Linked to the world’s greatest tacticians, Gian Piero Gasperini’s appointment as Inter Coach was both underwhelming and rather mystifying. A man of limited experience with unconventional tactics, debate has raged in the peninsula as to what we can expect from the 3-4-3 man at Inter this season.
Gasperini’s football has long been admired for its beauty, speed and great passing. Focusing on wing play, his teams move on the outside, doubling up and overlapping successfully to unbalance the opponent. His central midfielders are dynamic in their approach and are there to regain possession, pressure the opponent and secure the defence whilst initiating attacks. Meanwhile his strikers have to be mobile, perpetually covering all space at the top in order to exploit the passes arriving from midfield. His teams move in unison, attack as one and defend as one and rely entirely on their understanding of each other’s roles.
With such an exhausting formation, it is easy to see why the natural evolution of football has seen it dropped in favour of four man defences. For one, it is a formation that takes ample time to perfect as players must understand each other’s movements. Time is not afforded to big team Coaches. Secondly, it is a formation that exerts a lot of pressure on its defence. Offensive in its nature, squads who opt for these tactics may score incessantly but they will also concede regularly. One needs to only take the example of Luis Enrique’s Barca B team last season who conceded over 60 goals.
Inter’s midfield will need to be heavily bolstered in order to keep up with the athletic demands of the formation deployed. However, on a more positive note, in Inter Gasperini will find his old players and several others well versed in the demands of the role they will have to fulfil under his tutelage. Boasting three exceptional centre-backs, Lucio, Andrea Ranocchia and Walter Samuel, the Coach will not be made to choose between them and can field them all at once to create a technical and aggressive back-line. As for the those who deem his particular brand of football as out-dated, one need only look at two teams who finished in the top four of Serie A this season. Both Napoli and Udinese deployed three man defences successfully, creating aesthetically pleasing sides. Besides, labelling Gasperini as a 3-4-3 man gives the false illusion that he is merely a one trick pony when he has in fact demonstrated tactical flexibility at Genoa by often deploying a variety of formations including a 4-3-3 and a 3-5-2.
On a human level, Gasperini is renowned to be a drill sergeant, obsessed with getting his team to practice incessantly until all the minor errors have been ironed out. The Coach prefers obedience to talent, flexibility to mercurial skill and hard-workers to game changers. Whilst it may be an admirable approach to coaching, it may not be considered realistic when dealing with a club like Inter. Like any other giant that boasts big stars, the Nerazzurri players are captivated by their own skill and will expect to be appreciated and their skills highlighted. For Gasperini to expect his players to sacrifice for the team, he will need to demonstrate how it will benefit them and the overall unit, requiring him to check his own ego at the door and accepting that at Inter, he is not the boss but simply an employee.