Catania’s progress under Diego Simeone

Offensively impotent, overly defensive and on the cusp of relegation, Catania had no option but to switch coaches and introduce Diego Simeone to a team largely made up of Argentine footballers. Having achieved huge success in Argentina, El Cholo finally made a return to Serie A hoping to bring with him the attacking football Catania so desperately required.
A team built only to defend and comprised of players whose decent athletic condition would only last 20 minutes or so, Simeone arrived and instantly knew that in order to change results he needed to create a team of warriors constantly in search of goal-scoring opportunities. Tactically, things needed to change and the first thing Simeone did was modify the defensive play. Rather than watching the ball, El Cholo demanded that his defenders only watch their men, paying close attention to those they are man-marking, creating an aggressive unit starting from the back. Moving to the attack, he has introduced a playmaker behind Maxi Lopez to offer more support to his forward line. And to make more of a compact team that would allow for quick movement of the ball, he’s instructed his two midfielders who sit in front of the defence to offer support to the trequartista, bridging the gap between offence and defence.
From the first match against Parma, there was already a change in the team. The ball was being handled much better on the ground, the side seemed more balanced and there was a general willingness to attack. However four points in five games suggest Simeone is not making the impact the Catania tifosi were hoping for but results only tell half the story and the Sicilian side’s triumphant win against rival relegation battlers Lecce show us that Simeone’s work is beginning to pay off.
Against Lecce, the Coach’s tactical astuteness became evident when he decided to introduce Francesco Lodi halfway through the match to provide more lucid movement in midfield and it was the substitute who scored the two goals that allowed Catania their first win under their new Coach. However, Simone’s greatest achievement thus far is the psychological impact he seems to have made on the team. Against Parma and even Milan, Catania were still the team that only played in spurts and gave up on their search for a goal too easily. But it was against Bologna, in which they were a man down from the 22nd minute, and especially against Lecce that we witnessed a determined side willing to fight until the very last minute. It was this persistent attitude that saw them earn valuable points in an effort to ward off the threat of relegation.
It is much too early to accurately pass judgement on Simeone’s new side especially as they have been suffering from many injuries. Goals are still too few and far between and solutions must be found to cover up the void of talent in key areas. A team that has conceded far too many goals from opponents apt at penetrating their wings, the squad desperately needs an apt left-back to provide more security. Furthermore, in his desperate attempt to create a hungry and aggressive squad, Simeone is now battling against bad on pitch behaviour. But with enough time, perhaps we will begin to see a team in Simeone’s complete vision and not one fighting to rid itself of Giampaolo’s methodology.

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