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Mazzarri’s Geology

By Sgulizia @catch22soccer
Mazzarri’s Geology

Sir Charles Lyell's sketch of a land slip.

Mazzarri’s Geology

{The visible world would be more perfect if seas and continents had a regular shape. —Malebranche, Méditations Chrétiennes}

20 September. The traditional argument that Walter Mazzarri induced his reactive theory of the soccer machine from field observations, particularly on midfield conformities and unconformities, becomes even harder to understand when we recognize that Mazzarri’s own record clearly belies his legend prima facie. Simple chronology is evidence enough. Before coming to Sampdoria and Napoli, Mazzarri presented an abstract, describing his theory in its final form. The first full version inspired awe at he discovery of a ‘deep time’ in soccer, a geology of dynamic cycles that could have been discerned as a gradual and repetitive process measured by the vertical surges of wing-backs.

When he presented his thoughts, however, Mazzarri had observed pitches only at rather uninformative footballing locations; for his massive annotations, he followed his former teacher, Renzo Ulivieri—a wandering coach who trained in a craggy baritone and was invariably hired by sport managers like a febrifuge to be administered to ailing teams—with whom he visited several better sites, including the South American outcrop where he made the key observation that a wide winger could intrude the local defenses as a thicket of fine fingers into limestone rocks. (If the three-man defense were a sediment, it could not have forced its way into a thousand nooks and cracks of overlying systems in the Serie A. Such a defense, the young Mazzarri concluded, must have intruded in molten form from below. It must be younger than the environment, as it is later embodied in Edinson Cavani’s argillaceous face, and a force of later uplift, not older and a sign of soccer’s original construction.)

We might still suport a weaker version of the empiricist myth surrounding Napoli, if Mazzarri himself had espoused his mystique of fieldwork, and had attempted later to hide the a priori character of his theory by fudging the derivative character of his crucial findings. At least the ideal would remain intact. Even this version fail before Mazzarri’s own candor. He presents his theory—with pride—as derived by reason from key premises of modern soccer. Mazzarri, in short, never misrepresented his intent, even though in this season it would seem that elastic waves of counter-attacks and his side’s predisposition to soak up the oppenent’s pressure have both taken a Moby Dick turn in terms of size.

Mazzarri’s Geology

James Hutton's Geological Draft I

21 September. James Horncastle, of the Fox Soccer magazine, has placed Mazzarri under the scrutiny of the new empiricist tradition, illustrating, with zest, many difficult points and leaving the impression of a heavily polarized field—ambiguously balanced between the nostalgia for the Italian traditional game, the way a Johan Cruyff saw it, and the amazement for Napoli’s devastating speed. In fact, Mazzarri’s work suffered gravely in reputation when a strong theoretical tradition did arise within fieldwork geology early in the 1990s, at the time in which Italian soccer was split between the restorative force of a Dutch-style reform and the triumph of Fabio Capello’s supreme pragmatism. Mazzarri’s near contemporaries ranked him among the antiquated coaches of a speculative age. Arrigo Sacchi has recently granted him but a paragraph in an article on the Gazzetta dello Sport, listing him in a second or third tier among recent system-builders. Sacchi presented Mazzarri as inferior to his predecessors not because of his devotion to natural causes, but because he sees him mutually incompatible, the champion of a methodology that cannot attain consensus in Europe.

Sacchi’s judgement is harsh, but not, I think, exaggerated or misplaced. Lacking in proactive characteristics, although not deficient in field evidence, Mazzarri’s soccer is shrouded in an overall obscurity that cannot be easily dismissed as the worthless and indigestible fantasy of a somewhat outdated armchair geologist. His midfield is a body with a purpose. His quizzical, nearisighted look behind blue-colored glasses betrays the convinction that his entire universe would collapse if such a purposeful force could not be discovered. ♦

Next: (Chel)sea Slumber-Song.

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