Zola's new goals
Championship outfit Watford are ahead of schedule in a transitional season, according to the man charged with guiding them back to the Premier League Gianfranco Zola. We caught up with the affable Italian tactician to discuss his own managerial style, influences and plans for the future...
By Tom Middleditch
Last Updated: 26/10/12 11:27am
New boss Gianfranco Zola says a fresh era is already taking shape at Watford. The former West Ham manager arrived at Vicarage Road in July, his passion for the game reignited, determined to introduce the Hornets to a new style of play. skysports.com caught up with Zola to assess his progress so far and discuss his influences, his management style and what he brings to his new role...
Is there too much pressure on managers to have instant success at a new club?
GIANFRANCO: Absolutely - it's a common problem in football; it didn't used to be a problem in England but now it is. With the big money involved people want results and they want it the next day, and that's not right. I'm the new Watford manager; I came into a team that has always played a certain way. I am asking the players to change their mentality and approach their football in a different way and that takes time.
Do you find it frustrating when players you're coaching can't do things as well as you could in your playing days?
GIANFRANCO: No I don't, not now. I did for a while. When you first give up football you still think as a footballer. But now that time has passed for me and now I try to get in the players' minds. The questions I always ask myself are: 'What is his problem? How can I help? What can I do to make him better as player?' Those are the kind of things I keep asking.
Who is the most tactical manager you have played under?
GIANFRANCO: Arrigo Sacchi. He was the national team coach during the 1994 World Cup and Euro 96 and he was by far the most tactical manager I played under. He was very well organised, especially defensively. Every training session focused on tactical work. We never played a normal game; it was always eight-a-side or ten-a-side with the emphasis on tactics.
Has Sacchi had the biggest impact on your management style?
GIANFRANCO: When I played for Parma in 1993 our manager Nevio Scala played the same 3-5-2 system we are playing right now. He used to play very good football; I liked the way he had many players involved and it was quite nice to watch. He was the first man to inspire me to play this type of football. More recently Pep Guardiola has inspired me by the way that Barcelona play.
Who is the most passionate manager you have played under?
GIANFRANCO: Ottavio Bianchi wasn't passionate but he was very strong. He was the first manager to win the league for Napoli and he was known to be a really strong and stubborn person. He didn't talk much but you knew you had to be careful.
Are you like that all?
GIANFRANCO: No - I am a different type of manager. I try to get the players to follow and listen to me in another way. Sometimes I get upset obviously, but they don't believe it. I don't even believe it myself!
Which team do you think plays the most stylish football in the world right now?
GIANFRANCO: Barcelona is the obvious choice but I am also a big fan of the way Bayern Munich play. They play good football going forward - the ball is always on the floor. I saw them play on a few occasions last season and I really enjoyed watching them, and I was not surprised to see them in the Champions League final.
Why did you decide to have a break after the West Ham job?
GIANFRANCO: The experience with West Ham was difficult. There were a few issues I needed to work with so I took my time a little bit.
I chose Watford because I liked the project and it was the best way for me to improve as a manager.
Did you speak to Gianluca Vialli about his time at Watford before you took the job?
GIANFRANCO: I spoke to him once yes, but very briefly and he told me it was a very good and friendly club, and he wished me good luck.
What is the main difference between managing in the Championship compared to the Premier League?
GIANFRANCO: The quality of the players is obviously much higher in the Premier League. Although I must say the standard in the Championship has improved a lot. I didn't expect the league to be so strong, and there are more teams that are trying to play football.
Is it harder to man-manage players in the Championship?
GIANFRANCO: At this level on the pitch it is more difficult as you don't have as much quality, but off the pitch it is possibly easier as you have fewer players with big egos; but you still need to coach and give players the support they need to improve.
A lot has been made of the amount of loan players at the club. Is it a problem getting them settled and focussed?
GIANFRANCO: It is a problem with numbers. We have too many players and sometimes it is a problem coaching all of them. We are handling it at the moment, but we will see if we can improve the situation later on. Other than that they are very good professionals and very helpful.
Manuel Almunia has recently likened Udinese loanee Fernando Forestieri to Lionel Messi. How highly do you rate him?
GIANFRANCO: He can be a very good player; he has got a lot of qualities. He needs to learn to use his quality in his best way. He is a player that gets in front of the goalkeeper three or four times. He should be scoring goals and needs to be a bit cooler in front of goal. But that will come.
He could play at the top level; he played in Serie A at a very young age and has a lot of potential.
Do you hope to keep these players beyond this year?
GIANFRANCO: Absolutely, if the players are good enough then they will stay here. They are not here to play for just a few months; they are here to be our players. If they are good enough for us then they will stay unless they want to go, we are not willing to release our best players.
You've played a number of home-grown youngsters this season. How impressed are you with the Watford academy?
GIANFRANCO: Very impressed, I didn't know how good it was to be honest. The academy is doing a remarkable job which makes it easier for me. The younger players already know what I am after as they have been playing that way with the academy and are used to playing this type of football. It is good for me to have such an advantage
What are your expectations for Watford this season?
GIANFRANCO: This season is very much a transitional season with Watford. I have brought in a new style of play that will take time to adjust to. We are further down the road than I thought we would be at this stage and there are some very talented players but next season we will be challenging to win the league.
Gianfranco Zola was talking at the Gaffer Academy, a management crash-course organised by Football Manager. Football Manager 2013 is available in shops and online on the 2nd November. Visit www.footballmanager.com for more information.