Deflecting attention away from their team and themselves is not a rare habit for Italian coaches but Torino tactician Walter Mazzarri should address the problems with his own coaching instead of worry about the lack of quality refereeing.
After the Granata drew 0-0 away to SPAL in Ferrara in the Sunday lunchtime game of round 22, the 57-year-old unfairly criticised referee Maurizio Mariani for sending-off Toro defender Nicolas Nkoulou despite committing two aggressive fouls on Biancazzurri striker Alberto Paloschi and deserved both yellow cards.
“Nkoulou’s red card was a foul for us, but the whistle was blown against him and now we’re without an important player for our next game,” Mazzarri said in his post-match press conference.
This was not an isolated incident though because the often makes these tirades whenever Torino fail to win a match. He might do that to distract the focus away from his players but they have not been playing to their full potential and he has been regressing as a coach.
Mazzarri emerged as a coach in the 2000s, making his career breakthrough at Livorno in the 2003/04 Serie B season when the Labronici earned promotion to Serie A thanks to the goalscoring duo of Igor Protti and Cristiano Lucarelli as well as the emergence of young defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Then he went to Reggina in the summer of 2004 and stayed with the Calabrese club for three seasons, achieving Serie A survival in each campaign. His final campaign in 2006/07 was the most remarkable because the Amaranto started with a 15-point penalty due to Calciopoli, which was then reduced to 11 points, and they defeated AC Milan 2-0 in the final round to seal their safety.
That 2006/07 squad relied on the goals of Rolando Bianchi as well as Nicola Amoruso in attack and Pasquale Foggia provided extra inspiration playing behind the duo in the second half of the campaign.
His heroics at Reggina earned him the coaching role at Sampdoria and he stayed at the Genoese club for two seasons, qualifying for the UEFA Cup in his first season and reaching the Coppa Italia Final in the second. That cup run was sustained by the dangerous attacking of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini, who arrived from Fiorentina in the summer of 2009.
This was where he reached his peak as a coach, finishing third in the league in 2010/11, reaching the Round of 16 of the Champions League in 2011/12, winning the Coppa Italia in the same season, and then finishing second in Serie A in 2012/13.
With Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik, Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani, and Argentinian winger Ezequiel Lavezzi forming a formidable offensive trident, Napoli were a dangerous counterattacking side under Mazzarri and that caught the attention of Inter.
Whether it was a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time or his back three formations were not ideal for the squad, Mazzarri lasted just over a season at the Nerazzurri and after 11 rounds into his second Serie A campaign with them, he was sacked and then replaced by Roberto Mancini.
He tried his luck in English football but his 2016/17 season with Watford was his solitary one in the Premier League and he was sacked after the Hornets’ aspirations to qualify for the Europa League had diminished.
After Torino sacked Sinisa Mihajlovic in January 2018, Mazzarri has been their coach ever since, but his usage of the 3-5-2 formation is not bringing the best out of a squad which is arguably of the quality to play in the Europa League.
Ironically the best Granata performance of his time in charge was when his assistant coach Nicolo Frustalupi was sitting on the bench in his place. Toro thrashed Sampdoria 4-1 in Round 11 of this season and they played a modern style of football with quick transitions and intense pressing as opposed to the conservative approach and deep defensive line usually used under Mazzarri.
That result did not give the tactician food for thought and he has continued with his cautious approach, using wing-back Cristian Ansaldi as a central midfielder, and also dropping creative forward Iago Falque to the bench.
Instead of worrying about the referees, Mazzarri should worry about how outdated his tactics are or his coaching career will slip into greater decline.