Before I get into the translation, lets set their overall theme of Simeone’s system for Atletico.
Its generally accepted that he plays a counter attacking 442 with a high press, the system changes tempo as well, so whilst he may start a game with high tempo, they do not sustain it throughout, throttling it like one would with a gas pedal. This serves to give his teams high bursts at key periods of the game.
His system depends on two creative outlets principally, Koke on the left flank and Arda Turan on the right. Koke tends to cut inside and sit a bit narrower when attacking, Turan tends to drift and he acts as a pivot for both the strikers as well Juanfran their right fullback. Upfront, the two strikers are expected to harry the opposing side and drop down to midfield to support when they lose the ball. This by far is the hardest thing to replicate on FM. Its possible to get the creative outlets to do their roles, but for the front two, we are currently limited by the roles in the game, so its vital for us to get the essence right. Here I expect the two strikers to do everything they can to close the opposing side down when the opportunity presents itself. A key success indicator of this will be the passing percentage of the opposing sides defense.
Setpieces also play a vital role in the side, with goals coming from corners and direct free kicks. To get this going in FM we need to set this up as closely as we can to what they do in real life, but to ensure that this plays a large contributor to their goals I will tweak it slightly. The goal here would be to win the second ball if the corner is cleared, and to create goal scoring opportunities from them.
Testing this will be done on FMC, and because its done there, I won’t have the benefit of heat-maps so I will be depending on in game stats.
To get this translated onto FM, we need to achieve these goals as closely as we can. It won’t be possible to get a 100% rendition as this would be ludicrous, but we can get close, finally, we need to ensure that we come close to it via in game stats. This means that I will focus on defensive solidity above all else, since this is the Simeone way.
There are essentially two approaches we can take:
This was my first approach, it features Koke in an attacking CM role which allows him to make central runs. The CM role is not available in an orthodox 442, on the right flank we have Turan playing as a wide playmaker. Upfront, we need to deploy one of the forwards as a F9 and another as a Defensive Forward. Based on the ingame descriptors they should be dropping deep to recover the balls and also fit for possession in the opposing third.
On the right flank we have Juanfran in a CWB role to allow him to attack the right flank, the other fullback has a support role because of the vacant space that can be exploited ahead of him.
The system is set up as a counter/fluid. Fluid because we want the attention to focus on the creative players in the side. It was fluid or Structured, both work with the former allowing for slightly more creativity in the side.
These are the shouts I use at the start of a game, they change during a game if needed. I am averse to putting this up, this is how I interpret they should be playing. Its a bit risky and it requires one to pay attention to the flow of the game, to make adjustments
There are some unique Player instructions as well, I have some PIs for the fullbacks too, but those are basically focused on keeping possession.
Koke has been told to close down more and to tackle harder, setting him on the MC role allows me to put him naturally on the inside, this has the added effect of making him drift occasionally.
TuranTuran has more PIs, these came in large part to certain requirements that are needed for the CWB to be more effective. Getting him to roam fulfils a requirement of how he plays, and getting him to cut inside leaves room open for the CWB to exploit.
Playing the two like that does pose some interesting challenges, for one, the two MCs can be dropped down to BWM, and MC(d) which I was doing a lot in games to get more defensive solidity. The left flank was also occasionally weak with the vacant ML position. I wasn’t too thrilled with having to do a lot of tweaking in every match, but it got the flavor essentially. Against better sides I started playing a bit differently, and this system has evolved slightly now
This is what to me seems like the Costa 442, back when Costa was in the side, they tended to play with one forward nearer to the opposing defensive line. A deeper striker could frequently find the “Costa” striker with a simple pass. That goal Torres scored earlier in the season in the cup came to mind when I was working on this.
This is defensively a lot more solid than the asymmetric 442. In this system, we still get the flying fullbacks, but the left flank is a lot more solid in defense. The formation plays narrow and with some other PI’s to influence the Simeone shape.
The Wide Playmaker role for Koke is set with a cut inside instruction, by adding Tackling Harder and close down much more I get the aggression settings we need. Getting him to push up higher allows me make sure he’s closer to the attack than the midfield when we are in the opponents half. The first time we used this system Koke created two goals. He drifts inside a fair bit when we are in the opponents third and he is in key positions when we need a telling pass into the box.
Here we see Koke hustling the ball in a key area of the pitch where I need him, based on opta passing charts Turan tends to deliver balls from inside as well as down the flanks, and I wanted to get this done with this formation, so for him..
We need to get him to dribble more cut inside, thus freeing up the right flank, and because he has a tendency to pop up in different parts of the pitch, we added roam.
The two central midfielders are set slightly differently as well. Up front, I elected to use the Costa version, where we have one of the forwards nearer the defensive line and another playing much deeper. The goal here is to keep the defense on their toes and to win possession higher up the pitch. To get that done..we added these PI’s to Griezmann
He’s been told to tackle harder, roam from position, run wide with ball and close down much more. In the Real Madrid game, Griezmann would frequently be found in wide positions with the ball, dragging defenders with him, so this was a vital part of getting that done right. We used almost the same PI’s for his striker partner, but F9s have roam as a default.
That covers the main PIs for both systems chief creators. Now lets take a look at the set pieces. Atletico are heavily dependant on these, in my system I rely on these heavily, to such a point that I am actually expecting a goal from either a corner or a throw in. So we set up our corners
These are our corner settings, the key thing we do is making sure that Koke is taking out swingers, and that our free kicks go to our best headers. Atletico started out doing near post corners, then changed to a short corner routine, we have elected to follow that to some extent, and can vary it during a game. Essentially the settings remain, but the goal above all is to still win the second ball.
So far we’ve only played 9 games in the league and 3 in ECL, thus far our performances have met the goal, with both systems with the the latter outshining the former for defensive solidity and we have also managed to score nearly a set piece goal in every game, and in games where we don’t score from the corner, we sometimes score from the ball recovery following the corner.
In our latest match against Getafe, my focus was spent on making sure my forward line didn’t give them time to build up any kind of consistency from the back, their passing % in defense was bad. I was really please to see that we scored two goals in this game from set pieces, Koke played an important role in the game with his key passes till he was subbed and the front duo pressed hugh and tried to tackle, this pressure helped to keep the passing rates of the opposing side down.
We did the same against Espanyol, they only managed 47% completion of passes from defense
Koke played an integral part in the game, with 2 assists and Jimenez who played in the F9 position, getting 5 tackles and winning 3 in the opposing half.
Top of the table and have scored 18 goals, 6 of them from set pieces, and this doesn’t include the 2 we had from throw-ins and the other 2 we did from winning the second ball. If we include those goals then I am dangerously overdependant on set pieces.
Overall I’d say both flavours work, one works better defensively (Costa 442) than the other, both require a manager to make some hard decisions during a game, whether to release one of the MCs as a box to box midfielder, or better still, who the heck do you get your goals from set pieces in either Koke or Mandu are injured. It may only be 9 games into the season, but what I like about his little attempt was how much it made me feel like I were a real manager. It made me adapt my system slowly to my players, make adjustments based on their abilities and finally react in matches to events forcing me into slight changes. As always things could change slightly as I spend more time with this team