Italy head coach Robert Mancini admitted he is surprised by his inexperienced side's start to the Nations League following their 0-0 draw with England on Saturday.
Without midfield lynchpin Marco Verratti and the likes of Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti, the Azzurri put in an encouraging performance in Saturday's Euro 2020 final rematch, earning a point at the Molineux Stadium.
With the majority of the squad earning less than ten caps before this international window, Italy lead Group 3 after three games on five points, ahead of Hungary, Germany and England, who are bottom of the group on two points.
While conceding Italy are in early stages of transition after their failure to qualify for the World Cup, Mancini revealed he expected this initial period to be more volatile.
"I’ll be honest, I did not expect this. I thought it would be worse," he confessed. "We still have a lot to work on, there’s a long road ahead full of dangers.
"We certainly need to score more goals and if Davide Frattesi had scored in the opening five minutes, it would’ve been a different game. He’ll get it next time.
"I didn’t expect us to do so well in these three weeks together. It’s important that we haven’t changed our style of football, even when the personnel did."
With relative experience compared to the new faces in the squad, Lorenzo Pellegrini has had to take on more responsibility for the Azzurri following their loss to Argentina in the UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima, scoring against Germany and Hungary.
More of a threat in the penalty area from midfield than a technical and creative fulcrum, the 25-year-old earned a third consecutive start on Saturday – something he had not done since 2018.
The Roma captain was praised for his versatility by his coach despite evident room for improvement.
“Pellegrini has his own style of football," Mancini said. "He’s not a 10 like Giuseppe Giannini, nor a 10 like Francesco Totti.
"I think he can become much better with time, because he is so good at both attacking and defending.
"At times he loses balls he shouldn’t, but if he improves that and a couple of other things, he can become simply extraordinary.”