How much can Luciano Spalletti be blamed for Italy’s EURO 2024 failure?

The reigning European champions are now out of EURO 2024. Italy’s loss to Switzerland yesterday was hugely disappointing, as they could never quite exert any sense of control over the game, looked very porous in defence and never quite got going in attack. To many, it was one of the worst Italy performances at a major tournament in a long, long while.

But FIGC have confirmed that Luciano Spalletti will stay on as the Azzurri boss, as they don’t want to break a three-year cycle in the first few months only. That is a fair assessment, considering the limited time Spalletti had with the squad. But that doesn’t quite mean that Spalletti is blameless in the entire failure to go beyond the Round of 16 in the Euros.

First and foremost, Italy didn’t quite have a great squad. There was a general lack of quality and technical ability in the side, even if the situation upfront was resolved through Gianluca Scamacca. A manager alone can’t make up for the lack of experience in the side either and Spalletti could obviously not be blamed for the retirements of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, as Matteo Darmian was the most senior player in the side. 

Spalletti to be blamed for bad selections?

The midfield generally lacked as much quality as the 2021 edition of the tournament, as Jorginho – however well he did, isn’t quite what he was. Marco Verratti isn’t around anymore and Nicolo Barella was the only reliable performer at the highest level. The backline had Alessandro Bastoni, Riccardo Calafiori and Alessandro Buongiorno, but they’re very similar players even though their technical ability is quite high. The right centre-back area is a problem.

In the wide areas, there is an overreliance on Federico Chiesa. But that is where – even for the midfield, is where Spalletti probably made the error of not having the variety of Riccardo Orsolini (or Matteo Politano) and the quality of Manuel Locatelli. Orsolini had a superb season with Bologna and while Locatelli didn’t quite have the best of seasons at Juventus, he was impressive in the previous Euros and offers a higher technical ability than the likes of Bryan Cristante, Michael Folorunsho and even Davide Frattesi. On top of that, experience matters a lot in international competitions.

Even at left-back, Federico Dimarco is Italy’s only reliable option and he isn’t quite a defender. He has always been a very attacking wing-back. Leonardo Spinazzola’s downfall has made sure that he isn’t in the fold and a case can be made for the fact that Emerson Palmieri could have been called up as a left-back option.

Lack of a tactical plan from Spalletti?

That does come down to Spalletti and so does the fact that there wasn’t quite a tactical plan in place after the Albania game. The comeback and performance against Albania was impressive and it gave Azzurri fans the hope that they will be a cohesive unit, as the system suited everyone’s strengths – from Calafiori, Giovanni di Lorenzo, Frattesi, Scamacca, Barella, Chiesa and Dimarco.

But from the Spain game onwards, things just fell apart. Italy were technically well behind Spain and offered limited threat on the counter. They constantly seemed to be stuck between ideas and there seemed to be a lack of one fixed plan. Often, there were gaps between the lines that could be exploited and that is what Spain and Switzerland pretty much did. Against Croatia, it was more of a lack of incisiveness in the final third that let Italy down and perhaps, having someone of a different profile could have made the difference.

It isn’t to say that Spalletti could win the Euros with this squad – no. This is just to say that he could have done better with the squad.

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