A Tactical Replication for Modern Football
Why does it seem like the Catenaccio preset in Football Manager 2019 doesn’t work? Or at least, certainly not work for a long term system. Well, it’s because the system itself no longer works in the modern football game. I’ve heard chatter that Sports Interactive didn’t replicate the system instructions the “right way” but I think they did… and that’s why it doesn’t work.
So I ventured to “replicate” the tactics of Helenio Herrera’s Inter in the 1960’s. They were perhaps the most well known pervayors of the “door-bolt” but I wanted to make it work in the modern FM world.
Herrera was not the inventor of the famously defensive ‘Catenaccio’ (door-bolt in Italian) system, but he was perhaps its most successful exponent. Having tried in vain to introduce Barcelona’s more fluid attacking style in his first campaigns, he moved a midfielder back to act as sweeper, adopted a rigid man-marking policy, and freed his left-back to attack at will. Armando Picchi emerged as a world-class ‘libero’ under Herrera, while Giacinto Facchetti shone as one of the first attacking left-backs.
A solid defence, however, was not everything. Skillful midfielders and pacy forwards were key to the lethal counterattacks launched by Inter. “I want vertical football at great speed, with no more than three passes to get to the box,” said ‘Il Mago’ (the magician). “If you lose the ball playing vertically, it’s not a problem – lose it laterally and you pay with a goal.”
In thinking about the above quote I created the hybrid “Catenaccio/Direct Counter-Attack” system you see below. The idea is we take a “Catenaccio” preset and take the best of the “Direct Counter-Attack” to give ourselves the quick forward movement described in “Inverting The Pyramid”. This should give us the forward movement and goals we need to win defensive games.
- Create a Defensive mentality system of play that mimics Hererro’s “Catenaccio”
- Concede less than a goal a game
- Win the EURO
I also wanted to make this a very Italian set-up so I used a Trequarista, Regista, and Sweeper (Libero). The only thing we don’t have is a Mezzala and a Carrilero (Sorry).
No player instructions here, we’re using the roles as intended and I leave the opposition instructions for my staff… hire good people and let them do their job.
Having recently taken over the Italy side in my current save, I thought it was the perfect time to see what we could do about reviving Catenaccio, or at least a “Modern Catenaccio”. Let’s see how we did going into the EURO 2024.
First match against Ukraine and although I don’t love giving up any goals when trying to bring the Door-Bolt back, it was a junky own goal in stoppage time of the first half. What I did like to see is the heat map…
As you can see we are very close to what we’d want the side to look like out of possession (which we all know is what the starting positions in FM represents).
Game two was the same scoreline with another good win over Belguim (with their only goal coming in the 91st minute plus). What is really starting to stand out to me is the possession we are getting in a DEFENSIVE system but if we have the ball, they don’t and they can’t score.
Last game of the group stage saw us grab a win against the Czech Republic in more of a “Catenaccio” style. Under 50% possession and no goals allowed. I chalk this up to the players becoming more tactically aware.
At the end of the group stages you can see swept the field with 9 points out of 9 and we’re on to the second round. I’m going to run through the rest a bit quicker because I think everyone gets the idea.
More competitive game than I thought against Austria. Very much a grinder that saw us win in penalties.
If we are talking about a modern catenaccio we are seeing the influence of possession in the games. I find this interesting for a couple reasons:
One, people seem to be overly concerned with possession in general in FM. Folks are always trying to get over the magic 60% mark and we’re averaging 55% whilst playing productive football in a DEFENSIVE mentality system.
Two, is that the general feeling is that possession football killed the “Catenaccio” and we’re almost creating a melding of the two. Can “Modern Catenaccio” take the best from both worlds and resurrect the door bolt with it’s own tricks?
Not this time. But I will tell you that this France team is fantastic. Griezmann, Pogba, Mbappe, Dembele, Laporte, Pavard, plus a host of others all in their prime. We held on the ball looking for attacks but just couldn’t find them. The EURO final was no surprise after playing them.
- Create a Defensive mentality system of play that mimics Hererro’s “Catenaccio” – I’d say yes. Watching it play it does feel like how Herrero’s Catenaccio is described, although there is much more offensive intent in this system.
- Concede less than a goal a game – Sort of… We gave up an average of a goal per game although France got us by two, Ukraine’s goal we scored on ourselves (own goal ’47 min) and the goal in the Belguim game was a garbage time goal. We could make the argument that 0.67 GPM is a truer representation.
- Win the EURO – Nope. Viva La France!
Overall I’m very happy with both the way the team played defensively but offensively as well. Solid defence with lightning fast counters. It’s very interesting to watch and I hope you have a good time using and watching it in your own FM saves!
If you enjoy these types of replications and would like to see us take a crack at another, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below.
Find me @ericstpeterFM on Twitter
Other articles you may enjoy:
- Dynamo Project Tactic Creation – Step 2: Transition Unit
- Dynamo Project Step-by-Step Tactic Creation – Step 1: The Defensive Unit
- How to use the inside forward in FM19