Alright. Here we are, at the end of our journey. This post tackles the forwards and our illustrious coach. In addition, I take a quick look at what I think our best and worst games were. I know it is hard to think about this with all the mercato shenanigans going on, but there will be plenty of time for that later. First things first.
3 = Nelson Rivas
4 = Horrific
5 = Ugh
5.5 = Average
6 = Slightly better than average
6.5 = Good
7 = Double Plus Good
7.5 = Excellent
8 = Great
9 = Stupendous
10 = Fan-freaking-tabulous
My comments are in blue, MAD's are in Black.
Victor Nsofor Obinna (or maybe Victor Obinna Nsofor):
First of all, I am not sure if I got his name correct. If it's wrong, I am sure someone will let me know. Inter.it says that Obinna made 9 appearances for us. I remember two off the top of my head and one really clearly. The one that I don't remember so well happened not long after the Roma game where he was substituted out at about half time and Mourinho (along with the rest of us) had a disgusted look on his face. The one that I remember very clearly is the Roma game in which we beat Roma 0-4 and Obinna got his first / only goal of the season. At the time I thought that we found another player who could play on the forward wing. It didn't work out that way. Obinna is fast, has a good powerful shot and isn't afraid to take on defenders. If we had creative types behind him to set him up, he could be a terror. The more I see him, the more he reminds me of David Suazo - I consider both of them to be more EPL type forwards. Don't ask them to take part in too much strategy, don't ask them to be too technical - as in heading the ball, passing, taking free kicks and being creative - just put the ball in front of them and let them run on to it and let them shoot. As such, I don't see Obinna being with us too much longer, I hope he only goes out on loan and works on the stuff he's not so good at. Otherwise, I think he'll set the EPL on fire, if he ever gets there.
As I recall, we were sort of stuck with Obinna this season. He was supposed to go to Everton on loan, but he was denied an English work permit. Not the best way to start a season. Still, all credit to Jose as he gave the kid a shot anyway. Mou started him in what we all thought was going to be an epic battle (remember, we all still thought Roma was going to be one of the teams to beat this season), and he had a great game. When he scored that goal, I thought maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that the loan deal fell through. Unfortunately, it was not to be. As MAD said, he played 8 more Serie A games, plus 2 Coppa games and, although he was dangerous in the Inter-Genoa Coppa Italia match, he never really delivered. In fact, according to the reviews of the matches he played, he was largely ineffectual. He is clearly not a bad striker - he just scored 2 against Kenya in a WC qualifier - but he just has not been able to find his feet at Inter. It could be that expectations are just too high; maybe he just needs another year at a smaller club to really get the feel of the game. Personally, I dont see the point in keeping him on. I wouldn't say no to another loan deal (just in case), but I want players we can use now. Inter needs a serious pruning and we may as well start here.
Overall Grade: 5, 5 (he gets an extra bump for that goal celebration)
This off season’s drama notwithstanding, he’s the best forward in Italy right now. Not just because he’s the leading scorer of the league, but because he can play any position in the forward line – on the wing, as support, or as the striker. He can pass or shoot – use his head or feet. He puts almost no effort into defense nor does he have to. He doesn't have a great shot and is at times maddening in his inaccuracy. He does have an unfailing confidence in his own ability, however. This leads to his taking some shots that he shouldn't even contemplate, as he did in Bologna - which was the best goal of the season bar none in any league. But it also keeps him shooting even if it's apparent that he's having a night off. He's not perfect, he hasn't gotten rid of the stigma of having big game jitters that others attribute to him. However, his presence on the field allows Inter to put no resources into attacking creativity and is a big reason why we are able to be the least scored on team over multiple seasons. He’s a great forward player – one of the best in the world. Without him next season we would have to retool the team to allow more service from the midfield to the forwards.
This man is the most maddeningly wonderful player I have ever watched. We all know what he can do and when he doesn't deliver, we all just sit there shaking our heads and wondering why. I love that he is cocky and confident. I dont love that he seems to have commitment issues. Dont get me wrong, this season has been a revelation for Ibra. Mou has him tracking back and actually trying to get the ball when he loses possession. Compare that to the seasons before when he was the epitome of the lazy striker and you will see how far he has developed. This season has been the best of his career. When Ibra is on, you know you are in for magic. He can hold the ball better than any other player I can think of.
I agree, the Bologna goal was great, but for me, the quintessential Ibra goal was his first goal in the Palermo v Inter game, or maybe his goal against Reggina (see below). In the first, he plays as if there is all the time in the world - rolling the ball to get the correct angle then firing it home. He is sure of himself and his ability, and completely nonplussed by the defenders - it is like they aren't even there. In the second, he receives the ball, takes it past three defenders, then chips Reggina's keeper. It shows his strength and speed, and his winning mentality. Of course, when you look at this shots to goal ratio (Serie A: 25 goals from 68 shots on goal and 158 total shots), he is only on target about 43% of the time, and of those, only 37% actually go in. When you compare that to other top scorers around Europe, you see that those percentages are either average or slightly below average (I have made a spreadsheet for those interested parties). Still, no one can deny he has charisma and watching him is a joy. I just wish he was ever so slightly more consistent. Oh, and didn't pitch a fit every summer about wanting to leave. I love Ibra and, if he doesn't stay, will watch him where ever he goes. He is a beast and a great talent. I just wish he loved us back.
Overall Grade: 8, 9 (we would have been lost without him)
As with Marco and Patrick, Cruz struck me as finally being too old this season. He has been a valuable and appreciated servant of the club, but this was a bad season for Cruz. He didn’t fit with the style of the team – unlike Zlatan - he needs someone to feed him the ball. Which isn't to say that he was worthless this season, he came through early in the season with a late goal to get us some points. Cruz has a little more to offer outside the penalty area than Crespo , but I can't say enough how bad a fit for this team he is. I predict that Cruz does well for his next team, assuming they use him in the starting forward rotation.
Cruz has meant a lot to this team. He has pulled a goal out at that crucial moment more times than I can count. The three goals he scored for us this season accounted for 6 Serie A points, and salvaged a vital draw against Anorthosis in the Champions League. All three were in the last 10 minutes of play, and all three were before the winter break. As the season wore on, Cruz looked increasingly tired and out of sorts. Whether this was due to a lack of confidence, the knowledge that Mou considered him a reserve player, or old age catching up, who can say. I do know that he was no where near his 2007/8 form and he just doesn't seem to fit with Mou's system of play. The sentimental part of me wants to keep him on regardless of his form because he deserves to get the chance to retire from the team. But the truth is, unless Cruz adapts, Mou wont play him and Cruz also deserves the chance to get what he can out of the last years of his career. I am torn between wanting to see him stay on and wanting him to make room for the next generation. If he can change and patch things up with Mou, then there is no reason he cannot be our super sub. Whatever happens, I want only the best for him.
Overall Grade: 5, 6 (I wish I could give him more)
Crespo is a good striker, but he’s not right for this team anymore. He's a penalty area poacher on a team that requires the forwards to create more farther out from the box, where sadly he loses effectiveness. He made a valuable contribution in 2 games (Chievo and Roma) and actually showed signs of being able to work in the field in the last game of the season where he put a perfect pass for Ibra to score from. But his other appearances for the club were characterized by misses and frustration. It’s a shame because I think Crespo is still a good player.
I love Crespo. He is earnest and hardworking. He doesn't trash-talk in the press, and you always feel like he is giving his all. Unfortunately, he is another casualty of the Mou system. I think he will be great at Genoa and I look forward to watching him play next season. I think if he hadn't injured himself during a friendly last summer and had a strained relationship with Mourinho from his Chelsea days, this season might have turned out much different for him. The first made it difficult to break into the first team which seemed to play on his confidence while the latter probably made everything that much harder. Still, he always came to work and gave it his best. Every time he made it to the pitch, I was pulling for him. Plus, that goal against Roma was... well - lets just say it made up for quite a bit of missed opportunities. Thanks for everything, Crespo, and good luck at Genoa.
Overall Grade: 5, 5.5
Mario is our second half hero. His work during the Bologna, Roma, Chievo and Juve games were an incredible insight into his amazing talent. The first half of the season proved that he still has some maturing to do. Hopefully Mourinho can harness his incredible talent. Supporters of other teams have voiced their displeasure of Mario’s attitude – that’s fine – we’ll have no problems keeping him for now. He's the total package - he's got size, he's got pace, he can pass, create, shoot, play defense, use his feet and use his head. He has the potential, in my opinion, to be better than Ibra. But he’s not there yet. It might be that Ibra will have to leave for Mario to reach his potential as they are so similar to each other. The trouble I see in the horizon is will there be enough games for him to play next season to make him happy?
Mario is the bright shining future of Inter. True, he has an attitude, but given what he has had to overcome, I dont hold that against him. I think he is an incredibly talented kid that sometimes lets bad advise get the better of him. He wants it all right now, and, lets all be honest, who didn't when we were his age. He has got the physicality and the timing for the game, now he just needs to learn when to pass the ball and how to keep his passion from getting the better of him. Right now, he is our best free-kick and corner taker. There is a dramatic improvement in the effectiveness of our set pieces when he is on the pitch. I dont really care that he is arrogant - he has that same bad-boy attitude that I enjoy in Ibra. I think he will get plenty of playing time next season - both Moratti and Mourinho see him as our star of the future. My only concern is that he has made such a bright start - when and if the wheel comes around and Inter do not finish so well, is he strong enough to be there for the tough times too
Overall Grade: 7, 7.5
Here is another one that MAD left off. True, he no longer plays for Inter, but he helped us reach the scudetto and I think he should get at least some mention here. He got seven goals in 22 total appearances (in all competitions). After he got through his testing phase with Mou, he seemed to settle in and get down to business. He was fragile, but I thought he was going to make it. In fact, I bet that if he hadn't gotten called up for international duty, he would have finished the season with the team. His goals led to 9 Serie A points and one Champions League win. He was beginning to get back into shape and I thought this next year would be his breakout. But no. Instead, his demons got the better of him and he decided to stay in Brazil. He is trying to make a go of it there, but it looks like the he cant handle the rigors of professional life at Flamengo either. Initially, I was angry at Adriano for leaving the team in the lurch, with only Ibra and Balotelli as forwards, but now I am just sad that Adriano is so unhappy. Plus, it turns out that the hole left by Adriano was just the right size for Balotelli so there was some good to come out of it. Thanks for everything, Adriano. I am sorry it did not work out better.
Overall Grade: 6 (he did the best he could)
Jose as a manager, to my mind, needs to be graded on the component parts of his job.
The first category is can he prepare a team to play and how well has he done that. I would say that this is his main strength as a coach. The signs were there before a ball was kicked. Mourinho had ordered more monitors for players to watch film, he talked to the players outlining his goals and met with each of them to discover what their individual needs were. Most people here remember what he said to Deki, when everyone was calling for him to be thrown out to Juventus. And how did Deki respond? Had he ever played that well for us? Every game we had an A plan and a B plan. When we fell behind in some games, we would go from our 451 or our 4312 formations right into 334 and salvage points. The players went from one set of circumstances to the next, cool and with purpose. I can only think of one game that we looked not ready to play. Yup, The Atalanta Affair again...
The second category is can he manage the individual people. I think he does this well. He got Adriano to play for almost 3/4 of a season, which by itself is quite a feat. He managed to harness Mario so that he was able to put in his best effort right when we needed him most. He managed to put 18 year old Santon on the field, build him up and then keep him humble on the field. He managed to put a lot of big egos in the stands on game day and avoid a mutiny - something that Mancini wasn't able to do, btw. Mourinho won over the dressing room - which on a team like Inter is vitally important.
The third category is can he manage the game. This category is a little unfair, because once the players are on the pitch, the game is out of the coaches hands. But, suffice it to say that when Inter were leading, they generally stayed ahead. When Inter were behind, Mourinho was able to use the correct substitutions to salvage points. The only game that I thought he mismanaged was the last game against Roma when we were down 2-3 and he sent in Crespo. Guess who ended up being wrong on that one. The only game that I thought he put out a bad starting 11 was against Man Ure and it was Vieira that I had a beef with. Right, Dave?
The fourth category is press relations. Easily the least important category, it's the one that most people focus on. Mourinho is a master at getting the press to lay off his players so that they can play with less pressure. The press in Italy is brutal and relentless. Perfection is demanded, and if attained, flaws can be imagined into reality to sell rag sheets. Mourinho took the press to task in the famous presser he held. Some think that he threw a rod and overheated from the pressure. I don't think so. It was too organized for a real rant. All the related points were taken together and said in that special way. For example, when he took the press to task about their reporting that Inter got favorable calls, he asked why the press didn't report on other teams' favorable calls or the fact that they won't win any titles this season. Not only did he get the Inter public against press for their bias, but the refs took note as the whistles were used with vengeance the next match day just to prove that there was no bias from them. And the teams that he named getting bias/no titles went absolutely crazy trying to deny everything. The entire peninsula was going apeshit with outrage, meanwhile, the team was sequestered away practicing with smiles on their faces and having a good time, according to the Inter.it pictures.
Overall: He did a good job making a tight team of the wreckage left by Mancini. He decided early on which modules he was going to use and he kept to that plan. His personal management skills saved our bacon all season long as players kept stepping up out of nowhere to pick up the slack. I get really happy when I think of the job he can do with a smaller more useful group, without all the deadwood (the 3s, 4s and 5s of this very long review) and with serviceable talented and motivated in that special way.
Well, MAD pretty much covered all the high points. I completely concur on his evaluation of Mou for the first and second categories. As for the third: we won the league so we must have been doing something right. The Champions League was a little dicey: the one game that I completely had no idea what he was up to was the away game against Werder Bremen. All I could figure was that he was purposefully playing the reserves to show why they were reserves. It was terrible. Besides that, I thought he handled our injury crisis well, managed to deal with the fact that his favored 4-3-3 was just not going to work with this squad, and kept Adriano going for as long as was humanly possible. When it comes to the fourth category, the Italian press should be paying Inter for the number of papers Mou sells. I love that he says what I am thinking, and unashamedly so.
Overall, my impression of Mou is a good one. He fought to bring Quaresma, then, when Ricky didn't work out, admitted he had made a mistake and sent him to Chelsea. He was honest with the squad's faults, but was also the team's biggest cheerleader. Some say that he is undignified, but I enjoy his passion. I want him there sweating over every play - good or bad - just like I am. I want him to celebrate our triumphs and constructively criticize our defeats. I am sorry that it ended so poorly with Manicni (Roberto, that is), but there is not a single coach I would rather have at Inter right now. On the financial front, Mourinho has undoubtedly increased Inter's fan base (and probably turned more than a few neutrals into enemies), and the sponsors love him. There are those that fault him for not winning the champions league, but I just dont think he had the resources to do it. The squad was simply not good enough to get past Manchester United. Personally, I dont think there is much shame to losing to such a good team and I dont think it casts a shadow over Mou's time as coach. I think Mourinho is smart and driven to succeed - I just hope that Inter is the vehicle he uses to reach that success.
Overall Grade: 7 (He's fantastic), 8.5 (and still a champion)
No more blue, the rest is all me.
So, now that we have gotten through all the players, we can focus on the season as a whole. Overall, the team did well. We won the league, but failed in both the Coppa Italia (no big loss) and the Champions League. I didn't expect to win the Champions League, but I did hope to progress just a little farther in the competition. With every fiber of my soul I wanted to at least get past Manchester United. We didn't have a hope against Barceleona, but we should have done better when we played ManU at home. I was proud of our defensive effort - Julio Cesar was out-of-this-world good, but we really should have scored. I think, overall, those games against United were our most disappointing games of the season. Not our worst, but the most crushing, emotionally speaking. Thank goodness we had the Serie A to lift our spirits again.
Turning to Serie A, it is hard to find fault with a season that ended on such a high note. Ten points ahead is nothing to sneeze at. Sure, we had some trying times, there was the Atalanta Affair, but there were even more moments when everything was perfect and shiny and beautiful. Without a doubt, the Atalanta away game was our worst Serie A performance of the year (but Napoli away is a close second). Not to take away from Atalanta, who played a great game, but that Inter who played in Bergamo is not the one we all know and love. We had a couple of other losses this season, most notably that first derby, but none were as shocking and horrific as that Atalanta game. Everyone was terrible. Everyone. Sure, we lost 3-0 to Sampdoria in the Coppa, but I have to say, Samp wanted that trophy more than Inter. The loss to Milan hurt our pride, but we played the match well - which is what matters most.
As for our best game, we had so many great games that it is hard to choose. The away game against Roma was beautiful. The team was a joy to watch and practically everyone got a goal - it was like a party. Our home win against Juve was even better, though. We played an outstanding game against very tough competition. That game still makes me smile. For drama, though, the best game would have to be the home draw against Roma. I was literally on the edge of my seat for that game; when Crespo scored I jumped up and celebrated with him. It was beautiful.
Overall Grade: 7.5 (Champions League: 5.5; Coppa Italia: 6.5; Serie A: 9)
I cant wait to do it all again next year!
Roma 0-4 Inter
Inter 1-0 Juventus
Inter 3-3 Roma