Arrigo Sacchi, Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola discussed the philosophy of football and name-checked Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo as an example to follow.
The three world famous tacticians sat down together on stage in Trento as part of the Festival dello Sport.
“I’d hope that whoever plays the best football wins, and they do have a better chance of winning, but that isn’t always the case,” said Manchester City boss Guardiola.
“In football you need to get the ball in the net to win, so it’s a special and slightly crazy sport.”
Napoli Coach Ancelotti agreed that “playing good football does give you better odds of winning, but it remains an unpredictable sport. There is so much talk about statistics, but you need more than that to explain it.
“The only real statistic that counts is the number of goals, not how many shots you had on target.”
Legendary Milan tactician Sacchi remains ever the purist and has a more hard-line view of the situation.
“You can play better and then lose, but only if you don’t also compensate what the opponents can do individually. The team that plays well and wins is not only recognised as the victor, but also given moral authority.
“Good football depends on ideas, not the quality of the players. I saw average teams play really well, while the Real Madrid when I was technical director and refused to be their Coach… we had David Beckham, Michael Owen, Ronaldo, Raul Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and many others.
“The Honorary President at the time was Alfredo Di Stefano, but he never saw a game to the end, because he’d get bored. You can have a massive film production with the best actors, but no plot. Brecht said that without a script, there is only improvisation and vague ideas. It is the approach of the tactician that is improved or worsened by the players. The players are there at the service of the tactics.”
When it comes to the evolution of the game, all three confirmed that smaller clubs have left behind the old defend-and-counter approach.
“We’re now seeing football that is well-organised both in defence and attack. It’s a positive football, because even the smaller sides, who once were tied exclusively to defensive play, now try to create their own identity. We’re seeing that around Europe now,” added Ancelotti.
“It’s happening in the Premier League too, the smaller clubs are evolving,” replied Guardiola. “If I see Sassuolo now in Serie A, they give me the sense of being a very attack-minded and positive team.”
Guardiola was asked if he’d like to work in Italy as a Coach, having experienced Serie A as a player at Roma and Brescia.
“Why not? I didn’t see myself in Germany or learning German, and yet that’s what happened. Now I am in England, who knows where football will take me?
“I am convinced that in Italy there are the players to start winning again. As a Coach, I take on the Italian teams and say: ‘Wow, they really made us suffer.’ Perhaps we learned some lessons from that in Spain. We took a path and did it well.”
Image via @sscnapoli