Tuesday November 20 2018
Italy's generation gap

With veterans retiring and youngsters only just starting, Marcello Cossali-Francis says it’s time Italy’s 25-30-year-olds stepped up to the plate.

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.

Have your say...
come on the previous generation was a disaster parolo acerbi abate candreva pelle giovinco g rossi cassano those few players with quality where seriously unfortunate with injuries made really poor decisions in choosing clubs or in the case cassano a complete moron.

What scares me is that this talented younger generation is barely improving upon the previous generation at least for italy. It is like insigne verratti and immobile have less talented clones of themselves who play for italy.
on the 24th November, 2018 at 2:56pm
My confirmed incomplete squad for Azzurri:
G.Buffon (To be convinced back into Azzurri), and G. Donnarumma.
Biraghi, Chiellini, De Sciglio, and Emerson.
Barella, Grifo, S. Sensi, and S.Tonali.
Bernadeschi, Chiesa, Kean and M.Politano.

Worth studying are D. Rugani, D. Zappacosta, Jorgino L F, M. Verratti and D. Berardi.
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 3:15pm
I agree:
In Azzurri, there should be NO MORE: Balotelli, Belotti, Lasagna, Immobile, Verdi, Gaglardini, Acerbi, Sirgu, Bonaventura, Zaza, A. Florenzi, Bonucci, EVEN INSIGNE!!. They have failed us.
Petty thou for Bonuci, he is in natural decline, was good but now he should leave Azzurri.
Let me give you my line up in a minute.
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 2:40pm
Marz's suggestion of a 10-12 year process brings to mind what occured with Iceland.
Financial collapse in 2008 rendered foreign players there unaffordable, opening up starting spots for every
capable young domestic player.
No surprise than by 2014, and 2016 that country had produced what they still call their "Golden Generation".
Sad to think it would have to take a serious fall by major Italian banks to rid Serie A of its excess imports and make way for needed domestic talent.
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 12:58pm
This is one of Italy's worst football generations. I hope this misery will soon end and Italy will be back on track again.
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 12:32pm
Not having a proper Number 9 in a 433 is always going to cause issues and playing a false 9 never works unless your false 9 is world class.. we don't have any of those. Mancini needs to create a family during the qualifiers like how Lippi and conte did.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 10:53pm
I agree with Roman on Rugani comments. Rugani is the best italian man marking defender and Allegri is benching him repeatedly. Allegri is a great coach but has a tendency of having issues. I remember he was part of team that forced pirlo out of milan saying he was finished. I also dont understand why he loves Khedira. I think Matuidi, Pjanic and Bentancur is our best midfield combination.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 8:16pm
Sensi really impressed last night, great competition for Jorginho.

I appreciate the recognition Cutrone is getting for being a pure goalscorer, but I fear he may have many of the same problems the other CFs are having.
In this 433 the CF looks isolated and the moves always break down in the final third. Cutrone is deadly af but has to improve his hold up play and combinations or he could struggle.
We also miss height and presence in the box because our best forwards and mids are all short!
on the 21st November, 2018 at 4:42pm
after reading the comments, i must agree that we are one striker away from being very competitive. The good news is we have some youth that might fill that position. Kean impressed me with his speed yesterday and Cutrone looks to be another Vieri in the making. If this develops in the next 2 yrs then we should have a strong team to compete in the Euros in 2020. Finally, we seem to have fixed the problems with FIGC with the new appointed president. Future is looking very promising.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 2:31pm
It's got to be Bernadeschi on the left, Insigne on the right and Balotelli in the middle playing striker. There is no other way forward at this moment in time.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 9:29am
@Marco 8:40pm -- No player on your list is even good, never mind good enough.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 8:50am
Might be time to play Chiellini up front?

Jokes aside, it takes time but I like the work RM is doing. We had to start from the beginning and RM is going the right way about it. We have a lot of good young players and those in the early/mid 20's bracket, start putting all those created chances away and the future's promising. It was painful but missing out on the World Cup is what we needed to force them to make big changes.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 7:46am
Please enough of Berardi! Too much dribbling, doesnt want to pass/cross, and always look for his own glory. Call up El Shaarawy, Di Francesco, Orsolini, or even Parigini. Yes, we need a striker. Lasagna can be useful, but can't be our main guy. Lets take Cutrone from u21. I think eventually the best line up is gonna be Donnarumma; Conti/Calabria, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Cutrone, Insigne
on the 21st November, 2018 at 5:23am
watch the game [closely]:
berardi - subpar
de sciglio - sub, sub par
lasgna - great dish, not a striker. and ridiculous when shifted outside right
sensi - least for me [and others cuz there's no mention of him pre-game]
grifo - proved worthy of selection
Keane - more please
barella, emerson, politano [yes, him!] and all the other 'knowns' - pure class.
bright future
on the 21st November, 2018 at 3:15am
Not a bad performance....I like the increasing ball movement, defended pretty well,...some players should not be playing for this team. Lasagna is one of them. I did like Sensi and how he moved the ball. I sense its starting to come together. This is a need for scoring striker....Lets see. Veratti had a very good game.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 12:28am
Not an inter fan, but why no politano? Surely he is good enough to come from the bench at least. He has been doing well for onter imo from the little i have seen of him tbh. Correct me if i am wrong. He can also improve i dont think he is over 25?
on the 20th November, 2018 at 10:47pm
The problem is absolute there is no striker,Immobile is always 2 seconds too late to react ,and at international levelyou dont have that time.
If they an find a stiker like Kane,Vardy etc who is Italian
they will go along way.
Without it will be a struugle.
on the 20th November, 2018 at 10:45pm
on the 20th November, 2018 at 10:44pm

GK: Donnarumma, Meret, Perin, Cragno, Audero
CB: Romagnoli, Bonucci, Chellini, Caldara, Rugani, Mancini
WB: Emerson, Florenzi, Calabria, Conti, DiMarco, Adjapong, De Sciglio
MF: Veratti, Jorginho, Barella, Pellegrini, Tonali, Zaniolo, Locatelli
WF: Chiesa, Bernadeschi, Berardi, Insigne, Orsolini
FW: Balotelli, Cutrone, Kean, Pellegri (maybe Belotti if he proves himself)

on the 20th November, 2018 at 7:40pm
Yeah you missed out great youngsters & compared the incomparable i.e. Bernadeschi is consistent now and is at a huge club, he's just been injured whereas Belotti needs to prove he wasn't a one season wonder at an average Torino & then move to a big club. Likewise Veratti is a genius top 5 midfielder & has played well for Italy just has been hindered by injuries, yet Insigne has yet to prove himself for Italy.

Verdi? Gagliardini? Politano? = Quagieralla, Parolo, Pepe (we have way better)...
on the 20th November, 2018 at 7:30pm
I think what Mancini is doing is good. He is focusing on style rather than results, and only thing lacking is finishing.

I think the wingers and Insigne as false 9 can only get better with more practice. Also for forwards, I think Bellotti and Cutrone are the ones that will be good for now and Kean etc. coming up.

Bellotti may be out of form, but its the hard work he brings, like clearing headers from own defensive half in end, and fighting for every ball that makes him useful, compared Balo.
on the 20th November, 2018 at 5:54pm
I also have to agree with Marz. Chiellini is the squad's top goal scorer. If he left the side there'd be no leadership or experienced internationals besides Bonucci, but we know how well Leo led Milan's young team...

@Roman Its not just Rugani being wasted but also Perin and to some extent Bernadeschi. Maybe Juve plan to play Perin next season but right now it's bad for Italy with him getting no minutes as he is possibly Italy's best GK.
on the 20th November, 2018 at 5:36pm
Azzurri's problem with goals! The national team needs a striker who can score. Azzurri possess good defense and talented midfielders, but not a skilled striker! It is a problem, and I must stress it is a big problem! Is there any gifted real terrific striker who has the ability to score goals? Cutrone is who I see can fill the gab, and has the potential to be a wonderful striker. Shame on Juve, Inter, Roma who are not investing in talented strikers! Hopefully, Moise Keane can be part of Azzurri.
on the 20th November, 2018 at 5:35pm
I do like the work that Mancini has done so far: squad selections; blooding the young players even when they are still teenagers, which is very rare in Italian football; the style of play, he's made us more compact and the defense is looking quite solid again. If I have a nitpick, it has to be the lack of a plan B, even if that just means putting a couple of big lumps upfront in the closing minutes. I'm confident that he will be looking at contingencies, hopefully starting tonight.
on the 20th November, 2018 at 5:20pm
Roberto Gagliardini??? the future is with barella,Pellegrini, Tonali,Orsolini and Chiesa. I think defence is sound too, just the full back positions but maybe three at the back could work?

we need Cutrone or Keane to become international goal scorers and Italy will be a threat with right management.
on the 20th November, 2018 at 5:09pm
The midfield is good and will become even better. Barella, Verratti, Jorginho in the present and future. And we've got Tonali, Mandragora, Zaniolo. The central defence will never be a problem while the full backs will always be a problem. Spinazzola & Florenzi perhaps? Insigne, Chiesa, Bernardeschi might become good enough in the attack, but like the writer said: Italy misses a striker! Just one awesome striker would make huge difference. Let's hope for Kean or Pellegri. Or that Belotti wakes up
on the 20th November, 2018 at 4:16pm
Wy Rugani is second to Benatia,only alegri knows.
for me he isn't a youngster any clearly wasting one of italy's top talent on the bence.
on the 20th November, 2018 at 1:50pm
Marz you are spot on with everything you said
on the 20th November, 2018 at 1:19pm
I would have agreed more if this was written 3 months ago but now I think Mancio has an idea of his starting 11. Midfield has bags of potential for years to come. There are replacements for Chiellini and Bonucci further down the line if they are introduced gradually now. Find a consistent hitman and a full back and everything will be ok! Politano is only young by Italian standards. He’s 25! In Spain he’d be considered experienced. Hopefully Kean, pellegri etc can integrate for 2022, 2024
on the 20th November, 2018 at 1:05pm
The generation gap was created by not blooding more of the 25-30 year olds onto the international stage when they were 19-24. Most of this generation have had stop start international careers, when they now should have been seasoned internationals. Big ask to now expect them to step up to the plate and preform miracles. The path to future success for the Azzurri is tapping into their talented youth players. Planning beyond the usual 2 to 4 year plan - A 10 to 12 year plan is what's required.
on the 20th November, 2018 at 12:56pm

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