Zonal Defending the Italian Way

An in-depth look at the Italian Flat Back Four and Total Team Defending

Michele Tossani, 2009, World Class Coaching

Due to the lack of a good biography or tactical analysis of the work of Arrigo Sacchi, who brought the 4-4-2 to Italy and developed it to perfection, I moved to books about the general concepts of Sacchi, to learn more about it. Therefore it is interesting to read in the introduction of this book that “the Italian Serie A changed their focus in recent years because of the desire to see attractive, attacking soccer by television audiences” and “the four man defensive system is the most utilized defense system in Italy. Even when playing with three in the back gained more popularity around the world.” Without being to harsh, it seems to show a bit of ignorance to the fact, we know not only after reading The Blizzard Issue Two, that both goes back to Sacchi. That it was him, who introduced the four man defense and the attractive game to Italian soccer end of the eighties and that before that an impenetrable defense was seen as the perfection of soccer, based and strongly supported by the philosophy of Gianni Brera.
The book covers the basics of positional movement in zonal defending, whether it is with three or four players in the defense. It also describes how the midfielders and forwards have to move. Additionally to the theoretical background it also describes training exercises used by different Italian coaches, like Sacchi, Lippi, Zaccheroni, Prandelli or Capello. The exercises might be new but the general concepts and positioning in zonal defending you can also read in Zauli’s book Modern Soccer Tactics. It also follows Zauli’s book with the bad translation. So, why would you like to pay twenty bucks for the book? If you are not interested in every extra piece of information about Italian soccer, you shouldn’t. As a standalone book it is interesting to read to understand Italian defending but with the other literature out there, you should save the money for a book which covers more tactical principles than Tossani’s book has to offer.

Biography: 0/3
History: 0/3
Background: 0/3
Tactics & Game philosophy: 2/3

Next book: Ist doch ein geiler Verein (German, Oct 17th)

Soccer – Modern Tactics

Italy’s Top Coaches Analyze Game Formations Through 180 Situations

Alessandro Zauli, 2002, Reedswain Books & Videos

If it is said, that the players of a team shift there positions according to the textbook, this book might be the one their coach has read. Just reading the chapter titles will tell you that these are the basics of the game. For example: Chapter 1: Defensive stage with 4 players, 1.1. Coming out and control the opponent in possession, 1.2. Passing the marking duties from one defender to the next, 1.3. To neutralize deep penetrating runs, a.s.o.
The book covers the basics of defending for the defense and the midfield, for 3 or 4 players in defense and also how to play the ball in the offense. Step by step all possible situations are explained, some training exercises are recommended and finally two Italian top coaches are interviewed after every chapter, when their preferred system was described before. Therefore this book is ideal to learn about the basic tactical movements, to follow them later watching a game. It is not about the overall match plan but the little things, how to move to one side with the whole defense line, how to double a player the right way, how to play with inferior number. Additionally to that the interviews allow some insights in every coaches philosophy and therefore they are a wonderful introduction to Italian soccer. For me, the book made me appreciate Italian soccer the first time and allowed me to understand the strong tactical education players will get in Italy. Usually that is seen in a negative way, when it is used to defend perfectly, but it created dominance of Italian clubs in the 80s and 90s because the players were more intelligent and educated.
There is one downside to the book and that is the translation, which is, quite frankly, horrible. One get’s used to the slang and can read through it but it limits the pleasure of reading a lot. A got English editor could improve the book so much, that it could get the credit for the excellent content, it deserves.

Biography: 0/3
History: 0/3
Background: 0/3
Tactics & Game philosophy: 3/3

Must read for: No One >> Fans of soccer tactics >> Soccer fans >> All readers