Having shown the effectiveness of a three-man back line, Italy should go ahead and use this defensive approach.

Most of the team travelling to Brazil have their tactical identity firmly established. The Azzuri are the only team whose best formation to accommodate all the talent in the squad remains uncertain. Deploying a variety of tactical formations, Cesare Prandelli has tested various formations in the friendlies, ranging from a three-man defense to a four-man defense. Perhaps the greatest strength of the Azzuri is in their tactical versatility.

Italy has shown that a three-man defense can be effective against Spain, where the Italians congested the midfield area, making it difficult for short passing to develop by frustrating the Spanish opponents and counter attacking them through the flanks or by long balls when possible. With the majority of his players suited to a three-man defense and lack of a proper left back, it makes sense that Prandelli is leaning on a 3-5-2 again. Moreover the nulling effect it had on Spain was extraordinary, congesting the central area in a manner which should also help stifle narrower opponents such as Germany.

The 3-5-2 allows Prandelli to field an extra man in the midfield, particularly if he opts to play Danielle de Rossi as a CB and at the heart of the defense. Moving the defensive pitbull out of space provides other players to join in, Andrea Pirlo along with Marco Verrati would provide two creative outlets, should Pirlo be marked successfully.

Moreover it provides an option of fielding a third more versatile, defensive player capable of delivering quality balls like Claudio Marchisio, Thiago Motta or a more defensive player who would sit deep and help Pirlo along like Alberto Aquilani. The team will consist of therefore three creative outlets, De Rossi playing as a CB, Pirlo and Verrati.

Ai??The three man back line relies on the following:

  • The team must be compact in all areas to allow the three centre backs to organise themselves
  • Pressing and pressure work from attackers and midfielders to allow defenders time to find the correct position
  • Immediate “pushing up” of defensive line once ball is played away from goal
  • Offside tactic played only when ball is moving away from goal as an act of pressing rather than when the opponent is moving towards goal in an attempt to try and win an offside decision
  • Attempt to funnel opponents play through the middle where the team will have a numerical advantage

With quality beyond the Juventus trio of Chellini, Barzagli and Bonucci lacking in central defense, De Rossi provides the pace lacking in the Bianconeri regulars. Perhaps the ideal defensive back line of Barzagli, De Rossi and Chellini is the way forward this summer. A tactical mastermind, Andrea Barzagli will be playing as a RCB. He provides Italy with experience, tactical stability and game reading capabilities. De Rossi as expected will sit in the heart of the defense and govern the play, the added tackling, tracking back, untired running and marking capabilities of the Roman makes him an ideal CB who can also pick a defensive splitting pass. Giorgio Chellini will be the final piece of the puzzle, playing as a LCB. Chellini has been one of the most consistent defenders of the modern era, the Italian excelling in the art of tackling and tracking back

With another encounter lurking beyond the group of death with Spain, and with many international sides lacking top-quality wingers, the 3-5-2 formations allows the Azzuri to both nullify their opponents’ strengths while masking their own weaknesses. Reaping the benefits for so many of his squad comfortable in the framework is too a big positive to ignore, allowing the coach to minimize the time taken for the Azzuri to be a single unit.

Beyond the practicalities of the formation, there is something of a beauty to watch a three-man defense being deployed, and that is only heightened when a side as defensively capable as Italy to employ it.

By Joseph Solomon

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