Do you really know what you do Simeone? Or does it matter?

Published 29.04.2016 23:20
Updated 29.04.2016 23:32

Atletico Madrid's victory against Bayern Munich was pretty clear and solid, proving that they deserve the credit for neo-counter-football. The game was, as Jonathan Wilson from The Guardian explained, a clash between two philosophies - and the leaders of each style at that. Nevertheless, if we are talking about philosophies, we have to evaluate the theoretical strength of the arguments proposed by both sides. After examining them closely, I believe Pep Guardiola's (above) strategy is more efficient and powerful compared to Diego Simeone's.

The first thing to organize as a coach is how to intercept the ball from the opponent, and the two coaches have completely different views on the issue. Guardiola, who makes all of his players assume both offensive and defensive positions, does not wait for the opponent until they come to the danger zone. Rather, Guardiola presses the opponent with full force, intense pressing fueled by defenders pushing the game forward, in order to intercept the ball around the opponent's penalty box and to hold the game away from their penalty box.

Simeone does not think that way, he strictly makes six of his players sit deep in their half and let only four players conduct shock-presses on the opponent's half. The difference is Simeone's presses do not include continuity until the opponent crosses their half, which means the opponent has enough time and space to build a game in their half. Thus, unlike Guardiola who is constantly chasing the ball to play his own game, Simeone looks for simple mistakes that would eventually become lethal with swift counter-attacks.

When you compare these two different approaches, I see more consistency and rationality in Guardiola's approach. Given he presses the opponent and intercepts the ball for a set-piece, which is compatible with the notion of reproducibility, Simeone's method, which does not offer a concrete plan for the moment after the ball is intercepted, becomes theoretically weaker than Guardiola's style.

Furthermore, seeing as Simeone cannot design set plays for his offense because of the uncontrollable speed and chaotic nature of counter-attacking, there is no scientific or rational ground to say that he has a strategy to score. Of course, the strict defensive formation and swift counter-attacking is an established combination, which has worked well for decades, but there is no way for us to prove the touch of the great designer inside of this combination. Almost everything in Atletico Madrid's offense is bound to the mistakes of the opponent and unable to produce anything when they have the initiative. If an opponent can build the game from the defense and patiently circulate the ball around Atletico's penalty box, it would almost finish off the chances of counter-attacks and make the game revolve around the danger zone for Atletico.

On the other hand, Guardiola's dominant and proactive style promises a sustainable, rational plan. Unlike Simeone, we know what Guardiola's teams will do when they get the ball and their faith is never up to mere luck or chaos. If you know what you do and can repeat it, it means that there is always room for improvement and you can philosophize about the fundamentals of your game. If modern football is the arena where coaches are the superior minds who are the creators of the game, I would like my coach to put a strategy on the pitch that can be evaluated in scientific and mathematical terms. Thus, whatever the score turns out in the second round, the reason will always favor Guardiola's way.

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