Italy boss Giampiero Ventura under pressure after Spain thumping

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 04 September 2017, 15:21

When Antonio Conte announced that he would be leaving his role as Italy boss after the Euro 2016 tournament to take up a new role with Chelsea, there were those who breathed a sigh of relief.

Whilst it was acknowledged that the hard-working boss had drawn the most from his players during his tenure with the Azzurri, his squad selection was a constant bone of contention.

Average players such as Emanuele Giaccherini, Eder, Marco Parolo and Graziano Pelle were constantly called up by Conte, while a new younger generation were left waiting in the wings. Italy had reached the semi-finals of the aforementioned competition, but how much further could they have gone if the former Juventus Coach had been less stubborn in his choices?

It was pointless to continue debating it however, as there was a new man in charge. Giampiero Ventura was appointed by the FIGC (the Italian FA) after five successful seasons with Torino, a man who was lauded for his work in developing young players. Andrea Belotti and Marco Benassi - then in their early twenties - were important members of his Granata side, the former now having earned a ¤100 million release clause in his contract and the latter having secured a move to Fiorentina this summer.

So after Italy fielded the side with the oldest average age (31 years and 196 days) at the Euros, it seemed like Ventura was ready to ditch the likes of Pelle and Eder, instead picking from the plethora of exciting young players available for selection.

“He’s taught a lot of Coaches his innovative approach,” FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio told the press upon the decision to hire Ventura in summer 2016. “He’s brought through many players who went on to the national team, he has huge experience working with the youth sector and I think he has a healthy sense of belonging.”

Of course, the new man has taken steps to include some of these young players in his squad, but Ventura has not delivered the revolution that many expected and - in truth - which Italy badly needed. On Saturday evening the Azzurri lost a World Cup qualifying match for the first time in 11 years, and it was the Coach who must take the blame for a crushing 3-0 defeat to Spain.

A naive and foolish decision to play 4-2-4 against an expert and packed La Roja midfield spectacularly backfired, his strikeforce of Belotti and Ciro Immobile totally isolated and ineffective by their lack of manpower in the middle of the park. This disaster had been predicted by many before the match, and Ventura didn’t even take the opportunity to correct his error once it had become clear that his tactic was a disaster.

Morata gives Spain a 3-0 lead. It's over. But in reality, it was over when Ventura named the starting XI.

The calls for the Coach to be removed before the World Cup this summer became even more vocal when Eder replaced Belotti in the 70th minute, as if this was the answer to beating Sergio Ramos and David De Gea. To put this in context, the 30-year-old striker has made just 21 Serie A starts and 26 substitute appearances for Inter since joining the club in January 2016, scoring nine league goals in total.

Which part of this form qualifies this player for a call-up to a squad that is supposedly made up of Italy’s elite players is baffling at best. A look back at his tenure with Torino also reveals that he preferred veteran defender Cristian Molinaro to Davide Zappacosta, the latter having just joined Chelsea in a ¤28 million move.

However this is not the only issue with Ventura, the Coach still holding firm to his 4-2-4 idea after the match with Spain, despite Italy’s abject humiliation. “We are carrying on a project and one game cannot change that,” he said after the match. “The basic problem is what we are and what we want to become.”

If he does indeed intend to continue, the Azzurri will struggle when it comes to playing the better sides in Russia this summer. Tuesday night’s match with Israel may tell us more about the veteran’s intentions, but the voices calling for his removal are growing louder by the minute.

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