco), with João Félix with total freedom of movement and Costa at the top. A system that empowered the Portuguese, at the cost of losing muscle in the middle, and a team that was looking hard for the goal, leaving behind Savic and Felipe and on the sides Trippier and Lodi.

At that meeting, Llorente, a newcomer to the team, and a Thomas whose future remained in the air, waited from the bench. However, the two punctures against Huesca and Villarreal led Simeone to his first turn of the screw. Now without the Ghanaian in the club, Atlético visited Balaídos with his classic four-back defense (Manu Sánchez of great novelty), again Koke in the double pivot, this time with the debutant Torreira, Correa and Lemar on the sides and two classic tips above, Suárez and Costa. An experiment that went well until the Hispanic-Brazilian broke. Less game between the lines without João, but two references above so that one would go down to receive and touch face and the other would throw the unmarking into space. They would not meet again on the field in an eleven until the departure of Costa.

Munich, before and after

The team generated chances, always with the clear mission of supplying balls to Suárez in the area, the great promoter of the change of style, but with the first big stone in the way came the hit. The visit to the almighty Bayern, who does not forgive the chances he has and who destroyed an Atleti with his definition that generated danger but did not materialize his opportunities. A very hard 4-0, but one that probably helped Simeone to take the step and make a decision: to place a line of three centrals with two lanes. Something that allowed a greater shield to continue betting on Koke in the middle, a player who gives a lot of fluidity to the game and tactical rigor and who has completely empowered players like Hermoso or Trippier. The Englishman, accustomed to playing as a winger with his national team, is more comfortable than ever, contributing a lot in attack and always having Savic behind him watching his back.

With Hermoso, he gains a great exit of the ball from behind and is less exposed to the melee with the rival striker, where he suffers more than his teammates Giménez, Felipe and Savic. Enhance your strengths and hide the game phases that may cost you more. In addition, the Madrilenian has a versatility that allows him to play as a left back when the game requires it. All this boosted by the total defensive commitment shown by Carrasco, who does not stop working the left wing. His great reward came against Barcelona, where he scored the winning goal. A change of system that has also led to the best Herrera since his arrival at Atleti. On the other side of the scale, players like Lodi or Saúl have suffered a loss of prominence and Torreira or Kondogbia have made it more difficult to enter the schemes.

Lemar conditions the new eleven

However, when Simeone seemed to have found his ideal eleven with Savic-Giménez-Hermoso, forming a three-back line that frees the pivots and Trippier and Carrasco from attacking lanes, with Koke in the middle with a companion more positional between Saúl, Herrera, Torreira or Kondogbia, Llorente ahead, João Félix or Correa as second striker and Luis Suárez at the top, a new modification in the system has arrived, where a drop in the performance of João Félix is added, with problems on the ankle, with Lemar's game explosion.

Simeone has always said that he does not marry anyone and that whoever can offer the best performance will play, something that has become clear with the last substitutions of players of the weight of the Portuguese or Saúl. Lemar took a step forward in Atlético's only mole in the league, when he was surpassed by Madrid in the derby and his entry was one of the team's few lights in the second half. Since then, he has been more and more protagonist. He adds five consecutive league games in the eleven, in a more interior position that has caused Cholo to have modified his scheme to see the best level of the Frenchman, more similar than ever to the one who went to find Monaco.

In order for Lemar to be able to occupy that position as a playmaker with freedom of movement, Koke has lowered his position to the pivot, the player with the greatest responsibility in getting the ball out, but also defensively with the great mission of preventing the team from breaking. The captain steps on less area, loses his last pass, looks less, but offers tactical rigor and impeccable dark work. Llorente must also delay his position, now in defense closer to the double pivot in which he lived for so long before exploding with Simeone as an offensive player. Of course, without losing their diagonals to space that do so much damage to rivals. For his part, Lemar offers a lot of deployment to be the first to go to the pressure and cover any gap, mainly on the left wing, doubling Carrasco at work.

But also, Correa has entered through João Félix to position himself closer to the right side, something that opens spaces inside and provides a lot of work against powerful teams like Sevilla. The Argentine offers greater physical display, back and forth and defensive rigor and composes a team where everyone sacrifices and that, with the score in favor, becomes a practically impregnable fortress. In attack, the 10 'has total freedom to move inside with Trippier always reaching the baseline.

Now, Cholo is forced to shake his squad again, since he loses to Ipurua due to a penalty against Koke, perhaps the most important player on the field, and Hermoso suffered a sprained ankle that makes him doubtful. Furthermore, the arrival of Dembélé offers a new alternative for Simeone. A fast tip, with the ability to run into space and that can enhance the counterattack. Once the transition is over, we are seeing a new Atlético, very rich tactically and who does not renounce anything thanks to a squad whose internal competence will determine which is the ceiling of the team.

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