Date: 14th May 2011 at 5:02pm
Written by:

Carlo Ancelotti’s love affair with Chelsea seems to be coming to an end, Carlo is the man that Roman Abramovich had supposedly wanted as the original replacement for Jose Mourinho. Ancelotti talked in his biography (written before he had officially become Chelsea manager) about how Roman loved to talk football, how they would have unofficial talks on what Carlo would do if he were Chelsea manager and what players he thought Chelsea would need to become a better team, a team with more identity.

The suggestion Carlo put forward were that Chelsea were too mechanic, that Chelsea lacked craft, he mentioned two names as players he would attempt to bring in to the club to change their style, the two names were Xabi Alonso and Franck Ribery. The big question is, if before Carlo had come to Chelsea he had identified signings like Ribery and Xabi Alonso as players who would make Chelsea more successful, then why is the first choice starting eleven generally identical to the starting eleven that Ancelotti determined was mechanical and a team that lacked craft?

Even if the likes of Ribery and Xabi Alonso were not possible, why have Chelsea not bought players of a similar ilk?

Understanding Italian footballing philosophies, is to understand why Carlo even suggested the aforementioned in the first place. In England and many other countries the composition of a team is more basic, for instance, most teams today play a 4-3-3 formation and so the manager would want to make sure he has a goalkeeper, 2 centre backs, a right and a left fullback, a defensive midfielder, 2 central midfielders, 2 wingers and a striker, that’s usually the general train of thought when they are composing a team.

In Italy they have more defined specific roles that they feel needs to be fulfilled within a formation, the ingredients are more defined, so rather than just a defensive midfielder and 2 central midfielders, they would specifically look for a ‘Regista’, a ‘Tuttofare’ and a midfield destroyer.

Registas are dictators of play they control the game with their passing ability from deep and are considered vital to the cohesion of a team. So, Pirlo was Ancelotti’s regista at Milan, Xavi is the regista at Barcelona, Xabi Alonso is a regista.

You will notice from these three examples, none of these midfielders have an onus to get into the box, to score goals or to be an attacking threat, they’re job is more concerned with controlling the tempo of their midfields team play.

The midfield destroyer role does not need translating, Ancelotti had Gattuso at Milan for this role, this player is not to be confused with a sitting defensive midfielder, for instance, Jon Obi Mikel, this position more describes players like Edgar Davids at Juventus, like Ramires at Chelsea, this player has bundles of energy disrupting the other teams play by constantly haggling them and picking their pockets, this player usually has a rough edge to them and aren’t usually the most technically gifted midfielders.

The third type of midfield player they would seek out for is the Tuttofare, the Tuttofare is basically an all rounder and so he has a mix of all the different roles, the combativeness, the energy and the nomadic nature of a destroyer, but, also with good technical and passing ability too.

Ancelotti clearly thought that we lacked a proper regista, Mikel, whilst maintaining possession doesn’t dictate play, Frank Lampard whilst he can be the hub of possession to a point, he aims to get forward and score goals. Lampard is more of a tuttofare, Michael Essien is a midfield destroyer and Mikel is just a defensive midfielder that is able in possession.

When it comes to the attack, the Italians are specific in its composition as well. The roles they have are the “Prima Punta” the “Seconda Punta” the “Velocista” and the “Fantasista”.

Through the ages there has always been a degree of homogeneity when it comes to formations, a long, long time ago most teams didn’t play with a flat back four, until an innovative successful Brazil NT team soon started a trend to play 4 at the back that has remained dominant in football even up until today. A more recent trend is the 4-3-3 formation, and it is now the preferred formation of most prominent clubs.

If you were to go back 15 years ago, players like Zinidine Zidane, Dennis Bergkamp and Rui Costa would play the number 10 role for their teams and countries, a position you will not find in the now common 4-3-3.

Most Italian teams would have a number 10 deployed behind two strikers, the player would be the fantasista, the word fantasista quite obviously relates to the English word fantasy, these players, like Ribery for instance, are responsible for unlocking defences with fantasy, immediately when people think about unlocking defences they think about defence splitting passes, but, it is not only that, it is having the ability to draw a host of defenders out of position with the skill and awe they possess, creating spaces for the other attackers like the Velocistas and the Prima & Seconda Puntas.