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Friday October 11 2019
One or two up for Italy?

While Italy continue to shuffle through No 9s ahead of Euro 2020, Football Italia's Chief Correspondent Richard Hall argues there is also a case for a front two...

There is always debate in Italy when it comes to the national team as there is so much coverage all over the peninsula. This has certainly changed since Giampiero Ventura’s failed attempt to reach the World Cup, which led the Gazzetta dello Sport to capture the public mood with the headline ‘Apocalypse’. The conversations are now often based on whether Italy have the quality, but things are changing. Now, with the European Championship on the horizon, questions like ‘who should start as the main striker?’ are becoming more normal again.

Roberto Mancini himself seems to be having this debate. In recent games, Ciro Immobile, Andrea Belotti and Fabio Quagliarella have all had turns in leading the line. There are certainly plenty of options and, with Mancini’s favourite Mario Balotelli now back in Italy, we’re still no nearer to the identity of the Azzurri’s definitive No 9. The 4-3-3 is certainly the preferred system as it allows Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa (or the many other wide options) to also act as second strikers or counterattacking wingers. The question therefore remains - who will play through the middle?

As Immobile netted two against Bologna this weekend, he yet again showed why an argument for him as the default centre-forward is so tempting. He is the current top goalscorer in Serie A with seven goals, plus he has two assists and is averaging a goal every 74 minutes. His movement is excellent, he has pace and he’s also direct and strong. He has formed a good partnership with Luis Alberto and Joaquim Correra this season and, if he has chemistry with a player, he brings out the best in them.

Torino’s Andrea Belotti is perhaps the other main contender. He has netted five times this term for a Granata side who have shown two sides of themselves. Not only is he a predator, but he’s also capable of the spectacular. He is one for the future too, at four yours younger than Ciro, and against Armenia he showed that even when Italy were struggling, he could still be deadly (he scored a brace). ‘Il Gallo’ seems continually overlooked and seriously underrated, yet he has provided at least 10 Serie A goals every season since 2015 and his best tally stands at in impressive 26, making him a man with a legitimate case to start.

Perhaps the question Mancini should be asking himself is, rather than which striker to pick, why not play both together? Admittedly he’d be perhaps sacrificing an element in his midfield, but every Coach needs a Plan B and Immobile, for his part, is supportive of a front two.

Indeed, during the Azzurri’s ill-fated qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup, Immobile spoke to the Press about a potential partnership. He said that he felt he and Belotti could form an effective pairing for the national team as they had the right chemistry. He explained they had a good connection, were good friends and that there was no rivalry between them. With both forwards in good form for their current clubs, Mancini could take this opportunity to pair them up.

They have played together for Italy before and there’s a strong argument that this should be the way forward for Mancini’s team to play. If they can strike up an understanding then La Nazionale could end up with one of the rarest things in modern football - a proper striking partnership. This is something that could prove critical as a second option for the next European Championship.

Have your say...
MM
O GOODNESS ME I THINK I JUST QUESTIONED HIS ABILITY. IF YOU HANG ON ANOTHER SECOND I'LL DO IT AGAIN! HE SCORED 2 GOALS FOR LIVERPOOL IN A WHOLE SEASON AND 1 GOAL FOR MILAN IN A SEASON. EVEN MENTALLY DISTURBED CAN'T EXCUSE A STRIKER THAT DOESN'T ACTUALLY SCORE.
HE HAD 1 AMAZING 3 MINUTES AGAINST GERMANY AND THATS YOUR LOT, THE GUYS A WASTE OF SPACE. SENT PACKING FROM EVERY SINGLE TEAM HE HAS PLAYED AT.
IBRAHIMOVIC ISN'T TOTALLY WITH IT MENTALLY EIRHER YET HE SEEMS TO SCORE.
WE DONE SHOUTING
on the 13th October, 2019 at 8:37am
NO ONE CAN QUESTION BALOTELLI'S ABILITY IF HE HAD RONALDO'S MENTALITY HE'D BE AS GOOD AS ANY CENTRE FORWARD IN WORLD FOOTBALL, HIS ISSUE HAS BEEN MENTALITY AND DESTRUCTIVE PERSONALITY.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 1:14am
MM
Balotelli strike fear in defenders! Hahahahaha are you on drugs?
on the 12th October, 2019 at 8:27pm
Primo calcio
You were doing great. Yes Belotti should be the main man upfront. Then you ruined it all.. Balotelli!!!
Kean and cutrone left the benches of Italy to sit on the benches in England so what good is it bringing players who are not playing???
on the 12th October, 2019 at 8:23pm
Weird... Blog reminds me of the dark days of Ventura.
Immobile can be a backup.
Belotti deserves his chance to consistently lead the line. Then there is Balo + youngsters like Kean, Cutrone, Pinamonti, and A. Donna who can stake a claim going forward.
I would never sacrifice one of our top CMs for Immobile.

It also irks me that Acerbi (nothing against him) is being played over Romagnoli who needs the vital experience.
on the 12th October, 2019 at 5:17pm
I think Mario will have a part to play so number 9 will be a difficult choice. My areas of concern is the other two of the front 3. Beyond insigne and chiesa, there is a lack of depth. Berna is going to struggle for playing time. I second someone calling for Berardi or even orsolini to be given a go. Why SES is in when he’s not playing competitive football is beyond me.
on the 12th October, 2019 at 5:06pm
Likewise Belotti's drive, style of play, his performances for Italy, factored with his age 24 and that he is still yet to make his major move, means he has all the credentials to become world class - whether he does or not is down to him BUT he still can reach that level.

Immobile will never have the ability or big game presence to start at an elite european club, Balotelli does have that ability (BUT not the personality to go with it), Belotti on the other hand has the potential to do so.
on the 12th October, 2019 at 3:28pm
This has to be a joke?

IMMOBILE who is almost 30 who has never achieved anything in football, as JUVE FAN states he flopped and was a bench warmer at Sevilla and Dortmund (two mid level European clubs) and what has he ever done for Italy - 8 goals in 37 matches (1 in 5) - who couldn't score a goal when it mattered against Sweden, despite great chances.

Say what we want about Balotelli, when fit give him the stage and he'll deliver, and strikes fear into defenders. Immobile never has or will...
on the 12th October, 2019 at 3:18pm
I would have liked Alfredo Donnarumma of Brecia to be included and Beradi on the team too since they played well this term.

I would try this out.

Insigne - Donnarumma - El Shaarawy

Varretti - Jorgino - Zanolo -Seni

Greece are not going to a threat so may as well use the fire power up front and mid field. We still have Chiesa up front, Immoble and Bellotti for more combinations.
on the 12th October, 2019 at 1:46pm
Preferably, I would like to see none of them on the pitch. If I have to, then one is more than enough. Thanks for the thought though.
on the 12th October, 2019 at 11:38am
Thanks but no thanks, I never want to see Immobile with Italy again. He's nowhere near good enough. And you said it, Italy rarely (If ever) play 2 classic CFs together because it just doesn't work, I don't care if he's top scorer in SerieA every year, on the big stage he's just embarrassing. Balo, except for some games under Prandelli (Before WC) never plays for the team, and for some reason he won't mature. I say let's stick with 1 for now until the next generation comes around.
on the 12th October, 2019 at 2:38am
Immobile is fortunate to be in this team - fortunate Kean made a bad move to everton as did cutrone to wolvea, fortunate balotelli has personal issues all his career, fortunate Pellegri is injured at Monaco for 2 years.

We are already overloaded with top midfielders, one of them is worth sacrificing for Immobile?

Or Chiesa / Insigne / Bernadeschi / Berardi?

Come on, even when we had vieri and inzaghi we rarely played them together and our wingers and midfield had less depth then.

Crazy Blog.
on the 11th October, 2019 at 10:13pm
CRAZY BLOG - Yeah lets revert to what Ventura did and play two CF's.

Belotti is far better, 4 years younger and could still be world class. Immobile failed at Dortmund and Sevilla and has never succeeded after numerous chances for Italy, look at his poor stats. he could score 40 for Lazio this season, he still isn't good enough.

You only contemplate 2 CF's when your strikers are exceptional, Immobile isn't that and never will be.
on the 11th October, 2019 at 10:09pm
With our current crop of players, I would be more inclined to play Chiesa, Insigne, Politano etc alongside Belotti (if we were to go with two up top) tricky skillful players that can score and assist. If Balotelli returns to top form & fitness, perhaps he could play up top with Belotti? Seeing as they are opposites, i.e. Balotelli fairly static, doesn't press, technical, clinical finisher/Belotti dynamic, great movement, can be a little wasteful.
on the 11th October, 2019 at 9:06pm
No. Even countries with several world class strikers rarely start with more than one up top. Despite his impressive numbers at club level, Immobile has been poor for the NT. Most of our quality is in the CM and wide positions & I wouldn't sacrifice that to accommodate the Lazio man. Belotti still has the time to go up another & become world class. He would be my number 9 in EVERY game - Mancini keeps using him in fits & starts which will stifle Belotti getting in synch with his teammates.
on the 11th October, 2019 at 8:54pm
If I were to choose one over the other it would be Belotti. Hard working, physical and better at linking up. Mancini knows Balo inside out, back to front upside down but he’s months away from deserving a call up as he’s hardly played. Personally I think Belotti up on his own is best as there are plenty of wide options to offer support and more guarantees that way if injuries or suspensions kick in
on the 11th October, 2019 at 7:34pm
Hmmm! Maybe. I always thought that traditionally Italy n Immobile played better with a striker n a support striker or fantasista tho! Like Baggio n who ever. Cassano n Balotelli or Luis Alberto n Immobile at Lazio! Maybe a 4-2-3-1 with Sensi, Pellegrini when he's fit or Zaniolo supporting with Chiesa n Insigne/Berna on the wings might work. Belotti/Immobile may b worth a try once qualification is secured. R.Mancini is doing well anyway!
on the 11th October, 2019 at 6:47pm

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