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Arrigo Sacchi: The whole story
“A jockey doesn’t have to have been born a horse.” (Arrigo Sacchi) His time coaching at the very highest level may have been, in comparison with a number of the other managers in this series, relatively short, but Arrigo Sacchi’s impact on the modern European game was absolutely phenomenal. A man with virtually no formal experience as a player, Sacchi broke down barriers of snobbery and crashed through countless glass ceilings in the late eighties and early nineties to become arguably the most influential coach of his generation. Never a professional footballer, Sacchi famously held a job as a shoe salesman before embarking on his managerial career. Frustrated at his inability with the ball at his feet, Sacchi became fixated with the notion of becoming a coach and, in 1972, took charge of Baracco Luco, his local club, at the age of just twenty-six. Despite encountering initial problems of acceptance amongst players that were both older and far more skilled than himself, Sacchi eventually won his charges over and, even at that formative stage, was clear about the attractive, attacking passing game he wished to impress on his team. Like the great Ukrainian coach Valeriy Lobanovskyi, Sacchi viewed the game as a dynamic system rather than a collection of individuals, seeing every member of the team unit – whether with or without the ball – as equally significant at any given moment.
After leaving his home town club, Sacchi spent some time as a youth coach at Serie B outfit Cesena before taking on his first professional job as a first team manager at Serie C1′s Rimini in 1982. After guiding his new club to a respectable fourth-place finish in his first season in charge, Sacchi attracted to attentions of top-flight Fiorentina who offered him a role as the head of their academy. This was to prove an invaluable springboard on his journey to the very top of the European game. His exemplary work at the Florentine Primavera between 1983 and 1985 led to the former shoe salesman being offered his second job as a head coach, this time at Parma, which, at that time, was languishing in Serie C1. Sacchi’s first major managerial triumph came during the 1985/86 season, his first at Il Tardini, when he inspired i Ducali to the third tier title, pipping Modena to top spot on goal difference and gaining promotion to the dizzying heights of Serie B. With Parma playing a stylish brand of football to finish seventh in their first season back in the second tier, Sacchi had built himself a growing reputation as one of the most talented young coaches in Italy. His meteoric rise was confirmed in the 1986/87 Coppa Italia as Parma overcame the mighty AC Milan in the group phase of the competition, winning 1-0 at San Siro before knocking the Rossoneri out in the Second Round with a goal from Mario Bortolazzi. Parma’s achievements were enough to attract interest from Silvio Berlusconi, the Milan President, who, seeing his club gradually slide into decline, offered Sacchi the San Siro hot-seat after Fabio Capello had stepped aside in a desperate attempt to revive his club’s fading fortunes. Sacchi accepted, and it was in Milan that he would make his name as one of the greatest coaches the game has ever seen. *** “Great clubs have had one thing in common throughout history, regardless of era or tactics. They owned the pitch and they owned the ball. That means when you have the ball, you dictate play and when you are defending, you control the space.” (Arrigo Sacchi) After facing a barrage of media criticism regarding his lack of pedigree upon his arrival at Milan, Sacchi let his coaching do the talking and quickly constructed one of the best club sides to have ever graced Italian football, his personal pursuit of perfection driving his team on to exceptional levels of performance. Sacchi’s Milan were built around the trio of Dutch players – Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard – that he brought in between the summer of 1987 and the conclusion of the 87/88 campaign. That season had seen the San Siro outfit march to their first Scudetto since 1979, beating Diego Maradona’s Napoli to the title by three points and deploying a 4-4-2 system which combined pace and dynamism with a rare grace and intelligence.
According to Sacchi himself, the key to Milan’s success was the abandonment of man-marking and its replacement with a focus on pressing and a refined system of zonal marking. In the manager’s own words, “My zone was different. Marking was passed from player to player as the attacking player moved through different zones”. Both defensive and attacking movement of the precision Milan achieved under Sacchi had never been seen before – that generation of Rossoneri were tactical revolutionaries. As Jonathan Wilson has pointed out, despite many of the innovations that Sacchi’s team have come to be associated with being of a defensive nature (staunch pressing and an aggressive offside trap to name just two), the team itself were far from being negative. “I always demanded, when we had possession, five ahead of the ball and that there would always be a man wide right and wide left”, Sacchi has said about his methods. Everything Milan did was as a unit, movement was a collective exercise. On the training ground Sacchi was famed for putting the players into position without the ball and drilling them endlessly in the science of exactly where they should be on the field in any given situation. The team moved as one, and they did it better than everybody else.
Despite not winning the title again during his time at San Siro, Sacchi enjoyed his greatest successes in Europe. Milan brushed aside all who stood in their way during their march to the 1989 European Cup, Real
Madrid being annihilated 6-1 on aggregate in the last four before Steaua Bucharest were demolished 4-0 in the Final with a brace each from van Basten and Gullit. According to Sacchi, it was the closest he ever got to perfection and, along with Barcelona’s triumph in 2008/09, Sacchi’s Milan stand as one of the most inexorable continental forces there have ever been. The following season, 1989/90, saw Milan retain their title in impressive fashion; Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Benfica being overcome on the way to a second domination of Europe. It was to be Sacchi’s last title with Milan, the man from Fusignano leaving the club in 1991 to take charge of the Italian national side. Sacchi never quite attained the heights he had with Milan again in his career, but his time with Italy was fruitful enough. Failure to qualify for Euro 1992 was, seeing as he came in half-way through the campaign, not entirely Sacchi’s fault, and the way in which he resurrected the country’s fortunes was spectacular. Two years later, having qualified for the tournament with relative ease, the Azzurri reached the 1994 World Cup Final having kicked into gear in the quarter-finals after a sluggish start to the competition. Indeed, had it not been for some erratic penalty taking against Brazil in the Pasadena Rose Bowl, Sacchi could have added the greatest title of them all to his collection but, as it was, Italy were consigned to a painful defeat at the hands of Carlos Alberto Parreira’s side. Having quit his post after a disappointing group stage exit from Euro ’96, Sacchi returned to Milan for a single season in 1996/97 but, shorn of the majority of the players who he had worked with previously, was unable to recreate the success he had enjoyed during the late eighties. Brief spells at Atletico Madrid and Parma followed, Los Colchonerosclaiming the 1999 Copa del Rey under his stewardship, but, by the end of the century, Sacchi’s time in management had reached a natural conclusion. The latter part of his career may have been marked by a failure to return to the near-impossibly high standards he had set for himself at San Siro, but Arrigo Sacchi will be remembered, quite rightly, as one of the finest tacticians of the age and the man who re-invented pressing and zonal marking for the modern game. Lewis Kalop | Post a Comment | 1 Reference | Share Article
The Man Who Built AC Milan Machine
When you look back through football history, there are some players and teams that stand out as very good. But there are even fewer that could be called simply outstanding. And Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan side that swept all before them during the early 1990s certainly falls into the latter category. The wily Italian moulded a phenomenal unit at the San Siro, making his team tough to beat and impossible to intimidate. And trophies soon followed as opponents suffered domestically and in the European Cup. Sacchi’s own playing career was far from spectacular and certainly did not suggest he would become a key figure in the sport. But then this is often the way with great managers. More recently, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho were not sensational talents as players but are now dominating football as bosses. Sacchi never played professionally – just representing Fusignano and Bellaria. But he loved the sport and he was a student of the game. It was hardly a sparkling CV for a career in management but Sacchi had many of the vital skills required. He began at Parma in 1985, taking over at the Stadio Ennio Tardini and looking to drive the club forward. His tactical nous and man management skills helped the club climb out of Serie C and Sacchi equipped the team for stability in Serie B. Having enhanced his reputation during his brief stint at Parma, Sacchi made the most significant decision of his career when he switched to AC Milan in 1987. He would not look back. As a matter of fact, nor would Parma.
Sacchi’s influence lived on after his departure as the club gained promotion to Serie A in 1990. Far from being overawed by his new challenge, Sacchi prospered with his unflappable style. AC Milan won the Serie A title in 1987/88, qualifying for the European Cup in the process and opening the way for even greater success. His time at the San Siro saw the club cement its place as one of the world’s finest. Sacchi was blessed with quality performers such as Franco Baresi and a youthful Paolo Maldini and such class ran throughout the side. But it was the defence that was the platform on which Sacchi built his squad and football pundits are hard pressed to pick out a better unit than the AC Milan back line under his expert eye. Maldini burst onto the scene as a truly brilliant leftback – despite proving equally proficient with his right foot – while Mauro Tassotti lined up on the opposite side. They proved unbeatable for wingers across Europe and offered plenty of options when supporting the attack. In the centre, Baresi was partnered by Alessandro Costacurta. The duo complemented each other perfectly – reading the game, dominating in the tackle and showing great composure in possession. The midfield was also brimming with talent. The Dutch duo of Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard brought a touch of class to the line-up while Carlo Ancelotti – now running the show in the managerial hot seat at the San Siro – also impressing in midfield. And of course there was Marco van Basten up front, causing mayhem for opposition defences and scoring for fun. Having earned a shot at the European Cup, Sacchi did not waste it. Quite the opposite in fact – he grabbed the opportunity with both hands in 1989/90. AC Milan cruised through the competition, brushing teams aside with a mix of ruthless finishing and miserly defending. The highlight was their demolition of Real Madrid. Having drawn 1-1 in the first leg, the Italians put on a real show to win the second leg 5-0. Their Serie A form seemingly suffered a little but the team navigated their way to the European Cup final where they faced Steaua Bucharest of Romania. The Romanians were no match for Sacchi’s well-oiled machine and the Italian savoured a magnificent night as his troops won 4-0 to lift the trophy. Gullit and van Basten bagged two goals each and AC Milan were the kings of Europe. The following year, Sacchi did the unthinkable by masterminding a successful defence of the European crown. A fine away goals victory over Bayern Munich sent AC Milan into the final, where they faced Benfica. It was the other Dutchman, Rijkaard, who made the vital contribution, netting a second half winner. Sacchi rejoiced again as his team celebrated continued European domination. But a new challenge eventually tempted Sacchi away from the San Siro. After guiding AC Milan to such success, he was rewarded by being offered the Italy national team manager’s job. He accepted and opened a new chapter in his managerial career. The nation was stunned as Italy failed to qualify for the 1992 European Championships but Sacchi focused his sights on the World Cup in the USA two years later. He had been able to formulate more detailed plans and, despite a slow start, the Italians made their presence felt in North America. Roberto Baggio proved to be Sacchi’s talisman as Italy recovered from a 1-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland in their opening fixture. They only qualified from the group on goals scored, after a 1-0 victory over Norway and a 11 draw with Mexico. But Sacchi came into his own as the stakes grew higher and higher and he got the very best out of Baggio. The Divine Ponytail bagged a late equaliser against Nigeria then netted the match-winning penalty in extra-time. He followed this with the decisive effort against Spain in the quarter-final and a stunning brace to
overcome Bulgaria in the semi-final. Just like in his AC Milan glory days, Sacchi had guided his team through some tricky tests all the way to the final of a major tournament. It was a fine achievement. But unfortunately for him, he could not complete the job on this occasion as Italy lost out to Brazil on penalties after a dull stalemate. Baggio was cast as the villain on this occasion as his penalty miss gifted Brazil the trophy. Sacchi ended his stint as Italy boss in 1996 and returned to AC Milan for one season. But he could not repeat the achievements of the early 1990s. He moved on to Atletico Madrid in 1998 and then back to Parma in 2001, passing on his vast experience to players and coaching staff alike. As he looks back on his managerial achievements, Sacchi must be a happy, proud man. His time in the dugout might not have been so spectacular in the final years of his managerial career, but his success at club level with AC Milan and on the international stage with Italy put him among the best managers to ever grace the game of football. And his glorious European nights will live long in the memory. Lewis Kalop | Post a Comment | Share Article
The Sacchi Legacy
Arrigo Sacchi does not get anywhere near the amount of credit and respect that he deserves in the football world, but more importantly many people do not even know how influential he has been to Calcio as well as global football as a whole. The Rossoneri are currently a little over ten years that Arrigo last stood on the sidelines, but his legacy will linger for many years to come as I hope to show in this post. Sacchi was arguably the most successful manager at Milan, winning scudetti, CL trophies, and kicked off Milan’s famed 58 game unbeaten streak(thanks IceMan). Believe it or not those records do not even say all that much when you think about the changes he brought to Calcio, including the reinvention of the wingback, the use of a sweeper/stopper, and the impenetrable defenses of Milan of the early nineties. Sacchi was also the leader of the greatest club team ever assembled in 1989-1990 (voted by many media outlets, including UEFA) with the likes of the flying Dutchman, Maldini, Baresi, and host of other players who have gone on to superb careers.
Sacchi’s only blemish on his resume was his inability to win the big game in 1994 when he led the Italian national team to the final of the World Cup. We all remember how that game went, but he lost with his best gun, Roberto Baggio, on the spot, for what was an excellent tournament for Italy. He went in and out of coaching after that loss, sat on the Milan bench once again, served on the board of Real Madrid, but none of this can shake his career which is cemented in the legacy he has created. In American Football you constantly hear commentators discuss how coaches are spawned and taught by other coaches who create family trees throughout the sport. Well Sacchi is soccer’s answer to someone like Bill Walsh or Bill Parcells. If you look at his Milan roster you can’t help but notice how many players have gone to become successful coaches in their own right.
His first and most prominent pupil is Fabio Cappello who now roams the bench of the English National Team. Cappello is no slouch himself as he coached the back end of Milan’s unbeaten run and led them to even more trophies and scudetti in his years in charge. He also led Roma, Juventus (titles revoked), and Real Madrid to success on the domestic fronts as well. The crowning jewel of Cappello is that he now leads a country who has constantly criticized the Italian game and they are now playing it. Pure irony. The Don is also a pupil of Sacchi and unlike his mentor could not replicate success on the international stage. His tenure was strong, but not strong enough, with an early exit from Euro 08 and unable to “fulfill” his contractual obligation to the FIGC was relieved of his duties. But if he is anything like he is mentor he will be back on the sideline in no time.
Another pupil who has gained prominence on the International front is a member of the flying dutchmen Marco Van Basten who led the Orange of Holland to the quarters of WC06 and Euro 08 where he led the Dutch some of the most exciting fast paced football I have ever seen. Problem with tearing through the group stages like the Dutch did, it leaves you no room for error in the knockouts, and when Russia came at them in the Dutch style, Van Basten had no answer. With that endeavor finished Van Basten will embark on a new challenge at the helm of Ajax with the idea of returning the club to greatness, and back alongside of AC Milan as one of their fiercest rivals and partner clubs. The other two members of the famous dutch trio have also tasted a large amount of success withFrank Rijkaard winning La Liga and the CL title with Barcelona and was touted as putting together some of the most beautiful football ever played in Europe while in charge of Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Messi, Eto, and the rest of the Barca players. Ruud Gullit moved onto to Chelsea and Newcastle, but is now roaming the sidelines of MLS with the LA
Gullit, granted is playing with a stacked deck, with the likes of
Beckham, Ruiz, and Donovan, and success seems almost imminent as that team begins to learn his style and system in the American game. Back to the boot now and the current Milan sideline where bothCarletto and Tassotti roam, and have led Milan to two CL titles and one scudetto and hopefully many more during their reign in the future. Carletto has rekindled the strong Italian base at Milan that was created by Sacchi and you can only hope to think the likes ofPaolo, Cafu, Costacurta, and even Kaka will someday go on to be coaches and the trickle down effect of Arrigo Sacchi will continue for years to come.
Just when you thought the Sacchi family tree was done, there are still more. I still need to point out Albertini who is in the upper echelons of the FIGC, Italy’s governing body of Calcio, and lastly who can forget the legend Franco Baresi, who runs teams in Milan’s youth program, the primavera. We also must consider some of this Azzurri boys coaching like Casiraghi, Zola, and Vialli as well. As you can see the list is almost exhaustive, but you can continue to link players to Sacchi time and time again. It is hard to find success at Milan, or elsewhere that has not been graced by the touch and class of Arrigo Sacchi. Lewis Kalop | Post a Comment | 1 Reference | Share Article
Tribute to a Master: Don Arrigo Sacchi
Arrigo Sacchi is a romagnolo from Fusignano, a city close to Ravenna. He has studied accounting and he plays football. His father is wealthy as he has a small shoe factory. Arrigo grows up in the middle of the perfumes of the province. He is natural and dry, he wants right away his Porsche, he is torn between the demands of changing the world and to enjoy the easy life thanks to the wealth of his father. He chooses the latter and works for his father in his factory. He stops playing football without football noticing it. He falls in love with the Dutch ways. Then one day, he decides to leave and and goes around Europe meticulously and carefully studying the football of the others. He is particularly interested in the teaching of football to the youth. Sacchi believes that football starts from there. At the age of fourteen, a boy learns everything. He would know how to play in zone, the offside rule, pressing, diagonal, everything as he has a free spirit. At the age of 25 the boy becomes what he has learned. When he comes back from his Europe tour, he knows what is duty in life is. Sacchi remains profoundly convinced that the international experiences contribute a lot in forming a young footballer. When he trains the Cesena Primavera, he wants the club to send as much as possible the team to play tournaments abroad. And this team grows as a small chef d’oeuvre, balanced and mature. These boys win the league and they would all end up playing in Serie B and A. His idea is that the man is more important and counts more than the player. In the sense that if a footballer is not a serious man, he would never be a good footballer. Serious means being humble, being always ready to learn, to
make sacrifices, to respect the fatigue to the point of understanding its necessity and key role in his system; to play for the others rather for oneself; to understand that if a partner doesn’t help, he won’t be helped and if he doesn’t help the team won’t exist. There’s finally an entire evangil of Sacchi which is at the base of his working methods. Translated onto the field, his thought means two training sessions a day, sometimes three, in a world where one doesn’t go beyond 3 training sessions per week plus the friendly match on Thursdays. That means a strict regime, a continuous study of one’s and the opponents’ movements; it means continuous discussion about one’s own limits, about being dust and about the infinite predisposition to become it. It means to totally immerse oneself into the philosophy of football and finally, to dive into the tunnel of excessive and unknown professionalism. When he arrives at Milan, he is a young technician of 41 years old who has never set foot in Serie A. Silvio Berlusconi welcomes him royally at Milan and surrounds him of grandeur. Sacchi defends himself with his hunger of glory, his evangil of work ethics of his region. He has spiritual eyes and a fixed smile. As Brera (great Italian journalis/writer of the 70s to 1990, Interista) writes, he often seems in direct conjonction and contact with God. His players are not listening to him. To Franco Baresi, he shows footage of Signorini, the Parma libero in Serie B. He is not understood, he is underestimated, then when the team loses a few games, a certain incredulity and scepticism comes as well. He feels faced with a duty bigger than him. After all, who is he? That’s the question most people are wondering in Milano, and worst of all, inside the dressing rooms. Thus, one day, he takes all the players apart, closes the doors of Milanello and yells that he is ready to go back to Fusignano but that they (the players) have not won anything and that they will not win anything. No one really knows whether it was his frank and direct way of talking or his charisma, but the fact is that all the Milan players come out of this meeting extremely pumped up. Berlusconi respects him and starts to believe in him again. And when the team goes to play a crucial game away to Verona, also crucial for Sacchi, the president stands at the doors of the dressing rooms and repeats convincingly to each and everyone of the players the same thing: “Between Sacchi and the team, I choose Sacchi”. The message is clear and goes well. Milan wins. And would not stop for a very long time. And this says it all on the fact that to have a great team, it is indispensable to have a great club. Discussion on the methods of Sacchi Sacchi doesn’t invent a new football but a new manner to play football. He plays zonal on the natural basis of the 4-4-2. He presses the opponents in their own half by holding his defence at the level of the half line. Attacking this Milan during that time was difficult. Rare were the teams which succeeded. The team is very compact, tight and close with only one forward (Virdis) and a lot of versatile players (Donadoni, Evani, Gullit and Ancelotti. On the right wing, Tassotti and Colombo take care of the marking and help each other and take turns in crossing; on the left wing, the young Maldini and Evani do the same. Baresi plays in line with the defenders and orchestrate the off-side. However what is spectacular in the Sacchi method is the capacity of playing in a collective manner. In general, the collective play doesn’t distinguish itself on the fact that the ball circulated and moves around between all the players of the team but rather of their total movement. In order to have a good coherent play, the players of
the team have to move all together and in the same direction that the ball is going. It is not easy to do that. You will often see 5 or 6 players moving but not all. This means that there is no harmony, that that there’s a technical or physical difficulty. Sacchi’s Milan, when it was moving, looked like the migration of a people. The players move up and down not only together but by staying at the same distance of each other, a metre away from each other. It is quite difficult to play against such a machine, so developed and well oiled. Numerous were the games were Galli, the goal keeper did not touch the ball. Milan win all their matches at home and without losing away and conceding only 14 goals in the whole season. The team is lacking a great deep playmaker, like a Rijkaard whom would join the following year. Ancelotti does not have the calibre to fill that role, he does his job well and can do the playmaking job well when needed but it is not his best position. Berlusconi says that Milan does have a chef d’orchestre, but he doesn’t know the music and tune. The Man or the Scheme? As all the fundamentalists, Sacchi has few doubts and he is very rigid. Whatever change that is proposed or suggested to him, he sees it as an attempt to work less. He would get rid of any player who would not be enthusiastic with his methods. Van Basten, one of the all time greatest forwards often asks him: “Mister, why are you treating me like the rest?” And Sacchi answers him: “Because you are intelligent and you would not ant a different treatment.” Indeed, Van Basten is one of the most worried under the weight of the pressure. He finds himself often substituted. He then asks: “Mister, why?”. “Because you were playing bad.” .”Yes, but the others were also playing bad.” “Yes, but the others were trying with application.” Generally, Sacchi is very demanding with his players, probably too much. Paolo Maldini writes in his book, Il Calcio (Sperling and Kupfer edition, 1996), “that the Sacchi tactic was very tiring and exhausting. After a few years, we could not continue at these rhythms”. Sacchi wanted to take the pressure all the way to the penalty box of the opposition. We would feel an enormous fatigue as a result of this tactic. A lot of players of great quality would suffer from it and dread it, others would have to adapt to the tactical demands of the Sacchiano scheme. This would create a legend and an equivoque. The legend being that Sacchi always adapts his men to his scheme and never the scheme to his men at his disposal. The equivoque being this very same legend. In reality, his football and the zone that he generates give a big importance in a general manner to each player and to their imagination, but always with the scheme in mind. In a few words, a left wing back, on his zone, can do everything that he wishes. He cannot do it in another part of the field. It is not a principle which limits the imagination. It’s a principle which limits anarchy. A player has to follow his own instinct, but the instinct cannot be an ideology or a tactic. The truth lies somewhere in between. It is the men who make the success of a scheme, but a scheme must be for everyone. Football is not a game that we can follow only with our instinct because it is played with 11 individuals, that is with 11 instincts. One cannot progress without the triumph of the imagination; one progresses without the auto-limitating confusion. It is clear that if you have Maradona on your team, you let him decide to whom he should give the ball in the last 20 metres. There is no scheme where you limit such a player. And should there be one, it would simply be an incorrect scheme. To be there, at such a moment, even Maradona would need to be in movement (therefore fit and well trained), in the middle of the team in movement. It
is important fantasy in football is put in the service of who has less of it…If we following the imagination, we would need to go alone for the goal and it’s never easy. This is taking the highest risk with a little profit. Which would be a mistake. The integrism of Zeman I believe that the schematism of Sacchi has been at least equal to the schematism of those who have wanted to judge him. There is no doubt that in today’s football, some technicians have ended up being really more advanced because they are extremely schematical Zdenek Zeman is the master of the second big fundamentalist wave. Zeman is the most integrist. For ever, he faces the same values and limitations, but he doesn’t change…It is certain that Zeman, even more than Sacchi doesn’t distinguish between player and player. As much as Sacchi was talkative, as much Zeman is silent and mysterious. Daniele Adani, a defender from Correggio, a starter for Brescia who was for when he was 20, for 4 months at Lazio under Zeman tells that he has never heard a word from his coach towards his person in 4 months. When he found the courage to inform him of an offer from another club, Zeman told him that being young and talented, that he should accept the offer. Generally, Zeman opts for a total integrism. He believes in a logical football which can only be one. In order to apply it, the players need to be very very fit and well trained. Not making any difference between the players. They all must do the same things both as far as the preparation than the execution are concerned. Whether they are tall or short, heavy or thin. I don’t know whether this is an advantage, but I have my doubts. Up until today, this type of football taken to the extreme had had excellent results as far as the construction phase of a project is concerned, without however, winning anything. It is often a spectacular method, and there is no doubt that Zeman is an excellent producer of football… The limits of the “Sacchism”. The limits of the “Sacchism” are that every coach is not Sacchi. Being Sacchi means to be a coach who coaches a lot, who studies a lot, who demands a lot. A 360 degrees engagement and commitment that no other coach has ever demonstrated. Sven Goran Eriksson, for example, who’s one of the oldest and most respected in Europe (despite being 50 years old, he has won titles in Sweden, in Italy and in Portugal), doesn’t do the work of Sacchi. Eriksson is more coach than technician. Same for Fabio Capello. I don’t believe that this means one is better or worst, it simply means something else. Eriksson lives with his players, he is rigorous technically speaking; he doesn’t pretend to be teaching and lecturing from an existential point of view. To live and let live. And he authorizes discussion. When he arrived in Italy, 15 years ago, Eriksson played exclusively with an integral 4-4-2 elaborated in Sweden from an obvious English inspiration. Then, he moved onto a 3-5-2 with Sampdoria, then 4-33 in the first part of his reign at Lazio to come back to a 4-4-2. A “Sacchista” would have never done it. You would never see Zeman put a defender instead of a midfielder or vice-versa. A wing player replaces another wing player; a central midfielder with a central midfielder and so forth. They can change players, but not their scheme. This is for some, a limitation. For Zeman, it is a force. It is clear that a certain rigidity brings with it, its fair share of clash with players with strong personalities. Players that believe not to be nor too right nor to appropriate to give their best during trainings; players who need lots of motivation before and during a match.
Finally, it is clear that football just like life is made of individuals, each with their own particularities and traits. Managing men means knowing them and keeping in mind what we know about each of them. Being tough, demanding with this type of player, is it always just? Above all, is he always in agreement with the interests of the club? Alen Boksic, when he was playing with Zeman at Lazio, was always injured and unhappy. The same Zeman was not hiding his desire to get rid of him. Same thing for Van Basten, Baggio and Panucci with Sacchi. Or for Romario and Ortega with Ranieri. And there are countless other similar examples… Differences between zonal tactics since Sacchi Playing the zone is now very little indication of the behaviour of a team. A lot of teams now play with the zone. The problem and difference is how and what kind of zone. Capello’s zone is not Sacchi’s and even less Zeman’s. But it is not Malesani’s either, which in itself is different than all the others. Lippi has his own manner to play the zone, with a lot of aggressivity and attention, almost an Italian way of the zone system, with fixed and focused marking and the capacity to change system during a match. What differentiates one type of zone from another one? From a general point of view, it has to do with the manner to press and to apply the offside trap. One can apply pressing at about the half way line, at about ¾ of the field or close to the opposition’s penalty box. Pressings are defined “high”, “median” or “low” based on how far it is applied from the penalty box of the opposition. The more it is applied inside the opposition’s half, the more the pressing is “high”. Of course, this type of pressing is a lot more demanding and tiring and requires more energy as it means that the whole team is required to apply it regularly. Every player does their best not to concede a goal by preventing the opposition from entering into their own half. On the other hand, if the defence is positioned on the half way line, going beyond that line without ending up offside is very difficult for the opposition. What this boils down to is to completely asphyxiate the opponents physically inside their own half by pressing them as soon as they have the ball. This type of zone is highly suggestive and almost impossible. This was the zone of the first years of Sacchi. But it is nowadays only a romantic expression and souvenir. Impossible to achieve that type of a zone but only for a few minutes in a match. A more human and realizable zone is Fabio Capello’s zone. The “we must absolutely do it” of Capello took place of the exhaustion of Sacchi. The team was no longer able to stand nor manage the physical demands and workload of this Sacchiano system. Capello made a lower pressing and transformed it into a type of forcing. What’s the difference between the two types of zone? Simple. The simultaneous pressing and attacking of 2 or 3 players on the carrier of the ball. If you attack the opponent who has the ball with one man, it is called forcing. The difference is considerable and it implies a game plan and model almost entirely different. Pressing man by another man is normal. The forcing is when everyone presses with aggressivity their designated opponent. Pressing the opponent who has the ball with 2 or 3 players means being in numerical inferiority somewhere else on the field, meaning that if 3 men are on this zone of the field, these men will not be on at least 2 other zones. And the numerical superiority is at the base of the goal. If you analyse carefully each goal, you would find that the direct or indirect cause of it to be a moment of numerical superiority. This means that if the pressing is successful, you get the ball back and start a collective
counter attack. If the opponent manages to pass the ball to a partner, this means that the pressing must move towards the zone where the ball is now, but because of that, the equilibrium of the game is not respected anymore. And if the opponent manages to free from the pressing, the team is immediately in great difficulty since in an obvious numerical inferiority. This necessity of not being in danger makes it imperative to use to foul, each time that a team is collectively in danger and the pressing is eliminated. This is the famous tactical foul that we see at least 30 times per game. Football by Descartes and Kant. Football is in everything, an inexact science, but more and more true and profound. If today, we had a Descartes who was looking for a mathematical certitude, not on the existence of football, but on its correct application, he would maybe find it in the defence of spaces, true problem with which whatever scheme must be compared with. “I play, therefore, I cover” (”Je joue, donc je couvre”, letting others to chose the manner to cover. But while trying to answer at the question of the scientific character of football, I believe that at this point, Kant would also give an affirmative answer. Based on his criterias, football is science since it can be based on synthetic judgements a priori like mathematics and physics. If I say “this football is based on the exact covering of spaces”, I am indeed giving a synthetic judgement because I am adding something to the sentence (“this football”), and a judgement which is a priori based upon the pure intuition of space. Football is a finally science on all accounts. Science of the rest is not truth but a continuous research of truth. And as all the sciences, football also often gives inexact results. (…). The greatness of football remains in its imperfection, as it is also ours. Football is like us, it answers at our demands. It is not by luck that these schemes have always followed our social evolutions. If football, the Italian way was the football of after war of a beaten nation condemned to manage on its own, the total football of the Dutch has been the football of a new humanism. And the football of Sacchi has presented the a mirror world, in its surety and in the arrogance of a Reagan, in the victory and the amusement and entertainment of the strong. Like a flashback to a prudence of principle, to a less emotive choice, more complex and thought, corresponding to a football of the 1990’s and 2000’s, a bit sacred a bit realistic, but a bit lacking strong illusions, but decided to go on. Toward the future. Lewis Kalop | Post a Comment | 1 Reference | Share Article
The Legacy of a Legendary Coach
'Sacchi was the number one,' reckons Carlo Ancelotti, 'because he changed the philosophy of Italian football and put more attacking play, more pressure, more organisationon the pitch and changed the philosophy of the work during training.' Arrigo Sacchi, born in the Italian city of Fusignano, is one of the most famous football managers of all time. Because of being one of the few football managers who never played the game itself at the highest level of club or international football, Sacchi has always suffered from a credibility crisis. Footballers and football fans usually think that someone who has not played the game at the highest level cannot possibly understand the game in its entirety thus that person is not fit enough to manage a top club side or a national side. This is a very untrue statement though and Sacchi went on to prove it. Sacchi, grew up carefully observing the likes of Real Madrid and the Brazilian national team. Thus he deviated from the normal Italian style of football during the 1980s and adopted a much more attacking strategy for his club sides. This shift away from the conventional Italian defensive style of football made Sacchi quite famous but also resulted in people doubting his ability from time to time. Sacchi was twenty six years old when he first started to manage club football. His first job was at Baracca Lugo, a lowly rated Italian club from Sacchi’s home town. Sacchi first tried to play football for Baracca Lugo but eventually had to face reality and realized that he wasn’t good enough to play football, so he decided to become the manager. Most of the players in the squad at Baracca Lugo didn’t trust Sacchi’s ability as a manager and because of his young age they thought of him as an immature youngster who thought a lot of himself. Sacchi’s next managerial job was at Cesena, which was a club in Serie B (2nd division of Italian football). Sacchi worked extensively with the youth setup there.
Sacchi’s first big appointment as a manager came with Parma who were in Serie C1 (3rd division of Italian football). Sacchi was then promoted with his team to Serie B in their first season and in the very next season they finished second in Serie B by just three points. This was enough for A.C Milan’s president Silvio Berlusconi to take notice of his extra-ordinary abilities and he at once recruited him as the manager. Sacchi again came under a scathing media attack following his appointment as the manager of one of Italy’s biggest clubs. As a response to all the criticism that was flowing his way because his lack of playing experience he stated that “I never realized that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first”. Sacchi converted A.C Milan into one of the most fearsome sides in European football. He became one of the few managers to win back to back European championships with their teams. Sacchi built his team around star players such as Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkard, Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Roberto Donadoni. Sacchi’s attacking philosophy and obsession with off the ball movement (which would later come to define how modern football was to be played) was essential to his success at Milan. A.C Milan legend Paolo Maldini remarks that “‘Before Sacchi came to Milan, the clash between two opposing players was always the key, but with him it was all about movement off the ball, and that’s where we won our matches”. Sacchi was also diligent about organizing his defense. Some of his players began to doubt his work methods, so he devised a simple test to prove them wrong. Sacchi would take five players from the squad, all of them defenders like Maldini, Baresi, and Costacurta etc. He would give his attacking players such as Van Basten, Rijkard and Gullit and ten other attacking players. Then he would tell them to attack the organized defensive group of 5 players in any way they pleased. The only rule that applied was that once the defenders won possession, the attacking unit would have to restart from 10 meters inside their own half. The test went on for fifteen minutes and the offensive “disorganized” unit was not be able to score against Sacchi’s organized defensive five. This proved to players that Sacchi’s ideology of organizational defense was one of the best in football. This test is now widely implemented in football training methods and is usually used to check ones defense organization capabilities. After parting ways with A.C Milan in 1991, Sacchi took over the Italian national football team and led them to the final of the FIFA World Cup of 1994 where they only lost in the final to Brazil on penalties. A lot of Sacchi’s players have gone on to become famous managers as well, such as Fabio Capello, Carlo Ancelotti, Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkard, Ruud Gullit and Roberto Donadoni as well. Their managerial success is also a testament to the values that Sacchi instilled in them during their foot-balling careers under him at Milan. Italian football and modern football should thank Sacchi for his contributions to the beautiful game. Sacchi’s methods are still used today after almost two decades of their introduction. Sacchi ended his career as a manager in 2005, after completing a one year stint with Real Madrid as a ‘director of football’ at the club.