A nation bewitched by Udinese’s incessant goal-scoring, Palermo’s fast paced football and the splendour of Edison Cavani, few have paid attention to a Coach still enchanted by the tradition values of calcio. Regularly unleashing a Chievo side perfectly organised and defensively sound, Stefano Pioli is determined to succeed by his own principals as opposed to those forced upon him by modern football and his ambition virtually promises that this will be a man worthy of recognition, having taken little over a year to move from coaching a Serie B side to clutching the reins of a team about to battle in Europe.
A Coach fanatical about the finer details, Pioli lives for football and studies it meticulously to offer tactical masterpieces that have accomplished admirable results in the league – such as the home wins against Inter and Napoli. Devoted to technology, the Coach encouraged the club to sign a contract with Panasonic, creating a unique partnership in Italian football in order to have every technological gadget available at his disposal so that he may carefully study all aspects of his team and the opposition. His obsession has almost seen him take up residence in Veronello, Cheivo’s sports centre, where he and his staff remain until the early hours of the morning viewing 3D footage of past matches in which they analyse players’ individual movements, their positioning, posture and so on in order to prepare comprehensive training schedules and tactics for the next upcoming match, ensuring errors are never repeated.
His determination and devotion to his footballing ideas and consequent success means he expects the same from his players, constructing aggressive and motivated squads built on the notion of sacrifice for the bigger cause. Balance and stability are the name of the game as is defensive solidity – a principle he learnt during his playing days under Giovanni Trapattoni at Juventus. However, labelling his game as simply defensive somewhat belittles his flair for tactics even if his team boasted the fourth best defence in the league. In the home game against Napoli, we witnessed a true Chievo side in Pioli’s vision. Pressing fiercely with a padded midfield to halt Napoli’s movement, they man-marked with precision before exploiting their own strengths to punish the visitors, relying on their fast counter-attacking football and ability to dominate on the wings to snatch all three points, leaving Walter Mazzarri and his men dumbfounded.
With Delio Rossi developing such a close bond with his players, the arrival of a new Coach will always be hard to bear both emotionally and in terms of tactics. However Zamparini chose a replacement not so dissimilar from Rossi. Maintaining a constant dialogue with his players, he encourages positivity, a close rapport and honesty – never failing to speak his mind. Moreover, his experimental ways and ambition to always improve sees him rotating the squad frequently, allowing each player to demonstrate their worth without disrupting the natural rhythm of the team. Meanwhile his preference for a 4-3-1-2 formation means tactically, a radical change will not be inflicted on the squad, allowing for the back-bone of the current side to remain intact to ensure a seamless move.
However, with all his strengths, we cannot ignore the weaknesses. Aesthetically, the Rosanero fans may need to brace themselves for a less than visually stunning side as Pioli’s Chievo were a squad that traditionally struggled to maintain possession and that favoured a long ball to the top as opposed to patient build-up. However, 63% of their goals were achieved from open play and players were always encouraged to shoot.
What they can expect is a side that will be defensively solid, dynamic in approach and united in their interest with little lapses in concentration. Moreover, they will have a Coach who can not only scout youthful prodigies but who relishes developing them into solid players. He may be a gamble with such little experience but considering Palermo’s respected ex- Director, Walter Sabatini is a fan, he may be a gamble worth taking.