How Diego Simeone Revolutionized Atletico Madrid

Simeone’s efforts to evolve his side into a more exciting attacking outfit had seemingly failed, and a lackluster exit from the Champions League group stage marked the first time in his tenure that Atletico had crashed out of Europe entirely before Christmas. However, a swift upturn in performances and results saw his side end the 22-23 campaign as the form team in Spain, scoring more goals and losing fewer games than Real Madrid and champions Barcelona in the second half.

  • The Transformation

To understand how Simeone has reinvented Atletico Madrid, we must first cast our memory back two years. Far from an overnight transformation, the more attack-minded Atleti we see today first took shape in their triumphant 2020-21 campaign. They scored over 60 league goals for the first time in four seasons on their way to a La Liga title.

  • Tactical Shift

Simeone’s tactical shift was key to this transformation. He moved away from his well-worn 4-4-2 formation to a more dynamic 3-5-2 shape. This change maximized the abilities of Yannick Carrasco and Kieran Trippier as wingbacks, rejuvenating their careers. Players like Thomas Lemar and Marcos Llorente were reinvented as central attacking midfielders, with Koke taking on the role of a deep controller. Mario Hermoso became one of the side’s main distributors from the back, kicking off each attack with his incisive passing.

  • Improved Productivity

These changes made Atleti a far more productive side in the final third. Having finished the previous campaign with just 51 goals, the lowest tally of Simeone’s tenure in Madrid, they ended 2021 with 67, the third-highest in the league. They also averaged over 50% possession across the campaign, a first under Simeone, showing the manager’s willingness to evolve the side’s style of play.

  • Analyzing Results

Despite the changes, the side’s results were deceptive. They only registered 1.4 expected goals per game, the sixth-best record in the league and down from 1.5 the previous campaign when they scored 16 fewer goals. While expected goals alone are not a definitive indication of a team’s overall performance, it indicated that Simeone’s side were not as dominant as the league table suggested.

  • A Turnaround

However, after the World Cup break, Simeone’s side began to improve. Key moves, including loaning Joao Felix to Chelsea and bringing back Antoine Griezmann, reshaped the squad. Griezmann, in particular, started to shine, benefiting from playing in a more technical, possession-based system. He ended the campaign with 15 goals and 16 assists, his best goal contribution record.

  • The Impact of Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann’s resurgence was pivotal to Atletico Madrid’s return to form. His ability to link up play and set up teammates, like Alvaro Morata, made a significant difference. With Griezmann’s contribution, Atleti ended the campaign with 70 goals, the same as Champions Barcelona, marking a resurgence in their attacking prowess.

Diego Simeone’s tactical adaptability and the resurgence of key players like Antoine Griezmann have been instrumental in Atletico Madrid’s transformation. While they still face strong competition in La Liga, if Griezmann continues to perform at his current level, they have a genuine shot at securing the elusive league title. Simeone’s ability to evolve his team and adapt to changing circumstances proves that he remains one of the top managers in the game.