A player who spent much of his playing career as a defender in the lower divisions of his home country of Italy, Gabriele Cioffi has been well travelled as a coach. After starting his coaching career where he finished his playing days, at Carpi in 2012, Cioffi has coached in Australia and the United Arab Emirates as well as experiencing coaching in the UK for the first time when he was part of Gianfranco Zola’s backroom staff at Birmingham City. He spent 15 months in charge at League Two Crawley Town in 2018 and 2019.
For someone brought up as a defender in a country where the style of football is often characterised by the importance of defending, Cioffi is a very offensive thinking coach. In the pre-session briefing, he spoke of watching some games the previous weekend, commenting that he was sent to sleep by watching Torino v Milan, but the Premier League game between Aston Villa and Leicester City woke him up again! He sees the Italian game as being very tactical and where as his home country invested in players, other countries invested in a good structure, coaching and facilities
His coaching idols include Alberto Zaccheroni, from whom he learned much about man-management, and Cioffi demonstrated this throughout the session with players from the Elite Union Academy. He also expressed admiration for Arrigo Sacchi and two coaches who have been successful when moving to coaching in the UK, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
Cioffi believes his role as a coach is to create a team with a common goal and give the players the tools to reach that goal, through drills and conditioning. He also aims to gain the players’ trust as a coach, even if as he jokes, his English is “a little bit funny.” His coaching methods within the session certainly had an emphasis on fun and relaxation, with a warm-up of various movements combined with silly games. This enabled him to build rapport with a group of players he hadn’t worked with previously. The warm-up within the session of about an hour lasted for seven or eight minutes.
Cioffi looked to empower the players within the session, asking them to count their completed passes and asking the defending players as to how they could do better. A familiar problem with players out of possession is not pressing to a plan and simply chasing the ball rather than communicating as a unit and blocking passing lanes to force mistakes. In transition, Cioffi encouraged the players to secure the first ball and then look to be positive and play forward. The need to be positive in possession was a theme throughout the session, as well as showing aggression in the press.
As with many sessions from elite coaches, the session plan which you can download for free on this page, was fairly straightforward. What made the difference in the session, as Cioffi explained beforehand, was him engaging with the players, giving them the tools with which to learn, and providing encouragement and tips with which to improve their game. The whole session was played with great energy and with smiles on faces from all involved.