FM19 Sarriball: Emulating Maurizio Sarri’s Tactic

Creative Team FM19 Tactics, Tactics 13 Comments

With our readers constantly requesting for Sarriball, we at Fmtrendgames had to make out time and observe Maurizio Sarri’s tactic at all angles. We looked at his tactic at both Napoli and Chelsea. Napoli brought out the best of Sarriball. But at Chelsea, Sarri had to make a few adjustments, especially in role selections. Because of this, we had to combine both versions of sarriball and bring it to life in FM19. So here, I’m going to share the FM19 sarriball tactic we created with Chelsea FC.

In this tactic, we used Sarri’s tactical approach when at Napoli but used his role selections at Chelsea. Combining both really worked in FM19. Though, the match engine was sort of punishing the goal conversion rate of the team. The team will have a lot of shots on target but usually manages to get a goal or two. However, the defensive side was solid – 30 clean sheets in 38 EPL games. This is just why FM19 is a bit different from real life.

Maurizio Sarri’s 4-3-3 Formation

The roles displayed above are just how Maurizio employs them at The Blues. More details about the roles and duties will be discussed later.

Build Up

Sarriball build-up in FM19.

Looking at Napoli’s game style under Sarri, you discover that they usually build up from the back and then move in high tempo. This is where sarriball is quite different from the classic tiki taka style. Sarriball is about playing a possession base style of football but with a very high speed, employing quick passing combinations. However, Sarri is applying the same strategy at Chelsea but it still hasn’t yet blossomed.

Napoli’s build-up, back then, became one of the best due to sarriball. As they build up play, the 2 CDs spread wide while the holding midfielder drops to create a triangle with the 2 CDs. Then, the fullbacks push up a bit to give the keeper a diagonal passing option.

In Possession

However, if the fullbacks are marked when the keeper is starting the build-up, one of the CMs will drop in-between the lines to offer a vertical option. Conversely, if the opponent presses one side very well, the holding midfielder makes himself available in order to switch play. Generally, the key to sarriball build-up is creating numerical superiority against the opponent. In this way, multiple passing options surface.

In other words, creating triangles is part of Sarri’s style. Just like in Eric ten Hag’s vertical tiki taka, sarriball influences the formation of triangles to outplay the opposition.

Attacking Animation

One-touch passing combination that finds a runner, who now carries the attack

Chelsea have fairly adapted the quick movement of the ball that Sarri impacts. Once the team breaks the opposition first press or line of defence, they push forward urgently. The strategy is to move the ball with one or two touches. This kind of one-touch passing makes it possible to free and find the third runner in space. The runner exploiting that space can put the opposition in trouble. Moreover, the quick movement of the ball from back to final third, in high tempo, is part of Sarri’s attacking philosophy.

Defensive Animation

Maurizio Sarri always implements the counter-pressing system in his team. Once they lose the ball, they press for the ball immediately. And this can turn to a quick counter attack in the opposition’s half.

In Transition

The way Sarri’s Napoli press the opponent is stunning. All three lines contributed in the pressing. In respect to this, the Italian tactical philosopher influences his team to attack and defend as a close unit. This means that the three lines, from frontline to defensive line, stay in a distance of 15 meters or below. This is why, in FM19, we set the line of engagement high while the defensive line is much higher. And Sarri has always liked his defensive line to stay very high.

Out of Possession

The aim of this close unity is for the lines to support each other in all phases. However, this has been one of the reasons why sarriball hasn’t settled comfortably in Stanford Bridge. Most times the midfield doesn’t support the defensive line, and vice versa. Thus, this creates a space between the lines, which the opponent takes advantage.

Defensive Structure

Defending in a 4-4-2 structure

In terms of the defensive structure, Sarri’s Chelsea usually defend in a 4-5-1 shape. But at Napoli, his men defend in a 4-4-2 shape. With the lone striker starting the press, either a winger or midfielder steps out to join the striker in pressing. In FM19, we chose to use Napoli’s way, which worked better.

Maurizio Sarri’s Role Selection

Keeper: Sweeper Keeper (Support)

A goalkeeper with good footwork is important in sarriball. This has been the role of the Basque sweeper keeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga.


Central Defenders: Two Ball Playing Defenders (Both on Defend)

Having defenders who can play with the ball have contributed in making Sarri’s philosophy a success in build-up play, just like in Pep Guardiola’s tactic. His ball playing defenders have the ability to make intelligent passes that can generate effective attacking moves.

Both David Luiz and Antonio Rüdiger operate as ball playing defenders. Though, Rudiger is struggling a bit in this role at Chelsea, but he’s learning. In FM19, we kept them as ball paying defenders. On the other hand, Luiz is very effective in this role. He has all the control and passing range – just like in real life.

Side Backs: Fullback (Support) and Complete Wing Backs (Support)

In Chelsea’s tactic under Sarri, César Azpilicueta plays more like a traditional supporting fullback. He doesn’t attack more often as the left side-back. However, he only gets forward whenever it’s very necessary. That’s why he has the supporting fullback role in this FM19 tactic – no instruction to get further forward.

However, Marcos Alonso on the other hand, is more of an attacking minded side-back. The complete wingback role matches his character. He even played in such role during the time of Antonio Conte. But he has lost a bit of that confidence. You can still select the supporting wingback role for Alonso, but Emerson plays better as a CWB.

Holding Midfielder: Deep Lying Playmaker (Defend)

This role is the most important role in Sarri’s tactic. In fact, it’s the heart of sarriball. Once the holding midfielder is not performing very well, the team is in trouble. With a lot of responsibility bestowed in him, he has to make all the right movements and decisions – with or without the ball.


Providing support to his teammates is part of his job. He does this by being the third man in most of the passing combinations. That is, being a passing option in the triangle. Apart from this, he very much dictates the tempo of the game, which is indispensable.

Central Midfielders: Advanced Playmaker (Support) and Carrilero (Support)

The advanced playmaker in Sarri’s tactic can turn defence into attack. He’s always finding space to exploit. As a playmaker, he has a job is distributing the ball to all areas and drop killer balls to the forwards. Moreover, in attacking phase, he can run into the opposition box to find a scoring chance. Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovacic can feature in this role.


For N’Golo Kanté, the carrilero role best describes his role under Sarri. Usually, his job is to shuttle between lines while operating towards the half space. And still engage in tackles, with the aim of disrupting opposition’s play. In attacking phase, he arrives late in the opposition box.


When Mateo Kovacic is playing in the MCR position, the role switches to more of a playmaker role (sort of a DLP role). You can make such change in FM19 while using this tactic.  

Side Attackers:  Inside Forward (Support) and Wingers (Attack)

The work of Eden Hazard, as inside forward, is amazing. He’s a world-class player who knows his job in the team. And he oftentimes makes a different. The current Chelsea boss usually gives him that freedom to express himself in the game. Besides being a forward, he contributes defensively too. He usually drops to receive the ball – can also cut inside to give space for the left wingback to exploit.

on dexter side, when William is in play, he becomes the traditional attacking winger who offers width. But, if Pedro is playing in this position, he acts more of a space exploiter. A very difficult player to mark because of his excellent off-the-ball movement – a raumdeuter.

Central Forward: Deep Lying Forward (Support)

Sarri brought in Gonzalo Higuaín because he needed a striker who can create spaces by dropping to receive ball or engage in the one-touch combination. A striker who is physically fit and able to control the ball, and still make movements to disorganise the opposition defensive line. But Higuain hasn’t quite lived up to that expectation as he did at Napoli. Though, he still plays as the deep lying forward under Sarri at Chelsea.


Once Olivier Giroud is in as the striker, he plays as the supporting target man. This is where Sarri is forced to rely on Giroud’s strength and body balance to disrupt the opposition defence and open up space.


For general training, you can comfortably leave it to your assistant manager. However, for individual training, you need to get your coaches to train your forwards, midfielders, and fullbacks (except CDs) on playing one-twos. This training will help the team to play the attacking strategy of sarriball better in FM19.


Under Maurizio Sarri, the Blues use zonal marking. Therefore, we used the same thing in FM19.

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Comments 13

    1. From this tactic( sarriball) the guardiola one and the ajax one which better for a top team like arsenal?thanks a lot

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      On the player development, under training, you will see PLAYER TRAITS. Then, click on “Discuss trait to add”. Pick any coach you wish to train that player (choosing an attacking coach is better). Then, click on Movement Training.

      An interaction window between you and the coach will appear. Then select “… attempting a few more one-twos to help the tempo of the game.” Now, the coach might say it’s not suitable for the player. Ignore it by selecting “I have greater experience…” That’s all.

      Make sure your players keep training under this trait until they do well in it.

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  1. Hi i’m using this tactic with Chelsea and i’m getting great results currently in all competitions and in a title race with Liverpool in my first season and its march but i’m having trouble in games away from home against the big 6 sometimes getting thrashed or drawing i was wondering what i could do to solve this issue (i used balanced mentality away from home btw)

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      Away games are sometimes tricky. But what i do is that i first check if the opposition is using balanced, positive, or attacking mentality. If that’s the case, i leave mine balanced. But if as the match goes on and they continuously press us for like 15—20 minutes using that positive or attacking mentality, or if they get a goal and continuously press us, i then switch to positive (since am using a big team also).

      However, if they (i still mean tough teams) are using cautious or defensive on their home ground, i set mine to cautious. Man City used this trick. They used defensive mentality when i faced them on their home ground with this tactic – i was really surprised. So i set mine to cautious in the dressing room before kick-off (that’s what i always do when i want to change). We were winning with one goal. Then at 80th minute, Pep immediately switched to attacking and they later equalised in the 93rd minute. So, sometimes you just can’t help it. Home team has an advantage.

      The picture below shows the review match against Man City.

      1. Ok thanks, I’ll give it a try with adapting to opposition mentalities and i also want to mention one more thing I’ve never had this issue early to mid part of the season but since end of February / start of March my players have been getting a lot of red cards now i know that the press is quite aggressive and maybe the players at my disposal are not the most naturally gifted at tackling but there was a period in March where there was at least one red card for 4-5 games straight and i wanted to ask if you got that and if so/not any tips on how to solve this because i’m not the most knowledgeable / well-versed FM player xD

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          Sometimes it happens that way. But this is mostly because “Get Stuck In” is enabled in this tactic. So to reduce this, select “Stay on Feet” instead. But have in mind that this could reduce the effectiveness of this tactic.

          However, if you wish not to remove “get stuck in”, you can change the tackling instruction of the player who has a yellow card – just select Ease Off Tackle on the player instructions window. Or, you can substitute that player with a yellow and has a potential of getting a red. These are ways you can use to avoid a red card.

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