The tally reads six wins, two draws and one defeat. In a World Cup qualifying group that also contains Spain, some might say that Italy haven’t fared too badly, as they have now secured a play-off berth after La Roja expectedly secured an automatic place into the summer 2018 tournament. The Azzurri probably will eventually qualify, even though it will have taken Coach Giampiero Ventura longer than he would’ve hoped.
But whilst on paper the results haven’t been too bad, the performances have brought about a much greater cause for concern, leading to increasing voices that the veteran boss should be removed before the World Cup begins in Russia.
The last three games have seen a tactically clueless Ventura line-up his side in a 4-2-4 formation against Spain’s famously potent midfield, bringing about an inevitable drubbing and an embarrassing performance from the national side. A 1-0 win over Israel followed, but Friday’s 1-1 draw with Macedonia really was the last straw for many of the fans. He moved to 3-4-3, but they still looked disjointed, uninspired and utterly devoid of ideas.
Team selection is obviously a major issue, with Ventura ignoring the likes of Napoli midfielder Jorginho, a man who he truly could build his side around. It is fair to say that Antonio Conte was criticised for the very same thing at Euro 2016, but at least he was able to galvanise those in his group who were below average, taking them to the quarter-final of the European Championships. He also based the 3-5-2 system on the dominant Juventus squad, whereas the 4-2-4 finds absolutely no reflection in the current Serie A landscape.
All of this brings genuine concern over Ventura’s ability to lead this side into the World Cup, his ineptitude on the international stage ready to be found out by tactically smarter sides and those who genuinely do make the most of the talent they have available.
The players held a crisis meeting in order to review their dismal performance without the Coach present, which may point to the fact he is losing their support. There is no question mark over his wealth of experience at club level and his great work with youngsters at the likes of Torino, but his skills have not transferred well to the Azzurri.
But would firing Ventura at this stage do any good? In all honesty, the prospect of entering a tournament with the 69-year-old at the helm at this moment in time is a frightening one. The qualifying campaign has told us all we need to know about a man who is out of his depth and not the right choice in taking Italy forward with all the talent they so clearly possess.
It all depends on who they could bring in instead, as the instability from a change of CT could be very unsettling for the squad. But if the FIGC could find someone who could immediately come in and make positive changes, it may bring about the necessary swift turnaround they so desperately need.