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El Cholo Simeone's NEW 3-5-2 // Great Attack, Solid Defense

This is my emulation of Diego Simeone's 3-5-2 at Atletico Madrid in this season. Solid defense and great attack with Cholo's new revolutionary tactic.

By on Dec 08, 2023   16670 views   15 comments
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Football Manager 2024 Tactics - El Cholo Simeone's NEW 3-5-2 // Great Attack, Solid Defense

Atlético Madrid, under the strategic guidance of Diego Simeone, has undergone a significant transformation from a defensively solid team to an ambitious attacking force. The recent 3-1 victory over Real Madrid showcased their prowess, with Álvaro Morata leading the charge with a brace.

In the 2022/23 season, Atletico finished as the form side in Spain, emphasizing their attacking shift. Simeone's adoption of a modern 352 formation has allowed for a more expressive style, leading to an upsurge in goal-scoring opportunities. The team's midfield boasts a blend of experience and youthful energy, while the defensive trio of Giménez, Savić, and Hermoso, along with goalkeeper Jan Oblak, form a formidable structure.

The return of Antoine Griezmann in 2022 has been pivotal, with the Frenchman evolving into a playmaker, contributing significantly to the team's success. The squad's depth, experience, and European pedigree position Atlético Madrid as a serious contender in both domestic and international competitions.

Despite a setback in the UEFA Champions League group stage last year, the team's competitiveness and Simeone's tactical prowess make them strong contenders for silverware in the 2023-24 season.

Diego Simeone's strategic shift from the long-standing 4-4-2 formation to the 3-5-2 system has proven highly successful for Atlético Madrid. The new system, implemented seamlessly, offers defensive stability and enhances the team's attacking prowess.

In the 3-5-2 setup, one central midfielder drops deeper, providing the fullbacks with more freedom to advance, while forming a solid backline to prevent counters. Notably, Simeone often integrates a fullback from the previous 4-4-2 formation into the back three, creating a dynamic 5-man midfield.

The addition of a designated No. 10, like Àngel Correa, operating between the lines and linking with the midfield, adds a new dimension to Atlético's play. The formation allows for temporary numerical advantages in specific areas, especially with the far-side wingback stretching the pitch.

Remarkably, the 3-5-2 formation suits the strengths of each player, showcasing Simeone's understanding of their capabilities. The midfield stability is maintained through the "one up, one down" strategy with players like Koke and Saúl. The defense, a longstanding strength of Atlético, remains formidable, conceding only 25 goals in the season with Jan Oblak providing exceptional goalkeeping.

The off-the-ball structure is highly organized, making it challenging for opponents to find spaces between the lines. The defensive structure is adaptable, shifting between a back 5 and back 6 under pressure, showcasing Simeone's tactical flexibility.


Here's a summary of the key points:

Shift to Possession-Based Style: Atlético has transitioned from a direct approach to a possession-based style, facilitated by the presence of technical players like Luis Suárez (not more in the club) João Félix (currently at Barcelona) Ángel Correa, and Thomas Lemar.

Building with Three at the Back: The build-up phase starts with three players, providing a numerical advantage in the first phase. This allows for more options and flexibility in possession. The wing-backs push high, stretching the opposition and creating space through the middle.

Midfield Link in Build-Up: A midfielder often drops deep to aid in the build-up, creating passing angles and assisting in transitioning from defense to attack. The presence of a midfielder between the lines allows for dangerous passes through the middle.

Utilizing High Wing-Backs: Having high wing-backs stretches the opponent's defense, opening up more spaces through the middle. The wing-backs become viable options for long passes, offering a direct attacking option.

Adaptation of Center-Backs: Center-backs play a crucial role in the build-up, requiring good passing skills. Players between the lines must be well-positioned to receive passes and exploit spaces.

Mixing Direct Approaches: While Atlético primarily focuses on building from the back, they occasionally employ a more direct approach, especially with the mobility of their strikers like Suárez.

Smart Long Balls and Strategic Play: Long balls in behind the opposition can surprise defenders, and this strategy contributes to the overall build-up, making opponents more hesitant to press.

Marcos Llorente's Contribution: Marcos Llorente's attacking movements from midfield, his runs in behind, and flexibility provide additional options for Atlético. His ability to attack from deep adds dynamism to the team's play.


Atletico's shape out of possession was the key to the victory against Real Madrid on September 24th,

Here are some key points:

Formation Shift to 5-3-2: Atlético has transitioned from a traditional 4-4-2 defensive setup to a 5-3-2 formation when not in possession. This involves dropping a midfielder into the defensive line and using wing-backs to provide defensive width.

Defensive Flexibility: The shift to 5-3-2 allows Atlético to strengthen the central defensive areas, providing better coverage against passes between the lines. The presence of three central midfielders enhances flexibility in defensive positioning.

Center-Back Cover: When defenders step up to pressure opponents near the defensive line, having an additional centre-back in the 5-3-2 formation provides cover. This reduces the risk of leaving space behind the defensive line when pressing.

Potential Weakness to Smart Opponents: Smart opponents can exploit the movement of defenders stepping up, drawing them out of position and creating spaces behind. Well-timed movements can lead to opportunities for the attacking team.

Lateral Movement Challenge: The 5-3-2 formation can be challenging when the ball is switched from side to side, requiring the three central midfielders to shift laterally continuously. This can lead to fatigue over the course of the game.

Centre-Backs Pressing High: In some situations, the nearest centre-back jumps up to press the opponent when the midfielder is not close enough. While this helps in immediate pressing, it can create spaces behind if opponents exploit it intelligently.

Isolation of Opponent's Full-Back: When pressing high, Atlético may leave the opponent's full-back alone, providing an easy outlet for the opponent to play out from the back. The lack of traditional wingers makes it challenging to press both central and wide areas simultaneously.

Adaptability: Despite the shift to 5-3-2, Atlético retains the ability to revert to a 4-4-2 formation when needed. This adaptability allows them to switch between defensive setups based on the game situation.

Effective Defensive Record: Atlético's defensive changes have resulted in a solid defensive record, conceding only 14 goals in the league during the analyzed season, the lowest in La Liga at that time.


Let's explore how I replicated Simeone's strategy in Football Manager 2024.

As said before, Atlético Madrid adopts a 3-5-2 formation, relying on the width provided by their wing-backs and occasional overlapping of wide-centre backs, particularly on the left side. The right-sided central midfielder takes charge of advancing and attacking the right half-space, while the central and left-sided midfielder form a sort of double-pivot. The two forwards aim to engage central defenders, with Griezmann assuming a deep-lying foward role by dropping deep and exploiting the space created by his strike partner, who pins and pushes back defenses to create depth.

In defensive phases, the 3-5-2 transitions into a 5-3-2. They focus on keeping their midfield and forwards narrow, safeguarding central areas to force opponents out wide. When defending the flanks, the team shifts over to maintain a compact and narrow shape, ensuring protection of the channels.

Deploying three defenders provides Atletico with a numerical edge during the initial stages of constructing their plays. The central defenders take on the responsibility of initiating the team's actions. Simultaneously, midfielders positioned between the lines strive to locate open spaces within the midfield. Opting for this formation alleviates the need for wing-backs to contribute to the buildup, as their counterparts generate an advantage in the midfield.

Consequently, the wing-backs operate in advanced positions, with Simeone's approach involving positioning them exceptionally wide, right along the touchlines. This strategic choice serves to stretch the opposing team, creating additional space in the midfield and providing ample room on the flanks.

Team instructions

Mentality: Positive ( in the second tactic to use against stronger opponent, the mentality is Balanced)

In possession

Attacking width: Fairly wide
Play out of defense
Focus play through the middle: as said before, Simeone wants the 3 defenders and the midfielders to build the play overloading the central area while the two wing-backs stay wider to stretch the opposition defense creating middle spaces to be exploited.
Overlap left and right: wing-backs overlap on the two sides offering more passing options and also crossing the ball to the 2 forwards
Shorter passing: to help the team to retain more possession
Tempo: slightly higher
Pass into spaces: after overloading the central areas and stretching the opposition defense through the two wide wing-backs, Atletico exploits the middle spaces
Play for set pieces to control possession more
Crosses: lower
Work Ball Into Box
Be More Expressive: compared to the 4-4-2 used some years ago, Simeone now gives more freedom to his players, having many technical players like Saul, De Paul, Depay and of course Griezmann.

In transition

Regroup: when possession is lost, Simeone does not want his team to press high and win the ball immediately, instead he wants his players to stay back in their half and close all spaces until they win the ball back.
Counter: once possession is won, Simeone wants his team to launch fast counter-attacks exploiting spaces left behind by the opponent
Goalkeeper instructions
Pass to the central defenders: the 3 central defenders are responsible to build the play from the back
Take short kicks

Out of possession

Pressing Line: higher. In the second tactic to use against stronger opponents, we use a mid block (against Manchester City I even used a low block combined with a lower defensive line)
Defensive Line: Higher In the second tactic we use a standard defensive line
Pressing: More Often
Prevent Short GK Distribution
Trap outside: as said before , opposition are forced to go wide and attempt to feed crosses into the area, this also can force the player with the ball to make wrong passes because the sideline can be used as an additional defender (since the opponent has only 3 directions where he can pass or dribble and not 4)
Stop crosses: I added this instruction because I want to reduce chances for the opposition to score.

Player Roles and Instructions

GK: Oblak: Sweeper-keeper on defend, no instructions
RCB:Gimenez: Wide Center-Back on defend, no instructions.
CD: Witsel: Ball-Playing Defender on defend, he helps the most with building the play from the back. Instructions: close down more, mark tighter,
LCB: Hermoso: Wide Center- Back on defend: dribble less.

The Wide Center Back role has already the “stay wider” instruction active, it’s a preset instruction on Football Manager. This is exactly what we want because in Simeone’s formation, the wide-center backs stay wider to cover spaces on the sides left by the overlapping wing-backs and sometimes they also move forward to support the attack. This is especially true for the left wide-center back (Mario Hermoso)

RFB: Nahuel Molina: Complete Wing- Back on support: run wide with ball, mark tighter, close down more.
LFB: Javi Galan (or Samuel Lino): Complete Wing- Back on support: run wide with ball, mark tighter, close down more, dribble more.

I chose the complete wing-back on support role for Molina and Galan because what Simeone wants from his wing-backs is that they stay much wider to stretch the opposition defense creating middle spaces and also they often overlap to receive ball and shoot or cross.
Why on support? Because in Football Manager, choosing a “support” mentality for a player instructs him to help in both defensive and attacking phases, another reason is the presence of 3 central defenders who are also helping to build the play more than defending. If I choose the attacking mentality for the 2 wing-backs too, this would probably harm the tactical balance and allow too many chances to the opponent. The support mentality for Molina and Galan is a good compromise.

DM: Koke: Deep-Lying Playmaker on defend: close down more.
Koke is the core of Atletico’s possession phase, he builds the play in the central area together with the other 2 midfielders and the three defenders.
RCM: Rodrigo De Paul: Box to Box Midfielder on support: mark tighter, shoot more often.
De Paul is good on both defensive and attacking play and he has 15 on long shots ( personally I think he should have a higher value but that’s what Football Manager creators decided) so I instructed him to shoot more often.
LCM: Saul: Mezzala-support: no instructions. I set him on support because I want him to help in building the play and overloading the central area, and controlling possession.

RF: Griezmann: for Griezmann, I chose a Deep-Lying Forward in support role, with no instructions. He will naturally drop down to link the play and receive the ball from the midfielders and I think it works better than a False 9 role.
LF: Alvaro Morata: Advanced Forward on attack: Dribble Less, Shoot More Often, Roam from Position
Morata has to focus only on scoring, I instructed him to roam from position because he is great off the ball (his value is 16) and in searching for the correct position to receive the ball and pass or shoot.

This is all for this tactic. I tested it with Atletico, won the Liga and Supercopa del Rey, and then tried it on holiday mode too with Monaco and finished 4 th in Ligue 1

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Downloads: 2923 / Size: 82.4 kB / Added: 2023-12-08
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Discussion: El Cholo Simeone's NEW 3-5-2 // Great Attack, Solid Defense

15 comments have been posted so far.

  • Gaffa92's avatar
    i ended up finishing 3rd and tbh i would rather of got Europa especially after i only got 50mil, i have loads of intrest in my players from Saudi so shuold easily get it close to 150mil but need to upgrade and spend it wisely.

    Also thinking of going Xabi style and having 2 10's i am not a fan of 2 ST system and using this hasnt changed my mind, this should help with build up play and just have 1 ST who scores all the goals, there was such a big gap from my 3 CM's and 2 ST's which is why i think we struggled in some games to create. Also the ST's would not really combine well and always just tried scoring themselves which is why i never like 2 lol

    or i could try putting both the CM's on attack instead, doesnt help that i watched the Leverkusen game on Saturday and want to play 3-4-2-1 aha
  • Tikitaka Master's avatar
    that's very good, 4th with Brentford is a great result.
    Keep it up
    I think if the budget allows it, you can buy some good players for next season and maybe try to win some trophy
  • Gaffa92's avatar
    no not really, my assistant always says the CM roles are not sutiable and they don't work together lol but other than that nothing, some games been struggling to score or create chances against the bigger side but also not gave up many either. But what i created wasnt desgined to be scoring 4-5 goals per game. I wanted something solid and semi realistic. Few games have been 0-0 or 1-0 either way but managed to beat Liverpool home and away :) currently 4th with 2 games to go
  • Tikitaka Master's avatar
    wow, great results! did you find some role-positions issues?
  • Gaffa92's avatar
    safe to say its going better than expected :)

  • Gaffa92's avatar
    just starting the save now :) think i might actually use Toney as a CF looking at his stats and having Mbeumo as the PF, i will be using Norgard as the BMW with Jensen and Janelt as BBM, just not sure how well the ST's will be supported, so maybe 1 CM on attack would be better and 1 CM on support as not sure i want BBM as roam from postion is hard coded and i want the shape to be disciplined. will have to see how it goes i guess.

    But also tempted to have Norgard as a DM on support as he can do this well. i think hard games i will go with BMW-D and easier games go with the DM-S. Also going more direct, play for set pieces and slightly time waste :) as i want a kind of repliction tactic and not use the same broken instructions that 99% of people use and copy.

    I feel like i need one of your massive in depth postion guides to help me create something a bit different and realistic aha ;)
  • Tikitaka Master's avatar
    Yes I understand, Brentford has quite physically strong players, so your choice is right.
    yes in fact that was what I thought because Toney and Mbeumo could play quite well in that role.
    By the way who do you use as BWM?
  • Gaffa92's avatar
    ohh okay, yeah thats why i was gonig to do that with Brentford as not really a possesion based team an djust want to get the ball forward vertically and quickly .

    Its funny you say that as i was going to go with the 2x BBM's and then 2 x PF as that suits Toney and Mbeumo but i think my BBM will be either side of the BWM as i prefer him in the middle.
  • Tikitaka Master's avatar
    Well, it could work with the two BBM you will have more vertical movements and a more attacking play instead of the possession base style used by Simeone, so it will be a different play that may suit Brentford players.
    By the way, I do not recommend to use this and I don't use it myself but in the previous editions of Football Manager it was like a famous trick to use 2 attacking players in the same role, one close to the other (example: 2bbm in the middle, 2 stikers CA) because it could break the match engine. I heard that since FM23 it does not work so well as before but I never tried it so I can't tell
  • Gaffa92's avatar
    Thanks, i am looking at using 3 CM's for my Brentford save, would 2 BBM on the outside and a BWM in the middle work you think?

    i don't see many 3-5-2 formations with 3 CM's.

  • Tikitaka Master's avatar
    Hi Dan thank you for your comment. I am using NARIGON Skin you can find it here on this site
  • Gaffa92's avatar
    such a good analyse and so much detail, will be giving this a try with Brentford i think :)

    Also what skin are you using? looks amazing

  • Nonspeedlove's avatar
    taktik üreticileri arasında en beğendiğim kişisin dostum.Sıkı takipçinim.
  • Tikitaka Master's avatar
    I usually let him to my assistant if I play against an opponent I don't know well.
    If I play against a team I know well I focus on the stronger players, and use mark tigther, press and force him to the weak foot. BUT, if that player can use both feet the same way, this instruction is useless so I don't use it. I do the same for all my tactics, I tend to focus only on the strongest opponent players
  • motaan's avatar
    What opposition instruction do you use? OR do you just leave this handled by your assistant?
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