José Mourinho began his football management career as an interpreter and translator for Sir Bobby Robson in Portugal (Sporting Clube and Porto) and Spain (FC Barcelona).

01 July 2015

Thesis Review: "The Weekly Preparation of a Game" by Maurizio Sarri

Photo credit: FIGC Settore Tecnico.
Maurizio Sarri.

Maurizio Sarri, the current manager of SSC Napoli, outlines a weekly preparation methodology in his UEFA Pro coaching thesis.

Discussion Items:

1. Background Data
2. Thesis Overview
3. Writing Style
4. Images and Diagrams
5. My Ratings
6. Reference Source

"The Weekly Preparation of a Game"

by Maurizio Sarri
UEFA Pro Corso Master 2006/2007
Coverciano, Italy.

Italian managerial candidates for a UEFA Pro coaching license present a thesis to their colleagues and teachers at the Italian Federation (FIGC) site in Coverciano, Italy. This oral discussion finalizes a three-part training process that currently lasts over nine months according to the FIGC. 

1. Background:
"I'm the son of working-class parents. I perceived that is enough and move up. They pay me to do something I would have done at night, after work, for nothing. I'm lucky."

Maurizio Sarri was born in Naples in 1959 to Tuscan parents. His father, Amerigo, was a professional cyclist. Sarri never played professionally and did not advance past very modest lower levels. He studied Economics, Commerce and Statistics and worked in banking and finance as a financial consultant to large European firms until 2001 according to La Gazzetta dello Sport in November 2005:
"In 2001 I was at Sansovino. I understood that I had to make a leap of quality only if managing became my primary activity. My family understood... I work every day from 8 in the morning to 10 at night. From my banking experience, the capacity to organize my time and rationality have remained."
Promoted with Empoli

Mister Sarri has spent 25 years in football management mostly at lower divisions in Italy. His first bench was at Stia in Tuscany. Sarri had been with Empoli since June 2012 and narrowly missed out on Serie A promotion (eliminated in the promotion play-offs) in his first season. He led the Tuscan club back up to the top flight last year courtesy of a second-place finish and kept them there this past season. Sarri's Empoli finished their Serie A campaign in 15th place with 42 points. The Tuscan's side record was 8-18-12 with 46 goals scored and 52 conceded, respectively.

A Late-Bloomer: Serie A Debut at 55 Years of Age

Mister Sarri has only one season of Serie A experience as a manager: 2014/2015 with Empoli. In March 2015, he was voted by his peers as the top manager in Serie B during 2013/2014 and presented with the prestigious Panchina d'Argento (Silver Bench) award. Mr. Sarri now replaces Rafael Benitez at his hometown club, Napoli, which represents his first major managerial appointment.

Calcioscommesse (Betting Scandal)

Sarri (as Grosseto's manager in 2010) was charged with omessa denuncia (failure to denounce) by Federal prosecutor, Stefano Palazzi, on 1 June 2012. While he could have faced a one-year suspension, Sarri was absolved of all charges on 18 June 2012 according to Sport Mediaset.

Coaching Honors
  • Serie B Panchina D'Argento in 2013/2014 with Empoli.
  • Serie D Coppa Italia (Italian Cup) with Sansovino in 2002/2003.
  • Eccellenza Toscana title (Fifth Division of Italian football) with Sansovino in 2000/2001.

2. Thesis Overview

There was an introductory premise, seven chapters, a conclusion along with a legend. There were 42 pages in this thesis. I will provide key quotes from each chapter.


"Almost all managers, sooner or later, have spoken about their preferred playing formation or tactical perspectives. But very rarely have I happened to read how they prepare for a game either materially on the pitch or off of it...

I maintain that in a football which is always becoming better prepared from a physical and tactical perspective, it is of a fundamental importance to go and prepare for all of the individual games in the smallest of details."

Chapter 1: Monday (Match analysis by the coaching staff. Players' day off.)

"It's a day of rest for the team but dedicated only in a small way to a break for the manager who instead must begin to focus himself on an analysis of the preceding game. So as not to conflate the analysis of a reading of the game which on the other hand represents a method that we use during the match itself to have a clear and precise idea about the evolution of the same encounter. Regarding unity of intent, I mean the sharing of objectives."

"I believe that the ideal collaborator (his assistant manager in this case) is one where we have a unity of thought and intent. For unity of thought, I mean to see football in the same way. This does not mean that the collaborator has to cancel out the manager such that he must always remain proactive. But it only means that he should share in his basic ideas."

Chapter 2: Tuesday (Video study in the morning. Training in the afternoon.)

"Video analysis is exclusively focused on tactical problems and to have a logical sequence to take into consideration, in chronological order, the following aspects:

Collective Tactics:

- Defensive phase.
- Defensive phase higher up on the pitch.
- Defensive phase in the middle of the pitch.
- Defensive phases in lower areas of the pitch.

Defending Set Plays:

- Possessive phase in lower areas of the pitch.
- Possessive phase in the middle of the pitch.
- Possessive phase higher up on the pitch.

Offensive Set Pieces:

For each of these aspects, a pair of situations are chosen with special significance over what happened on the pitch. They are prepared in a video, mainly by the collaborator, to present to the team... Personally, I always look that the duration (of the DVD) does not go past 10 to 12 minutes."

"The written summary comes mainly from the same coach. And beyond the tactical aspects already evidenced in the video, it takes into consideration other fundamental aspects held in the economy of the game. In my case, the analyzed aspects are:

- Mental aspect.
- Behavioral aspect: (He stressed not wasting time by arguing with referees.)
- Physical aspect.

Chapter 3: Wednesday (Physical work in the morning and correction of problems from the last game in the afternoon training session.)


This training session is dedicated to the research in the correction of problematic areas from the last game that was played. With the physio, it was agreed that the training session would be carried out at a high intensity. And to verify this second objective, each player wears a frequency meter whose data will be downloaded into a computer for verification."

Chapter 4: Thursday (Focus on individual problem areas in various units from the last game.)

"Thursday morning.

0900: Coaching staff meeting with a collaborator who saw two games in person of the next opponent. He will share his observations and decide which topics have to be inserted into the opposition's video presentation along with other focal areas to work upon on the pitch. Followed by the usual coaching staff's meeting to organize the two scheduled training sessions of the day.

10:00: Training session.

We suffered due to a few changes on the pitch, above all when trying to widen play. And we had a terrible response which doesn't conform to our rules of engagement..."

Chapter 5: Friday (Focus on the defensive phase of the opposing team and preparing his own offensive phase to face them.)

"Friday morning: 10:00.

No training session but the manager and his collaborator go over the following tasks: The collaborator prepares another two videos to show the team. One with a theme of the rival's defensive phase and the other with the opposition's set pieces, for and against.

14:45: Technical meeting with the team.

Theme: The defensive phase of the opposing team.

The meeting proceeds with the same methodology as the preceding ones. First, with the manager who illustrates characteristics and movements of the defensive phase about the upcoming rivals. And secondly, the collaborator who analyzes the predetermined images to give the team an idea of what I had just said."

Chapter 6: Saturday (Focus: Set pieces for and against.)

"9:45. Team meeting.

Theme: Set pieces for and against of the opposition.

Regarding the videos of rival set pieces, they are filmed in the following sequence: It begins with set pieces in their favor and takes into consideration:

- Opening kick-off.
- Lateral throw-ins in wide areas of the pitch.
- Lateral free kicks.
- Corner kicks.
- Spot kicks.

These videos also have the same duration of  6 to 7 minutes, maximum, as all of the others."

Chapter 7: Sunday (Focus: The Game.)

"11:45: Right after lunch, the team comes together for a brief meeting of a few minutes which has, as a primary focus, to reorder the ideas about everything that was tested out during the week.

1600: The game begins.

During the game, to have a reading of the match so that as few details as possible escape us, tasks on the bench are divided between the manager and his collaborator. The manager primarily concentrates on his own team...

The collaborator concentrates specifically on the opposing team and verifies the anticipated playing formation that was developed by their offensive phase studied during the week."


In this thesis, I took into consideration only one of the many aspects that regard the craft of a manager. And I outlined my actual conviction how to develop the week to prepare for an upcoming game. My method to prepare for a game is in reality very different than a few years ago. Surely, because coming out of lower ranks, the tools and collaborators at my disposal have been augmented. But above all, surely due to the fact that I and my skill sets have changed.

I also hope it will be different than what I'll do a few years from now. Such that this could mean that my desire to go forward and improve hasn't been completed. Just like my love and passion for this splendid game."

3. Writing Style
"All of my players and I will also be at Superga on 4 May 2015 to experience that global emotion. And to make my team understand what the word REAL FOOTBALL means."

Translator's Note:

Superga refers to the tragic crash site of il Grande Torino in 1949.

His writing style is precise, detailed, with acute attention to detail and minute by minute structure. This thesis reads more akin to a manager's log or diary. It is obvious that Mr. Sarri relishes the detailed nature of his work on a daily basis. He also has a keen attention to precise planning both for his coaching staff and players, respectively.

A Critique:

The author used bold-faced type for the entire thesis which made it difficult and time-consuming to read and/or focus on key points. I believe this was a poor editorial choice that detracted from an otherwise comprehensive presentation.

4. Images and Diagrams

Image credit: FIGC Settore Tecnico.
Figure 1.
A 40 x 30 meter training ground exercise
using 8 versus 8.

There were 37 highly detailed schematic diagrams in this thesis that described a variety of Sarri's training exercises. I liked his use of blue for the descriptions. He seems to be the Italian version of Marcelo Bielsa in terms of obsessive focus along with his very precise training exercises and tactical preparation.

Reading this thesis helped me to understand better what Mr. Sarri achieved at Empoli. Clearly, his training exercises are taxing and focus both on the individual player along with a cohesive unit (goalkeeper/defenders, midfield, strike force).

Image credit: FIGC Settore Tecnico.
Figure 29.
"Set Pieces in your favor:
The opening kick-off."
Praise by Maestro Sacchi

Mister Sacchi praised Sarri last year in a commentary that also mentioned Zdenek Zeman of Cagliari and Eusebio Di Francesco of Sassuolo for their innovative approach to management.
"Lately, I have followed the Cagliari side of the maestro, Zdenek, the Empoli of Sarri and Di Francesco's Sassuolo, respectively. All three teams have an ardor to play the game without excessive defensive tactics and don't leave the pitch or initiative to their opponents. They don't want to be sparring partners but protagonists. They trust in their play as an antidote to stop the opponent and act as a propellant to exalt the qualities of their own men."

5. My Ratings:
Photo credit:

1. Coaching Education: 9/10
2. Editorial style: 5/10
3. Writing style: 8/10
4. Images and Diagrams: 10/10
5. Overall: 32/40: Four stars.

Mister Sarri has provided us with a detailed look into how he prepares his teams during a normal week. This aspect will take upon an added focus with his first managerial position at a bigger club such as Napoli. Will top players buy into his rigid training methodologies? Only time will tell; however, Mr. Sarri's contribution to coaching education was a significant one with this incredibly detailed thesis.

6. Reference Source:

Scuola allenatori - Tesi


Tesi corso Master per allenatori di prima categoria
Corso Master 2006/2007Autore/i: Maurizio Sarri

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Translated excerpts and reviews from FIGC (Italian Federation) UEFA Pro License Coaching Theses.
Soccer Translator

Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and The Soccer Translator since 2008. You can follow Steve @worldfootballcm on Twitter.

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