Foreign coaches in Premier League changing England's style to more Italian, says Leonardo Bonucci
ENGLAND have become "more like the Italians" because of the influence of Fabio Capello and other coaches in recent years, says defender Leonardo Bonucci.
Bonucci, who will line up in Sunday’s Euro 2012 quarter-final, said Capello, along with Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and others who had worked in the Premier League such as Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea) and Gianfranco Zola (West Ham United), had changed English football, introducing greater discipline and tactical organisation.
Indeed, six of the England players expected to start the match this weekend – Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Scott Parker, John Terry and Ashley Cole – have all worked under Italian managers for their clubs in the past few seasons, with the others having also been coached by Capello.
Bonucci said: “England have become more like the Italians thanks to Capello and all the Italian managers in the Premier League. They are defending better and they play on counter-attacks. So we really have to be careful against them.
“We’ve probably been playing better football [at Euro 2012] but if we want a good result we have to be clinical in front of goal, play our own game, be convinced England are a very compact and solid team. They improved a lot defensively in the last two years. They have a lot of good defensive players. We know it’s going to be very tough game.”
It was a theme endorsed by Mancini, who said on Thursday that England had to thank Capello for their successful approach to this tournament. “I’ve seen them playing and I recognise his organisation and how they’ve learnt from us how to defend,” Mancini said. “England play in a way that could seem boring, but at this point of the season, every player is tired and from this match, the team who scores first is likely to win.”
Mancini, in an interview with the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, said Capello’s successor, Roy Hodgson – who had two spells coaching at Inter Milan – “is smart because, in this short time, he knew a revolution would not work. He follows the work of Capello but, at the end of the day, he is an English-Italian coach”.
While Italy coach Cesare Prandelli demands a more expansive style than Hodgson, Bonucci indicated they were wary of Wayne Rooney — who is revered in Italy— with the defenders having studied DVDs of the striker over the past few days.
Bonucci has been given his chance following injuries to Andrea Barzalgi and Giorgio Chiellini. The 25 year-old has become an important member of Juventus’s title-winning side, though he came into this tournament implicated in the match-fixing scandal which led to full-back Domenico Criscito’s omission.
Bonucci, who denies any wrongdoing, is being investigated in connection with match-fixing while he played for Bari in Serie B in 2009-10, before he joined Juventus. He is accused of turning a blind eye to the fixing and faces a ban if found guilty. Indeed, there were doubts whether the Italian football federation would allow him to be selected.
On Thursday, Bonucci was asked whether the players, as happened in 2006 when they won the World Cup under a similar cloud, could draw motivation from the scandal. “We have never felt alone,” he said. “Italian people, when we have difficulties, are very good at overcoming them.”
There is a maturity to Bonucci who has found himself cast unwittingly as Mario Balotelli’s minder, after clasping his hand over the striker’s mouth to prevent him getting into trouble for his angry outburst. This followed Balotelli, who had come on as a substitute against the Republic of Ireland, scoring Italy’s second goal to set up their encounter with England.
Bonucci said he had acted to prevent a “worse situation” and added that Balotelli had thanked him afterwards. “Now he has to be calm and do his best on the pitch,” Bonucci said. “Physically and technically he can be very dangerous to the England team if he trains in the proper way, I think he can be really useful to beat England.”
Mancini agreed, although he also urged Balotelli to show more respect to Prandelli. “Mario, I wish you the best, but please score a goal without hysteria next time,” he said.
Mancini added that Prandelli had no option but to restore Balotelli to his team on Sunday. “Balotelli is the strongest striker of Italy and he has to play,” he said. “No one else could give England the same problem.
“Prandelli is doing terrific work but he has to rely on Mario. He is too important and you could not leave him on the bench”.