Simeone’s men: reckless thugs or tactical genius?

Robbie looks at whether or not Cholo has the balance of aggression right

Miranda shown the red card by the referee

Miranda shown the red card by the referee

There is a common conception that Diego Simeone’s hard-working Atletico Madrid side are just one tackle away from losing their heads completely and entering a world of unmitigated aggression.

It seems somewhat simplistic for a team of men who are coached by Simeone, who famously covers all angles of approach, from the mental side of things to the physical and technical.

The question must be asked, at what point does Atletico’s aggression turn from being a tactic to being out of control and detrimental to their success.

There is a telling stat, or set of stats that points a few things out in relation to this aspect of Atletico’s play. Los Colchoneros rank 5th overall in terms of cards received across the top five leagues in Spain. They have received 93 in total including 88 yellows and 5 reds.

The yellow cards make is remarkably high. The red card mark is remarkably average and five is nothing to be ashamed of considering the brand of football they play and the fact that they are still stark underdogs within the realms of La Liga.

The yellow cards are divided up into categories. Curiously, Atleti have received 28 for “other” within the Squawka rankings. This would point towards a certain amount of “extra-curricular activity” that Atletico Madrid players are involved in.

They enjoy a little bit of enticing referees and opposing players. This Atletico Madrid team knows exactly how to gain influence and build a siege mentality, it seems. Jose Mourinho is but a pretender to the throne of influential managers. It is Cholo Simeone who holds the crown.

The dearly departed Diego Costa is a very good example of a player who learned the “Simeone way”. A man either loved or hate for his constant battles with opposing players. He kicks, flails arms, throws elbows and stares down opposition centre-backs constantly in any given 90 minutes of football.

To the layman, he is out of control but you rarely see Costa getting red carded. He can take yellows and still not be lost to his team, aside from the odd rest day.

Atletico have four players within the top 100 players with poor discipline. That includes the hot-head Mario Mandzukic, two defensively styled midfielders in Gabi and Mario Suarez and the anchor at the back in Diego Godin.

There is too many things pointing towards a pattern of intelligent and controlled aggression to suggest that Atletico are a team of uncontrolled thugs. Much of the success Simeone has built at Atletico has involved gaining influence and the upper hand in crucial games.

Atletico’s hard running and aggressive style of pressing lends itself to fatigue. rotation is necessary at a point. It seems as though Simeone has figured out that if he must rest a player, he might as well earn his rest with an accumulation of cards.

Again, this possibly sounds too much like some kind of plot from a James Bond movie by the evil villain but Simeone covers all angles and he has done quite the job of turning the Vicente Calderón into a fortress.

You can read more from Robbie Dunne over at his blog The Mattress Makers or follow him on Twitter at @rwmattress

  • Luis

    I’ve settled on reckless genius’ haha – nice article, interesting perspective

  • Since Simeone decided to stay, here comes the press to ponder the question if
    Atletico are a bunch of thugs. To me that is just an excuse that the “Big Teams” like to use when they lose.

  • First, let me say that I don’t care about what they think of us, not anymore, because
    I realized that our image will never change, since it’s not really about “the violence” but about the victories we have been achieving lately .. they don’t like this Atleti, they want the Atleti of the first decade of the millennium, and it hurts them very much that the true Altei has comeback
    But since this is an Atletico fans website, I will talk about it, to help some fans to defend
    our club if they still believe it could work, and to awake others who believed the lie after it was repeated too many times

    I think the fouls statistics are more important than the cards, but the cards are important too, especially those under the “other” category
    but before that l must say we received only 4 reds in La Liga, since Siqueira’s red vs Almeria was removed, and only one of those 4 was a direct red
    I looked up our numbers in Squawaka, and we actually have 25 yellow cards under “other” category (which mostly means protesting), plus 5 cards under “verbal” category
    This in La Liga, while in UCL, we have 6 “other” and 4 “verbal”
    I said many times that I hated this, and it was one of my biggest criticism for Simeone, not just me, but many other great readers talked repeatedly about our lack of discipline that cost us a lot this season, I believe it was the main reason for the defeat in Vigo because we went there without an attacking midfield after two silly suspensions for Arda & Raul
    BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t understand why our players act like this,
    We are the most fouled team in UCL with 145 fouls in 8 games, which means that we suffer an average of more than 18 fouls per game
    And we are the 2nd most fouled team in la Liga with 434 fouls, 15.5 per game
    But most of those too many fouls against us go without cards, in both competitions, we don’t have the protection from the refs that many “big teams” have

    Two examples :

    1- Against Leverkusen : in the first game they committed 25 fouls while we committed 11, but each received 5 yellow cards (2 for Tiago)
    and in the second game they also committed 25 fouls and we committed 10, they got 6 cards and we got 4

    2- Against Espanyol : they committed an impressive 33 fouls and we committed 18, each team received 3 yellow cards
    in fact, Espanyol are the proud leaders of fouls-committed table in la Liga, but thanks to Miranda, we are the violent team !

    What about the fouls we have committed ?!
    In La Liga, we are 12th on fouls-committed table,
    And in UCL league we are 6th, Chelsea are 4th, and guess who are the leaders ?!
    Yes, Bayer Leverkusen, 155 fouls, 19.37 per game

    But Espanyol are not are the thugs, nor Bayer, nor Sevilla who committed just one foul less than Espanyol, 455 fouls, 16.25 per game
    No, it’s Atletico,
    the leaders of fouls-suffered list and the 6th on fouls-committed list in UCL
    and the 2nd on fouls-suffered list & the 12th on fouls committed list in La Liga


  • They never stopped my friend .. they never stopped

  • TommyNestor7

    good job men… i didnt know this
    But let me say something to you, i think u are absolutely right, but there is also
    something that is called intensity of a tackle, our fouls are high more hardned (but i like to see that, cause i like fighting players a warriors and for sure our players are like that) and in that sector for sure we are the leaders i can tell u, cause iam not just a football player (amateur) but also i am a referee.

  • مرسي العرس

    فك مين بس يا خوخو. اتقي الله يا اخواني.

  • Αθανάσιος Νικηταράς

    Good article… Unfortunally my English didn’t let me to understand everything!
    But i think Ahmad Hossainy should write this article, he is the best at those statistics etc.
    Maybe he is not a writer, but at least he should help a writer!

  • Yes, we are intense, but also are Valencia, Sevilla, Espanyol, Leverkusesn and even Chelsea -who don’t need to be intense because of the many high quality players they have- but none of those was ever called violent or thugs or dirty (only Costa from Chelsea)

    Our fouls are not harder than the fouls of any other team, just look at the fouls of Gabi for example, most of them are just grabbing the shirt or putting his hand on his opponent’s shoulder or hitting the opponent thigh with his thigh .. we rarely harm anybody

    We are the ones who get harmed
    Mandzukic’s and Godin’s noses were broken and didn’t even get a foul, rather than a yellow card for the opponent
    In fact, Khedira broke Godin’s nose inside the box, so it should have been a penalty
    Saul stayed in the hospital in Germany for 3 days, and he removed the catheter only on the day of the 2nd leg, no yellow card, no foul
    Raul Garcia also deserved a penalty vs Bayer when their defender grabbed his arm then fell on it, his arm is in a splint right now because he fractured his ulnar bone

    I can keep going on for 2 or 3 hours

    We have the right to make as many fouls as we need to kill the opponent’s attacks (we don’t make many of them) as long as we don’t hurt anybody, and in return, we get yellow and red cards, and the refs -in Spain & Europe- have made it very clear that they don’t hesitate for one second about showing us their cards .. it’s too easy for them to book an Atleti player

    I don’t see anything wrong with our style
    The only thing that’s wrong about us is that we don’t have our own papers, like Madrid who have MARCA & AS, and Barca who have SPORT & Mundo Deprotivo

    Maybe Jianlin should make us one !

  • Carpetano

    “just look at the fouls of Gabi for example, most of them are just
    grabbing the shirt or putting his hand on his opponent’s shoulder or
    hitting the opponent thigh with his thigh .. we rarely harm anybody”

    You don’t mind if you can provide with a source about it at least please? 🙂