Tactics: Pure Attacking Football in Pescara
First of all I should make a confession; I’m old enough to remember the U.S Foggia side of the early 1990’s that rode over the great and good of Serie A to finish in the top half of the table. That side became synonymous with fluid attacking football albeit with less emphasis on defence; they managed to finish the 1991-92 season with a goal difference of 0 having scored 58 goals but also managing to concede 58.
That side saw the rise to prominence of Czech coach Zdenek Zeman. Having left the relative tranquillity of Puglia, Zeman went on to coach both Lazio and Roma albeit with limited success indeed opinion ran that his coaching style was so anarchic that whilst he thrived in the relative quiet of a smaller side the increased expectations of the capital sides was a step too far.
The big news of this season in Serie B is that Zdenek Zeman is back. Not only is he back but he is managing a provincial side, in Pescara, which has more than a passing resemblance to U.S Foggia. At the time of writing Pescara sit 4th in Serie B two points behind leaders Sassuolo but with a game in hand.
Pure statistics though only tell part of the story of the remarkable rise of Pescara under the mercurial Czech coach. Once more Zdenek Zeman has built a side based around absolute attacking football with little apparent consideration to the defensive phase of play. Indeed it’s when we take a closer look at the system employed by Pescara this term that it becomes obvious that there is something special happening on the Adriatic coast.
When you watch Pescara play it’s easy to describe their setup as a relatively conventional 4-3-3 with fluid movement from back to front. In truth though this categorising is simply an act of convenience for the watching public and those attempting to describe what they are watching for an interested public. Zdenek Zeman has developed his style of play over the years and if I was forced to describe this sytem in a word that word would be anarchy.
Whilst conventional coaching dictates that sides play with a strong side/weak side rule, meaning that when the ball is on one flank that side is the strong side where the fullback and midfielders will push on to support the attack. The opposite side meanwhile is the weak side where the fullback and supporting players will hold more of a defensive duty to give the side balance. Pescara ignore any sense of balance as their players pour forwards in waves creating overloads all the way across the pitch but leaving the team exposed defensively.
Zdenek Zeman has also come to believe wholeheartedly in the vibrancy of youth. Loan signings such as Ciro Immobile, from Juventus, and Lorenzo Insigne, from Napoli, have shown that they have real ability to go alongside their apparent potential. It’s a homegrown player that perhaps provides the key to the side though with 19 year old playmaker Marco Verratti dictating the waves of attacking pressure and perhaps showing himself to be the perfect embodiment of Zdenek Zeman’s attacking philosophy. With Marco Verratti pulling the strings the irrepressible Lorenzo Insigne has been given free reign to move as he pleases causing havoc amongst opposition defences and showing just why he is so highly rated in Naples.
The goals meanwhile are shared throughout the side although striker Ciro Immobile has the lions share with 17 goals so far this term. This goal threat along with the probing passing of Marco Verratti and the creative spark provided by Lorenzo Insigne truly shines within Zdenek Zeman’s anarchic system of play with players being encouraged to be expressive and to attempt things that more tactically disciplined coaches would reproach them for.
If Pescara are to achieve promotion to Serie A for next season it is highly unlikely that the triumvirate will still be together in the Abruzzo with Ciro Immobile already agreeing a move to Genoa and Lorenzo Insigne being hotly tipped to become part of Napoli’s first team plans next season.
That said writing off Zdenek Zeman is something that you should do at your peril. If I were a betting man I would place money on Pescara challenging in the top half of Serie A with sides struggling to adapt tactically to a side that ignore so many of the hard rules that govern tactical gameplans throughout Serie A.
If historical precedent is to be believed then the second wave of Zemanlandia should be just as exciting as the first. Serie A is a better place with maverick coaches like Zdenek Zeman in charge, of that there can be no doubt.
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