Friday September 1 2017
Which Italy will face Spain?

Giampiero Ventura has still not settled on a tactical shape for the Azzurri, as Greg Murray analyses the options in Spain.

The trip to Spain is more than just another run out against old enemies for la Nazionale. In all likelihood, it holds the key to automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup. However, despite having surpassed the halfway point through Group G’s fixtures, Italy CT Giampiero Ventura is yet to settle on his preferred formation.

Under Ventura’s predecessor, Antonio Conte, the Azzurri earned plaudits for their organisation and tactical nous, which augmented a technically limited squad in the 2016 European Championships. Conte’s system, which he has subsequently unleashed to great effect in the Premier League, was founded on a three-man defence and attacking wing-backs.

At Conte’s previous club, Juventus, he built his team around the BBC: Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. With Gianluigi Buffon behind them, this three-man defence formed one of the strongest and most successful back lines in world football during Conte’s stewardship. Copying and pasting this to the national team was no more than common sense.  

However, the Italian football scene has gone through major changes over the last year. The famous Juventus BBC has been dismantled, with Max Allegri preferring a four-man defence. Elsewhere in Piedmont, Torino striker Andrea Belotti has burst on to the scene, whilst former Granata forward Ciro Immobile has rediscovered his form at Lazio. Suddenly, Ventura has found himself with players that can score goals, not just prevent them.

In order to keep pace with these changes, Ventura has attempted to evolve the national team, slowly transforming away from his predecessor’s model. As the World Cup qualifiers progressed, the Coach experimented with both 4-2-4 and 3-4-3 formations, although reverted to Conte’s 3-5-2 for the home clash against Spain. The 1-1 draw, earned with a late Daniele De Rossi penalty, was a vintage example of catenaccio football, a far cry from Ventura’s envisioned style.

Overwhelmingly, the 4-2-4 appears best suited to Ventura’s Italy, and develops a number of strong partnerships across the pitch. Chiellini (injured on the eve of the match) and Bonucci still make for a formidable back line, Immobile and Belotti scored 49 goals between them last season, whilst De Rossi and Marco Verratti should provide an ideal combination of grit and creativity.

On the flanks, Andrea Conti and Leonardo Spinazzola are two of Italy’s biggest upcoming talents, and in front of them Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi are amongst Serie A’s most exciting players. Both the Napoli and Juventus wingers have the ability to play as a second striker, giving Ventura further tactical flexibility.

Unfortunately, and inevitably, the 4-2-4 is not without its disadvantages. By its very nature, the formation is weighted heavily in favour of offensive play, especially when considering Bernardeschi and Insigne’s attacking inclinations. Although fielding Antonio Candreva or even Lorenzo Pellegrini in their stead would help bolster the defence, Ventura’s formation relies heavily on creative wingers to supply the two strikers. Against bigger teams, such as Spain, the 4-2-4 may see the defence exposed, or the strikers isolated.

This may well suggest a return to a three-man defence is on the cards for the Azzurri’s trip to Spain, given that a loss must be avoided at all costs to stay in contention for automatic qualification. Having said this, Ventura will be wary of his team repeating their home performance against La Roja, and may be tempted to tweak his formation, employing the 3-4-3 that earned his side a friendly draw against Germany back in November.

Against the world champions, Italy played with a Conte-esque back three, but balanced out the defence by fielding three out-and-out strikers up front. In this formation, the wide-forwards had the protection of wing-backs behind them, allowing greater offensive freedom, whilst simultaneously putting pressure on Germany’s ball-playing full-backs. Against a Spain side that thrives in possession, this could serve Italy well.

Ventura’s formation at the Bernabeu will provide a strong indication of how he views his Italy. If he fields a 4-2-4, it will suggest that he considers his side strong enough to go toe to toe with a Spain side, weakened without top scorer Diego Costa. If instead he starts three centre-backs, it will appear that neither the Coach, nor his team, are quite ready to step out from under his predecessor’s, admittedly formidable, defensive shadow. 

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...

Bqhahahhahaha Giovinco.. haha
on the 4th September, 2017 at 9:10pm
Once upon a time not long ago in a far vast region in Italy,A great man was appointed to oversee all functions in the youth academies throughout Italy.Hence forward he was also asked to make a report and pass it over Tavecchio's office,THIS MAN WAS ASKED HOW HE CAN HELP WITH OUR DISMAL CRUMBLING SYSTEM OF A SHAM IN ITALIAN SOCCER.ON THE DAY HE WAS ASKED TO SEE TAVECCHIO he sat for 4 hours seated and waited but NOBODY EVEN RESPONDED .HIS NAME WAS"ROBERTO BAGGIO"HE then destroyed his report.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 2:05pm
Italian football needs shake up, starting from the FIGC head who I see incompitent and remember what I said before about Ventura "he is not a World Cup coach". Italy had plenty of players and really talented players, but we all know the stroy so far! I believed that Azzurri could of won Spain if there was a visionary CT and good formation. The solution bring on Albertini for FIGC then a game reader as CT. Italian players can do wonders, history has proved it. Azzurri can show its worth.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 11:34am
2/2... The other clear fact that we seem to be unable to talk about is Serie A lack of respect of Italian players. Every single team is packed to the rim with African, Brazilians basically everything from every corner of earth except ITALIAN. Then we have 'experts' who say the best of the best don't want to come to Italy so that seems to mean lets just bring in anything! It is Unacceptable, to the point where we watch Juve field 3 italians! There are matches played without a single italian!
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 9:26am
All this talk of formations and 4 in attack 4 in defence its all being used to cover up the simple fact that we have no depth, quality or world class players capable of making the diffrence. Any players we had who showed any promise have vanished simply because they can not progress. Belotti is a prime example unbelievable talent at Torino why is he not a Juve or Napoli? Verratti exceptional promise playing in a 1 team league. Then we have prehistoric buffon and Barzagli. This is failure...1/2
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 9:15am
Belotti was stung by an Insect, What the heck was Isco stung by...
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 2:46am
lAST NOTE ON JORGINHO,He's been a revelation for the past 2/3 years,The most pinpoint complete passer in Seria A bar none,which is a proven fact.He's got italian citizenship and can be a great ORIUNDI LIKE CAMORANESI.Look him up folks a true talent may I add.Please put Rugani and Caldara in against Israel I mean Barza's gettin up there with age and Boner'ucci is havin Juve withdrawals,And its time DeRossi should be a sub instaed of a starter,"No disrespect".Godspeed Marchisio please we need Ya.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 2:41am
@Dan, I strongly agree with your points,and also @Ciao also on some points too,plus @Sanrella too on Spains ball possession which its a staple of their DNA,But please not lay blame on Insigne because Spinhead Spinnazolla did not overlap when supposed too which caused confusion.@Baggio 4 Ever, sad to see how ya feelin but keep the faith,Ventura should "NOT" Venture out to uncharted territories/waters like that next time.Little note WHY ARE WE OVERLOOKING JORGINHO FROM NAPOLI IN MIDFIELD WHY WHY.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 2:30am
Ventura post Prandelli syndrome,.Again fast forward 5 years later and we were having a great run without conceding a single qualifications defeat since 2006,Ventura tinkers with a 424 against SPAIN FOR "FREAKS SAKES" WHAT WERE "YA THINKIN MAN".2 MAN MIDFIELD AGAINST SPAIN FER CRYIN OUT LOUD" WE ARE NOT A ball possession nation of football,Were a counterattacking mid passing defensive nation of footballers for the past 100 years that has won 4 world cups and countless semi finals and finals.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 2:04am
Funny how back in the Euro's of 2012 we played with a 352 formation against spain and tied,then after throughout the tournament we played 4141 and 352 pending which side we were faced with which Prandelli is owed credit for. "NOW" THE FINAL GAME AGAINST SPAIN PRANDELLI fields a 433 or a 4231 which we were obliterated.In hindsight WRONG TACTICAL FORMATION AS USUAL BY OVER THINKINK AND just pure sheer STUPIDITY FROM Coach's that tinker on the most crucial games."LIPPI IS MISSED AND SACCHI TOO".
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 1:54am
Terrible formation indeed.. 2 players who haven't played a competitive match yet...

And where was Zappacosta? Thi CT has ruined and chance at success
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 1:54am
Garbage. There's really nothing else to say. Candreva has never been able to hit the broadside of a barn. But it doesn't even matter. Reality is, Italy no longer have the players at the level of Spain, Germany and France and this is really down to the systems and style of play they have used for years. Now they are fighting an uphill battle just to remain relevant in modern Football.
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 1:49am
4-2-4 the last time i saw anything remotely resembling this was 2006 against germany. Only then with the quality italy had upfront lippi took a chance and it worked. What i witnessed today was a shocking display by a coach. Why spinna and darmian why a back 2 of bonucci and barzagli. Bonucci being more lame of the 2. Why oh why a front four lolol hilarious. All in all forza azzuri!!!a
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 1:13am
Call Giovinco !
on the 3rd September, 2017 at 12:07am
a horrible performance in every which way. Wrong formation and players who were out of position. Forget going to Russia. They don't deserve to go and Ventura needs to be replaced. They will tie with Israel. And if they did make it, they would definitely not make it pass the group stage for a third consecutive time. They should not be considered in the elite teams of the world. They downgraded to a 3 tier team. There done. Stick a fork in them.
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 11:47pm
Totally agree with @Sanrella
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 10:31pm
Spain did not dominate possession and did not create many chances.They just put away some of the few they had.Insigne wasn't in the game.Belotti had no service and once again I'm still struggling to see what all the fuss about Veratti is.
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 10:11pm
Put an average journeyman manager in charge of Italy and this is what you will get.He's totally out of his depth.
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 10:08pm
Back line for Italy next match ???
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 10:04pm
let's be realistic, azzurrini & azzurri got humiliated with the same result! what does that tell us, it clearly states that Spain football system is far more advanced than the Italian one. even the CT is not upto the task, 424 is unacceptable against teams like spain, germany & france. Again & again Italy has to invest & allow the talented youngsters to be more involved with their serie A teams. With the way it's going so far, Italy capable of winning against Israel but not Spain!!
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 9:52pm
After this pathetic performance now just three days to go for the crucial tie against a no pushover team like Israel. Worried. The way we played thank God didn't lose by bigger margin. 352, Parolo, Rugani should play. No Spinazzola.
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 9:46pm
Cannot believe how poor Italy were tonight. Wrong formation. How can ventura pick Damien and spinnazola neither of whom have yet to play this season? Eder and Gabbiadini in the squad? Why Ventura ought to go and ask Sarri how to play football!
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 9:23pm
From what I gather, Italy were all set to go with a 3412 and were training with that system all week. Then Chiellini gets injured on the eve of the game & Ventura switched to 424. Surely Rugani could have come in, I mean it's not as if a back 3 would be foreign to him. 424 might be ok against the lesser sides, but against the likes of Spain it's a recipe for disaster.
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 9:10pm
Well that was painful, though not surprising. First of all, credit to Spain, they were impressive. But Ventura seemed to go out of his way to make things easy for them. 2 FB's that haven't played any league football this season. 2CM's vs 3 & it often looked like more with Spain's front 3 playing just in behind Verratti & DDR. It wouldn't have been so bad, but Italy went out with a whimper.
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 9:03pm
Looks like we have serious problems. Think what we need is more foreigners in Serie A to help keep the Italian youngsters from developing. Verratti should stay in the none competitive french league where he is clearly making huge progress at actually getting worse as he moves into what should be his prime! Buffon needs to retire and take barzagli with him. There is no progress if anything we are worse than ever. All i can say is poor poor Italy.. Reform is needed ASAP!
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 8:58pm
I'm very optimistic about this game. I agree the work off the ball will be crucial in this formation but I don't doubt for a second we'll be slacking in this department.

Even our two forwards Belotti and Immobile are ferocious runners off the ball. I'm expecting to see an extremely energetic Azzurri that won't allow Spain any time on the ball. And this is how you beat Spain.

In terms of attack, I can't see Spain keeping out all of the front four, 3 of which are coming off explosive seasons.
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 2:32pm
It looks like Ventura will be using a 424. That is one hell of a gamble 80% of me thinks that Spain will take full advantage of our 2 CM's/CB's, tire us out and slash us to pieces, whilst the other 20% thinks that our forwards, with Verratti & DDR pulling the strings will cause them a lot of problems. It all hinges on how solid we will be without the ball. I'm still not convinced by Bernadeschi, & would much rather see Candreva - who always plays well against Spain - start.
on the 2nd September, 2017 at 11:10am

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