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Analysing Antonio Conte’s Preliminary Italy Squad For Euro 2016

On Monday, Italy national team head coach Antonio Conte announced his thirty-man preliminary squad ahead of this summer’s European Championships. For some, the announcement gave opportunity for one final condemnation of Conte’s conservative selection policy. For others, it served as a powerful reminder of the supposed paucity of quality players available to the Azzurri and, in turn, pointed towards an apparent decline in the productive capacity of the country’s football system. (more…)

Helenio Herrera: Underrated Moderniser

Helenio Herrera is regarded as one of the greatest managers in football history, but his name is also frequently tarnished by a perceived link to the most unfashionable system: catenaccio. The word catenaccio has come to mean something more than that which it originally described: negative, cynical, overly-defensive. It is used by many as a convenient insult to throw at Italian teams, even when their play has nothing to do with the tactic. Owing to his success at Inter in the 1960s, Herrera is often referred to as the man behind the system. (more…)

Leonardo Bonucci: The Soldier

Being confronted by an armed robber is the type of occurrence that generally offers only negative outcomes. Rationally, with the alternative being hurt or even killed, the immediate reaction would be to hand over whatever is asked for, without question. It’s the sort of traumatising experience that would seem impossible to prepare for, unimaginably difficult to deal with. The notion of confronting the robber wouldn’t cross the minds of most, yet this is exactly what Leonardo Bonucci did. (more…)

Gonzalo Higuain: Functional, Conventional And The World’s Best Number Nine

We live in a footballing epoch of false everything. The game’s progression has given rise to strikers, wingers and advanced playmakers who aren’t really just strikers, wingers and advanced playmakers. At the highest level, purity within an attacking position is increasingly rare as forward players become more intelligent in their movements and more organised in their defensive work. In these circumstances, the more conventional are often underappreciated. Perhaps that is why Gonzalo Higuain, a number nine so true as to be borderline unfashionable, has been disregarded in comparison to his more sophisticated peers. (more…)

Juventus, Cuadrado And The Case For 3-5-2

A fourth consecutive Scudetto; a Coppa Italia success to achieve a league and cup double for the first time in 20 years; a Champions League final. Massimiliano Allegri packed a lot into his first season at the Juventus helm. Still, football is fickle and just weeks into the 2015/16 season he was being questioned not only by those on the outside of the club looking in, but by those in the stands who had been in delirium not so long ago. (more…)

The Players To Rejuvenate Antonio Conte’s Italy

Italy’s latest round of fixtures in the 2016 European Championship qualification process had a familiar outcome. The results were positive; the performances, not so much. 1-0 wins over both Malta and Bulgaria ensured the Azzurri extended their unbeaten run in qualifying matches to 48 games but, despite the consummate record, Antonio Conte’s side look far from the finished article. (more…)

Koeman’s Challenge

It’s a fascinating yet daunting time for several of the Premier League’s brightest managerial minds. Mauricio Pochettino faces an uphill battle in kicking his prosaic Spurs side into shape, Brendan Rodgers is in a dogfight to extinguish the mediocrity of Liverpool’s season last year while Eddie Howe is acutely aware that he will need every last bit of nous in his reserves to keep Bournemouth’s fairy-tale alive. But perhaps the most compelling narrative is being constructed at Southampton, where Ronald Koeman must rise to the challenge of maintaining the Saints’ status as the league’s most fashionable outfit. (more…)

2015/16 Scudetto Race: Lazio

In a summer of transition for many of Italy’s top clubs, Lazio have been inconspicuous. They were the surprise package of last season, with an eight-match winning run between February and April propelling them into contention for a top-three finish and Champions League football; something that was eventually secured with a stunning 4-2 away win over fellow hopefuls Napoli on the final day of the season. It was the least that Lazio deserved; outside of Juventus they had been Serie A’s form team of 2015 and, without spending extravagantly, had built a strong, organised team capable of competing with anyone on their day. (more…)

2015/16 Scudetto Race: Roma

The 2014/15 season promised much for Roma. Their main title rivals, Juventus, had lost Antonio Conte; the coach that steered them to three consecutive Scudetti, while they themselves had strengthened by bringing in experienced, high-calibre players in Ashley Cole and Seydou Keita as well as young talent in Kostas Manolas and Juan Iturbe. With Kevin Strootman also set to return from injury, there was optimism that Roma could seriously push Juventus, if not finally unseat the reigning champions. (more…)

2015/16 Scudetto Race: Napoli

Rafa Benitez was apoplectic. He had just watched his Napoli side draw 2-2 away to financially doomed, already relegated Parma. With just three league games left in the 2014/15 season, the result scuppered the club’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League through a top-three league position. The Spaniard received a one-match touchline ban for his post-match behaviour, where he was said to have screamed, “This is the shitty thing about Italian football”. (more…)