Sassuolo is not a revelation. Maybe second place is of Sassuolo, but not his game, not his level, not his quality. It is a beautiful team that has recognized itself for years, that season after season lets go of pieces (at a high price …) and inserts others of the same level or even higher. It is a team that wins at San Paolo without three of its best four players, without Djuricic, Berardi and Caputo (the fourth is Locatelli).
De Zerbi is in the third championship with Sassuolo. He finished 8th last season, 11th in 2018-19. The beginning of the growth of this team, however, dates back to a dozen years ago and coaches contributed to it who then showed their value also in other squares, from Allegri to Pioli, up to Di Francesco, the first to trace in Serie A the way of the game. De Zerbi summarized the idea of Sassuolo by directing it on a path that now arouses envy. For years he was considered a fundamentalist, faithful to a single creed, but this season if Sassuolo has reached the peak of its maturity the same can be said of his coach.
LET’S CHOOSE HOW TO LOSE – There is a sentence, accompanied by a clear technical and tactical explanation, which fixes a basic concept of Roberto De Zerbi’s idea of football. After Napoli-Sassuolo 0-2 he said: «I don’t know if playing like this is enough to win, but at least we can choose how to lose». This is the premise that illustrates the change, the end of the idea that Italian football was feeding on De Zerbi’s account. At the San Paolo, Sassuolo deployed the three-man defense. «I lowered the pressure a bit because I respect my players. When you have Osimhen in front, you give him 50 meters of space behind and you don’t bend down, it means that you have no respect for Ferrari and Chriches. Holding them high would have exposed them too much and not all players are the same. In any case we must be able to play three or two ». It is the synthesis that we, from the outside, can define as change, but which has probably always accompanied De Zerbi. Only he had to wait for the right moment to show his full baggage.
THE INTEGRALIST THAT WAS NOT THERE – Seeing football from the stands, we rely too often on clichés. For example, Sarri: he always plays the same way, he never changes, he never gets infected (in the footballing sense). And instead Sarri changes, and how. In Empoli before reaching the rhombus, at 4-3-1-2, he had the team play with 4-2-3-1. In Naples, before arriving at 4-3-3, he fielded it with 4-3-1-2. Yet for many (if not all) he was the faithful blind man of a module. It is up to us, outside observers and ordinary people to label them. So it is simpler, but it is a wrong operation, a too reductive synthesis of a broader thought.
THE SHOW – Sassuolo makes a show, as did the Empoli of Sarri. Playing well, as Bielsa says, is when people have fun and today if you see those neroverdi shirts you have fun, and how. It is profoundly different from Atalanta, another show-team of recent years. The base of Atalanta is dynamic with technical grafts, the base of Sassuolo is technical with dynamic grafts. Ultimately it is a pleasure that in Italian football there is a team like that of De Zerbi.