The Squadfather – A Sicilian Tale – Palermo – Shapeshifter

Following on from the last post where I briefly mentioned the thought of playing with a WM formation in FM20 due to a lack of defenders in the playing squad at Palermo. This episode will outline the results of the 2019/20 season and delve into the tactic we used.

Our Preseason kicked off in earnest mood on the west side of Sicily. Marsala were our opposition who were fellow campaigners in Serie D Girone I. The starting formation was the WM and with the tactic taking a standing start in FM20 I had know idea how we were going to play. The result did not flatter us at all (4-0) and the game stats suggested that we had looked to play with possession, but with that we were not just knocking the ball about in our own half, we were camped outside the oppositions penalty area looking to cultivate chances in the box. The heat map and avg position for the starting 11 are highlighted below. Along side that the heat map/avg position of both teams shows how Marsala looked intent on defending their box from the off albeit with little effect. And our match stats highlight clear dominance with a lot of attempts at goal, 73% possession and a high level of complete passes.

After the success of the first friendly I decided to venture forward with the WM and see if I could learn and develop it further from the bones of the tactic which was used in FM19. We welcomed Juventus Under 23 side who themselves are not just some kids team donning the zebra stripes of Turin but are one tier above us in the Italian football pyramid. They are situated in Serie C Girone A.

Still with little reference point we started the match with the same formation. The fifth minute produced the only goal of the match. Defensive midfielder Idrissa Toure scoring from a shot from just on the edge of the area. The rest of this match would see Palermo play in similar areas of the pitch to the Marsala match, only with out the penetration or killer blow. Once again, I was impressed with our ability to keep the ball and look threatening even if on this occasion we just couldn’t score from our efforts. Also, despite the goal conceded I was impressed with our defensive shape. Our lone centre back looking like a sweeper behind a back four, even though the two defensive midfielders are playing the role of anchors. The rest of preseason went as predicted. We would outshine our opposition and, in some cases, bully them for the ball with our high press then break fast to cut back and slot home a shot to goal.

The other friendly that stood out for me was the massive fixture against Hertha BSC. I have no idea why they would play against a lowly side in the fourth tier of Italian football but then did. And for me I was expecting them to tear us apart with their superior fitness and ability. Instead we went toe to toe with them. Unlike the matches against teams that are at our level this match really gave me some food for though as the match played out. Just like the Juventus match we conceded early. In the eighth minute a long ball to Ondrej Duda would land on his foot, and with the space in front of him he would drive to the edge of the area before shooting at goal and scoring. My fears were aligned I knew we would concede either through a long ball or the counterattack. As the weakness of the tactic is the space that is left behind once we advance into our attacking phases. We also look to leave the lone central defender very isolated. I looked to reduce the attacking intent of the two fullbacks by switching them to defend rather than support. This would be our only change, apart from personnel for fitness and match practice reasons. I noted that we were a complete mix of struggle and surprise. As I expected Hertha to blow us off the park. Instead we played well defensively, but we just lacked the ability to turn our passing passages into surmountable attacks. We lost 1-0. And despite the limp attacking I came away from the match thinking we could build from the experience of only being narrowly beaten by a Bundesliga Ein team. The complete results of preseason are below.

Our domestic league season started on the 17th of August 2019 in the southern mainland city of Palmi to play against Palmese. We would win 4-0. And dominate the match with our possession of the ball and variation of passing in order to create an opportunity at goal. The below shows three of the four goals scored in the opening fixture of Serie D.

The opening fixture was the start of a magical winning streak which saw the Rosanero pull of an impressive 18 matches won consecutively. The run would come to a halt after a 0-0 away draw to Marina di Ragusa.

A much changed back three would see back up players Francesco Vaccaro and Massimiliano Doda play in the full back positions and our usual right back Andrea Accardi deputise in the centre back role. The lack of game time and fluidity of the tactic could have been a contributing factor to our struggle.

Accardi and Roberto Crivello had become untouchable in the starting eleven in the fullback positions, both had shown a growth of development since the preseason friendlies and both had started to show sign of a working relationship with their more advanced wingers. Crivello had got that big in his boots he refused to sign a new contract and was playing like he was looking to show what he could do for any suitors. Leeds Utd would come in and offer him more than what I could dream of offering. But we would have the second half of the season to get the best out of Crivello.

Back to the disappointment of Marina Ragusa. As you can see, we were dominant, we were just very wasteful in front of goal.

We would dust ourselves down and get back on the winning horse for the next five matches. Yet the 1-0 win at home against Savoia would yet again show a great deal of frustration as we were nearly FM’d. My understanding of the term “to be FM’d” is that you outperform the opposition yet struggle to win or just lose for no apparent reason, SI would say that it happens in real life. But to be honest for me a win is a win and thank fuck – fully we did not lose. But we did have 72% of possession and restrict Savoia to just the two shots yet somehow our own shooting was wayward. In the end we relied on a spot kick to break the deadlock.

Our league campaign then went on a mid-season wobble. Where we first struggled with the concept of playing two matches inside four days and then actually struggled to play well in the same four days. Personally, I think the 20.2.0 patch was released around this point and I think it caused the wobble, but thankfully we ground out two draws. This would see us continue our unbeaten run.

The next match I have focussed on is the 3-2 away victory against Giugliano. The result not only marked the date when we became Champions of Serie D Girone I, it was also the first time in the league we were seriously tested. In fact we were 2-0 down in the first half despite the dominance of possession. This match would see us fight for the title by fighting for three points. And winning from a losing position had never been asked of us during the season so far. The makeshift team of Marang Bubacarr in central defence along with the likes of Juan Mauri, and the rather Palermo named Rosario Tornetta playing on the right wing. The team playing in this match was certainly a mish mash of players as I had felt the usual starters had become a little complacent during the wobble. However, it was the introduction of my usual starters which instigated the fight back and sealed the title. Some would say it was clever management others would say we were very lucky.

So, we technically won the title with out losing a match. But the true story shows we still had our party heads on for the trip to Messina (The very next match). We go off to a good start with the Leeds bound left back Roberto Crivello scoring for the Rosanero. But the wheels of the party bus came off in the second half and Messina would score a brace to inflict our only defeat of the Serie D campaign.

We finished the last four fixtures playing like Champions, only with our focus switched on. This was partly due to our need to remain focussed for our cup run. In the Coppa Italia Serie D. This competition started back in September when we beat Inveruno 2-0. And the momentum of our season combined saw us progress through to the final even past a tricky quarter final against Savoia could not stops us from reaching the final.

The final was conveniently held at the Renzo Barbera (Home to Palermo) and due to the focus of the League being sewn up so early we were able to nurse the squad through to this fixture, which would allow me to pick my strongest side. We were up against Marina di Ragusa, the side which were the first to take points off us earlier in the season. However, our confidence was high after beating them 2-0 seven days earlier in our final league match of the season.

We took the lead in the 11th minute through a penalty an Alessandro Martinelli would once again be the man with the pendulum strike into the bottom left corner, he had deceived the keeper with his eyes. Well that is what the lads on the pitch said, I was too busy screaming at the team to work harder! We went on to win 4-1. Which would put us as double champions for the 2019/20 season.

Then weirdly just as I was thinking we would need to start the long process of post and preseason. We got entered into the Serie D Poule Scudetto. Which roughly means the Serie D Champions hen tournament. Or Top Cock of Serie D.

We were put in a group against Follonica Gavorrano who won Girone E and Mestre who won Girone C. We drew 0-0 against Mestre and somehow managed to win 1-0 against Follonica. My 17yr old left winger coming to the rescue with the all-important goal in the 89th minute. But Mestre would go on to beat Follonica 2-0 which meant Mestre would finish top of the group, we fortunately went through as the highest point scoring runner up.

Our Semi final was upagainst Turris who had won Girone G and been very strong in their group and had won both of those matches. The semi-final was an outstandingly oneside match. We won 6-0 and I’m sure it could have been more. Martinelli once again showed his class by grabbing the game by the horns, scoring two and assisting two.

The final came and we were upagainst Mestre again. This time I went with the underused Mauri in defensive midfield to add a bit of bite, and the bite nearly took my hand off. Mauri got a yellow card in the 27th minute and then spent the next 15 minutes fouling at every opportunity. I took him off and put the cooler head of Danilo Ambro into midfield, and asked Mendola to switch back into a half back role.

 The move work and just before half time Soule scored the opening goal. Buoyed with the breakthrough I urged the team for more of the same, insisting that they had to bring home this title for the fans. They pep talk worked as Raimondo Lucera scored in the 49th minute to double our lead. We then put the game to bed through another Martinelli penalty and a last minute Lucera goal was struck to make sure the Mestre heart was no longer beating.

After a trophy filled season the team will find itself in Serie C for next season. With the club now dreaming of Serie B.

Below is the bones of the WM formation I have adopted. I have added a download link below if you did wish to try playing FM20 with barely any defenders. Do note one or two roles may differ between the download and the image below.

Before I go and enjoy the Christmas haze of Sicily, the next post will come in the new year and will give a more comprehensive update of the playing squad. As I have no money to spend (thus far) and know most of the team will be moving on or returning to their parent team. I also hope to start charting how the tactic is working (if we continue with it) and how it has faired verses the 2019/20 side which has just won a treble.

I am keen to see if a tactical guru like @Guido Merry or even @The Reckonist on how they would look to improve the WM. The obvious weaknesses are the fear of being beaten on the counter. But at times I think the focus on possession sometimes hinders the sides ability to score. But saying that I do have a fourth tier Italian side, and if we can continue to improve the playing staff there is no reason why the performances cannot improve.

Ciao for now!