Prandelli’s pool of talent – forwards (part 1)

Forwards

Offensive summary

In the striker department, Italy appear to be on the brink of a golden age comparable to those of the late 60s, early 90s and early 2000s. It is unsurprising that Cesare Prandelli seems committed to a three-striker formation. The number of extraordinarily talented youngsters is offset against the presence of some highly unstable personalities among them and/or individuals who seem to have trouble finding their maturity. If properly bridled, this talent can become an unstoppable force which could be wielded into almost any tactical deployment. If it is not well-handled, though, it could easily implode. Prandelli has some very delicate management challenges ahead of him.

The forwards (A-L)

Robert Acquafresca (Cagliari)
Age: 23
Position: Prima punta
Description: A solid prima punta who matured early but never developed into star-status. He is currently doing a passable job with Cagliari, but his limits have become apparent. He will have to do more if he wants to get noticed.
Call-up: Unlikely
Mario Balotelli (Manchester City)
Age: 20
Position: Prima punta/seconda punta
Description: The enfant terrible of the Azzurri and their greatest hope for the future. Balotelli can boast an unsurpassed technical brilliance coupled with a barbarous physical presence, making him his own category of player – at once prima punta, seconda punta and fantasista (like, say, Zlatan Ibrahimović). Unfortunately, he is also the most psychologically unstable Italian player at the moment, constantly at odds with his teammates and Coaches. Prandelli has already declared his intention of building the Italian offence around him, so it is in his own hands to lose it. A bomb waiting to explode, no doubt, but on whose side of the pitch?
Call-up: Certain
Marco Borriello (Roma)
Age: 28
Position: Prima punta
Description: Along with Pazzini, the most effective traditional prima punta this season. Borriello is brilliant in aerial balls and a good poacher, but not too ductile tactically, and he needs teams to be built around him. Certainly an option for the time being.
Call-up: Likely
Antonio Cassano (Milan)
Age: 28
Position: Seconda punta
Description: Italy’s most prized fantasista at the time of writing, criminally excluded from the 2010 World Cup. Cassano usually starts from the wings and bears the ball centrally. His precision as an assist-man is unequalled in Italy, if not in Europe, and his game is utterly unpredictable. But his combative spirit – especially in hardship – and his general attitude are in question. Potentially a terrific resource, but he requires marshalling. Also needs carefully selected co-strikers to understand him in the offence.
Call-up: Certain
Federico Carraro (Fiorentina)
Age: 18
Position: Trequartista/seconda punta
Description: The latest and most brilliant product of the golden generation of Italian strikers born between 1987 and 1992. A fantasista of the finest breed, Carraro is a technical monster with vertiginous technique in every field – one-on-one, long-range, short-range, dead-ball, aerial game, ball control. An assist-man as well as a finisher, his universal abilities make him best suited for the position of trequartista. At his age, though, he would be precocious even if he made it for 2014. Time will tell whether he will flourish or flounder amid the adults, but he is certainly among Italy’s hottest prospects.
Call-up: Uncertain
Diego Fabbrini (Empoli)
Age: 20
Position: Seconda punta
Description: Fabbrini’s great test of skill will come next year, when he will probably leave Empoli for Udinese (who co-own him). His start to the season was excellent, but he has been somewhat on the wane in more recent games. Fabbrini is a technical striker with strong dribbling skills, more suited to starting than finishing play, comfortable on the left and the centre both. He has impressed greatly with the Italian U-21s, and in a few years’ time, he will be expected to prove himself worthy of the adult internationals.
Call-up: Likely
Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina)
Age: 28
Position: Prima punta
Description: Whatever happened to Gilardino, Italy’s most classical poacher? His career has always oscillated between highs and lows, and currently he is definitely at a low, playing for a team whose performances are correspondingly poor. Worse, he does not score with the Azzurri anymore. Prandelli knows how to make use of Gilardino and the player’s age is the best imaginable, so we should not discount him yet. But both him and his team need a serious come-back.
Call-up: Uncertain
Sebastian Giovinco (Parma)
Age: 24
Position: Trequartista
Description: The most immediate alternative to Cassano is Sebastian Giovinco, this diminutive fantasista who was never given a chance at Juventus. His performances with Parma have shown flashes of brilliance when injury did not limit him, and he is a young, wonderfully dynamic player who can create and link play. His failure to provide defensive coverage (due to his size) is a liability, however.
Call-up: Likely
Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus)
Age: 31
Position: Seconda punta
Description: Eternally underestimated, yet somehow never failing to find the back of the net, Iaquinta was one of Marcello Lippi’s old favourites and an interesting seconda punta. Though not as talented as some of his competitors, he is experienced, fast, unconditionally combative and a poacher to boot. Certainly not a player to be discarded.
Call-up: Likely.
Arturo Lupoli (Ascoli)
Age: 23
Position: Prima punta
Description: Once a promising Arsenal youth player, Lupoli’s career has spiralled downwards in the last few years, and now he is playing in Serie B. Apparently not the most effective or technical of prime punte, one would never expect him to make the national team in three years’ time. But then, no-one thought Luca Toni could make it in 2003.
Call-up: Unlikely

Prandelli’s pool of talent

Goalkeepers
Central defenders
Full-backs
Registi
All-round midfielders and mediani
Wingers
Forwards (part 1)
Forwards (part 2)

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