Tag Archive for 'Serie A'

A psychological assessment of Serie A standings

After 15 games played, the first part of the Serie A championship has closed .

Based on the results obtained by the top six teams, some observations can be made.

Outstanding was the progression of Napoli, which won 13 games while drawing only two. The goodness of the team’s cohesion is evident, in addition to its quality in the game, every player plays for the team and there has been no display of jubilation beyond the obvious satisfaction and this is certainly a sign of psychological maturity of everyone, coach, staff and players, who have thus shown that they are strongly centered on the goal to be achieved in every single game without being distracted by the euphoria of the top spot in the standings and the distance of as many as 9 and 10 points from the nearest pursuers.

Milan occupies the second position but must better tolerate the top moments of the calendar, because together with Lazio they have lost two of their last four games, allowing Napoli to take a considerable lead before this long break.

Inter and it seems to me also its coach need to improve in dealing with difficult moments, for although it has won 10 games it has, however, five. This seesaw of results has been a constancy at this stage of the league and beyond tactical issues and the absence of some players, I think it is also due to mental order difficulties in the team in remaining united and compact even when it is not winning.

Juventus had a disastrous start in terms of results determined by the many injured players but also because they seemed to lack the motivation to accept this critical phase. Nevertheless, in the beginning, draws kept it from finally collapsing until it came to win six consecutive games and be the best defense in the league. In short, it did not drown as it seemed, it showed resilience and eventually the work of the coach and the emergence of more leadership on the field of some players changed the mentality for the better. It is now third, hoping to fully recover some key men like Chiesa and Pogba and to have no injuries among the 11 who will participate in the World Cup.

Atalanta has had an excellent start with 7 wins and 3 draws. According to the coach, the team is going through a phase in which there are problems integrating the youngsters and making the old ones accept that they have to give them a space. This difficulty, again related to everyone’s cohesion and sharing of the coach’s project, has probably led to the recent non-positive results.

Napoli and the Serie A breaks before the World Cup

The last day of the Serie A championship is approaching before the break due to the World Cup in Qatar.

Reading the statements of the managers of the major teams, in principle the plans for club teams will include a rest period of 10/14 days, relocation to a country with a mild climate where training will be held, and perhaps two friendly matches with other teams. The main destinations for the Europeans are mostly the Arabian Gulf countries and for some Englishmen Australia. For injured players it will be a recovery period without the hassle of having to return to play as the league is interrupted for a long period. For some young people it will be an opportunity to integrate better within the team and in the relationship with the coach.

In our league who has the most to lose from this long stop is Napoli, the only team not to have lost a game, winning the last 10. However, this statement might not be true if instead we take into consideration that winning continuously for months can lead to an addiction to this result and a relaxation in competitive tension. On the contrary, this break, could allow for rest and to put the focus back on a long training period, which should allow them to resume the championship with a renewed motivation and feeling ready to continue the season, which by the way includes champions league commitments. In addition, Napoli has only six players committed to the world cup, which will really allow the team to work together to renew the enthusiasm and quality of play shown at this early stage of the year.

I also believe that the mental and not just physical expense faced in the champions league round, just by virtue of the brilliant and totally new results for the team, has required the management of levels of commitment that Napoli players have never had to date. Many in these matches have gone beyond their usual fatigue, buoyed by enthusiasm for what they have achieved, and this break will allow them to recover especially what they have spent mentally.

Many say that Spalletti’s teams always suffer a drop in performance in the second half of the season. In this regard, the resumption of the championship may represent a new beginning rather than a continuation. A period of time will have passed almost equal to that of the usual summer break, and this condition may reflect positively on the game by avoiding this kind of difficulty and stimulate the team in continuing the feat accomplished so far.

What will the soccer league broken by the World Cup look like?

In this competitive season, the soccer championship will be different from previous ones because of the World Cup in Qatar, which will be held for a month starting November 20. However, this event is in addition to others.

The first is the closing of the soccer market on September 1 with the league having already started 4 games. The main human factor that comes to be affected is the building of team cohesion. It is one of the cornerstones of team play. There are footballers who after only a few days of purchase are already starters. How is it possible for them to integrate in such a short time and for teammates to dialogue with them on the field in games effectively. It is an acquaintance that happens in extremes and certainly not in desirable ways.

Second, the coaches of teams fighting for the league title reason by worrying about being in the top group when the World Cup break begins. This is short-term reasoning of about 10 weeks, useless to think long-term since we do not know what condition the players will be in when they return from Qatar. For later we will see, as if it were a new league.

Third, the teams that will play the cups will have a tough commitment always in this same period, in the Champions League will be 6 games to fight to qualify and always between now and November.

How will the players engaged on these three fronts: league, cups and world cup? What will they do to avoid injury? What will coaches do: will they always focus on the best team or will they choose to alternate players according to the importance of the commitment? Will new physical and mental recovery strategies be introduced?

Brief uncompleted analysis of the Serie A Championship.

One way to interpret the results of the recently concluded Serie A championship but more specifically the performance of teams is to make our own the idea that: “we are what we consistently do.” Following this logic, it is not so important to know what a team can or cannot do but what it did, therefore, how it played each game. It is often said, “we did not deserve to lose, we took so many shots and not a single goal while our opponents scored on the first shot on goal.” However, the issue is a different one and it would be more accurate to recognize that: “we missed many shots, they took only one but it was enough to get past the defense and beat the goalkeeper.”

Stating “we are what we do” is a way of reasoning that dispels all alibis in the evaluation of an action, a game and an entire season.

This approach confirms that those who win, obviously within the rules, showed something more than those who lost. Inter and Napoli showed something less than Milan, as they failed some decisive matches while Milan, now the Italian champions, overcame the same obstacles in a winning way. Personally, I am convinced that the collaboration between Maldini, Pioli and Ibrahimovic has been a determining factor in continuously supporting the team during the championship, while in the other two most direct opponents alongside the coach there have not been such influential figures. Even if one wants to interpret the negative results of Napoli and Inter in the latter stages of the championship in terms of an inability to handle the competitive stresses brought about by fighting for the Scudetto, we must still use the same yardstick of examination. The lack of conviction and anxiety demonstrated on the field are factors on which both teams will have to improve next year. It seems to me, however, that even in comments in the media, more conservative interpretations are preferred, explaining the negative results by the lack of some sold or injured players. In my opinion, these are assessments that do not highlight the value that team cohesion and motivation deserve. Problems are not the responsibility of those absent but should be attributed to those present, who should be fully accountable for “what they need to do” to achieve the goals of each match. In this regard, clubs should provide for the psychological organization of the team and know who the Maldini and Ibrahimovic of their team are, so as not to leave the coach alone to do this work on the team mentality.

Emotions and thought: The mental game of Napoli-Inter

Matches are often dominated by the emotions experienced by the two teams and the next championship match between Napoli and Inter will certainly be among them. Inter will field its anger generated by the defeat against Milan while Napoli will field its enthusiasm produced by a series of very positive results. The winner will be the one who will be able to better interpret these moods by putting them at the service of the team’s thinking. What are the risks? When anger is not managed, it doesn’t turn into determination, but expresses itself in impulsive actions in which one moves without thinking, like an engine out of revs that expresses its power in an uncontrolled way with the risk of going off the road. Enthusiasm is a feeling that is experienced with pleasure and supports the optimism needed to face these challenges. The risk is to face the game in a superficial way, to show an excessive self-confidence, thus reducing the ability to respond to situations of competitive tension and pressure exerted by the opponent. On Saturday, emotions will be on the field and also on the bench, and they will participate in determining the final result. In order to express their game, teams will have to make use of these states of mind, which will have to be kept under the control of thought, since the latter capacity can integrate in a few tenths of a second the energy generated by emotions and the decision on how to play. So, emotions and thought are the two key words to interpret what will be seen on the pitch.

Change the players and maintain the team cohesion

Serie A teams have been active in the winter market, buying a total of 87 players, about 30 are destined to play leading roles. Salernitana and Genoa have changed at least six elevenths of the basic line-up: in Salerno, the new sporting director Sabatini has bought 11 players in 17 days, a whole team. In Samp, at least 4 new players have been brought in, Cagliari has renewed the entire defense. Juventus has revolutionized midfield and attack.

How can this approach of the clubs be combined with the knowledge we have about the role of team cohesion, a phenomenon that takes time to establish and consolidate. Let’s try to understand it starting from the fact that:

“In order to integrate competencies, it is necessary to distinguish between competency acquired through the experience of playing a particular sport and the experience of playing on a particular team. The importance of this distinction was highlighted by a study conducted in the tennis doubles … This research provided evidence that shared knowledge is important for team coordination and that one comes to share knowledge with other team members by playing that sport but also by playing on that particular team. Shared knowledge is also gained prior to a given game through explicit planning. Coaches routinely provide players with information about the team’s planned actions by communicating to them action plans for dealing with opponents. Planning can occur at different levels of team functioning … At the most general level, the desired outcomes are established, e.g., “win 2-0.” Planning at this level involves a decision about what outcome to pursue. At the next lower level, design refers to the general behavioral approach taken to manifest a particular attitude, such as “aggressive play,” and the decision about which design to employ is referred to as schema. Next, procedures constitute specific sequences of overall actions such as “attacking from the center.” Planning at this level involves a decision, called strategy, about which procedure(s) to employ. At the lowest level, operations constitute micro-level actions such as “player X should attempt, when possible, to pass to player Y”. A decision at this level about which operation to employ is called a tactic. While planning can occur at any level of abstraction, the design and that is the game plan involving only the higher levels places few constraints on how that plan of action might be implemented at the lower levels. For example, in soccer the design of “playing offense with high intensity” provides few specific constraints on moment-to-moment selections of players at the operational level during the game, allowing flexibility in the use of tactics to attack with high intensity” (From Alberto Cei, Fundamentals of Sport Psychology, 2021).

Thoughts about soccer

Some thoughts on our soccer season.

  • Watching a soccer match, I am amazed at how often players fall after clashes with opponents. A question I cannot answer: how many simulators are there, how many fall because of the hardness of the clash and how many fall because of the inexperience of the opponent who is unable to anticipate (as Paolo Maldini did).
  • Make way for the young, this is not an Italian theme, but it’s a good thing that Mourinho included Felix, who scored two goals right away. Youth is not necessarily synonymous of ability, but it should at least be synonymous with enthusiasm. How many coaches think this is useful, enthusiasm.
  • In this Italian championship, the top 8 have conceded about the same number of goals (15 or 17) with the exception of Lazio (21) and Napoli (7). Increasing differences in the number of goals scored are positively related to the position in the standings. What does it mean in terms of mentality?
  • How are managed the players on the pitch, those on the bench and the others?
  • How do coaches of teams in danger of relegation experience this constant comparison between their work and weekly results? Are they mentally prepared to live in this uncomfortable situation?

What are they doing against racism?









The teams lose because they are available to change

In Serie A, losing is an unforeseen option. After three matches, three coaches have already been fired. Others, from Allegri, to Sarri to the same Mourinho who lost only the last game after 6 wins are very worried.

On the one hand it is obviously correct, they are paid to make their teams win and the players themselves cost a madness, even the most scarce, so there can be no alibi behind which to hide.

This reasoning goes beyond the quality of the single players. Juventus only lines national players but has not yet won a match. Coaches play a fundamental psychological role, they are the true leaders of the team. Every new coach wants to introduce his own mentality to the team which manifests itself through a certain type of game.

There are players who do not fully adapt to this approach and Cristiano Ronaldo represents an extreme example, because he is the team’s game. He left Juventus and without manifesting any need to acclimatize to immediately continued (more than resumed) to score. Others obviously do not adapt because they do not show the necessary mental availability and therefore are not effective in the field.

Others have difficulty in following the mental scheme proposed by the coach. When I worked with Arrigo Sacchi, one of his questions was to tell him which players could process a lot of information and put it into action and which ones, instead, had to be given little information otherwise they would get confused. The coach-player does not always manage to find this synthesis.

On the field, there must always be at least one leader who leads the team in moments of difficulty. Often in this regard we have spoken of the Italian block of Milan champions and not only for its skill but for this union that was transmitted to the team.

There are many reasons why a team does not acquire the mentality and the game that the coach wants but it is from these details that success is born.

Today Serie A starts

The Serie A championship begins today. There are as many as 12 new coaches out of 20 teams. The changes have involved teams fighting for success and those fighting for relegation; coaches who had achieved important goals and those who had not, have left. Once it would have been said that it is a hysterical soccer that destroys its players, now soccer has adapted to today’s philosophy. So there is no time, everything has to happen immediately, otherwise we change.

Antonio Conte leaves Inter victorious because he already knows that the team will not be reinforced and Pirlo because Juventus came fourth. It is precisely this precariousness of the profession of soccer coach that in my opinion gives them the strength and power that they have today. Every season they play for everything and this puts them in a condition of unchallenged dominance, so much so that they bring their staff, made up of people they trust, and start again with a new project, designed around the figure of the new coach.

We will see how these coaches, all of them good because they have been doing this job for many years in a highly competitive environment and ready to blame them, will be able to build cohesive and combative teams. In the meantime, this should be the starting point on which the qualities of the players and the play of the team fit. Being only good serves little purpose if it is not accompanied by these two psychological dimensions.