A lesson in controlling boooooorreeeedooom. This was worse than watching the France game, because at least with that game you knew by the 12th minute it was going to be a nil-nil draw and you could channel surf. Against Georgia the Azzurri were so supremely talented it was hard to take your eyes away because at any moment a sub could come in and they could erupt for 17 goals or something. Of course, that is until you remember that the coach is Roberto Donadoni.
So what did The Don do? He played a safe lineup against a perennial powerhouse with a whopping ONE point against teams not from the Faroe Islands. The ancient back line was predictable, and they were all effectively efficient, though mostly far from spectacular (Fabio Grosso channeled his German self a few times during the game). Then he played his all Milan midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini and Ivan the Freaking Lunatic. What did they do? The latter two contributed nothing offensively aside from some short, meaningless dump-off passes or long, misplaced through balls winding up at the foot of a Georgian. Pirlo was good, but far from his optimal self. So, to recap, when you're playing a team at home with no chance of winning what do you do? You play a safe, veteran backline with 3 deep-lying central midfielders, 2 of which have nary a chance of creating jack and/or shit. Duh. How To Coach A World Champion 101.
The forward line was busy, but the return of Luca @$%ing Toni was a big wake up call. He dropped off, picked up the ball well, held it up and doled it out effectively the majority of the time - not to mention creating space for others to put the ball into his big damn self. His presence in the squad is crucial and if the Azzurri plan to make any noise in the Euros - if they make it, of course - he will be Key Guy Numero Uno.
In the end, it was a commanding victory and Gigi was never challenged, but this type of football will not work against the big boys, and it may not even work in Scotland. The solution to me is to scrap the attack from the flanks because it is just not working. I haven't seen a decent cross thrown in to a decent big man in god knows how long. Pirlo has spearheaded many of these Azzurri victories - and it's frightening to think where they would be without him - but he needs a little creative help. A creative influence just behind the striker(s) would go a long way in creating a few offensive chances, and the retirement of that Totti guy has been an unbelievable loss. Yet another reason why Roberto Donadoni needs to be given the pink slip. No Don means a Totti return (you know you're silently nodding at that statement).
Scotland 24pts (10GP)
Italia 23pts (10GP)
France 22pts (10GP)
I'm going to eschew the rating system simply because some were so uninvolved for either long stretches or the entire game (notably the back line and Gigi) that it really isn't fair.
Gigi: He could've penned a novel, recorded an album, fathered a few children and baked a mean lasagna during the game. He touched the ball about three times. One of the easiest clean sheets he'll ever see.
Oddo: He just isn't cutting it anymore. He gets down the flank well, but just doesn't have that extra burst to beat most defenders; and when he does, his crosses are atrocious. When you're best attribute is holding the ball long enough to knock it off a defenders shin and win a corner then it's time to go back to being the team barber.
Barzagli & Panucci: I noticed both probably a half dozen times the entire game. They could've brought a barcalounger and parked it 30 yards in front of goal for 95% of the game. GG and Massimo locked down well, but this was Georgia. They were never going to seriously mount a challenge on goal.
Grosso: There were times when I wondered what the hell had happened to his career. There were also times when I thought I was having flashbacks from Germany. Either way, he played off both Di Natale and Tonigol well, and that goal should be enough to at least keep his place on the team once Zambro returns. Nice to have you back, Fabio.
Pirlo: Who the hell knows what happened on that goal. I was watching through my vaseline smeared stream so I assumed it was deflected off somebody, but that doesn't appear to be the case. He wasn't dropping the balls on dimes today, but he was still one of the best players on the team and one of the few creative influences.
Gattuso: I almost want to give him the MOTM, but I can't give it to a defensive player against a squad like Georgia. That would be like giving David Ortiz the MVP Award in a beer league softball game. Still, he was his typical rabid animal self. I also suspect he's eying that Scotland game and we may see him take things to an entirely new level unseen before. Scary.
Ambrosini: Like Gattuso, he closed down well, but this is still Georgia. We know what we're getting from GG at this point and we deal with the lack of offense he brings. What the team needed was someone with superior offensive abilities and creative genius at moments. That guy should have been Daniele De Rossi, but of course, Donadoni did in fact spend his career in Milan, so why not throw out the whole midfield of the team which had grossly underachieved all year until this past weekend? Duh. Ambro's passing was horrid to start the game, then he realized he was getting beyond himself and his talents and switched to short, meaningless dump off passes. He's adequate, but not right for this team, they simply need more from his spot. Much more. Too defensive for Georgia.
Di Natale: He shined at moments, he looked relatively useless and incoherent at moments. The one benefit to his inclusion was that he didn't need service to create. In fact, the more separation he got from Tonigol, the better he performed, including the sublime chip which Luca rocketed off the hardware. Another in the category of "adequate", but it doesn't stop us from praying that Gilardino and Talentino get a freaking clue as soon as possible.
Quagliarella: He was pretty fucking terrible most of the game. His best asset was creating an inch of space then taking a shot which was usually off target. More of what he's apparently been throwing out there this season in Udine, with the "sophomore slump" and "one hit wonder" whispers getting a little bit louder each week.
Tonigol: My MOTM for his ability to control the ball, wreak havoc and force the defense to double, triple and quadruple team him at times. One of the greatest compliments you can give a player has come to define LT over the past few years: He changes the way opposing teams play the game. He might have even been MOTM before the game, but the cheeky assist to Grosso and the countless efforts he gave from the lone striker position really allowed the Azzurri to not only control the game, but prevent Georgia from even thinking about pushing too many men up, with a largely ineffective offensive team around him.
Foggia: For someone so dynamic and skilled, he was utterly "bland", as Martha accurately put it. Simply: he's not ready. Rosina and Montolivo are; get that through your thick skull, Don.
Mauri: Seriously, what the hell is he even doing on the squad? Lazio hatred aside, he just doesn't belong. (Although the dearth of true wingers in the peninsula is quite alarming).
(Datasport's ratings - most of which I agree with)
It was a commanding game, a solid 3 points, but things still need to change. And soon. There should have been more: More goals. More changes. More creativity. More life. They were flat and they were just sort of there, allowing talent to dictate the outcome of the game (always a win - 10 times out of 10). Just kind of stabbing Georgia on the surface repeatedly, rather than simply slicing their collective throat and taking their will (morbid, I know).
Here's how I would change things: First of all, Pirlo all by his lonesome isn't going to get it done offensively. The return of Toni is a massive help, as will the inevitable return of Alberto Aquilani, but they need more from the midfield. Somebody needs to take some of the creative pressure from Pirlo and work in tandem to create opportunities, rather than having four guys holding the ball, another four clamoring for space and waiting for Andrea to work himself free and put the ball on a dime. My solution is to drop a trequartista or attacking mid behind the two striker system rather than flanking a lone striker with two lateral forwards, resulting in a 4-3-1-2 or something similar. The creative influence needs to be one who doesn't work his way towards the opposing box, he needs to start out closer.
Being that this is Italy we're talking about, there is a plethora of options. Totti is perfect, but we're going to have to wait for the return of Lippi for that to happen (dreaming? maybe not...). Fabrizio Miccoli would be a decent option. So wouldn't Riccardo Montolivo or Alessandro Rosina - that is if Rosinaldo hadn't murdered Donadoni's dog (or whatever mortal sin he committed against The Don which prevents him from being called up for a real game). King Alberto would be another great option, as we all know how well he can create from just behind the strikers. But you know who very well may work? Somebody who has actually been a bajillion times more effective in a central creative role in his last few Azzurri caps than he has been as a lateral forward/winger? Alex Del Piero. Now bear with me, because I just threw up in my mouth writing that sentence, but I'm not joking. When he is able to play from the center of the pitch and involve himself behind the striker(s), he has been very good, not vintage Alex, but still good. At least an option, as he may prove to be more effective in that role than people think.
Also, this three deep-lying CMs or 4 central mids shit has got to go. Know your abilities and know that you should be hammering these teams, not resting their heads on the pillow in the final minutes. The addition of Grosso worked well, and it's nice having an attacking option from the back line like Fabio. When Canna returns it's time for either Zambro to take over RB with Fabio on the left; or, if Zambro doesn't heal in time, Panucci slots into the RB slot. Oddo's crosses are just unbelievable. To the point where I was fantasizing about Cristian Zaccardo during the game. Speaking of whom, he'd due for another (legitimate, aka non-South African friendly) look soon. Oddo's just not the answer. Hell, the way Marco Cassetti has looked for Roma, I'd rather see him get a recall (that's correct, I said "recall"). RB is one spot where there are more than enough good options that we don't need to see Oddo putting crosses into the third deck anymore. Thank you.
Oh, and would you get your Number 10 on the fucking field please? Dear Christ.
For the hell of it, I'd love to see this lineup during the next run out (Faroe Isles):
Zambro, Canna, Barzagli, Grosso;
Gattuso; Pirlo, De Rossi;
I know the two strikers haven't always worked perfectly together, nor is Gila in optimal form (yet), but the strike partner with Toni isn't exactly jumping out at me. In fact, if such is the case, the Milan X-Mas Tree formation may work (4-3-2-1), with two creative midfielders behind Tonigol. Hell, I think that might work. Thoughts?
Now it's off to Scotland, in what will be like a one game playoff series unless France decides to shit the bed against Lithuania (a draw would not surprise me - in fact, way back when I called a 0-0 or 1-1 tie). Then the Faroe Islands are coming to town, which will be a quick 3 points and hopefully be a much better performance than last spring (I still have nightmares of Gigi almost being beat late in the game and allowing the Faroes to thieve a historic and ultimately defeating point). But that game may be just a formality, in either direction.
The SA friendly is supposedly going to be an "experiment". Hopefully it fails miserably, blows up in The Don's face and he loses his job (he won't). The "B", aka U-25's & Friends, squad has been called up:
Questo l'elenco completo. Portieri: Amelia, Curci; difensori: Zaccardo, Mesto, Bonera, Gamberini, Cannavaro Paolo, Chiellini, Dossena; centrocampisti: De Rossi, Palombo, Nocerino, Montolivo, Semioli, Foggia, Mauri, Rosina; attaccanti: Lucarelli, Gilardino, Iaquinta.
Curci will reportedly get the nod, which will see his Azzurri minutes lap his Roma minutes for the season. What Daniele De Rossi is doing on that squad I have no freaking clue. Give the guy a rest. He's better than every name on that list and he does not need to be kept fresh against a mediocre side. He should have been kept fresh against Georgia, jackass. Lineup prediction:
Zaccardo, Gamberini, Bonera, Chiellini;
Foggia, Nocerino, De Rossi, Montolivo;
Who the hell knows. Who the hell cares.
Methinks That's Marcello Lippi's Music....
This is the best thing that has happened to the Azzurri since, well, Marcello Lippi resigned:
“I will leave all doors open,” Lippi said. “I have learned in this world that you can never say never."
This is the type of quote people overanalyze when they're desperate and looking for a sign. That is us right now. This team needs to look like a world champion again.