Saturday October 17 2020
Italy's goal conundrum continues

Italy were held to a 1-1 stalemate by the Netherlands and Giancarlo Rinaldi points out the Azzurri are still looking for that somebody to turn control into goals.

There is a curious kind of torture that football sometimes reserves for coaches who once played the game at the highest level. The sport can cruelly provide them with a squad of players which is crying out for the qualities their boss boasted back when they were still lacing up their boots. And how Roberto Mancini would love to give his Azzurri a little dose of one of his greatest gifts - composure.

Over three games in October, we got another illustration of the progress Italy have made under his management in terms of going out and imposing themselves on an opponent. In the key games with Poland and, to a lesser extent, against the Netherlands, they showed they were willing to take the initiative and try to grab a game by the throat. Unfortunately, when the chances came their way, they only had the coolness to convert a single one - and that was through midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini.

Let’s start, though, with the positive vibes that came across this trio of ties. We started off with a lovely little appetiser against Moldova. The run out for Italy’s second string delivered a feast of goals the likes of which the Azzurri rarely deliver. Among the highlights was a debut strike for Ciccio Caputo and the confirmation of a powerful squad to call on. It was pleasing, too, to see Stephan El Shaarawy perform so well on his return to the fold.

What that clash gave us was confirmation of the refreshing approach being demanded of this side. Even at 5-0 up, they were being told to drive forward in search of more goals and keep the pressure on the opposition. That attitude, in itself, is quite a transformation from the old rule of minimo sforzo - minimum effort - which used to govern such affairs.

The next course, it would only be fair to say, was a little less tasty. A stronger starting XI failed to break down Poland in a game which could have put them on track to top their Nations League group with ease. On the plus side was the way the defence handled one of the world’s best strikers in Robert Lewandowski and, on the whole, looked solid. But they were just too frantic for much of the match and when chances came their way they spurned them in alarming fashion - most notably through Federico Chiesa. Even the ever impeccable Mancio looked like he might pull out a clump of his classic coiffure in despair.

That set up the main dish in Bergamo - a mouthwatering match-up with Frank de Boer’s side - as the key encounter of the trio. Having beaten the Oranje in the away leg, there was cause for optimism and, after taking the lead through the aforementioned Pellegrini goal, they should have gone from strength to strength. Instead, they conceded quite quickly and seemed to lose a little of the assurance they had built up in previous outings. That a balanced affair ended in a draw seemed a pretty fair outcome.

It confirmed, once again, what a star Nicolò Barella has become for this team. His busy, buzzing attitude and ability with the ball at his feet have become central to all the good things this team can do. If the Inter man continues this development, he will be at the heart of the national side for years to come.

Defensively, it felt that conceding one goal across three games confirmed the strong platform being built at the back. Gigio Donnarumma can count on a sturdy shield in front of him no matter who is selected to play. It will no doubt face sterner tests if we ever get back to proper tournament football, but the signs are good.

In the centre of the pitch, too, it feels like the options are quite impressive. Pellegrini has joined Barella in becoming a major contributor while Jorginho - although a bit out of sorts in these games - and Marco Verratti remain integral parts of Italy’s operations. There are plenty of valid alternatives in the heart of the side, too.

It is up front, though, that the alarm bells continue to ring a little with nobody consistently turning control of a game into goals. Caputo did well against Moldova but it remains to be seen if he can click in bigger matches. Andrea Belotti was clearly picked for his endeavour against Poland but he failed to find the net. And Ciro Immobile, despite a Golden Shoe on the mantelpiece, remains something of an enigma for his country. It is impossible to argue with his club record but 10 goals in more than 40 appearances for the Azzurri is not a return worthy of his abilities. It might just be a question of needing something to click, but we have been waiting a while for that now.

Despite the frustration of back-to-back draws in their group games, Italy can still get to the top of their table. However, it has made the clash with Poland a key one in their pursuit of first place. That game is likely to be another intense affair where taking chances will be vital to making progress. His forwards could do worse than watch old videos of how Bobby Mancini used to take chances back in his Sampdoria days.

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Have your say...

Florenzi Romagnoli Chiellini Emerson

Barella Jorginho Verratti

Zaniolo Kean Insigne

Gollini Sirigu Bastoni Bonucci Spinazzola Di Lorenzo Tonali Castrovilli Pellegrini Berardi Chiesa Pellegri (hopefully he has a great season)

Other options - Mancini Sensi Bernardeschi

Long shot - Esposito

Wildcard - Balotelli (if he finds a team and has a good season)

Locatelli is so slow should be bottom of a long list of better midfielders - him and jorginho in the line up is risky.
on the 15th October, 2020 at 11:57am
Time to give up on Belotti and Immobile they've had years to own the CF position especially Immobile. Kean is a CF, play him there and have a fresh start.

Chiesa needs to recharge and re-earn a starting spot he looked better for Azzurri when he had to fight to earn his place in the team. We need Zaniolo, right now Zaniolo (when fit) with Berardi / Insigne looks best for the wings at the euros.
on the 15th October, 2020 at 11:48am
AND BY THE WAY.. the concern now isn’t to win the November matches to top the Nations League group, the real concern is to win the November matches to ensure becoming a top seeded team for the WC qualifying draw in December.
on the 15th October, 2020 at 11:18am
Not convinced by moise
He don’t have the finesse.... I do not understand why he does not play Grifo when insigne is not available
Grifo is a very good player and he can take a free kick as good as anyone over the years
Why is he constantly playing Keane as a substitute for Chiesa
I want to see someone else come on
We were playing fantastic football in the midfield until our last two games
Now we gone back to long balls and players with no finesse
on the 15th October, 2020 at 11:00am
Totally toothless. It would be a real crime if this great generation of midfielders and wily, old, but still excellent, defenders, are let down by our poor attacking options. Luckily there is still time but, unfortunately, Immobile and the others are not big time players. Sure they can score against the likes of Crotone and Genoa but not consistently at international level. I'll keep pushing for 4-4-1-1 with Berardi behind a single striker - it worked for us in 2006 and it can work for us again.
on the 15th October, 2020 at 10:57am
Sir, when discussing the middle, you forgot to mention the like of Sensi (who I think is underrated and under appreciated), Zaniolo (who, the returns to form, will boast that offence, Locatelli, and of course Tonali! That midfield is set for years.. even if a couple of those players fizzle out, there's enough there to create a deep, talented midfield.
on the 15th October, 2020 at 10:48am
Ok, the Dutch changed tactics and went with a 5-3-2.. That's all the Italy side are talking about.. fine. But it still doesn't answer why Immobile continues to miss - he had chances. He can't bury them for some reason with Italy. It's as though he can only play well with his familiar arrangement of players and formation at Lazio. If that's the case, and it appears so, then we need to find a replacement for this player. He's had his chances. But who replaces him? Caputo until something else?
on the 15th October, 2020 at 10:35am
It’s fair article but give credit to Holland they pressed and stopped us playing even tho we did create the best chances. I think Mancini has made us fun to watch again that was a good test and we need to overcome teams that press and stop us playing. We didn’t seen to have a plan b and that is a worry I don’t think Ciro is ever gong to bring the goals he doesn’t look completely comfortable playing for Azzurri look how Pellegrini finished that chance was class that’s what Ciro should do
on the 15th October, 2020 at 10:33am was already full of the opposition.

I was once told gli tifosi Azzurri have been spoiled by feats from before and expect too much. While this is true, much like SerieA, we are not breaking out of this amateur quality. This is what happens when you do not invest in Italian youth and instead buying foreign players, clubs have no one to provide for the national team. Last night was crap!
on the 15th October, 2020 at 10:09am
What a curious era we are stuck in where, post match, we are littered with excuses - Immobile hero, Holland fear, Italy new identity (after each game).

This performance was slightly better than the 1 v Poland where they could barely understand when to release the ball for the run bt still headless chickens running around passionately almost tripping over the ball in their uncool determination to push forward, or, taking the ball back in to an area where it had been passed out off because....
on the 15th October, 2020 at 10:04am
2. On the LW I don't mind Insigne although he is inconsistent and should score more goals but there isn't currently many other viable options for that position. Up front Italy seriously need a breakout star who goes on to become world class. Currently you'd say Esposito or Pellegri are the most likely if the latter can stay fit. Colombo, Salcedo or Kean could also be good but they're all very young. Kean doesn't usually impress me but I have to admit he looked good when he came on last night
on the 15th October, 2020 at 9:50am
1. The front line certainly is a worry. There's no star striker and the wide options don't look great at all. Chiesa lacks quality in the final 3rd and i'd be tempted to use him as an impact sub when defences are tiring. For me Berardi needs more game time at national level. He's coming off the back of his best season and has started the new one well. If he has another season with double figures for goals and assists he'd get the nod for the RW spot for me.
on the 15th October, 2020 at 9:47am

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