Giaccherini, A Maligned Man in Calcio

Emanuele Giaccherini has his share of critics. Despite being a bench-warmer at Juventus, he still gets selected for Italy’s squads. Fans shouldn’t blame him for Cesare Prandelli’s decision to call him up regularly.

“Giac” has his roles but he hasn’t played in his natural position since his Cesena days. Most Azzurri fans probably know him for his bench-warming at Juve but he isn’t as bad as most people think. He is perhaps one of the most misunderstood figures in calcio.

Since he has left Cesena, Giaccherini has been used in positions that he isn’t known for playing in. Juve coach Antonio Conte has used him as a central midfielder when he comes off the bench and Italian national team coach Prandelli has used him in many roles.

He was a left wing-back at Euro 2012, played as a central midfielder in other matches and he has been used in the trequartista role in the last two internationals. Giaccherini doesn’t start for Juve so why does he still get Prandelli’s attention?

“The fact that I call him up despite the fact that he is not a starter signifies that he has extraordinary qualities,” said Prandelli. “He’s a serious professional and that is his strength.”

There’s no doubting his Giaccherini’s attitude. “Giac” said himself after Italy’s 2-2 draw with Brazil: “I’m at the Coach’s total disposal and I would even go in goal if it meant winning another cap for my country.”

The Juve midfielder is a versatile player and he has great stamina. When he does play, he gives 100 per cent for the cause. Giaccherini is happy to play in these roles if it means he will win more caps. If he isn’t a conventional midfielder, Italy fans must be wondering, “What is his natural position?”

“Giac” came to prominence at Cesena as a left-winger in a 4-3-3 formation. Before that, he scored nine goals in 28 matches in an impressive loan spell with Pavia in 2007/08. After his stint with the Serie C2 club, he played a part in Cesena’s rise from the Lega Pro Prima Divisione to Serie A.

Giaccherini scored five goals in the 2008/09 Lega Pro season and another two in cup competitions. The Sea Horses were promoted to Serie B and “Giac” scored eight goals in 32 matches in the 2009/10 Serie B season, helping Cesena achieve back-to-back promotions.

His first Serie A season was the 2010/11 season and Cesena was back in the Serie A for the first time since 1990/91. Giaccherini scored seven goals in 36 matches and the Sea Horses survived relegation.

Two of those goals were against Sampdoria, who were relegated in that season. In a 3-2 win for Cesena, Giaccherini scored two goals in two minutes! He also netted in a shock 2-0 win against AC Milan earlier that season.

If there was one disappointing moment for Giaccherini in his first Serie A season, he squandered a chance against future employers Juve. In a 2-2 draw, the then-Cesena winger hit the post and then missed a goal from a metre!

Even with that miss, Juve still bought him for the 2011/12. Conte started him on the left side of attack but a formation change sent Giaccherini to the bench.

He might have been a good fit in Juve’s starting line-up if Conte still used his preferred 4-2-4 tactics or even the 4-3-3 formation. The need to accommodate Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal in midfield has limited Giaccherini’s match time as well as Mirko Vucinic’s presence in attack.

The scenario with the Azzurri is similar. The likelihood of “Giac” playing in his natural role for Italy is very little. If Prandelli uses the 4-3-3 formation, the Juve player faces competition from club teammate Sebastian Giovinco as well as Stephan El Shaarawy, Lorenzo Insigne and Antonio Cassano.

With the number of support strikers and wingers at Prandelli’s disposal, there isn’t a need for Giaccherini to play in his natural position. Against Brazil and Malta, “Giac” played as a trequartista, a role which is pretty unknown to him.

Against Malta he was disappointing but he put in a good performance against the Brazilians. His passing accuracy could have been better but he knew how to get into space and ran directly at the Brazilians. He also had a chance to score early in the match.

“Giac” might make people groan when he is on the field for Italy but if he can combine his stamina and versatility with better passing efficiency and some goals from midfield, he might win the fans over.

Giaccherini’s selection will still be considered to be perplexing for most people and heads will continue scratching. If “Giac” can play his roles and combine his strengths,  maybe his selection will be questioned less frequently.