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crouchaldinho

Discussion of Sacchi's 4-4-2 in FM terms

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I remember watching World Cup USA 1994 as a kid and absolutely falling in love with Roberto Baggio. England, of course, hadn't qualified, and so Italy became my team solely due to Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail). I also admired Sacchi, the manager, but this was when I was quite young and not yet serious-minded enough to desire to engage with the game on a tactical level.

I remember that Italy weren't brilliant during the tournament but they grew as it went on and captured my imagination. Well, Baggio captured my imagination, while I was, all the time, impressed by the efficiency and style of the Italian side under Sacchi. Individual brilliance from Baggio, collective efficiency from the rest of the team.

300px-BRA-ITA_1994-07-17.svg.png

The Italian line-up from the World Cup final versus Brazil

During the final, I remember at my school everybody loved Brazil, while I desperately wanted Italy to win and for the sublimely and exquisitely skilled Robert Baggio to shine. I received much ridicule on return to school after the final, especially as Baggio missed that penalty so emphatically. I didn't care because he was still my footballing hero.

As said above, I was very young when watching these teams and not tactically aware. I just knew what I liked to see and Italian football interested me deeply, especially in terms of its style and tempo, which was markedly different to that which I watched and also loved in England. So, to finally come to the crux of this post, I'm starting this thread in order to get opinions on Sacchi's Italy and, also, if people want to discuss it, Sacchi's Milan. I'd be very grateful if you could all share you knowledge and opinions here in FM terms. :)

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Being an AC Milan fan since the late seventies, I cannot but agree with the interest in Sacchi's tactictal approach, despite the fact that Sacchi's era was not the most successful (after all, it was short, 3 seasons only, winning the Serie A only once, and the Champions League twice) it was a definitive breakthrough in modern soccer.

In terms of CM, we can say that Sacchi employed:

- a flat 442

- high defensive line

- full zonal marking

- obsessive closing down

- offside

- very high possession and short passing

in terms of specific movements, not really replicable in CM:

- when in possession, one of the two central midfielders would drop in front of the defensive line to dictate the tempo, the other often assuming an attacking midfielder position

- full backs and wingers played overlaps extensively

- one of the two forwards would roam around, the other one staying in the middle

- wingers were not supposed to cut inside, but go to the byline and cross

We can identify two main formations.

1987/88

G.Galli

Tassotti, Baresi, F.Galli, Maldini

Donadoni, Colombo, Ancellotti, Evani

Van Basten (Virdis), Gullit

1988/89

G.Galli

Tassotti, Baresi, Costacurta, Maldini

Donadoni, Rijkard, Ancellotti, Evani

Van Basten, Gullit

The Italian team fielded in the cup was largely based on Ac Milan's, while the final formation was marred by injuries the starting eleven was meant to be:

Pagliuca,

Mussi, BARESI, COSTACURTA, MALDINI

DONADONI, ALBERTINI, D.Baggio, Signori

MASSARO. R.Baggio

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Rigid

standard

shorter passing

more creative

press more

default tackle

zonal mark

default crossing

more roaming

this with as complete support / poacher in attack and playmaker support and cent. midielder on defend.

This is as close as I can get to the milan tactic from Sacchi , and it works in fm 11

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A lot of this is taken from 'Inverting the Pyramid' which has a chapter on Sacchi's Milan ('The Coach Who Wasn't a Horse', I believe) and lots of other bits I've read on Sacchi which say similar things, but at some level it is all still grounded in what I've seen of Sacchi’s teams, mainly Milan, but a little bit of that Italy side will come in here. Regardless, he had a pretty clear tactical ideal, and here’s my take on it.

Sacchi believed in attacking, beautiful football, and that the best way to do this was to create a fluid system, with universality being the best way to create this fluency and the 4-4-2 formation having the best balance to carry this out. I think you could say he was absolutely set on playing a 4-4-2 – Baggio, for example, was clearly an attacking midfielder or Trequartista, but Sacchi stuck him into role in his teams that he best suited – as an outright forward, who admittedly had the freedom to drop off deeper and move around into space. Wenger’s claim seems apt here, that “4-4-2 is simply the most rational formation in most cases, in fact; it’s the essence of reason. With a 4-4-2, 60% of your players are occupying 60% of the pitch. No other formation is as efficient in covering space.” So, yeah, that means that there are no specialized players, Sacchi is known to loathe designated holding players like Makelele – his teams were based on football intelligence and a belief in the system. They were incredibly well organised and compact, and played the zonal defence and offside trap brilliantly, with pressing and an incredibly high defensive line to compress the play. He is definitely a manager who’s Philosophy is Very Fluid – the mentalities are tight – giving you a compact team, and there is the freedom for players to do what they want – you need people with really good footballing intelligence (Teamwork and Decisions are big, big attributes in FM terms). In many ways you can say that he’s influenced by Total Football in these respects, but the pressing was less about tackling, winning the ball and hounding the man in possession than about controlling space. Sacchi set up his teams to sit in the opposition’s half, not letting them out, not letting them have the ball as much as was possible and attacking at any opportunity.

Team Instructions

Philosophy – Very FluidAs previously mentioned

Strategy – Control – You want to be, quite literally, sitting in the opponents half and controlling the game. An attacking strategy could also be used, but in my opinion it’s just a bit too offensive for the majority of the time – your build up play will be far too rushed, and so it’s best as a Plan B for when you need a goal. Obviously, that’s not to say that Standard/Counter strategies might well be used in certain circumstances.

Passing Style – Shorter - Your defence plays short passes into midfield, who have pretty much mixed passing, letting them do what they want with the ball, with a very slight bias towards those pretty, shorter balls. Mixed is another option, as that will still leave the defence with quite short passes and the midfield and forwards have mixed passing, with just a bit more emphasis on getting it forwards quickly. I recommend shorter, but its up for debate.

Creative Freedom – Default – Just right. More Expressive would give too much freedom to your defensive players, who need to play with some discipline, and Default still gives plenty of freedom to your attacking players. You could argue that Sacchi’s Italy side were ‘More Disciplined’ with only Baggio given lots of freedom. Sacchi often complained of how he didn’t have enough time to impose his system on the players and work with them when Italy coach, and you could definitely say in FM terms that this was a case of his team not having reached high levels of comfort on the bars in the ‘Match Preparation’ screen, or blended correctly. Because of this, he kept things a little tighter than usual and relied on the individual quality of players like Baggio. This is pretty much one of the only differences between his Italy and Milan sides I would make, though, he was simply working with better attacking players at Milan – hence the goals and superior style.

Closing Down – Press More

Tackling – Default

Marking – Zonal Marking

Crossing – Default

Roaming – More Roaming – Your wide players and at least one forward should have the freedom to go where they like, and this ensures that they can.

Other – Play Offside should be ticked to ‘Yes’ and you should have never have a Primary Playmaker selected – this would get in the way of the fluidity and variety of your play.

Player Roles

GK: Goalkeeper (Defend)

DR/DL: Full Back (Automatic)

DCs: Central Defender (Defend)

The goalkeeper is just a goalkeeper, you might want him to distribute the ball to a defender collecting the ball to start off moves, or you might not. The Central Defenders aren’t stopper/cover – they are intelligent, defensively brilliant, well-rounded players who can decide for themselves when to step up and when to cover, and Teamwork/Decisions, as it is everywhere, are really important attributes across the back four for obvious reasons – organization, particularly with the offside trap. Attributes such as Anticipation/Marking/Positioning/Strength are all also needed, of course. The full backs were, first and foremost, excellent defenders, but they got forwards quite often, overlapping past the wide players and supporting moves. They will do this with an automatic full back role – normally playing on Support, but flying forwards if you switch the team mentality to Attacking. Oh, and everyone has to be good on the ball. Sacchi once said that for his team, the regista (or playmaker) was whoever had the ball. That means good Creativity/Passing/Decisions/Composure etc across the board, though the defence will mostly be playing simple balls into midfield to start moves, they should be very good at it.

MR/ML: Wide Midfielder (Attack)

I’m really happy with this role. Though they support the defence on those occasions where you are without the ball, their role is to provide a real attacking threat, give you wide options and put crosses into the box. There are only a couple of differences between this role and a Winger, but they are important ones. Run with Ball is Mixed, not often, and this is good as this is a team which is all about passing and movement on the ball. The Wide Play is Normal, not Hug Touchline. This means that they aren’t stuck on the wing, but largely will stay there as you ought to use right footers on the right and lefties on the left, and have the freedom of movement, allowing for nice link up play and letting the full backs forward to overlap. They should be quick, skilful, intelligent and have excellent technique at passing/crossing/shooting.

MCs

This is an area where I probably could do with some outside input. Sacchi demanded at all times, when in possession, that there were five men ahead of the ball, and two of those out wide. That’s quite achievable – your two forwards and wide men will always be fairly high up the pitch and available for a pass, but that means that one midfielder must get forward in every move. As Luke VanBishop noted, one man always dropped deep to get the ball like a deep lying playmaker, and the other one would then get forward to give an extra passing often, and the midfield two took it in turns this way – both of them carrying out the roles of sitting and supporting attacks. And I’m not entirely sure how this ought to be set up in FM. Maybe you’d need them both to have the PPM ‘Comes Deep to Get Ball’ and set them up as Central Midfielders on Support or Box to Box Midfielders, maybe, or even Advanced Playmakers. If you can deal with losing a bit of fluidity, you could have one of them set up as a Deep Lying Playmaker and one as an Advanced Playmaker, for example, and just allow them to have fixed roles in being the player to drop off or get forwards. Another nice idea, influenced by lucatonix’s excellent thread on re-creating the triple pivot of Arsenal, is to have two low-mentality players (i.e. Deep Lying Playmakers) who either have the PPM of ‘Gets forward whenever possible’ or adjust their ‘Runs from Deep’ slider to ‘Sometimes’. These players are the fulcrum of your team – they need to be strong defensively, equally capable of winning the ball back, intercepting possession and starting off and sitting at the centre of your moves.

FCs: Complete Forward – Support / Poacher – Attack

This is also quite a difficult one to get right. Like LukeVanBishop also points out, one would be more of a playmaker-striker (i.e. Baggio/Guillt) and the other would play more centrally and score goals (like Van Basten, to devastating effect), with the deeper forward not only dropping deep, but also moving from flank to flank and supporting attacks. I’d almost be tempted to play this player in an AMC position to better allow that, but for it to be sacrilege and clearly going against the defensive positioning of the team – it was definitely two strikers when they pressed or fell back. Bear in mind that a Complete Forward on support duty will automatically have Normal Wide Play – they should be moving into channels as well as roaming from position, so that ought to be changed. You could perhaps also solve this by playing them as a Complete Forward Attack, but this might position them too high up the pitch, so a Trequartista might be a nice middle ground, and does seem to fit how Baggio played very nicely. Bear in mind, though, that you’ll need to manually change their Closing Down – probably all the way to the maximum. Pace, power, intelligence in terms of movement and pure goalscoring ability are the sort of thing you ought to be after here.

EDIT - Looking at Cleon's Defoe instructions has reminded me - you probably don't want your Poacher Moving into the Channels. Set their wideplay to Normal, instead.

Final Thoughts

It’s really interesting seeing how an attempt at remaking Sacchi’s legendary team fares in the modern era. There are, of course, differences in the game that make things more difficult. These things have been well discussed by journalists such as Jonathan Wilson, but the liberalization of the offside law and (slight) increases in physicality/agility of players means that the football pitch has got bigger – people don’t risk playing so high, utilizing the offside trap and so the game has developed into four bands instead of three – hence all the 4-5-1 overtaking the creaky old 4-4-2 stuff. However, you can deal with this to an extent, as a three man midfield is going to have any advantage over your side tempered by how high your defensive line will be – your compact side is very, very difficult to play through, but personally, I still worry about playing this kind of 4-4-2 at the highest level, and often use something similar, though instead I untick the offside trap and put the Trequartista at AM and an Advanced Forward up top, creating either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1, depending on what I want from my wide men. The play is very, very similar, but I deal just that much better with modern opponents.

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Thanks Mike, awesome post.

Let me add just a couple of bits I forgot to mention before.

Sacchi's idea, as you pointed out was to keep ball possession in the opposing's half most of the time, but he was also very clear on two things:

1) all attacking tactics had the objective to conquer the ideal crossing space to the right and left of the area, while there was no substitution for instict and talent inside the area (this is a quote from the man himself, more or less)

2) setting up the counterattack (which Sacchi labeled "ripartenza", restart) was key to any offensive strategy

What I have never managed to do with CM, prolly because of the way the match engine works is the frequent overlaps between full backs and wide midfielders.

The fact that with CM 11 playing a 442 is almost suicidal makes trying this tactic almost impossible.

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The fact that with CM 11 playing a 442 is almost suicidal makes trying this tactic almost impossible.

Exactley, the match engine isn't really set up to allow you to position your players in the way you actually want them to...

The engine just makes you have to 'guess' as to where the player will play on the pitch.

Apparently SI is now more interested in agents, talking to players & 3D graphics than the tactics and databases that made the game so good, sad really.

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Currently attempting to bring some of these ideas into my calcio save. I'm now using a Sacchi-esque 4-4-2, fluid philosophy with more roaming and zonal marking obviously.

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I could be wrong here as I'm not all that familiar with Sacchi's play style but if short passing, possession style of football is needed then high Timewasting and high tempo (as high as the players on the pitch can handle without making mistakes) will be needed. I've found implementing high on these two sliders has radically altered the possession game of my Barcelona team. Check out this recently revived thread for a fuller explanation http://community.sigames.com/showthread.php/123088-Time-Wasting-Is-it-more-than-simply-wasting-time.

I'm afraid though that I play classically so I'm not sure which philosophy/strategy combination gives these settings.

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Apparently SI is now more interested in agents, talking to players & 3D graphics than the tactics and databases that made the game so good, sad really.

One would argue that that is the problem with modern football as well as modern football manager editions!!

I am currently having some success with the 442, but you simply cannot play Sacchi style football as a plan A anymore. You leave too much space behind the defenders for pacey attackers to exploit. You might pull it off if you can afford to buy 4 defenders (and backups) with Pace 16 or more, but its still very risky. I find 4-4-2 to be an excellent counterattacking formation, with crossers on the wing having an extra target in the box compared to the more frequent 4-5-1s.

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As Mike Cardinal reminded brilliantly, teamwork and decision making are very important. In my opinion, the main issue recreating a Sacchian 442 is maybe more in players than in tactics. You don't need specialist player like the Makelele example or "playmaker is whoever has the ball" thing. All tactical advices above are spot on and I have nothing to add except a big :thup:

So the squad should be highly versatile to be effective both in defending and attacking. The very fluid philosophy reflects that as well, everyone is at the same mentality and should so be able to deal with various situation.

For example, a pure poacher like Inzaghi, a pure destroyer like Makelele or a pure playmaker like Riquelme are not in the Sacchian principle of universality. Gullit was highly versatile and IIRC play in defense, midfield and attack. Sacchi had problems with Roberto Baggio for example, a player most known for his magic than his workrate. Baresi was able to move forward and was good on the ball, Rijkaard was an outstandish holding midfielder or central defender and was able to go forward as well and his technique was far from being laughable (great at heading and some passing skill for example). To continue the discussion I name a few all rounded players that could fit imo into a Sacchian 442.

Rooney: Hardworking, pretty complete and he knows how to defend, he has the workrate to hassle the opponent, mental skills as well

Defensive and hardworking attackers like Kuyt or Park Ji-Sung. Basically forwards knowing how to defend and hassle opponent to close down aggressively.

Essien: Very complete as well, strong and able to do almost everything with and without the ball, especially at winning the ball back, closing down.

Deco, Modric...: Hard working playmaker, able to defend and more gifted technically when it comes to passing or dribbling.

Pique, Ferdinand, David Luiz, ...: Basically defenders able to go forward, make through balls, step into the midfield, must be an attacking threat in open play and must be good on the ball

Wingback like Dani Alves or Bale could be both wide midfielders and wingbacks, great attackers and defensively sound. Picture these two on the same flank...

Well some suggestions regarding players. Again big thumb up to Mike Cardinal post

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Cheers guys, I was considering starting a thread anyway with a big Sacchi post, but then I saw this instead. I've been playing around with lots of Sacchi-esque ideas, but as I said, I've been tinkering slightly - creating a 3 man midfield and not playing quite as high up the pitch as that Milan team would have done, but still high! It might seem a strange detail, but I've been amazed at how good this sort of tactic can be defensively with hard working wide midfielders and intelligent central midfielders, even though you're playing without a DM. Simply - two banks of four of defensively solid players playing close together (hopefully preventing AMs from getting any space between the lines), high up the pitch is wonderful, and I'm starting to doubt how I ever coped defensively with having my wide men in the AMR/L positions in 4-2-3-1s or 4-3-3s - I'm starting to love living without wide forwards cutting inside and full backs overlapping all the time - more conservative, defensively sound full backs and proper wide men play some lovely stuff on the flanks with this match engine, and again, are so much more solid. So, the 4-4-1-1 is great, and when your team blends and you've got the right players you play wonderful football. My only lingering problem is getting the MCs to work properly. I'm noticing some similarities between the system I'm playing and the Germany side of the World Cup, which I adored, especially when I tick the counter attack box (which I do, as long as I'm not against a side who will just sit back and soak up my pressure, so I don't want to hurry things), and I'd like to get my midfield working quite similarly to theirs, where Schweinsteiger and Khedira protected the defence (admittedly, from probably a DM position in FM terms) but also took it in terms to bomb forward, as though Sacchi was against specialisation, he definitely prioritised defensive strength, and someone would always be holding in midfield - I don't want them both going up at once, but I do want them going up.

EDIT - http://community.sigames.com/showthread.php/196342-Liverpool-4-4-1-1-quot-Pass-and-Move-quot-Paisley-Era This thread is excellent, by the way, with some references to Sacchi. Sacchi was greatly influenced by the "pass and move" Liverpool sides, and the 4-4-1-1 Fluid/Control/Press/Zonal Marking tactic there has obvious similarities, or at least, to what I'm creating. That said, though, there are differences, as this is much more narrow, and there is a reliance on through balls over crosses, far too much of a one-dimensional tactic of scoring for Mr. Sacchi.

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As Mike Cardinal reminded brilliantly, teamwork and decision making are very important. In my opinion, the main issue recreating a Sacchian 442 is maybe more in players than in tactics. You don't need specialist player like the Makelele example or "playmaker is whoever has the ball" thing. All tactical advices above are spot on and I have nothing to add except a big :thup:

So the squad should be highly versatile to be effective both in defending and attacking. The very fluid philosophy reflects that as well, everyone is at the same mentality and should so be able to deal with various situation.

For example, a pure poacher like Inzaghi, a pure destroyer like Makelele or a pure playmaker like Riquelme are not in the Sacchian principle of universality. Gullit was highly versatile and IIRC play in defense, midfield and attack. Sacchi had problems with Roberto Baggio for example, a player most known for his magic than his workrate. Baresi was able to move forward and was good on the ball, Rijkaard was an outstandish holding midfielder or central defender and was able to go forward as well and his technique was far from being laughable (great at heading and some passing skill for example). To continue the discussion I name a few all rounded players that could fit imo into a Sacchian 442.

I agree, mostly.

It's certainly true that Sacchi's credo was about football as a "team's sport" rather than about individuals. His teams mainly attacked or defended as a tight bunch, and this should be replicated in CM's terms with very similar mentality values among players (separated by two notches at most I'd say).

He was not fully against specialization though.

While some players were all rounders, such as Gullit (he did play as Forward, Winger and Sweeper) or Massaro (he could, and actually did play in ALL roles except for centre back - and yes, he was the designated "last resort keeper), other where heavily specialized.

Van Basten was a pure striker, Donadoni a pure right winger, Costacurta and G.Galli pure (and rough) defenders (called "stoppers" back then).

So for a defender like Baresi, apt at passing, there was one built to destroy, like G.Galli or Costacurta. For an attacker that could widen the front line, like Gullit, or Massaro, there was one like Van Basten (or Virdis, earlier on) who just couldn't defend.

Certainly, Sacchi was into hard working, determined, team players. But who wouldn't be? He certainly couldn't stand slackers and primadonnas, and was pretty much ousted by his own players after three years mainly because of his intensive training regimes (5 days a week).

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Inspired by this thread, for my new job I modified my 4-4-2 following Mike_Cardinal's post. Something I included is high Timewasting (Tidd19's reading suggestion), and it was working wonderfully: I took Reggiana (Seconda Divisione) in a lacuster condition and had ten undefeated games on a row, until a shocking 6-1 playing the first of the table (we were 2nd). Probably, there's some work to do in defense, although maybe it's just the players that aren't good enough for this system. However, I'm not getting goals because of the high line (I don't have Offside ticked, which I may need to try). But overall, this tactic is very promising.

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I agree, mostly.

It's certainly true that Sacchi's credo was about football as a "team's sport" rather than about individuals. His teams mainly attacked or defended as a tight bunch, and this should be replicated in CM's terms with very similar mentality values among players (separated by two notches at most I'd say).

He was not fully against specialization though.

While some players were all rounders, such as Gullit (he did play as Forward, Winger and Sweeper) or Massaro (he could, and actually did play in ALL roles except for centre back - and yes, he was the designated "last resort keeper), other where heavily specialized.

Van Basten was a pure striker, Donadoni a pure right winger, Costacurta and G.Galli pure (and rough) defenders (called "stoppers" back then).

So for a defender like Baresi, apt at passing, there was one built to destroy, like G.Galli or Costacurta. For an attacker that could widen the front line, like Gullit, or Massaro, there was one like Van Basten (or Virdis, earlier on) who just couldn't defend.

Certainly, Sacchi was into hard working, determined, team players. But who wouldn't be? He certainly couldn't stand slackers and primadonnas, and was pretty much ousted by his own players after three years mainly because of his intensive training regimes (5 days a week).

Giovanni Galli was a keeper, the centre-back was Filippo Galli.;)

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