In September, pre-Ranieri, Inter took 1 point from 3 games and looked at a loss. Post-Ranieri Inter has 7 points from 6 games and looks 100x more organized losing to Juve by 1 than it did in September while losing to Novara by 2. Is Ranieri our savior? No, if 7 points from 6 games is the trend that continues to the end of the season then we can expect sub 40 points for the end of the season, so he’s not exactly walking on water. But he’s competent enough so that he’ll do until one comes around.
Ranieri isn’t my favorite person in the world. In fact, if Ranieri were on fire I wouldn’t piss on him to put him out. But, if Moratti’s heart’s desire Pep doesn’t come to Inter I would seriously hope that we can keep Ranieri another season – especially if we continue to bring in kids with no Serie A experience to replace hardened vets – and further assuming we don’t collapse more.
His tactics are sound if not spectacular and he seems to be spending his limited time in practice drilling the team in fundamentals. You can see it in the way the club plays that they hold their shape, support each other and defend first. Last season, with Leonardo, you could see that the CBs were often left almost totally alone in the back all by themselves as we bet all in on the attack.
I understand why Moratti/Branca did what they did – Inter’s financial year just ended and Moratti’s contribution to cover shortfall is less than in previous years – but there’s slow integration and there’s free fall. In case you hadn’t noticed it, we are past free fall. It’s still early to speculate about January, but I expect one each of a defender and midfielder – the names on this front are Montolivo, again, and a Brazilian names Juan Jesus. It probably wouldn’t hurt to get an actual forward who can score, unlike… say… Milito, hmm.
This game was surprisingly short of actual controversy. Some might wonder about why Marchisio wasn’t given a penalty. I am willing to give several reasons why it wasn’t given:
1. It wasn’t a penalty. The ball wasn’t in a position to pose a danger to the net when the two collided.
2. It wasn’t a penalty. Castellazzi might have hit Marchisio but it’s obvious that Marchisio flopped – he didn’t even fall in the right direction the he should have if Castellazzi hit him hard enough to cause him to fall. The ref actually told Marchisio that he fell over on his own. And the ball was already in a non-dangerous position.
3. The ref got it wrong when he told Marchisio that he flopped during the game.
4. It was a call in our favor after 5 wrong ones.
5. A penalty hasn’t been given in this tie in forever. Not even last season when Chiellini grabbed Sneijder by under the arms and dragged him down, for example. Or the previous season to that when Chiellini committed handling in the area within the first 3 minutes of the game. There is too much bad blood regarding penalties and this matchup. And we all know why.
6. The ref was betting that Inter would get fouled in the area as well – which is exactly what happened when Pazzini nearly got his shirt removed for him by Bonucci and decided to let the two incidents cancel each other out.
I would also like to point out that my pre-game prediction of Juventus getting more free kicks in shooting position than we would have was dead on. The fact that two of those free kicks came at the end of the game to Del Piero flops was just icing on the cake for me. That Inter forwards got fouls called against them while they were contesting for 50-50 balls in the Juventus penalty area also is just gravy. Pazzini was whistled for a foul for standing still on a high ball. Castaignos was whistled for out-jumping his defender and winning the header. Perfect.
Speaking of Del Piero, and I don’t normally go after players from the other team in these things unless circumstances merited, but I just have to say something. How sad does it look that Del Piero, with all his honors – both real and acquired - who is some 2 years younger than Zanetti and several years worth of illegal steroids and other substances coursing through his veins that he presumably took to make him a better athlete and it’s all he can do to hold onto his position on the bench for cameo appearances and the odd dive for a free kick or penalty? Nice work if you can get it.
Once again I though Obi played a solid game. Look, Obi doesn’t strike me as the terminally stupid. He’s read the papers and he’s heard the talk around the campfire. He knows the history both ancient and recent about these teams. He must have been nervous as hell and I thought that he held himself well. There is probably going to be criticism over him not taking that shot at the top of the area when he had an opening. That was a mistake but I can understand why he didn’t take it. It was on this very blog that I told the world that he didn’t have a shot. I know it. He knows it. He didn’t want to miss and make a mistake. Not shooting was a mistake and his deficiencies going forward is something that he’s got to work on. For a 20 year old in his first Inter - Juve game I think he did pretty well.
Zarate had an okay first half. He pressed the ball forward and he tried to link up some play up top. He made the Juventus defense have to break formation to account for him and in my book that’s a good thing. For those wondering and haven’t read, Ranieri sat him down because Castaignos had a great couple of weeks in training, he’s fast as hell and Ranieri thought that he saw something in the Juve defense that he could exploit. Apparantly, Ranieri thought that Lichsteiner was playing to far forward and was too worried about Nagatomo’s speed. He thought that that if he put Castaignos in that channel between Lichtstiener and the Juve centerback, he would create some opportunities since Pazzini was generating a lot of attention to Luc’s right. It didn’t work out, but I guess I can see what he was thinking. He was trying to take advantage of something, I can’t crush the guy for that.
Pazzini didn’t score but he came about as close as you can and not. That header thudded against the crossbar so that the whole goal looked like it was shaking. On another occasion if his shirt wasn’t almost pulled off and he wasn’t almost pushed down he might have had another opportunity on another 50-50 that was lobbed into the area. The foul he supposedly committed late in the game as Bonucci fucked up a header is baffling – but pretty funny.
Maicon, who we’ll see in another section of this blog, continues to sting this team. He put the cross into Pazzini that he almost drills through the net and he scores on a beauty of a pass from Wes. Not bad for a broken down, sorry excuse for an ex-player, huh. By the way, he was also pretty solid in defense, considering.
Castellazzi was left to pull an amazing save here and there by both Chivu and Lucio. On the first goal he pulled an amazing save off Matri’s shot only to be let down by Chivu watching the game instead of playing it. Ditto the second goal as Matri and Marchisio play a one-two that left Chivu watching again. If I were Castellazzi I would have had some hard words to Chivu about buying a ticket if he wanted to be a spectator.
Nagatomo going forward was not great. I have no issue with him in the back line, he was even trying to cover for Chivu at times who was in la – la land this entire game. But Naga is going to have to work on his passing/nerves if he’s going to continue on. I don’t remember off the top of my head, but I don’t think that Naga played in the game late last season. This being his first chance playing in this tie I am willing to be kind of lenient in passing judgment on him. Like I said, I don’t think he was terrible going backwards. But I think he needs to either pass shorter or keep his passes into the area on the ground if he doesn’t have any other choice. Pazzini has a good header; if we can get good crosses into the area for him from both sides of the field we can put another weapon in the holster.
Lucio has had better days than the one he had today. But he was way too far upfield too many times today. Look, the two forwards that Juve use most often move very well both vertically and horizontally and move well from side to side is something that our center backs don’t do really well. He’s got to know that he’s going to need extra time to react to them. He’s got to know that he has to be conservative in his movements in order to keep up with them. He’s not just giving up age in this matchup, he’s also giving up quickness. He’s got to know this – hell, I know it and I’m no-one from half a world away.
Cambiasso was invisible today. Considering that the formation that Ranieri went with meant that he was essentially the central cover for the defense – feel free to find a replay of the 2 Juventus goals, both late runs right up the gut. Both goal scorers would have had to go right through him in order to score.
Wes had an inspired pass the assist to the goal but he needs to dial it down a bit. Look I admit, the ref made a bad call. Castaignos was clipped from behind when the defender couldn’t catch him and even though he stumbled he was able to pass the ball. Wes was clipped from behind and the ball was lost. He has to realize one of these days that he’s not going to get that call against this team and that he’s going to get kicked by teams that have a hard time watching him. I get his incredulity. He got kicked twice and when he had the nerve to do the ref’s job better than him he got a caution. He should have changed his name to Pepe. Pepe screamed at the linesman for almost a full minute and got… nothing.
Cris Chivu. Congrats. You have just joined Milito in the farewell party.
Both goals came through the center left – that would be Chivu’s spot. I don’t think that he ever saw Vucinic coming or going. And I am still at a loss at where he was for the Marchisio goal. For some reason he stepped out of his line next to Lucio, who was dealing with Matri. Naga tried to slide over to cover but he got there too late. It was pretty bad.
It would be foolish, in my opinion to think that things can't get worse. Firstly, things can always get worse. Secondly, I think that there is enough... stuff... left on the team to move forward a bit. I think, like a lot of people, that January will be pretty crucial. Last winter we were able to turn the season around with time for the complete team to train and players already acclimated to Serie A joining the team. I think that last part is really important. There are already rumblings that Branca is looking at Montolivo again. Unless I forgot something we already have half of Kucka. When Mourinho joined the team there was 8 people removed from the team. I think that we are going to see something like that coming up. There is no way that Moratti can continue to claim that the team is competitive as is. Juventus spent around 200 in three seasons and Milan put up around 100 the past few summers. We had a competitive gap, but now we need a bump.
It has to be Maicon. He was the only one of our defenders/midfielders who was able to play in both phases of the game competently. Alvarez looks like he’s willing to play defense and has a sweet pass on him. Motta can do both when he’s got the chance and he’s on his game. We need more two-way players like Maicon who is, regrettably now over 30. Tempus fugit.