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Talking Tactics: New Italy boss Spalletti faces fight to make Euros
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Adam Drury
Luciano Spalletti is the new Italy manager
Luciano Spalletti is the new Italy manager

In an era where football's finest tacticians tend to stay at club level, there is something refreshing about Luciano Spalletti's decision to take the Italy job.

The 64-year-old masterminded Napoli's run to the Serie A title last season and is arguably the finest coach the country has to offer.

After succeeding Roberto Mancini as Azzurri boss, we analyse how a relationship that looks perfect on paper could play out on the pitch.

Heal the scars

There is an irony in Spalletti's first game in charge coming against North Macedonia on Saturday night, the nation who inflicted Italy's darkest hour under Mancini.

The Azzurri were knocked out of 2022 World Cup qualifying in a 1-0 smash-and-grab defeat when the two countries last met, a result they are arguably still to recover from.

Victory in the first game of this new era would help heal the scars of that night and settle Italian nerves in what is shaping up to be a tricky Euro 2024 qualification campaign.

They have already been beaten by runaway Group C leaders England and cannot afford to drop too many more points with a trip to Wembley coming in October.

Striker shortage

Ciro Immobile was Italy's striker when they won Euro 2020
Ciro Immobile was Italy's striker when they won Euro 2020

Having produced an abundance of forwards in the 1990s and early 2000s, a lack of them has been Italy's major flaw in more recent times.

Ciro Immobile is the leading goalscorer among active players with 16, but his impressive Serie A record has never convincingly translated into national team performances and he has spent much of the last two years injured.

Mancini resorted to selecting unproven striker Mateo Retegui — who had never played outside South America — for his last couple of squads and though the striker has now joined Genoa, a more satisfying solution is needed.

Spalletti is aware of the issue, saying: "I feel there is good potential up front. 

"I feel players in other roles can play as a striker, too. We need to play football that everyone will enjoy to watch."

Creative Chiesa

Central to Napoli's Scudetto success was how Spalletti unlocked the talent in marksman Victor Osimhen and winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

And he can make a similar impact in his new role by getting Juventus attacker Federico Chiesa firing.

Chiesa introduced himself as one of the best young talents in world football when he impressed during the Azzurri's Euro 2020 triumph but suffered a serious knee injury a few months later and has struggled for form since.

He ranked fourth for big chances created and 14th for completed take-ons in the 2020-21 Serie A campaign — the last full term before his injury — and his superb dribbling and shooting can play a big role.

Federico Chiesa struggled for form last season
Federico Chiesa struggled for form last season

Clear plan

Spalletti has laid out his tactical blueprint already, claiming that he will aim to replicate the essence of last season's Napoli side with Italy.

He said: "We have a midfield that’s one of the strongest around and this is fundamental.

"We’re going to start with the 4-3-3, then if we need to be a little more attacking we can put in an attacking midfielder and switch to a 4-2-3-1."

His plan provides clarity ahead of two crucial Euro 2024 qualifiers against North Macedonia and Ukraine in the coming days.

But the priority for Italy is six points and a big step towards defending their title in Germany next summer.


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