After avoiding relegation from their Nations League group, international duty now takes a step back until the Euro 2020 Qualifiers in March. Italy will find out their opponents for that group on the 2nd of December and Roberto Mancini now has time on his hands to build a squad ready for competitive football again in 2019.
The starting XI seems to be full of players who have long been involved with the national team and are either at the end of their careers or at the age where they should be at their prime. The Juventus centre-half partnership combining for 65 years of age and the likes of Lorenzo Insigne, Giacomo Bonaventura and Ciro Immobile all now at their prime.
The key is obviously to try and breed as many of the youngsters as possible, giving them game time a long side those experienced players. The national side have long underperformed given the quality amongst the ranks, missing out on the World Cup in the summer being the standout example of this.
However, one would expect a mix of players who make up that middle ground in a side; those who are not in the ‘young prospect’ band but are not yet winding down in their careers just yet. Instead Mancio appears to have several promising youngsters, and a handful of experienced veterans.
The likes of Andrea Belotti, 24, Federico Bernardeschi, 24, and Jorginho, 26, are all in and around the starting XI and these are the kind of players who really need to step up now that the veterans of the 2006 World Cup side have all retired.
Jorginho should have been involved long before now, so you would hope he does not take long to get into his stride in the middle of the pitch. Belotti and Bernardeschi both need to add consistency to their game though. Both have shown what they can produce, but more consistency is needed both for club and Italy to really help progress the national side.
The Azzurri have lost the likes of Gigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Barzagli, and it's time for the players in their mid-20s to really take responsibility. As well as the players above, the likes of Marco Verratti and Lorenzo Insigne are yet to perform consistently for the national team, despire their showings at club level.
At the ages of 26 and 27 respectively, they're the kind of players who must guide the national team in the new era.
Italy are fortunate that they have such a strong youth setup that has produced quality players who are ready to play at the highest level, such as Gianluigi Donnarumma, Mattia Caldara, Alessio Romagnoli, Roberto Gagliardini and Federico Chiesa.
Mix that in with the young players who are starting to feature more for their clubs and have been given a chance by Mancini of late, such as Simone Verdi, Matteo Politano, and Patrick Cutrone and you should have the blend about right.
Results have not been forthcoming but I think everyone can agree that Mancini is going the right way about building a squad for future tournaments and that he needs time before he figures out his best XI.
Plenty of these players are showing promise, but Mancini has to test them out over a period of time to see whether or not they can cut it at International level, before he can really know to pick.
This ultimately means that we are going to have to endure some trial and error from the Italian side in the coming months but fortunately, we are lucky that we have a CT who knows what it takes to be successful. There might be a lack of that player who is both young and already possesses the necessary qualities to make this Italian side tick, but Mancini will be confident he has enough in the short-term to ensure Italy will be back in the Euros in 2020.
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