Insights from Carlo Ancelotti
The Carlo Ancelotti 4-3-2-1
The wings are never covered permanently during the attack, attacking is about unpredictability and movement off the ball so there will be alternating attacks from centre to wide positions. Width will be provided by different players at different times. Nothing is static here.
Most of the time the width will come from fullbacks who should be skilled in attack as well as his defensive tasks. If the fullbacks can't control the width then a midfield player will control it, if not then the forward will move. The trigger for switching is each players position at the moment of transition.
The main method of attack is fast break attacks from the point the ball regained, anything which slows down attacks is to be avoided. The main advantage present in this system is the 2 players between the lines of defence and attack.
The key to the defence is a "collapsing" movement which is aimed at creating depth behind the ball.
Carlo Ancelotti asks for three phases of transition once the ball is lost:
1-Pressure the ball carrier while while re-organising behind the ball.
2-Pressure the area around the ball while failing back.
3-If the ball has not been regained fail back to own half before pressuring the ball again.
If the ball is lost high up the pitch in a wide the attacking midfield player will press the players with the ball. The second attacking midfield player will drop into midfield while the nearest midfield players will mark the opposing midfield players clost to the ball to prevent passing combination play.
If the ball is lost in midfield on the flank the midfield player will pressure while the attacking midfield player and fullback will cover passing options. Support players will adjust and balance the midfield closing the central areas of the pitch.
If the ball is in the area of the full back he will pressure 1v1 with other midfield and defending players providing support with either man marking or doubling up as needed.
For the phases of transition to work it vital that the ball carrier be pressured effectively. Ancelotti selected a collapsing defence in order to avoid counter attacks.
The midfield is balanced by the free attacking midfield midfield player dropping into any free space, while the striker supports to pressuring attacking midfield player.
Carlo Ancelotti asks his forward players to defend from the front based on how many defenders are in the opposing team back line, if 4 defenders are used the 1 striker will cover both centre backs making movements between the 2. If the opponent defends with 3 players the 2 attacking midfielders push up to make a 3v3 with 1 on each defender.
One weakness which must be worked on is defending against long switching of play which can leave a fullback isolated on one side with weak support.
The focus is placed on closing down the center of the pitch with closest midfield players to the ball man marked by midfield players where possible.
In training Carlo Ancelotti Focused on:
Positional tasks for defenders both individual and group.
Attacking from the point the ball is regained with general principles which the players should follow, no set patterns are used players are encouraged to experiment with attacking tactics but within the confines of the basic principles provided.
Effective movement off the ball is the main attacking focus.
Use of many small sided games based on creating numerical superiority in key areas, games for pressing and precise attacking combinations are also used.
Hope that helps in some way.
Apologies for the shortness of the post I vastly underestimated the amount of material I have on Carlo Ancelotti to post there is to much , but as promised I will post a session that provides an example of some of the key ideas of Carlo Ancelotti and how he refines the attacking movements of his forwards in either a 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-1-2.
Carlo Ancelotti Sample Session
Warm up-25 mins, half field coned off, warm up is dynamic alternating between sequence passing moves using cone play,dynamic stretching, varied speed runs and movement drills with a ball. The long warm up is aimed at preparing the players in mental areas not just physical. Injury prevention is also a key area in mind.
Training then takes place in a 30x30 yard grid in front of the penalty area, with one large goal plus GK. The training progresses from attacking 1v1 to shoot into midfield support and shooting. These are some of the basic moves which Ancelotti refines with his players in order to create shooting chances in key central areas. Movements, techniques and decision making are refined in constantly in drills of this nature. Pressure is a constant factor in Ancelotti methodology. The next part is to refine the movements of 2 forwards who Ancelotti says must be capable of winning a 2v2 with 2 centre backs. The session progresses onto 3v2 and finally ending with a small sided game in 40x30 yard grid. To warm down players engage in free play with no coaching in relaxed conditions.
Progression 1 (attacking 1v1 to shoot central areas)- 5 mins,the defender who is positioned in the top right corner of the square passes to the defender who is positioned in the middle of the bottom end line. The attacker must beat the defender to create a shot from inside the grid.The drill is high paced with attacker aiming to create accurate shots from the area just in front of goal.
Progression 2 (Recieve ,Turn and Shoot)-5 mins, the ball is thrown out to a player near the centre circle who passes into the attacker who must receive under pressure with his back to goal, turn and aim to force a quick shot as in progression 1.
Progression 3 -5 mins,(Unmarking 1v1 to shoot) the ball is passed to a player positioned outside the centre circle, the attacker must move against the defender 1v1 and indicate whether the server should pass into space or into feet and then attempt to beat the defender to create a shot.
Progression 4 -5 mins (Midfield support, receive and shoot), the ball is passed out to a player positioned on the edge of the centre circle who then passes to the attacker who must pass back first time for the midfield player to play a through pass for the striker to receive and then attempt to beat the defender then shoot. The aim is to practice the basic movement of coming towards the ball to draw the defender in, passing first time back the passer and then making a run into the space behind the defender from a pass from the support player. This is a very simple move for creating space and can be very effective in front of goal.
Progression 5 -2v2-5 mins, the drill is in the same area of the previous 1v1 and begins the same way as progression 4 the difference in this progression is that an extra defender and attacker added and must use the movements learnt in the previous progressions to win 2v2. Speed is again essential here Carlo Ancelotti aims for effective shots and combinations from key central square just in front of the penalty area.
Progression 6 -3v2, the area is the same and the progression from 2v2 is that the aim is to involve the attacking midfield player, the major aim is to refine runs made to penetrate, the main move refined is the overlap. Here the 3 forwards combine all the previous moves with the off the ball movement of the attacking midfield player. The focus again is on attacking with a high speed of play and creating shooting chances in the key central area.
Progression 7 -6v6 with 2 Goal Keepers, 15 mins, the area is expanded to 40 yards wide and another large goal is added. The aim is to perfect attacking movements with the correct decision and speed of play, the challenge of the game is to play minimal touches when needed, 1 touch when needed and to know when to take an extra touch.Carlo Ancelotti believes that anything that slows the game down should be avoided, to do this a player must know when to take no touches, when to take 1 touch and when to take 2 or more. The aim is to produce attacking moves which have a fluid momentum where no player takes more touches than are needed and can do this under pressure. To warm down the players then play free play free of coaching in a relaxed atmosphere.
The Goal Keeper is in the normal goal, the 30x30 yard box is just in front of the penalty area.
The session was to sharpen for a champions league game, nd it was the first of a week cycle, Carlo Ancelotti bases his training on that done by Saachi, the training loads, intensity, coaching methods etc are all similar. The drills would be revisited as it were at different times in the season. The principles in terms of speed of play are central to Carlo Ancelottis thinking.
This is one of many sessions from my own Milan training journals which date back to Saachi. Including tactics, coaching points, fitness training systems etc.