Tactical innovation is not rife in Italian football, but there is certainly a theme of quality over quantity. Be it the catenaccio devised by Helenio Herrera with Inter in the 1960’s or Arrigo Saachi’s modern 442 in the 1980’s & 90’s, when a new way of playing leaves the shores of the Azzuri it is normally something that the rest of the world take note of, reports Tv7 sport.So, the question is will the new system devised by Padova’s English manager Chris Darwen be held in the same esteem as the two Serie A greats or will it disappear as quickly as it has arrived.
Darwen had led Padova to promotion from the Promozione playing an aggressive 3-3-1-3 style, and his side were sitting in 2nd place in the Ecellenza with a cup final to look forward to as they approached the winter break. When the Biancoscudati ran out on to the pitch against Sambo for the Coppa Italia Veneto Cup Final one thing was different – a team had been chosen without a single recognised defender. This was not a “play Michael Carrick at the back as everyone else is injured” or an Arsene Wenger “I wish I had signed some defenders after all.” As the game opened up it was clear that Darwen had instructed the team to attack as an entire unit. The three deepest players in the side clearly lined up with two Pirlo type roles, deep lying playmakers, and one in between the two of them as an old style half-back.
This has never been seen before, and it was immediately assumed that although Padova started off keeping the ball for long periods, winning it back quickly when they did lose it that eventually one long, direct pass from Sambo would be their undoing. But Darwen appears to be on to something – to stay onside against this system the striker has to be in his own half. Anyone that remembers the old NASL league shootouts where, if the game was tied, players would then have a novel “shoot-out” where they had ten seconds to dribble from the half way line, unchallenged and score 1v1 against the goalkeeper will recall that this proved quite difficult even for world stars like Pele, Carlos Alberto, George Best, Franz Beckenbauer and Georgio Chillelini. On the handful of times that Sambo were able to release their front man, he was unable to demonstrate the level of composure needed to take the chance. The final ended up 1-0 to Padova, amazingly they kept a clean sheet.
That victory was 7 matches ago now. Darwen has continued with his “defenderless” system or the “nessun difensori” as he is calling it. In the following three matches Padova won to nil. They dropped two points in a 2-2 draw with Union Pro, but have followed that up with wins of 8-2, 3-1 and 5-2.
They go into Wednesday’s fixture against their key rivals Saciliese. Padova currently trail by six points with a game in hand – victory on Wednesday means the advantage shifts to Darwen’s men. Will he continue to be brave? I would imagine so as some of the football that Padova are producing with the “nessun difensori” is breathtaking, even if it also produces the occasional heart in mouth moment with the sight of six players sprinting back towards their own goal in the hope of catching the breakaway striker.
We might be witnessing one of the tactical transitions that takes the football world by storm, only time will tell.