As my Italian swear-word vocabulary is vastly improving, along with developing predilections to specific types of pasta, one could say I’m settling in quite nicely in Florence. Still, nothing beats my appetite for football at the minute. Since that infamous phone call at 4 in the morning after which I’ve learnt I’m now the manager, I’m taking things as seriously as one possibly can. I’ve even been given funding to get better at it:
So yesterday I called Ottaviano (yes, we’re pretty much pals now) to discuss the broader strategy of the club and to propose my vision on the future of this fantastic new member of the Calcio scene. In the last meeting we’ve decided upon some generic principles:
- play an attractive style of football, focusing on entertaining fans as much as possible
- focus on developing and ‘nurturing’ local talent and prioritize keeping them at the club over financial gains
- to not play defensive football and to have the liberty to improvise in all club matters
Apart from point 2, everything else is still widely open to interpretation, so I’ve decided to propose an all-encompassing club strategy that would clarify the finer details. One of the beauties of running a football club is that there are hundreds of elements that contribute to what we see on the pitch, from infrastructure to fans, from coaches to youth recruitment. Having a clearly defined common goal is crucial in that sense if there is any hope of achieving anything in football. Whilst I’m no Cruyff to come in with some revolutionary idea of football and shape the club from top to bottom to achieve a specific style of football, I am similarly inclined to believe that there are a few areas of quality that influence how efficient a football team is both, collectively and individually. In my vision, the club will work to educate these values and qualities in footballers from the youth set-up all the way to the senior team:
Football can be perceived as chess or maths in a sense, however even there you have figures capable of more complex actions which can ‘unlock’ the game. To define this word in the football context is hard, however my interpretation of it is based on the players’ individual ability to find solutions in complicated situations and the team’s ability to manipulate the de-facto situation on the pitch to its’ advantage.
Intimately related to Creativity, football intelligence is perhaps even more un-quantifiable than the latter. A player’s understanding of the situations of play, his ability to make the right decision at the right moment, his ability to anticipate the opponent’s move, all these are indications of a high element of cognition within the parameters that the football game sets out. So yes, a matter of the brain as well.
Imagining what you can do without the means to do it…means you’re just imagining it. In this context, the above two qualities are far less effective if the player/team can not perform them technically, so it’s crucial if not natural that the third and last concept of our DNA relates to the feet more than the brain.
All in all, and resonating with the 3-point philosophy we have set out initially, these are the attributes that training will focus on throughout all levels, wel… in FM terms:
- composure, vision, concentration, decisions, anticipation, teamwork
- technique, first touch, passing, stamina
The style of football I will be looking to play will evolve and develop according to the squad I will have at my disposal, however the focus will always be to exploit these qualities whether we play high tempo or low tempo, high block or low block, wing-based or exploit the middle… As for formations, I am inclined towards an asymmetric (khm khm) 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 as the skeleton of our shape, however I keep my options flexible in that sense. Almost fluid, actually…
And when it comes to ‘not playing defensive football’, what we’ve agree that means is that I will by no means look to play ‘the catenaccio’ or ‘long-ball’ or any kind of destructive forms of football. The fans want goals, beautiful pro-active football, team-play and that’s what me and the Prince want too….
This vision is of course, closely related to the infrastructure of the club and we will be looking to invest as much as possible in training facilities and coaching staff, or otherwise it will be practically impossible to shape up these qualities in our players through training.
Developing local talent is the other key element of the club strategy, and it fits well into the overall purpose of the approach, as having a home-grown squad helps team cohesion on and off the pitch, as well as… of course, the input in the nation’s development as a larger football set-up. In that sense we will have a strict signing policy:
- The club is only allowed to sign Italian nationals aged 21 or under
- Any player of a nationality other than Italian (except dual citizenship) that is brought through by the club’s youth system is ineligible to play for the club
This is the long term vision and the club strategy we have agreed on and while there are, of course a number of finer details of the ramifications it will have in day to day management (PPM training, Role training/re-training, tutoring, etc.) the direction is now clear and the club can move forward laying the foundations.
The first few years will see us play in the amateur levels of Italian football, which will make it very hard to have a consistent squad with which I can start building blocks. The turnover of players will be massive, if I suspect correctly, so the short-term approach is to bring the club to a position of stability from where we can start building towards the above mentioned direction. This means one particular task, which will be accomplished by results and promotions to higher divisions: turn professional! (at all costs)
If we can’t keep or train players, everything else turns to ashes, so immediate results are needed with the bunch of kids I managed to gather around the city. In the next part we will be looking at the tactical aspects of our fresh experience in the Italian lower leagues 🙂