Following an old Atletico Madrid approach, their manager came out with a usual Diego Simeone line.
We had to suffer.”
Many may answer, did the spectators. That 1-0 defeat at Manchester City wasn’t exactly epic.
And yet for a team that can make games as boring as the Spanish champions – a status one would easily forget in such performances – they provoke a lot of debate.
The most common is the idea of playing like this. As a result, it is often said that they “deserve” to lose, and that for moral reasons rather than the actual merits of an achievement.
The truth is that we are long past the point of such discussions. It is what they are. It is what Simeone is. It’s their nature, like Scorpio. Against City, however, it went without a sting.
That leads to the more relevant debate.
How do you go from an approach where you don’t even shoot at goal to one where you absolutely have to score?
It’s all the more dangerous given that City’s crucial goal actually came from a time when Atletico were trying to climb the ranks but also – crucially – after the volatile Phil Foden stepped in.
That might be revealing, especially considering Atlético’s status as champions.
They aren’t what they were anymore and still won the title, partly because Spanish football is in a spell where La Liga isn’t where it was.
One danger is that teams like City are currently at a level well above anything in Spain. For that second-half moment, it was almost as if Foden, 21, was just too fast for them.
It was as English teams experienced it in the 1990s and many people pointed out during that game that so much of that game was an inversion of that reality.
Nowadays, being the most international league of all, it is the Premier League’s top teams that will dictate the game with the most sophisticated tactical systems.
And yet that’s also one of the few reasons why Simeone will play like this. It’s also part of something bigger.
It could be argued that the Argentine’s approach is truly ultra-realistic football and the simple logic of his game plan at least seemed understandable when he hung up. It was about stripping the game down to the basics.
City of course score a majority of their goals at home, around 60 per cent this season, so it was better to keep that close – especially without the advantage of the away goals rule.
“Numbers speak for themselves, statistics speak for themselves,” Simeone began. “The number of goals they score at home, they play very dynamically, they push the players and always try to play together in a beautiful way.
“We’re just playing with the feeling that we want to come through and try to go up against a team that has the weapons that they have. We defended extremely well in the first half.
“They managed to score because they attacked very well. In the second half we could have attacked a little better in some counterattacks. We had to suffer. We must now go to Madrid and do the same and use the resources that we have.”
How does Simeone actually imagine it?
“It’s not about words, it’s about facts and about doing things. What happens on the pitch will determine what we do.”
But what awaits him on the pitch?
“Humility, energy, hard work and understanding what is the way we can hurt them.”
Simeone had better hope he figured that out. At least there is only one in it at the moment. A City team that scores that many points has been restricted.
Mission accomplished in a sense. Anything can happen in such a close duel, especially when you defend as fiercely as Atletico. All it takes is one jump to change things up.
This is simply the most reduced football there is. Atletico will certainly need something more against a team that, like City, pushes the limits of the sport.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/champions-league/how-do-you-go-from-an-approach-where-you-dont-even-have-a-shot-on-target-to-one-where-you-absolutely-have-to-score-41527315.html Miguel Delaney: How do you go from a don’t even shoot at goal approach to a must-go approach?