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