Jurgen Klopp’s arrival on Liverpool’s bench, as a consequence of Brendan Rodgers sacking, contributed to liven up an otherwise boring International break with everyone breathlessly awaiting to see the ex Borussia Dortmund manager debut in the Premier League. Finally on Saturday lunch-time kickoff, the Reds faced Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
For the third year in a row the Serie A has started in Verona, at the Stadio Bentegodi, where Hellas Verona and Roma initiated the first match-day of the season.
The 2014/2015 campaign was a disappointing one for Napoli: it started badly with the elimination against the underdog Athletic Bilbao in the Champions League play-offs, and ended even worse, with the 2-4 home loss to Lazio that saw the Partenopei miss out on Champions League football for the second consecutive year. During his second year in charge, Benitez took a consistent step back, yet one of the worst season in his coaching career, surprisingly got him one of the most craved job in football.
After the departure of their former manager, this was a summer of changes in Naples, with a lot of new faces coming in, both in the technical staff and in the player roster.
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Salida de balón desde la defensa. Von hinten heraus aufbauen. Costruzione dalla difesa. Build-up from the back. A tactical principle more and more widespread among European teams and managers, on the spur of the incredible feats achieved by Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona a few years ago, and still grounded in Luis Enrique’s Barca of the triplete 2.0. Tiki-taka always arose from the heart of the defence, with the involvement in build-up play of the goal-keeper Victor Valdes and of the two centre-backs Puyol and Piqué first, Piqué and Mascherano then, often helped by the pivoté Busquets, a cultist of the “salida lavolpiana”, the tactical mechanism consisting in the lowering of one of the midfielders in between the widening central defenders of the back four, in order to create the needed numerical advantage to move the ball from the defence.
So, bid farewell to the long balls from a half of the pitch to the other, and clear the path for reasoned webs of passes, with the defenders that now have to follow through the rest of the team in possession, touching an increasing number of balls. Inevitably, individual technique becomes more and more important for a centre-back, with the antiquated limited defender ready to kick everything that moves over the pitch (legs included), consigned to the oblivion. But great technical ability is not enough. Tactical intelligence, composure on the ball, sense of position and good decision-making abilities, are all qualities needed for the role of the ball-playing defender. But centre-halves with all this kind of different abilities are a rare breed. So uncommon that even in Guardiola’s starting XI, was the defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano the one who filled the role every time Puyol needed a rest, before permanently taking his starting spot, at the time of the Masia-raised captain retirement from football
In the italian Serie A, the ball-playing defender par excellence, is Italian, plays for Juventus and for “la Nazionale”. His name is Leonardo Bonucci
Now it’s official. Arturo Vidal is a new Bayern player, for a reported fee of 37M € plus other 3M € of eventual bonuses. As soon as Bastian Schweinsteiger was sold to Manchester United and reunited with his mentor Louis Van Gaal, the Bavarian club chose Vidal as the player to replace their charismatic midfielder. With a blitzkrieg like negotiation, they found the agreement with the Chilean midfielder, still in his home-nation after the victorious Copa America campaign (he will earn a salary in the region of 6M €/per year), and with Juventus, Vidal’s club for the past four seasons. Ironically, when in 2011 Vidal joined Juventus from Leverkusen, Bayern back then trainer Jupp Heynckes, explicitly wanted to add the midfielder he already coached at Leverkusen to his roster: even if Die Roten offer was greater than the 12,5M € (bonuses included) paid by Juventus, Leverkusen management decided to sell their player in a foreign country, to not strengthen a potential domestic rival.
During 2014/2015 season, Genoa were one of the most electrifying and astonishing teams of the Serie A, particularly during the second part of the season. They clinched the 6th position, the last valid for European football qualification, but the FIGC denied them the UEFA licence and subsequently the possibility to compete in next season Europa League. As if that were not enough, their European spot was taken by their archrivals of Sampdoria, making their exclusion even more bitter.