Andrea Pirlo had never coached a professional game before Juventus made him the replacement to Maurizio Sarri in the summer.
Indeed, Pirlo had to complete his coaching badges and part of that included a thesis entitled 'My Football', with a clear vision of how he sees the game and how he hopes his Juve team will play given time.
And it's probably a lot more progressive than you might think; there is little catenaccio included in his thoughts, and more emphasis on progressive play from defence, utilising goalkeepers in the build-up phase and passing through the lines.
Andrea Pirlo: Key Principles
You can read Pirlo's full thoughts here, graciously translated into English by the team at Juve Canal. But there are some takeaways which can give some insights into Pirlo's style:
1) The two key principles of my idea of football are related to the ball - we want it, and must keep it as long as possible until we attack, and we must have a strong competitive ferocity to go it to recover immediately once lost.
2) We will therefore be looking for technical and dynamic players, giving importance to one-on-one's especially for external players. Through training we want to help players recognise situations and adapt to the increasingly liquid context of matches.
3) The definition and creation of the ideal context (tactical, technical, physical and emotional) to make our players express their best, will be our most important challenge.
4) I would also like to mention the teams that inspired me in formation of my idea of football.
- [Johan] Cruyff's Barcelona
- [Pep] Guardiola’s Barcelona
- [Louis] Van Gaal’s Ajax,
- [Carlo] Ancelotti’s Milan
- [Antonio] Conte’s Juventus.
It's pretty clear that he wants to play possession football, maintain deep control of games and look to build through the lines by identifying weaknesses in how the opposition have set up.
He's obviously not the first coach to be inspired by the teams he refers to, of course, but it's interesting that having spent his entire career in Italy, he has a more broad taste in terms of how he wants his team to play.
Pirlo: Defined roles in the team
Pirlo also makes it clear how he wants each position to play, and what attributes the players he wants must have. Here's some exerts.
Goalkeeper: In addition to the classic characteristics of the goalkeeper in defending the goal, a modern goalkeeper cannot fail to have quality in possession of the ball. The defence of space becomes essential to cover the spaces with a line that is high defensive and aggressive.
Central Defender: Together with the goalkeeper, the role of the central defender is what most changed in the last 30 years.
In possession the defenders have became the first 'directors' of the team, often taking on the task of setting the numerous 'man markings' but now the key passes (ball transmission that overcomes an opposing pressure line) of the central defenders numerically reaches those of the central midfielders.
Full-Backs: It is a very flexible role, they can have characteristics that are very different from each other, but modern football systems assign them various functions. One full-back will ensure volume in attack, while the one who is best at defending can often become a third central defender, while the technically and tactically proficient ones we can use him as an added midfielder in possession.
Central Midfielders: The football of the last 20 years needs the technique of the midfielders. After a period historically dominated by physical midfielders, we have rediscovered the effectiveness of technical players and those with great game vision on the field. Obviously, we must added to these qualities mobility in order to perform multiple functions (construction, and finishing, for example) and especially a mental predisposition in the defensive phase to immediately win the ball back.
Wingers: As with full-backs, wide midfielders are roles with greater flexibility. You can decide to isolate a player who is strong in 1 vs 1s, or to introduce them into the box from the wing, on their inverted foot if we have a technical player who can perform assists. Here, too, winning the ball back in the opposition half remains a fundamental characteristic.
Strikers: Attackers are often among the most talented players with their own particular characteristics. In attacking football with many offensive players (including attacking midfielders and wingers), it is also necessary that the attacker is able to communicate with technique and intelligence with his companions to facilitate their role in the team.
My idea of the construction is to be compact, overcoming one line of pressure at a time without forcing verticalisations or long balls. This principle allows us not to lose our structure and thus be more ready for the defensive transition phase once the ball has been lost.