Corriere Dello Sport (Alberto Polverosi) It’s an attacking style, football played on the wings, with overlapping full backs and forward runs from the midfielders. It’s pleasing on the eye, but it never loses its sense of balance. So there is always a bit of confusion when comparing Di Francesco’s 4-3-3 with Zeman’s 4-3-3, which is only ever done in order to talk about the master and the apprentice. It’s difficult to find a Di Francesco side that leaves itself completely open; they are well-organised in defence and like to hit teams on the counter, but also never forget that they can be hit on the break themselves in the blink of an eye. Zeman, on the other hand, plays much more aggressively and much higher up the pitch.
Di Francesco began coaching Sassuolo in 2012, in Serie B, and has remained there – except for a brief interlude (when Malesani took charge between the end of January to the start of March in 2014) – for 5 seasons. Each year, there has been a step forward. He has grown together with his team, and had probably his best season in Emilia when he took his team to the Europa League last season. The team has frequently changed during his time in charge, but there have been 4 pillars who have stayed: centre back Acerbi, regista Magnanelli, midfielder Missiroli and forward Berardi.
Magnanelli enables his team to play a well-thought out style of football. He comes from a breed of intelligent players, born to play in the middle of the pitch, capable of reading the game more quickly than others. He is the sort of player that gives the most exact idea of Di Francesco’s style of football. Short passes and long passes, but most important is tempo and synchronicity. The regista starts the action for Di Francesco’s teams, which involves the 2 full backs pushing up (last season, Vrsaljko did this perfectly) at the same time as the 2 wingers drop back. The 2 full backs push high up the pitch to put crosses in, the wingers drop into the centre to convert them. Vrsaljko-Berardi and Peluso-Sansone, in Sassuolo’s side of last season, were pairs that seemed to be tied together with elastic bands. There was never an overlap that wasn’t perfectly timed.
Roma’s probable next coach likes centre forwards who don’t give the opposition defence a point of reference. Defrel is the ideal player for this: technique, vertical runs, creating space for the 2 wingers – and central midfielders – who often join him in the centre of the attack. In Di Francesco’s 4-3-3, the regista plays in front of the defence but always has options either side. So the 2 central midfielders need to have a lot of pace and stamina if they are to support him and push forward into the spaces that open up higher up the pitch. Missiroli has played this role well and scored a lot in Serie B, and has also found the net in Serie A. The youngster Pellegrini has done even better: 6 goals in his 2nd season in Serie A. He would be ready to return to Rome.