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Having trouble implementing a catenaccio

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I'm playing as Parma and trying to implement a catenaccio-style defensive tactic, unfortunately I am having some troubles doing so and am therefore looking for some help.

What is somewhat unusual is that an AI-managed team, SPAL, are playing with both the formation and general style I want to implement and doing so successfully. With a squad that is that is average at best they managed to qualify for the Europa League with relative comfort.

Here is last season's league table:


This is how SPAL lined up for most of the season:


Unsurprisingly the two wingbacks have been the keys behind SPAL's success, along with the target man Petagna. The right wing back, Lazzari lead the league in assists with 14 and also chipped in with 4 goals, his counterpart on the left, Costa, scored 7 goals and registered 6 assists while Petagna scored 18 goals.

Looking at SPAL as inspiration I went into the summer transfer window with the intention of finding players of my own that could form the backbone of my formation in the same manner that Petagna, Costa and Lazzari have done for them and these are the players I brought in:


For the target man role I brought in Cerri, he has a significantly lower work rate than Petagna but is otherwise about as close to an identical player you could hope to find. 


At right wing back I looked for the most similar player to Lazzari possible within my budget and reputation, Junior Caicara is worse at most mental attributes but is otherwise extremely similar to Lazzari and with his high natural fitness I know he will be able to play every single minute for us should we need it.


On the opposite flank I instead opted for a player I think is best suited to doing what Costa was successful at instead of looking for identical attributes, Kragl is slower than Costa but has better movement and technical attributes and has a terrific shot from distance, all put together I feel he could be even more successful than Costa at creeping into the area and capitalising on crosses from the right wingback.

After a busy summer window this is how my starting 11 and tactical set up look:


Junior Caicara has personal instructions to cross from deep and cross more often, aside from that everyone has the default instructions for their roles.

Some player roles are different but the team instructions are identical to the default catenaccio tactic and I would appreciate if you have any input on how I could tweak it.

What I want (and what I believe SPAL are) is to play a structured, defensively-oriented football that sits deep and uses effective wing play from the wingbacks to punish the opposition when we counter and I am looking for any suggestions that could help me reach that goal.

I am especially interested in any suggestions on how to get the most out of my wingbacks and good potential striker partnerships up front.

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12 minutes ago, ericstpeter said:

I already have, his formation and his goal is too different from what I use and what I wish to create for me to draw anything meaningful from it. I am not looking to replicate or create a modern version of Herrera's Inter.

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1 hour ago, zZzZzZzZzZzZzZz said:

Some player roles are different but the team instructions are identical to the default catenaccio tactic

The problem is that (in most cases) preset tactics require some tweaking to be better adapted to a specific team. I don't know all your players, only the 3 guys you posted the screenshots of, so it's hard to give you some more specific advice. But I can suggest a couple of possible tweaks I would try to implement in your tactic.

I would slightly up the mentality (to cautious, if not even balanced) to make attacking transitions a bit faster. This is not necessary, but can help (provided other settings are tweaked to provide more balance to the overall setup). So here is just an example - not a definite suggestion:

TMat     AF


DLPsu     MEZsu

WBsu          ACM           WBde

CDde    CDco    NCBde


Cautious / more direct passing, default tempo, default width, be more disciplined, overlap left, overlap right, play for set pieces, default time wasting (sometimes) / counter, regroup / standard d-line, lower LOE, use tighter marking, default pressing urgency (and standard or narrower def width, depending on the type of your defenders)

This is a slightly modified catenaccio style. The tweaks I made serve to add you a bit more attacking potency up front, while preserving defensive stability and overall tactical balance. But be aware that you cannot expect to see attractive football and/or score a lot of goals with this style of football. And again - this is just an example, vague idea of how the tactic might be set up, but you are the one who knows your team, so you should be able to see if any of this would make sense for your team.


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@zZzZzZzZzZzZzZz I don't think you're using the right roles and duties.  A lot of what you have is too ambitious, attack duties. mezzalas, attacking wing backs and ball playing defenders.  If you compare to Spal you'll see there version is much more toned down in term of what the roles are asking of the players.  I think that's the route you should go down.

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@Experienced Defender goes through a lot of good stuff to be honest, but I thought I'd share a little insight on a Catenaccio I had working earlier in this year's game. 


I found partnering  a higher defensive line with a lower LOE work really well at clogging up the middle of the pitch, and then used a covering defender in the middle of the three to compensate.

I'd also up the tempo to either the default level or perhaps higher. Slower tempo affects not only the pace at which you pass, but also how quickly players move between phases forward - you're not going to be scoring very often with patient build up, at least this way you can get the ball up to the top two as soon as possible and play off of them.

Definitely go for "play for set pieces". You have three CBs and a TM - likelyhood is that you're going to be dominant aerially against many teams. I don't know how good your corner/free kick takers are, but having someone who's good at both is a must if you're going to play this way.

I'd move the DLP to the DM strata, and push your DM forward as a CM/s or maybe even CM/d. This is just my own preference, but with these types of tactics and a direct style of play, having a playmaker further back with good passing can mean them acting as a pseudo quarterback and gives the CBs someone who they can easily recycle the ball to. The CM/S would threaten the opposition box with more energy, while still getting back to defend.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Good luck!

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@yellowforever I agree very much with you, the only problem is that @zZzZzZzZzZzZzZz insists on playing the Catenaccio (whatever his reasons are), and the tactic you suggest - while generally looks nice and defensively sound - isn't actually a catenaccio. If I were him, I would personally rather play a tactic similar to what you described than the one I suggested in my previous post, but I'm not sure if that's what he wants.

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Thanks everyone for your input!

In the end I decided to abandon the idea of playing the catenaccio, after 4 draws and 8 defeats to start the season I realised it was time to give up.

I would not say that it was completely pointless despite the poor results though, three of the draws came against very respectable opposition in Inter, Napoli and Fiorentina and we did largely succeed in eliminating nearly all clear cut goalscoring opportunities for the opposition, unfortunately we left ourselves very vulnerable to long shots in the process which was our undoing. We were playing so low that even the oppositions centre backs would find themselves in long shot opportunities at times!

Overall it was an interesting experiment and I feel I learnt from it and I definitely feel that someone more persistent than I might make it work, especially in a slightly lower-tier league than Serie A where the average midfielder is not as dangerous from distance.


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Good luck mate! Don't give up, just keep tweaking if you can. The Catennaccio is a tricky beast, and the default TIs from it are effective defensively but not going forward. It's worth remembering that Herrera's Inter had a plan going forward too, it wasn't simply all defending.

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