Some five thousand fans gathered in the car park outside the Jose Zorilla Stadium while inside Diego Simeone and their boys were involved in a clash that required full points to win the La Liga title since that eventful 2013-14 season. The opposition was Ronaldo Nazario’s Real Valladolid and in such a topsy-turvy season any outcomes were possible.

Two matches – Real Madrid vs Villarreal and Atletico Madrid vs Real Valladolid started at the same time and the players and fans whoever followed one particular match, always kept themselves updated for the other contest.

When Valladolid and Villarreal took the lead at Jose Zorilla and Alfredo Di Stefano respectively, the tension increased and offered a thrilling contest.

In the 57th minute a Karim Benzema goal was ruled out for offside at Alfredo Di Stefano while at Jose Zorilla Angel Di Correa equalized for Atleti. Frustration mounted at one venue while confidence grew at the other – ten minutes the charismatic Luis Suarez gave Atleti the lead while Real Madrid were still trailing by 0-1.

In the dying moments of the game, Benzema equalized and in the injury time, Luka Modric gave Los Blancos the lead, but Valladolid were needed to beat Atleti, which they could not and thus, the new champions of this season’s La Liga are Atletico Madrid.

Kudos to Real Madrid for the way they fought hard till the end despite 62 injuries this season, but nevertheless, Atleti deserved the title more than any other teams in the La Liga this season.

Since winning the La Liga title in 2014, Diego Simeone’s side came close to achieve glories quite a few times, but in the end, it never really happened because Real Madrid and Barcelona had their fair amount of rosy moments.

The Suarez effect

Simeone started this season with a different intent and the arrival of Luis Suarez prompted him to think about his plans differently.

He was needed to build a system that would suit Suarez the most.

He changed his formation from 4-4-2 to 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 which would have better coverage of the field and more players close to Suarez in the attacking half while still being safe during a transition moment.

This has led to Atletico having more possession and play more passes in the opponent’s half than in the past.

The change injected a positive impact on their possession which increased to 50% in comparison to last season’s 47% while average passes per possession increased from 3.87 to 5.15. Meanwhile, average passes in the final third increased from 53.13 to 62.1.

This all happened due to the Suarez effect.

By having so many players around him Suarez can play in his favorite style where he finds spaces and either dropped between the lines to help his team keep possession or attacks the small spaces in the box to finish chances. He is a player that only needs a bit of time and space to finish a chance.

Despite changing their style into a more possession-oriented style in the opponent’s half, they can still utilize a direct approach when necessary to expose space in the opponent’s backline. They often will start a small build-up to attract pressure before sending a direct pass forward to exploit gaps in the opponent’s last line of defense.

It has worked till the end.

Solid defensive display

Defensive solidity and at times being pretty bloody-minded have always been the hallmark of Atletico under Simeone.

The plan for a three-man defence gave Simeone a better chance to deal with the defensive transitions they countered and enabled them to have higher wing-backs and do a better job controlling possession in the attacking half while being more secure in the back.

Furthermore, with their quick aggressive pressure on the ball when they lose it and the work rate that has characterized Atletico all these years with players running back quickly, they will be able to deal with defensive transition moments effectively.

But with a three-man backline, he needed more coverage than before during the counter and which means that when in their defensive organization in their own half they can sit in a low 5-4-1 or a 5-3-2 defensively which gives them more security especially when they are defending a lead.

During the zonal and man-marking, where many teams tend to favor one over the other which often can expose them against certain opponents, with Atletico a combination of both is key to their defensive solidity.

They had done a great job covering the right zones but at the same time, the players were man-oriented in those zones which allowed them to pressure immediately a player on the ball and take away many passing options to their opponent’s which made decision-making for the player on the ball hard and ultimately leads to loss of possession.

Another strong aspect of Simeone’s defensive game is knowing as a team when to press high and when to sit deeper.

This rate of pressing has dropped this year due to Suarez not being given too much responsibility to press; instead, he usually shields the defensive midfielder and only presses in certain situations.

The never say die attitude

At one point Atleti were well ahead of others in La Liga, still, midway through the season they started to suffer and it seemed that they would choke again, but when it mattered, they never lost points whereas teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona either lost or dropped points against opponents that were meant to be beaten.  Bagging those points worked in favour of Simeone and when the chips were down the whole team rallied together and kept on fighting.

adsense

The winning mentality and never say die attitude always existed and during the crucial phases of the league, they handled the pressure better.

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