What is Cholismo? At the time of celebrating his 15 years as a coach, in 2021, Diego Simeone himself was unable to define the derivative of his nickname, Cholo. “As I did not invent this word, I do not have the definition”, almost apologized the Argentinian. You have to hang out on the site of a Spanish collaborative dictionary to see people take the risk of defining the concept, which would be a culture of the moment applied to football. “It’s about taking game after game without thinking about the past or the future, which are unproductive distractions on a psychological level”, can we read, among other things.
It’s hard to settle for a definition halfway between the football cliché and the insta account specializing in personal development and bullshit phrases. We will therefore prefer that of Tomas Roncero, editor-in-chief of the Real Madrid section of the daily As, full of bad faith: “The cholismo is a year without winning C1, then another”. It is difficult to see how this year could deviate from the rule.
With the 5-5-0, has cholismo gone too far?
But let’s never forget that Simeone was a Sergio Ramos to offer a Champions League to Colchoneros, who are content with the two Europa Leagues and La Liga won under his command. Successes on which Cholo bases his legitimacy to transform his team into a prison under high surveillance, as was the case in the first leg against City. For those who had better things to do than fall asleep in front of the most boring match of the decade (already, yes), we must refer to Kevin De Bruyne, sole scorer. “For the first time, I saw a team play 5-5-0”. With an underlying question: has cholismo gone too far?
I get the idea of just defending, but in all defensive plans there is bound to be a moment when you try to attack, you don’t defend 100%, comments Christophe Kuchly, co-author of “How do you win a football match?. There, there was no one in front, no player you can look for and lean on to get the ball back. »
The scene that sums it all up
First minutes of play, João Félix presses, recovers a ball and finds himself completely isolated in the central circle. He has no choice but to move forward with the ball until he is sandwiched by three or four defenders. Game over, return to sender.
Atlético v City
0 shot, 0 shot on target (logical), -492 xG
5-5-0 in various and varied contexts
Not pretty, but effective
However, without this goal from Kevin de Bruyne, Simeone would have been right in his approach. Carmen Calvo, journalist and historic Atlético de Madrid fan, thinks so. “As a supporter and despite the goal conceded, I had a very peaceful match, because in reality there were very few chances from City. We were far from the match against Bayern (4-0 defeat in 2020) where I closed my eyes every time the Germans approached our goals. There, we are still alive, there is a little hope and that is what counted before the return match. »
Kuchly also concedes that Simeone managed to annoy Guardiola by reducing his possession game to a caricature of handball. And the players, in all this? What do they say? Thomas Lemar:
It may not look pretty, but it works. It’s a feisty team, which is there on every ball, which doesn’t want to lose, in matches or in training… That’s what he wants to pass on to us, not to rest on our laurels. »
Let’s recognize the Cholo for having succeeded in giving its players an inordinate taste for collective effort, even for grass-court athletics. When he arrived in Madrid from Real Sociedad, Antoine Griezmann was an explosive goal-oriented winger/striker. Today, he is almost a defensive midfielder and, worst of all, he likes it. Calvo: “Simeone makes them believe in this notion of a solid, united group. If a central defender can score, why can’t a forward defend? There is this idea that everyone should support each other. »
The Felix example
Illustration by example with João Félix, long behind and even on the bench before emerging this season in the collective, and whose evolution Yannick Carrasco explained a few weeks earlier: “You have to think about the team, not think only of yourself. And João has understood that this season. He worked hard, he understood that the group was more important than his own name. Anyway, the Argentinian leaves no choice. It is assimilation, or expulsion. Any resemblance to the program of a candidate eliminated in the first round of the presidential election is fortuitous.
Simeone has created standards of behavior with his players, explains Domingo Cisma, former colchonero. Those who don’t fit in don’t succeed at Atlético, as we’ve seen with some great players. »
How long can cholismo still survive? The idea of a game is in itself an anachronism and a geographical anomaly: it belongs to Italy from the 60s to the 90s, and therefore has no place in 2022. But the Colchonero people are ready to see their driver bus slam his best slots in front of the cage as long as the results follow. “I had a 14-year streak without beating Real Madrid,” said the Spanish journalist. Of course I would like to see my team attacking a little more. But as long as we win, that’s fine with me. »
Anyway, Simeone did not plan to change his tune, not even leading by one goal before the return match against City. “We are not going to deviate much from what we usually do. I hope that we will manage to combine better between us, have faster transitions, have counter-attacks. In a game, anything can happen. “Even see Atlético hitting the goal.