Gone are the days of Agüero, Luis Perea, Griezmann, Godín, Falcao and the late (retired, not dead) el niño. Even with these departures however, there has been a steady constant in the form of Diego Simeone. Critics have called his style of play boring, pointing fingers at their champions League triumph under the, now questionable, soon-to-be premier League and European champions. Should style count more than substance? After all, a wins a win, regardless of how you achieve it. For Simeone, that comes in the form of defending deep and countering continuously, tho Jürgen Klopp wouldn’t after.
Rojiblancos have had their fair share of highs and lows, but since the arrival of Simeone and the adaptation of the Cholismo philosophy, their erratic form of yesteryear has been stabilised, with steady advancement to boot.” So how has this change come about?
Simeone was appointed mid way through the 2011/12 season. Instantaneously showing an impact, taking Rojiblancos from 10th to a cool 5th place finish alongside the silverware of the Europa League. Since 12/13 Simeone has not finished below 3rd either. This can be attributed to the creation of the “Cholismo” philosophy.
It’s principles are those of defensive solidity, a team rapid in both transitions- following the loss and recovery of the ball- detailed tactical organisation, pragmatism, aggression, and an incredible desire to win. ‘Partido a partido’- one match at a time. Simeone focused on the mechanics and not the formation, he wanted to get into the players mentality, rather than shuffle the board with the same pieces. If a player has the mentality to want to be at the club and wants to achieve their own goal for this club, that’s where success comes from. Simeone drove the hunger for success into these players. Prime examples are Diego Godin and Saul Niguez, players who found their peak abilities through Simeones coaching.A bit more of a justification rather than the team who parks the bus.
Following these principles Simeone was able to make Rojiblancos more compact with a strong spine through the team. Therefore under Simeones genius, they would attack as a team and aggressively. Atleti would stand off their opposition team mates in order to give them space to move into and then unleash their trap of closing down as a team turning defence into attack instantly as one. This could be seen very clearly at the Liverpool match at Anfield. It’s not the tiky tacka of Barcelona or the free flowing football of the once great Arsenal, but it’s a style that is unique and is very difficult to achieve. Style is all for show and looks good but if you aren’t getting the results it really means nothing.
Atleti had been noted to have decreased their average time in their own box to 26% in the 13/14 season. This is thanks to the quick transitioning of Cholismo.
For a manager to be able to instil so much confidence in his players that they are happy to have less possession throughout the game and will patiently wait to pounce like a tiger is exceptional. The influx of players in and out has also been down to Diego, keeping players very correlative when selling and buying. For example Falcao replaced by Diego Costa, Arda Turan replaced by Correa and Godin replaced by Theo Hernandez. Almost exact matches ability wise. This is a major factor in order for Cholismo to work correctly.
This style of football is brave and exceptional. It’s football at its finest art form, defend an attack together then counter at great speed together. Simple yet so effective. This is why substance should take over style, it’s more of a team effort. Any player can show style but in this day and age it’s difficult to find a real footballing team.
Corona virus has put an indefinite end to the La Liga season this year with Rojiblancos sitting 6th and in the last 8 of the Champions League. Simeone has done absolute wonders for Atleti since his appointment and will hopefully continue to uncoil his Cholismo philosophy for many more years.