Enzo Misuraca Date: 18th March 2013 at 12:00pm
Written by:

Il Mister. Our experts will endeavour to show you all the methods and tactical secrets employed by Serie A’s best football coaches.

It is perhaps quite naïve of some to think that professional players and coaches spend a couple of hours every day running round a field and smashing footballs randomly at a goalkeeper before entering the stadium at the weekend, in an attempt to fulfil all our sporting dreams and win the match.

The reality in fact, is wildly different. Forza Italian Football aim to dispel this misconception and bring you a series of articles after speaking to a top Serie A coach, to find out exactly what goes into preparing for the weekend’s match.

Concentrating on each day of the week, in an attempt to uncover what it takes to be a coach in one of the world’s most competitive leagues.

We will start with the first day of the working week, as it does for many of us on Monday, as the tactician begins his preparation for the impending match at the weekend.


Familiarisation with the opponent

Assuming the team played on Sunday, a Monday will not involve the players. They will be given the day off to recuperate from the exertions of the last match in order to recover the necessary strength, both mental and physical, for the week ahead.

However, for the coach this is the day when he receives reports concerning the next adversary from assistants and scouts. They will be in the form of written summaries as well as video footage and he will need to study them carefully to best plan the necessary sessions to try and defeat his opponent.

The Scouting report

Italian scout report 1

Different documents will be used by the scouts to formulate an opinion on the opponent though they will typically contain very similar information. They will usually be split into various sections as follows:

– Specific characteristics of individual opposing players

– Team organisation when defending (out of possession)

– Team organisation when attacking (in possession)

– Initial team formation for last match

– Any subsequent changes in formation during the match

– Defending set pieces

– Attacking set pieces

Specific characteristics of individual opposing players

The scout, where possible, will make observations on individuals from the opposing team that could help shape the strategy that the coach will decide upon when preparing for the match.

Below is snapshot of what a scout may have noticed about the players:

1 Goalie – Organises his defence well, good reflexes, uncertain when dealing with high balls, of average build.

2 Right back – Often supports the attacks leaving himself out of position when the ball is lost, struggles on 1v1 situations

5 Left centre back – Excellent heading and man-marking ability but suffers badly if forced to chase striker in deep wide areas

7 Right Winger – Superb technically with pace, will dribble at every opportunity almost always cuts back inside

8 Centre midfield – High energy levels, will always attempt to make runs from deep but good at dropping back

10 Forward – Highly technical, remains central and the main focus of their attacking moves, of great concern

11 Forward – Quite static, plays off the shoulder of last defender looking for the through ball, shoots at every opportunity

From the above information, the coach will already be formulating in his mind potential weaknesses that can be exploited and how best his own players can make use of this information.

Italian scout report 2

Team organisation when defending (out of possession)

The scout will also provide huge detail on the team as a whole, on how they are set up when out of possession and then when in possession. The reports may look similar to this…

Formation: 442

Any variation: No

Team: Compact  Stretched x

Defensive balance: Excellent Acceptable Problematic x

Defensive cover centrally: 2 centre backs and player 6

Defence of flanks: Problems as the full backs are often high up the

Defending depth: Issues as both centre backs are slow and have little cover

Overall team cover: Only player 4 covers immediately, others only instinctively

Strengths: Very effective and aggressive aerially and when man marking

Weaknesses: No cover in wide areas, struggle dealing with through balls especially if strikers make imaginative runs (short and long)

Observations: The team struggles defending wide areas and the centre backs like to come forward to win the ball leaving huge gaps between themselves and the goalie. When forced to defend deep they do this well as they have help from player 6 so it’s pointless to attack centrally in this situation. When the ball is won, the rarely look to hit a long ball forward instead spread themselves wide to initiate play, leaving big gaps which could be exploited.

Team organisation when defending (in possession)

Formation: 442 which often becomes 3412 as player 6 drops deep, player 2 attacks and player 10 comes into the middle

Ball circulation: Excellent x      Acceptable      Problematic x

The defence is very poor in possession of the ball but once it gets to the midfield the team has excellent ball possession qualities.

How are attacks started?: The ball is usually played to number 8 who immediately looks for a wide option or for number 11 to come short. The right back is always ready to attack even if play is on the opposite side. Hardly ever look to the left side, always down the right.

Preferred style: Always short passes and slow build up. Never play a long ball and they only speed up in and around the box.

Pressing weakness: Certainly number 6 and 4 who panic when under pressure as they are not very technical.

How is ball played to strikers?: Almost always with their back to goal, rarely do they look to exploit space behind the full back as they remain central. Only number 11 looks for a through ball.

Striker set up: 11 plays slightly ahead of 9. 11 is slightly more static but very good in at playing along the line of the defence. 9 makes more movements and is good in the air.

Noticeable schemes: 9 will come deep to get ball from 5, with support from 8 who then receives the ball from 9. He will look to 10 or 7, depending on where the opportunity is and they will then look to put balls in for 11 to run on to.

Observations: They are very predictable and and their attacking is very slow. If we pressure them on their left hand side they will look to the ball over to the right and will often make errors in doing so. Players 10 and 7 are the danger, both very quick and technical. On the right hand side they always have men over especially as number 2 always joins in the attacks. This player also has excellent crossing ability.

The coach will then receive the formation of the team as per below and how the team is set up in that formation:

Formation: 442

Finally, the coach will need to study the opponents set plays as per the scouts report so hecan prepare his team to counter them or exploit them.

Defending set plays

Corners from the right:

Opponent in 442 formation

On front post: 10

Defending space on edge of 6 yard box: 11

Free man: 8

Man markers: 3-5-6-2-4

Outside 18 yard box: 9 with 7 who stays up field

Corners from the left:

On front post: 10

Defending space on edge of 6 yard box: 11

Free man: 8

Man markers: 3-5-6-2-4

Outside 18 yard box: 9 with 7 who stays up field

Wide free kicks right:

Wall: 10 and 9

Defending short: 11

Free man: 8

Man markers: 3-5-6-2

Outside box: 4 and 7 who stays up field

Wide free kicks left:

Wall: 7 and 9

Defending short: 11

Free man: 8

Man markers: 3-5-6-2

Outside box: 4 and 10 who stays up field

Direct Free kicks:

Wall: 8-11-10-7

Closes down ball: 4

Attacking set plays

Corners from the left

Taken by: 10 – in-swinger towards near post

Attackers: 5 on front post, 6 centre of 6 yard box, 3 on penalty spot, 11 on back post, 9 on the keeper

Any blocks? : No

Specific tactic: None but the players all start around the penalty spot before making runs

Corners from the right

Taken by: 7 – in-swinger towards near post

Attackers: 6 on front post, 5 centre of 6 yard box, 3 on penalty spot, 11 on back post, 9 on the keeper

Any blocks? : No

Specific tactic: Similar to corners from the left but 7 strikes the ball very hard towards front post

Penalties: Player 10, bottom left hand of keeper.

Direct free kick

Taken by: Player 10 – hit over the wall

Player movements: 9 attacks keeper, 11 and 8 start in wall then move away

Free kicks wide right

Taken by: Player 7, out-swinger over penalty spot towards far post

Attackers: 9 and 5 go to front post, 11 far post and 6 on penalty spot

Any blocks? : No

Specific tactic: None

Free kicks wide left

Taken by: Player 10, out-swinger over penalty spot towards far post

Attackers: 11 and 5 go to front post, 3 far post and 6 on penalty spot

Any blocks? : No

Specific tactic: None

Observations: Despite having good aerial ability they were never a threat at set pieces. However, 10 and 7 have excellent ball delivery though appear to prefer to shoot than look for a team mate.

So, much of Monday for our Serie A coach will be spent interrogating the vast array of information supplied to him by his scouting team. This data will hugely influence the nature of the training sessions for the remainder of the week as he will tailor the tactical elements of his practices in order to counter and defeat the opponent according to what he knows about them.

Check out what a coach does on Tuesday, which will start to include specific drills created with the opponent in mind.