LONDON // Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, has revealed it was Zinedane Zidane, France's legendary playmaker and goalscorer, who first convinced him to become an adventurous coach. Chelsea have picked up where they left off last season when they scored a Premier League record 103 goals to win the title.
This term they have scored 21 in their first five games in their 100 per cent start to the new campaign. In the club's last 11 Premier League games they have hit a staggering 44. It means Ancelotti, 51, is rapidly becoming one of the most attacking minded coaches the Premier League has seen. Ancelotti smiled and said: "Who would have thought that about an Italian manager?" But he said it was the skills of Zidane that first led to him abandoning the defensive system in which he had spent his formative footballing years.
By his own admission, when he began his career in management at lowly Italian club Reggiana in the mid-1990s Ancelotti was still locked into the Cattenaccio culture of his playing days. Cattenaccio - meaning "door chain" - was a tactic that had dominated Italian football since the 1960s. Effectively it was an ultra cautious approach to the game with the emphasis on defence. So even the great AC Milan side of the late-1980s in which Ancelotti featured and that had the attacking brilliance of Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit was still based on a defensive philosophy with Franco Baresi and Paulo Maldini the rocks on which the foundation was laid. Inevitably the methods of Arrigo Sacchi, the club's then manager, rubbed off on Ancelotti.
"In my fist couple of coaching jobs at Reggiana then Parma I played very rigid 4-4-2," Ancelotti said. "I was of the mind the players had to fit into the system and the first priority was to set the team up defensively. "But when I arrived at Juventus I changed my view and that was because of Zidane. How could I play such a great talent wide on the left or the right in a 4-4-2? It wasn't correct to play him right upfront so I changed to 4-1-3-2, with Zidane at the top of a midfield three."
He said that this was the time he realised the need to adapt systems to get the best out of the players at his disposal. "If you have a lot of quality in terms of attacking players then that is what you must devise your tactics around," he said. "This is the reason that Chelsea are scoring so many goals. The system is different again but the thinking is the same: get the shape to suit the players."