Sunday, June 13, 2010

Italy Tweaking the Imperfections on Eve of Paraguay Game

Reports from Italy's training camp in Guateng suggest that Marcello Lippi is weighing up two options in terms of formation for the azzurri's match against Paraguay, but neither would entail a meaningful departure from how the team has been recently taking shape in the absence of Andrea Pirlo.

Above: Figure 1: Italy's 4-2-3-1 is apparent and defined but ill-suited to Marchisio's box-to-box game. As such, the azzurri's articulation when approaching the final third is likely to become less fluid. The yellow lines represent the adoption of defensive positioning.

It would appear that despite the less-than-convincing performances in the friendly games versus Mexico and Switzerland, Lippi is keeping faith with the 4-2-3-1 that sees Juventus' box-to-box midfielder Claudio Marchisio improvised in the treqartista role.

But Italy have also been rehearsing movements in an alternative system that can best be described (and has been by Gazzetta dello Sport) as a hybrid 4-4-2/4-3-3 and which restores Marchisio to something of a more natural role at interior-left in a tight bank of three which promptly becomes a four in the defensive phase due to Simone Pepe (or Mauro Camoranesi) being entrusted with a 'tornante' role at wide-right midfield.

A knock-on effect of this synchronisation is that Italy's left-sided attacking player (either Iaquinta or Di Natale) will be freed from most defensive duties beyond pressing the opposing right-back and may even be free to float all across the front line in channels not occupied by centre-forward Gilardino.

To my mind, Lippi's entertaining of this modification points to his common sense since the second formation simply adjusts to the natural characteristics of the human material available - or, if you prefer, the players' natural tendencies have ended up tilting the formation away from a 'square-pegs-in-round-holes' scenario and the coach has dutifully gone about formalising this osmosis, tidying things up here and there and organising the team for the defensive phase.

Above Right: Figure 2. A more cohesive shape, given the personel at hand. Di Natale (or Iaquinta) theoretically benefits from his resulting proximity to goal. The defensive phase sees two deeper banks of four being adopted.


  1. I agree with you. Also notable is that the second line-up is exactly the same as the one who won in 2006, with a strong midfield pair (Pirlo/Gattuso, De Rossi/Montolivo), a proper right winger (Pepe or Camoranesi), and a key role in the fourth midfielder, simultaneously covering the left flank and taking care of incisive runs in the box (Perrotta, now hopefully Marchisio, both very flexible and highly tactical). This fourth midfielder can occasionally be well suited to move a bit to the centre to accommodate the scaling back of the second striker (Di Natale - Totti/Del Piero in 2006).

    I have to say though that even in the first case the end result will be the same, and the players will line up exactly like in the second case. It just differs on a blackboard, but once on the pitch they are pretty much the same because of the players' natural attitude.

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  3. Succinct point there Mana, in particular about the left-sided midfielder.

    I consider Marchisio to be an upgrade on Perotta.

    What do you reckon?

  4. Well, in light of last night's game, Marchisio was a mess, but it's not his fault. He's new to the World Cup and I think it has been proven that he can't do the middle man in a line of three behind the striker.

    Perrotta is easy to dislike, and I don't particularly like him myself, but I can assure you he has been a key player. The way he interpreted the "trequartista" role was unique (one of the most outstanding variations on a traditional role in the entire decade of Italian football, along with Pirlo in a deep position, I think).
    Playing for Roma he couldn't be replaced, and his movement were crucial to Totti's passing game during the Spalletti years (with his fantastic 4-6-0).
    I agree that Marchisio is a better player technically, but he still has to prove himself worthy of Perrotta's achievements. We'll see, he certainly is very versatile. There's a chance we won't see him again in this World Cup after last night.

    Anyway, Italy vs Paraguay: they completely failed the 4-2-3-1 effort, precisely because Marchisio wasn't performing in that role. It is interesting for you, I think, that they quickly went back to the 4-4-2 that we discussed (your second option in the post). In particular Camoranesi made a lot of movement to the inside rather than just playing the traditional winger. He left that to Pepe.
    In a way, it was a confirmation of what I said yesterday about the players just being more comfortable with this odd 4-4-2 rather than with a 4-2-3-1. When Di Natale came in for Gilardino and played very deep behind Iaquinta (who previously didn't work as a second striker pushed to the sideline with Gilardino in the box), that was effectively a return to old habits of 2006, but it might have worked so well just out of sheer mental energy to equalize. We have to see how it goes in the second match to draw any conclusions.
    Have you seen the game?

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