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Author: Mattia Fontana

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Claudio Marchisio’s injury and the decision not to call up Andrea Pirlo triggered a bit of debate on Antonio Conte’s choices in view of Euro 2016. Also considering the fact that Marco Verratti is out, Italy has without a doubt lost three very high quality elements in the midfield. These are relevant losses, especially for a coach like Italy’s who has to draw up the team roster.

A coach who has always made his midfield the feather in the cap for his tactical strategies. After temporarily abandoning the three-man midfield and trying out a two-man formation in the 3-4-3 that suffered a clear loss against Germany during the friendly match in March, Conte seems intent on returning to the traditional line-up. However, it is interesting to see how he wants to distribute the role of director. Without Marchisio and Pirlo, alternatives must be found.
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During the initial phases of the friendly on Sunday evening against Scotland, it was very clear that Conte’s plan A was to work the ball back and forth between his backs and to use them to set up the play, giving the outside midfielders the time to spread out (Candreva on the right and Darmian on the left) and the two inside midfielders (Florenzi on the right and Giaccherini on the left) the chance to play in line with the two strikers (Eder and Pellè).

However, the first distinction is the type of verticalisation to carry out. The more direct type with less through-passes, in other words, getting the ball to the striker, has always been entrusted to the two outside backs in the three-man defence: Barzagli and Chiellini. Not quite as skilled at ball handling, but essential in any case for the development of Conte’s manoeuvre. Ball to the striker and then a cross for the arriving inside midfielder.
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As the minutes passed – and given the lack of spaces – the plan B came out just as clearly. In other words, a more complicated verticalisation, looking for the midfielder directly, without going through the striker. Through-passes, long passes to get by the opposing defensive line.

This type of play, typical of Pirlo, was entrusted exclusively to Bonucci (the centre back) and De Rossi (the midfielder in front of the defence).
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The play that resulted in Pellè’s goal also reflects Conte’s orders. Except that, as often happens in football, there is also the element of unpredictability. This is an element that, in this case, seemed to play in Italy’s favour.

In fact, De Rossi verticalised immediately to send the inside left midfielder, Giaccherini. Involuntarily, Eder found himself in the ball’s trajectory. And the scoring play stemmed from his failure to control the ball. What proves that it was not planned that way? The desperation you can see in the second image of De Rossi and Giaccherini when Eder received the pass.
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Not having a midfielder like Pirlo or Marchisio, it seems that Conte decided to distribute the tasks among four players: we will probably see an Italy with a four-man line-up consistently throughout Euro 2016.
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Mattia Fontana
Mattia Fontana, Eurosport Italia editor.
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