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Left-Footed Players Vital To Game Build Up

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Football Club managers seems to be banking more energy on the left-footed players than right-footed one’s, and this case Atletico Madrid is one of the clubs that has a number of left-footed players.

After Atletico Madrid Manager Diego Simeone lost his all-time midfield to Arsenal that is Thomas Partey, He was tasked with a challenge of moving with speed to choose a perfect replacement whether or if there was any available in the team or not. This even making Diego Simeone to switch to a 3-5-2 a move that was so radical and made sense to football pundits.

Atletico Madrid sold their all-time adventurous passer on the final day of the summer transfer window. The Ghanaian played a physically-imposed midfield. Half-human, half-octopus, Partey’s legs were used as ball-winning weapons when they weren’t spraying the ball far and wide.

It was a difficult situation for Diego Simeone as they could not find a perfect replacement to do the things Partey did hence they reduced the things they couldn’t replace and replaced at least things he was good at.

In baseball talk Peter Brand argues that “People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs,” That’s baseball talk, but the logic is the same.

Thomas Partey  led Atletico with 179 final third passes last season, and had the most switches on the team and the most progressive passing yards (after Jan Oblak). He was second with 138 successful pressures, led the team in interceptions and was fourth in tackles won.

To cut the story shot Thomas Partey was key to Atletico’s build-up and was a defensive anchor.

Partey was a ball-winning, risk-taking passer as a well as a defensive anchor who shielded opponents from penetrating into the box.

Koke could replace the passing if necessary but he already had a fairly hectic workload as it was, and by putting the club captain in Partey’s place as a like-for-like replacement, you lose athleticism as anyone who has seen him chasing a player in transition can attest to. You could play Geoffrey Kondogbia or Lucas Torreira there, but then you’re losing the high-risk, high-reward passing that enticed Arsenal to pay Partey’s release clause at a time of huge economic uncertainty.

Kondogbia has been playing well off-late, and as well as winning balls almost as often as Thomas Partey. It’s hard to tell if this is in response to injuries and absences or whether Simeone is foreshadowing how he wants to play against Chelsea. This would also reinforce the point that as Atlético play more defensively, the need for a ball-winner in midfield becomes more important.

The Atletico Manager has not seen an easy way to solve his problem. Diego Simeone requires a retooling of his tactical set-up, his entire belief system. The change would mean reducing the need for Atlético to win the ball back as often as they had with Partey in the team. This prompting to a switch to possession-based football.

Mario Hermoso’s entry to the club and the switch to the back three, Simeone found an extra body in defense and the ability to spray the ball across the field and through the heart of opposing defenses.

Left-footed Centre-backs are this season’s must-have accessory. Pep Guardiola has known for a while about how important a left-footed build-upper is.

“There are many actions to build up to make our play quicker, better but we can’t do them. Not because the other players are not good but because Laporte is the only left-footed central defender,” Guardiola said after a game against Sheffield United at the start of the season.

In the past few months a young left footed central defender Pau Torres has earned a lot more attention as he shares similar qualities with Hermoso. Pau  Torres is asked to do a lot of what Hermoso does with line-breaking passes and risky switches.

Atletico are attempting 144 left-footed passes per 90 this season and only tried 107 per 90 last season. Hermoso is the key feature to this ever-expanding attack.

The switch to three at the back also liberated Trippier and Yannick Carrasco on the wings. Simeone has never been able to replace Lucas Hernández as his all-action left-back, but Carrasco and Hermoso together provide much of what the Bayern Munich defender brought to Atletico.

It has also opened the door for an attack-minded midfielder Thomas Lemar to grow in importance.

Diego Simeone rotated between Felipe, Stefan Savić and José Giménez in his back two last season. Lemar had yet to regain his form and Hermoso was out of the team, only playing sporadically.

But this season, Diego Simeone has introduced more left footed players such as Lemar whose playing influence has been significant.

Hermoso gives Atlético half of what Thomas Partey did well. A change of system and a more possession-based style means there isn’t as much need to win the ball back as frequently. Atlético are less combative, more elegant.

Atletico Madrid are not easy to predict their style of play, as they are vigorously more attackers than ball possessors, their team formation also changes time to time and well Diego Simeone might return to his 4-4-2 formation against Chelsea in their UEFA Champions league round of 16 tie first leg.

It doesn’t matter if Simeone opts for a back four or for a five, Hermoso is a key presence at the rearguard. Both in minutes played and performance level, he’s become vital.

 

 

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