Since the opening match of the Euro 2020 there has been one team, and one team only, that have impressed me so much that I wanted to replicate the tactic in Football Manager 2021. Roberto Mancini’s Italy has not only made history in the tournament going through the group stage without conceding a goal, but their attacking style of play has made them one of the contenders to lift the Euro 2020 trophy.
Give a warm welcome to the Football Manager 2021 Roberto Mancini’s Italy Euro 2020 tactics. This tactic is brought to you by Passion4FM in collaboration with Mr.Spaceman88. In fact, his tactic is a replicate of Italy versus Switzerland which is more of a counter-attacking system, whilst I’ve created a more possession oriented system that sums up how Italy have played under Roberto Mancini.
To give you an insight to the Football Manager 2021 Italy Euro 2020 Tactics I’ll provide a brief tactical analysis of Italy at the European Championship coupling screenshots from the Football Manager 2021 Italy tactic featuring a few footages, hat maps and stats from Italy’s Euro 2020 group stage matches.
Apart from providing you with the ability to download the Italy Euro 2020 tactics, you’ll also get an insight to the two different Italy tactics; Mr.Spaceman’s Italy Counter and Passion4FM’s Italy Pass and Move.
Let’s dive into the how Roberto Mancini likes to set up his systems with Italy in this Euro 2020 championship.
DOWNLOAD THE FM21 ITALY TACTIC
Experience the tactics of Roberto Mancini’s Italy replicated in Football Manager 2021. Download the different tactical versions from Passion4FM and Mr.Spaceman88 today!
Key Stats & Background
Since Italy’s failure to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2018, much have happened with the Italian squad since the appointment of Roberto Mancini. While Italy in the past were mostly related to their Catenaccio style, building their system around defensive solidity and often playing with five at the back or 3-5-2, Mancini have managed to modernize Italy by utilizing positional play and transforming the Italian style of play into a more possession-oriented system using a more attacking 4-3-3 formation instead.
Since the appointment of Roberto Mancini in May 2018, he have managed to build a team of younger player’s that might go into the history books as the best Italian National team in the modern history.
Just look at these stats:
- Won all matches (10 out of 10) in the European Championship qualifying group J, something that has only happened 6 times earlier: France (1992 and 2004), Czech Republic (2000), Germany, Spain (both 2012) and England (2016).
- Scored 37 goals and conceded only 4 in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying group J.
- Became the first side to win all three European Championship group stage matches WITHOUT conceding a goal!
- They set a new national record after extending their unbeaten run to 32 games against Belgium in the quarter finals – a streak that has lasted since October 2018! They broke the record that has stood for 82 years(!) (November 1935 -July 1939) in the ‘unimportant’ group stage match against Wales where they used their ‘second XI’.
- NB! The manager who held the previous record was the legendary Vittorio Pozzo – the man behind Il Sistema; a WW formation with a man-marking system that have influenced the Italian football philosophy until the modern day.
- In 38 games under Mancini, the Azzurri have scored 91 goals and conceded just 17.
- In their last 15 matches they have only conceded 2 goals keeping a clean sheet in their last 11 matches before the game against Spain!
- Italy hadn’t conceded a goal for 1,168 minutes until Sasa Kalajdzic (Austria) managed in a bizarre way to head the ball into the goal at the first post in the 114th minute.
- Under Mancini’s leadership, Italy have scored 2.40 goals per matches and only conceded 0.46 goals according to Transfermarkt.
Euro 2020 Key Team Stats
- Average possession / Pass Accuracy: 55.8% / 88.4%
- 20.2 shots per game – topping the chart with 101 shot attempts
- Crossing accuracy: 33.8%
- Total Dribbles: 831
1 They are topping the chart for most dribbles as of 03.07.
The Key Ingredients of Roberto Mancini’s Italy Tactics
How can we summarize Roberto Mancini’s Italy tactics at the Euro 2020’s? The Italian style of play and qualities in their game have really impressed pundits and fans lately. By utilizing a football philosophy we’ve only witnessed from the top managers in European football – like Pep Guardiola, Marcelo Bielsa and Jürgen Klopp, Roberto Mancini’s Italy have ‘revolutionized’ national management by resembling a club team.
Here’s a team which has a specific playing style and knows how to defend and attack at all times. They are adept at positional play – something the best sides needs great amount of time to master – spending hours on the training ground week in and week out to master movements and player positioning at all phases of play to create spaces and necessary gaps to penetrate. Still while utilizing ‘similar’ player roles the player’s are adept at from club football.
Instead of being rather reactive as the past versions of Italy in international championships, the style of Italy are more proactive and they are able to dictate the game at their own preferences – whether they decide to approach the match in a more counter-attacking style or dominate through possession or mix and match within the matches.
In fact, Italy’s ability to utilize a range of tactical variants and their adaptability to deploy a vast number of tactical instructions and quickly change their style of play is one of the things that have made an huge impression on me. From playing a short passing game at low tempo to lure the opposition out of their low block, to high intensity with direct football and brilliant tempo shifts if the opponent use a high defensive line, it seems this Italian side have a vast number of tools in their tactical toolbox to open the opponents defensive block.
It was decisive when we moved the ball quickly, managing to always free someone up for the pass.Roberto Mancini about Italy win against Turkey in the Euro 2020, 11. June 2021.
It seems the team has so many strings to play on that the opponent’s never know what will happen – a trait that makes it highly difficult for the opponent to know what to expect and how to defend most properly, as they also need to switch their style of game according to Italy.
If we should relate Mancini’s tactics to the team instructions in Football Manager 2021, we would need to click on and off different team instructions all through the match in addition to change player roles and duties in order to create the same patterns of game Italy has used during the Euro 2020’s.
Apart from being a team with a huge vocabulary, I’ve been amazed by the synchronized movements of the Italian players and how well-drilled they are both in regard to their highly organized defence as well as their ability to create overloads and numerical superiority to come to goalscoring opportunities.
How they used energy, both with and without the ball, their aggression to regain it, and composure to build up brilliant attacks is just amazing. Likewise, you have their tempo shifts and unpredictability to suddenly play more direct after a period of lullaby the opponent – something that draws resemblance to the Spanish Euro 2012 team – a football philosophy that eventually got nicknamed Tiki-Taka.
All in all, when you put together how they attack and defend zones and the overall team effort and team cohesion to showcase such a playing style, it’s frankly a bit unordinary to see in national team football.
Lets take a closer look at Italy’s system and how they set up their formation.
Italy’s 4-3-3 Formation Explained
Under Roberto Mancini’s reign, Italy uses a 4-3-3 formation, but instead of the plain 4-3-3 that merges into a 2-3-5 in the attacking phase that we’ve seen Germany, Manchester City or Barcelona have used in the past, Mancini’s 4-3-3 variant is a bit more asymmetrical.
While the team defends in a narrow 4-1-4-1 formation with Jorginho holding position behind Locatelli and Barella, the formation transforms into a 3-2-5 / 3-3-4 in the attacking phase depending on the duty of MCL.
At times, you could describe their shape as a 3-2-3-2 / 3-2-2-3 when building up play where Insigne and Barella looks to utilize the space between the lines and offer an outlet to move the ball from defence to attacking third. Insigne in particular, against Turkey, tended to stay more in the middle and link up play with Immobile – much like an wide Trequartista.
Insigne and Barella moving between the lines to get the ball in open space to better make penetrating passes or advance play into final third.
Italy’s structure makes sure the players are spread in the perfect distance between themselves, around 10-15metres, something that’s brilliant for a possession game. With additional movements and a fluidity where players take up positions that free up both space and perfectly covers and supports eachother, Italy have been able to control possession and dominate the opposition.
Their fluidity in movements has seen Italy been able to set up the ‘right’ players for goalscoring opportunities – freeing up players by third man runs.
Jorginho the midfield maestro
At the base of the midfield, Jorginho cover the entire area between the midfield and defense, often helped out by Locatelli/Veratti who acts as a double pivot. So far, Jorginho have covered the second most kilometers in the tournament with 57.7km – only beaten by the Spanish wonderkid midfielder, Pedri (61.5km).
Jorginho is the maestro of the Italian side, a player who is able to dictate the tempo and is comfortable with the ball. He’s able to retain possession when necessary or play those vital key passes and through balls that lets Italy penetrate between the lines and advance play into the final third.
His playmaking abilities and composure with the ball has been vital to how Italy is able to dominate the opposition by keeping possession. With an average of 74,2 passes per match and a 95.2 success rate the deep-lying playmaker is the heartbeat of Italy.
Spinazzola – the attacking needle
Italy’s shape at the back when attacking can be described as a loop-sided back three formation with great difference in the roles of Spinazzola on left flank and di Lorenzo/Florenzi on the right. While di Lorenzo holds position and tuck inside to form a defensive solid back three down the right, Spinazzola’s attacking runs and ability to provide overlaps by moving forward into the space between opponents midfield down the left has been one of the ‘main’ ways Italy prefers to attack.
His ability to stretch the opponent by staying much wider than the rest of the team gives Italy great width in possession. It seems he’s always available as an passing outlet and despite he leaves a lot of space behind which the opposition can counter in, the loop-sided 3-2-5 shape has proven to be very balanced so far – only conceding 2 goals in the tournament until the semi finals.
Spinazzola’s stamina and quickness to cover the entire left flank has been wonderful to watch. His ability to get past his marker and attack the byline for a cross is amazing. Spinazzola’s tournament ended at a cross completion ratio of 70.8(!) whilst making the third most dribbles in the tournament – 17.
The role of Locatelli
While Spinazzola got the freedom to attack the opponent’s back line with frequent runs, Locatelli tends to stay wider and cover the space left by Spinazzola in possession. This movement can either be replicated in Football Manager by using a ball winning midfielder who stays wider or a segundo volante (as Mr.Spaceman have used in his counter-attacking Italy tactic).
The positioning of Locatelli as Spinazzola attacks down left is two-sided:
- He shall protect the half space from counter-attacking threats if the opposition wins the ball or intercept the ball path down left flank, or
- Create the necessary triangle with Spinazzola and Insigne to offer passing options and stay in support if the chance of a cross is limited.
When Italy enters final third, the role of Locatelli slightly changes. From staying wide and deep, the player tends to move into the channels / space between Spinazzola and Insigne – who stays narrower and closer to the penalty box.
The role of Locatelli has greatly differed both within the matches and throughout the tournament – depending on the opponent. Against Switzerland he tended to stay much deeper and showcased his great ability to arrive late in the penalty box, something that made him score two wonderful goals as space opened up in the center as the opposition forgot to mark him.
Against Turkey, Locatelli were more of a box to box midfielder who still stayed wide, but as the match progressed tended to go forward a lot more and move into channels – becoming the fifth player in the attacking line – alongside Spinazzola, Insigne, Immobile, Barella and Berardi.
Italy’s Focus of Attack
The attacking instinct of Spinazzola results in Italy often preferring to focus their attacks down the left flank – or down the flanks in general. Their way they manage to create overloads down the flanks and set up players into great positions in the half spaces has resulted in many chances and a few goals.
This screenshot of Italy’s focus of attack against Belgium is perhaps an overstatement of how Italy likes to attack down left as the statistics has not been as extreme against Turkey, Wales or Austria. Against Turkey it was 38% down left, 20% down the middle and 42% down right.
Creating Numerical Superiority down left flank
The positioning of spinazzola, Insigne and Locatelli was a major contribution to how Italy are able to create numerical superiority down the left flank – creating a triangle by clever movements between Spinazzola, Locatelli and Insigne – as well as providing a huge dilemma for the opposite fullback. Shall he mark Spinazzola who will cross from byline, or zonally mark the area where Locatelli runs into…?
If Locatelli moves into channels, Insigne will drop a bit deeper providing an opportunity for an angled back pass that sets him up for an opportunity for a placed shot – a bit like an Inside Forward on support who likes to shoot from outside the box and drop deep between lines.
Attacking through the right half space
While Italy looks for overlaps on left flank and create numerical superiority down that side, they tended to prioritize the focus on setting up Barella in the right half space. The dynamism and ability of Barella and Barerdi to find vertical space between the lines often showed how Italy came to goalscoring opportunities down the right flank.
Against Turkey especially, but also against Switzerland, Barella and Barerdi often ‘switched positions’. Meanwhile Barerdi tended to stay wider in the build-up phase before moving closer to the center of the pitch, Barella moved wide – often hugging the touchline as play progressed towards the final third.
Barerdi’s role to roam into space while Barella moves wide causes chaos for the opposite marker.
Besides tending to stay wider, Barella was a constant threat in the right half space in possession of the ball. Licenced to dribble with the ball – like Spinazzola on the left – Barella’s flair and ability to unlock the tightest defence with through balls and a more direct playing style provides the necessary keys to make the opponents defensive lines eventually collapse.
His tendency to dribble more and be a constant threat for the opposite defense has resulted in a distances covered of 42.2km, 1 assist, 1 goal and 6 successful dribbles – four behind Insigne and 2 behind di Lorenzo.
Italy out of possession
So far in the Euro’s, Italy have switched between a 3-3-1-3 and a 4-1-4-1 out of possession, often changing up how they defend and set up their defensive block between a low block with few meters between the lines to a more mid-high block where they counter-press and defend with a bit higher defensive line.
Their counter-pressing and high-mid-block has changed frequently both between matches and within matches. From pressurizing the opponent with only 1 player, they have suddenly switched to a much more instant press with 2 or more players closing down the opposition and engaging them with the ball at great aggression.
By giving the opponent little space and time on the ball in the middle of the opposition’s half, Italy have managed to win the ball back fairly quickly giving the opponent no time to recuperate.
Besides counter-pressing in the opposition half, they have also showcased the main Italian DNA. By regrouping all players and defending with all men behind the ball they have utilize a low block to provide defensive solidity at key moments within the match and secure their lead.
In fact, they have often used the out of possession phases to rest in a similar way as they rest in possession.
Generally, Italy have only let one player close down the player with the ball and tends to start their press at the middle of the opponent’s half – instead of using a high line of engagement that’s often the case of possession teams.
The player who often initiate press has been Barella. He’s been a vital player in the way Italy looks to regain possession – often tending to close down more and pushing out of his position to stay as high as Immobile, or close by, when opposition builds out from the back.
Their 3-3-1-3 shape when using a high defensive line where Barella acts holds position in the AMC-strata makes them able to regain possession higher up the pitch and put enough pressure on the opponent with the ball to force long balls into an area of the pitch Italy got numerical superiority in.
Besides Barella who tends to close down more, Insigne and Barerdi tended to mark the opponent’s centre back while Locatelli/Verrati and Jorginho tight marked opponent’s central midfielders/playmakers.
Italy’s Attacking Transition
There are few teams in this Euro, or that I can think of, that manage to be as tactical versatile as Italy. It’s actually been great fun to watch them play and how they manage to dominate the opposition, both in possession but also how they use the transition phases to keep the opponent under pressure and on their toes.
Few other teams in the Euro’s has been as brilliant at tempo-shifts and attacking the opposition with such pace, energy and synchronized movements!
In the Switzerland match we saw how Italy effectively went on the counter – moving the ball rapidly and more diagonally than before. With Switzerland defending much higher and pressurizing Donnarumma and the centre backs when building out from the back than what Turkey did, Italy had acres of space to counter in.
The quick transition from defence to attack when Italy finally regains possession is often lead by Barella (on the right) and his tendency to dribble with the ball directly at the opponents defensive lines. With Spinazzola, Immobile, Insigne and Barerdi also supporting the attacks, the opponent got a number of threats to get control of as Italy advance play quickly into the final third.
On the left side, Spinazzola is always ready to move forward as he looks to attack space. His natural attacking instinct and directness has been one of the catalysts for Italy and their achievements in this tournament – the big question is what Italy will do now that he’s out with a long term injury. Perhaps, it will actually help Italy to better their defensive solidity as Pedri and Azpilicueta will have less space to thrive in.
The major weakness in the Italian side has always been down their left flank throughout this tournament as Spinazzolas attacking role creates a huge gap.
The tempo of Italy often saw the opposition lose their defensive shape. This was also often helped by the constant threat of Spinazzola who attacked the space behind the opposition fullback who also had to focus his attention on Insigne and his way of moving into pockets close by the left half space.
Click to see illustration (FM21 Screenshot)
Italy’s way of utilizing the attacking transition phases has forced us to basically create two different systems in Football Manager – or you can tick on and off specific team instructions within the matches.
One solution is to use Mr.Spaceman’s 3-3-3-1 asymmetrical Italy Counter system, which is perfected towards how Italy counter the opposition, or tick on and off ‘Run at defence’ or enable ‘Counter’ in the Pass and Move version with a notch higher tempo.
About the FM21 Italy Euro 2020 Tactic Pass & Move
Recreating the Italians way of playing and their Euro 2020s tactic in Football Manager 2021 has not been easy. It’s been a long process of finding the appropriate roles and duties alongside ticking the appropriate team instructions to provide a balanced system that replicates movements, average positioning and stats.
One of the things that’s been difficult is that the players behave as a morph between two FM player roles. One could act like an supportive IF in a larger portion of the match until he suddenly runs diagonally with ball as an attacking IW.
I’ve replicated Roberto Mancini’s Italy tactic as an asymmetric 3-4-3 formation with Spinazzola as an attacking wingback tasked to make the most impact in the final third, while a supportive fullback on the right flank will recreate Italy’s loopsided back-three formation.
The tactic will transform from a 4-1-4-1 system in the defensive phase into a 2-3-5 / 3-2-5 formation in the attacking phase – all depending on how much freedom you give FB-S to get forward. You will have a more distinct triangle or diamond on the left with, which creates numerical superiority down that flank – either 3vs2 or 4vs3 (all depending on the role of Locatelli).
The aim is to overload the left flank with the movements of Spinazzola who overlaps and Insigne who either drops deep to get the ball in between lines, similar to an Inside Forward Support – licenced to play through balls and take long shots from outside the penalty area, or the more direct version of Insigne who runs directly at his marker in a similar fashion as the IW-A.
On the other flank, you’ll have more of a rhombus shape where MEZ-A looks to stretch the opposition by moving wider and the IW-S/IF-S look to disrupt opponent’s defensive stability by contradicting movements.
The tactic comes in three different variants – one alternative version in case you got players who are more suited for these roles and duties, and one more defensive solid version I recommend to use against better opponents, as the main tactic has it’s flaws. It’s especially the weakness area behind the WB-A that might let you see the opposition come to dangerous crosses, chances and shots from that area.
The system I’ve come up with uses a mix of team instructions and player instructions. I’ve tried to keep the playing style fairly simple and take advantage of the behavior of the roles and duties to recreate how Italy play as close as possible. The player instructions are selected to let specific players express themselves in a similar fashion as what they do for the Italian National team.
For instance, instead of asking the whole team to ‘Run Against Defence’ and transform the system into a Counter-Attacking tactic, I’ve instructed the Mezzala to ‘Dribble more’. It will retain a more direct play where the transition from defence to attack happen quicker than the default vertical tiki-taka possession tactic.
Similarly, instead of instructing the team to focus play down the flanks, I’ve simply instructed the team to look for overlaps on left. One of the reasons for this, is that players often tended to switch the ball from left to right flank, or right to flank, making long dangerous horizontal passes instead of playing through the middle of the pitch with short passes. Since the shape is wide and will prioritize playing down the flanks, especially the left flank, I’ve decided it’s not worth to instruct them to play down the flanks even more.
My focus has been prioritizing the style of play Italy use most generally, revolving around an aggressive pass and move game where dominating possession and retaining possession is key. By using a short passing game at a slightly lower tempo as the foundation for the style of play, the team will move the ball around the park with a clear intent. The aim is to free up creative players in the half spaces and create chances from wider areas of the pitch, either by setting up the wingback into a crossing opportunity, or by through balls from the central midfielders and wide forwards.
With a short passing game at lower tempo, the wingback will get time to enter the final third. Passes will flow in intricate patterns before it’s played through the lines to an open player. The objective is to use the play on the flanks to try to move the opposition from side to side before space opens up in the center.
The passing style and risk taking in possession ensures that the transition to attacking third is a bit quicker than a more patient control possession style, as players will be a bit more direct with their running and passing as they try to get the ball towards free players who have advanced up the pitch.
By utilizing the Pass Into Space players will look for through balls and passes into space which the players will run onto. This requires players with great stamina, acceleration and off the ball movement to ensure they reach the ball before the pass is intercepted. Passing the ball into space ensures the team will look to take advantage of the space behind the opposition’s back lines – enabling Immobile and Spinazzola to attack space with aggressive runs that sets them up for a crossing opportunity, shot or an one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
By utilizing one-twos, you’ll be able to increase the tempo of play and get the ball bypassed the oppositions lines far quicker and more effective, as two players can interchange quick short passes to free themselves up for an opportunity to advance into final third either by running with the ball or deliver it to a free player that’s made a third run.
Once the team has entered final third and has come into a clear sight on goal, the advanced players (wide fowards and central midfielders) will shoot on sight. This has been ticked to replicate how Italy looks to finish off their attacks as soon as possible.
As I watched over all the Italian goals under Mancini, I realized a large portion of the goals came from crosses into the box from byline or a long shot that’s either struck with power or curled and placed towards the far post.
In reality, Italy took 25 shots against Turkey, 63% of them inside the 18 yeard box, against Austria they only had 27% inside the 18 yeard box, while 60% where outside the penalty area. That’s nearly 15 shots of the total 26 shot attempts.
The main tactic comes with Shoot on sight as default. I would recommend to tick it off if you don’t have players with great long shot but got better off the ball movement, composure and vision to get shots on goals within the final third. You might see the shots attempts and shots on target decreasing, but it might pay off more as you might not be as wasteful with your chances.
How you approach the transition phases depends on how the opponent approach their game. In the main tactic I’ve replicated how Italy looks to regroup and conform to their defensive shape (4-1-4-1) in order to make it harder for the opposition to get into goalscoring opportunities.
By regrouping, it will be far more difficult to launch counter-attacks against you and you will find the system defensive solid.
When facing a team who press high, like Switzerland, Spain or Austria, and leaves a lot of space behind their defensive line, you have the option to enable Counter.
Out of Possession
Italy has frequently changed their block throughout the matches and depending on the opponent’s way of approaching the game. While I’ve gone for a high-mid block which looks to regain possession and start the press in the middle of the opponent’s half, there were times when Italy moved into a low block.
While I’ve gone with a Standard defensive line and an higher line of engagement , I recommend to consider the opponent forwards quickness and abilities to decide whether you shall lower the defensive line even further or whether you can instruct your defensive line to be higher, but with a lower or Standard line of engagement in order to make sure the shape is compact.
Which defensive line setting you use will also depends on your defenders abilities. You need to take into account your defenders quickness and their ability to cover for through balls over the top of the defence and their abilities to cover for the vulnerable zones between the defensive unit and the attacking unit and on the left side.
Recommended Player Traits
In order to improve the performances and make the tactic works a bit more similar to how Italy plays there are some traits you might consider using. Let’s give a brief overview of the traits I recommend to learn or prioritize when looking for new signings:
BPD: Brings ball out of defence
DC: Mark Tighter, Does not dive into tackles
WB: Gets forward whenever possible
DLP: Dictates Tempo, Tries Killer Balls Often
BBM / BWM: Comes deep to get ball, Arrives late in Opponent’s area, Plays One-Two, Shoots from distance
MEZ: Moves into channels, Gets forward whenever possible, Tries Killer Balls Often
IF: Places Shots, Curls ball, Plays One-Twos
IW: Moves ball to left before attempting dribble, Cuts inside, Places Shots
CF/DLF: Moves into channels, Likes to try to beat the offside trap
What you can expect? Records and Statistics
At it’s best, this tactic will deliver on both ends of the scale. With the right players at your disposal, micro-managing both within matches and according to opponents you’ll have a system that both delivers amazing results and the feel of playing as Italy in the Euro 2020.
In terms of statistics, it’s not uncommon to see the team top the chart for the most shots, or encounter that the team has the fewest shots against. In my save with Napoli, I managed to concede only 18 goals – that’s a miraculous 0,47 goals conceded per game in Serie A.
DOWNLOAD THE FM21 ITALY TACTIC
Experience the tactics of Roberto Mancini’s Italy replicated in Football Manager 2021. Download the different tactical versions from Passion4FM and Mr.Spaceman88 today!