A new era begins this Thursday, as Giampiero Ventura takes charge of Italy for the first time. The former Torino boss comes up against France in a friendly in Bari, preparation for the upcoming opening World Cup qualifier away to Israel.
The mood surrounding the Azzurri is happier these days. Italy shrugged off major criticism heading into Euro 2016 to perform well under now Chelsea boss Antonio Conte. Eliminated on penalties in the Quarter-finals by Germany, the feeling is if that got over that hurdle the trophy would have been in reach.
Conte was stout in his devotion to the unit. There was no room for the individual; all would have to function for the collective. He was loyal to players he felt could help the group.
That meant there was no room for some of the bright talent coming through the ranks at clubs on the peninsula. It is something Ventura has addressed in his first squad – while still following the Conte framework. Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, Daniele Rugani, and Andrea Belotti are included in the squad, while Federico Bernardeschi is retained from Euro 2016 and Marco Verratti returns from injury.
It is a spine of a team which could well be part of the Azzurri setup for the next decade. But there are notable names left out, as Ventura retains Conte’s primarily used 3-5-2 system.
In that formation Ventura not only continues where he left off at Torino, but builds from the Juventus backline of Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli – Ventura convinced the latter to come out of retirement. However, further forward that means no space for Lorenzo Insigne, Domenico Berardi and Stephan El Shaarawy.
“El Shaarawy went to Euro 2016, but there was no role in the 3-5-2 for him,” the new coach said on Monday. “The same holds true for Berardi. As long as the formation is this, it will be difficult for [wide] attackers to find a place.”
Ventura went on to explain he wanted to call up as much of the Euro 2016 squad as possible, as he seeks a good start to what is a tough qualifying group. One which also contains Euro 2016 qualifiers Spain and Albania. The question is whether Ventura will be rigid going forward or if this is a short-term measure aimed at instant points.
Conte fell short in bringing through some of the next generation, offering only fleeting game time. For now it is very much an evolution of the work he did over the past two years. Long term, will we see more of a revolution for the Azzurri?