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Sarri's Napoli / SARRIBALL 2015-18

Emulation of Maurizio Sarri's tactic when he coached Naples between 2015 and 2018. 3 tactic variations included. Play Sarriball in FM23.

By on May 30, 2023   8328 views   1 comments
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Downloads: 1175 / Size: 132.0 kB / Added: 2023-05-30
Football Manager 2023 Tactics - Sarri's Napoli / SARRIBALL 2015-18
Hello everybody,

This is my attempt to emulate Maurizio Sarri's Sarriball.
I created 3 versions of his tactic to emulate different ways Sarri's Napoli played.

Sarri's Napoli

First of all, when he arrived at Napoli in July 2015, he wanted to replicate the same 4-3-1-2 he used in the previous season at Empoli, but after playing a few games with that tactic he understood that it did not suit Napoli.
First of all, he had to create a tactic which suited Gonzalo Higuain, to let him become the center of his play. Thanks to Sarri, Higuain in the season 2015-16 scored 36 goals equalling the record for most goals in a season set by Gino Rossetti 86 years earlier.
Napoli in the first year with Sarri as coach, finished 2nd, with 82 points after Juventus and with the record of goal scored and less goal conceeded (80-32) since Italian Serie A became a 20 teams league.

In 2016-17, When Higuain moved to Juventus, Napoli replaced him with Arkadiusz Milik, a different type of player, so Sarri had to adjust his tactic again. Unfortunately, Milik got badly injured after a few months and could not play anymore in that season, so Sarri, without any help from his team board, had a great idea: Dries Mertens, a winger who was in Napoli since 2013 (when the coach was Rafa Benitez), he was mainly a replace for Insigne and in the previous 10 seasons scored 13 and 10 goals, but after Milik's injury, he became the new central striker playing as False 9 for the rest of that season (28 goals and 9 assists) and the following one (2017-18), 18 goals in 35 games, when Napoli finished 2nd (91 points, record in the club history), only 28 goals conceeded but Juventus won the Serie A with 95 points.

Sarri left Napoli and moved to Chelsea after 3 years, and Napoli replaced him with Carlo Ancelotti, and after one year sacked Ancelotti, replacing him with Gennaro Gattuso.

Sarriball Philosophy

Maurizio Sarri never played at the professional level, he split his time between working as a banker and playing and managing an amateur side, but in 1999, he quit his day job and dedicated himself fully to coaching. Sarri worked his way up the Italian pyramid before getting his first big break at 56 years of age, replacing Rafa Benítez as Napoli manager.

From 2015 to 2018, Sarri’s Napoli became widely recognized for its unique style of play predicated upon verticality in possession, high-tempo passing, and circuit-based football. His team typically utilised third-man runs to either draw defenders out of position, provide a clear option for progression, or break through the opposition’s defensive block.

One of the core ideas that dictate how Sarri likes his teams to play is verticality: moving the ball “up and down” the pitch. In order to play with the necessary levels of verticality, Sarri employed a 4-3-3, which created diamonds and triangles across the pitch that could easily be manufactured and worked on in training. By having as many of these shapes as possible, one can increase the chance of having a spare man on a different line to progress the ball towards.

This does not, however, limit Sarriball to just short or even medium length passes. When the opportunity comes about by moving the opposition into wider spaces through press baiting (drawing the opposition out using short passes deeper in the pitch), the goalkeeper would play a long ball through the middle of the pitch into one of the attacking players sitting between the lines that had been moved around, allowing for swift vertical progression from which they could advance towards the goal.

Another tactical aspect heavily utilised by Sarri: third man runs. The third man is a player who is moving beyond the two players who have exchanged possession between themselves. This could be replicated in Fm 23 having attacking players set to "move into channel" so that they can start running forward when their teammates exchange the ball to each other.

The FM23 Tactics

As I said before, I created 3 different tactics, each one has different roles and positions, the first one is suited for a central forward like Higuain, the second and the third one are made to replicate Mertens position. Even though most of tactical analysts agreed that Mertens played as a False 9, I think a deep-lying forward is better to replicate Merten's role in Football Manager 2023. So I created one version with a F9 and one as Deep Lying Forward (also set on support, so that the player will drop down to link the play with the rest of the team).

The Player Roles

Let's analyze each single position.

GK: Reina was a sweeper-keeper and I set him on attack. Sarri prefers to have goalkeepers who are very confident with the ball at their feet. Kepa Arrizabalaga, who Sarri bought for a club record fee of £72 million at Chelsea, ranked in the 100th percentile for launched pass competition rate under Sarri. On the other hand, Pepe Reina, who started in goal for Sarri between 2015 to 2018, ranks in the 90th percentile in the same metric since the 2018/19 season. Whilst neither are particularly proficient at shot-stopping, both had the technical ability to execute the first phase of build-up.

Right Full Back- Full Back support: Hysaj was more defensive compared to the left full-back Ghoulam, so I set this role on Full-Back support and not on Wing-Back, because with a Full Back, I have more available instructions. I give him the instructions to stay wider and set him on support because Hysaj supported the construction when he could.

CD: two central defenders - defend: Raul Albiol and Kalidou Koulibaly are physically strong (especially the latter) and good at winning the ball, I gave them the instruction to close down less more because in Sarri's Napoli they did not press the opponent very high but they tried to hold their position and avoid to be to be caught off guard by the opponent's long-range passes.

Left Full-Back: Full-Back attack. Faouzi Ghoulam primarily focused on the offensive phase and tried to contribute to the build-up of the play.

CM: Jorginho's position can be Deep-Lying Playmaker: The role of Jorginho can be understood as both a deep-lying playmaker with defensive responsibilities and as a roaming playmaker with supporting duties and the freedom to roam in the midfield or even as a regista. You can find the 3 of them in my 3 tactics.

RCM: BBM( box to box midfielder): Allan is a typical box-to-box midfielder who covers more ground than anyone else in the team. He contributes both in attack and provides defensive support, making himself available in both areas of the pitch.

LCM: Mezzala- attack (or Central Midfielder-attack) Hamsik's role, who became the second highest goal scorer in Napoli's history after Maradona (a record later surpassed by Mertens), can be understood as that of an attacking midfielder. He operates as a mezzala, often making forward runs into the penalty area, linking up with the striker and wingers, and frequently getting involved in goal-scoring opportunities.

AMR: Raumdeuter: Callejon's role could be understood as that of a Raumdeuter if you want a more attacking player (in Fm the raumdeuter can only be set to attacking tasks) or as a Winger-support if you want to let him help. In the Napoli under Sarri, Callejon's role was to stay wide on the right flank, often being found by switch plays from the opposite wing executed by Insigne. Once receiving the ball, Callejon had the option to cut inside or go to the byline for a cross. His role can be understood as a space-finder, as he would remain in the attacking phase and try to find his positioning. If a more defensive player is desired, the right attacking winger can be set as a supporting winger, allowing them to track back and provide defensive cover.

AML: Advanced playmaker: Insigne, in Sarri's Napoli, would position himself wide on the wing where he would receive the ball and then have multiple options. He could pass the ball centrally, switch play to Callejon on the other side, play in combination with the striker, or take a shot himself. In Football Manager, I thought of assigning him the role of an advanced playmaker on the wing precisely because he was the focal point of the team's play and would connect with both Hamsik (the left central midfielder) and the left-back Ghoulam.The important instruction is cross aim far post to replicate his long crosses to Callejon on the right flank. In the other 2 versions of this tactic emulation I set Insigne as inverted forward and as inside forward too.

CF: Higuain, as a center forward, can be assigned the role of a complete forward on support duty because he has the ability to drop back and receive the ball, linking the different areas of the team. Mertens as already said, can be assigned the role of a False 9 or a deep- lying forward-support

Team Instructions

Mentality: positive (attacking if you are at a disadvantage against the opponent)

In possession: narrow width (large when you change the mentality to attacking), overlap left and right, play out of defense, slightly higher tempo (if you notice that your players are making too many inaccurate passes, you can lower the tempo of the game by a notch to slightly lower or even to lower until your players will maximize their knowledge of the tactic, after training it), mixed crosses (it depends on who you have as forward), move ball into box, dribble less (if you want to exploit ball possession even more), be more disciplined to tell your players to stick to the plan.

In transition: counter-press, hold shape, distribute to center backs, take short kicks

Out of possession: higher defensive line, high press, trigger press more often, prevent short gk distribution, stay on feet (better to avoid many fouls and cards). You can select trap outside if you want to prevent the opponents from exploiting the central areas of your half of the field.


This is my tactic, I arrived 2nd in Serie A with Naples, 63 goal scored and 34 conceded, won the Italian Cup and got knocked out by Atletico Madrid in Champions League.

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Downloads: 1175 / Size: 132.0 kB / Added: 2023-05-30
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