Giampiero Ventura and the Italy squad will go into their next friendly encounter brimming with confidence after their solid win over Albania. However, despite the friendly connotation surrounding this fixture, the Azzurri boss will use this opportunity to test a new system and players, against a team who recently sacked their head coach.
Holland, it seems, are in utter shambles at the moment, as the team so famed for their ability to produce technically brilliant football is languishing at the bottom end of their World Cup qualification group. By losing to minnows Bulgaria in what was seen as the straw that broke the camels back, KNVB promptly sacked Blind who has struggled to get the best out his current crop of players. Blind’s tenure with Holland can be possibly best epitomised by the use of 17 year old full back Matthijs de Ligt who shockingly conceded an own goal on his debut. Assistant Fred Grim, will have the grim (pun intended) duty of facing a confident Italy side who are slowly beginning to take shape under Ventura.
Shift your eye over to Italy and the picture is completely different. The Azzurri are no longer an aging squad filled with stars of yesteryear as they clung to past glories. Ventura has taken over from the brilliant work of Antonio Conte and has fashioned the team into his own style, implementing a youth policy in which the younger generation are actually being integrated into the squad at an accelerated pace. Not only has this boded well for Ventura, it has allowed him to expose his preferred line up before the World Cup comes around next year. Lets take a look at what we may see in this friendly:
Ventura has utilised various formations in his time, and favoured the 4-2-4 in Italy’s previous game against Albania which had its success to varying degrees. He has slowly tested more attacking formations than is seemingly normal for an Italian CT, and it is a hallmark of his storied career in which he prefers to attack, and attack with plenty of youth.
Ventura will use the game against Holland as another opportunity to test a different formation in which the result will have no serious consequences if the formation fails to work on the day. Accordingly Ventura tested a 3-5-2 in training, and looks to bring this formation not to dissimilar to Conte’s current implementation at Chelsea. A number of players in the squad have experience with this formation so many will not struggled to adapt to its differing structure.
Testing different players
Ventura will continue to look to trim down the average age of his squad as he looks to bring in an even younger looking group than the one that lined up against Albania. Andrea Barzagli has departed the squad early, with Daniele De Rossi, and Gianluigi Buffon being rotated out of the line up to allow other players the chance to shine.
As such, Milan phenom Gianluigi Donnarumma will start for Italy for the first time in his career, being flanked by Rossoneri teammate Alessio Romagnoli, Daniele Rugani and Leonardo Bonucci who will be the most experienced player on the pitch. Inter’s Roberto Gagliardini will likely take De Rossi’s place to earn his first senior cap. Atalanta’s Andrea Petagna was tested up front in training and will likely be paired with either Andrea Belotti or Friday’s goalscorer Ciro Immobile up front.
Marco Parolo and Eder are expected to take part start which will added some extra experience into the line up.
Players to watch out for?
With a number of new players being trialled in the 3-5-2, there will be plenty of interest to see how they fare in the limelight of international duty. Gagliardini will be heavily watched, as his performances first with Atalanta and now the Nerazzurri, have been sensational and will look to take advantage of his astute abilities. He will easily compliment Marco Verratti who will be allowed to play his creative game.
Donnarumma will also be under the spotlight as he steps in for his name sake Buffon for the first time as a starter. The teenager has played with aplomb ever since he debuted, and performs with the maturity of a player well beyond his years. Belotti will look to continue to shine as he looks to break his three game goal scoring duck alongside Petagna who will be an intriguing prospect up front.
With the implementation of the old 3-5-2, Ventura is confident his current crop of players can utilise this formation correctly and bring a balance between attack and defense. Additionally, Ventura is not afraid to blood younger talent into the squad as is evidenced with the turnover of players since Conte’s reign in which older players were often preferred. As a result, Ventura is giving what many Italy fans have been craving for years; a youthful, vibrant squad that still epitomizes Italy’s strength but with a competitive edge to win.