PAUL ELLIOT: Mancini has transformed Italy's defensive culture

PAUL ELLIOTT: Roberto Mancini has transformed the culture of defensive Italian football and unleashed his midfield with fluidity… he has taken the handbrake off while maintaining the Azzurri’s solid shape

  • Italy are set to face Gareth Southgate’s England side in the Euro 2020 final
  • They have always been known as a team who focuses on not getting beaten 
  • But manager Roberto Mancini has unleashed their creativity in midfield  
  • He’s still kept their defensive shape with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini

The Italians were always so brilliant defensively, that was why Ian Rush suffered when he joined Juventus in 1986. Teams were only playing with one up front and Rush would always play as the lone striker.

I remember marking him and he never had any support. No one would be willing to break forward because there was such a focus on not getting beaten rather than on being creative.

Historically, the whole Italian game was built on a defensive culture or catenaccio — which translates as ‘door bolt’. I saw that as a sadness with Italian football; they always had great midfielders but they were conditioned in that culture, particularly away from home.

Roberto Mancini has totally changed the culture at Italy to make them attack with fluidity 

With their vast technical talent, you couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to break the lines. It’s taken them over 30 years to get out of that way, that culture. In three years Mancini has evolved the team more than anyone over the past 20 years.

Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are two classic ruthless defenders so Mancini has retained the stability. But Italy are so fluid in midfield when they wouldn’t have been before.

The transformation has been unbelievable. He took over three years ago when Italian football was at its lowest ebb. Under Mancini (right) they have changed with the times.

The Azzurri boss has retained their stability with Leonardo Bonucci (L) and Giorgio Chiellini (R) two typically classic ruthless defenders

He has managed in Italy, Russia, Turkey and England and he has evolved too. He has seen that you have to bring that flexibility. 

He has put together those experiences he embraced in club management and created this model for Italian football. Mancini has built a team in his own identity, how he played the game and how he wants the game to be played. 

Discipline, professionalism, built on defence, but he has let the handbrake off — that’s the biggest single change. 

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