Milan 3 - Inter 0

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Thankfully I haven’t said this as much as I had in the first half of the season, but you can’t expect to win if you don’t play well. Football is a game where the worst team on the day can win, but it's not the way I would bet. And we didn’t have a lot/any of players play well. We had two or three chances, but all in all we looked tired in at all three aspects of the game. I can’t even be too upset. It’s been the theme of the season as a whole right from the outcry about the lack of reinforcements in July.

I can’t get too rankled at the refereeing. I wasn’t happy about some of it, but we know the deal. We need to put the ball into the net to keep any of the usual stuff from actually being an issue. I will say that the Nesta “injury” incident was pretty disgusting from several levels. If he was injured, then he needed to go off and held there for treatment. If he wasn’t then he needs to be cautioned for simulation or wasting time. Either way, it needed to be resolved in someway other than halting play when we were on the break crossing midfield considering that he had been “injured’ all the time Milan took to come down the field from box to box and the time it took us to go up to midfield.

I don’t care if it made a difference in the game or not, it was handled amateurishly and I expect more fairness of a ref in a game as important as any Milan Derby. Even after all this time and several experiences to the contrary.

I also wasn't happy about our reaction to calls. We need to stop arguing and keep playing. I would rather bring up the refereeing in the post game interviews rather than on the field. I never met a ref who changed his call, no matter how incompetent he was.

Pagelle

I am not going to do a pagelle today. I don’t have the time and frankly I can only write, “Didn’t show up” so many times before you and I get bored.

There was one exception to this statement. He’s also the MIPOG for Saturday because he was the last to surrender – in fact; I don’t really think he did, now that I reconsider.

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Highlights

Analysis

This game highlights and underlines a few of the criticisms I have of the team this season.

1. We didn’t lose this game because of “balance”… whatever that is. The defensive scheme of things was poor, I agree. The wingers weren’t coming back either by design, lack of focus, wrong personnel or tiredness, but more on this later. We had plenty of players dedicated to the defense by the design of the coach if not the midfield. Tactical naivety, perhaps, was a bigger issue.

Okay, let’s get into this “balance” thing first. The idea that Leo was so concerned about attacking that he neglects the defensive side of the game is, to my mind, lazy and absurd. Leo’s known as a smart guy. Everybody who knows him says this. He’s famous for it. So does it make any sense that he would be so completely and willingly moronic to just ignore a third of the game because he doesn’t like it, or because he wishes to concentrate on something else?

Or is it more likely that, as a second year coach, he’s not exactly experienced enough to take advantage of the many ways he can orient and deploy the midfield options under his control to help out the defense not have to work so hard? Mourinho used to talk a lot about playing between the bands – the spaces that exist between the traditional 3 lines of players in the attack, midfield, defense makeup of a straight 442. Unsurprisingly, these are the spaces that Udinese, Milan and Juve all punished us with when we played them.

Mourinho used to stagger his players a lot – the midfielders, depending on the formation of the team would be deeper in front of the defense and higher up behind the attack than the other/s sitting in the middle. The two central defenders would stagger depending on the side the ball is on. One attacker would go forward and the other stay a little back. The fullbacks and/or the wingers would run the side lines up and down the field.

It was all about closing space if you are defensive, or attacking space if you are going forward. It’s a complex idea that a lot of experienced coaches don’t get – right Ranieri? - and frankly, Leo’s not going to get it as a midseason hire in his 10th or his 12th month as a professional coach, depending on whether you count the preseason.

He’s going to go with the safest option and the most reliable players until he either can get to the summer and start from scratch with this team or he’s going to be fired and replaced by a more experienced coach.

To my mind, I don’t really want to think about June right now, but I am not going to expect him to pull off miracles at this stage in the season considering his very shallow background. I urged you all to temper your expectations repeatedly, from early on. This possibility should have been something that we all were prepared for. Benitez was going to make mistakes as he tried to get to know the team – the fact that he didn’t learn from those mistakes was fatal for him. Tactically speaking, one of his many mistakes was that he tried to fit the team into his mold instead of letting the skill set of the players determine the best course of action. Let’s see what Leo learns. He gets another big chance on Tuesday.

2. We didn’t lose this game because Leo was out-thought. Like Milan of last season, Inter is too thin of talent this season and the accumulation of games looks like it has finally caught up to our over 30s – as has the “Ego can’t let it go virus” and the “30+ virus”.

Looking back on this game, Milan didn’t make any landmark changes to their squad that were so special and surprising that they completely befuddled Leo or anyone else that was looking at this game. They lined up how one would expect and they played how one might expect – trying to break up play and flow instead of creating it. Their tactics didn’t fool anyone who was making predictions on this game; in fact they were very predictable to anyone who noticed them play Tottenham. The combination of our staring players' age, injuries/suspension and the increasingly large amount of games these very small number of players are competing in without adequate time to rest were a much bigger factor in this game.

Don’t believe me? Think I am crazy? Well, you probably aren’t alone around here, but I would urge you to riddle me this: At what time have we played our best football this season?

Here’s my answer: Right after the winter break. Our players had the largest uninterrupted period of rest that they had since the winter break of December/January of 2009/2010 and we had the largest squad available to the coach since August when the season began.

I am not even going to harp on the injuries too much because I think that there is a bigger issue here – but, I want to point out that both Ranocchia and Chivu were both as of a week ago too injured to play this game. Both were making a huge sacrifice just to walk out on the field. It’s just something to think about when people consider that Leo’s “unbalanced tactics” thingy crops up about the back half of our team.

I have much bigger fish to fry here. Consider these names: Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Zanetti, Chivu, Cambiasso and Eto’o. All of these guys are over 30. None of these guys are going to be on their respective National teams’ roster in 2014. All of them make at least an appearance for their National team during the break – although I my memory is a little fuzzy about when Chivu got injured, was it during a game or was it during the practice for the game?

What the hell were these guys doing? I get that playing for a National Squad is a huge responsibility and I dreamed of it myself, but there comes a moment when it’s time to be realistic, Janet. These same players were going to play in a fucking derby 4 days after a fucking friendly. Let me say that again, because it made me angry a week ago and it still makes me angry now. A. Fucking. Friendly.

Gentlemen, it’s time to give it up. Give up the ego. Give up the dream. This game is your official wake up to reality call.

Javier Zaneti is almost 40 years old. He’s won practically every team and “he’s a good guy” trophy known to man. He has a wonderful family and several very successful businesses that, assuming he doesn’t get a position with the team that will pay him millions every year, have him set for a life of disgusting leisure. He’s the model professional that people who know this business look up to with awe and respect.

What the fuck made this man so goddam stupid, I don’t know. He has it all, what else is there to prove? What makes them all so stupid, I don’t know. They looked half dead on the field on Saturday. Like the weight of the world hit them on their shoulders and dragging their tired old carcasses out on the field was too much effort. These guys should be kept mentally and physically fresh. They should be lightening their burden to peak at times like this, at the end of the season. Not act like a moronic 20 year old and spend all their energy on meaningless games.

Want to know who looked fresh as a daisy and eager to get on the field and bring it? Clearance Seedorf, Mr. Old Man Smell, himself. It’s nice to see what a week off rest can do to even the most spent force in the Universe, huh? How about Pato and Robinho, who if memory serves, both stayed home during the meaningless friendlies. They looked pretty fresh too… I don’t know, maybe there’s a message their somewhere...

Gah, it’s such stupid behavior by people who should know better it makes my teeth itch.

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3. I think it’s time to call Time of Death on this project. The core of this thing started around 2004-2005ish when we picked up Cesar, Figo, Deki and Cambiasso for close to nothing each to combine with Matrix, Cordoba and Zanetti who were the backline stalwarts at the time.

Here’s my worry, we wait too long to rejuvenate the squad that we all, I hope, can see needs to be given a transfusion. If we learned nothing else this season we should have learned that this team needs reinforcements and replacements.

It’s not a question of talent. The team still has talent to be competitive – hell, we are competitive now. We are still in three competitions – even if we just suffered a big setback in the League we are still in pole for what I thought our goal should have been all season – direct entry into Champions League group stage. Besides, I know at least 2 teams that would die for our league positions at the moment – they had the late game yesterday… We are still making money from the Champions League. And the Coppa… well any finals or silverware would be welcome.

It’s about legs. This team needs a rest, like no ones business, but it needs players who can step in and help give that rest. Deki needs to be moved on. Cambiasso, who relies on running so very much is slowing down. Likewise Maicon, who depends on his physical skills, might have already started the downhill slope at 30. Walter Samuel, as much as I love him, had difficulty playing a full season 5 years ago. Materazzi and Cordoba need to move on, they have become anchors instead of safety nets. I don’t know what to make of Chivu anymore. Motta is talented but he has serious issues with his very limited range and ability to stay healthy. Zanetti…. I prefer not to think about right now. I don’t know what to do about Milito but I think we can keep Eto’o for another season at least.

We need something of a revolution. I applaud Branca for the reinforcements that we already have coming in for the summer: Castaignos who looks in incredible prospect and Ona who has very favorable reviews written about as a modern midfielder who can go forward and back with an engine. It also looks – maybe I am wishing too hard here – like we have some young players who are ready to step up and be actual contributors like Coutinho, Natalino, Caldirola and Dell’Agnello.

I wish that Mariga could be in that list too. I understand that he doesn’t have the technical skill that Leo – or Branca for that matter – prefers of his players, but physical specimens with incredible athleticism and unbelievable range couldn’t hurt too much, right?

The point is that we look like the toll of the games is getting to us and we need to do more than start or rotate the same 15 players over and over, especially when it’s become apparent that some of them can’t play anymore. If one had read the reader comments of La Gazzetta’s article on the game, someone wrote: Cambiasso, a corpse comes off and Stankovic, another corpse, comes on. In one sentence, it was a perfect summary of what I thought I was looking at on Saturday. One corpse here. One corpse there.

With one exception. Forza Cesar.

Italy Soccer Serie A

FORZA INTER

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