On the night of November 13 2017, at the San Siro stadium football fans in Italy caught up with reality that their country will not be going to World Cup after playing out a goalless draw with Sweden. A night that began with optimism ended up in disappointment and tears for Italian football fans. It left the legendary Buffon in tears who then announced his retirement from international football along with three other members of the squad. The fallout of that failure saw Giampiero Ventura resigned from his role as Italy manager. That night also saw the Italian football federation began a search for Ventura’s successor. A man who will be tasked with rebuilding a damaged Italy squad.
After months of searching they finally appointed Roberto Mancini, who was on Monday announced as Italy manager after he mutually agreed with Zenith St Petersburg to terminate his contract so he could actualize his childhood dream of managing his country. He takes over from Giampiero Ventura who was in charge of their ill fated World Cup qualifying campaign, which the Azzuris failed to qualify for, for the first time in forty years. This is a huge job for Roberto Mancini and having played for the Italian national team and also managed clubs in Italy, he will definitely knows the pressure that comes with managing the Italian national team. His first task will be rebuilding the confidence of a team that has been seriously dent having failed to qualify for the world cup. He has been given the task of rebuilding an Italy squad that is losing its identity and these are the key things he must do if he’s to be successful on the job.
Replace Old Guns Retiring: The quartet of Buffon, De Rossi, Barzagli and Chiellini all announced their retirement after they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. These four has been a main part of the Italian team for more than a decade. The trio of De Rossi, Barzagli and Buffon were even part of the team that won the 2006 World Cup and have been important personalities in every major tournament Italy has played since 2006. Barzagli, Chiellini and Buffon has been part of a defence that has made sure Italy attained a little bit of success on the continental front while De Rossi has been a mainstay in the midfield for years now. Therefore it’s important that Mancini these stalwarts with players who not only have talents close to their level but also have personalities like them. Players like Gianluigi Donnarumma, Roberto Gagliardini among many others are players many have tipped to take over from the retiring old guards.
Bring More of Youth: Italy may be lacking superstars and talented players like the previous Italian teams that won major trophies but they still have enough talent to pick from. However they have stuck to their Old guards for a very long time and rarely giving young talents a chance to stake their claims. Italy’s game against Sweden showed that the entire starting line up was over 25 with six out of the starting line up over 30. This is something Mancini will need to address by giving youth a chance. The likes of Federico Bernardeschi who was one of the stars of last Euros U21, Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini, Milan’s Alessio Romangoli who is proving to be one of the best ball playing Center backs along with many others have not been given enough chances to stake their claim. Mancini will have to start giving young talented players coming out of the Italian top flight now a chance to prove their worth in the national team and with that he can build a team that will be able to challenge for the major trophies in the future.
Create an Identity that will fit Italy’s best Players: One of the reasons for Ventura’s failure is his inability to find a formation that will fit Italy best players. He failed to find a formation that will accommodate two of Italy’s best player (Jorginho and Lorenzo Insigne). His obsession with playing two strikers by partnering Ciro Immobile and Belotti upfront means Insigne misses out and with that Italy loses out on their best creative outlet. Mancini will have to find a way Jorginho, Insigne, Imobbile and if possible Belotti can all play together. He could decide to try a 3-5-2 formation if he wants to play all four with Lorenzo Insigne playing behind Belotti and Immobile upfront.
He also needs to find a way to liberate Veratti who hasn’t been having the best of games for Italy recently.
Nevertheless, it will not be smooth sailing for Mancini, and he will be aware of the pressure that comes with this job and it’s totally different from the previous jobs he has taken, but he’s experienced enough to deal with the pressure that comes with it.