Jake Meador for Just Football:
Diego Simeone has shown Europe how to beat Spain’s two giants. The model is relatively simple, though executing it is not:
- Sit deep and stay compact so as to eliminate space for high skill players in attacking central areas and force the attack wide.
- Move as a unit left or right to follow the ball and limit the opponent’s time and space on the ball.
- Use quick, powerful players in advanced attacking roles that can lead quick bursting counter attacks when given opportunity.
Malaga did each of those things spectacularly well on Saturday. Defenders Weligton and Marcos Angeleri as well as goalkeeper Carlos Kameni deserve a great deal of credit for their role in the Islander defense. Obviously such an approach won’t make for exciting, attacking football but it does put a team in a position to compete with richer, more talented opponents. It also sets them up to benefit when the opponent makes a mistake, as the Catalans did several times today.
It’s not a new formula; it’s the basic formula for sitting deep and catching teams on the counter. The brilliance of Atlético Madrid has more to do with nuances in the tactic and the constantly brilliant execution.