Pic 1: Monza lifting the Serie B title at end of 2021/22 season
Before 2022/23 season, Monza had never competed in the top flight of Italy, Serie A. The Biancarossi had played over 40 seasons, whether you believe it or not, 40 seasons of Serie B football without ever getting promoted. So, when they got Promoted under Giovanni Stroppa in 2021/22 season, and subsequently started the 2022/23 season with plenty of excitement as regards to the signings they made viz. Italy international Mattio Pessina, Marlon from Shaktar, Nicolo Rovella from Juventus, and Petagna from Napoli, and yet they just achieved 1 point from first 6 games and put fears into Monza fans that a relegation was looming and so does their dreams of making themselves a top flight club.
So, out goes Stroppa and in steps Monza’s own youth coach Raffaele Palladino, who never had a top flight job and was thrusted to ensure Monza stayed up. What Ensued then in 22/23 season was Palladino proving himself as a coach and earn the tag of being the next big thing from Coverciano that has produced some of the greatest coaches in football history.
Raffaele Palladino’s Journey as a player: The journey where the seeds were sown for his coaching Journey
Raffaele Palladino’s youth career was majorly spent at Benevento and Juventus in his teenage years and as a 20 year old became a part of Juve’ setup alongside some of the finest footballers like Del Piero, Nedved, Trezeguet etc. But his career as a player went on as a Journeyman playing for over 10 clubs but his best stints as a player would be remembered at Juventus, Parma and Genoa where he played under coaches like Deschamps, Claudio Ranieri and Gasperini. With Gasperini being a huge influence on him, something we will explore when we profile him.
The Evolution of Monza in 22/23: Palladino’s 1st steps, the switch to an intense 3 back system and his experimentations
Pic 3,4,5: Palladino’s 1st game for Monza was a clash against his former side Juventus
In his 1st game against Juventus after Stroppa was sacked, Raffaele Palladino realized that creating an identity for Monza was the best way to make the fans as well as the stakeholders believe they could fight off relegation. Despite opting for a typical 5-3-2 low block to sit and allow Juventus the pleasure of having the ball, It was Monza who emerged victors and it was no case of just a bounce off his appointment but rather some structured concepts that would define Monza.
In Pic 4, we see the early ideas of Monza using the 3-2-2-3 structure that eventually made Palladino get the best out of Rovella as the archetype deep lying playmaker and overloading the last line in a staggered manner with 5 men against Juve’s backline meant as game went on he was able to keep Juve at bay and score.
Pic 6,7,8: Monza’s ability to morph between 4 back and 3 back systems through the season
An elated Gasperini when asked about Palladino said: “Palladino’s impact after moving from the youth team to the main squad shows he was destined for greatness. I think Monza will challenge for a higher area of the table from next season. I’ve known Palladino since our days in Serie C, then he was with me at Juventus and Genoa.”
And as we mentioned the point about Gasperini being Palladino’s inspiration earlier, we can see why analyzing how Monza were able to morph under Palladino. Like his mentor Gasperini, Palladino’s experimentations didnt see him stick to just 3 back systems as he would go on to defeat Juventus at their home and also defeat eventual League champions Napoli at home too and come close to eliminating Juve in the Coppa Italia, all the 3 times as we see in Pics 6,7, and 8 saw Palladino using different buildup strategies from a 4-2, 3-2 and 3-1 to great success.
Vid 1: Typical functioning of Monza in 22/23 with Raffaele Palladino’s usage of Rovella in 1st Phase
Pic 9,10: Do notice the similarities in Pic 6,7 to these 2 pics, how Gasperini and Palladino vary buildups by dropping forwards or having one of their double pivots function as a lone pivot to entice press
Palladino received plenty of Plaudits after his usage of Nicolo Rovella, the highly rated Juventus loanee as the key cog in Monza’s 1st phase duties. Rovella’s technique in able to disguise passes and entice press and find space was something of a Monza trademark and as shown in above video 1, this was a typical sequence of how Monza played out their sequence, a 3-2 buildup that could morph into a 4-2 or a 3-1 reminded of Atalanta’s traits under Gasperini and this is best validated by Pics 9 and 10 which compared to Pics 6 and 7 show the same.
The 2nd Season at Monza: Looking beyond Rovella and continue to build on the base of 22/23
Pic 11,12,13: Monza’s game against Inter this season saw them pose some great tactical questions for Inter
After finishing comfortably in 11th in a season that could have well turned into a relegation battle, Monza had to face losing Rovella but despite this Palladino has continued his 3-4-3 usage with some brilliant rotaional play between their midfielders as opposed to using Rovella’s ability to entice press like last season. Palladino’s evolution is mainly based on his combinational play in wide areas with midfielders and CB’s with one of the wingbacks that seemed to test Inter’s resolve in their game in San Siro this season.
Ultimately without quality on their side it was a hard ask for Monza to produce a result but as usual evaluating a coach at this level will require dwelling on their ideas more than do a result based analysis and Palladino’s got plenty in store this season with his 6-CB rotations something interesting to look at.
Conclusion – Raffaele Palladino’s Philosophy & Principles
When we recently explored Thiago Motta’s coaching profile, we had more sample space and Motta’s experience as a player to ascertain his ideas, but in Palladino’s case he’s at his 1st evolutionary stage with promising ideas that would possibly require Monza to invest in his ideas, much similar to how Bologna’s Project kicking off when they invested on targets Motta wanted.
Raffaele Palladino’s 39 and with already some great top flight experience under his belt, we can profile him as one of the more positionally thinking version of Gasperini, his own mentor. This makes his case as a coach far more Interesting to look forward to.