FM16 Parma: Strikerless Catenaccio?

This isn’t a post to directly update on the status of my Parma save, which is still in the friendlies as I’ve been split between three saves (FM14’s, FM16’s Oxford, and this) with only a casual interest in playing them and writing updates, but it is related to the posts nonetheless, as this is about ideas I have for the save. I just won’t have play-through images and thoughts attached to the post, this is just my own rambling.

While I was looking up football culture in Italy to get a sense of what type of football I can expect to see in my first encounter with the teams and nation, I was consistently being referred back to an old style of play made famous by Helenio Herrera known as “Catenaccio” – the deadbolt, which was an adaptation of the Austrian Karl Rappan’s highly defensive Verrou.


I am a huge fan of fast-paced attacking football, and I pride myself on being a capable attacking manager who can build a goal scoring team that is a fast, fluid, and incorporates the philosophies of Total Football that enable the team to perform to devastating effect, for the most part.

I guess catenaccio really appealed to me because of the use of the seldom seen sweeper and because of the defensive nature of it. I have always had leaky defenses in my tactics, and I saw a challenge to make my Parma save interesting in three aspects:

    1. I wanted to develop a defensive tactic and try playing with a tighter defensive emphasis as a change of pace and to tactically broaden my horizons, as all I know managerially with my play is direct attacking motion


  •  I wanted to give a tactic employing a sweeper a go, because who uses them often in modern football?



  • As I said in The Baggies Experiment, I developed a bit of a strikerless bug thanks to Messrs Merry and Darwen and I got the idea to try making a strikerless tactic that keeps the spirit of catenaccio, if possible



I see a couple of challenges up front: A quality sweeper might take work to find and employ at first, because let’s face it, it’s an uncommon role. I reckon most sweepers I find will be rubbish because the skill is seldom trained and it will take work to train a player to be comfortable in the role, and the ones who are good out of the box are probably attached to good teams, at least according to the scouting I’ve done. A quality sweeper is proving difficult to find for a Serie D side, and I may have to attempt to just train a centerback into the sweeper position.

The second challenge is having a defensively focused team, but still being able to play to win and not play to draw. Perhaps the perfect game of football, according to certain Italian journalists will end 0-0 because the teams defended so perfectly that scoring couldn’t happen, but I want to play to win, not play to draw, even if that means stealing a goal while the other team takes a quick nap.

The last bit, as I said, is making a strikerless variation that will still function with the spirit of catenaccio, just because that tweak on its own will make it interesting, if it’s doable.

Of course, we can’t forget that pure catenaccio is rendered obsolete by the advent of Total Football, tiki taka, and all these philosophies that take advantage of using players to their potential across the board, that ruin the man-marking that catenaccio is known for during a time of playing teams rather rigidly to their assigned positions. There will likely be times where this could fail miserably, I’m sure.

The thing that I am most curious about and what makes this a particularly interesting idea is how compatible the strikerless style of play will be with a defensive style of play?

What I mean to say is that I want a highly defensive tactic, that’s true, and by eliminating the forward-most player, I’d be able to stick him in the back and make the play highly defensive, but I want to still be able to get the ball moving forward if possible so that I can have the attacking motion still. Most attempts that I’ve seen at catenaccio in older FMs are depending on a striker sitting up front so that they can take the opportunity to quickly flick the ball forward if the opportunity arises and try to steal the one goal needed to secure three points. If I’m playing a rigid defensive shape, how often will the ball go forward towards goal with the midfielders and attacking midfielders wanting to stay in their positions?

On that exact note when putting together catenaccio with a strikerless twist, at least in my initial thoughts, is that  Merry and Darwen both have a  preference to strikerless football that is very fluid and very attacking based, and since I’m doing the exact opposite – defensively rigid. Is the strikerless methodology of playing effective because fluid attacking motion is inherently necessary for success, or is the high-paced attacking fluidity personal preference for playing with Guido Merry and people who are just getting into wanting to experiment with strikerless ball just following the leader and example to experiment? Will a rigid defensive style of play ever be capable of a good attacking movement here and there when the team is being told to hold position and keep their defensive shape?

Where is the right balance that will enable the needed motion to play to win whilst still holding the line and keeping the goal safe?

I’ve got a few basic ideas in my head for the tactic, but I won’t get into it at present. I’ll have to think about this for a bit, do some experimentation, and I’ll report back on my successes, failures, or most likely a bit of both when I get to the end of the season and have had time to experiment and run a season.


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