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Football Manager Tactics – Replicating Atletico Madrid

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Lets try and see how far we get trying to incorporate Atletico into Football Manager. Gonna use a fair bit of information from Michael Cox’s analysis of the game, in general terms, and I will try and reinterpret it for Football Manager  in my own way. There is a strong possibility I may get it wrong, but I will try and keep to the spirit of it as far as possible.

You can find his full analyses here

This was easily Atletico’s best performance in a Madrid derby in ages.


Atletico were compact, narrow, and would sometimes defend in their own third, the defenders did play with a high line that allowed them to press Real Madrid’s midfielders and attacked. This happened at stages of the game, and was not a consistent feature throughout the game.

The side midfielders would cut in stay narrow and allow the fullbacks to make runs down the flanks, leading to frequent overloads. The workrate was outstanding. Their forwards played deep when they didn’t have the ball, and when they did have the ball, they would go out wide dragging Nacho and Varane in the process.

Real played a 433, their forwards stayed deep and away from the atletico backline, probably due to the fact that Atletico were playing a compact formation where the backline and midfield were playing so close that this forced them to add numbers in midfield and get some service. The compactness of the Atletico side would force the Ronaldo and Bale out wide to look for service, in Ronaldo’s case he was tightly tracked by the opposing fullback Juanfran

Early in the game, Atletico pressed high, making it hard for Nacho to play balls out of defense, he had a poor completion rate for passes as a defender in the first 30 minutes of the game making 11 out of 17 passes. That was due to the early pressure exerted by Atletico, he did get his passing back in the later stages  when Atletico reduced their tempo.

Attacking Movement

Highly fluid is the best way to describe them as they would get into the opponents box quickly. Their transition from defense to attack was fast and cohesive. Their fullbacks would be far forward and drilling balls to the side midfielder to get players into goal scoring positions. The point from winning the ball to getting the ball in the box was direct and fast.

The forwards for Atletico Madrid played deep and their movement was generally to the flanks and they were playing the channels. Since they worked the flanks and the channels, the side midfielders would go narrow and find space between the lines. Since Real’s forwards showed little determination in coming back, this allowed the fullbacks space to rampage forward. All 4 of Atletico’s goals game from either a cross or a cutback.

Atletico killed the game with possession instead of deep defending, their forwards tracked back to tackle and win balls.

This is a different style of play..compared to last seasons’ Atletico. In the 0-0 draw with Barcelona, they were narrow, deep and aggressive. They would win the ball near the halfway line, close down in pairs. Their forwards (Diego Costa) do a lot of pressing, You will also find them drop deep really deep to help form another bank of players. Pressing high, whilst it happened, was rare. They actually defend with 6 in midfield.

When attacking, Costa does not hold up the ball, instead he attacks the channels. They work the ball to their forward line, using quick one two direct passes. Aggressive play is a key part of their style of football.

Lets look at some in game screenshots to illustrate what they were doing:

Clearly we see the 2 MCs in close support, the side play a lot of short passes in their buildup and a majority of their chances come from the wings. The two forwards do a good job of pulling the markers out while they create channels for the ML/MR or fullbacks to exploit.


Typically the 2 forwards are pressing high up the pitch and they will drop deep into their own half to do tackles. In the screenshot Griezmann is closing down the defenders, the ball is hoofed upfield and it makes it way back to the other striker who by now has gone to the flanks opening up the channels for other players to exploit



Following very closely how Guardiola got Barca to defend, Atletico make sure that whenever a player is shielding a ball or has a dodgy first touch they close him down. In this passage of play Isco was closed down and then then they followed this up with a quick counter

Looking at the stats, and this is the second time I am doing it, since the first draft got accidentally deleted!!!…


You can see what an impact Turan has on the game with his passing, in the absence of Koke who was off injured, Turan took the main thrust by being the creative outlet for the team with his array of passing which included 2 clear crosses that ended up as goal scoring opportunities.

1dTuranDefensively he showed that tackles weren’t limited to being defensive, he did put in a shift in the opposing half. Other top tacklers in the team included their 2 strikers.


As you can see, Atletico don’t defend deep all the time. During the first 30 minutes of the game, Atletico pressed high and tackled aggressively in the opponents third. High tempo football.

Drilling through the Opta stats and now I going from memory, the top performers in the side were easily the 2 fullbacks, in terms of tackling it was a team shift, however what was clear was how compact the team played when they didn’t have the ball. Both fullbacks never played any other pass but a short pass throughout the game. The majority of direct long passes that were played belonged to the MCs and the two side midfielders, and there weren’t many. You could safely call this side a short passing side. Take ons were common for the fullbacks, more like 3-5 on average.  I had done a full list of stats breaking each player down..and will try to repeat it:


Sequeria 11/14 passes short., 1 cross, 5 RPOs, 2 tackles – 1 in final third another own half, 1 interception

Juan Fran,  27/35, 2/7 crosses, 1 RPOs, 0/2 tackles, 1 interception.

Clearly neither fullback was spending much time tackling, probably understandable since the targets included Bale and Ronaldo.


Godin 6/10 passes, 5/7 were short, 3 long passes, one long pass down the left flank. 1 tackle

Miranda – 13/23 passes, 3/4 long passes down right flank, all counterattacking direct passes?, 1/2 tackles


Tiago – 40/51 passes, 2 chances created, 3 shots on goal, 2/3 tackles, 1 interception, 2 headed clearances 1 foul committed, 4 aerial duels

Gabi – 51/61 passes, 1 chance created, 8/10 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 aerial duels, 3 fouls

Side Midfielders

Saul (sub came on got injured) Not checking

Turan: 52/58 passes 2 long passes, 3/8 RPO, 4 crosses, 3 chances created, 6/7 tackles, 2 interceptions, 6 aerial duels, 6 fouls 5 in the opponent half


Griezmanm –  18/23 passes all short, 2 RPOs, 2 crosses ( byeline and deep) 3 tackles (1 opponent half, 5 aerial duels (only 2 in opponent box), 1 foul

Mandzukic – 25/39 passes all short, 1 cross, 5/6 tackles, 2 fouls

I will be looking through more games as well, I did look at their barca game when Diego Costa was in the side, and it looked almost alike, there were some differences, but essentially the same characteristics of hard work remained.  I have a decent idea of how I am going to translate this into Football Manager and will be using the stats earlier to baseline them so for instance I should see the same kind of patterns we saw from the opta stats I linked earlier. For now though I am off on a vacation and will spend some more time gathering more information to get this done right. I will endeavour to make it as close as I can within the limits of what can be achieved through the match engine.

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About BusttheNet - Rashidi (177 Articles)
Rashidi is an mod from the SI forums who began this site as a way to collate all the information and guides he's written for Football Manager over the years.

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