When FM19 first made its debut on Steam, I tried to set up a solid 4-4-2 formation but failed severally. It was frustrating to me back then because am a big fan of 4-4-2. Even to create a good 4-4-2 diamond was a problem (still going try again this time around). However, as the updates came in, I managed to come up with a 4-4-2 that emulates Diego Simeone’s tactic in version 19.2.0. Now, in this newest version (version 19.3.4), I have come up with a satisfying one. The tactic shared here reflects Carlo Ancelotti 4-4-2 tactic at Napoli.
In this tactic, I used Ancelotti’s style but also made some tweaks to get it to work well in FM19 – since FM19 is quite different from real life. With the results gotten while using this tactic with Napoli, I can comfortably say that this 4-4-2 tactic is the best I have tested yet. The stats defensively still amaze me; it really favoured my FM19 Napoli team.
Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 Setup
There are two setups here. The screenshot (left) shows the way the Italian boss usually sets up his Napoli team when using the classic 4-4-2. However, the other screenshot, at the right, shows the few changes I made. You can set up your team whichever way you want.
The days of Sarri-Napoli build-up have ended. Ancelotti has now made the team more flexible in terms of everything tactically. Napoli do still build up from the back but they can still go direct if necessary. They don’t stick to a particular way.
However, Ancelotti has still maintained that fast movement of the ball that Sarri once used. The quick short passing combinations are still present in Napoli’s game – just like in Sarriball. Moreover, the team focuses their play on the flanks more often, with the aim of taking advantage of the half space.
The way Napoli attack is almost similar to sarriball during Sarri’s era. But, they are more direct and a bit quicker under Ancelotti. Moving the ball urgently in high tempo is how they attack. The two front strikers always roam, looking for spaces to exploit.
As the team attacks, the left-winger drifts inside, opening space for the overlapping left-back to attack with width. However, on the right side, the winger doesn’t drift inside. He offers the extra width and carries out the attack – the right back doesn’t get forward as the left back.
With this animation, Napoli attack in a 3-5-2 shape under Carlo Ancelotti. This is because the right back stays back to join the two central defenders while the left back moves forward.
Just like in Lucien Favre’s tactic at Dortmund, Ancelotti uses the man-oriented type of pressing. A player closes down the opponent with the ball, while his teammates will tend to block the opponent’s passing options. Thus, the opponent has a quick decision to make. If not carefully thought out before making that pass, Napoli will win the ball.
In FM19, this type of pressing is difficult to implement. The lack of some defensive features in the team and player instructions parts made it difficult (same situation occurred in Favre’s 4-2-3-1 tactic). Because of this, I used an intense counter pressing system in this tactic instead.
Sarri’s Napoli usually defend in a 4-4-2 shape. The same defensive scenario is still applied by Ancelotti. Though, defending in a 4-4-2 shape isn’t new to the Italian tactician – he used it at Real Madrid. As Napoli defend in this shape, they stay close to each other. This compactness tightens the space in the central areas, which tends to prevent the opposition from penetrating the middle space. Also, this closeness of the team forces the opponent to go wide. Hence, enhances the man-oriented press.
This is why the defensive width of this tactic is narrow. Moreover, under the Italian boss, Napoli play with a high defensive line.
Ancelotti’s Role Selections (and My Tweaks)
Keeper: Sweeper Keeper (Support)
A sweeper keeper is more common in modern football. This is because goalkeepers now help in defending and maintaining possession. David Ospina does almost the same job at Napoli. Though in FM19, I prefer using Alex Meret.
Central Defence: Central Defender and Ball Playing Defender (Both on Defend)
Ancelotti sets up two ball playing defenders who are comfortable with the ball. The two main starters, Kalidou Koulibaly and Raúl Albiol, can play with the ball.
Koulibaly, who’s one of the best defenders in today’s football, has that confidence to dribble down the midfield. He usually does this in Napoli games, but in FM19, I decided to use him as the central defender because of his physicality. While he takes up the CD role, Albiol gets the BPD role. Defensively, the combination of these two roles is superb in FM19.
Side Backs: Two Wingbacks (Both on Support)
At Napoli, the two side backs don’t get forward – only one of them is given that privilege. Elseid Hysaj, on the right, usually stay back to form a 3-man defence with the two central defenders. While he stays back, Mário Rui (or Faouzi Ghoulam) gets forward to support the attacking phase.
However, in FM19, this set up wasn’t that great when the team attacks. Both side-backs having the freedom to get forward were essential. Therefore, I had to use the supporting wingback role.
Central Midfield: Two Deep Lying Playmakers (Defend and Support)
For the two central midfielders, Allan is more of a box-to-box midfielder under Ancelotti. He isn’t that creative. Rather, he’s physicality became a good thing in the midfield. With Allan bringing that physicality in the midfield, Ancelotti tends to add a midfielder (Amadou Diawara or Fabián) who can bring the required creativeness and control – more like a deep lying playmaker.
Nevertheless, while using the Italian manager’s setup in FM19, control in midfield wasn’t that good. This made me to tweak things. Using two playmaker roles became much more effective for the team.
Side Midfield: Two Inverted Wingers (Both on Support)
Again, in Ancelotti’s setup, the winger on the left has to operate in the half space like an inverted winger. Then, the other winger on the right offers more width like a traditional winger. Usually, it’s Piotr Zielinski on the left and José Callejón on the right.
In FM19, this setup wasn’t effective. Sometimes, to find Callejon with a pass was an issue when the team attacks urgently. The opposition usually finds it easy to cut off that passing lane. Besides, the winger role didn’t bring out the best of the Spaniard. So, I decided to give him the IW role (and then the right back gets the supporting WB role).
With this setup, both wingers will cut inside to overload the advance central space, creating enough space for the overlapping side-backs to exploit. This made our attacking more flexible and effective.
Central Forward: Trequartista (Attack) and Advanced Forward (Attack)
Lorenzo Insigne is more like the Trequartista. He’s always roaming, looking for space to exploit. For Dries Mertens, the advanced forward role shows his character more. To put the ball at the back of the net is mainly Mertens’ job, just like a Poacher. But, he also tends to support and assist teammates in the final third.
The kind of marking style of Ancelotti at Napoli is difficult to implement in FM19. However, I decided to use zonal marking. No specific marking needed. For set pieces, I used mixed marking just like what Napoli uses in real life.
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