Italy Camp Focus – Pressure on defence to improve before the attack suffers

Whilst the peninsula finally celebrates a win that has come after so many failures, it is still evident to see that the road back to glory seems long especially having observed the first half of the match against minnows Estonia.
The saviour of the day was indeed Antonio Cassano who put in a performance that had Marcello Lippi’s critics foaming at the mouth. Perhaps played out of position, the playmaker had the vision and ingenuity to create practically all the attacks and allow Italy their first win of the year. However, his rising star brings with it a conundrum. Whether it was due to the lack of an attacking midfielder that could continually supply to Giampaolo Pazzini or the hesitance of the squad to pass to the frighteningly poor Simone Pepe, Cassano became the go to man and the player to whom everyone wished to direct a pass. Relying on Fantantonio may bring with it the desired results at present but the notion of a team unit that works together will take a back seat as his star rises. Thus it perhaps explains one of the many reasons why Lippi chose to exclude the Sampdoria player because in order to win championships, the team must work together in a cohesive unit built on trust to surge ahead. At the moment, the team only seem to trust in Cassano.

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Although Prandelli’s 4-3-3 formation brought with it a win for the Azzurri, it was effectively a poor formation to choose with the current players available to the Manager and only worked when the squad decided to largely ignore the right flank and penetrate through the left in the second half. As such, the lopsided attack allowed Cristian Molinaro to revel in praise despite him still displaying little technique. Barring that brilliant dispossession that saved la Nazionale’s blushes, the full-back’s eagerness to push forward failed to bring with it an end product and his display only seemed to be perceived as good enough due to the poor crossing abilities of Mattia Cassani on the right flank and Luca Antonelli’s debut that was marred by nerves. Furthermore, he was greatly helped by having Cassano playing on his side whilst Cassani had to endure the useless play of Pepe ahead of him. However, play him against a team that is stronger with players who are better positioned and we will surely find him struggling to cope.
If Prandelli wants to stick with this formation then he will need to select different players. This formation heavily relies on passing skills as opposed to runs and it calls out for midfielders that can deliver those deadly balls whilst simultaneously maintaining their position. If the passing game fails and the players choose to run with the ball then opponents will be presented with a golden opportunity to counter as they look to exploit the holes left behind. The Azzurri are not a passing team and thus are susceptible to swift counter attacks as was demonstrated in the match against Estonia. In addition to passing skills, the formation also calls out for offensive full-backs who will contribute to the attack and provide width to the team. Whilst Cassani and Molinaro were able to get ahead, they provided no end product to aid the attack and were bereft of ideas as to how to unlock the defence. As for the midfield, it seemed unable to cope with the requirements of the formation. It is crucial to have a gritty player capable of breaking up play in the heart of midfield to provide the defence with additional cover whilst allowing those alongside him to find ways to release the forwards ahead of them.
Daniele De Rossi in addition the entire left hand side of the team struggled in their role. Either different players are picked or alternate formations should be sought and most people would prefer the latter option. Perhaps Prandelli can revisit the idea of deploying a 4-3-1-2 formation allowing Cassano to work through the middle thus eliminating the effect of a lopsided attack. With two hardworking defensive midfielders alongside a deep lying playmaker, the Azzurri can make the most of their creative talents in the centre of the pitch. Only problem again would be the requirement of offensive full-backs that could provide width. As such, it is safe to assume that until the Manager solves the problems that lie in his defensive line-up then it will be hard to see how he can focus on forming an attack that need not rely on set-pieces to get ahead.
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