La Liga 2019/20: Atlético Madrid vs Leganes – tactical analysis

La Liga 2019/20: Atlético Madrid vs. Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Leganes' solid defensive shape and the midfield shield.

La Liga returned at the Wanda Metropolitano as home side Atlético Madrid faced Leganes in an early Sunday kickoff. Atlético Madrid came into the clash looking to overcome a disappointing mid-week Copa Del Rey loss against Segunda B side Cultural Leonesa. The visitors, Leganes, headed into the fixture following a narrow win against CD Ebro in the King’s Cup. As Atlético Madrid looked to close the gap with the top two sides in the table, Leganes came into this clash hoping to snatch a point to keep their hopes of overcoming the relegation zone.

In this tactical analysis, we’ll be looking at the details of the progress, the approach of both the teams in this goalless fixture. In addition to that, we’ll be going through the lineups, the buildup of the teams.


La Liga 2019/20: Atlético Madrid vs. Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Lineups [via Wyscout].
Diego Simeone made six changes from the side that lost in the mid-week. Deploying a 4-3-3, the attacking trio consisted of Félix, Morata, and Correa. Vitolo and Herrera were demoted to the bench as Thomas Partey and Angel Correa made it back to the starting lineup. The back four was completed by Lodi, Felipe, Savic, and Vrsaljko, with the Serbian making his first appearance after Europa League final against Marseille. Santiago Arias and Kieran Tripper were sidelined due to injury and Jan Oblak was keeping the sticks for the Rojiblancos as usual.

Leganes, also making six changes, saw Cuellar returning to the side as the shot-stopper. The five-man defence of the 5-4-1 formation had Kenneth Omeruo and Chidozie Awaziem returning to the side. Martin Braithwaite was deployed as the sole striker as Roque Mesa returned to the starting line-up.

Atlético’s style of play

Although Atlético Madrid started off as a 4-3-3 side, the formation seemed to be switched on to a 4-4-2, with Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata leading the attack. Diego Simeone’s side enjoyed all the possession in the world in the opening minutes, trying to build-up slow. The ultimate aim, however, was finding either Joao Felix or Morata in dangerous positions to create a threat for the visiting side.

The attempts to find the front two succeeded in many occasions but intact defending from the opposition meant the forwards not getting enough space to link-up.

La Liga 2019/20: Atlético Madrid vs. Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Atletico’s positioning early one and the markers.

Thomas Partey was the man to look in the Atlético midfield as the Ghanaian was sublime and enjoyed comfortable ball possessions. Partey used his physical prowess to recover the ball for Atlético while attempting line-breaking passes occasionally. The midfielder found himself in formidable space to contemplate the forwards frequently. As a result, despite a side that missed Koké, Partey gave Rojiblancos occupation over the pitch. Partey recovered the ball on 17 instances, often resulting to forward passes.

La Liga 2019/20: Atlético Madrid vs. Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Thomas Partey’s pass distribution.

Diego Simeone’s side have been rustic in transition lately. For instance, the idea of using their midfielders to buildup play and supply to the forward line was nullified. Similarly, Atlético were very much unsuccessful in using their pacey winger Angel Correa as their efforts of playing from the wide backfired as Leganes frequently caught them on possession to start a counter-attack. The introduction of Vitolo in the second half looked to change the proceedings of the game, but it seemed it was a bit late to process for a struggling side.

Leganes’ style of play

Javier Aguirre’s side started off under pressure, as the game started with Madrid enjoying a lot of possession and finding their forwards frequently. Leganes, however, cancelled any incoming threats with an intact defensive shape that they maintained throughout the course of the game.

La Liga 2019/20: Atlético Madrid vs. Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Leganes’ solid defensive shape and the midfield shield.

The solid defensive structure that Leganes maintained throughout the game saw them isolate both Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata, who were looking to receive balls and link-up with each other in dangerous positions. Leganes defended physically and looked confident in the ball throughout the game. Another main factor for their defensive success was their attempts of defending in numbers against Diego Simeone’s side.

La Liga 2019/20: Atlético Madrid vs. Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Isolated front-two and Leganes defending in numbers.

Leganes always looked comfortable without the ball, despite a number of shots that Atletico managed to get against them. The returning goalkeeper, Cuellar, was the hero as the goalkeeper was able to deny all the shots attempted against him.

While defending, Leganes also had ideas to occasionally haunt the home side with their quick balls to the final third. Leganes struggled to penetrate from the middle and lost possessions while attempting to do that and hence opted to play out wide. Javi Eraso and Kevin Rodrigues were the keys to this process. The duo were recipients of the balls that were played out wide by the centre backs/midfielders after recovery.

La Liga 2019/20: Atlético Madrid vs. Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Wide-to-middle, eventually to the man making the run out wide.

Long and diagonal balls to the wide and coming back in to fetch the striker Braithwaite was a common sight in Leganes’ attempts to break down Felipe and Stefan Savic. The plan frequently saw Leganes getting hands of deadly counter-attacks that resulted in a shot against Jan Oblak. The wide players enjoyed comfortable movement and were frequently a part of Leganes’ attempts to break in the counter.

La Liga 2019/20: Atlético Madrid vs. Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Leganes’ heatmap (only 2 wingers+2 full-backs)


Lately, problems have started appearing for Diego Simeone’s side and it only continues to grow worse with time. As this analysis points out, Madrid were neutralized by a side fighting the relegation battle. In the end, things did end up salt, as Leganes were reduced to 10-men with Cuellar getting a double yellow, but it was too late for Madrid to capitalize. Not being able to sort out the inconsistency issues in the final third and error-prone defensive structure meant Leganes snatched their first point at Wanda after being promoted to Spanish top-flight.

A draw means Diego Simeone’s side missed a chance to close the gap with the top 3 and Leganes going home satisfied. Atlético Madrid’s next encounter is a big one, as they contest a Madrid derby at Santiago Bernabeu. Although Koké is set to return for the clash, there’re a lot of things to fix in tactics for the Rojiblancos and a lot to learn from this disappointing fixture.