CR7 Joining Juventus Would Be Great for the Image of Serie A

If Cristiano Ronaldo joins Juventus this summer, it would be a great marketing ploy for La Vecchia Signora and for Serie A in general due to his fame and reputation in football.

Although Italy won the World Cup in 2006, it was also the year that the Calciopoli scandal broke out, and Italian football has experienced a period of decline and regression since then. Serie A clubs have not been able to lure world-class players like they did in the 1980s and 1990s and there has been a dearth of local talent as well.

Despite being 33 years old, Ronaldo is still in great condition and he is scoring freely for club and country. He scored four goals for Portugal at the 2018 World Cup and he scored 44 goals in as many competitive matches for Real Madrid during the 2017/18 campaign.

According to media reports, the relationship between the Portuguese forward and Los Merengues president Florentino Perez has deteriorated and this has made the former Sporting CP and Manchester United player consider a change of atmosphere.

Reportedly Ronaldo has agreed to a four-year contract with €30 million per season after taxes with sponsors helping the Bianconeri cover parts of his hefty wage but now the Italian giants and their Spanish counterparts must agree on a transfer fee.

Juventus would not be acquiring an ordinary veteran. Even at his age, the Portuguese star can still be considered to be the best player in the world and he is a once-in-a-generation player so he can still be a great drawcard for Serie A.

Italian coaches do have a habit of trusting veterans over young players and only in the last two seasons or so have Serie A fans seem more youngsters emerge but the Bianconeri are not in a position to focus on youth development.

They are already built to win in the present, especially in domestic competitions and CR7 is a veteran worth spending money on. Although Juve have been well-constructed in the 2010s, they have been lacking that superstar than can step up in the big European fixtures.

Despite the quality that is already at Juventus, the UEFA Champions League has proven to be elusive for this squad. Ronaldo has won the competition five times, including four titles with Real Madrid, so he brings that experience and quality which should aid La Vecchia Signora enormously if they are to win their third European Cup/CL trophy.

Attendances at Italian league games have been dwindling in the last 20 years with average crowds reaching as low as 19,969 people in the 2006/07 season, almost half of what it was in 1997/98 with 38,370.

Seeing a player of the Portuguese forward’s calibre might entice people into going to the stadiums to watch him play in person instead of just watching the game in the comfort of their living rooms and also help to enliven the atmosphere in the crowds.

If Ronaldo comes to Italy and performs well, this might persuade other world-class players to join Serie A clubs and for sponsors to invest more in the league. Not only would more fans on the Italian peninsula take an interest in Ronaldo but Italian football would gain greater exposure around the world.

There will be supporters of the sport who would like to watch Juve for the sake of viewing the progress of the Portuguese superstar, especially if he scores at a prolific rate. It would also allow critics of Italian football to make proper judgements instead of relying on dated and narrow-minded stereotypes.

A negative aspect about his acquisition is that the Italian league looks one-sided as it is and the dominance of La Vecchia Signora probably will not be broken if they can buy Ronaldo. That being said, purchasing a player of his quality should not be for maintaining domestic dominance but for giving the squad and the supporters belief that they can win in Europe.

It has been years since Serie A has been filled with world-class players. Aside from the decline in the Italian talent pool and the Calciopoli scandal, a lack of finances and quality management have not helped clubs in Italy.

The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo would be something special but watching him succeed in Italy could be the catalyst for Serie A clubs to convince the world’s best to earn their living on the Italian peninsula.


Argentina Must Rebuild with Serie A Stars Like Icardi and Dybala

After a disappointing 2018 World Cup marked by underwhelming performances and reports of tension within the squad, Argentina must put faith in Serie A stars like Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala in the long term.

The Albiceleste’s 4-3 defeat to France in the Round of 16 of the tournament marked an early than expected end to the tournament for the South Americans and it should also mark the end of an era of a generation of stars.

Experienced players such as Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano announced their international retirement soon after the defeat and surely the likes of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Ever Banega, and Angel Di Maria will do the same or be phased out of the Argentinian squad.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli was criticised for his choice of formations as well as personnel and this happened before the team arrived in Russia but things became more evident with their results in the group stage, especially the 3-0 defeat to Croatia in Argentina’s second Group D match.

There has been speculation suggesting that Sampaoli is only a coach in name and that Messi is in charge of team selections instead, thus explaining some of the questionable selections and omissions.

The absence of Icardi from the Albiceleste squad has been bizarre. He made his debut for his country in a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in October 2013, which the Argentinians lost 3-2, but he has only received three more caps and it surely cannot be based on form.

Since he joined Inter from Sampdoria in 2013, he has been prolific for the Nerazzurri scoring 100 times in 159 Serie A matches. Perhaps a lack of appearances in Europe’s main competitions might count against him but he has been scoring freely for a club that is struggling to replicate the success it had in the 2000s.

Most experts and fans of the game speculate that his off-field behaviour is the reason why he is not being selected for Argentina. He had an affair with Wanda Nara, the wife of his then Sampdoria teammate Maxi Lopez in 2013, and she left Lopez to marry Icardi a year later and the couple have two daughters.

The affair drew the ire of the Argentinian people, the press, and former Argentinian internationals and it seems that he is a persona non grata in the Albiceleste squad. It is shame though because the relationship has become more than an affair, not just a fling, and the national team would have another world-class finisher if he was in the squad.

His compatriot Paulo Dybala did play at the 2018 World Cup but he only featured for 22 minutes in the defeat to the Croatians and he has failed to score in 13 appearances for his country. In his defence, he has rarely started for Argentina and perhaps he might be able to break his drought if he can establish himself in the national team.

Since he joined Juventus from Palermo in 2015, the 24-year-old has scored 68 goals in 140 competitive matches for La Vecchia Signora, including 52 in 98 Serie A games and a run of 10 goals in just six matches in the 2017/18 league campaign.

Dybala has predominantly played as an attacking midfielder under Bianconeri coach Massimiliano Allegri, especially when the 4-2-3-1 formation is implemented, but he plays his best football when he operates as a support striker.

Depending on who coaches Argentina next and the system he uses, Icardi could lead the attack with “La Joya” playing beside him. At least the duo could be played to their strengths instead of being forced into a system that hinders the way they play.

In addition to Icardi and Dybala needing to be integrated into the Albiceleste more, the Fiorentina duo of German Pezzella and Giovanni Simeone deserve to play more often.

Pezzella joined from Spanish club Real Betis in 2017 and he has arguably been the most dependable defender in the Viola backline, especially since the passing of Davide Astori in March.

Simeone had breakthrough campaign in 2016/17 with Genoa scoring 12 goals in 35 Serie A matches, and in the following season for Fiorentina, he scored 14 times in 38 league games. The 22-year-old may not be as prolific as other Argentine centre-forwards but he possesses the fighting qualities that his father Diego had as a footballer.

Another Italian-based Argentine that could be taken under consideration is 20-year-old Lautaro Martinez, who has joined Inter from Racing Club for €23 million. If he quickly adapts to Italian football and forms a successful partnership with Icardi, it would be a win-win situation for both the Nerazzurri and the Albiceleste.

There are an array of problems impacting on Argentinian football, especially the lack of leadership at the AFA since the passing of Julio Grondona, so revolutionising the national team or the addition of a few different players will not mean things will change for the better on the field in an instant.

Despite that, there are a few players based in Italy that are capable of starting for the Albiceleste if the coach can fit them into a system that suits their characteristics.

Napoli Winning Serie A with Sarri Would Have Been Great

Former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri did not win silverware in his three seasons with the Partenopei but his team created many great memories during his time at the southern Italian club.

Their style of football enthralled fans and the Neapolitans earned praise from around the world due to their exciting approach. Thanks to his work in Naples, the 59-year-old has been linked with coaching roles at Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Zenit Saint Petersburg, and Real Madrid.

It would have been great to have seen Napoli win its third Serie A title because Sarri’s style of football is great to watch, Sarri possesses the ability to improve players, the Partenopei would have broken the recent hegemony of Juventus in the league, this squad would have been known as his Napoli, and a scudetto triumph could have prompted a revolution in Italian football.

Italian football has a reputation for being boring based on dated stereotypes but Napoli has been the best at debunking them with their high-tempo possession football.

The Neapolitans have not won the Serie A title since the legendary Diego Maradona played for them from 1984 to 1991 so winning it for the third title in their history and for the first time since he left the club.

Those teams are best remembered as “Maradona’s Napoli” whereas the current squad would have been remembered as “Sarri’s Napoli” and probably not be associated with one of the key players.

Seeing the Bianconeri win the scudetto is another example of preaching to the converted whereas a Partenopei victory could have very beneficial for the image of Italian football.

Juventus have won the last seven scudetti and the way the Bianconeri have played particularly under Massimiliano Allegri in the last four seasons has been conservative so a Partenopei triumph would have been proof that Italian teams can be successful by playing with style.

If Napoli had won the Serie A championship, it might have attracted more fans to Italian football because someone other than Juve emerged victorious and won in style. Teams do not get points for style but they can gain more supporters, attract more sponsors, and earn more recognition and praise for their efforts.

Italian clubs often demand instant results and Italian coaches want ready-made players, especially experienced ones, but the glory days of the 1980s and 1990s when Serie A clubs could purchase the best players in the world are long gone.

Although Sarri was not content with the lack of depth the Partenopei had, he was still able to create a competitive team and he improved the individual quality of the players. His predecessor Rafa Benitez could only finish in a Europa League position in 2014/15 whereas Sarri with essentially the same squad turned them into scudetto contenders.

Juventus have been able to acquire established stars whereas Sarri’s coaching elevated the quality of the team. La Vecchia Signora can count on the wealth of the Agnelli family and the shrewd decision making of directors such as Giuseppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici but the Ciucciarelli have been near the top due to the methods of their former coach.

Napoli now has the great Carlo Ancelotti as a coach and he might bring more silverware to Naples but his predecessor created some fine memories despite not winning a trophy. He made sure that the Partenopei were capable of putting on a spectacle more often than not and fought for the scudetto.

Maurizio Sarri failed to win the Serie A title coaching the Neapolitan club but his legacy would have been much greater if he did.

Candreva Has Limited Options if He Leaves Inter

Strengthening the depth and quality of the Inter squad will be on the minds of the Nerazzurri directors during the summer and the future of right-winger Antonio Candreva is not entirely clear.

After the conclusion of the 2017/18 season, there was speculation that he was going to be sold, but Sky Sport Italia are now reporting that he could have his contact extended up to June 2021. Despite that, it seems that the Biscione will still pursue other players once the transfer window opens in July.

There have been reports that Inter are interested in acquiring Fiorentina winger Federico Chiesa but the Gigliati are demanding at least €50 million for the 20-year-old Italian international.

A convenient scenario for the Nerazzurri would be to offer Fiorentina cash for Chiesa and include Candreva in the deal but 31-year-old did not have a great relationship with current Viola coach Stefano Pioli at Lazio and Inter so the likelihood of that transfer eventuating is unlikely.

His second season with Inter was a disappointment, failing to score a single goal during the league campaign and although he provided eight assists in 36 matches, they all coming in the opening 17 rounds.

Due to this slump in form, it is possible that Candreva might be moved on for 2018/19, but his options in Serie A look quite limited.

It is doubtful that he would return to one of his former clubs like Parma, Lazio, or Juventus. The Ducali might have trouble fitting them on their wage bill; Aquile president Claudio Lotito rarely considers bringing back former players to the club; and he would struggle to make the Bianconeri bench these days due to their abundance of wingers.

Roma is another club that can be ruled out because of his Lazio past, it is reportedly chasing after younger wingers, and the Giallorossi also have a strong youth academy that produces enough wide attackers who are now playing at other clubs.

With Carlo Ancelotti now coaching Napoli, it would be surprising for the Partenopei to acquire his services. Although his philosophy probably won’t be as attacking as Maurizio Sarri’s or his system would be as intricate, the Neapolitans already have Jose Callejon and a more technically gifted player or more prestigious name than the Spaniard would replace him, not a player like Candreva.

There have been many footballers that have played for both Inter and AC Milan but it is unlikely that the 31-year-old will be the next one to join that list. Fabio Borini is a player with similar characteristics and the Rossoneri will probably have issues luring established players to the club due to their financial situation and possible omission from the Europa League.

Despite possessing the ability to potentially make an impact at clubs like Sampdoria, Cagliari, and Empoli, the Inter winger would not fit into those teams because of the narrow formations they use.

Chievo, Udinese, SPAL, and the club that wins the Serie B play-offs would probably be unappealing targets for the veteran right-winger but he could be successful with one of those teams.

Lorenzo D’Anna is now the permanent coach of the Flying Donkeys and Candreva would be a good fit for the 4-3-3 formation; the Zebrette or the Biancazzurri could use him as a right wing-back in the 3-5-2 like when Antonio Conte coached Italy; and a club like Venezia could benefit from his experience but it depends on finances.

Which club would actually suit Candreva though?

Sassuolo patron Giorgio Squinzi has not been satisfied with current tactician Giuseppe Iachini implementing the 3-5-2 formation and he would prefer a coach that uses the 4-3-3 instead.

If the Neroverdi sell wingers Domenico Berardi and Matteo Politano in the summer, then acquiring a player with Candreva’s experience and ability to play in a 4-3-3 formation might be a shrewd move. The Beneamata have been linked with the 23-year-old in the past so perhaps they should consider completing a deal in which Berardi and Candreva should swap clubs.

Historically Genoa under the presidency of Enrico Preziosi is not a club that spends significant amounts of money on players, especially veterans, but the Grifone should consider the Inter winger if Coach Davide Ballardini persists with the 3-5-2 formation in 2018/19.

Torino is arguably the most ideal club for Candreva because he would be able to play as a right-winger or right wing-back depending on the system Coach Walter Mazzarri uses and it is more likely that Granata president Urbano Cairo would be more willing to pay for his transfer fee than Preziosi.

Depending on its goals for the following season, Bologna is a team where the Inter winger can move to. Roberto Donadoni is no longer the coach but the 31-year-old can make an impact if the Felsinei hire a coach that implements the 4-3-3 formation like his predecessor.

Even if Candreva does remain at Inter in 2018/19, his position in the first XI will probably be at considerable risk, but if he decides to leave the Beneamata, there are not many clubs in Italy where he can immediately adapt or they can afford his wages.

Sarrismo Can Work at Chelsea

It seems that Maurizio Sarri is likely to leave Napoli at the end of the season and become the manager of Chelsea in 2018/19.

The Partenopei tactician has turned his squad into a title contender for the last three seasons but winning the club’s third Serie A title has proved to be elusive and it seems that the relationship Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has become sour.

After reading an opinion piece about Chelsea not being the ideal club for the Ciucciarelli coach to implement his philosophy and that he would suit Arsenal better, it made me wonder if the contrary was possible and I reckon it is.

Although the Gunners have become a team synonymous with beautiful football, they need to head in the opposite direction. Coaches like Massimiliano Allegri and Carlo Ancelotti would suit them better because they are capable of instilling a winning mentality at the club instead of focusing on aesthetics like Sarri and Arsene Wenger.

Chelsea, on the other hand, has been a club that has won plenty of silverware but it has usually achieved that success by playing defensively or prioritising efficiency and work ethic over creativity. Despite not winning any major silverware in his coaching career so far, the 59-year-old is capable of making teams exceed expectations by playing attacking football.

It might seem strange that Blues chairman Roman Abramovich would consider hiring a coach who can be considered to be a bridesmaid more than a bride but the club has a chance to shrug off its “ugly winners” tag and Sarri has the opportunity to stop being the “pretty loser”.

Napoli has lacked the depth to fight for the Serie A title and Sarri has not rotated his squad a lot because of it but he should have more to work with at Chelsea even if Abramovich does not provide him with a blank chequebook.

I would expect him to scrap the back three system that current manager Antonio Conte has been using and implement the 4-3-3 formation instead. Although the midfield could do with more creativity, there are still enough tools to put his philosophy in place and a revolution of the squad is not necessary.

Thibaut Courtois has been put in this squad but there is media speculation linking him with a move away from Stamford Bridge and the other goalkeepers also have contracts that are close to expiring.

Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso have been chosen as the full-backs due to their Serie A experience and that might bring more comfort to Sarri. Cesar Azpilicueta is probably a better option defensively but Zappacosta’s offensive capabilities might appeal more to the current Napoli tactician.

In central defence, the experience of David Luiz and Gary Cahill should put them ahead of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, but Rudiger’s experience in Italy might also be of appeal to Sarri so the German international becoming a starter might not be surprising.

The midfield positions could be a real lottery but hiring Sarri as coach could revive the career of Cesc Fabregas, even in his early 30s, and the Spaniard could dictate the play from deep like Jorginho does for Napoli.

Brazilian midfielder Allan was a defensive midfielder at Udinese but he has become a box-to-box midfielder at Napoli. Perhaps under the tutelage of Sarri, either N’Golo Kante or Danny Drinkwater could experience a similar transformation.

Marek Hamsik was an attacking midfielder for many years with the Partenopei but he has become a playmaker under the former Empoli coach. If a Chelsea midfielder could experience an identical transformation, it would be Ross Barkley assuming that he remain fit.

On the wings, Willian and Eden Hazard have been selected because of their technical abilities, but Victor Moses could be selected as the right-winger and perform in a similar role to what Jose Callejon does for Napoli. Hazard is the mercurial talent of this Chelsea side and he is not too indifferent to Ciucciarelli winger Lorenzo Insigne.

Pedro is a versatile forward and I would compare him to Dries Mertens in that regard. It remains to be seen if Sarri will use a “false nine” but the Spaniard arguably has the attributes to replicate what Mertens does for the Partenopei.

If he does decided to use a more traditional centre-forward, Alvaro Morata would suit Sarri’s style but he could be moving back to Juventus so Olivier Giroud has been included instead.

If Sarri does move to Chelsea, it will be his first coaching job outside of Italian football and he will be testing himself against quality managers like Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, and Mauricio Pochettino.

Despite being the antithesis of what Chelsea is used, he should be able to bring something different to the Blues squad and with the quality players at his disposal already available, he has the opportunity to make “Sarrismo” work in the EPL.




What If Marco Giampaolo Didn’t Use the 4-3-1-2 Formation at Sampdoria?

Sampdoria has been fighting for a Europa League spot for the majority of the 2017/18 Serie A season but in the second half of the season, the Blucerchiati have experienced a decline in form and have shown signs of fatigue.

Marco Giampaolo has been praised for his attacking philosophy like Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri but the Samp tactician has not rotated his squad or changed his formation or tactics, which are things Sarri has been criticised for this season.

The 4-3-1-2 formation is the only one that Giampaolo uses at Sampdoria and he has not moved away from it. With four rounds remaining in the league campaign, it is doubtful that he would serious consider switching formations, but it would be intriguing to see how the team would line-up in different formations without losing its attacking identity.

Here are five alternative systems that would be worth considering if the Doriani tactician wanted to make changes.


sampdoria XI 3-5-2

This eliminates the need for a trequartista and the Sampdoria ones are out of formation at the moment. Gaston Ramirez has two goals and 10 assists in the league this season but he has not been directly involved in a goal since the 3-1 victory against Fiorentina on January 21 while Ricky Alvarez has not been able to make the most of limited opportunities.

Defensively, the 3-5-2 would improve the defence. Gian Marco Ferrari and Matias Silvestre are not able to play as ball-playing centre-backs but Joachim Andersen has demonstrated that he can play in that role whenever he gets the opportunities.

The full-back positions have been problematic as well for the Blucerchiati so the formation would allow Ivan Strinic and Jacopo Sala to play in more advanced roles. Sala in particular struggles as a right-back and he was more effective at his other clubs playing as a right midfielder or right-winger depending on the system.

Asymmetrical 4-3-3

samp xi asymmetrical 4-3-3

Unbalanced or asymmetrical formations were a common thing in Italian football and although most media outlets would publish this particular one as a standard 4-3-3, the roles indicate that deviates from the traditional function of the system. This formation would still resemble Sampdoria’s current 4-3-1-2 but the roles of Alvarez and Gianluca Caprari are the key differences.

Alvarez would be able to drift to and from the left-wing without needing to drift to the right side of the pitch while Caprari played as a right-winger under Zdenek Zeman at Pescara and occasionally in that role under Giovanni Stroppa so he should not have any issues playing in that position. He is a fast and direct player so leaving him on a flank would not deter him.

In the back four, I have opted for Bartosz Bereszynski over Sala at right-back simply because he is a more natural fit for the role, and he is less vulnerable when he is defending.


samp XI 3-4-2-1

Instead of one trequartista, Il Doria would be able to accommodate two in this system. Although there have been matches where the attacking midfielders have under-performed, perhaps the additional help might force them to become more involved in the play.

Alvarez has been selected in this formation but Ramirez could slot into that role while Dennis Praet has been picked to operate in a more advanced position. He was an attacking midfielder at Anderlecht so he would have the ability to adapt to that system.

Fabio Quagliarella starts as the lone striker in this formation ahead of Duvan Zapata due to his leadership, experience, technique, and mobility.

4-2-3-1 (Option One)

sampdoria XI 4-2-3-1 Part 1

This formation would allow Zapata, Caprari, and Quagliarella to play simultaneously and either Alvarez or Ramirez would start on the left-wing. Quagliarella played as a right midfielder in some matches under Walter Novellino when he was at Samp the first time so he could play there instead of Caprari.

Although Quagliarella and Alvarez would start wide, they would be able to move into more central positions, and Caprari as a trequartista would be allowed to make late runs into the penalty area.

4-2-3-1 (Option Two)

sampdoria XI 4-2-3-1 Part 2

The alternative version to the 4-2-3-1 is slightly more balanced than the first option and is less experimental.

Praet operates as a trequartista here, Alvarez or Ramirez would start on the left and then drift centrally, and Caprari stays on the right. Zapata starts in this graphic but he could alternate with Quagliarella.


The purpose of creating these formations is not to force a change of philosophy but to analyse how Sampdoria can maintain its philosophy and manage to get results by possibly moving away from the 4-3-1-2.

It would be surprising for Giampaolo to change his system near the end of the season but I believe that this would give the Doriani some extra tactical options in the hope that the team can qualify for Europe.


Maran Must Make Chievo More Attacking

Chievo coach Rolando Maran should try to make the Flying Donkeys a more attack-minded team because their defensive approach is no longer working for them.

The Flying Donkeys lost 1-0 to city rivals Hellas Verona on Saturday evening CET and they have won just twice in their last 18 Serie A fixtures since previous Derby della Scala in October 2017. After 28 rounds, they are now one point away from falling into the relegation zone.

Their reliance on experienced players and defensive tactics are not producing many positive results. When they faced the Mastini, they look devoid of ideas, guile, and confidence. This is a huge change from the Chievo teams of the 2000s which played attacking football and qualified for Europe.

According to Transfermarkt, Chievo has the second-oldest squad on average in Italy’s top flight with 28.3 years and only Juventus has an older one at 28.8 years but the Bianconeri have quality players whereas the Clivensi do not have veterans of Juve’s calibre.

Teams that play defensively are focused on stopping the opposition from scoring but the club from the Veneto region is still leaking the goals in.

If Chievo does not turn its form around, it could find itself in a relegation battle and perhaps Maran could find his time at the club he also played for in the 1990s coming to an end.

When the Flying Donkeys came to prominence in the early 2000s, they surprised people with their unheralded squad and attacking approach under Luigi Delneri. Perhaps to climb up the Serie A table, Maran should embrace a similar philosophy.

A lack of pace could prevent them from playing a more attacking style but stamina should not be an issue. Despite possessing an ageing squad, the Clivensi have players that can cover heaps of ground.

To implement a more attacking approach, Maran should chance his personnel around and perhaps switch his formation too. Here are some possible alternatives which he should consider if his team is to seize the initiative in matches.


chievo 17-18 4-3-1-2 potential xi

The current Chievo side frequently plays in a 4-3-1-2 formation but Maran’s choices in playing personnel are for the purpose of containment instead of seizing the initiative, especially in midfield.

Youth academy graduate Fabio Depaoli should be used in a more offensive capacity instead of being trialled as a right-back or right wing-back.

In October last year, the then Italy U-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio praised Depaoli after a 6-2 victory in a friendly against Hungary. The 20-year-old played as a right midfielder in the 4-4-2 formation and was among the scorers so Maran should utilise his attacking abilities at club level.

Instead having Lucas Castro and Perparim Hetemaj as the box-to-box midfielders, starting with Depaoli and Emanuele Giaccherini would provide more impetus in the attacking phase and increase the fluidity in the Clivensi‘s play.

I would maintain a striker partnership of Roberto Inglese and Manuel Pucciarelli but the latter’s role would be similar to what he did at Empoli, which involved him drifting to the wings and dribbling past defenders.


chievo 17-18 4-2-3-1 potential xi

This formation is not common in Italy, especially for the smaller teams, but the majority of players would be in adequate positions.

The central midfield pairing of Ivan Radovanovic and Hetemaj would have to adjust to a different midfield set-up as opposed to the midfield trio that they are used but they could still play in their current roles.

Depaoli and Giaccherini would play in more advance roles. For the starlet, the role is similar to what he has played in for the Azzurrini, while the veteran would play as a left-winger like at Cesena and Bologna and that would allow him to get into scoring position more often.


chievo 17-18 4-3-3 potential xi

Implementing the 4-3-3 would involve putting players in roles that are not their preferred or best roles but they are roles that they are still capable of performing in.

Lucas Castro has been selected in this system because he is better offensively than Hetemaj. Giaccherini played as a box-to-box midfielder for Juventus and Italy so playing on the left side of the midfield trio should not be an issue for him. Radovanovic would be the anchor while Giaccherini and Castro would possess the drive to advance forward.

Valter Birsa has been shifted to the left-wing, a role which has performed in at previous clubs, and this is has been done to accommodate both Giaccherini and him in the 4-3-3.


chievo 17-18 3-4-1-2 potential xi

In the back three formation, it would be like how Maran implemented the back five defence with Alessandro Gamberini, Mattia Bani, and Dario Dainelli as the centre-backs.

Hetemaj and Castro have been selected in central midfield, the former for his defensive work and the latter for his play going forward. Giaccherini has played as a left wing-back for Italy, especially at Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, and he has been chosen over Massimo Gobbi here for his superior attacking threat. Fabrizio Cacciatore has been chosen to play more offensively as opposed to experimenting with Depaoli in the role again.

Probably out of the five proposals, this formation would be better suited to counter-attacking tactics because Castro and Hetemaj are not midfielders that can dictate the play and they would need to supply Birsa or the wing-back quickly. This formation gives them the defensive cover but still gives them the right base for them to go forward whenever possible.


chievo 17-18 3-4-3 potential xi

Maran implementing a 3-4-3 formation would allow them to use the wings more often instead of congesting the middle of the park. If the central midfielders are not contributing enough offensively, Belgian starlet Samuel Bastien could take the place of Hetemaj.

Chievo is known for its defensive play and also relies on goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino to make saves frequently. Unfortunately for Ceo, their conservative approach is dragging them down into the relegation battle.

Maran did mention that a change the mentality was needed at the Flying Donkeys after the derby but he should change tactics and introduce players that can make them play attacking football.

Being proactive allowed Chievo to punch above its weight in 2000s. Why can’t it work again?


Aurelio Andreazzoli Brings Consistency to Empoli for Serie A Push

Empoli is on top of Serie B and the Azzurri are on course to make a quick return to Serie A thanks to Coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, who has brought stability to the squad since he arrived in December.

The appointment of the 64-year-old was a rather surprising one and most of his coaching experience in the last 15 years had been in an assistant’s role.

He is perhaps best remembered for being the Roma interim coach in 2013 after Zdenek Zeman was sacked and also having a falling out with Italo-Argentine striker Pablo Osvaldo – who complained about a lack of playing time – after the 2013 Coppa Italia Final defeat to Lazio.

Another surprising aspect of Andreazzoli’s appointment as Empoli coach was the timing. Vincenzo Vivarini had been appointed in the summer of 2017 and he created a team that was capable of scoring an abundance of goals.

Although the Tuscan side was scoring freely under former Teramo and Latina coach, a leaky defence and a lack of consistency were causes for concern and this prompted the club hierarchy to sack the 51-year-old despite remaining unbeaten in his last five league matches.

Since Andreazzoli has replaced Vivarini, Empoli has risen from fifth place to first in Serie B in seven matches, winning six of them and drawing on the former Roma coach’s debut, which was a 1-1 draw against Brescia.

Defending has also improved since a change in coach was made. Before Andreazzoli arrived, the Empolesi had kept just two clean sheets in 19 league games whereas they have already kept the opposition scoreless three times since then.

A fundamental change that he has made since taking charge is the formation. Vivarini implemented the 3-5-2 formation and occasionally used variations on it but his successor has decided to place his team in the 4-3-1-2, which was used by previous Empoli coaches such as Maurizio Sarri, Marco Giampaolo, and Giovanni Martusciello.

One player who has arguably benefitted from the arrival of Andreazzoli more than most is Slovenian attacking midfielder Miha Zajc. Earlier in the season, he was in-and-out of the starting line-up, but now he starts every game behind strikers Francesco Caputo and Alfredo Donnarumma and he has scored twice and provided seven assists in seven Serie B games.

The aforementioned forward pairing of Caputo and Donnarumma were prolific scorers under Vivarini but they have remained prolific despite the arrival of a new tactician. After 26 rounds of Serie B action, Caputo has scored 20 goals while his attacking partner has 15.

During the January transfer window, the Tuscans made two key acquisitions in Gabriel from AC Milan and Domenico Maietta from Bologna. Gabriel has taken the place of the injured Ivan Provedel in goal while Maietta adds valuable experience to the back line.

Empoli share top spot with Frosinone with 49 points and it has scored 58 times in 26 games, which is a record in a Serie B  consisting of 22 clubs. Before that Pescara in 2011/12 had that record, finding the back of the net 55 times.

Despite the turnaround in fortunes, Andreazzoli remained modest after the 4-0 victory against Parma.

“The eulogies should be held back until May,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The guys read the game really well against a strong team.

“We want to have a complete structure and some parts are still missing.”

With words like that, it makes you wonder how much better Empoli can get, but the results speak for themselves and Andreazzoli is producing results on a consistent basis.




Spalletti Must Ditch 4-2-3-1 Formation at Inter

After suffering a shock defeat away to Genoa on Saturday evening CET and then seeing Lazio beat Hellas Verona two days later, Inter has slipped out of the Champions League spots and Coach Luciano Spalletti should scrap his preferred 4-2-3-1 until the end of the season.

The Nerazzurri have only won once in their last 10 Serie A matches and the 2-0 loss against the Rossoblu as well as the Biancocelesti‘s 2-0 victory against the Gialloblu mean that they are now fifth in the league with 48 points after 25 rounds.

Despite some scrappy performances in the first half of the season, Inter was still able to get results but since its 5-0 win at home to Chievo, it has been steadily declining.

Activity in the January transfer window was limited but Spalletti now needs to use a system that will allow more creative players to flourish. Here are five formations that he should consider switching to and the Biscione could find that balance of attacking flair and defensive solidarity.


inter 4-3-3 17-18

Implementing the 4-3-3 formation would mean retaining the majority of the current starting XI at Inter. The main difference with this system compared to what Spalletti is using now is that Borja Valero is playing deeper in midfield.

Valero does not have the speed or the trickery to play as a #10, nor is he a prolific goalscorer from a withdrawn position. Operating as a deep-lying playmaker would allow him to dictate the play in the middle of the park while Matias Vecino and Roberto Gagliardini would have the strength and stamina to do the hard work in midfield for him.

Ivan Perisic has been chosen for this formation but Eder could play on the left-wing instead while I have opted for the promising Yann Karamoh over the under-performing Antonio Candreva on the right.


inter 4-3-1-2 17-18

Although the 4-3-1-2 is not commonly used these days, it would be a formation with considering because the Nerazzurri’s wingers are not in form.

The midfield trio remains the same as what I have proposed for the 4-3-3 but instead of wingers, Rafinha will play in between the lines and Eder would support Mauro Icardi up front.

Rafinha is the only player in the senior squad with the right characteristics to play as a trequartista while Eder played together with Icardi at Sampdoria in an attacking duo so that familiarity could benefit Spalletti.


inter 3-4-3 17-18

In this 3-4-3, the wingers don’t necessarily stay on the touchline like the graphic suggests, but they would to play close to Icardi than to the midfielders to avoid looking like a 3-4-2-1 or 3-6-1.

With two box-to-box midfielders like Vecino and Gagliardini, the creativity must come from the wings. I have put Dalbert at left wing-back because it would be a position that might suit him. He would have to defend less than in a back four and Davide Santon’s form in recent games has been woeful so it is doubtful that a formation change will be enough to regain his confidence.

Due to the insipid performance Andrea Ranocchia produced against Genoa, Spalletti should start with Lisandro Lopez in defence if he decided to use a back three.

Playing in this system would require fast and frenetic football and a languid midfielder like Borja Valero would be completely out of place.


inter 3-4-1-2 17-18

If Spalletti wanted more creativity in the middle than on the wings, the 3-4-1-2 formation would be more convenient. Like the 4-3-1-2, this means ditching the wingers and accomodating Rafinha and Eder.


inter 3-4-2-1 17-18

This is the most unlikely of formations that Inter would implement but Italian coaches love their share of tactical experiments and Spalletti did use this formation during his second stint at Roma.

Borja Valero played in the left-sided attacking midfielder role under Paulo Sousa at Fiorentina in 2016/17 while Marcelo Brozovic would play in a similar role to what Radja Nainggolan did at Roma under Spalletti but with much less tenacity. Brozovic has played on the right side of midfield as well as attack for Croatia but this role would require him just to make late runs into the penalty area.

The 3-4-2-1 is probably the least likely of the five alternatives to be used but it does provide more tactical variation and diversity than Inter’s current 4-2-3-1.

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