Thursday September 5 2019
Italy take the Mkhi in Armenia

The Azzurri did just about enough to grind out a win over 10-man Armenia, but it was a reality check for Giancarlo Rinaldi.

It wasn’t pretty nor very much deserved, that’s for sure. If grinding out wins in uninspiring fashion is a symptom of coming down with a winning mentality, then this might be just what the Azzurri team doctor ordered. For the rest of us, enthused by some of the nice football seen in previous outings, a flattering triumph over Armenia felt about as good as chugging down your cough medicine when you are six years old.

We couldn’t say, I suppose, that we had not been warned. The usual mutterings about the game being too early in the Serie A season proved prophetic once more. Nobody ever made much money by betting on Italy being impressive in their first outing of a new season. If bookies paid out on a display’s quality, they’d have been keeping their cash firmly in their pockets once again.

In the end, of course, three points are three points and another vital step towards Euro 2020, and there was the consolation that it looked - at times - like things could have been worse. A lacklustre opening quarter of an hour - when Roberto Mancini’s side went behind to an Alexander Karapetyan strike - threatened to make it an even longer evening.

To watch a man who looked like Daniele De Rossi’s bulky Armenian cousin waltz through to score was a worry. The spectre of a Giorgio Chiellini-shaped hole in the defence was evident in front of Gigio Donnarumma. It was hard to think the injured Juve stalwart would not have made a better fist of blocking the onrushing forward before he found the net.

Credit to the team for shaking off that shock to produce a decent comeback. They started to knock on the door - with Chelsea’s Emerson continuing his good league form - and it was no surprise he had a part to play in the equaliser. When he set up Andrea Belotti, it looked like winning would be a formality. How wrong we were.

A dodgy red card for Armenia’s goalscorer - with a second yellow for an elbow which appeared to make minimal contact on Leonardo Bonucci - ought to have made the task even easier, but it singularly failed to do so. The playing surface may not have been perfect, but there were too many sloppy passes and too many wrong decisions made, as Mancio went doolally on the sidelines. It surprised nobody when he whipped off both his Federicos - Chiesa and Bernardeschi - in the second half. Neither delivered the impact they would have hoped for.

To add to Italian frustration, Marco Verratti picked up a senseless booking which rules him out of the upcoming Finland game. The little midfielder is brilliant, but he does seem to have a love affair with the yellow card which is frustrating. It is hard to build a team around a man who is likely to pick up a suspension with alarming regularity. Mind you, he’s so lovely to watch on the ball, you have to forgive him some failings. Not everybody does, of course.

As Team Italia huffed and puffed it looked more like they might get caught on the break by new Roma man Henrikh Mkhitaryan and his companions despite their one-man disadvantage than power on to win. Goals from sub Lorenzo Pellegrini and a Belotti shot that bounced in off the goalie eventually gave a flattering scoreline.

They might even have had more - with Il Gallo having a strike incorrectly ruled offside - but that would have been truly hurtful to the fans in Yerevan.

There’s no need to panic about the drab nature of the performance as long as the Azzurri get the job done in Finland, but this was a little reality check.

On the back foot, Italy looked out of sorts and underlined why they need to take the game to opponents as much as they can. They also need to sharpen up their finishing and decision making when they are on top if they hope to dispense with these games in more convincing fashion.

Italy fans of long-standing have seen more displays like this than they would care to think about. The important thing, we know, is to learn the lessons it provided in order to be ready for the sterner tests to come.

Have your say...
Italy and italian clubs have not defended well since they started to buy foriegn defenders instead of using italian players in defence. Foriegn defenders are not as disciplined as italians also they are using the italian league to top up their pensions
on the 9th September, 2019 at 11:02am
italy where average but should have still won by 5or6 we still have better youngsters then england
on the 9th September, 2019 at 10:45am
@ Worthless 2 cents... Totally agree... Bonucci is a liability... and I feel he's been overrated for years...Italy hasn't defended well for years... Chiellini should be done now...
on the 7th September, 2019 at 9:29am
on the 7th September, 2019 at 9:11am
Without the defense that made Italy one of the best national teams in history we aren't going anywhere. The defense is trash the attack is trash.
on the 6th September, 2019 at 8:08pm
Some issues for sure but also some positives. Finally seem to have unearthed a decent left footed LB in Emerson, the technical quality and depth of options in CM is very very good and a lot of them are a good age. Belotti is by no means world class but he's okay and hopefully just a stop gap until Kean/Cutrone/Pellegri/Pinamonti develop. The lack of height in the team is a weakness but Spain had a small team and didn't exactly do badly.
on the 6th September, 2019 at 6:29pm
Italy have the most points and largest goal differential in Euro qualifying so far. Mancini has done wonders.
on the 6th September, 2019 at 5:54pm
I know this isn't a hot take or anything, but it really seems Verratti's game has really stalled. He needs to be more mature. These antics might be okay in France, but its a huge liability to his team in Champions League and with Italy. Thankfully, Italy has some promising young midfielders who might put Verratti's spot under pressure.
on the 6th September, 2019 at 1:41pm
I really think Italy need to start planning for post Chiellini and Bonucci. Bonucci hasn't been convincing since 2016.
on the 6th September, 2019 at 1:38pm
We all know that Italy never do well in September.All coaches have asked for the league to start earlier but goes on death ears!Considering the awful pitch, eventually they did well and we could have won by 5 or more.I agree with RM that when they went down to 10 men,they all went behind the ball and was even harder to break them down.If we win in Finland,then we will be there at the Euros.We have Greece,Lie and Aremenia at home and only Bosnia away so we should be there.Forza Italia
on the 6th September, 2019 at 10:31am
Bonucci was shameful and made the game much more difficult for Italy and we were almost caught out a few times on the counter.
on the 6th September, 2019 at 10:10am
We'll qualify and that's the target. After what happened last time, Italy just qualifying will be a huge step forward. But this team lacks sparkle and class. There are no stars and no real quality. Maybe Mancini can fashion a winning team from the sum of the parts but I doubt it. Let's hope for an easy draw; a bit like England's at the last World Cup!
on the 6th September, 2019 at 8:54am
Clueless mate!
on the 6th September, 2019 at 7:51am
Not convincing however 3 vital points. Let’s not forget, how far the team has come since Mancini has been in charge. Hopefully the boys can avoid a defeat in Finland, a win would surely mean us virtually qualified which is the objective.
on the 6th September, 2019 at 6:27am
Phew this looked like a Ventura team tonight. Some of the blame on the italian coaches who benched the likes of Bernadeschi and Barella. They have barely played this year in Seria A. No wonder they are not in playing shape and out of sync. Bernadeschi has to play at Juventus or move him back to Fiorentina. Bonucci is showing his age his legs cannot keep pace. The spark was missing tonight
on the 6th September, 2019 at 1:26am
Not great, but much better than the usual early season performances that Italy produces. I like Mancini's approach though I still have concerns about: our end product (skill, imagination, decision-making, finishing) ; lack of height/physicality; that we can be too open; & the absence of a proper defensive midfielder
on the 5th September, 2019 at 10:22pm
Wasn't pretty? Maybe not the prettiest but Italy dominated and could have won 5-1 easily... I'll take given a hostile environment and poor pitch...
on the 5th September, 2019 at 9:10pm
Few truths that we Italy fans need to accept.
1) Echoing Ginkers point on Verratti, we probably need to look for another midfield answer. There'll be a high pressure situation and he will self-destruct, leaving Italy in a hole.
2) Chiesa is not *that* good. Definitely not Juve material.
3) Bernadeschi is a waste as an attacker. Time for someone to turn him into a fullback/wingback.
4) Emerson is really good going forward, but a liability defensively. He can't be the first choice going forward.
on the 5th September, 2019 at 9:03pm

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