Italian football has been criticised for its overtly physical approach. The classic Catenaccio style played in the past has been altered. A fresh faced Italian with the name of Cesare Prandelli is the culprit.
Prandelli’s appointment has allowed Italy to change. The ‘old guard’ under Lippi were being transitioned out of the international set up and in the process washing away the scars of South Africa, welcoming the new Italy, and with it new success.
Italy has opted to play a more attractive style, to find this new success. A possession oriented game that has been a hallmark of Prandelli’s managerial style. Unlike his predecessor he’s strived for change and difference.
Prandelli’s professed his football philosophy originated from “an attacking style inspired by the 1970s [Dutch] Total Football.” Prandelli’s alteration of Italy has led to victories against World and European champions Spain. The Italian manager further states “We will attack, albeit with a great sense of balance between the various departments.” Prandelli in this sense aims to incorporate the defensive solidity synonymous with Italian sides and add his attacking flair.
Italy is said to play a 4-3-1-2 system and incorporate a ‘rotating midfield square’. However, in the opinion of Italian specialist James Horncastle, a 3-5-2 is very possible. In Serie A, the most notable clubs to play this system are Napoli, Udinese, and Juventus. And between the three clubs, there are ten players in the Italian side. Therefore, a large portion of the squad has played and knows this system.
In the European Championships, there will be seven Juve players, and three of them central defenders — defenders who’ve played with three in the back in their championship winning season. Precedent has been set as a successful Juventus leads to a successful Italy. In the 1934 World Cup, seven Juve players were there to win Italy’s inaugural World Cup. In the 1982 World Cup, six Juve players played. And in Italy’s last World Cup triumph, there had been five Juve players.
Prandelli’s response after being asked about a 3-5-2 was, “We’ll try it, even if I’d like to keep an extra midfielder.” Leaving the possibility of a change in formation with the minimal success with the 4-3-1-2, as defeats to USA and Uruguay demonstrated, the question remains whether a majority of the possession and good build up play is enough for Italy, because they lacked a ruthless streak up front.
In relation to possession, Italy is only second to Spain in out possessing their opponents in qualifying. Spain is a side that Prandelli isn’t afraid of. “They are a very strong side, but not unbeatable” — something he proved in a friendly against La Furia Roja. Prandelli adds, “We must do well to win back the ball quickly and immediately move into our attack,” a tactic that embodies Italy’s new footballing style now.
Now with Italy’s change in identity and a new manager, this has culminated in a more flexible football style. With the Catenaccio style still ingrained in Italy and their astute defensive skills united at the back, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
They may be seen as a ‘dark horse’ due to the match-fixing scandal implicating the Azzurri yet again before a major tournament. But, if my memory serves me correct they won that tournament. Could it happen again?