Going into Euro 2016 with a wounded roster, the expectations surrounding gli Azzurri have never been lower but there’s still a way they can muster a respectable campaign.
When it was reported that Marco Verratti would join Claudio Marchisio and Mattia Perin in the infirmary instead of traveling to France with Italy for the Euros, Italy fans feared for the worst. After years of preparation, Antonio Conte’s men look poised for another group stage exit at a major tournament. However, there’s one thing that the former Juventus tactician could do that would not only increase his side’s chances at the upcoming tournament but also for the foreseeable future. Instead of relying on some of the nation’s journeymen like he has over the course of the qualifying campaign, Conte could hand a number of talented youngsters a shot and set the team on the right track for his successor.
It’s important to note that the aforementioned youngsters are arguably better than the so-called veterans therefore it’s not an entirely crazy proposition. Let’s take a step back and look at the options. Would you rather have Jorginho and Alessandro Florenzi start in the midfield instead of Montolivo and a declining De Rossi? What about Insigne, Belotti and El Shaarawy over Pellè and Éder? Rugani and Romagnoli over Astori and Ranocchia? These are simple choices, right? I would hope.
While throughout his entire managerial career Conte has rarely given younger players much of shot unless they were named Paul Pogba, his reputation depends on it this summer. After securing three consecutive league titles and two Supercoppas, Conte was regarded as the country’s best manager even after his Champions League failure. He then took over the national team and has seen his stock drop rapidly ever since. With the fiery tactician headed to Chelsea after the Euros, he cannot afford to go to London with another European failure hanging over his shoulders. At the moment, his best shot at avoiding this is to scrap his current plans and go with the youth.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not a groundbreaking concept when you actually think about it. Jorginho is coming off the best domestic season of his young career and has made 36 appearances in all competitions for Napoli pulling all the right strings. Florenzi, by contrast, has featured all over the shop for Roma in the past season and has typically been one of their best players. A move into the midfield from right back will also help him as he won’t be tasked with the defensive responsibilities that have held him back recently.
Moving up the pitch, the inclusion of Insigne is a no-brainer. The diminutive play-maker has registered 13 goals and 11 assists in all competitions this season and represents Italy’s best bet in the final third. Belotti, on the other hand, has 11 goals in 2016 which is more than any other Italian striker. When considering the fact that Pellè is in and out of form and Éder only has one goal since joining Inter, why shouldn’t Conte look elsewhere in attack? Isn’t the national team’s manager job to pick the most in-form players and guys that will give him the best shot of winning? If so, these young players fit the bill perfectly.
It would also help Italy’s next manager massively if Conte takes the Euros to integrate future Azzurri into the team. By taking a page out of the German model and looking at the big picture instead of having tunnel vision, Conte is helping the national team for years to come as the younger players will be able to use Euro 2016 as a learning experience for the 2018 World Cup. And let’s face it, as biased as you may be, you can’t honestly say that Italy were going to win the Euro this summer WITH or without Marchisio and Verratti. Sure, their chances would have been greater with them there but, at the end of the day, European glory would have been a stretch to say the least.
As a result, it would be foolish on Conte’s part to stick to his current ways and still bow out of the competition, if not sooner, instead of bringing through some of Italy’s best talents to the senior setup and giving them a shot. They are not only better but are the future pillars of the nazionale. With the Euros around the corner and Italy’s fate looking bleak, a shake up is needed and this just might be what the team needs to compete this summer.