Wednesday November 21 2018
For better and for worse

Italy have shown both the strengths and the weaknesses of Roberto Mancini during his tenure so far, says Gaby McKay.

For a Coach with such an impressive CV, Roberto Mancini is still something of a divisive figure for football fans. Mancio won three Scudetti with Inter - albeit the first was awarded in the Calciopoli scandal - brought Manchester City their first league title in 44 years, and won the Coppa Italia with both Fiorentina and Lazio under trying circumstances.

Despite that he has never really been viewed as being among the game’s very elite tacticians, with his European record and perceived volatility preventing him from achieving the respect he may very well feel he deserves. When Mancini was appointed as Azzurri CT most thought he was a decent choice - but they’d have preferred Carlo Ancelotti, Max Allegri or a return for Antonio Conte.

With the Nations League over and several friendlies under his belt, it’s possible to begin to assess the Sampdoria legend’s tenure with the national team, and the early indications are that we’re seeing both the best and the worst of Roberto Mancini.

Many would argue that the Coach’s best work came at the beginning of his career, as be battled against financial meltdown at Fiorentina and Lazio. With the Viola forced to sell key men such as Francesco Toldo and Manuel Rui Costa, and Mancini himself reportedly going unpaid, he managed to deliver the 2001 Coppa Italia.

That remains the only major trophy the Tuscan club has won since 1996, and Fiorentina would collapse into bankruptcy just 12 months later. At Lazio too Mancini was fighting with one hand tied behind his back, with budgets and player wages being slashed in the aftermath of the Sergio Cragnotti era. Despite that, Mancini reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals in his first season and won the Coppa Italia in his second.

In many ways Mancio walked into a similar situation with the national team. Morale was at rock bottom after the failure to qualify for the World Cup, and the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Barzagli had walked away.

Injuries to other key players hampered the Azzurri in early matches, but there are signs that Mancini is starting to give this Italy an identity. Against both Portugal and the USA his side played positive, attacking football; building on what had been seen against Poland. They may be struggling to score goals, but Italy look a world away from the listless displays under Giampiero Ventura.

At club level, one of the slights against Mancini is his insistence on numerous transfers, many of them ineffective. After winning the league with Manchester City, players like Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair and Maicon arrived and were disastrous.

His return to Inter saw Martin Montoya, Felipe Melo and Davide Santon arrive at San Siro, along with more successful buys like Ivan Perisic and Joao Miranda. Mancio may well point to sporting director Piero Ausilio, but his later career has been characterised by a huge turnover of players, many of whom haven’t performed.

Clearly Mancini can’t sign players for Italy, but we’ve seen similar tendencies with his scattershot approach to call-ups. Valencia full-back Cristiano Piccini admitted no-one had his number when he was called to the squad, while caps have also been given to Davide Zappacosta and Emerson Palmieri. Sebastian Giovinco was recalled from MLS, though didn’t play a single minute, and Lorenzo Tonelli was called-up in October after two seasons on the bench at Napoli. Vincenzo Grifo was largely unknown in Italy when he was included in the latest squad.

Kevin Lasagna may have the best name in football, but is he an international striker? The evidence of last night’s friendly would suggest not, with the Udinese man spurning several good chances.

To be fair to Mancini, he is somewhat bereft of options up-front. Mario Balotelli has regressed at Nice, and at the age of 28 it appears he’ll never be reliable. Andrea Belotti has struggled for form at Torino, while Ciro Immobile just can’t seem to score outside of Serie A. Never mind Luca Toni or Cristian Vieri, the Nazionale would kill for Alberto Gilardino right now.

With Euro 2020 qualification approaching, Mancini is currently achieving pass marks. Italy have improved since his first matches, and appear to developing a style of play. Italy are top seeds for the draw on December 2, and will surely have enough to finish in the top two and ensure qualification.

By then it’s to be hoped that the CT will have a more-or-less settled squad, with a clear idea of how he wants his side to play. If Mancini can achieve that then the future could be bright - he is a cup specialist after all…

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Have your say...
@Dude You might be right about the hairstyles, but does that really matter in sports?
What do you mean "Where does the optimism come from?"? Are you completely blind? Have you even watched the recent matches?
Italy is becoming one of the strongest teams again, and if you don't consider Portugal one of the "big boys", I don't know what to say. Italy had 70% possession against them, the European champions, if that's not a good reason for optimism, I don't know what is. Take ur head out of ur butt.
on the 25th November, 2018 at 12:25pm
Who said anything about Kean and Balo not being legal!? Stop making up BS and read the what people are saying.
Balotelli cant even get into the first team at Nice so how can he be expected to play for Italy, on top of that he is utterly useless and has failed to change with every new opportunity hes had. Kean is a very diffrent situation he is simply to young, he needs regular football and time.
Don't come on here screaming accusations when moat comments on here are honest opinions.
on the 25th November, 2018 at 10:05am
So much xenophobia.Balotelli and Kean are 100% legal Italians. Kean isn’t ready but Balotelli is definitely our best bet at CF. After him the best options are Cutrone and Pavoletti. Insigne, Chiesa, Berardi and Lasagne are all poor. Politano should be a guaranteed starter.
on the 25th November, 2018 at 6:14am

It's cute you think others don't know the difference between peruse and glance, or got that matter, that I actually read your article.

As for the reason "why it's ironic" - I why already mentioned why it is so in the very next few words... Did you get do massively triggered you forgot what constructive criticism looks like?

Keep up the good work, show us just how shoddy your penmanship is...
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 5:15pm
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 4:16pm
Maybe we should send some scouts to Africa and see if we can find a striker there and make them Italian, I mean its worked for France maybe this is the way forward for us.
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 4:11pm
I agree.
Playing keep ball against USA is hardly impressive. Drawing with Portugal in my eyes is nothing to be proud of at all, just about beating Poland is even worse.
He hasn't done anything ground breaking, what he has done is what any manager would have done, change a few old players and put a few youngsters in, I mean it natural progression.
One thing is certain that if he continuous to pick immobile and insigne and we catch another Sweden, we are going to miss another Cup!
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 4:07pm
@Beppe Rossi
In every aspect of what? he has scored less and played less so what aspects are you seeing are more important when comparing Cutrone and Kean? we need goals now not in 5-6 years. Let Kean develop and establish first team football at club level first before we start to hype him up.
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 3:54pm
@Ric. Carrelli
I agree. I mean fielding any forward who openly says one of his idols is Balotelli should be kept as far away from Italy as possible. He is being given the kind of attention that Balotelli got at the beginning of his 'glittering' career of failure. I think we need to spend less time trying to diversify Italy and more time picking inform players, it's like we are trying to fast track Kean so he doesn't pick Ivory Coast over Italy give the boy time and learn from our Balo mistakes
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 3:45pm

I'm not sure what's ironic about it, but thanks for taking the time to peruse my garbage, Alanis Morissette xox
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 10:23am
How do you know the article is pure garbage?

Because the opening line is
"For a Coach with such an impressive CV"
which is ironical, because Mancini has never succeeded in his entire career.

He's a joke, and so are morons like Insigne, Immobile, Verratti, Jorginho etc. who cannot play with quality on a consistent basis and always fail against quality opponents.

Don't be surprised when Mancini cannot guide the Azzurri even to the group stages of Euro 2020.
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 10:10am
Cutrone(Milan) 17/18: 10 Serie A goals, 4 EL goals
Kean(Verona) 17/18: 4 goals

Cutrone: 5 goals
Kean: 12 minutes

Kean certainly has great potential. He can be a more complete player but Cutrone has proven more so far.
on the 23rd November, 2018 at 5:58am
With RM,
1- He is good but not the best for Italy now. But let him be given benefit of doubt for some months.
2- Can someone tell him to reduce the number of back-passes when going for goals. That is the major challenge he should work upon. Common sense; you cannot score easily if you waste time passing the ball both forward and backward in the final third. With this kind of play you give the opponent's defence time to correct its loophole(s). Next you find impossible to penetrate for goals.
on the 22nd November, 2018 at 11:57am
Kean, Grifo, Tonali,Petagna, Conti (if healthy), Mancini, Biraghi and Pinamonti are all players I would like to see in the squad come Euro qualifying time.
on the 22nd November, 2018 at 2:48am
Try Leonardo Pavoletti...
on the 22nd November, 2018 at 1:21am
I don't see where the optimism comes. Passing it around against low level opponents does not impress me. That won't work against the big boys.
This team has no real men or leaders. Just a bunch of beta males more concerned with their ugly tattoos and feminine hairstyles. Don't be surprised if they fail to qualify for Euro 2020.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 11:26pm
Kean needs to be on the team permanently. In fact he needs to start period.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 7:59pm
Riccardo Carrelli - Because Kean is better in every aspect.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 7:55pm
Style of play very exciting and yesterday's goal was very good but we are trying to score all the goals by walking it into the net.. What's wrong taking a shot from outside the box more than once or twice? Kean is one to watch, speed, skill and an eye for goal. Grifo and Sensi had really good games. Excited by future of Azzurri
on the 21st November, 2018 at 6:26pm
I think Mancini has done a marvellous job especially when considering the work of his predecessor... If you've watched Italy over the last 4 games, yo can see they've been improving steadily... he's made good selections and has made them play more compact.. they need to find a scorer or two though! That's not his fault. Stay is lacking there.... but mid-field has be reconstructed and he's gotten Verratti to play the best he's ever played for Italy.

Keep up the good work!!
on the 21st November, 2018 at 6:09pm
Italy are playing great football right now. There should be no "For worse" in the title because that isn't the case. The players have stated they enjoy themselves and are confident when playing and you'll notice all 11 take part in the action not just 2 while the other 8 stand around as workhorses. Italians in general should be grateful that Mancini has the NT playing far better than the dismal football we saw under Ventura and Conte. A striker with a clinical finishing touch is the problem.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 5:50pm
The team's development under Mancini has been very impressive but if he can't find a solution in the final third soon he might have switch up his tactics away from 433. Right now none of Italy's strikers seem up to task of being the target man. The CF always looks so isolated no matter who it is.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 5:29pm
I can see why RM called Immobile.I bet he scores for Lazio this weekend!Just doesn't perform well for Italy.Give these youngsters time.We actually played beautiful football and this is thanks to RM.His interview after the game on RAI was he wants us to win every game in the group stage for the Euros.This tells me what kind of a CT he is.I think RM is great and thank God we got him.I love the way we play and believe me that goals will come.Forza Italia Sempre Avanti Batteremo Tutti Quanti. Ale`
on the 21st November, 2018 at 2:55pm
We didn't want Conte - he picks older / workmen like players. Allegri was never in contention. Ancelotti wouldn't have integrated youth. Mancini was the best choice. Nations league was the perfect opportunity to test players - winning was irrelevant as long as we avoided relegation.

Agree about Lasagna but we wouldn't kill for Gilardino - we have Balotelli (lightyears better, just needs to find form), Cutrone, Kean, Pellegri, Belotti (when finds form).

Immobile is useless - too many chances.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 1:27pm
Basically his premier league title is his only decent achievement.. The Coppa Italia was a Mickey mouse cup at that time and his Serie A titles at Inter were nothing short of the minimum expected. There are at least 10 better italian coaches at the moment, everyone is just trying to convince themselves that Mancini is the right man for Italy.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 12:53pm
The last 4 games have been the best that Italy have played in a long time. In fact, I haven't seen Italy boss games like this since the fantastic 1990 team. The similarities even extend to the low number of goals scored, despite playing some beautiful football. The scatter gun approach makes since because we need to extend our player pool & give ourselves more options. We now have many players for each position and with any luck, we will start to put away our chances.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 12:47pm
Performances have improved and I like the youngsters getting a chance.

All I would say is please, please stop calling and picking Immobile.

He has no touch, is slow and cant finish. The amount of times play breaks down with him is unreal. Please Mancio, please.
on the 21st November, 2018 at 12:40pm
let me just remind you that Sweden plays much better football than Italy they both score very little, but Sweden's FW plays in middle east... so does Italy have a god team, kinda, but does it have a good coach still not
on the 21st November, 2018 at 12:09pm
We need a goalscorer. Why on earth was Cutrone not called up and Moise Kean given space instead....!
on the 21st November, 2018 at 12:09pm
i give him credit for a recognizable style of play. Italy is passing better. this is the best I have seen Verratti play for Italy so he is getting the best out of him. the likes of immobile and lasagna are not pure strikers. that is why they miss so many strikers. Chiesa has played so much for mancini but he seems more flash than substance. there is little end product. was very impressed with kean and politano running at the defence. core strikers kean, politano, insigne,bernadeshi ,chiesa,grifo
on the 21st November, 2018 at 11:59am

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