Why Serie A Is the Blueprint for Football's Tactical Evolution to a 3-5-2

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Why Serie A Is the Blueprint for Football's Tactical Evolution to a 3-5-2
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

November 29, 2011—Juventus decided it was their time to switch to a 3-5-2 after encountering a Napoli side that had so much success with this relatively unused tactic in the Italian leagues. Antonio Conte was previously deploying a 4-3-3, with the likes of Milos Krasic operating on the wing. The team was often caught out on the defensive end, with players like Leonardo Bonucci becoming scapegoats.

The 3-5-2 ensured a player like Bonucci would be able to operate more at ease, knowing that the likes of Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini could do the dirty work for him as he sprayed balls up the field.

They haven't looked back since. With the blue-print of a new 3-5-2 at their disposition, La Vecchia Signora went on a near historic 49-match undefeated streak in Serie A. Suddenly, holes in the defense were clogged, and the squad as a whole looked much more balanced as they could instantly switch to a 5-3-2 when winning against their opposition.

In a copy-cat league like the Serie A, it was expected that a whole slew of others would try to replicate the switch which ended up working so well for Juventus. By contrast, the only team that hasn't had much success with it is AC Milan. Coach Massimiliano Allegri experimented with it for a few games then was lambasted by club president Berlusconi for the change.

It's no surprise that Italian national team coach Cesare Prandelli has also adopted this very blueprint for the Azzurri, as they used it for the most part on their rampaging run through Euro 2012, a competition where they captivated the hearts of neutrals with their highly organized and entertaining style of play. The Juventus defense remained intact on the national level as well, leading to a very disciplined back line which rarely commits errors.

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Unsurprisingly, it was in the Euro 2012 competition that Italy shed this age-old image of a catenaccio style of play and impressed the world with their new approach. 

Now more than half the teams in the Serie A are using some sort of 3-5-2 variant, a formation which is easily adaptable and can be effective for any game situation. For a league that has always been one of the most forward tactically, it's no doubt that Italy is at the front of a new revolution in European football.

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