Benjamin Zander. Counter- or Gegenpressing is, in its core, a very simple and understandable concept. It just means that the team immediately after losing the ball tries to press against the ball to prevent an oppositional counter and — instead of transition into the ordinary defensive organization, whatever it may be — being able to immediately get into possession again. For exact details on counterpressing, you can read up on it in this article the basic aspects of it, here you can find variations and in this German article I have tried to cover everything I could think of within words. The Busby Babes for instance were never lauded as a great tactical side, but they already displayed short passing football with mostly zonal marking and immediate pressing when losing the ball to prevent the opponent from countering. Still, a few teams often are called stand-outs in the application of this specific strategy.
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Michaelangelo said he painted with his mind, not with his hands. So, obviously, I need intelligent players. That was our philosophy at Milan. The greatest compliment I received was when people said my football was like music. It is safe to say that Arrigo Sacchi has had one of the most profound impacts on football and tactics, if not the greatest in the last few decades.
Milan rose to new heights under him and football as a whole benefited from his sheer genius. Sacchi was not a great footballer with a noteworthy career, let alone a stellar one. He showed a particular flair for football from his early days but could not translate that passion in the playing pitch for his local club Baracco Luco. So he took into his hands the responsibility of coaching them.
Sacchi was a revolutionary. His thinking coming from somewhat a reserved background is exemplary. He had very clear ideas and was staunch in following them. This trait of his did not change over the years and was definitely a reason for his success over the years. He was heavily influenced by watching great passing teams like Honved, the Brazilian national team of the s and Real Madrid who won the first five European trophies.
The television was too small; I felt like I need to see the whole pitch fully to understand what they were doing and fully to appreciate it. Embed from Getty Images. Sacchi had many ideas as to how football should be played but it was all underlined by the fact that he believed it was the duty of his team to entertain and not just to win.
He surely had his sights on becoming great and going down in the history books. Ambitions certainly do not hurt and his goals were achieved with a combination of determination and a great passion for what he believed in. I did it to win and be convincing at it because I wanted to give ninety minutes of joy to people. And I wanted that joy to come out from winning but from being entertained, from witnessing something special.
I did this out of passion, not because I wanted to manage Milan or win the European Cup. It was with Parma Sachhi begun to get noticed as he led them to the Serie C1 title and within three points of Serie A in the following season. But it was the wins over Milan in the cup during that season that made Silvio Berlusconi take notice of him and offer him the Milan job that summer.
Before he knew it, Sacchi was at the helm of Milan having no previous credibility in the Serie A. Expectedly, he was met with scepticism and doubts initially.
Sacchi demanded that his players be well equipped in playing all positions. He was a firm believer in his doctrine of Universality that his players be tactically and technically proficient. This thinking was definitely based upon the influence he had because of those great teams he had watched while growing up. Though the expectations were not a lot at that time, Sacchi had to win the title for a vindication of self as it would mean he was right all along in what he believed in.
Sacchi came in with an aura himself as his training methods were largely new and had a certain mystique about them. He focused heavily on shadow play where the team position themselves without the ball. Sacchi would tell them where the imaginary ball was and the team had to adjust themselves according to the position of the ball. It was not until the arrival of Sacchi in the footballing scenario did zonal marking come to the fore.
Nils Liedholm had a system similar to zonal marking introduced but it was Sacchi who totally eliminated man marking in Italy who were obsessed with the system and the libero. Another key element in all his teams was the fact the intensity with which they pressed. In order to press actively throughout the match and also week in and week out, Sacchi had his team remain very compact making sure they did not have more than 25 metres in between the defensive line and the forwards.
Staying compact was a must both vertically and horizontally. In his first season at Milan , Sacchi bought a 28 year old Carlo Ancelotti into the team. He was a key part of the Milan side as his tactical intelligence in the collective was vital in the way they operated in both attacking and defensive phases. Ancelotti was the initiator of the build-up play in the side as Milan showed signs of fluidity in their play.
The dynamics were not very complex as of yet as the whole team were fluid in the view that one took the position vacated by the other. This applied to even defenders as Franco Baresi often found himself in the midfield nipping attacks in the bud when Ancelotti had to adjust in accordance with Donadoni and Colombo.
The central occupancy remained an issue at times especially in the European Cup where they were knocked out by RCD Espanyol in the second round. Into a more tactical perspective, the wingers faced a huge workload under Sacchi as Donadoni virtually became a great player under Sacchi due to his work ethic and work rate. In order to create overloads and occupy space in a in a fanatical way Sacchi demands, the wingers must exhibit high work rates to make sure the team remain compact in all phases of the game.
The zonal marking though was almost at its fullest furore though in the first season as Milan focused heavily in cutting out the passing options and the lanes. The use of cover shadows in the pressing scheme was almost executed to perfection and all this was revolutionary in the way which Milan defended. The backwards pressing from the strikers and also the coverage of wings by the full backs was also with the use of cover shadows so that the progression could be halted past the player who covered the zone.
Ruud Gullit was extremely important in attack as his dropping off movements were unique with a specific nous to occupy the space in between the lines, however non-existent they were. This was achieved with movements that were nomadic and he was found anywhere in a diagonal build-up to goal. Made using TacticalPad. This was the general movement scheme showed by the Milan side under Sacchi in their first season. This was also crucial in the way that they had more central occupancy in the midfield region.
In the second season, Milan reached their zenith. Facilitated by the ultra-important signing of Frank Rijkaard, Sacchi finally had all the pieces to his jigsaw to achieve the greatness Milan were destined for.
The biggest improvement in this season in comparison to the prior season was the fact that the players became more aware of their spatial occupancy. Not everything was a pre-planned structure or move as the players improvised greatly on the pitch. All the eleven players understood how they had to remain in active positions all the time and be proactive in their reactions.
To understand the complexity of their off the ball movements, it is important to understand how the Ancelotti-Rijkaard pivot worked. Rijkaard was more of a physical presence in the midfield and could act as a defensive shield and even drop into the backline when necessary. This freed Ancelotti of his defensive burden and he could carry out orchestrating the play.
The dynamics were thus: Donadoni would shuttle in field and out; Maldini was more active going forward and offering himself as a passing option; Baresi did not need to step into midfield more as Rijkaard absolutely slaughtered anything that came through the midfield; Ancelotti moved to the side often in the left and carried play.
Gullit and van Basten, who was more injury free this season and was in the form of his life, were extremely prolific in front of goal due to the overall efficiency around them. With this structure in place and the overall fluidity in the team, Milan were able to pick apart opponents at will. Their pressing structure was unplayable at times with extremely well timed and co-ordinated movements.
An interesting change in their pressing pattern was how they reacted to wide play from the opposition. The presence of Rijkaard once again is the reason for this as this means Ancelotti could step out of midfield to react to a wide man while the two strikers use their directional running and cover shadows to direct the play outwards. Donadoni covers the passing option while Rijkaard moves laterally to cover for Ancelotti with Colombo shifting and effectively creating a staggered or a The highlight of their season was the demolition of Real Madrid.
Steaua Bucharest offered little resistance in the finals as they were brushed off with respective braces from Gullit and van Basten. It was the one which I have never experienced since. I had this unusual, sweet taste in my mouth. The next season, Milan achieved the very rare feat of retaining their title as they brushed off Benfica in the final courtesy of Frank Rijkaard beauty. However the euphoria and the excitement seen in the previous season was not to be present in this season as the team looked to be wilting at times.
The heavy demands of his philosophy made sure that the marriage could not continue behind the next season as there was a bad taste with which Sacchi left Milan with the National team calling. Fabio Capello took over Milan and continued the success while Sacchi took charge of the national team. Consisting of a core of his successful Milan side, Sacchi took over as the manager of the National side. The Italian National team was in disarray and the success of World Cup seemed a long time back with the World Cup a disaster.
Donadoni was the only other player from his Milan side as Sacchi persisted with his The ability of Sacchi to adapt and make his players excel was relevant in the way the fortunes changed after he took over the National side. Also his ego was questioned as he had fall-outs with each of these players personally. Sacchi could never deal with egos who thought they were bigger than the team and this did not change in the National side too.
The Italian National side could not quite replicate the same intensity and the levels as that of the Milan side. Sacchi could never spend the same amount of time with the National team and as a man who spent every minute breathing football he could just not comprehend with this.
The Italian National side however underwent a cultural revolution after Sacchi was appointed as the shackles were broken. He completely made them overcome man marking and his blueprint was established in the National side too. The final is much more famous for the penalty miss from star man Baggio as they lost to Brazil. It was significant progress from the Italian side as they overcame almost a decade of underachievement.
One striking feature in the Italian side was that Sacchi looked to make them defensively more stable, a stark contrast to how he liked his Milan side to attack. They advocated a deep block which usually exempted Baggio off his defensive duties. The backline of the Milan defenders were the only constants in his managerial career as Maldini became a superstar under his guidance while Baresi reached new heights.
Costacurta owed Sacchi his career too, as this core was instrumental in almost everything that went well with both Milan and the National side. His innovations- the offside trap, the zonal marking system and the short distance between the defence and attack 25 metres were always evident in his sides.
He came in as a virtually unknown person and left a legacy that would be remembered down the years to come. Despite his relative inexperience as player, his coaching methods were exemplary and the way he instilled such mental focus was impressive. Sign in. Log into your account. Forgot your password?
Tactical Tale | Tactical Tale of Arrigo Sacchi
In the early s, the Italian national team were in a distinct crisis. To solve the tactical issues, the Federazione drew on the secret weapon of domestic Italian football: Arrigo Sacchi. The former Milan coach replaced Azeglio Vicini, who had not been able to win the World Cup at home, in A system that, unsurprisingly, was very similar to the one Milan played in the late s.
Fusignano’s prophet and his wonderful Milan side: How Arrigo Sacchi revolutionised Italian Football
The Italian maestro led a one-man revolution against defensive football when he was appointed manager of AC Milan in , and although it didn't catch on, his name certainly did. He achieved the rare feat of retaining the European Cup, also claiming one Scudetto and one Coppa Italia during his four years in charge. At the time of Sacchi's appointment, Italy was rife with the influences of Helenio Herrera's catenaccio, so his obsession with creating an attacking side was widely regarded as odd. We had a sweeper and man-markers. The attacking phase came down to intelligence and common sense of the individual and the creativity of the No. Sacchi played with high intensity and a very high defensive line.
Though Sacchi never enjoyed a sustained playing career, he did display a supreme tactical ideology revolved around the continuation of attacking upon scoring the first goal. The intertwining of fluency and precision in regards to the creation of goal scoring opportunities came naturally for Milan under the guidance of Sacchi. Sacchi would explain the location of the hypothetical ball, thus forcing the players to configure their own movements and imaginary passages of play. Therefore, the team gathered what the best decision to make when in possession would be.
The legacy of Arrigo Sacchi
An insight into the coaching philosophy and methodology of legendary Italian coach, Arrigo Sacchi. The way in which Sacchi got the Rossoneri to understand the principles of his total football concept was simple: he designed practices to test and stretch players. The principle was to numerically disadvantage one team , repeating the exercise to give the players the opportunity to solve the problem of playing outnumbered. Despite his lack of pace, Sacchi said that the former Real Madrid head coach was key to everything the team did.
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