The new image of Italian football

The results secured by Italian teams in Europe this week have been eye catching for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, AC Milan and Napoli both fought hard away from home for a draw against more fancied opponents and Udinese won well against Rennes. On the other, Lazio could only draw against Vaslui and Inter somehow managed to lose at home to Trabzonspor.
However, what really stood out about the week’s results was not the shocks, it was the way the Serie A sides approached their games. Milan, for example, travelled to Barcelona more in hope than expectation but came away with a well-deserved 2-2 draw thanks to their adventurous approach to the game. Massimiliano Allegri elected not to adjust his favoured formation to cope with the threat of the Catalan club and fielded both Antonio Cassano and Alexandre Pato and instructed his side to hit Barcelona on the counter attack.
Equally, Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli impressed against Manchester City with their open, attacking approach to the game. Like Allegri, Mazzarri did not alter his preferred formation and, although his side took a while to get into the game, when they did get a foothold in the match they looked dangerous. The threat Napoli posed on the counter attack was typified by Edinson Cavani’s opening goal when Christian Maggio won the ball and charged half the length of the pitch to create a three on two situation before putting the Uruguayan through on goal.
Like Napoli and Milan, Udinese’s win over Rennes came thanks to their incision in attack. Just as Cavani and Pato starred for their clubs, Antonio Di Natale was Udinese’s man of the moment, scoring the equalising goal and threatening to add to his tally regularly throughout the rest of the 90 minutes.
Despite their less impressive results, both Lazio and Inter also showed a good deal of attacking intent in games. Lazio only just managed to scrape a draw but the pace of Djibril Cisse in attack meant Vaslui were never comfortable. While not playing on the counter attack, Inter managed to dominate proceedings at San Siro thanks to their attacking approach. On another day they would have turned their dominance into a victory and scored at least one of their seven shots on target.
It seems, then, Italian football is enjoying a new image around Europe. No longer can Italian teams be lazily stereotyped as defensive and slow in their build up play thanks to the excellent examples set by the Serie A sides in Europe this week. While the image will not change overnight and many people will remain unconvinced by the transformation, should the Italian side’s upturn in fortunes in Europe continue, it would not only change how Serie A is viewed outside of Italy but also lead to more European trophies being won by Italian clubs.

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