Italy’s crucial World Cup 2018 playoff is almost upon us and while the Azzurri travel to Sweden, Gianpiero Ventura has some difficult decisions to make regarding his starting XI and formation to use in Solna.
Recent poor performances, beginning with the humbling against Spain at the Estadio Bernabeu, have led calls for the Azzurri tactician to ditch his 4-2-4 formation, and revert back to the system Antonio Conte used during his tenure.
However, we at Forza Italian Football have gone one better and offered Ventura a plethora of formations he could go with against Sweden.
Adriano Boin | 4-3-3
This formation would provide Italy with a solid back-four given the days of the Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini appear to be over. In midfield, Jorginho starts because a formation without him seems like a waste, and it would allow Marco Verratti to play off someone with his skillset, thus easing some of the creative pressure on him. In attack, Lorenzo Insigne features in his natural position, and given he is Italy’s most dangerous attacking option, that’s a plus.
Cameron O’Mara | 3-4-3
Although a few players in my selection have been in questionable form at club level, this is the best Gianpiero Ventura will get out of the squad he has selected. The versatile back five offers security, but with the threat of the counter-attack. The central midfield pairing of Marco Parolo and Daniele De Rossi makes for a very protective duo. Parolo is always an offensive threat despite never scoring for the Azzurri, although leaving out Verratti was a tough call. The front three was not a very hard decision – all are in good form, and might offer the goals Italy so desperately need.
Caterina Mirra | 4-3-3
Ventura’s decision to call Jorginho into the squad is not without merit, and could mean a change to his 4-2-4 formation. Personally, I would go for a 4-3-3, where Jorginho, De Rossi, Alessandro Florenzi and Insigne could show their best characteristics. Putting in Verratti is a more than a valid alternative to consider, especially if there is the need to play an offensive second half. With Andrea Belotti just returning from injury, I would prefer Ciro Immobile to start, with Insigne and Antonio Candreva on either side. It’s about time Italy chose a system where the players can express their qualities.
Marco Jackson | 3-4-3
While I might never make an international coach, there’s a few things that I do know. Firstly, playoffs are often approach with a ‘do not lose’ mentality. With that in mind, my defence will have to put club differences aside for the greater good. I’m sure they can do it for a couple of matches.
Furthermore, goals are crucial, so it stands to reason to have players who regularly score in the forward line, even though Eder has blown a little hot and cold.
Most importantly, the easiest thing to defend for a ‘well organised’, or unimaginative team, is a simple cross into the box. The midfielders offer width, but also quality enough to attack through the middle, too. You can tell me I’m too cavalier, but I think it’s the way to go.
Nicholas Carroll | 3-4-3
A 3-4-3 can invigorate the Azzurri’s attack and effectively utilise some of Italy’s form players; Insigne being a prime example. Danilo D’Ambrosio on the right of midfield provides solid defensive cover, while allowing Candreva the freedom to drift forward and seek out Immobile in the box; not to mention Inter’s right-wing duo have found form in recent weeks and should be utilised as such.
In defence, Barzagli has at times looked too far behind the speed of the game, hence the preference to implement a member of Italy’s next generation, Daniele Rugani, who of course still provides the crucial Juventus defensive link.
Padraig Whelan | 3-5-2
The biggest inclusion, and one I don’t anticipate Ventura making, in the starting line-up for me would be Jorginho. He may be a controversial call-up but his ability isn’t in doubt and would represent a calm presence in possession if given the nod. The old Juventus BBC backline can always be relied upon, Candreva has earned a start with his recent displays for Inter, and while it was a tough decision between the Simone Zaza and Belotti to partner Immobile, the Valencia striker is the man in form, which is always vital for international games.
Suhayl Al-Sammari | 4-3-3
The front three are in scintillating form in Serie A at the moment, with Immobile scoring for fun at Lazio and Stephan El Shaarawy back amongst the goals on the other side of Rome. Jorginho has earned his recall and is brimming with confidence – just the type of player Italy need in a crucial playoff.
Despite his struggles at AC Milan, Bonucci remains a world-class defender and his understanding with Chiellini could prove pivotal in keeping a dangerous Swedish attack at bay. Meanwhile, Florenzi and Leonardo Spinazzola can be relied on to provide energy in abundance down the flanks.
Vieri Capretta | 4-3-3
The 4-3-3 system is what most players are used to: Florenzi and De Rossi, Verratti and especially Insigne, who must start. Impossible to say no to Gianluigi Buffon in goal, but easy to do so to a three-man defence with Bonucci in this form. Space for Spinazzola on the left, while Parolo makes way for Florenzi, who for me needs to be in the XI. Verratti will have to switch on the light, Insigne and Candreva feed Immobile, who is ahead of Belotti only on current form, even though il Gallo is a close second.
Chris Martin | 3-5-1-1
This 3-5-1-1 is designed to exploit Sweden’s lack of pace and destabilise their sound organisation as it offers flexibility without altering personnel. Easily adaptable to a 4-3-3 with Florenzi and Insigne flanking Immobile and Matteo Darmian going to right back and Chiellini going to left back.
Jorginho combined with Verratti should allow Italy to dominate the midfield and pass the ball quickly to move the Swedes around and create pockets of space for Insigne to work in as a No.10. At times of Swedish possession this formation also easily slips into a 5-3-1-1 with the wing backs pushing back.
Conor Clancy | 3-5-2
I think recent form needs to be taken into consideration, especially in the attaching positions. Zaza has been incredible this year and if he is ever going to recover from that miss for Italy it’s now. Jorginho should play too. At the back, stick with the tried and tested BBC, maybe throw Daniele Rugani in for one of them.