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  • FM Patrick

Quattro-quattro-due - Catania, FM24

December 3, 2023


The 4-4-2 has seen a resurgence in recent years, such is the cyclical nature of football tactics. We've seen Klopp adopt the shape at Liverpool, particularly in defensive phases. There was Burnley's extended Premier League run under Sean Dyche, famed (or infamed) for their 'anti-football' low-block, and of course former Catania manager Diego Simeone, who has used the shape often during his long career at Atletico.

I played a variant of the shape last year, a 4-1-3-2 formation with two Mezzalas which looked more like a 4-4-2 diamond in possession. I decided to roll back the years and introduce the classic 4-4-2 back at Catania in FM24, and with quite impressive results.


Double Jump

After waiting eight years for our first trophy at Compostela, it was quite the turnaround to win three in our first year in Sicily.

Yes, we mopped up the Serie C Girone C, Coppa Italia Serie C, and Supercoppa di Serie C in what has been a pretty thrilling introductory season at Catania. The trophies are great, but more importantly the football was nothing if not riveting. Two 5-1 league wins and a 4-4 draw in the cup that we won after a thrilling 32 penalty shoot-out, all within three weeks, is testament to that.

After a slightly disappointing start with two losses on the bounce, I switched from the asymmetric 4-2-3-1 I had been using to a more standard 4-4-2. I had planned to do this before starting the save, wanting to emulate a Simeone style, but struggled to get all our best players in the squad. That turned out to be one of the best decisions I could've made, as we then went on a 40 match unbeaten run in all competitions. February-April saw an almost two-month run where we didn't drop a single point.

Usually, I'll have a couple of tactics to switch between depending on the level of opposition, but how could I risk changing things when we were doing so well? Because of this, we have lined up in a 4-4-2 shape in all but four games at the start of the season. Consistency is king.

How the Catania 23/24 Serie C Girone C winners lined up

One of the key elements of this tactic is one I borrowed from the Simeone school of management, a low-block with intense pressing. Essentially, we allow the opponent to progress the ball up into our half of the pitch, and then press relentlessly to win the ball back and look to transition into a blistering counter. It seems to have worked well so far, and I intend to maintain the system as we move up to Serie B. I have got a more in-depth tactical analysis in the works for Dictate The Game, where I'll explore my 4-4-2 in further detail.


Looking Ahead

Our promotion hardly came as a surprise, as we were predicted to be one of the better teams in the league. It was nice to achieve it automatically, and then the process of preparing for life in Serie B began in earnest. I don't think a complete overhaul is necessary. There are definitely some players who we had or I brought in this year who are good enough, but also areas for improvement.

Roberto Soriano has often played in the BBM role in our midfield since I brought him in this year, but I think he will be a much more effective Deep-Lying playmaker and as such I have brought in former Torino and Fiorentina man Marco Benassi to act as the more dynamic player alongside him.

Forestieri (yes, the Watford one) has been excellent despite his growing years, earning himself an extra year at the club. I've brought in Hungarian international Krisztofer Horváth on loan from Torino, with an aim to sign him on a free if he impresses, to back him up. Forestieri's strike partner, Samuel Di Carmine, finished as the league's top scorer with 25 league goals. That sort of performance would merit a renewal, but he was asking for far too much (£9k/week compared to Forestieri's £2k/week) and still wanted star player status. Plus, I had signed Roberto Inglese in the winter window, he had scored six in six, and was better suited to the pressing forward role I wanted. Carmine left to join Ternana, and Inglese takes the second slot in the strike partnership.

The area which I have invested the most in is defence, adding Lautaro Giannetti, who had spent his entire career at Vélez, and subsequently making him the highest paid player at the club. He's considered a good Serie B player, and at 31 should have a few prime years left in him. His partner will be Icelandic international Hjörtur Hermannsson, on loan from Pisa.

Moving up to Serie B also means our first Sicilian derby, with Palermo failing to gain promotion.

Exciting times are ahead.


The cult of Catania

In the introductory post to this save, I mentioned I wanted to build a team of cult heroes, focusing on the Mediterranean area. I also mentioned this was hard to define, and it has been. So far, I think Forestieri who has been the player who has most lived up to that moniker. I like the idea of having a team of misfits, players who maybe haven't quite made it elsewhere, or with slightly mercurial personalities - Nicolas Schiappacasse, for example, is on my shortlist, mostly because he was arrested for trying to take a gun to a game in Uruguay.

There is, however, a slight issue with this. The Italian transfer and registration rules are particularly restrictive. In Serie B, we aren't even allowed to sign non-EU players from abroad. That rules out quite a big chunk of my target area, including Turkey, North Africa, Australia and most of the Balkans. The rules change in Serie A, but they're still convoluted, essentially restricting a club to only registering two non-EU players. This is annoying, but I have devised a plan.

Once we reach Serie A, I intend to set up an affiliation with a club where the amount of time to achieve citizenship is minimal. This will allow us to bring in young non-EU players, ship them out on loan until they're an EU citizen, then incorporate them into the squad without repercussion. For South/Central Americans, a club in Spain will be best as the time to become a citizen for them is only two years. Our options for other nationalities are limited. In Serbia, citizenship is gained in three years, but they won't join the EU until 2030 in-game. Gibraltar is only two years, but they're ruled out following Brexit, which is annoying. In most EU countries, including Italy, the time is four years. This means that if we went down this route, we could sign players at 18 (the minimum age allowed for them to move countries), and not be able to play them until they're 22. That's not ideal, so I need to keep researching and try figure out a solution. It's a work in progress.

That about wraps things up for this update. I'll be heading home for the holidays later this month, and as a result FM time will be reduced. I've also found having a full-time job makes finding time to blog a bit harder, so I think I'll stick to one update a season for now, with intermittent posts on subjects I find interesting. I'll be back soon with an update on how our first season in Serie B goes.

As always, thanks for reading.


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