Usually Simeone sets up in a 1-3-5-2 formation. Having three defenders gives them a numerical advantage in the first phase of building the action, so Atletico’s central defenders are responsible for building the team’s action (Savic, Felipe, Hermoso). Meanwhile the midfielders who are between the lines have to find free spaces in the middle of the pitch.
The choice of this formation also means that the wing-backs do not have to help build up the action as it is their teammates who create the advantage in the midfield. The wing-backs therefore play higher and in Simeone’s case they additionally position themselves very wide right on the lines. Thanks to this they stretch the opponent and gain more space in the middle of the field and have a lot of space on the flanks.
In defense they play aggressive pressing with two compact lines in which the wing-backs form a back 5 with the defenders, while the two strikers are tasked with actively pressing and supporting the second line, so we often see Atletico in the shape of 1-5-4-1 or even 1-5-5-0. They don’t push to win the ball quickly, but rather to successive close down all zones and a tight formation that gradually thickens as they move to the low block.
Typical attacking play consists of three defenders starting the action, finding a free midfielder in the middle of the field who then rotates with the ball and creates danger through direct passing, either to the free wing-backs or the strikers.
If the team finds it difficult to play the ball in this way, Atletico directs it to the wings, which are usually free and a convenient passing option. Long passes to the wing-backs are a good option for a quick and simple attack, as their high position allows them to quickly pass the ball almost immediately after possession.
Passes through the middle of the pitch are strong and accurate, but the central defenders don’t shy away from long passes either. With two mobile strikers (Correa, Griezmann) constantly looking for free spaces, direct play past the second line is also possible. This also gives the players receiving the ball between the lines more time and space.
Atletico’s big asset is midfielder Marcos Llorente. A versatile player who can play in many positions is usually positioned in midfield as he is technically good and can surprise opponents with his attacking moves. Playing as a wing-back he often goes high as if he were a classic winger. However his most important attribute is his attacks from deep inside the box.