Zdenek Zeman is a famous coach in Europe in general but in Italy in particular. The chain smoking Czech has taken charge of some of the most attacking teams in Italian football history with his all out attack style usually seeing loads of goals both scored and conceded. When Massimo Oddo was sacked last week after failing to secure Pescara a single win on the pitch this season (their only win was because Sassuolo fielded an ineligible player), president Daniele Sebastiani turned to Zeman to try and perform a miracle by keeping Pescara up or to sow the seeds for a promotion campaign next season. Zeman has history with Pescara and Sebastiani after leading an exciting team to promotion in 2011/12. That team included emerging talents like Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile and the attacking style saw the swashbuckling side score 90 goals, 45 at home and 45 away, on their way to promotion to Serie A.
With Zeman’s preference for young players he can mould, it was interesting he fielded such an experienced side at home to Genoa on Sunday as Pescara have so many young stars. In his classic 4-3-3 formation he lined up with the following men against Genoa’s 3-4-3: Bizzarri; Zampano-Coda-Stendardo-Biraghi; Memushaj-Bruno-Verre; Benali-Cerri-Caprari.
Intense man-oriented press
Zeman pushed his three forwards up against Genoa’s back three and the two central midfielders performed man-marking on Genoa’s central midfielders in order to stop Genoa from playing.
Here we see it again. The free-players for Genoa becomes the wing-backs and the ball-far attacking midfielder as Pescara’s defensive midfielder Alessandro Bruno picks up the ball-near attacking midfielder of Genoa. If the ball is played to the wing-backs, the full back on the ballside should step up to press. Zeman therefore mixes man-marking with positional defending as the defenders aren’t man-marking like the midfielders and forwards.
Here, Genoa’s right wing-back Lazovic has got the ball with Pescara left back Cristiano Biraghi pressing him. This is done just outside of Genoa’s penalty area, a common view in a Zeman system. Seven Pescara players can here be seen pressing in Genoa’s first third of the pitch.
Similar situation nine minutes later, with seven Pescara players just outside Genoa’s penalty area pressing the visitors and disrupting their build up play.
Combinations and third man runs key to goals
Going forward, Zeman advocates vertical passes and at least five players getting into the penalty area (the three strikers and two central midfielders) with full backs bombing on. After only a few days at the club, we could see basics of Zeman’s philosophy in the goals Pescara scored, each coming from combinations, third man runs and vertical passes in behind the opposition.
This is the first goal with Bruno pressed in midfield, he uses a deep run from Cerri (out of frame) to play the ball behind Genoa’s defensive line.
Cerri beats Burdisso to the ball, goes round the goalkeeper Lamanna and his shot is deflected in by Orban.
The second goal was brilliant. Caprari took a corner short, got the ball back and played it back to Biraghi (circled). The left back’s laser pass went into the space to Caprari who made the run in behind and finished calmly. Straight from the training ground.
Third goal where Memushaj is highlighted after playing a pass to Cerri.
Cerri lays it back to the Albanian who’s made a run away from his marker.
Memushaj then plays the through ball to Ahmad Benali who easily made it 3-0. Fantastic combination play.
Fourth goal now. Bruno beats Orban to a loose ball and plays it to Caprari.
Caprari flicks it round his marker to Memushaj.
Memushaj lays it back to Caprari.
Caprari then dribbles away from Burdisso and places his finish well to make it four.
For the fifth and final goal of the rout, a crossfield pass is sent to Simone Pepe. The former Juventus man receives the ball and uses the third man run from Zampano to whom a pass is dinked over Laxalt.
Zampano finds too much space between left centre back and wing-back as Genoa have failed to shift across and Zampano’s low cross is met by Cerri who scores easily.
Zdenek Zeman’s second reign as Pescara boss got off to the absolutely perfect start as he led them to their first win (on the pitch) of the season by mauling Genoa 5-0. It was well deserved for the players as they have played well all season but failed to score before conceding easily at the other end. Most amazingly, they kept a clean sheet, a bit surprising given their recent record and the new man in charge. Zeman, after all, once famously said he would rather lose 5-4 than draw 0-0, as the loss would at least have given the crowd some entertainment. On Sunday, no Pescara supporter weren’t entertained. Is the miracle possible?
Juventus keep winning at the top, and a home game against Palermo was hardly going to break that incredible run of home wins. Two goals from Paulo Dybala and one each from Claudio Marchisio and Gonzalo Higuain secured the 4-1 win which kept the gap at the top.
Juve are advised to keep winning as their closest rivals for the title won comfortably at home to Torino bi mirroring Juve’s 4-1 score. Roma simply had too much for Toro and goals from Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah, Leandro Paredes and Radja Nainggolan meant Maxi Lopez strike for Toro meant little. 4-1 for Spalletti’s men, and they look really, really good now. Roma also won 4-0 away at Villarreal in Europa League, impressive.
Napoli won at Chievo despite Sarri resting Mertens, Diawara, Zielinski and Albiol from the Champions League loss at Real Madrid. Lorenzo Insigne, Marek Hamsik and substitute Piotr Zielinski got the goals as Napoli keep up the tempo with the two top teams and keep the distance down to Inter and Atalanta, who both won.
Atalanta did so by beating Crotone in Bergamo on Saturday night in a tight game which ended 1-0. The goal was scored by Andrea Conti, his second goal in two games. Conti has had a terrific season, and along with teammates Andrea Petagna, Mattia Caldara and Leonardo Spinazzola was called up to a training camp under Giampiero Ventura’s national coaches. The squad consist of mainly young players from the smaller clubs in Serie A and Serie B, but credit to the youngsters at Atalanta. Incredibly, Atalanta are now fourth, level on points with Inter in fifth.
Inter won at Stefano Pioli’s former club Bologna as the only goal of the game was scored by Gabriel Barbosa, his first for Inter. The Brazilian came on with fifteen minutes remaining but grabbed the winner after only six minutes on the pitch. Pioli’s transformation of Inter is phenomenal to say the least.
Lazio fought off a strong Empoli on Saturday as the visitors from Rome turned the game around and won 2-1. Rade Krunic got the opener, but Ciro Immobile and Balde Keita made sure Lazio didn’t lose more ground on Atalanta and Inter in the race for Europa League qualification.
Milan and Fiorentina faced off at San Siro, and Gerard Deulofeu proved his quality by scoring a superb winner. Juraj Kucka got the opener when he headed home a free kick, but Nikola Kalinic equalised after a great cross from Federico Chiesa. Deulofeu then beautifully curled home the winner and showed he might grow into an important member of this Milan.
Gregoire Defrel was the hero for Sassuolo when they definitely secured their place in next season’s Serie A. Defrel scored two quick goals to turn the game around after Seko Fofana had given Udinese the lead after only seven minutes. Big win for Sassuolo who has really stepped up after the Christmas break.
Sampdoria and Cagliari drew 1-1 at Luigi Ferrari’s, which meant Sampdoria’s unbeaten run continues. Mauricio Isla gave Cagliari the lead but that lead was quickly cancelled out by Fabio Quagliarella. A good point for Cagliari who has impressed this season and are comfortably safe.
Player of the week
Gianluca Caprari scored two and thrived under Zdenek Zeman in the new coach’s first game in charge.
Coach of the week
Zdenek Zeman secured Pescara a first win of the season by thumping Genoa 5-0.
Goal of the week
Leandro Paredes superb strike for Roma was something special.