There are many storylines that this game encompasses and it would an impossible job to cover them all. So, I am going to skip quite a number of them to focus on just two after we look at the player/position evaluations: The effect of the youth sector on Inter this game and a brief discussion of the Tinkerman’s rotation style in general.
But before we get into all that heavy stuff, I would like to talk about something else briefly. Maryam, in the comments after the game yesterday, said something very important and I quote, “Yay for the win, yay for the clean sheet and yay for us climbing up the table!”
And that’s it really. We won, something of hen’s teeth this season, sure, but not as much recently as it was with Gasperini, whose leadership was so traumatic and so brief that as this season gets older I sometimes forget that it or the disastrous last summer had ever really happened. We got the clean sheet, which since Benitez’s stewardship were rarer than wins and forget about clean sheets with Leo… what’s rarer than hen’s teeth? As for us climbing up the table… it’s all we’ve been talking about since Ranieri came on board. “If we win this game we can reach 16… If we at least draw this game we can tie for 14th… If we can only win that game we’ll climb to 10th…”
This summer was unbelievable, and its effects basically stole the months of September and October from us. In the three Serie A games Gasperini was in charge we made 1 point out of 9, including losing all points against Novara which was really damaging. In the next three games where Ranieri was really trying to reshuffle and begin reorganization we went 3 out of 9 points. So far I have just recapped our record for all of September and half of October. And we made only 4 points out of 18. We clean out October with a notch in each slot – 1 win, 1 draw, 1 loss.
If you want to discover what this summer’s coaching folly cost us, there it is: 8 out of 27 points. We might have lost points with Juventus, Roma and Palermo anyway, sure, but to get 1 point total out of Novara, Catania and Atalanta – all bottom half teams currently - is a crime against MAD’s Guide to Winning the Scudetto ©®(Patent Pending).
(For those curious we have won every game since the start of November excepting a 1-0 to Udinese – 12 out of 15 points. It’s counter productive to keeping my temper if I think where this team would be had we beaten Novara and at least drawn to Catania)
But if there is a bright spot to this cloud here it is and mark it down somewhere that I said it first – if we had been successful in the earliest parts of this season none of the youngsters would have had a chance to play and we would be seeing another season of Pandev, Deki, Chivu, maybe even Cordoba who Leo used quite a few times if I remember and we would definitely be saying goodbye to Mariga – as of right now there is a chance he might come back.
It’s very possible that in order for those youngun’s who have gained so much experience in such a short amount of time or to have any chance at playing time at all, the team had to be so desperate that it shook off the old inertia of complacently expecting wins to a place of more modesty in the front office and some proactive action for once.
Position Score 7.5
Like I said last game when Fiorentina was held so long before a shot, I am giving Cesar a lot of credit for keeping his concentration. Plus, he made a 3 point save right at the end. Cesar was off his line quite a few times and I thought he did very well each time - it's an underused part of his game. I do believe my feelings for him might be warming up again… that was MIGHT BE…
Position Score 7.5
There were no poor performers on this line. Zanetti worked very well in tandem and then later in threedem with Faraoni and Alvarez. Nagatomo looked very much like he has started turning up the Form Dial with a second very good performance at both ends. His goal was especially joyous considering his height and the lack of reaction from a very good Frey on the night. Frankly, if he wins a header… anywhere really… in front of the opponent’s goal and scores it should count twice. There’s no good reason for him to be winning that header, covered and running. Plus it gives us a chance to see the best celebration in the history of sports.
I would be extremely remiss in not pointing out that Samuel and Lucio had a great day as well. Were they helped by the fact that Genoa were pretty content for the draw for 75 minutes? Yes, but they also cleaned up the very few Genoa advances not eliminated by our midfield
Speaking of which…
Position Score 8.5
In the big picture, it should be no surprise that what few wins we have garnered for ourselves has coincided with the coming out parties of Obi, Alvarez, Faraoni, Coutinho and now Poli who, if Wikipedia can be believed, are all at or under the age of 23.
Some people have asked what will Inter do without Sneijder? How will Inter create? Well, we have an answer now, don’t we? We use the full backs and the more attacking minded YOUNG midfielders attack the flanks to stretch the opponent’s defense laterally and create space in the middle. In his post-game interview Ranieri stated that he debated putting in Coutinho in Faraoni’s position so that he could have Naga causing problems in one side and Coutinho causing problems on the other so that anything that bleeds into the middle will have more room. The reason he didn’t put in Coutinho is that he felt the game would be too physical for him and he wanted to save him for a better match up. Considering how the game went, I am just as happy Coutinho didn’t play. He needs more time in the weight room working on his core.
All that being said, Ranieri was right. When he put in Alvarez to beat up on the wingback and outside centerback on the right everything in the Genoa defense shifted to Alarez to give help to that side. This left little Naga all alone cutting into the middle from far left to punctuate a perfect cross. It won’t always work out that nicely – but, here’s the important bit for me – at least there is a plan, a stratagem, a concern for both offense and defense!
Speaking of defense, since Mourinho this is the best support that I have seen the midfield give the defense. Poli and Faraoni really shut things up tight on the outside. It was really like watching a dog fight watching the two groups of outside players really dig into each other. At times, it just looked like old fashioned hate and bloody-mindedness, if I can borrow a phrase. Imagining an EPL fan watching this mess makes me sneer. I don’t think that they would get it. It was a very important battle on the outside to see which team was going to be able to play their game and it was two young guys supported by Cambiasso, Zannetti and Motta who won it for us.
I only hope we can get up to this kind of intensity again soon.
By the way, I noticed that a lot of people wanted to know how Poli did on his debut: I think that Vinod said it best from the comments since yesterday so I’ll just paste it here:
“He was running inside a lot, giving Motta options to move the ball forward. He also made a few nice diagonal runs reminiscent of Deki circa 2004, and showed a decent amount of skill on the ball, able to turn away from players and work the ball around. I'm trying not to get my expectations too high, but he seems like a pretty skillful all-action midfielder that needs some games under his belt.”
I think it’s obvious that despite his long layoff we expect quite a bit from young Master Poli.
Position Score: 5.5
Pazzini scored on the weekend so he’s almost off the hook for not scoring today, but Milito had a chance not even a meter away from net – yeah Frey had to pull off a great save to take it away from him, but dammit, it’s too long now. I’m not going to look it up but I think it was since September when Milito last scored. To balance the scales, I thought that his run right up the gut of and right past the Genoa defense where he was hauled down by the last man – no red card, thank you very much – was as good a move I have seen him make all season. I really thought he was going to score off that.
I don’t think I can underestimate the effect that the youth sector has had on this team. Just watching the games and seeing the energy and hunger to excel has made all the difference in this team that has lost most of that hunger and most of that energy that made Inter the team it was 2001 through 2010. That Inter team wasn’t the most technically gifted, or the most athletic. It was determined to win no matter how hard it got. Gritting out tough wins even if the other team really played better was a hallmark. Sometime in that game, the other team would blink and that’s the moment that a determined and direct Inter would muscle, dribble, long ball, even pass the ball down the field and make a chance out of nothing.
It’s not easy playing like that all the time. As a player plays more games like that and gets older, there might be a little less heat. The Inter of the second decade in the newest millennium looks like it’s really trying to change gears into a team with more technical ability while trying to keep as much of that grim and gritty determination as possible. This game was a good example of that transition. Poli and Faraoni look like they might be up to the all-action fight while Slick Ric and Coutinho looks like he’s part of that injection of technical ability.
This is my third season as a blog writer for this space and I really believe in the program that was started by Facchetti and continued by Mourinho who further expanded the ability of the youth teams to train, be mentored by and work with the senior team. I believe so much in this program that you can look back and see my first ever attempt at writing for this space titled Young Guns where I briefly talk about members of the youth team like Viviano, Obi, Belec, Krhin and Destro – all of whom I thought at the time had a real shot with the seniors at one time. Three years later and I still think that we are going to get a hefty boost from this almost forgotten – by detractors of the team, certainly not by me - sector of Inter’s organization.
And we can see the quality of Inter’s youth policy right now. At their very young age, these players yesterday, had a first class look at as much pressure as they are going to have all season.
There’s the pressure to win from the fans who are pissed off regarding the first 2 months of this season. I mean, Rick Alvarez was booed at the Meazza in September, remember? Obi has essentially already been a starting midfielder for a 6 weeks or something. Poli, the ex-Doria player, made his debut in the chanting, chorusing, whistling, extremely vocal Marassi… And played a damn decent game of football, I think he was matched up with Veloso and Mesto at times. Faraoni battled and battled tooth and nail for an hour against Constant – who I thought had a real gritty game, pity we didn’t get him – and I think it was Moretti. Both players he battled had more experience but I thought he did a superb job not giving an inch without pressure and, in some cases, a swift kick to slow the mother down. This outside battle was hugely important to Inter’s ability to take home at least 1 badly needed point.
And then there’s little, maligned Nagatomo. The guy has speed, but he’s been described as a one trick pony, and I in all seriousness disagree. First of all, this was his kind of match – not too technical and his physical abilities were more important in this game. He’s fast yes, but in the last two games we have seen him defend with tenacity. Sometimes he gets pushed aside, but he keeps coming back for more, bless his masochistic heart, and he doesn’t quit on any play in his area. Keep in mind that in his time at Inter, this is his 3rd system to get used to in less than a year and even though he’s 25 he hasn’t been in a top flight league like Italy’s Serie A for much more than a year now. It looks like, if these two games are any indication, that the lights have come on and he’s getting used Ranieri’s plans. Good for us, I’d say.
Ranieri’s Tinkerman’s reputation is well earned, but I think that in our case, it might be the strategy that saves our asses until the winter break. Inter is probably the deepest team in terms of talent he’s ever had. So his Tinkerman instincts might actually do us a favor here as we try to heal and rest a team that looks like it’s been through the wars. Maicon resting for this game was a huge risk – I have a lot of respect for Genoa and this was a dangerous game for us going in – as we could have very well needed his legs to pressure the Genoa backline. But, now with that danger behind us, we will have a fully functioning and hopefully raring to go Maicon ready for Cesena in what is nearly a must win game for us if we have any hope of keeping up with the Jones’ above us on the table.
The Tinkerman instinct has served us well in getting our young people ready for and working towards each new game. Trust me on this if you haven’t ever played a team sport, you train differently if you are a bench warmer than if you think you are going to make the field. At any time our Babies can be called to action and I bet that they are all eager to show why they should make the call up sheet. If I was the low man on the totem pole I would be working my ass off to impress a coach. Double that if I thought that I actually had a real chance to make it.
On the other hand, that Tinkerman attitude might cost us some vets. Motta has already started talking about it. Deki and his notoriously thin skin when it comes to selection can’t be too far behind. I love what Motta can bring us, but considering the hell we are trying to dig ourselves out of, if he’s going to complain now that we are showing signs of life, then Fuck Him, let him twist. There is no room for farting around right now. He needs to get with the program. Quick.
On that note, I know this is a long one and I either applaud your patience with me or apologize for boring you.