Saturday November 14 2015
Italy lacking midfield depth

Following an average performance that saw Italy lose out to Belgium, it is evident that the midfield is Antonio Conte’s biggest worry ahead of Euro 2016, says George Rinaldi.

It all started so well for the CT, with Antonio Candreva poking home an early goal following Simon Mignolet’s parried shot from Graziano Pelle. The constant questions regarding Conte’s squad choices ahead of the match, and his starting XI were almost obliterated after just three minutes.

The cracks began to show however, and the main source of the problem, other than a torrid showing from Leonardo Bonucci that led to the Azzurri squandering the early lead, was the midfield.

Italy lined up in a standard 4-4-2 formation, a rather old school and arguably obsolete tactic in modern day football, especially at international level. Belgium, on the other hand, lined up in a 4-3-3, and despite what may appear as the Azzurri having more bodies in the centre of the park was far from the truth.

Claudio Marchisio attempted to fill the void of Andrea Pirlo, and looked assured of himself going forward and picking decisive passes. Yet, the space that the latter has left to be filled appears too vast for just one player to take up the reins. Marco Parolo, the 30-year-old from Lazio, ended up being bypassed for much of the game and was rightly substituted for Roberto Soriano. The change made little to no difference for Italy, who went on to lose 3-1.

With Marco Verratti and Daniele De Rossi out injured for this one, it’s clear to see exactly how much Conte and Italy as a whole need them. This should been an experimental game for the Azzurri, but instead, it only highlighted the shortage of options that could lead the midfield in Euro 2016. Should the two aforementioned players somehow miss the competition in France next summer, who can grab that midfield by the scruff of its neck and push Italy forward?

Many felt Napoli’s Jorginho, who has had an excellent season thus far, would feature in the squad for the upcoming matches, but the likes of Riccardo Montolivo were picked instead.

Montolivo is an experienced player, especially on the international stage and his performances for AC Milan of late have been some of his best, but it all feels too clunky. Too rigid even. The same names have been picked time and time again.

It appeared some headway was being made following a good showing from Alessandro Florenzi as a winger, but was then taken off in the middle of his stride for Stephan El Shaarawy. The latter has scored exactly zero goals and created seven chances for Monaco so far, Florenzi on the other hand has netted twice and made 14 chances.

It showed during the match, with El Shaarawy resorting to long balls and hopeful balls into the box alongside his other midfield compatriots, returning the same monotonous football that has occurred under Conte.

Like Belgium, Italy need to explore the use of a packed midfield that can make direct short passes and push forward with full-backs to bomb down the wing. If it means pushing Florenzi back in replace of Mattia De Sciglio then so be it. In mention of the right-back from Milan as well, it is also hard to understand how he earned his place in the side following his recent showings for the Rossoneri.

Come Euro 2016, many will hope to see a midfield of De Rossi, Verratti and Marchisio with Candreva, Eder and Dominico Berardi up top in a 4-3-3. It’s up to Mr Conte however, and we must wait for the answers to come.

Have your say...
goalkeepers (preliminary)

Defense: (preliminary)
De Sciglio
De Silvestri

Midfield: (preliminary)
De Rossi

Strikers: (preliminary)

* = youngsters to consider/look at
on the 14th March, 2016 at 4:35pm
Euro squad Gk Buffon, Perrin, donnarumma. Def. darmian, romagnoli,rugani, zappacosta, bonucci, chiellini, de Sciglio. Mid: verratti, florenzi Jorginho saponara candrava baselli benassi marchisio. Strikers: insigne berardi giovinco belotti pelle
on the 16th February, 2016 at 5:31am
No one mentions Sporting Lisbon's Alberto Aquilani for the midfield. He should be a backup plan for Conte.
on the 5th January, 2016 at 2:36am
Desciglio bonucci Chiellini Darmian
-------Verratti Pirlo Candreva------

--------Bonucci DeRossi Chiellini--------
Candreva Verratti Pirlo Marchisio Soriano
on the 12th December, 2015 at 11:41pm
it is definitely time to play more aggressive.. time to give fresh changes..

insigne pelle berrardi

marchisio verratti candreva

darmian chiellini bonucci florenzi

on the 20th November, 2015 at 11:28am
agree with you Sam, why does he call up Zaza if is not playing regularly based on his comments that players need to be playing at club level. Why did he not only call Montilivo but play him in both games. Cerci picked before Insigne too? Was happy to see Gabbadinni get a goal. Thank God for Florenzi!!!
on the 17th November, 2015 at 10:30pm
My provisional squad - to whittle down to 23.


De Sciglio
De Silvestri

De Rossi


Decent when you see it listed on paper.
on the 17th November, 2015 at 3:53pm
I don't think Italy lack depth in midfield, with Marchisio, Verratti, Pirlo, Sorriano, De Rossi, Montolivo, Bonaventura, Baselli, Benassi, Jorghino etc, there's plenty of depth. It is lacking in defence though & cos there is no real competition for Bonucci, Chiellini & Barzagli they can be complacent & lack focus as recently seen! It's a shame Juve are not playing Rugani more because his presence would keep the usual on their toes. I'd like to see Romangnoli promoted to the seniors too.
on the 17th November, 2015 at 1:58pm
Also I forgot to mention Zaza he plays 45 minutes for Juve yet gets called up. Can someone please tell me how the hell he gets anywhere near the national team. The only surprise is that Conte didn't callup the WORLD CLASS CIRO IMMOBILE. Notice the huge sarcasm here. I hope Rossi proves himself this year and stays injury free, he has unfinished business with the national team. Also there are no goals in this team, we never score enough goals. I had high hopes when Conte took over, that has gone
on the 17th November, 2015 at 12:15pm
The injuries to Giovinco, Verratti, Pirlo and De Rossi haven't helped but that is no excuse. How many more years before Rugani and Romagnoli get a chance, the old juve guard aren't exactly convincing anyone at present. Allegri is a joke as well, he has Rugani a hugely talented young defender yet never plays him, why not just let him stay longer at Empoli and develop through actually playing matches. Baggio only got 55 caps due to idiotic coaches and now its the same old story with the talent now
on the 17th November, 2015 at 12:11pm
The squad selection was beyond a joke. Jorginho, Baselli, Benassi, Sapanara, Berardi, Insigne all should have been called up. Instead we get Montolivo, Cerci and Giaccherini and Parolo. Its beyond belief. Conte complains that clubs don't give young talent a chance, he is more guilty than anyone of this. Also the call up of Okaka he is rubbish, he plays in a rubbish league and is average at best. Whats the point in the younger plays having great seasons, they still don't get a callup.
on the 17th November, 2015 at 12:07pm
Conte is about as good a coach as he was a player (average) Why oh why he keeps bringing these washups, Montolivo and Chellini is beyond me. There are a ton of Italian youngsters that can do better then them, even if they play in Serie B. What happened to scouting talent. There are Pirlo replacements out there they just have to be found. Who cares if they are 19, if they are good play them. You can put the blame on the Serie A Clubs but there are stars just waiting to be discovered in B
on the 17th November, 2015 at 1:01am
I would rather have an italian team full of italians and lose than a team like france and Belgium and possibly win! We dont need to make italians we need to look after the italians we have!
on the 16th November, 2015 at 11:02pm
@jimmy stallion
Yes i look at the 'quality' he was playing against too! Funny, unbeaten in a washed up foreign loaded Serie A. Unfortunately in champions league he showed us what we are seeing now. The best of a crap bunch and highlighted when we play proper teams.
The baffon calling for Balotelli is more deluded than the guy who thinks we stand a chance of getting out of the groups!
on the 16th November, 2015 at 10:58pm
Remember the talent Conte had when he went undefeated and won his first title with Juve. Give him a time to have a training camp prior to Euro's and these boys will run through walls for him.

I do agree Chiellini needs to sit, even for Juve. Let the kid get a chance.
on the 16th November, 2015 at 8:51pm
Conte did well in Seria A but where did Juve go in the champion's league under him. Nowhere. I liken Seria A to the Euro qualifiers. If they want to do well in the Euro tourney these journeymen strikers will not do. Conte wasted these friendlies bringing the same mediocre bunch. Too bad Verratti and Giovinco were hurt. No excuse for not taking Insigne and playing him with Gabbiadini. We are not rated that low by Fifa for no reason...
on the 16th November, 2015 at 6:44pm
If everything goes according, that is, the right players in the right form all come together for the Euros, I dont see why this team cant reach the quarters and maybe surprise someone once we are there. Italy is not as bad as everyone is making them out to be. Yes by Italian standards this is a weak team, but there is good goal tending, defense, and midfield play. Lets find a way to score instead of hitting posts...Forza Azzuri!!!
on the 16th November, 2015 at 4:20pm
I agree w most of the comments. I don't understand conte. Italy have plenty of young good players but like always they won't get any respect or playing time until they r 30yrs old( w a few exceptions ). How many games has verratti played for Italy? What is conte waiting for he should know who his starters are or have some idea at least. Pirlo, de Rossi and montolivo should stay home and although everyone seems to like Jorginho I don't see it.
on the 16th November, 2015 at 3:41pm
It is reported that Conte guarantees the following 14 players for Euro 2016.

GK: Buffon, Perin
DF: Darmian, De Sciglio, Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini
MF: Florenzi, Candreva, Marchisio, Verratti, Parolo
FW: Eder, Pellè.
on the 16th November, 2015 at 12:57pm
Italy has the players, Conte just refuses to pick them. He gets a lot of credit for bringing Juve out of their doldrums, but let's not forget that he did this when Inter and Milan were at their lowest. Maybe that's all it was. You can't tell me you have all these players available, on form I might add, and will still pick guys like Parolo, Montolivo and Giacherrini. Listening to the press reports Montolivo and Giacherrini sound like bitter old men, I doubt they were picked for their 'character'.
on the 15th November, 2015 at 3:43pm
iam realy sad for da up to Conte he made lots of wrong choices..why Parolo there???he is da weakpoint.then i felt bonucci&chiellini is da main reason for juves poor start of da season...they both looking out of form so far...Astori dong well at florence he desreves chance the romagnoli.
we realy need insigne,berardi,vazquez;saponara,pavoletti,jorginho, da team instead of zaza,giak,cerci,parolo,monto etc..i think conte not like younger players so he have no rights to argue against serie a or figc.

my line at euro 4:2:3:1
on the 15th November, 2015 at 5:28am
Veratti was definitely missed. I like Eder but think Giovinco can cause defense more problems. florenzi should definitely start ahead of SES because of his energy, crosses and defensive ability. bonucci is starting to make me nervous with the past few games. Veratti will bring the creativity to midfield
on the 14th November, 2015 at 8:17pm
Verratti and marchisio in the middle is good enough, Pirlo if fit is always welcome, Soriano is good as is Sapanara and Cataldi... Future of the midfield looks strong to me. Defence may become a slight problem I must admit I expected that Bonucci and Ranocchia would have become the new nesta/ cannavaro combo, while Bonucci has down well he is no nesta and well Ranocchia has not filled his potential,
on the 14th November, 2015 at 5:47pm
I think that we are fine in central midfield, especially when you factor in promising young talents like Jorginho, Sturaro, Cataldi, Baselli, Benassi etc. Our problems are: overplaying at the back and shocking distribution from Chiellini and Bonucci (these guys screw-up on a regular basis, god knows what Rugani has to do to get a chance), too many hit & hope long balls, little imagination in the final third. Verratti, when fit, should be the first name on the team sheet, with Jorginho as back-up
on the 14th November, 2015 at 4:53pm
We should give Conte the benefit of the doubt. Let's not forget what the man has accomplished. I'm confident we'll have a blood thirsty Azzurri come June.

Verratti would have made a huge difference. I think he's the most important and influential player in the team. And i may get hate for this but I'm confident Balotelli will return and lead the line.

Those two players on form raises the team to a trophy winning level. Keep calm people, the future is bright.
on the 14th November, 2015 at 4:08pm
I personally feel that Defense and Midfield are our only areas of strength at the moment. Please Allegri play Rugani for Juventus and Italys sake. Lets get Romagnolli going with the boys are future CBs are better then the current selection. Forza Azzuri!
on the 14th November, 2015 at 4:06pm
I don't ever post any comments, but I felt i had to write something considering I don't agree with everything you wrote. 1. Soriano made an immediate impact on the Azzurri midfield, nearly setting up a goal 1 minute after coming on and then nearly setting up another with good build up and vision a few minutes later. As to Florenzi, if you follow Roma, you would know he sat out Roma's last game injured and was only suppose to feature lightly in this game. I expect to see the likes of Insigne soon
on the 14th November, 2015 at 2:20pm

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