Sat 13 November 2021 | 5:30

Arrigo Sacchi Tactics: The True Maestro

Arrigo Sacchi is one of the greatest coaches in the history, but he has come a long way to get to where he is now. This part will go over Arrigo Sacchi tactics in order to gain a better understanding of this fascinating trip.

Sacchi is considered one of the most excellent managers of all time, and his Milan side (1987–1991) is widely recognized as one of the best club sides in history, and by some, the best of all time. Perhaps many are curious regarding

Arrigo Sacchi tactics at Milan

or even Arrigo Sacchi tactics at Atletico Madrid.

Arrigo Sacchi

never played professional football and instead worked as a shoe salesperson for many years. "I never realized that to become a jockey, you have to have been a horse first," he famously said to those who questioned his qualifications. "Football is the most important of the least important things in life," says another famous Sacchi remark.

When he was named manager of AC Milan in 1987, the Italian maestro led a one-person revolution against defensive football, and while his ideas didn't catch on, his name did. During his four years in command, he achieved the rare achievement of retaining the European Cup and winning one Scudetto and one Coppa Italia. Sacchi's fixation with constructing an attacking side was considered unusual at the time of his employment, as Italy was rife with Helenio Herrera's Catenaccio tendencies.

Arrigo Sacchi Tactics at Milan: How Everything Shaped?

Sacchi's ability to stand out from the crowd helped him advance quickly in the Italian pyramid at a period when the Italian style of football was built on defensive risk aversion. Many believe

Arrigo Sacchi tactics

started here, while there is some truth to that now.

He began his career in Serie C1 with Rimini, where he came close to winning the title. This got the notice of


, who offered him a position as a Youth Coach, giving him his first taste of top-flight football before appointing him as Parma's manager. Arrigo's style of play drew the attention of Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi, who appointed him manager of the Rossoneri in 1987.

Prior to Sacchi's debut, Milan had only won one Serie A title in 20 years. After winning his first Scudetto in his first season in charge, he went on to win four more Scudettos, two European cups, and revolutionized the face of Italian football. Few managers in history can compare to Arrigo Sacchi in terms of the best team he has ever guided.

Between 1987 and 1991, Sacchi coached AC Milan for four seasons, winning only one Serie A title — and that in his first year in command, when he also won the Italian Super Cup. Sacchi, on the other hand, is best known for the team's accomplishments in Europe. Back-to-back European Cup titles in 1989 and 1990, followed by European Super Cup victories on both occasions, were the result of a synergy between world-class players and the work of a visionary, nonconformist, and revolutionary coach.

All of this led up to an undefeated season and the team's first championship since the Calciopoli disaster.

Arrigo Sacchi tactics

were all about making extreme runs, pressing opponents in the best way possible, fast transitions, and hard work rate.

Sacchi did not arrive in Milan with much enthusiasm. He had spent the majority of his 14-year managerial career in the lower echelons of Italian football, but he had led Parma to the Serie C1 title in 1986 – and his team fell just three points short of direct promotion to Serie A the following season.

Sacchi, on the other hand, orchestrated not one but two Coppa Italia victories over mighty

AC Milan

, with a style of play that drew Silvio Berlusconi's attention. In preparation for the start of the 1987-88 season, the Rossoneri's majority ownership acted quickly, choosing Sacchi as a successor for the youthful caretaker manager Fabio Capello.

The Italian's methodology was based on the principles of zones and pressing. Sacchi was never a fan of Catenaccio, the ultra-conservative, defense-first style that had ruled Italian football in the past. Instead, he preferred to be influenced by the Dutch-inspired Total Football idea that arose in the 1970s under the guidance of Rinus Michels.

Sacchi's time at the pinnacle of football was brief and intense by today's standards. After five years in charge of the Italian national team, during which he guided them to the 1994 World Cup final, he returned to Milan for a second tenure before spending his only season outside of Italy with Atletico Madrid. In 2001, he returned to his old club Parma as a head coach for the final time.

Sacchi, unlike many of the great modern coaches, had never played professional football – but that didn't worry him, as one might expect from a man who was happy to flout decades of Italian football history. When asked about it, he famously quipped, "I never realized you had to be a horse first to become a jockey." Sacchi's first task after arriving in Milan was to establish a new team culture.

He wanted his players to abandon the traditional Italian mentality of defending close to their own goal in favor of becoming a proactive team that defended on the offensive end of the field.   Instead, he wanted to be influenced by Rinus Michels's Dutch-inspired Total Football concept, which originated in the 1970s.

By today's standards, Sacchi's time at the summit of football was brief and fierce. He returned to Milan for a second stint after five years in command of the Italian national team, during which he led them to the 1994 World Cup final, before spending his only season outside of Italy with

Atletico Madrid

. For the final time in 2001, he returned to his old club Parma as a head coach.

In his autobiography, he later noted, "The football I wanted was aggressive also in the defensive phase." "By pressuring, the players had to become protagonists." Sacchi taught his forwards how to put pressure on their opponents' center defenders throughout their build-up and ball control. This was centered on a solid 4-4-2 shape, in which all players needed to be aware of their positional responsibilities.

The Italian coach insisted on his team forming a short and compact block, with no more than 25 meters separating the defensive and offensive lines. As a result, pressing did not require much physical effort from his players, and those behind the first line of pressure could organize and act quickly if that line was broken. It was also impossible for any opponent to find true and effective passing alternatives as a result of this.

Arrigo Sacchi Tactics at Italy: Fly to the Sky

After failing to qualify for the 1992 European Championship, Federcalcio signed legendary Milan head coach Arrigo Sacchi to lead the Azzurri through World Cup qualifying in 1994. 

Arrigo Sacchi tactics at Italy

were incredibly demanding since he wanted his side to maintain possession of the ball while simultaneously putting constant pressure on his players to return the ball as swiftly as possible.

Sacchi, as expected, accepted the job and continued on his path to greatness. It was criticized since he left certain well-known and popular players at home, including Inter goalkeeper Walter Zenga and Juventus forward Gianluca Vialli. Simply put, none of them were suited to Arrigo Sacchi's 4-4-2 formation and could not cope with the demands of the former Milan coach's tactical style.

Sacchi always highlighted the importance of daily work in order to achieve this final goal. He put his players through a number of workouts, many of which required teamwork from the entire squad. Sacchi began requesting clubs to enable their players to join special Azzurri training camps throughout the season, while he also worked with them carefully during the international breaks because this technique takes time for the players to comprehend.

In reality, Sacchi's football was incredibly demanding since he wanted his side to maintain possession of the ball while simultaneously putting constant pressure on his players to return the ball as swiftly as possible.

Roberto Baggio

was the man in charge over there. 

Despite having some impact on Sacchi's tactical style, he was nevertheless forced to roam around the latter third of the field in accordance with the team's pattern. As a result, it was unusual to see Roberto Baggio drop back to cover passing lines or pick up the ball between opposing lines. Furthermore, Roberto Baggio linked the midfield to the attack by passing to the outside or passing to the opposition forward up front.

Roberto Baggio was essentially an aggressive midfielder who was given the chance to play as a forward higher up in the final third. When Roberto Baggio's mobility was combined with that of others, it resulted in a plethora of tactical patterns that allowed Italy to dictate the opposition's defensive structure and compactness.

These patterns usually ran down the wings, from which Italy might attack or begin a change of play by using both no.6 and no.8 to reach the weak side or attack behind the opposing backline. Another key player in Italy's offense was the seasoned Franco Baresi. Baresi, a former libero who was converted to a centre-back at Milan by the same Sacchi, was a key figure in the Azzurri's defensive development.

He frequently received the ball from the goalkeeper and began the process of moving the ball out of the back through an outside pass to the fullback or a pass through the middle to central midfielders Demetrio Albertini or Dino Baggio. A triangle was formed by Baresi, the near full-back, and the central midfielder. 

As a substitution, Baresi was able to get ahead of the game and reach the middle, giving Sacchi's team a numerical advantage, as these high likely be the collection of Arrigo Sacchi tactics at Italy.

A comparison with Argentina's Jorge Sampaoli during the 2018 FIFA World Cup will help you grasp Sacchi's approach. Sampaoli molded a team around Lionel Messi, who became Argentina's offensive focal point.

Lionel Messi

was given the task of resolving Argentina's offensive woes, while his teammates had to adjust their game to the no.10's position.

Sacchi took a different approach: he never asked a single player, not even Ruud Gullit or Marco van Basten at AC Milan, to lead his squad. According to Sacchi, a player is a member of a structured team that allows him to develop his individual skills.

The Journey of Arrigo Sacchi Tactics at Atletico Madrid

The modern Italian way inspired

Arrigo Sacchi tactics at Atletico Madrid

. Arrigo Sacchi announced his appointment as Atletico Madrid manager in December 1996. When Arrigo Sacchi announced his "resignation" as coach of the Spanish club yesterday morning, he became the club's 23rd manager in the last 12 years, during which time the club has been controlled by a property magnate and former Mayor of Marbella, Jesus Gily Gil.

When reporters went looking for Gil yesterday, they found him at Marbella's district court, where he was about to answer some of the 80 charges currently pending against him in connection with an alleged fraud and tax evasion scheme involving his real estate empire, Atletico Madrid, and the city hall of Marbella. Gil, who is never short of words, took a moment to comment on Sacchi's departure.

"Sacchi stepped down gracefully. His systems were never fully understood by the players. After that, he was never able to field the same team twice due to a variety of factors such as players quitting or becoming injured."

You would think that Sacchi "jumped" rather than being "pushed" by Atletico after hearing it. The truth is that an Atletico board meeting on Sunday morning, presided over by Gil over the phone, had already resolved to fire the Italian coach.

Sacchi's fate was all but decided after a 2-1 home loss to Espanyol on Saturday night. Following league losses to Salamanca and Valencia, as well as a Spanish Cup loss to Real Sociedad, fans not only booed Sacchi, but Atletico also dropped to ninth place in the league, 11 points behind champions



That was enough to convince Gil that the time had arrived for his favorite winter sport: coach dismissal. In principle, Atletico had to do something ahead of their UEFA Cup quarter-final match against AS Roma of Serie A. It was, to a significant part, more than predictable.

Sacchi, on the other hand, surprised everyone by storming into a press conference yesterday morning, announcing not just his resignation but also saying that he will never work in soccer again. "I'm officially retiring from soccer. I'm no longer going to work as a coach. I had planned to conclude my career with Atletico, but things have simply become too difficult for me here. I'm unhappy in Madrid, and I'm tired of football."

Perhaps these were hastily spoken words that would quickly be forgotten. Sacchi, at 52, is hardly entitled to his free bus pass, but it's possible that he'll jump back on board when the worldwide management merry-go-round swings back in his direction. Sacchi, on the other hand, could be implying exactly what he said yesterday based on his previous three management experiences. His decision to turn down a $4.8m "golden handshake" from Atletico could be the result of an enraged employee dissatisfied with his working conditions.

Sacchi, on the other hand, will not be left bankrupt, since he will receive around $3.3m in annual remuneration for this season and the first half of next. Sacchi ascended from obscurity with then-second division


to lead AC Milan to Italian, European, and World victory in the late 1980s. Sacchi also became Italy's national coach, taking the team to the 1984 World Cup final.

Those were the days when everything seemed to be going well. Since the Italians' loss to Brazil in the final, though, little has gone well for Sacchi. When his "arrogance" - he altered a winning team - was blamed for Italy's early elimination from the Euro '96 championships in England, his tenure of the Italian national team ended in scandal and ignominy. Sacchi returned to AC Milan in December 1996 after leaving the Italian national team, but things went from bad to worse.

He took over at a club that had won four of the previous five Italian league titles under Fabio Capello, but his team was out of the Champions League and Italian Cup before Christmas, out of European play at the end of a disastrous league season, and out of a job. Sacchi decided to take a break from professional soccer for a year to heal his wounds before returning to the fray with Atletico last summer. Some of Sacchi's present troubles undoubtedly began then.

Important Thing about Arrigo Sacchi Tactics at Milan: Inventor of the Italian Total Football

let your hair down, this is the story of

Arrigo Sacchi tactics

. Sacchi has the advantage of inheriting a fully established squad in terms of the lineup. Milan, in fact, were the first team to bring European titles home, sparking a tactical revolution in the form of Catenaccio, which launched Italian football's supremacy in the 1960s with the Grande Inter squad and Nereo Rocco's Rossoneri side.

Catenaccio, on the other hand, had run its course and Italian football was on the decline. Milan had been taken over by media billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, who wanted to see the red and black of Milan succeed.

After a stunning defeat to Parma over two legs in the cup, Berlusconi appointed Arrigo Sacchi as Milan's coach in the midst of a difficult decade in the 1980s — a decade that saw Milan relegated twice.  As previously said, Catenaccio was common in Italian football, but its dominance was diminishing as managers from other regions of Europe discovered a way to disrupt the infamous strategy.

Catenaccio was a strategy that relied heavily on man-to-man marking and the concept of defensive full-backs in order to consistently outnumber the other team's attackers. A Sweeper or Libero was frequently used as a backup defender.

Cesare Maldini was the sweeper for Milan, whereas Armando Picchi was the sweeper for Inter. Catenaccio used a 1-3-3-3 or a 1-4-3-2 formation. The team would man-mark the player who won the ball back and rapidly counter-attack, which usually relied on a smart No.110 like Milan's golden kid Gianni Rivera. Sacchi approached management from a very different angle.

He intended to bring a distinct style after being influenced by Rinus Michels, Ernst Happel, and Brazilian football. When he became Milan's coach in 1987, he recruited Ancelotti from Roma, Ruud Gullit from PSV, and Van Basten from


. It's possible to break down his playing style into facets to better comprehend it. Milan utilized a 4-4-2 system under Sacchi, which was uncommon in Serie A at the time.

If Catenaccio's system was all about man-marking, Sacchi's was all about zonal marking, in which players were expected to mark a certain region of the field rather than a specific player. This is done in order to cram as much space between the lines as possible and win the ball back as quickly as possible. The Libero's role was gone in this system, and Baresi was viewed as a proactive defense who snuffed out attacks before they got serious.

Milan prefers to use zonal marking rather than man-marking, so learning how to defend using cover shadows, or as it is now known, blocking away passing pathways for the guy in possession, was critical. Sacchi had his players practice shadow play on the practice field in order to educate them how to press structurally as a team by blocking off passing lanes in order to force mistakes from the opposing players in possession. Carlo Ancelotti, who Sacchi characterized as "not the most physically thrilling but played football in his head," was one of the pioneers of this press.

When the ball was in midfield, Ancelotti frequently initiated the press, which Milan benefited from with a few tactical modifications. Ancelotti would leave his position to push the player in possession, and Baresi would frequently step out of possession to assist Ancelotti. Sacchi wanted a strong effort rate from his wide players in Donadoni and Colombo in order to maintain the team's defensive form and initiate rapid counters.

One of the most significant aspects of playing this press while keeping a high line was the team's ability to stay compact on the field. The distance between the three lines of players was expected to be no more than 15-20 meters.

When Milan signed

Frank Rijkaard

in the summer of 1988, the 'Three Dutchmen' moniker was fulfilled. Rijkaard provided Sacchi's Milan with the physical presence he needed to complete his team. Rijkaard worked as Ancelotti's go-between. He could make tackles, press hard, operate as a defender for the back four, and even run and play as a third player in attack. Ancelotti's defensive load was lightened as a result of his arrival, and he was free to exploit the opposition with his wide range of passing skills.

Ancelotti was relieved of defensive responsibilities after Milan signed Frank Rijkaard. He'd shift further left from the center, with Maldini pushing up as an advancing full-back to provide a passing option, and Colombo and Donadoni moving infield into the half-spaces, with Donadoni or Maldini providing the most of the width. Milan did not squander any time on the ball.

Instead of playing ineffective sideways passes, they continually strove to make their helpful attack. Milan would often play fast one-touch vertical passes with Ancelotti moving the ball out, producing various passing combinations such as triangles.

Sacchi was aiming for a complete paradigm shift in the way players viewed football. As a result, he sought to create unique training methods that encouraged fluidity and produced a crystal clear image of what he desired.

Shadow play was one such way in which players practiced without using a football. As outlined in the movement drill, Sacchi would signal the ball's position, and players would arrange themselves according to the movement required to press or pass.

Another strategy was to play with a numerical deficit, which forced the players to work harder in practice. The most incredible thing was that all of the players were incredibly intelligent, physically capable, and eager learners who put in a lot of practice time.

A Conclusion on Arrigo Sacchi Tactics

Sacchi advocated for players who could play multiple roles. He disliked specialists and wanted all of his players to be capable of doing everything on the pitch, which is why his interchanging 4-4-2 worked so effectively. In fact, all the success in the club can sum up in

Arrigo Sacchi tactics at Milan


His strikers chased, and his defenders pushed up, while his midfielders were well-rounded and functional in all areas. His team was built on teamwork, and it was through teamwork, they became one of the best football teams ever.

When Bayern pipped PSG to win the UEFA Champions League in 2020, you could see Bayern employing several themes that Sacchi popularized during his time at Milan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His physically demanding style of football took its toll on the players, with sports medicine and training facilities that were not as advanced as modern-day equipment.

Sacchi departed Milan in 1991 to join the Italian national team. He came close to repeating Milan's World Cup win with the Azzurri in 1994, only to be denied by Roberto Baggio's penalty miss.

After a failed term at Atletico Madrid, Sacchi had already established himself as a football icon. Arrigo Sacchi's career after his first Milan spell left a lot to be desired, despite reaching the World Cup final with Italy. But this was how he spent the majority of his professional life, in an out-of-the-ordinary way.

So, even if his time at the top was brief, it was not without incident. He once remarked that he used to coach his players so hard that he didn't have much more to give most of the time. That was the man's glory. So there you have it! AC Milan's Arrigo Sacchi tactics are well explained.

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