No sooner had the Calcio campaign ended and the rumor mill began about who will go in the hot-seats on the benches on the peninsula. Italian football has long since had a reputation for managerial merry-go around, but the volume of changes that have happened already and that are expected to happen is arguably, something we have never seen before.
Sarri shocks calcio by going to Juventus.
Let’s start with the champions Juventus, who announced that manager Max Allegri will no longer be their manager from next season. The Tuscan tactician had been on the bench for the last five seasons, and led La Vecchia Signora to five straight Scudetti, four Coppa Italias(as part of four consecutive domestic doubles) and reached two UEFA Champions League finals. However, failure to ended the Bianconerri’s 23 year wait for the European Cup, ultimately ended his reign. It was not just that they were knocked out by Ajax, but the manner in which it occurred. There have been many managers linked with the job, from Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and even a return for former manager Antonio Conte, but the Piedmont side opted for Sarri.
The former Napoli man, was released by Chelsea, which left him free to join Juventus. It is a surprising appointment, to say the least, as on several instances, the man who’s tactic have been dubbed “Sarriball” has railed against Juventus. These include, his accusations that the two time European champions have been favoured by referees(where have we heard that before) and who could forget, him giving the Juve tifosi the middle finger, when Napoli traveled to Turin for their title tussle in April 2018.
He has been reportedly brought in to change the style of football at the club, where his tactics based on possession, quick passing and pressing are a polar opposite to Allegri’s pragmatic & “do just enough” approach, which drew much criticism from the media and fans alike. Juve’s team has a lot of veterans, and the key to their success will be how quickly they adapt to Sarri’s style. Will the shock of a new style of play be too great or will the motivation of European glory be enough for this squad to buy into the former Empoli manager’s philosophy?
Antonio Conte joins Inter under a cloud.
Despite his Juventus links, Antonio Conte plumped for the manager’s position at Derby d’ Italia rivals Inter, to replace Luciano Spalletti. The soon to be 50-year old’s last job was as Chelsea manager where he won the Premier League and FA Cup in just two seasons in West London, but as with another Italian, Sarri, his success was not enough for him to keep his job.
Following his official unveiling at il Biscione, Juve fans began a petition, calling for his star at the Allianz Stadium to be removed, while, the Inter Ultras released a stern statement saying “We are not Juventus, for us, winning is not the only thing that counts.” Conte when asked about these distractions, said, that while he understands the sentiments, he is a professional, and the job at the Nerazzurri was the “best project” for him.
He has already made his presence felt, as he has been reportedly made it abundantly clear that striker Mauro Icardi is not part of his plans. His preferred formation of a 3-5-2 will be an adjustment at Inter, as under Spalletti, they mostly employed a 4-2-3-1. One element that Conte will undoubtedly bring to the blue & black half of Milano is a sense of stability, structure & organisation to a club that has been known as “Pazza Inter” or “Crazy Inter” for a long time.
Marco Giampaolo on the verge of taking over at Milan.
Having been linked with the task of replacing Gennaro “Rino” Gattuso for a couple weeks now, Giampaolo was released by Sampdoria earlier today, leaving him free to take over at the Rossoneri.
The Swiss born man favours a 4-3-1-2 tactic, with the trequartista being an important cog in his system, linking the defense and the attack. This should help the likes of Lucas Paqueta, and even if they stay, Hakan Calhanoglu and Suso to thrive, linking the play much more quickly than under Gattuso, which should increase the output from strikers Krzysztof Piatek, Patrick Cutrone and the returning Andre Silva, who all at different times both thrived and had big drop offs in production up front.
Paulo Fonseca looking to lead a Roman revival.
Having failed to secure Champions League football, the Giallorossi had to make a statement, and they have done so with Portuguese, who left his post at Ukrainian club Shakhter Donetsk. He led them to three straight domestic doubles and previously managed in his homeland at Porto and Braga. What drew il Lupi’s hierarchy to the 46-year old was his pro-active approach to the game. The club currently have a plethora of young attacking talents on their books, with the likes of Cengiz Under, Nicolo Zaniolo, Justin Kluivert, Patrick Schick etc…and it is hoped, that the Mozambique born former playing center back, can get the best out of them.
Eusebio di Francesco secures Sampdoria stint.
Having been dismissed, somewhat harshly by AS Roma, the 49-year old Di Francesco, who also managed the likes of Pescara, Lecce and Sassuolo has not had to wait long for a new club. The man who was a former player with the Giallorossi, led the Romans to a shock appearance in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in the 2017-2018 campaign. The Pescara born tactician mainly employs a 4-3-3 system, with an emphasis on using the entire width of the field and his wide players and full backs are essential to any success he had previously and likely to have in Liguria.
The interesting aspect of his appointment at the 1991 Scudetto winners, is that it will be a change of formation, as under the recently departed Marco Giampaolo, they always used a Trequartista, and while the full backs did push up, the main creative forces, came from “the man in the hole.” The question will be, does Di Francesco keep the current set up that has brought moderate success or throw the book out and start over? In my opinion, the squad needs to be sorted out as soon as possible, because there are several players who are being linked with moves away from the Bluchechiati and also, what expectations has eccentric owner Massimo Ferrero placed on Di Francesco.
Aurelio Andreazzoli joins the Genoa having lost out to them with Empoli.
Having come so close to keeping the Tuscans up, Andreazzoli, ironically, joins the Grifone, the club that he lost out to for Serie A safety. What was so unfortunate for him, is that his Empoli side played a very attractive style of football and drew praise from many quarters in Calcio circles. His team lost out by virtue of having a lesser head to head to avoid the drop and gave Inter all they could handle on the final day of the campaign and he will be bringing that same sort of play, intensity and attacking exuberance to the Ligurians.
We are only in mid-June, still two and a half months away from the start of the season, and already many moves have been made in the manager’s hot seats in Calcio, and who’s to say, we may not have a surprise or two in store. It should all lead to an exciting campaign ahead as Italian football try to rise again after years in the doldrums.
By: Vijay Rahaman
Photo: Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images