In the second of two exclusive masterclass features with The Coaches’ Voice, Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola looks back on his role as a player, and how his arrival in the Premier League helped change English football forever.
Having played in a variety of positions in a several different formations for Napoli and Parma in his native Italy, when Zola arrived at Stamford Bridge he was expected to fit into Ruud Gullit’s 4-4-2. At first, he played as a wide midfielder – as he admits most players of his kind did in those days – but following an injury to Gianluca Vialli, he was given a chance up front alongside Mark Hughes. Early on in this new position, Zola scored twice in a 2-0 win at Aston Villa, and he kept his spot in the front two. However, as a different type of player to traditional centre-forwards in England, Zola developed the role of a second striker by dropping into positions between the lines to receive the ball. Here, Zola talks us through how he, Dennis Bergkamp and Eric Cantona changed the face of English football by playing like a number 10 in a 4-4-2, and also explains how he had to adapt to regain his position in the team under Claudio Ranieri.