Earlier this week, both Gazzetta.it and Goal.com posted regarding a dilemma that is troubling for the azzurri just 100 days out from the European championships; that problem is a true #9.
With the likes of Graziano Pelle, Mario Balotelli, Mattia Destro, and more falling out of form and suffering from a prolonged scoring drought, Italy have a serious issue. With solutions such as Stefano Okaka and Eder being proposed, Italy have reached an all-time low in terms of who their “Bomber” will be come this fast approaching summer. Who will be the saving grace, the man to lean on, that striker who will put it away at any moment he gets. The answer is not an easy one to swallow but no one.
With Antonio Conte already having one foot out the door with Chelsea, he will most likely rely on two formations and just go with the flow. Italy have done decently well with the 4-3-3 and the 4-4-2. Conte’s vaulted 3-5-2 has fallen out of favor outside of Italy and teams are quick to blast past a five-man midfield that may overcommit on the flanks and become vastly leaky when it transitions to a 4-2-4. While taking into consideration the lack of a true #9, Italy may be best equipped to play without the target man and take advantage of the flanks with an in-form Stephan El Shaaraway, Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne.
The target man up front could be a particularly underrated player in Antonio Candreva who can play the #10 role and link up play coming off the wings with a shifty Insigne or Berardi. The solution isn’t a fix all but by playing with a false 9 and a player who has delivered on countless occasions for Italy, Candreva seems to be the best option to score and put goals away consistently. With an Italy that no one fears anymore and players who may seem mediocre when facing the elite of Germany, Spain, France, and England, Italy will be best suited to rely on a team performance (and one that may be catenaccio-esq) not one that is set for one moment of brilliance from a clinical striker.
Here’s a starting XI (4-4-2 and 4-3-3):