Diego Simeone’s Tactics for Atletico Madrid in the 2023/2024 Season

March 19, 2024

by xfcedi

By Eduard Bănulescu

Diego Simeone’s career at Atletico Madrid, both as a player and as a manager, is the stuff of legend. His commitment on the field made him a fan favourite. And his tactics turned Atletico Madrid into a team genuinely capable of best rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

And he has not shown signs of stopping yet. Indeed, the tactical changes he has made during the 2023/2024 season have turned Atleti into an attacking force. Today, I am looking at Diego Simeone’s tactics and trying to decipher how his team operates in 2024.

Career Prior to Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone was as a player very much as he is a manager. Nicknamed “El Cholo,” Simeone earned the reputation of being one of the toughest defenders in football.

His career started in his native Argentina, where he represented Velez Sarsfield for three seasons. Then, in 1990, he got the chance to move to Serie A, where he played for Pisa.

Simeone’s career really picked up pace once he was asked to join Sevilla in La Liga. He next did the double, playing for Atletico Madrid, before being poached by Inter Milan. Simeone was part of Lazio’s highly successful late 2000s side before returning to Atletico Madrid and ending his career back in Argentina, playing for Racing Club.

Simeone started his managerial career in 2006, helping Racing. A number of jobs in Argentina followed. Then, in 2011, somewhat surprisingly, he got the opportunity to manage Atletico Madrid. Simeone grabbed the opportunity, leading Atleti to two La Liga trophies, two Europa League winners medals, and runner-up places in the Champions League.

Football Philosophy

Diego Simeone, more than any other modern manager, is associated with an old-fashioned, tough defensive style. “Simeone players” tend to be defenders willing to sacrifice themselves for the better of the team. Atletico is known as a team that is willing to suffer to get results.

His tactical blueprint is built on a rock-solid defence, meticulous organization, and a counter-attacking prowess that strikes with the precision of a well-oiled machine. This is a team that mirrors Simeone’s own image: tenacious, relentless, and unwavering in the face of adversity.

However, the 2023/2024 has brought some notable changes. Atletico has been scoring goals, including lots of them. His Atlético side remains formidable, but there’s a noticeable shift towards a more balanced approach, integrating creative midfield play and dynamic attacking movements without sacrificing their trademark defensive solidity.

Yes, overall results haven’t been quite as remarkable as in the past. And, yes, this leads to speculation about Simeone’s future. One thing is clear – Diego Simeone will go down as one of the most famous managers in Atletico Madrid’s history.

Formations and adaptability

Diego Simeone is best known for using a 4-4-2 formation at Atlético Madrid. This tactical setup has become synonymous with his tenure at the club, emphasizing a strong defensive structure, compact midfield lines, and effective counter-attacking football.

In the 2023/2024 season, Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid showcases tactical flexibility and adaptability, hallmark traits of his evolving football philosophy. Traditionally anchored in a rigid 4-4-2 formation, Simeone’s latest approach exhibits a more fluid system, oscillating between a 4-3-3 to accommodate attacking play and a 5-3-2 for enhanced defensive solidity.

This, together with the squad he has available, allows Simeone to have players exploit space better and create more goal-scoring opportunities. The team’s creativity is dependent on Antoine Griezmann’s skill and exceptional movement. Meanwhile, the likes of Koke or Stefan Savic add the defensive grit for which the team is best known.

Diego Simeone Antonio Conte

Atletico Madrid in Defense

While it is true that defensively, Atletico is no longer the best team in La Liga, and that, by contrast, they’ve increased their goal-scoring tally, the basic principles have remained the same.

The team’s defensive approach is built around a compact, disciplined structure, with players working cohesively to maintain shape and limit space for opponents. Simeone’s side employs a deep-lying defensive line coupled with intense pressing from the front, aiming to disrupt the opposition’s rhythm and force turnovers.

Within the 3-5-2 formation that the team has generally used, the wing-backs are known to press down to create a five-man defensive unit. The wing-backs in this system are crucial, offering width in attack while also dropping back to form a five-man defense when under pressure. Their stamina, pace, and tactical intelligence are vital, as they need to transition quickly between defensive duties and supporting the forwards.

Typically, one of the central midfielders, most likely Koke, will drop further down to assist the central defenders. Koke has averaged 1.9 tackles and 0.5 interceptions per game in La Liga this season.

atletico madrid tactics formation

Atletico Madrid in Attack

Atletico has long been blamed for making the modern games less interesting by prioritizing attack over defence. This hasn’t been the case this season, as Simeone has made the best of the goal-scoring threat of the likes of Alvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann. The attacking potential of Marcos Llorente, Angel Correa and Memphis Depay should also be noted.

The shift towards a 3-5-2 formation has allowed Atlético to be more versatile and fluid in attack, utilizing the width provided by the wing-backs to stretch defences and create space.

Central to their attacking strategy is the role of the midfielders and wing-backs in facilitating transitions and providing support to the front two. The team emphasizes quick, direct movements to exploit spaces, with an increased focus on combination play and overlapping runs from the wing-backs to add depth to their attacks. The forward partnership, vital in this setup, relies on mobility and interchanging positions to disrupt defensive lines and create scoring opportunities.

What next for Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid?

Speculation about Diego Simeone possibly leaving Atletico Madrid was, at least, partially laid to rest when the manager signed a contract extension that should keep them at the club until 2027.

The club clearly still has a lot of belief in the manager’s long-term vision. This year, they are still engaged in what has turned out to be a difficult Champions League qualification battle against teams like Michel’s Girona alongside their more familiar rivals. They’ve also eliminated Inter Milan from the Champions League, and the club has high hopes.

Regardless of the outcome, Simeone has proved to be one of the great managers of his generation and a true Atletico Madrid legend.



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