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Zeman’s symphony still playing in Serie A

At 67, veteran coach Zdenek Zeman remains wedded to his attacking convictions and has quickly turned modest Cagliari into one of the most entertaining, if unpredictable, teams in Serie A.

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The Sardinians, who host Genoa on Sunday (1130 GMT), have only won two matches this season although on both occasions they scored four goals, thrashing Inter Milan 4-1 at San Siro and Empoli 4-0.

Despite lying 15th with nine points, their tally of 16 goals scored is the same as second-placed AS Roma, although they have also conceded 16.

Czech-born Zeman will always have his detractors and his previous Serie A spell in 2012/13 came to an abrupt end after a roller coaster six months of high-scoring matches at Roma left them in eighth and the club directors with shredded nerves.

Yet, he remains as forthright as ever, refusing to change his ways or be impressed by Roma’s improved results under Frenchman Rudi Garcia.

“I think Garcia at times focuses too much on possession without seeking more goals, as Roma did against Chievo,” Zeman, who took over at Cagliari before the start of the season, told Tuttosport in a recent interview.

“Nobody enjoyed that second half against Chievo,” he said, referring to Roma’s 3-0 win in which they scored all their goals in the first half and took their foot off the pedal.

Zeman then turned his attention to Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, who forged his reputation at Barcelona with their success built on the team’s trademark short passing game.

“Guardiola is currently the best coach in the world, even thought I hate tiki-taka because I have a very different vision of football,” said Zeman, who once described sideways passes as “futile”.

“The problem is not him, but those who try to copy him without having the right players.”

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Zeman invariably makes his teams attack in numbers, pressing the opposition high in their area, while defence is an afterthought.

His critics point to a his scarcity of titles, limited to winning Serie B with Foggia in 1991 and Pescara in 2012.

However, admirers such as Sacchi point out that he has helped developed young players such as Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne.

“Zeman does not perform miracles but he is one of the few geniuses in our football,” Sacchi told Gazzetta dello Sport last week. “He only fails when he comes to a club where the players are not cooperative.

“His teams are a rich symphony of harmony and beauty. They have an unmistakable style and identity, where entertainment is assured. Boredom and time-wasting are not allowed.

“Zeman can create a spectacle even without big names, and many of his players go on to achieve significant things.

“If all the teams had a coach like him, budgets would be balanced and stadiums would be full. But Italian football will not change if the supporters do not demand victories with merits and beauty.”

Genoa have climbed to joint fifth with 18 points after successive wins over leaders Juventus and Udinese.

Juve (25 points) host lowly Parma on Sunday (1400 GMT) while Roma (22), who have failed to score in their last two games against Napoli and Bayern Munich, welcome Torino (1945).

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)

At 67, veteran coach Zdenek Zeman remains wedded to his attacking convictions and has quickly turned modest Cagliari into one of the most entertaining, if unpredictable, teams in Serie A.

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The Sardinians, who host Genoa on Sunday (1130 GMT), have only won two matches this season although on both occasions they scored four goals, thrashing Inter Milan 4-1 at San Siro and Empoli 4-0.

Despite lying 15th with nine points, their tally of 16 goals scored is the same as second-placed AS Roma, although they have also conceded 16.

Czech-born Zeman will always have his detractors and his previous Serie A spell in 2012/13 came to an abrupt end after a roller coaster six months of high-scoring matches at Roma left them in eighth and the club directors with shredded nerves.

Yet, he remains as forthright as ever, refusing to change his ways or be impressed by Roma’s improved results under Frenchman Rudi Garcia.

“I think Garcia at times focuses too much on possession without seeking more goals, as Roma did against Chievo,” Zeman, who took over at Cagliari before the start of the season, told Tuttosport in a recent interview.

“Nobody enjoyed that second half against Chievo,” he said, referring to Roma’s 3-0 win in which they scored all their goals in the first half and took their foot off the pedal.

Zeman then turned his attention to Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, who forged his reputation at Barcelona with their success built on the team’s trademark short passing game.

“Guardiola is currently the best coach in the world, even thought I hate tiki-taka because I have a very different vision of football,” said Zeman, who once described sideways passes as “futile”.

“The problem is not him, but those who try to copy him without having the right players.”

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Zeman invariably makes his teams attack in numbers, pressing the opposition high in their area, while defence is an afterthought.

His critics point to a his scarcity of titles, limited to winning Serie B with Foggia in 1991 and Pescara in 2012.

However, admirers such as Sacchi point out that he has helped developed young players such as Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne.

“Zeman does not perform miracles but he is one of the few geniuses in our football,” Sacchi told Gazzetta dello Sport last week. “He only fails when he comes to a club where the players are not cooperative.

“His teams are a rich symphony of harmony and beauty. They have an unmistakable style and identity, where entertainment is assured. Boredom and time-wasting are not allowed.

“Zeman can create a spectacle even without big names, and many of his players go on to achieve significant things.

“If all the teams had a coach like him, budgets would be balanced and stadiums would be full. But Italian football will not change if the supporters do not demand victories with merits and beauty.”

Genoa have climbed to joint fifth with 18 points after successive wins over leaders Juventus and Udinese.

Juve (25 points) host lowly Parma on Sunday (1400 GMT) while Roma (22), who have failed to score in their last two games against Napoli and Bayern Munich, welcome Torino (1945).

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)