The Azzurri will be playing their most important qualifying matches in recent memory in their upcoming home-and-home playoff against Sweden. The two matches will also certainly be the most important matches in Gian Piero Ventura’s tenure as Italy boss. After all, a spot in the 2018 World Cup will be on the line.
Ventura’s tactics have been much maligned and the Azzurri still don’t seem to have true identity in terms of formation. Ventura has often gone to his favored 4-2-4 attacking look with mixed results. However, at times, he has also used the 3-5-2 which was favored by his predecessor Antonio Conte. Ventura’s job now is to figure out which formation will be best suited to combat a physical Sweden side which plays an organized 4-4-2 but has less talented individuals than the Azzurri.
Gazzetta dello Sport and Calcio Mercato are reporting that Ventura is currently leaning toward the Conte favored 3-5-2. In this formation we would see the BBC defense of Barzagli-Bonucci-Chiellini which the Azzurri rode to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 in front of Buffon. Meanwhile the five man midfield would likely feature Marco Verratti, Marco Parolo, and Daniele De Rossi in the center of the park while Leonardo Spinazzola or Matteo Darmian would play wide left and Antonio Candreva would play wide right. With Andrea Belotti still not 100% fit the strike partnership would feature Ciro Immobile and the recently recalled Simone Zaza. Immobile has some fitness concerns himself but should be good to go. Ventura will hope that Immobile, who leads Serie A in goals, and Zaza, who has been on fire in La Liga, will be able to keep up their torrid strike rates in azzurro if he opts for the two striker look.
This would be very similar to the lineup that Conte ran out in the 3-5-2 against the Swedes last summer in Euro 2016. That was a match which Italy won 1-0; a result Italy would certainly take on the road in Stockholm on Friday.
In the same article referenced above, Gazzetta reports that Ventura could opt for a slight variation on the Conte 3-5-2 by changing it more of a 3-4-1-2. In this set up the midfield would be a bit more narrow with De Rossi and Parolo sitting in front of the defense while Verratti would push higher up in more of a trequartista role.
In their Tuesday cover story titled “Giochiamola Così” (We’ll play it like this) Corriere dello Sport suggested a new formation to Ventura; the 4-3-3. Corriere admitted that it’s almost certain that Ventura wouldn’t use their recommended formation but it’s still interesting to consider. In their 4-3-3 Corriere proposes a four man back line from left to right of Spinazzola-Chiellini-Bonucci-Florenzi. Meanwhile the three man midfield would feature Verratti-De Rossi-Parolo much like the 3-5-2 mentioned earlier. The attacking trident would have Insigne and Candreva flanking Immobile.
Corriere argues that this formation would keep it simple considering that it is the formation that many of the Azzurri play with on their club teams. The publication says that it would be the least complicated formation against a weaker but very motivated opponent. The Azzurri would be playing roles much like the ones that they play on their club teams as well so there would be a familiarity that could help keep the team compact and organized. It is certainly an intriguing proposal put forth by the periodical.
So far there haven’t really been any reports of Ventura returning to his favored 4-2-4 formation. If Ventura were to decide to go back to his “favorite” formation it would likely feature a back like of Spinazzola-Chiellini-Bonucci-Florenzi(Darmian). Meanwhile the two man midfield would likely feature De Rossi and Verratti. Lastly, the four attacking players would probably feature Immobile and Zaza in the middle with Candreva and Insigne flanking them.
The decision will ultimately be Ventura’s and reports seem to indicate that he is currently leaning toward a three man back line. However, there is always a chance that that can change up until kickoff. After reading over some of the proposed formations, I tend to favor the 4-3-3 put out by Corriere. I know that it’s almost impossible that we’ll see this formation in action under Ventura but the rationale put forth by the publication certainly makes it intriguing.
What are your thoughts? Which formation and starting 11 would you use if you were managing the Azzurri on Friday?
Which of the above formations should Italy use versus Sweden?
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