Roberto Mancini announced his latest Azzurri squad on Thursday, giving many talents their first call-up to the senior national team. Regardless, familiar faces still figure in the former Inter tactician’s setup, including the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci among others.
Let’s now take a deeper look at Mancini’s side.
Goalkeepers: Donnarumma, Meret, Cragno, Sirigu.
No surprises here as Italy’s four best goalkeepers all get a shot to prove their worth. Gianluigi Donnarumma goes into the camp as Italy’s undisputed number one while Cagliari’s Alessi Cragno finished the season in incredible form. Salvatore Sirigu is largely there for his experience and has always proven to be a trustworthy backup when needed.
The biggest question mark is Napoli’s Alex Meret. The young shot-stopper found himself relegated to the bench following Gennaro Gattuso’s appointment but has typically impressed when thrust into the limelight – notably in the Coppa Italia final against Juventus.
Verdict: Overall, Mancini made the right picks between the posts, even though Atalanta’s Pierluigi Gollini might feel short-changed. 9/10.
Defenders: Acerbi, Bastoni, Bonucci, Biraghi, Caldara, Chiellini, D’Ambrosio, Di Lorenzo, Florenzi, Luca Pellegrini, Spinazzola.
Mancini has tried to integrate many promising talents at the back, calling up Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni and Juventus-owned Luca Pellegrini. Napoli’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo features once more in the roster and is arguably the favourite for the rightback spot. Inter’s Danilo D’Ambrosio proved his worth under Antonio Conte last season, playing as a right wingback or on the right side of the back three. In this sense, the former Torino man offers Mancini versatility and can challenge Di Lorenzo.
Mancini has turned to a blend of experience and youth at center-back. While Giorgio Chiellini has been a great servant for the national team, the veteran defender was sidelined for most of this season with recurring injuries and should not take minutes away from an emerging talent. The same goes for Alessandro Florenzi, whose best years are behind him.
Francesco Acerbi and Leonardo Bonucci offer some much-needed leadership while Bastoni and Caldara will have their opportunities to crack the eleven. Expect Alessio Romagnoli to stake his claim for a starting spot when he returns from injury.
Verdict: Interesting blend of youth and experience, but Mancini could do without Florenzi and Chiellini. 7/10.
Midfielders: Barella, Bonaventura, Castrovilli, Cristante, Jorginho, Gagliardini, Locatelli, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Sensi, Tonali, Zaniolo.
The midfield is where it arguably gets the most interesting. Inter’s Nicolo Barella rightfully makes the team after an impressive debut season and deserves to start for Gli Azzurri. His teammate, Stefano Sensi, makes his return to the national team fold and has battled injuries for the most part of the second half of the season. If he can return to his early-season form, Sensi can play an important role under Mancini.
Emerging talents Gaetano Castrovilli, Nicolo Zaniolo and Sandro Tonali all make the team and will all be looking to take the next step. Zaniolo may feature in attack while Tonali will have to battle it out with Marco Verratti and Jorginho for the regista position.
Manuel Locatelli is also rewarded for his good season with Sassuolo but may find minutes hard to come by in the long run given how congested Italy’s midfield options are. The most intriguing inclusion, perhaps, is Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini. The Roma man established himself as a creative force in the midfield and offers something different from Italy’s midfield ranks.
Roberto Gagliardini and Giacomo Bonaventura are the only questionable inclusions, leaving one to wonder where exactly the duo fit in Mancini’s plans.
Verdict: As Verratti is missing through injury, these are the best midfielders available. Remove Gagliardini and Bonaventura and Mancini’s on to something here. 8/10.
Forwards: Belotti, Bernardeschi, Caputo, Chiesa, El Shaarawy, Immobile, Insigne, Kean, Lasagna, Orsolini.
Italy’s forward options leave a lot to be desired, bar a few names, but ultimately Mancini does a good job with his latest call-ups. Francesco Caputo gets his debut call-up after netting 21 goals. At 33 years old, the veteran hitman has at least another tournament in him and could be useful at Euro 2021.
Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti make the cut once more alongside Moise Kean and Udinese’s Kevin Lasagna. Immobile will be hoping to translate his domestic form to the national team with Belotti closely behind him in the pecking order. Kean and Lasanga round off Mancini’s ‘number nines’ but as of right now, remain outsider options.
Out wide, Mancini called up familiar faces – Insigne, Chiesa, Bernardeschi, Orsolini and El Shaarawy. The one glaring ommission is Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi, who deserves to be there ahead of El Shaarawy and Bernardeschi.
What will be interesting is who Mancini deploys in his starting eleven. Insigne, Chiesa and Orsolini have arguably been in the best form while Bernardeschi has struggled. El Shaarawy offers experienced depth but will be hoping to return to playing football that matters. Otherwise, he should not be on the plane to Euro 2021.
Verdict: The Berardi exclusion is a tough one to swallow, but beyond the Sassuolo man, these are good call-ups. 7/10
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