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Italian youth take the stage but fail to dazzle in Europa League

AC Milan and Lazio had the top of their respective groups clinched heading into the Group Stage finale.

Head coaches Gennaro Gattuso and Simone Inzaghi gave several academy products starts in round six of the Europa League group stage. Unfortunately, both sides were defeated in tricky away fixtures against Rijeka and Zulte-Waregem respectively.

In the post ‘apocalyptic’ world Italian football finds itself in, seeing so many young Italians get a chance was encouraging. For Lazio, Alessandro Murgia, Luca Crecco, Simone Palombi and 18 year old Alessio Miceli were in the lineup against the Belgians. Unfortunately little came from any of the players on the pitch and Crecco and Miceli were subbed off rather early in the second half.

Miceli made his first start for the senior side tonight and had shining moments of his raw talent. It’s there, but he needs time and consistency at the professional level. It’s unlikely he will however be able to unseat any of Lazio’s starting midfielders this season but there could be hope for the next.

Luca Crecco on the other hand made far too many mistakes during his time on the pitch and probably dropped his stock in the eyes of Inzaghi.

For Palombi, he guided the attack well and found space. He even put the ball in the back of the net but was flagged for offsides. Alessandro Murgia, who played in all six group stage games was also not as impacting as many had hoped. For the 4 Italians of Lazio, tonight wasn’t exactly a spectacle, but perhaps they will get more chances in the winter months as games stack up.

Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images

Spin Zone

There’s a lot of chatter around Alessio Miceli at his talent. There’s no question about him that he stands out at the U-19 level. The question is, is he going to be able to make the jump to the U-21 and eventually the senior side. That seems to be a problem plaguing a lot of Italians in his age bracket, but there is hope.

Alessandro Murgia has played in 11 games this season and has seemingly cemented his role as the 4th man in Lazio’s midfield trio. In front of him are only Milinkovic-Savic, Parolo and Lucas.

Milan in chaos

It’s still the early days of the Gattuso regime and there’s already a lot of questions piling up on his shoulders. There’s been little change in the style and mentality of play in the first two games. What’s very worrying is how they’ve tied and lost to Benevento and Rijeka, who’s level needs no explaining.

Milan deployed a slew of youth today including the hot-footed Patrick Cutrone as well as Manuel Locatelli, Niccolo Zanellato and Davide Calabria.

In arguably their worst 90 minute performance of the season, few stood out. Calabria was partially responsible for the opener but did improve as the match went on. Manuel Locatelli did little and picked up a yellow card, disqualifying him for the next match.

Alessio Romagnoli looked more confident and convincing than Paletta and Zapata, but again, this match was against a Europa League Croatian side. With Gattuso looking for a result, this wasn’t just a ‘friendly game’ for the Rossoneri.

Final Thoughts

There’s a major problem at the U-17/19 level for the youth academies. Italy’s academies are not producing top level talent and today’s results are another reminder that there’s an issue with the coaching and preparation at the lower levels.

Primavera play can only do so much, there has to be a better way for the youngsters to develop. Of course, round six of an already qualified team was an excellent opportunity to see some flashes from the youth, but they seldom came.

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