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Ji-Sung Park

2009/10 Treble Winning Internazionale

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A few days ago I started watching Football's Greatest Managers on YouTube. They are about a half hour in length and very interesting. Thanks to Ö-zil for providing a link in one of his threads!

From there I dug into everything I could find on the magnificent team of José Mourinho that won the everything they played in 2009/10. For me easily top 3 sides in newer history, I can only think of Bayern under Heynckes and Barca under Pep as equally good. Anyways, there are some great docus out there on this particular season, not all of them in English. I will post some links when we wrap it up. Credit also goes to Cleon's thread on counter attacking football.

First we have to understand why Mourinho chose to go with a 4-3-1-2 or 4-1-3-2 (both can fit the description). Before, in Chelsea he used a more dominant 4-2-3-1 with wingers, same in Madrid and now at United. Both he and Rui Faria, his loyal assistant, sums it up in the documentary "Football's Greatest Managers: José Mourinho" (about 18 mins in).




"I have to adapt. I have to learn where I'm working. I have to understand the football played in that country, I have to understand the culture and my players and my team."

"I think it is the most difficult country. Coaches are very well prepared, the players have a great mentality for that [the tactics], teams are very, very well organized. Every match is really difficult."


Rui Faria:


"Inter was a big challenge, because everybody speaks about the tactical managers in Italy. How important it is the tactics and the strategies in football and it was in fact a big challenge for José. In a minute you could be changing your structure and the strategy of that game, and in the same minute, the opponent - even if it was a manager of a small team - he was adapting to you. So it was like a continual fight in the tactical point of view.

I think this video is the best analysis out there of the style of Inter that season. It's 14 mins long, but goes into decent detail. It also focuses on the CL final where they played slightly different than that of the league. Cliffs from that vid: pressing mainly in own half, with a low defensive line. The idea is obviously to hit them on the counter. To facilitate this he deployed very physically apt players in midfield. Thiago Motta, Stankovic, Muntari, Zanetti, Cambiasso, McDonald Mariga. In addition to having an extremely well organized defense, with Walter Samuel, Lucio, Ivan Cordoba, Maicon, again Zanetti, Chivu etc. It was a very strong team, both in physical terms and in the mental department. He wanted 4 midfielders narrowly in front of the 4 defenders. The key was shape and structure. Very disciplined stuff. Of the 4 midfielders, only Wes Sneijder had the creative freedom to roam and link up the forwards. 

Although his two strikers were relieved of defensive duties, Samuel Eto'o was basically transformed into a defensive forward after his move from Barca. He was slightly deeper than Milito, who played more the role of a complete forward. Milito was unreal that season, scoring 30 goals and just tormenting both Barca and Bayern in the CL. Sneijder would often connect with the forwards and drop deep when out of possession, which more than half the time.

On YT there is a clip of the domestic comp goals from that season. If you remove the set piece goals, you'll find that most goals came from Maicon on the right and counter attacks.

Before we go into the translation to FM process, let me warn you - this is not a plug and play tactic! You absolutely need the right type of players to pull this off. Basically all the players need to have the mental attributes (check Cleon's thread on counter) and the technical stuff. I played the CL matches with squad players and got hammered, you are warned.

In my game I took over AC Milan to do this experiment. I got a 160m war chest, in addition I had tons of players with high values that I sold off, that just did not fit the profile. We're in season 18/19, January. Next I'll post a thorough look at the tactic, player roles, how it looks etc.

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I made three tactics, as I wanted the most realistic approach possible. 4-3-1-2, 4-1-3-2 and a 4-3-3. I have barely used the latter, so we'll skip that for now.



The one on the left is my most used, because it seems to be more true to the Sneijder role than anything else. Sneijder only got 4 league goals that season, but that was mainly because his role was very deep as opposed to before.

Roles w/ explanations:

GK: Standard GK. No instructions.
RB: The all important Maicon role. This one is easy, you'll need a technically gifted wingback who's also capable of scoring. PI stay wider and tackle harder. We'll touch on the tackling later.
CD: Lucio role. No settings.
CD: Samuel role. No settings.
LB: The Zanetti role. Very solid fullback, no risks taken, is there also to provide some width. I tried using FB(d), only made him sit too narrow. PI hold position and tackle harder.

DM: Cambiasso. This one is simple. A hard tackling DM with a two objectives; protect the back four and support the midfielder when going forward. PI pass it shorter and close down much less.
CM: The right sided CM, Stankovic/Zanetti/Motta. Close down more, hold position, tackle harder, more risky passes. We want him to try to get the ball over the defense and to our strikers.
CM: The Sneijder. He is the only one with creative freedoms. He will drive forward with the ball and he will look for the two strikers on the counter. He is slightly more forward than the other 3 CMs. Close down more, get further forward.
CM: Muntari/Motta. Similar, if not the same as Stankovic. Shoot less often, tackle harder, close down more, more risky passes.

CF: The Eto'o role. A DF on support who will link up well with a more free striker on his left. PI Close down much more.
CF: The free scoring Milito role. A CF(s) links up nicely with a DF here.

There are two reasons for the hard tackling. One is that it is true to the way they played, zero compromises. The other is that if not it will be a little easy to cross the ball sometimes and concede. Remember, with a deep d-line we are sort of inviting the crosses and on FM 16 this can be a bad thing. That is why I will use OI's when playing teams who use a flat 4 in midfield for instance.

I frequently tell my DF to man mark their left back if I suspect he will be crossing a lot. For instance, when I played against Juventus I was 95% sure that Allegri would have Alex Sandro up and down the left, crossing and causing havoc. So I had Diego Costa trail him, just like Eto'o did a few times. He was subbed off after 68' and we won 3-0.

So how does it work in the game? It took some time to settle, and to be fair I barely qualified from my group in the CL. Nevertheless, there results have been amazing in the league. We concede 0.5 goals and score 2.15 or so. Here is the opening goal from a match I recently played against lowly Cesena away:

In this clip my Zanetti wins the ball deep in my territory and launches a counter which ends with my Milito, Bacca, firing in 1-0. Many of the goals come from situations like these. A lot of the time the goals will come from crosses, I want to say sadly, because the Maicon role is just bananas in this tactic. I don't think these types of tactics are viable with at least one wide threat. Playing through the middle will only get you so far.

Here is the average positions map from the Juventus game at home. Note that in this game I told my Muntari/Motta to get further forward, because they played with two central midfielders and there were tons of space. This is the "without ball" screen.

avg pos.png

You will see the DF is slightly to the right, this is because for 70 mins he was marking Alex Sandro.

Tomorrow I'll write a roundup of the first season using his system, and also try to improve the tactic more for European competition.

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I forgot to put out the links to the vids I mentioned earlier. 

This is to get in the mood:

A short one on his Inter tenure:

Football's Greatest Managers: José Mourinho:

The tactical analysis:

Next I will try to analyze a game and we can see how it can be improved or modified.

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I mentioned player types in the opening post. I think most of you remember the FM mental stats of these Inter players, like Walter Samuel, Lucio, Cambiasso, Zanetti, Milito +++. Very comfortable in lying deep and hitting teams on the counter, a very fearless side with heaps of aggression. So it is of course very important to find players with some of these traits. It will be impossible to assemble a team with as good (or better), but you can find players with:

* Aggression
* Concentration
* Work rate
* Teamwork

Other than this, you need them to able to pass the ball. Enough on this. I think you all know what to look for in new signings.

Lets have a look at the season this far. League games only:



We concede 0.5 at the moment, very nice. We also score quite a lot.

Match Analysis:

I chose the latest match I played, Napoli at home, league match.

This is the formation they are starting with, exactly the same as the first encounter earlier in the season where we won 4-1 away. There are now outright wingers to look out for, but Darmian might go forward a bit, we'll close him down in the OI's. I go with "always close down" and nothing else, the players will tackle hard regardless.

nap analys.png

This Napoli setup is very ideal for us as we have the midfielders in place to close them down. As we suspected Darmian is trying to run a lot from his right back position and cross, but we already have a plan in place for this with Jose Mauri closing him down from his midfield position:

tackles won.pnginterceptions.png

This image shows successful tackles on the left. You can see where they attempted to build up play. On the right we see where our interceptions where made. Again, it is key to close down potential crosses since we are lying deep. I know that OIs are frowned upon because of shape issues, but it is really helpful and I'm glad this option is in the game.

Still, we go to halftime with 0-0. Not ideal, but we are in complete control of this tie. After 65 min we take the lead with a real howitzer from Bacca from the edge of the area. Going 1-0 up with this tactic means we'll win, by the way. It will most of the time mean even more goals for us. Paloschi, who I brought in as a DF reserve to Diego Costa does the job after 84 mins:

In the final minutes Bacca grabs another one to wrap up a 3-0 win. 

The cold, hard facts:

nap stat.png

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2 hours ago, coach vahid said:

What about the 433 ? Do you have results with it?

I used it twice in the Champions League, not very good overall. One win and one loss, but I used rotation players in some key positions. 

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Season finished, a small write up with some key matches analyzed.

I believe the last fixture image was after beating Napoli in the league at home. So here is the latter part of the season:


Baffled by the whole CL experience using this tactic. We dominate the game at home against Liverpool, yet we only win 1-0. They came at us in a 4-2-3-1 with two deep DMs instead of CMs, but we close them out pretty well with our solid defensive setup. Chance distribution between the two team were fairly even in that match, but we had 3 CCCs and they one. Okay, we avoid away goals and have control of the tie. Then we go there and their manager (Antonio Mohamed) change to a 4-3-1-2 (same as I have) and they go one up after 11 minutes from a set piece. After that they score two goals before half time, from open play (non of them are classified as a CCC). We get one back early in the second half but despite pressing them back, we fail to score the decider. 

In the league things were a lot better. We never relinquished the lead after the winter break and won the league at match day 37, 4 points clear of Juve. The tactic (4-1-3-2) was very, very solid in the league. We basically never conceded goals in the first half. We had one annoying loss right after the Liverpool game, to Udinese, but again I had to resort to using squad players.

In all matches, more or less, I had to do tweaks as we play (in match changes). When you play relegation zone teams, they come to get a draw. So it is important to pay attention to where you can improve, where you can find space. But honestly, the major change is to change your d-line. We always started off with slightly deeper and then we went to normal if they didn't try to attack. 

A good example of this is vs Carpi, at San Siro:


They started like this and after I adjusted to a normal d-line after 18 minutes we scored two quick goals. The above formation seemed to be the weapon of choice for most teams during that period. 

My goals conceded ratio increased towards the end and we finished the season with 22 conceded. This is acceptable, but still a tad too high imo. A lot of the conceded goals came from set pieces. I quickly learned that having two very good centerbacks are vital to make this work. And by good I mean both physically and mentally. Technically it really doesn't matter that much, as I had to use Jonny as CD a fair bit and he was good to great. But low bravery and aggression is not a good thing here. 

In order to succeed in Europe I think the low d-line must be adjusted to normal. That really helped in most games I played, but by the time I made adjustments it was too late. Playing to deep against some of these teams just doesn't seem to work.

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6 hours ago, Jean0987654321 said:

I'm also trying something out with Feyenoord. The only thing that is difficult is emulating the position of Zanetti. Maybe a HB or just making him a DW (d maybe?) (w/sit narrower PI)?

My take on that match was a sort of like a 433, only with two DM's instead of one. So I had Sneijder in front of Cambiasso and Zanetti - but I did not read that article beforehand. I'm at work for two months, so I can't play that save anymore and by the time I finish it'll be FM17...

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This last link is wrong on a major point. It needs to be taken with a big pinch of salt.

Previous to his Real experience, one thing that the teams of Mourinho excelled was in their compactness on the midfield. Specially in Porto. 


I agree with almost all the rest. Specially the shape of the midfield giving Sneijder more freedom to attack. However, as much as important this shape was, we can't neglect the importance of the deep 4-2-3-1 in the CL campaign. It would be interesting to see this replicated. I've tried and failed. 


Otherwise, nice job! 

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