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Paulo Sousa's inspired 3-4-2-1 tactics with Fiorentina: is there any way to improve it?

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Hi guys.

First of all, I'm sorry for any grammar or syntax mistake I will make, I'm italian and despite my level of english is quite good, I know I will leave something behind...

I play with managerial football games since the glorious "Championship Manager 01/02" and I never left this love. In last versions, which have always been trickier to "crack" in terms of creating well-working tactics, my main goal has been the one to reply the style of play that I was currently seeing on my local stadium, which is Artemio Franchi in Firenze. I managed it quite well under Montella's era, and now I'm trying with Paulo Sousa.

I tried to start from the most resemblant tactics as far as I've seen it on the pitch, which is a basic 3-4-2-1. The main issue to do that was the fact that it is clearly an asymmetrical tactic, a type that I've never worked on.

I don't want to annoy you, so that's where my "research" got so far:

2ly4n5w.png

Single players instructions:

GK: Distribute to centre backs, Roll it out

DR: Sit narrower, Cut inside with ball

DCR: Close down less, More direct passes

DCL: Close down less

WBL: Shoot less often, Cross aim centre

MCL: Shoot less often

MCR: Shoot less often, Get further forward, Move into channels

MR: Shoot less often, Cross aim centre

AMC: More direct passes

AML: /

STCR: /

I have to say that results are kind of good so far, despite I'm just in the middle of the first season, but I don't want to rely too much on it as I worked until december with a different tactics that exposed too much my defensive line. So I'm trying to analyze the impact that the current selection makes on every match.

The main issue I found is the offensive production: I always have ball possession not lower than 60%, even against big teams like Juve, and often I get to FT with percentages over 70%. The thing is that all this ball possession doesn't always lead to many "clear cut chances". My CWB and W work very well, basically in every match their final rating is above 8.0, but still they work a lot of balls and just a few of them get into the box, as they prefer to recoil a little and pass it to midfielders. At the same time, I fear that if I switch options from "short passes" to "more direct passes", or from "work the ball into the box" to "hit early crosses" I will give a lot of counter chances to the opponents.

Please consider that the level of the roster is not brilliant, we are talking about Fiorentina so you don't really have any cracks in there...

Looking forward to any kind of opinion and tip.

Cheers

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I will post some more screen to better highlight the situation and the spots where I think this tactics still has to be worked.

1znlpbt.png

This action ended with a goal, but I post this screen to highlight what I'm trying to improve. This is the classic attack situation, you can see at least 6 players ready to attack the box. In this particular case, as it often happens, my CWB Pasqual went through until the bottom line, but instead of putting a "low cross" as he's told by instructions, and instead of putting any kind of ball in the box, he just stopped a little and sent the ball back to Tino Costa (BWM). Then the action switched to the center area and a short triangle by SS and IF lead to a goal.

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I will post some more screen to better highlight the situation and the spots where I think this tactics still has to be worked.

1znlpbt.png

This action ended with a goal, but I post this screen to highlight what I'm trying to improve. This is the classic attack situation, you can see at least 6 players ready to attack the box. In this particular case, as it often happens, my CWB Pasqual went through until the bottom line, but instead of putting a "low cross" as he's told by instructions, and instead of putting any kind of ball in the box, he just stopped a little and sent the ball back to Tino Costa (BWM). Then the action switched to the center area and a short triangle by SS and IF lead to a goal.

Work ball into the box reduces crosses, that will be why he didn't cross in this instance.

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Well, he was clearly more in the box then Tino Costa was :D

Maybe setting your CWB to more direct passing would encourage low crosses. In my game, setting my wider players to more direct passing offered more to the attacking phase of the game.

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Personally I see Paulo Sousa's Fiorentina formation as:

-----------------------GK----------------------

------------------------------------------------

---------CD(d)------BPD©----CD(d)--------

--WB(a)------------------------------WB(a)--

----------------CM(s)-----CM(s)-------------- (not sure on roles here)

----------------AM(a)-----AM(s)--------------

----------------------CF(a)--------------------

maybe even play the central defender as a Sweeper or Libero(s)

against a "Juventus Style" 352/532 your SS, IF and W will be marked out of the game and unable to provide chances. Look at your screenshot. Only the CWB is anything like unmarked.

The formation i suggest above may not be perfect but the AM players will have more space either side of opposition DM and in front of CBs and the WingBacks will have a bit more space to cross before they are met by the opposition FB/WBs (as evidenced by your CWB in that screenshot).

Ive found that these type of tactics can yield high Possession stats but create few chances. Still, its not all about how many "C.C.C's" FM thinks is created, more then quality of chances.

Have you read any articles online regarding Sousa/Fiorentina or is this just from your observations?

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Work ball into the box reduces crosses, that will be why he didn't cross in this instance.
Well, he was clearly more in the box then Tino Costa was :D

Maybe setting your CWB to more direct passing would encourage low crosses. In my game, setting my wider players to more direct passing offered more to the attacking phase of the game.

Deselecting "work ball into the box" improved things a little. And pushed me to further changes. I noticed that CWB and W didn't send the ball back anymore, but their crosses were more like "long passes" to the other side of the pitch than real crosses in the box. I guessed it was given firstly by the fact that in my offensive phase the opponents' defense is almost always very flat and overloaded of men, so they did not have real space to cross. Therefore I switched SS to AM to have a better link from midfield to attack; playing with a fairly narrow width brought to more dangerous cuts behind the defense by W and IF, while CWB was an important reinforcement of ball possession, and a good offensive weapon as well those times that IF tends to lay back a little opening spaces for CWB.

I guess that this current setup allows me to have several solutions against team at my level/better level, as they don't tend to defend closed and flat. But I can't say the same about teams like the classic low table italian teams who defend with 10 men behind the ball. In those matches I believe I have to find a proper solution to play wider and still be dangerous in the box. That's why I need to find the proper role for the striker, I'm still seeking it.

Personally I see Paulo Sousa's Fiorentina formation as:

-----------------------GK----------------------

------------------------------------------------

---------CD(d)------BPD©----CD(d)--------

--WB(a)------------------------------WB(a)--

----------------CM(s)-----CM(s)-------------- (not sure on roles here)

----------------AM(a)-----AM(s)--------------

----------------------CF(a)--------------------

maybe even play the central defender as a Sweeper or Libero(s)

against a "Juventus Style" 352/532 your SS, IF and W will be marked out of the game and unable to provide chances. Look at your screenshot. Only the CWB is anything like unmarked.

The formation i suggest above may not be perfect but the AM players will have more space either side of opposition DM and in front of CBs and the WingBacks will have a bit more space to cross before they are met by the opposition FB/WBs (as evidenced by your CWB in that screenshot).

Ive found that these type of tactics can yield high Possession stats but create few chances. Still, its not all about how many "C.C.C's" FM thinks is created, more then quality of chances.

Have you read any articles online regarding Sousa/Fiorentina or is this just from your observations?

Hi.

I guess you are quite wrong about your formation. Not in terms of lines which are quite the ones I use, but in terms of roles: you don't have two WB (a) as Bernardeschi/Tello (and also Blaszczykowski) made a completely different role this season from what was done by Alonso and Pasqual on the other side. About CMs and AMs you may be right, but I did a different choice. I renounced to a midfielder in order to have one more man in the offensive phase. In my mind, it's what Sousa did since january as he got Zarate from the transfer market. But your lineup may be more resemblant to truth if you talk about Fiorentina seen until december, with Vecino-Badelj as CMs and Borja-Ilicic behind the striker.

About the space for crosses I would say your angle is interesting, I will try this solution.

About articles on Sousa, I made all by myself, but this one looks very well done http://theinsidechannel.com/a-guide-to-paulo-sousas-tactics-at-fiorentina/

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I haven't seen anything but read an analysis of them http://theinsidechannel.com/a-guide-to-paulo-sousas-tactics-at-fiorentina/

Remembering FM's formation is your defensive positioning then your base formation should be 4411. Then through roles and duties should transform into the 3421 when attacking.

How to improve? I'd look at the front two, does offsetting your ST to the right help? Is a SS-A the best role to use?

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I haven't seen anything but read an analysis of them http://theinsidechannel.com/a-guide-to-paulo-sousas-tactics-at-fiorentina/

Remembering FM's formation is your defensive positioning then your base formation should be 4411. Then through roles and duties should transform into the 3421 when attacking.

How to improve? I'd look at the front two, does offsetting your ST to the right help? Is a SS-A the best role to use?

Sorry, my comment was awaiting for moderation. The article is the same you posted.

Anyway, I did not understand the highlighted sentence. Could you explain it to me please?

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Sorry, my comment was awaiting for moderation. The article is the same you posted.

Anyway, I did not understand the highlighted sentence. Could you explain it to me please?

What he means is that the formation you see in the tactics creator is the formation your team will take while defending during a match. To give you a real-life example, if I wanted to recreate Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid tactics in FM I'd have to use a 4-4-2 because that's the shape they adopted while defending. I'd then use player roles and duties to make it become a 4-3-3 in attack.

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Pretty much what Kevin_M said.

The formation you place your players are the positions they will attempt to get back to when you lose possession. Things like engaging a player to delay, closing down, covering etc can affect how things look but that's how they attempt to position.

The role & duty you give a player will control what they do when you have possession.

So if you want to defend in a 4411 then thats how you position the players. You then give roles (like WB-A, CWB-A) that will make the LB become more of a ML or AML when you have the ball. The RB could be given a FB-D or LB-D ad instructions to make him stay back as more of a back 3 when you have the ball.

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What he means is that the formation you see in the tactics creator is the formation your team will take while defending during a match. To give you a real-life example, if I wanted to recreate Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid tactics in FM I'd have to use a 4-4-2 because that's the shape they adopted while defending. I'd then use player roles and duties to make it become a 4-3-3 in attack.
Pretty much what Kevin_M said.

The formation you place your players are the positions they will attempt to get back to when you lose possession. Things like engaging a player to delay, closing down, covering etc can affect how things look but that's how they attempt to position.

The role & duty you give a player will control what they do when you have possession.

So if you want to defend in a 4411 then thats how you position the players. You then give roles (like WB-A, CWB-A) that will make the LB become more of a ML or AML when you have the ball. The RB could be given a FB-D or LB-D ad instructions to make him stay back as more of a back 3 when you have the ball.

Alright. Thank you guys.

I have to say that after last modifications things look like working better. Very stable performances which is basically new for me especially in Serie A. The only matter, again, is the scoring rate. I guess I never scored 3 goals in the same game!

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Having read a few articles and thought about how Fiorentina play (and forgetting how you set up formation in the OP) and think about how the Tactics screen is the defensive line up (and Fiore defend in a 4-4-1-1)...

...I just tried a quick game and set up like this:

-----------------------------GK---------------------------

---FB/(d)-------CD(d)--------------CD(d)-----CWB(a)--

---CWB(s)------------------------------------------------

------------------CM(s)-------------CM(d)-----WP(a)----

-------------------AP(a)-----------------------------------

-----------------------------CF(s)-------------------------

The WP(a) gets forward and Narrow to form the attacking triangle with the AP(a) and CF(s)

The CWBs sit either side of midfield in attack, in defence the left sided CWB(a) sits in a back 4.

The FB(d) usually makes a back 3 with the CB's but occasionally he will make a run upfield and over/under lap the CWB(s) as Tomovic somtimes does in real life.

Played Control, Flexible. Higher Tempo. Exploit Flanks. Play out of Defence. Work into Box. Disciplined. Close Down Much More.

Very few P.I's.

Played Carpi away in a league match and won 2-0 with 66% possession. Very Fiorentina-esque.

It is actually very similar to the 1st post. Interesting.

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Having read a few articles and thought about how Fiorentina play (and forgetting how you set up formation in the OP) and think about how the Tactics screen is the defensive line up (and Fiore defend in a 4-4-1-1)...

...I just tried a quick game and set up like this:

-----------------------------GK---------------------------

---FB/(d)-------CD(d)--------------CD(d)-----CWB(a)--

---CWB(s)------------------------------------------------

------------------CM(s)-------------CM(d)-----WP(a)----

-------------------AP(a)-----------------------------------

-----------------------------CF(s)-------------------------

The WP(a) gets forward and Narrow to form the attacking triangle with the AP(a) and CF(s)

The CWBs sit either side of midfield in attack, in defence the left sided CWB(a) sits in a back 4.

The FB(d) usually makes a back 3 with the CB's but occasionally he will make a run upfield and over/under lap the CWB(s) as Tomovic somtimes does in real life.

Played Control, Flexible. Higher Tempo. Exploit Flanks. Play out of Defence. Work into Box. Disciplined. Close Down Much More.

Very few P.I's.

Played Carpi away in a league match and won 2-0 with 66% possession. Very Fiorentina-esque.

It is actually very similar to the 1st post. Interesting.

I'm going to try it right away. I had some issue with my gameplan in last month of the season which costed me the CL qualification and the chance to get to EL final (lost to Liverpool 0-3 aggregate).

Let me ask: what about defensive line and offside trap? How did you set them? And the width?

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I'm going to try it right away. I had some issue with my gameplan in last month of the season which costed me the CL qualification and the chance to get to EL final (lost to Liverpool 0-3 aggregate).

Let me ask: what about defensive line and offside trap? How did you set them? And the width?

I played it high line and narrow to make it compact as Sousa likes to play. Sometimes I play Offside Trap as I use a high line.

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I played it high line and narrow to make it compact as Sousa likes to play. Sometimes I play Offside Trap as I use a high line.

Ok, so we are on the same side regarding it. I'm still having troubles to convert possession into goals. 1st game vs Roma, 0-2 loss despite 70% ball possession. :mad:

Out of curiosity, what's your evaluation when you decide to use Offside trap? Do you prefer it against tall and slow strikers or fast ones?

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So, there we go again.

I wiped everything and started back "studying". Read some more article and followed your advices, I came up with this shape and TI's.

Immagine.png

GK is set as SK as I expect several long balls by opponents in order to avoid pressing, so I need a sort of "extra defender". PIs for him are "Roll it out" and "Distribute to centre backs".

Tomovic is set as fullback in support of the flank activity, a role that should perfectly trace what he does in real life. PIs: "Dribble less", "Get further forward", "Fewer risky passes", "Stay wider", "Run wide with ball".

About DCs I went for the Stopper+Cover combination as I felt they were too passive on previous versions when they faced uncovered balls. DCR's only PI is "Hold position".

I brought back the left fullback on the defensive line in order to have that 4-4-1-1 defensive shape we talked about. I have to say that the defensive phase looks better now. He's set as CWB(a) and his PIs are "Fewer risky passes" and "Cross aim near post".

Then we have the WP. Despite I have no player who's perfectly fitting the role as FM tells me, it looks like the left flanks works quite well with him there. Anyway I still need to understand why he wants to send the ball on the other flank and gifts it to the opponents' defence. No PIs

MCL is set on defend as I need a defensive reinforcements, and he's still quite active in terms of help when we have possession. His PIs are "Shoot less often", "Dribble less", "Pass it shorter", "Fewer risky passes". Here's another man I need to stop gifting balls by going for the other flank long pass.

MCR, again "Shoot less often" and "Dribble less". Same issues from time to time.

About MR I changed my mind several times. I started with the idea of him being a pure winger, but he's not, we've seen all the players that Sousa used in that spot dribbling down the center and searching to sneak into the box; then I went for the DW role, but he was too passive. Now it seems I found the right solution setting him as WM with PIs "Dribble less", "Cross aim near post" and "Cut inside with ball".

And now I get to the roles I feel like I can have more from them.

- AMCR is set as Trequartista, Ilicic did exactly that troughout the season, but I'm not satisfied so far. PIs are "Hold up ball" and "Mark tighter"

- STC is set as Target man and I'm sorry to say that I know this isn't the right role, but I tried almost everything, liked nothing. I want him to hold position and not to go onto flanks, I need him there to keep opponents' defenders working and therefore open spaces for my midfielders and flankers. No PIs

Now these are the screens about the passing issue:

Here Valero went for the long "red" pass on the other flank, despite I deactivated "exploit flanks". Alonso was in offside, too. In green, the passes I would have liked better. In yellow, a kind of pass he could have attempted in case he had no "Fewer risky passes" PI?

Molde_Fiorentina_Campo.png

Here Pasqual does basically the same, going for the long ball that Babacar can't control, despite having at least 3 different and easier passing lines.

Molde_Fiorentina_Campo_2.png

I abandoned the idea of trying to be perfectly realistic with Sousa's football because it looks like it doesn't fit with the starting roster of Fiorentina. Especially about Tempo, I had to switch to Lower in order to have a ball possession with crazy long passes that only 1/5 times landed right, despite having "shorter passing" on.

Team shape is set as fluid as I need many players to participate to the offensive phase in order to overload opponents' defence. I would say it's working;

Width is set as fairly narrow as we know Sousa likes it, it is effective on the game as far as retrieving the ball once it's been lost and also for closing down on strikers those times they have open space to run with the ball. So I guess this point can be checked as working;

Defensive line is set as higher, basically for the same reason of shortening the passing lines to the opponents and retrieve the ball. As you can see by the first 4 results, I would check this point as working; same thing about closing down, prevent GK distribution and "stay on feet";

Play out of defence looks like an essential TI to me, but still I get those nonsense long passes towards flanks or striker which I screened for you; I'm surprised that those long passes come not only from the defenders (who usually end the game with several "errors" as marked in individual stats screens), but also from center midfield and the WP, despite in those situation they clearly should have no rush and they have easier passing solutions as well. This point is definitely not working;

I am not sure about the effectiveness of the "retain possession", "be more disciplined", "dribble less" and also "look for overlap" TIs at the moment. I choose them as I believe they suit better with the idea of having high possession. On paper I prefer to have a more disciplined team and less dribbles when it comes to such offensive tactics, I fear that if I choose for more freedom they would lose more balls than the ones turned into clear chances. I'm curious to know your idea (of all you guys out there!). Basically same thing for the overlap/early crosses, I don't have a clear idea about it but I prefer fullbacks not to get caught on counter after a bad cross.

All in all, these are the first 4 performances. I'm glad that the defense worked fine so far, but I feel like this is not even near to be a definitive tactics, especially in terms of offensive moves. And you can check it by seeing how many mistakes my players do.

Sorry if I posted too many screens.

Juventus_v_Fiorentina_Stats_Match_Stats.png

Juventus_v_Fiorentina_Stats_Fiorentina_Stats.png

Fiorentina_v_Carpi_Stats_Match_Stats.png

Fiorentina_v_Carpi_Stats_Fiorentina_Stats.png

Napoli_v_Fiorentina_Stats_Match_Stats.png

Napoli_v_Fiorentina_Stats_Fiorentina_Stats.png

Molde_v_Fiorentina_Stats_Match_Stats.png

Molde_v_Fiorentina_Stats_Fiorentina_Stats.png

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I made a long post on saturday afternoon that I guess has been rejected by admin. No clue about the reasons.

I will update my tactics tests asap

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I did a thread about Sousa's Viola setup a while ago.

While I agree that in terms of defensive positioning the formation to go would be 4-4-1-1 it's very hard to replicate how the team plays IRL with that setup. Although you can achieve something interesting, and looking in hindsight maybe I could have gone with the 4-4-1-1.

The RB needs to act as the third CB, and the LM needs to come inside because the only players that provide width are the LB and the RM.

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A big issue I have with the latest setup is the Kalinic role. You are playing a TM while retaining possession. I'm not to sure that Kalinic was even a TM IRL. He was more or a CF (s). He played Illicic in often and was also involved in the buildup.

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Hi guys.

I experienced that the previous version lacked too much of consistency, so I worked it again. I started with the strong idea that my tactic must have a great pressing effectiveness and I guess I found the right solutions.

Now what I came up is not very different, but I'm quite pleased about the first half of the season record.

Please notice that I'm quite sure I don't have enough players to perfectly fit the tactics, and I guess I will test it with a more appropriate roster (Bayern's one looks the most suitable one).

Also notice that the roster quality is mediocre, as I sold Badelj and brought in just some youngster (Cubas from Boca and Ilori from Liverpool). I missed Gonzalo and Blaszczykowski since september due to long term injuries.

Serie_A_Overview_Stages.jpg

ACF_Fiorentina_Overview.jpg

ACF_Fiorentina_Overview_2.jpg

ACF_Fiorentina_Senior_Fixtures.jpg

I'm particularly pleased with the fact we only conceeded 6 goals in 17 (plus 6 in EL group stage, but I used reserves and U19 players in those games). It is an absolutely great achievement as far as I'm concerned because I always struggled a lot defensively with all the teams I used in Serie A. It is even more great if we compare it to the roster level.

The main problem of course is that on the other hand we don't have the same effectiveness in terms of goals scored. The attack converted chances in EL group stage but not in the league. We missed a few penalties but that's not the point.

I selected 3 random heatmaps from 3 games that ended with a draw, a win and a loss. You also have the data about interceptions. I would like to have some feedback about it and how do you think I can improve.

In the meantime I will go on with the season.

Genoa_v_Fiorentina_Analysis_Teams.jpg

Fiorentina_v_Inter_Analysis_Teams.jpg

Fiorentina_v_Napoli_Analysis_Teams.jpg

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