Wednesday 21 February 2018

Big Sam has a Premier League warning for Diego Simeone... and couldn't resist a slight comparison

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

There is an old cliché in American sports that offensive wins games while defence wins championships and over the last few weeks, Atletico Madrid are doing their utmost to turn that idiom into a reality.

Diego Simeone's stingy rearguard dumped football's most prolific attack out of the Champions League after beating Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate at the quarter-final stage, and Atletico continued their progress towards European glory on Wednesday night after a 1-0 semi-final first leg victory over Bayern Munich's much-lauded offence.

Simeone has instilled a battling quality in his side that allow them to defend resolutely when necessary before striking with rattle snake-like precision when their opponent exposes themselves.

The Spanish side's success has made their manager extremely sought after and there have long been rumours of an eventual move to a Premier League club.

However, a manager based there at the moment - also well known for organising team's in a hard-to-beat fashion - doesn't think Simeone's tactics would be as applauded if he carried them out with an English club.

"He defends too much' - that's what he'd get here," Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce said in quotes reported by the BBC.

"It's an art, defending - everybody has forgotten that. It's a tactical art to be able to sense danger and block people's crosses and get your toe in without fouling them now and they are very, very good at it indeed.

"The whole team buys into it. You see Fernando Torres on the edge of his own box defending. You never saw that at Liverpool or Chelsea.

"Now, everybody can say 'well, that's not entertaining', but everybody is eulogising Simeone's tactics now. I wouldn't think they would do that in the Premier League so much."

Allardyce is famously sour that people criticise his style of play, once saying that if his name was 'Sam Allardyici' then maybe people would call him a tactical genius. Alas, he seems to count himself as one of those Simeone acolytes in England, destined to go unloved despite a lifelong commitment to the art of defending, as he added:

"At the moment, if we keep those clean sheet ratios going in the next four games, I am convinced we will stay up," - in reference to Sunderland keeping their opponents scoreless in three of their last four games.

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