I got an e-mail through a few weeks ago from Philip Sinkins about catenaccio, and it got me to thinking – can you actually do it in FML? I mean, the whole point of developing the new tactical interface was to give people the tools to build solid tactics quickly and effectively. So, surely, even though catenaccio has had its day in modern football we could recreate it in FML? Couldn’t we?
I was disappointed to hear Phil’s first attempt didn’t go too well. He decided to go for a shape similar to this one and found that it couldn’t mark effectively against the opposition. It is certainly a logical catenaccio-style formation, but does deviate from it in a few key ways. Perhaps before we go any further, we could do with a quick history lesson. I know you love that part of these articles really!
Catenaccio is Italian for “bolt” in the sense of a bolt that locks a door. Its forerunner was a system called Verrou (left, above), developed by Swiss coach Karl Rappan as a response to the attacking tactics of the time. He realised that his mostly amateur Swiss players could not cope with the physicality and skill of the professional players from neighbouring Italy, France and Germany. To counter them, he played a sweeper, two full backs, a centre back, two “centre halves” (nowadays, we’d call them central midfielders), and three forwards, two of which were stationed on the wings. What was radical about this, in comparison to the ubiquitous “W-M” (3-2-2-3) formation is that it played two central defenders, and one of these was a sweeper. It could cope, therefore, with the opposition forwards, as there was always cover. In order to attack, the sweeper was allowed to play the ball out of defence and join the midfield. It was defensive in comparison to the “W-M”, no doubt, but it did its job pretty well beating England in a home friendly and knocking the Greater German Reich out of the 1938 World Cup.
Catenaccio is the Italian flavour, brought to its heyday under Herrera at La Grande Inter (right, above). The system relied upon a sweeper, but also employed two centre backs. On the left wing was a wingback who started deep and pushed on when in possession, while on the right there was a winger who was required to track back. The rest of the side employed two central midfielders, an attacking midfielder on the left to add a little width and split forwards upfront, which effectively played like the AMC-FC combo mentioned in last week’s article. This was incredibly defensive, but two wing players did have the ability and the licence to provide a lot of width. When Celtic beat Inter Milan in the 1967 European Cup final (the first non-Latin side to do so), Bill Shankly said it was a victory for football. Though this was a comment on Inter’s violence as much as it was a reaction against “anti-football”.
What some might call “catenaccio” now is actually just a defensive formation, along the lines of a 1-4-4-1 or 1-4-3-2. However, this isn’t exactly the bolt system as it was originally devised. For a start, catenaccio is asymmetrical. What happened, in effect, is that the right winger was also pulled back to the full back position, and the midfield were re-distributed in a more regular pattern. Symmetry, at least ostensibly on the pitch diagrams, is certainly a feature of most 4-4-2s and 4-5-1s, and this system has also morphed in order to cope. Still, just becasue a system plays a sweeper does not necessarily make it catenaccio.
So. How can we recreate catenaccio in FML? Well, it is almost a given, though perhaps some may disagree, that the modern variant should at least cover both wings fully as well as providing attacking options. That pretty much requires some form of positional symmetry, even if we play around a little with the roles and duties. Also, it seems important in modern football to provide some form of width and giving support to the wing backs. The team will have to defend and attack as a unit, though it seems a little over the top to expect such a rigid system to create anything approximating total football.
My answer is this. With a more fluid philosophy, automatic creative freedom and zonal marking. It would employ a “libero” sweeper who can play the ball out of defence; two centre backs, one which covers and the other acts as a stopper; a full back and a wing back; a deep-lying playmaker; two attacking midfielders; a winger; and finally a lone striker. The asymmetry of catenaccio comes from the wing back and the winger – but the defence is created a little bit more like a traditional 5-man defence.
SW: support duty, libero
DCl: cover duty, centre back
DCr: stopper duty, centre back
DR: full back, role dependent on strategy
WBL: wing back, role dependent on strategy
DMC: support/defend duty, deep lying playmaker
AMCl: attack, inside forward
AMCr: support, attacking midfielder
AMR: attack, winger
FC: attack, advanced forward
At the time of writing this, I’m yet to test this fully in FML. I do like the idea of it though, and it was what intrigued me about Phil’s e-mail. I will spend the next week trying to get it to work where possible and report back on my findings. To those who are reading this, I welcome any comments as to how you think you would change these settings and/or formations if you were updating catenaccio for FML. This is not a bolt on the Italian model. It does, however, try to bring back the libero. If anyone wants to try some of the other classic shapes in this article, I’d love to know how you get on!
|Written By Gareth Millward
"Millie" is a long-standing member of the FM community and a co-founder of Gameworld One.Com. As part of FM-Britain, he was a contributor to TT&F and involved with the new tactical interface in FM2010.