Marcos Llorente is a Spanish midfielder who showcased a great performance this season with Atlético Madrid in La Liga, following his transfer from Real Madrid last summer when he switched to the other pole in the Spanish capital.
Under coach Diego Simeone, he developed the player’s abilities on the pitch and made him play in various roles. This gave Atlético Madrid many solutions in play, especially in the middle and final thirds where he can contribute in the style of play, where the team apply the high pressure on the opponent to move into the attacking side.
Through this tactical analysis, we will try to review what the Spanish player has provided tactically and some of his statistical improvements with his team this season.
Llorente positioning outline
Marcos played 36 matches in all the competitions with the team this season, and coach Diego Simeone put him into the same 4-2-2 shape as usual with various tactics and tasks for him, whether playing as a defensive midfielder or a second striker.
The main role for him is as a defensive midfielder who can press the opponent player in the middle third or the build-up phase, and he played the defensive midfielder position in 21 matches this season, especially before the lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic, and joined Thomas Partey or Saúl Ñíguez on the same line.
Here we can notice the main place where he played this season with Atlético as a defensive midfielder who is the closest man to the defensive line as a pivot. Llorente moves vertically into the pitch between his team penalty area and the opponent’s one where he could contribute as a defensive man with pressure on the ball holder.
The heat map gives us an idea about Llorente’s strength of moving vertically or horizontally on the pitch where he can be a solution in the final third for scoring or be aggressive in the duels with the opponent players.
The defensive contribution from Marcos was great and helped his team to success in pressing ideas to make counter-attacks or to spoil the opponent’s thoughts.
Llorente is one of the important players in Atlético Madrid’s tactics for the defensive shape and can contribute in the team system within a 4-4-2, regardless of his positioning on the pitch as a defensive midfielder or by taking up a place in the attacking third.
In addition, he also provides support to the right-back in the team to not let him be in a 2 vs 1 situation in the defensive case, and he helps him cover the pitch on the right side.
Beside his flexibility with various positions, he also has the ability to put pressure on the opponent players to recover the ball and win possession for his team. He recovered 102 balls this season in La Liga, 53 of them in the middle third, and that gives the group an option for a counter-attack, as we will see in the next example.
Here we can notice his positioning on the right side, where the team is positioned in a 4-4-2 compactness under the ball line and close the pass lanes, while Llorente is watching the build-up process from Real Mallorca when the ball is with Iddrisu Baba who prepares to pass it on the left.
Llorente, with great concentration on the ball, succeeded to cut the ball and put his team in the counter-pressing phase where he looked forward to the opposition penalty area.
Llorente was very sharp in the final third when the team lost the ball, where he recovered the ball 18 times in the final third to transition the team for the attacking phase again, like in the picture below.
Here we can see Llorente when he intercepted the ball to recover it into the final third and give his team a chance for counter-pressing and spoil the build-up phase from Mallorca.
With his rush of power to cut the ball in the field, Marcos makes a great addition to Diego Simeone’s system by completing the third-most successful recoveries in the final third at the Spanish league with a ratio up to 3.2 balls per match.
Marcos applies pressure on the opponent players 309 times at the league matches, with focus on the ball and contributing well especially in the middle and first thirds as we can see in the next example.
Marcos is watching the ball with the opponent of Deportivo Alavés and trying to press and make running with the ball difficult and to not allow the counter-attack.
Here he succeeds in an interception for the ball thus spoiling the counter-attack and regaining possession again for the team, and that’s why he is important in the defensive contribution.
Llorente has a great contribution in Atlético Madrid’s defensive shape where he plays, but he has a great attacking ability too, where he’s sharp in the final third.
Llorente has had a clear impact in the team’s attacking side, where he played 10 matches as a second striker and four matches in the right-winger position, besides playing as a central midfielder in one match.
His ability to penetrate the opponent’s defensive positioning with speed and run to receive the ball into the space enabled him in scoring three goals and assisting three goals to his teammates.
Llorente can run to the space behind the full-backs of the opponent and receive the ball, where he can make a cross to the colleagues as we can see in the next example.
Here he moves to the space behind the defence to receive a Santiago Arias pass and makes a cross pass to hit one of Levante’s players and settle into the net.
Marcos had a total of 2.39 expected assists (xA) last season and this is a good percentage for him with quality contribution, especially as his vertical movement on the pitch makes him an option to receive the ball.
Llorente’s ability to make the right decision is particularly distinctive in the final third in terms of passing to colleagues or shooting, as well as in his movement after applying the ideas of high pressure, as we will see.
Here, after applying pressure to Osasuna’s defence, Llorente had more than one choice, whether to shoot or pass horizontally towards Yannick Carrasco, which highlights his excellence in team play.
Llorente has an accurate pass rate of 81% this season, which is good but not exceptional value for the Spanish player as he helps his team to get the ball out or recycle it in the middle.
He moves, either vertically or horizontally, to become a solution during possession of the ball in order to move the team to the offensive third, and this is perhaps due to his experiences of when he was employed as a second striker on many occasions.
Here, Marcos is in the space behind the left-back and is waiting for the header pass to penetrate the space, and go towards the goal.
When his colleague made a mistake in passing, he moved horizontally to receive the pass in the place free from supervision and he could score.
Indeed, Llorente scores and creates goals, but the most obvious risk that leads to this is his moves horizontally, fearing the midfield of the opposing team in the half-spaces.
Llorente into half-spaces
Llorente was recruited to play in the midfield on the right wing to provide support for the duo in attacking line by moving in the half-spaces between the left-back and the centre-back in the opposing team.
Going from the wing to the inside has more than one importance, as he becomes present with the left-back who is tasked with observing him, he is then in a man-to-man position, as well as freeing up space for the right-back.
We will try to see that idea when he leaves the space for the right-back to advance and support the attack.
Here we notice the idea that Llorente entered the interior to occupy the left-back by following him and clearing the space for the right-back to advance.
Being in the half-spaces gives him the ability to penetrate the opponent’s penalty area due to the space left by the team, as he uses the space behind the back to have the opportunity to play the cross, which we will see.
Here, we see him penetrating the space behind the back to have the opportunity to play the cross ball.
And here, in the build-up phase of the Atlético Madrid defence, we see Llorente concentrating in the space between the full-back and the centre-back.
Here, with his team on a transition and Llorente being in a 1 v 1 position, this is extremely dangerous since he has completed 60% of his dribbles this season.
Llorente positions himself to cause harm to the opponent while moving horizontally all the time and become a solution to receive the ball, which is something the coach has managed to develop in the player.
However, despite his impressive offensive capabilities, he does have some potential problems.
His potential issue
Marcos has an aggressive performance in the pitch with sharp duels and that could lead him to do some fouls.
Because of this, he committed 0.8 fouls per game this season and that makes him regularly get carded, as we can see in the next shot.
Here, when the player of the opponent aims to go forward toward Jan Oblak, we can see Llorente tackle with dangerous play.
Llorente loses the ball at different times in the match, whether in the air where he’s won only 35% of the aerial duels, and further analysis shows this is indeed a large percentage, whether for a midfielder or a second striker at a team like Atlético.
Here we see him deciding to jump late as he loses in aerial duels.
These defects can appear logically to a player who changed his position more than once and developed a lot at the tactical level that enabled his team to finish the league in the third place, behind champions Real Madrid and second-placed Barcelona.