Italian manager, Gian Piero Ventura, has been the recipient of plenty of criticism lately due to his poor results in World Cup qualifying. His squad decisions have been found to be questionable by many.
Fans of La Nazionale have not been happy with Ventura constantly including out-of-form veterans and bigger names over youngsters who have been top players in their respective leagues.
In addition, Ventura has seemingly decided to stick with the 4-2-4 formation. This is a set-up that many would argue is dead in modern football. With all this being said, Italy has plenty of talent to be very competitive in the tournament, so what is Italy’s ideal line-up?
What Should the Italy Team Look Like for the 2018 World Cup?
The 4-2-4 simply isn’t working. A strong formation for this side would be a 3-5-2 with the starters being Gianluigi Buffon, Alessio Romagnoli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Spinazzola, Giacomo Bonaventura, Marco Veratti, Jorginho, Andrea Conti, Andrea Belotti, Lorenzo Insigne.
There have been rumblings about fans wanting to see young Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma take over the position. However, in reality, it is Gianluigi Buffon’s to keep until after the World Cup.
The legendary goalkeeper has been Italy’s main captain for over five years now, and also has a plethora of experience as he currently has 171 international caps. Buffon is fresh off a remarkable season with his Juventus side, so he will undoubtedly be the man in between the sticks barring injury.
Going back to three defenders may suit Italy best. In this case, the three at the back should be Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, and Alessio Romagnoli.
Bonucci and Chiellini need no explanation; they have been staples of Italy’s defence for years now, and for good reason. They are two of the top defenders in all of football, and have strong qualities besides defending such as Bonucci’s passing ability and vision and Chiellini’s tendency to win offensive headers off of set-pieces.
Romagnoli, if he remains healthy, should get the starting nod over others. The younger Italian has been Milan’s top defender for two years before Bonucci’s arrival, and he will form a strong partnership and chemistry with Bonucci as the club season progresses.
Besides that, Romagnoli also has good passing abilities for a defender and is one of the best tacklers Italy has to offer. Andrea Barzagli may be a popular choice to start, but he’s ageing quickly and his decline has already begun.
This formation would see Italy deploy two wing-backs. In this case, they would be Leonardo Spinazzola on the left and Andrea Conti on the right.
Spinazzola had a breakout year for Atalanta last season; in fact, he played so well that Juventus tried to secure his services this past summer market. He isn’t as strong defensively as Matteo Darmian may be on the left flank, but he offers so much more as he’s a great crosser and passer overall.
Andrea Conti also broke out for Atalanta last season, which saw him earn a move to Milan this summer. He’s already been everything Milan fans have hoped for – a steady defensive presence with a knack for going forward.
An alternative for this position would be Davide Zappacosta, who just moved to Chelsea, but Conti is so much more explosive going forward.
The three in the middle of the midfield would be Giacomo Bonaventura, Jorginho, and Marco Verratti.
Bonaventura struggles with injury issues, but when he’s healthy, there’s no doubt that he’s a top player in Serie A. He’s great going forward as he’s very skillful, but he also always commits to tracking back and helping in defence.
Jorginho, who inexplicably struggles to get called up to the national team, is exactly what the team needs. He’s very steady in possession and is a great playmaker. For a team that has lacked creativity, it’s really a mystery as to why he never gets a chance.
Lastly, the main man in the middle will be Verratti. Most see Verratti as Andrea Pirlo’s heir, and rightfully so as his passing is spot-on. Although he’s prone to bonehead decisions every now and then, there isn’t anyone else at his level in the midfield.
Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio will also be popular picks to be starters. De Rossi, though, has seen age catch up with him rather quickly and Marchisio has lacked match fitness for a couple seasons now. They should, however, be great options off the bench.
Andrea Belotti was one of the most clinical strikers in all of Europe’s top-five leagues last season, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down as he already scored a contender for goal of the season.
Although he didn’t move to a top club like many expected this summer, he still plays for a solid Torino side in Italy and should once again finish as one of the top scorers in the league. Belotti can score with any part of his body and is by all means the best pure striker Italy has to offer.
Lorenzo Insigne is a winger so starting him in a front two alongside a striker may seem bizarre. Perhaps, though, it is what this squad needs.
Insigne is a once-in-a-generation talent and Italy has to make use out of it. Allowing Insigne to create on his own, especially alongside a striker like Belotti, may see Italy have a very fearful attack.
Ventura has used Insigne as more as a left midfielder in his 4-2-4, so that definitely must change.
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