AC Milan will travel to the Stadio Olimpico to face off against Lazio on Sunday night in what will be a battle between two well-known Italian coaches.
La Gazzetta dello Sport takes a look at the battle between Maurizio Sarri and his Rossoneri counterpart Stefano Pioli, who was also once the manager of the Biancocelesti. In particular, they study the duel between ‘Sarrismo’ – revolutionary in Napoli – and the more recently established ‘Piolismo’.
Principles: From a strictly football point of view, perhaps Sarri is the more pedantic of the two because his style is based around prolonged possession of the ball as seen from Empoli, to Napoli and even at Chelsea and Juventus. It is still under construction now at Lazio and he needs time to sculpt his squad.
Pioli preaches a more direct approach based around the quick vertical movement of the ball and the attack starting from whoever recovers the ball, so only if there is no possibility to go directly forward is possession consolidated.
Similarities and differences: Sarri and Pioli do not play with fixed ‘schemes’ but rather they make their principles clear and let the players interpret and execute them. The Lazio boss pays a lot of attention to the defensive phase, which starts from the immediate aggression with pressing and using the ball as a reference and rather than the opposing player.
Lazio have still not nailed this yet and they tend to hit danger when there is a free man and when the opponent’s ball carrier is not pressured. From this point of view, Milan are more aggressive as the central defenders often break their line to attack the ball-player, which the presence of Tomori and Kalulu allows them to execute well.
Formations: Sarri started his career as coach with a four-man defence, deploying a 4-3-1-2 at Empoli that almost became a trademark and using a 4-3-3 at Napoli, one which he is now using with Lazio. The midfield is crucial: he uses the mezzeali (box-to-box players) to invade, with the wingers occupying wider areas along with the full-backs.
If there is a flaw with the Biancoceleste it is that they do not really have the dynamic ability to change positions, so if the game goes smoothly it’s a spectacle but if it complicates then the system becomes predictable.
Milan’s 4-2-3-1 has been used in different ways depending on the strategy and the opponent. For example, sometimes it is the wingers that play wide with the full-backs moving inside to be extra midfielders, while in other situations the wingers cut in to be attacking midfielders, leaving the flanks to the descents of the full-backs.
The vertical positions of the two deeper-lying midfielders gave further impetus, and depending on who is the attacking midfielder it can resemble a 4-3-3. In recent times Milan have lost a bit of this tactical and strategic brilliance, so they are under pressure to keep things fresh and dynamic.