A Renaissance In Italian Managers In the Premier League
Posted by Daniele Accurso | Published on August 26, 2016
As Ranieri lifted the title and Guidolin lead Swansea to safety, two more Italians were ready to enter the Premier League. Conte’s arrival was planned back in March whilst Walter Mazzarri came in for the recently departed Quique Sanchez Flores at Watford. Apart from English and Scottish managers, Italians come third in the list of managers from one nationality since its beginning in 1992, now at 11. Within this group boasts three title winners; Ranieri, Ancelotti and Mancini whilst Di Matteo and Ancelotti have won the Champions League. So what makes Italians such a popular nationality for the BPL?
Excentrics during the 1990’s
With the antics and personalities of mavericks blessing us throughout the years; Cantona, Roy Keane, Balotelli, Joey Barton, Vinnie Jones and now Ibrahimovic, the Premier League has been a shop window for excentrics. As paying fans, we welcome these players with open arms. What will they say? What will they do? It’s the unexpected factor which we get that entices us so much to these personality giants. In the early days of the premier league, before I was even a kid, the league was graced by Italians who set the league alight and excited fans, which ultimately started our love for them. In London, Italians were adored. Paolo Di Canio was the epitome of the “West Ham way”, whilst at Chelsea, Gianfranco Zola, Di Matteo and Gianluca Vialli helped lead the club to FA cup success in 1997 and 2000. As those mentioned above were before my time, i’ve had to watch old clips and seen on documentaries what special players they were. Zola’s backheel finish from a cross showed the class he had but it was Di Canio who intrigued me.
His scissor kick volley was nothing short of special but it was one action which left me gobsmacked. West Ham were on the attack whilst an opponent was on the floor injured. As the cross came in from the wing, Di Canio caught it to stop play for the player who needed treatment. This act won Di Canio the Fifa Fair Play Award, with Blatter saying,
“Gestures like this are all too rare in football, especially at the professional level.”
Thus it wasn’t just their class and skills which made them loved by fans and rivals, it was their unpredictability which left everyone excited at what they were going to do next. It was this x factor quality that Italians brought in the 90’s which helped create an aura around them, leading to a love affair blooming.
Brilliant track records
Football’s a results business and if you want wins, look no further than an Italian. Ancelotti spear heads their fantastic record in recent years, winning 2 Champions Leagues while managing mega clubs AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and now Bayern Munich. Some argue that Mourinho and Guardiola are the best managers in the world but for entertaining football mixed with results, Ancelotti is the number one in my mind.
Moreover Conte’s early success with Juventus and the Italian national side suggest he has his best years ahead of him whilst current Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri lead the Turin outfit to a Champions League final two seasons back. Ranieri’s first managerial title and Guidolin’s escape with Swansea last season suggest they can take over jobs both at the top and the bottom! As a whole nation, Italians seem the best in management, so why wouldn’t our league be filled with them?
A similar style of play to the British
The infamous catenaccio. The Italians do love a clean sheet don’t they! Based upon an emphasis on defence, it was used to great success in the 80’s and 90’s where clubs used to counter attack and hold out for 1-0 wins. The literal translation, “Door bolt” conveys how it was meant to be used. A system which suited the Italian mindset, it’s still visible in Serie A today. Look at Conte with Italy in the summer, he set up in a high pressing 3-5-2 which turned to a 5-3-2 when defending with its primary goal not conceding. Out of their 5 games at Euro 2016, they only let in two goals in 450 minutes. Now saying this “park the bus” tactic is similar to the British style of play may seem odd but, when you think of typical British managers, who do you think of? Big Sam springs to my mind straight away as the perfect representation of a typical British manager.
Now the comparisons can start. Yes his hoof football may not be on a level with the slick Italian play seen by Ancelotti and Allegri, but he has the same ideology as a Conte or Roberto Di Matteo. Play not to lose and try to snatch victories. Even though the catenaccio isn’t typically associated with English football, its core ideology is used by many in England including Tony Pulis, Steve Bruce and Big Sam as mentioned above, to name just a few. We have a common passion with the Italians for a sturdy defence, a spine to a team which won’t concede. If you don’t concede, you have a chance! (Something Michael Owen has probably said at some point too). Work from the back and the rest of the team just have to do their jobs going forward. A simple philosophy which is even used by the best including Mourinho. That unbreakable defence was seen at its best by his Inter Milan team of a few years ago when they won the treble including the Champions League.
So, is it at all surprising to see four Italian managers in our league this season? There are the same number of English and Italian managers in the league this season which is crazy to think but along the years, our fascination with the Italians has blossomed. Roman Abramovich has been a major catalyst in all of this, appointing Ancelotti, Di Matteo and now Conte during his time at the club. As the league welcomes more foreign players with more foreign owners, non British managers are to be expected. But why do the Italians hold firm over the Spanish, French and Dutch? Why do we love an Italian manager in this country so much? It seems it’s a fascination which can’t quite be singled out, but those crazy, skillful, majestic maestro’s in the 90’s most definitely got our hearts racing and they hasn’t stopped since!