Calcio Debate: Italy Need A Trequartista – Time To Bring Back Francesco Totti?
Marcello Lippi’s record-breaking run came to an end last night as Italy were defeated 2-0 by Brazil in London. Carlo Garganese analyses the match, and argues that the Azzurri are in dire need of a creative forward such as the Roma captain…
Eagle-eyed readers of my Calcio Debate column will remember how, when Marcello Lippi returned to the Italy bench after Euro 2008, I declared my opposition to a possible national team re-call for Francesco Totti. Eight or so months down the line, and the evolution of this current Lippi outfit has made me rethink this assessment.
The Azzurri began their prestigious friendly against Brazil last night with a 4-3-3 system, and their first half display, barring the opening 10 minutes, was not pretty to watch. The Selecao dominated possession, controlled the tempo, outnumbered La Nazionale in midfield, suffocated all supply to the wide attackers, waited, delayed and then struck with two killer Italian-like sucker-punches.
I have argued this point so many times, but here goes again: Italy cannot play with the 4-3-3 formation.
It is a system they are neither comfortable with, nor have the personnel for. Classically, Italy play a ‘slow, slow, fast’ game – 4-3-3 is all about lightning-paced attacks at a high tempo, something that is just not in the Italian make-up. Furthermore, you need top class widemen, a la Arjen Robben and Damien Duff at Chelsea, to make the system work. Antonio Di Natale is inconsistent, while Simone Pepe is way off international standard at the moment. The 25-year-old cannot even make the Udinese starting XI, so how he could be expected to star against Brazil is perplexing.
A three-man midfield leaves Andrea Pirlo hopelessly exposed defensively, especially when he has Riccardo Montolivo alongside him. The Fiorentina man was again a major disappointment. The 24-year-old is too weak on the ball, currently lacks the required heart and mental strength, and there are a question marks over whether he has it in him to flourish at international level. Sampdoria's Angelo Palombo is surely a better option for now.
As is the case for most national teams, this is a dark period in the production of Italian defenders. Lippi does not have many quality options to choose from and, for this reason, Italy must be compact and defend as a team-unit. A four man midfield protects the backline, and allows for Italy’s tactical superiority to pay dividends.
In the second half last night, Lippi scrapped the 4-3-3 at half time, and reverted to a 4-3-1-2 of sorts, with Mauro Camoranesi roaming on the right and in behind fellow substitutes Luca Toni and Giuseppe Rossi. Immediately Italy were at home. They were now playing a formation familiar to them, and there was balance all over the pitch.
Still though, there was a distinct lack of creative spark in the team in the area in front of Pirlo, and behind the frontline. To put it in simple terms, the Azzurri need a trequartista or, at the very least, a creative second striker.
So who could fill this role?
Antonio Cassano is the obvious answer. 'Fantantonio' would provide the skill and imagination that Italy require but, unfortunately, Lippi has no intention of calling up a player who he believes will destroy his ‘team is greater than the individual’ philosophy. Fabrizio Miccoli, who is having a brilliant season, is another option. However, cynics will say that there is little chance of the Palermo man playing under Lippi again after he testified against Luciano Moggi in court.
Putting aside Alessandro Del Piero who, if and when he returns, will probably be more of an impact substitute, this leaves just one realistic possibility: Francesco Totti. As mentioned earlier, I was originally against the idea of an Er Pupone comeback, but the lack of alternatives means that Italy would improve markedly in quality with the Roma symbol in their team. Totti will be almost 34 come South Africa, and his recurrent injuries are also a concern, but, Italy would surely have a greater chance of retaining the World Cup with Totti pulling the strings than Simone Pepe hogging the wings.
Having said all this, Italy’s performance last night was not as bad as some have made out. The game would have been very different had Fabio Grosso’s brilliant early goal not been incorrectly ruled offside. Brazil scored twice but, although they perhaps took their foot off the gas after Robinho’s second, Gianluigi Buffon did not make a single noteworthy save all night. In the second half, Luca Toni had a goal disallowed, missed one sitter and two other decent chances, while Julio Cesar also saved excellently from Fabio Grosso’s free kick.
So, one could argue that Italy did not enjoy the best of luck on the night. Howard Webb again proved to be incapable of refereeing at this level of football, as did at least one of his assistants. It is quite amusing how, despite the huge amount of money that was invested into this prestigious friendly, the organisers decided to take the cheap option of appointing English referees, just because they were local-based. It is like spending €5000 on a brand new, flashy, Giorgio Armani suit, and then wearing some tatty, old, hole-ridden shoes to go with it. Where is the logic?
Brazil and Italy meet again in June in the Confederations Cup, and it will be interesting to see what changes Marcello Lippi makes before then. With his unbeaten run now over, the World Cup winner may be more willing now to try out some fresh talent, such as Atalanta’s Sergio Floccari. Whatever Lippi does though, he must ditch the 4-3-3 formation, and bring in a trequartista or creative second striker.
What was your assessment of Italy’s performance against Brazil last night? Should the 4-3-3 formation be scrapped? Do Italy need a trequartista or classical second striker? Should Francesco Totti be brought back to the Azzurri? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think…
Couldn't agree more that Italy should scrap the 4-3-3 which isn't particular creative and has consistently shown not to work against big teams and that is exactly the point. Italy with this much quality will alway qualify and you don't really win the big cups getting results against small teams.
Cassano has to be tried and he wouldn't even have to use him behind two strikers. Totti would be the obvious solution and if he can keep form untill the world cup then he has to be picked.