A sporadic success rather than a consistent one” – that’s how Michael Cox described Roma’s 2006/07 striker-less formation under Luciano Spalletti, in which Francesco Totti played as a terquartista, dropping off between the lines into the creative space, but not behind a striker.
As Cox points out, Roma and Spalletti were robbed of strikers by injury and had to adapt, playing Totti as a creative focal point with licence to drift around, and Mirko Vucinic, Simone Perrotta, and converted right back Mancini getting forwards in support.
The team was fluid and played on the counter-attack, bursting forwards from a solid base provided by Daniele de Rossi and deep sitting defenders Mexes and Juan. The full backs had licence to get forwards and the general sense was of a team of two elements, a defensive trident of De Rossi and the centre backs, supplemented by the full backs, and the rest of the side, five attacking midfielders who burst forwards, interchanging positions and generally being a real nuisance.
The side is set up in FM as a 4-1-4-1-0, or a 4-6-0 if you like. The mentality is counter and the team shape is fluid, which forces the side to control space and shift up and down together. The high line, coupled with centre backs on cover who are asked to hold position, should give the side the central strength it needs to cover the fluid front five.
The two central midfield roles are key and are set as CM(S) and CM(A), the two best all round midfield roles to allow freedom of movement and for one player to burst forwards. The left birth is set as a wide playmaker, to try to ape Vucinic’s creative style, cutting inside and setting up the trequartista.
The other wide position can be a winger or a wide midfielder, but set on attack – the point is that they get forwards and assist in the attack, but give more width on the right as Mancini did. Crucially, the trequartista is flexible – you can use that role, or a shadow striker role if you’ve a player with the right attributes.
Essentially, this player shouldn’t just be a creative focal point (so the engache role won’t work), but should have the ability to get into the box and score. Totti netted 26 Serie A goals that season, after all.
My preference would be to use an SS, because I feel it’s a more versatile role and probably captures the variety of Totti’s play that season better.
The fluid midfield works well. Here you can see striker Perrotti dropping off and all the other four midfielders ahead of him – Perrotti then plays in Nainggolan who sadly spurns the chance, but you can see how the striker’s role encourages other players to get in ahead.
Ahead of a solid defensive block, this can be really effective, as the opposition aren’t sure who to mark and who to track.
As Cox points out, Roma in 2006/07 lacked the quality to make the system work every time – this is a formation that needs great players. A strong ball-winning DM is crucial, as are mobile wide players and a superb player in the 10 role. This system took some real tweaking, but once I’d hit my stride, I notched up some great wins, 6-1 away at Fiorentina being the best; generally, though, the tactic produces tight, low-scoring games but with strong defensive performances.
Nonetheless, it’s a great little tactic to play with and with the right players, if can be very successful.