Inter 1 – Palermo 0

Claudio Villa

Fortune rears it’s lovely had for Inter as an own goal late in the game sends Inter a w and back up to 3rd place on the table 4 points behind the holders and League leaders.

The goal was fortuitous as I said, but in reality, the win was "deserved" if such a thing exists. The team played well if disjointed in places. The play in the final third looked particularly out of phase. This shouldn’t really be surprising. Coutinho, to my memory, hasn’t played a full 90 minute game before yesterday. Considering the low number of minutes he’s played, and considering that Milito and Palacio are comfortable with each other without him, there is going to be some hiccups. I personally don’t have a problem with it as long as I see a reason for it – such as Coutinho getting more work in and some level of cohesion is formed. I hope that sort of thing is on the horizon and not just for Coutinho – but for Obi, Mariga, Duncan, Livaja, Silvestre, etc, etc. My opinion is that the more people we get integrated into the machine the more dangerous we become.

Here’s where I see this all going in a couple of years… the team is going to get flat. Not like a tire or without form, but in terms of talent drop off on the roster – we want a team wherein many can do the job for the reason that we are experiencing right now. Injuries added to suspensions remove talent from the field and the play suffers. We want the replacements to be as close to the same level that the starter is. Part of this is the style of game we play – with Ibra and Eto’o we could get away with 9 knuckle-draggers to turn the ball over and then give it to them to invent their own magic. It works in the short term but we can see the effects of tailoring a team to that style now… there isn’t a one man show to rescue the close games anymore and we are bereft of players who didn’t see the field because of the superstars and moved on to greener pastures.

So we invent a new style for ourselves that means more team play and less reliance on one or two people to save the bacon when the cream is spilled… or metaphors to that effect. Plus we get rid of those players who need to be The Superstar from the team, with what we hope is a healthy profit – and so far is has been.

But the downside is a game like today – yes, I was eventually going to circle around to it. Inter were the best team on the field and it wasn’t even close. There was possession, meaningful possession, corners, shots, shots on net, shots inside the area, tackles in opposition half, defensive aerial challenges won and on and on. I’m not saying this to belittle Palermo at all, but I am making a point here – it could have very easily gone the other way in spite of all this effort and good work. The problem with getting rid of The Superstar and caught halfway into changing our style of play so that the team doesn’t have to rely on just one person is that sometimes the bacon doesn’t get saved.

Or, to torture the metaphor still further, the bacon is saved by a lucky tip. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

THE GOOD

First and foremost the best thing about this game had to be the last 20-30 minutes. Walter Samuel was captain. Pereira and Nagaomo were on the field at the same time without the world falling into a cataclysmic, post-apocalyptic place were motorcycle gangs wearing NFL pads sewn into leather jackets scour the highways of America fighting for the last plastic unbreakable jar of Ragu Traditional Spaghetti Sauce. The midfield included Gargano, Mariga and Guarin. Coutinho was given a whole Serie A game to play. The pace was high, spirits were raised and tails were up. Most importantly, the age of the group on the field went down. Dramatically. There was no Javier, there was no Milito and no Cambiasso. In short… there were no crutches for the team to lean on. It was heartening to see everyone pulling together for that half hour.

I thought that despite not scoring or making an assist, Coutinho held his own in the game doing an important job. I don’t know, as someone said in the comments this past week, that he’s a midfielder – but rather a support striker. But I will give the little tyke credit – he came back to help out and that little extra effort made the difference on at least one occasion.

Ranocchia continues to improve and improve. Last season, I was sad to see end so soon for him. He needed a chance to make mistakes, get a warm pat on the shoulder and a kind but firm word on how to make the next chance better. It looks like he finally has that and he looks like a million bucks. Do have proof of this regard? Did anyone else notice how far upfield Rano was pressuring in the second half? How at one point he either was told or took on himself the role of Pique and just claimed a spot right on the line to the area and tried to make a difference? I loved it. There is a lot you can say about Ranocchia – about how he makes the occasional poor choice (I don’t have a problem with this – even the greats have done something to look foolish now and again let alone a 24 year old), or how he’s not the fastest guy in a straight line (I would like to point out here that I have no problem with his speed, it might take a person of his proportions a half second longer to get to the red line, but I think he’s got enough for his position), and any number of ridiculous criticisms I have heard in the last two years. But you can’t say anything about his attitude or his work habits. This boy wants to succeed and he’ll work hard to get there. That state of mind will make him a great player – if such is his fate – more than any of his other qualities. His athleticism and physical powers got him to the top flight, but I think his mind and attitude will make him, in the future, one of those we will remember on this team.

On a related note, that support that Ranocchia is getting this year seems to be doing a world of good for JJ as well. In his first year as a starter in Italy, this young man is filling in excellently. To the point where I am getting pretty confident that he can do the job when called on. I don’t think he put a foot wrong all game and I believe that he had Ilicic, whom I have a lot of respect for, on his side to deal with. This isn’t a man crush, like I am developing for Ranocchia, but an acknowledgement. We are into December and he’s started 12 of 15 league games. Some of you might be wondering why I am making a big deal about him – he’s old news, right? But he isn’t really. We were wondering just last year about this time how or when we might see him play, remember? He was brought here in January and then squirreled away for 6 months before we saw him in the Olympics and most people I listened to or read weren’t that impressed. I am officially impressed with the 21 year old. Not because I think he’s great or elite or anything like that right now, but because he’s been relatively steady and decent so far. He’s done his job and he seems to find fun in doing it - all good qualities to my mind.

I am very happy that the "Senators" were subbed off, as I have already stated. But that doesn’t mean that I thought Cambiasso had a bad game. Quite the contrary, I thought he was very excellent. But I also think that we are in danger of using him too much – as we did last season – and he definitely looked like he was slowing down at the 50’ mark. Cambiasso is a very good player and we would be lucky to have 3 more just like him. He’s a leader and in addition to his obvious physical attributes he appears to have a sharp football mind. But the man doesn’t know his own limits. And Strama taking him off when he did heartens me because it was a wise move that required guts. So I am very much in HappyLand over this whole situation. Good player, playing well, taken off at the right time.

Granted this game was played without Palermo’s best player and there is a very good chance that he might have scored here and that these guys had a good game because of his absence – none of this I dispute. But, against what was on the field, these young guys played well and that’s all that you can ask. Would they have played as well against Miccoli? I don’t know. I don’t know if Inter win this game if Miccoli is on the field. But I have a lot more confidence in this group of defenders this season than I did with the Samuel and Lucio pairing of last season.

I would like to make mention of Alvaro Pereira here. He played a very solid game – all 90 minutes – and I think he showed why he was bought in. First of all, his physical abilities are prodigious. He’s tall, he’s thick and he’s got a natural athleticism that fit the basic requirements for this team. He has very good speed and he can get to the corner or he can cut in. He’s not afraid to take on defenders. His dribbling ability is at least adequate. He makes a decent pass and he’s very willing to be a team player. His crosses and his shots need work, but he can deliver both with power if not great accuracy. He’s also a natural left footer and has that elusive ability to play comfortably on the outside of the formation. Would anyone consider him to be a "world class player"? I don’t think so, but he’s a very decent player right now with his current understanding with his teammates and there is a lot of potential there for a good player. I would like to see more of him.

THE BAD

The attack was where this team failed against Palermo. When Inter are attacking off the counter, with obvious advantage they look unbeatable. When Inter have to create and penetrate a dug in enemy, than it’s a different kettle of fish altogether.

I will say this – Coutinho and Guarin on the field at the same time created all kinds of havoc to the Palermo backline. They didn’t score off of any nifty moves or any incredible dribble fake. But that backline just shrank and collapsed on itself over and over when Guarin attacked the right edge or Coutinho ran a zig zag against it. Had this been happening since minute 1, you would have thought that a goal was in the offering at some point. As it was, it looked like time would run out before they could put it together.

But that good work late in the game was no excuse for the 6 minutes of futility that preceded it. Yeah, we need a Thiago Motta-ish clone that can move the ball or himself around to make creases in the defense. But we also need forwards who will shoot when they get to the box area. Forwards need to control the ball quickly and make a millimeter of space to shoot from – and there was none of that on display here. Maybe it was a bad game, Milito was reported to be ill, but they had shots to take. Those shots were just badly taken. When those shooting opportunities are present we need to take advantage of them better.

THE UGLY

I have tried to refrain from mentioning this all week because it’s such a petty little nip at the heels that it’s hardly worth mentioning. But having read the pre game build up all week and having also read the post game interviews I have sprained my ocular muscles from rolling my eyes so much. I will just comment on this and then be done – Gasperini needs to STFU.

He was the manager of Inter at a time when the psyches of the players were in chaos, the management required patience and the finances limited team building. He was not flexible enough to work within the limits of the management. He was not able to use what talent he had – which was still prodigious compared to the rest of the league – in an intelligent manner. And he could not sell himself to the players. They simply did not believe in him. In short he failed as Inter manager on almost al fronts.

Is Inter using his ideas? Yes, almost all of them, in fact. Could he, as he has claimed, have carried out what Strama has given the time? No. Full stop.

We are talking about a man with the payroll of over €100 million that couldn’t get professionals in the state of mind to draw Novara, never mind win a game against them.

Gasperini had good ideas. I know there was a lot of caterwauling last season about the 3 man defense and all the other junk from certain supporters. But the bottom line is that if the team had believed in Gasp the way they believe in Strama, then all that would have been noise in the wind. If this sport were a video game – and I think most of you here know I love video games – then Gasp would be right about everything he has said and validate the bitterness that he feels and spews.

But it isn’t. This game first and foremost is about attitude and desire. The athleticism is like the ticket players need that to be given entrance into the world of professional sports. But motivation, as in real life, is the real determining factor of success for a professional. If he has that, he tries hard. If he doesn’t, he won’t. Gasperini couldn’t motivate Inter and that’s why he was given the boot. It’s that simple. And he can whine about lack of time and support and transfers all he wants, like Benitez did. But the simple fact is Strama got the players to buy in and to continue buying as of this writing. Leo got the players to buy in. Mourinho got the players to buy in. Mancini had a constant struggle to get the players to buy in and eventually lost them at the end. All of these managers have/had their faults but they won because players believed in their leadership and because those players wanted to win for them.

That Gasperini also wasn’t willing to work with the upper brass on other things was just sauce for the goose. He couldn’t motivate those players he had, he wouldn’t stop harping on the players he couldn’t have, he wouldn’t adapt his ideas for the good of the team… at some point Moratti and company had to say enough was enough – and as much as I am a fan of giving managers time and patience… I am very okay with the plug being pulled with this guy. Hey, he might be a genius and be destined for greatness one day, but none of that future success will change the fact that he did a poor job here and the current guy is doing it better, with arguably less – less payroll, less Champions League pedigree players, less established stars - than what Gasperini had. Good luck in the future, Gasp. I’ve now had my say, for what little its worth and I can safely go back to ignoring you with spleen properly vented.

MOVING ON

December will be a crucible for us and I think it was with this month in mind that we saw the bench players all get a run out against Palermo.

Inter played Palermo on the 2nd and have the last, meaningless Europa League game on Thursday the 6th. The 9th and 15th see Inter take on Napoli and Lazio respectively. Coppa Italia against Genoa on the 18th against the bigger but less recently successful Verona team and Genoa on the 22nd to round out the month before the blessed winter break comes to give us a break from the rollercoaster.

PS - Big game for the Babies against Rosenborg for the NextGen Series.

FORZA INTER

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