Committed to the tackle with a steadfast approach to defending, Diego Simeone was the archetypal aggressive player who treated each game as a war – one which must be won at all costs. A great motivator who seldom knew how to curb his enthusiasm, he boasted great footballing intelligence that saw him make the transition from player to Coach seamlessly. Having won the Clausura with two different teams, one of which had not won it in 23 years, Simeone proved he was a born tactician and fully capable of inspiring a team to victory, despite having previously failed in fulfilling their potential.
Back in Italy and a very Argentine squad, otherwise known as Catania, was failing to live up to its potential having only collected 22 points from 20 games, scoring 18 in the process. When Management let go of Marco Giampaolo, they remarked 22 points was respectable number for a club like Catania but considering the fact they felt this was the ‘best squad’ they ever possessed, they yearned for a better league position. A proven winner, an Argentine and a man who understood and experienced the Italian style of play, Simeone seemed like the smart choice for a squad suffering from a psychological block. However, 15 games later and Catania are still threatened by the possibility of relegation.
As a whole, impressive changes have been made tactically. Habitually opting for a more offensive 4-2-3-1 formation, Simeone has encouraged his side to take more shots on goal and the players’ off the ball movement has greatly improved. Perhaps as a result, it is easy to see why the team have managed 17 goals in 15 games since his arrival. However despite their opportunities for goal, their inability to convert has remained a cause for concern and the side are often caught reverting to long balls in lieu of patient build-up.
Tactics aside, Simeone was hired for the mental boost Catania hoped he could provide in hopes of forcing more resolute and committed performances from a squad that lacked both confidence and belief. To a certain degree, “El Cholo” has succeeded in his quest to produce a side with a never-say-die attitude, and both his coaching methods and his risk taking allows him to make interesting substitutions that encourage the side’s offensive play. Against Juventus for example, we saw a team come back from two goals down to register a point whilst against Cagliari, they scored twice after they went down to ten men – eager to prove they can win despite the numerical disadvantage.
Maintaining the faith until the final whistle is certainly down to the work of Simeone. However, despite the determination, the side are still very much intimidated by opponents they deem as bigger or better. Several members of the team admitted to feeling threatened by the presence of Alessandro Del Piero on the pitch when they played Juventus perhaps explaining their trepid first half performance. Whilst poor displays and resulting losses against Milan, Napoli, Udinese and Lazio prove the squad lack the belief in their abilities to take on sides adept at winning. Their somewhat exaggerated and dramatic celebrations after the draw against Juve imply they were not expecting to get anything from the match which can only mean they still feel inferior to sides in the top half of the table.
When San Lorenzo, one of Argentina’s richest clubs, found themselves 18th in the league and already eliminated from the Copa Libertadores, they too looked for the psychological impact only a man like Simeone could provide. Unfortunately that ended in tears largely due to the team falling too far already. Whilst Simeone can provide a psychological boost – it may be all one should hope for. Miracles should be left for those who have proved capable of performing them in the past.