Connect with us

Tactical Analysis

AC Milan 0-1 Atletico Madrid: Tactical Analysis | Atletico’s strong defense wins the day

The 2 teams that clashed in this particular round of 16 clash have had wildly contrasting seasons up until this point. While the home side have been disappointing, and recently sacked Allegri and replaced him with club legend Seedorf, Atleti have been on an upward curve ever since the excellent Simeone has control at the Calderon. The clash was always going to be interesting, as the great European team took on the greenhorn that is Atletico.

Line ups


AC Milan: Abbiati; Di Sciglio; Rami; Bonera; Emanuelson; De Jong; Essien; Taarabt; Kaka; Poli; Balotelli.

Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Juanfran; Miranda; Godin; Insua; Turan; Gabi; M. Suarez; Koke; R. Garcia; D. Costa.

Atletico blocking the middle

Most experts of the modern game are dead against the 4-4-2, with the formation being regarded as archaic and outmoded. The primary reason it takes so much flak is that most believe the formation makes it very difficult to control the midfield, as 2 men in this area leave space behind, and in front of them. However, this season has seen the 4-4-2 return with a vengeance, with Atletico in particular gaining a lot of success by using it. The main reason for doing so has been their midfield, and how difficult the midfielders have made it for opposition to play through the middle. By packing the midfield, Simeone has created a situation where the opposition is forced wide, and this isn’t always a very profitable avenue of attack.

The blocking starts from right in front, where the 2 forwards begin aggressively closing down the opposition’s man on the ball every time an attempt is made to play the ball through the middle. They aren’t as aggressive when the ball is being played into wide areas. Behind them, the midfielders get really close and narrow, trying to close down any space that the opposition may have to play a through ball between the lines. This is another move that makes it difficult for the opposition players to go through the profitable middle, as attempts to play decisive passes are stifled consistently. It’s part of the reason Barcelona, who love to create a midfield overload and pass it through here, have struggled against the Rojiblancos, while Real, with their incredible wide players like Bale, Ronaldo and Jese, managed to score such a convincing win over them recently.

To stop the through balls that may come into central areas from the wing, the entire midfield shuffles across the pitch as the ball is shuttled from wing to wing. One way or the other, Atleti made it very hard for Milan to play through the middle. The Rossonieri only got 25% of their play through the middle of the pitch. It’s also why Atleti made most of their ball recoveries in the wide areas. The sheer numbers they place in the middle encourage teams to exploit the width, and since these areas see a lot of action, Atleti tend to win the ball here quite a bit.

Atletico tackles. via

Atletico tackles.

Lots of cross field passes from Milan

Atletico are a side that make it very difficult to play the ball between their lines, and the space is in the wide areas. The Rojiblancos work hard to cut this off as well, especially as the opposition team gets closer to their goal, with aggression in closing the ball down increasing as the opposition got closer to the goal. To enable this sort of defensive work, the narrow Atletico midfield is constantly shuffling across the pitch to close down spaces between them. In order to find the space, Milan played a number of cross field balls. The long horizontal passes were played with the purpose of exploiting the space left behind on the opposite wing due to the midfield getting too close to one wing. Changing the point of attack in this way was crucial, as it enabled them get an advantage in the wide areas in terms of men (full back and attacking midfielder vs Atletico full back) and space (the Atletico wide midfielder who would be there is slightly more central). Indeed, most of Milan’s promising attacks came due to quick exchanges of passes down the wide areas (Kaka shot, Poli header).

Cross field passes via

Cross field passes

As you can see from the graph above, Milan attempted a very large number of long passes, especially cross field. Most of these were played by De Jong and Essien, who went wide to pick up the ball and help the distribution. These passes were a key part of how they moved into the wide areas.

Another feature of Milan’s play that was used to help out with their quick passes in wide areas was Christian Poli. The youngster was started in an advanced midfield role, but was given the freedom to roam the pitch. Taarabt and Kaka were restricted to certain areas, but Poli was left free. This was because the overloads that needed to be created in wide areas depended on the quick entry of one player into these areas along with the ball.

Long balls towards Balotelli

Milan have some of their strongest players in the middle of the park, such as Kaka and Balotelli. Even Poli was playing quite close to the middle where Kaka was operating. Both these players were left quite close to the mercurial Italian striker Mario balotelli, and a lot of aerial balls were played towards Balotelli. This was done is order to bypass the crowded midfield that Atletico offered to all attempts at passing through the middle from Atletico.

Crosses into the box from Atletico

Simeone started with a large man- large man combination up front, and the obvious implication of this was that a number of aerial threats were going to be made. Atletico stayed true to this obvious strength, and played in all of 20 crosses. Even the goal that they scored came from a header after a corner. In fact we might have seen many more crosses come into the box from Atletico, but Insua was pinned back on the left side. That’s why a majority of the crosses came from Juanfran on the right hand side.

Where does this leave them?

A late goal from Diego Costa definitely gives Atletico a huge advantage going into the second leg of this tie, but it’s not time to count Milan out yet. The performance from the Rossonieri was energetic and dedicated, and another such performance with a bit of luck in Madrid could see them getting the result they need. Of course, they’ll have to work hard to repeat this level of performance, as Atletico are fantastic at the Calderon.

For more detailed Tactical Analysis on big games as this one, head this way.

Vishal Patel

Vishal Patel

Massive Chelsea supporter. Follow Mourinho and love Ronaldinho. Enjoy discussing tactics anytime, anywhere. Enjoy watching the Italian National team as well.
Vishal Patel

100 to Watch


Talent Radar8 hours ago

Serie A’s 10 Young Players to Watch in 2017-18

Simone Torricini brings you 10 players that could enjoy breakthrough campaigns in the Serie A this season. The Under-20 World...

Tactical Analysis9 hours ago

Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 4-0 West Ham | Fluidity and exploitation

Ryan Quinn writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Premier League game that finished Manchester United 4-0 West Ham Following the signings...

Talent Radar5 days ago

Eredivisie’s 10 Young Players to Watch in 2017-18

Mosope Ominiyi brings you 10 players that could enjoy breakthrough campaigns in the Eredivisie this season. Justin Kluivert // Ajax...

Talent Radar2 weeks ago

Primeira Liga’s 10 Young Players to Watch in 2017-18

Jose Miguel Saraiva brings you 10 players that could enjoy breakthrough campaigns in the Primeira Liga this season.

Scout Report2 weeks ago

Scout Report: Ainsley Maitland-Niles | Arsenal’s Versatile Prospect

Mosope Ominiyi provides a detailed scout report on Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Arsenal’s versatile prospect. Arsene Wenger announced that along with 17-year-old winger...

Specials2 weeks ago

Lazio’s Golden Age: The Sergio Cragnotti Era

Football News 24/7  Sam McKeever has a look back at Lazio’s golden era in the 90’s under the ownership of Sergio...

Opinions2 weeks ago

Analysis: Why Nemanja Matic could be Manchester United’s most important signing

Kaushik Goswami has a look at why Nemanja Matic could be Manchester United’s most important signing. Having already lured Romelu...

Opinions2 weeks ago

Monaco’s Moves: Why the Football World should pay attention

While the football world is focused on the players being sold by Monaco, Alex Lynch has a look at how...

Scout Report2 weeks ago

Scout Report: Joel Pereira | Manchester United’s Agile Goalkeeper

Mateus Carvalho provides a comprehensive scout report on Joel Pereira, Manchester United’s agile goalkeeper. At the end of the last season, José...

Talent Radar3 weeks ago

Talent Radar: CONCACAF Gold Cup 2017 | U-23 Team of the Tournament

Football News 24/7  Jose Miguel Saraiva gives us his U-23 Team of the recently concluded CONCACAF Gold Cup featuring the...

Opinions3 weeks ago

Blindside Movements And Mental Overloads: Breaking Down Maurizio Sarri’s Tactics

Cheuk Hei Ho breaks down Maurizio Sarri’s tactics at Napoli looking at how the Italian giants use passing, blindside movements,...

Opinions3 weeks ago

Bayern Munich: What’s their game plan?

Alankrith Shankar writes a detailed article of how we can expect Bayern Munich to set up in the 2017-18 season....

Scout Report3 weeks ago

Scout Report: Juan Foyth | Estudiantes’ Ball-Playing Defender

Kaustubh Pandey provides a detailed scout report about Juan Foyth, Estudiantes’ ball-playing defender. Argentina has, since time immemorial, been a...

Scout Report3 weeks ago

Scout Report: Dayot Upamecano | RB Leipzig’s Precocious Talent

Mateus Carvalho provides a detailed scout report about Dayot Upamecano, RB Leipzig’s precocious talent. RB Leipzig is a source of...

Scout Report3 weeks ago

Scout Report: Philip Billing | Huddersfield’s young midfielder

Patrick Mills provides a detailed scout report about Philip Billing, Huddersfield’s young midfielder. Against the odds, Huddersfield Town, one of the...

Opinions3 weeks ago

Amin Younes: How the German international has redeemed his career

Alex Lynch charts the progress of Amin Younes from his days at Gladbach to his current success at Ajax Besides...

Scout Report4 weeks ago

Scout Report: Edgar Ié | Belenenses’ quick defender

Jose Miguel Saraiva writes a detailed scout report about Edgar Ié, the Belenenses and Portugal centre back. Portugal has been facing...

Opinions4 weeks ago

The Impact of Refereeing Decisions and Need for Technology

Dayann C has a look at the impact of refereeing decisions and need for technology focusing on Barcelona’s comeback win...

Scout Report1 month ago

Scout Report: João Cancelo | Valencia’s Forward Thinking Right-Back

Mateus Carvalho writes a detailed scout report about João Cancelo, Valencia’s forward thinking right-back. Throughout the years it has been fairly...

Scout Report1 month ago

Scout Report: Bruno Fernandes | The young Portugese leader

Jose Miguel Saraiva writes a detailed scout report about the Portugal and Sporting CP midfielder, Bruno Fernandes. When one listens...

Talent Radar Award History

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Young Player Rankings 2016-17

More on Outside of the Boot