The former collaborator of Juve and the national team: “The restarts after recovering the ball are fundamental to avoid the re-aggression of the English”
Antonio Gagliardi from 2008 to 2022 was the tactician of the national team, with which he won the European Championship in 2021. In 2020-21 he was one of Andrea Pirlo’s technical collaborators on the Juventus bench and currently collaborates with Dazn. Less than 24 hours from Inter-Manchester City he wrote for the Gazzetta. Theme: how Inzaghi can put Pep Guardiola’s car in difficulty and beat.
The Champions League final is one of the best matches to prepare for, especially if the opponent is called Manchester City and the rival manager is Guardiola. To understand how Inter could play, we have to start from the characteristics of City, the team with the most ball possession and the most passes in Europe. Guardiola shaped the team on positional play, a tactical model born with the great Ajax and Michels’ great Holland, updated in Barcelona by Crujff, Van Gaal and indeed Guardiola. From Barcelona to Munich to Manchester, tactics have evolved, added fluidity to meet the challenges of modern football, with an ever-increasing use of high, aggressive and often man-to-man pressing.
what team is city
Many, speaking of City, underline the many millions spent but, figures in hand, Guardiola has spent less in his seven years than other top teams that have not won 5 Premiers in 6 years. Analyzing the data of “Soccerment”, we can notice some central features.
In this graph, we see how City is among the strongest teams in reaggression (gegenpressing) and the one with the greatest territorial dominance (in jargon, Field Tilt).
move #1: waiting line 5-3 plus 2
But what can Inter do? We tried to identify three situations. Some of these considerations were discussed and shared in class with Renzo Ulivieri, director of the Coverciano coaching school, in the recent Uefa Pro 2022-23 course. In addition to us teachers, all the students were present including Daniele De Rossi, Barzagli, Palladino, Aquilani, Farioli and, curiously, also the match analyst of Inter, Filippo Lorenzon. Not all the trainees shared this strategy proposal and it was interesting to listen to the different opinions. I think it is very difficult to press City high. We should attack man against man, but Inter are not used to this type of pressing: trying in a Champions League final could be too risky. Furthermore, the characteristics of some Inter players do not go well with this strategy, also because City are the strongest team in the world at building, attracting pressure from the opposition and hurting you in spaces. Ederson has enormous technical qualities for a goalkeeper, as well as a long and precise kick to attack spaces behind defenders. And from this year who is running in those spaces: Haaland, who has effectively made the low building of the City unmarkable. So the best strategy could be to duck down and give City the dribble. Obviously the work of the 5 defenders with the 3 midfielders will have to be of enormous sacrifice and attention to remove depth from the Norwegian, close the central spaces by directing the game externally and absorbing the insertions. Why are we only talking about defenders and midfielders? Because Inter could choose to defend with these 8 players and leave the two tallest forwards in the defensive phase, almost disconnected from the rest of the team. In short, a 5-3 plus 2. Leaving Lautaro and Dzeko (or Lukaku) higher, Inzaghi would force City to stay behind with two or more likely three defenders. A detail that would prevent Guardiola from attacking at full strength and would lengthen City, who instead always want to be very short to re-attack and avoid counter-attacks.
Move #2: exit the re-aggression
Recovered ball, Inter will have to try to get out of the deadly re-aggression of the City, trying to serve the two forwards and then shorten with the midfielders. Barella, Calhanoglu, Brozovic and Mkhitaryan would thus attack dilated spaces, forcing the English setters into exhausting backward runs badly tolerated by De Bruyne or Gundogan. From this point of view, to try to take advantage of the restarts, Lukaku could prove to be more functional than Dzeko. However, the two Nerazzurri strikers have the potential to win several duels with the central defenders and trigger a counter-attack.
Move #3: Build under pressure
A key part of the final will be played when Inter have the ball. City will press hard and it won’t be easy for Inzaghi to come out with “clean” plays. However, Barella and his companions have the tools and knowledge to do so. Inter are used to playing under pressure from matches against Atalanta, Turin but also Fiorentina, Milan, Naples and others. It will take courage but the memorized plays on both ends (the Nerazzurri’s strong point for years), the qualities of the individuals (Onana will also be important), the fluid movements of Acerbi and the midfielders can put City in great difficulty. Guardiola pressing high will leave ample space behind, which Inter will be able to exploit by partially replicating the actions of the Italian Cup final. Getting out of the English pressure will also be essential to keep the ball for a bit and try to breathe through ball possession. Inter, therefore, will have to alternate between two different solutions: get out of the pressure with plays on the ends to immediately attack City at speed or, if there aren’t these spaces, look for a more horizontal and collective maneuver, to tire the English who don’t like chasing the ball for a long time.
Before the conclusion, a fact. City score a lot with shots in the small area, often propitiated by assists coming from the side areas of the same small area. Scoring from that area is a sign of great quality because obviously it’s difficult to get the ball so close to the opponent’s goal, especially against low positional defences. How does Guardiola do it? With great technical quality, movements, fluidity, extensive use of one-two combinations and a constant attack on spaces.
Considering all this, it can be said that it will be a difficult but not impossible match for Inter, in which, as always, the episodes and the many champions will be able to change the match plan very quickly. Knowing how to govern the different emotional moments of the match will be fundamental.
June 9, 2023 (change June 9, 2023 | 22:37)
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