Inter 0 – Bologna 3; You Say You Want A Revolution…

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When I look at this team as it stands now, I really see only three problems. They are huge problems, don’t get me wrong, but I only see three. I doubt that they will all be addressed, but I can live with 2 out of 3.

More on that later, though. Before I get into all that other stuff, I am going to bore everyone yet again by repeating my year old litany for change at Casa Inter and say that we need to play the young guys more. All the young guys. All of them we have on the roster.

I know; I know, right about now people are going to tell me that they are too inconsistent, that they lack tactical awareness and that they make too many boneheaded mistakes. That we would for sure lose lots of games, that there would be too many blackouts. That our old favorites are far too near and dear to us to let them go so callously.

So we are all liking the way the Oldies are doing this season then, hmm?

I want Obi to play more. I want Poli to play more. Faraoni too. And I want Viviano recalled and inserted. Luc can start playing anytime he likes. Ranocchia isn’t allowed off the field. Alvarez gets to play too. Coutinho needs to be recalled and stuck out there. As soon as Guarin and Juan are ready, they get some room too. If Deki doesn’t like it this time he can go into the stands and stay there for the rest of his natural life and never see the black and blue stripes again.

To extreme? Recipe for disaster? Pshaw. We aren’t going to win anything this season anyway. We will need a drastic change in fortunes just to make 3rd – although it looks like Lazio and Udinese are sinking in the same shit that we are in. What do we gain by playing uninterested vets who lose to Lecce and Novara? If we lose to Novara and Lecce anyway, we might as well get the people who are going to be here next season some real game minutes to ramp up the learning curve.

This is my worry – and it’s been my worry for a year, in case you missed all the “we need to incorporate more youth in the team posts” – is that the front office continues to move too slowly.

What do I mean by that? Consider the nature of Italian football, drastic measures are only taken when there is the last ditch, absolute need for a change. Selling Eto’o, selling Motta, buying Forlan, taking loans out on Zarate and an injured Poli – these are drastic measures.

So why sell Eto’o? I’ll tell you why. Because he wanted to chase his last chance at a big contract and he was going to leave the following season for nothing, that’s why. 25+ million is a hell of a lot more than nothing for a 31 year old forward. Selling Motta for 11.5 million for a part time, 29 year old guy who was fine with leaving and wouldn’t renew at the prices offered is a lot better than the nothing the team was likely to get as his contract winds down. If Sneijder leaves, it’ll be for a similar reason – he’s not willing to accept the new reality.

There will be a revolution, my friends. It’s coming sooner rather than later. There will be a large signing this summer – and it’s going to be an attacker disguised as a midfielder. I don’t know what his name will be but I guarantee you that it will a substantial amount. There will be a defender there somewhere. Poli will be permanently signed or I will eat my hat. Sans ketchup. There will be a significant veteran culling of the squad and there will be one large selling off. At least four former members of Inter’s primavera will be assigned to the senior club. I can’t tell you now if all 4 will come up directly from the younger squad or as in the case of Dell’Agnello and Alibec they will return from whence they came. But there will be squad promotions. Crisetig? Bessa? Spindlhofer? Longo? Duncan? I don’t know if any of these guys make the jump… I don’t know if any of those guys CAN make the jump… but someone will.

And I don’t know if we will be any good for having revolutionizing the squad, but I do know that this will be done with both eyes on the balance sheet. There is a lot going on behind the scenes regarding that balance sheet. There is rumor of a new Arab partner injecting wealth into the club. There is a new sponsor on an almost weekly basis. Contracts of players bought in the last two years are subject to a salary cap of which Ranocchia at €1.5 million, Zarate at €2.0 million and Pazzini at €2.5 million is at the apex (Forlan is exempt of the salary cap since he was essentially a free transfer – his contract, may it soon be torn up, is in the 3.5 range, I think) while Castellazzi, Alvarez, Obi, Nagatomo, Faraoni, Poli, Castaignos and Coutinho are all working for 1 million or - in most cases - less.

This brings us back to the 3 problems that I was talking about at the top. But, before I start that, I know that many people are wondering about the game itself on Friday. Really, it can be summarized like this: We had some chances early and didn’t convert. Then we got killed on the counter twice – one of which was a flukey play, a mistake from Ranocchia. In the second half, we had some chances and we didn’t make the most of those, either. We got killed late on the counter after we gave up. Not really a whole lot to discuss.

Problem 1

The Ghosts of Inter past, like Ebenezer Scrooge, loom prominently. Big/long contracts to players of inadequate talent in the last 5 years really hurt the club today. Inter are still trying to recover after having several large contracts only recently reintegrated into the budget of the club. It’s ancient history but Balotelli, Santon, Suazo, Vieira, Quaresma, Muntari, Ibra/Eto’o, Burdisso, Rivas and others contracts have only recently been recovered and some of those are still on the books. All of those contracts were worth multi millions and the last of those was cancelled just this winter, as in a month ago. It takes about 2 years to see a contract off the books in it’s entirety since accounts are reported on in the next fiscal year. A quick look back up a paragraph or two sees a much leaner, financial Inter – and I would argue that with the exceptions of Eto’o and Balotelli all of those young guys working for €2.5 million per year or less – minus Zarate and he’s a loan that will quickly depart - are better than those vets who held on tight to the gravy train for all they were worth.

Considering that those 10 players I mentioned above are almost 40% of the total team there is a lot of hope in the financial recovery. Essentially, the rest of the squad are: Milito (€4.5 mil up in 2014), Sneijder (€6 mil up in 2015), Cambiasso (€4 mil up in 2014), Stankovic (€3 mil up in 2014), Lucio – Chivu – Samuel – Cordoba (€3 - €3.5 mil each up in 2014 (will never see) – 2012 – 2012 – 2012, respectively), Maicon (€4 mil up in 2013), Zanetti (€3 mil up in 2013) and Cesar (€4.5 mil up in 2014). I personally think that Milito, Stankovic, Lucio, Chivu, Cordoba and Cesar aren’t going to be back next season. The numbers just don’t compute for me on the really old guys and I don’t see Chivu or Cesar taking a pay cut. Plus, Cesar still has admirers abroad. If I did my math right that’s over 20 mil before you figure in the taxes recouped, folks. Unfortunately, it’s also a lot of contributors to the squad that need to be replaced as well.

Problem 2

There is an impatience for this club. I feel it too at times, and on the one hand it can spur on ambition, but at other times it can twist into ugly insecurity and self loathing. It can turn into a cancer for the fandom. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Inter won the CL and in the next season finished 2nd in Serie A. This season – the second since winning the CL – we are still very much in the running for 3rd place 6 points behind Udinese with 14 games left in the season. Will we make 3rd? I have no idea and I couldn’t even begin to predict. But even if we didn’t make 3rd, and it would be a disappointment considering our hopes in September sure, not making the CL for only one season isn’t really the end of the world. It would speed up and expand that player culling from Problem 1 to compensate the loss of revenue pretty fucking quick I guarantee you… but it isn’t the end of the world.

Here’s what I mean. Consider Milan who finished 4th place in Serie A in the same year they won the Champions League. The following season they finished 5th – out of the CL and consequently slammed out of the Europa League where they were runner up in their group and didn’t even make it out of the round of 32. The next 2 seasons they finished 3rd and 3rd before they would win Serie A again.

Even if we don’t make the CL we still aren’t yet as bad as Milan were following their CL victory, but yet it seems like the pundits and even Inter’s own fans are gloom and doom regarding the team.

I can understand the pundits, it’s their jobs to look for controversy. But I don’t why are the fans gloom and doom? We have young players who have done very well for us this season. We have a youth sector with some promising prospects. We have players out on loan in Serie B and Serie A that will come back to the club at some point – so we know that they can at least play and are acclimated to the League. There is always that buying players thing – especially if the club is diligent about selling/cutting off those Oldies.

This club has a lot of options left to it. Yeah, I don’t want to see Inter lose a lot either, but at the same time, it going to take me a lot more than one bad season before I lose any affection for this team and society. I was a supporter of this club when things were a lot bleaker and there was no hope for it ever getting better. But a lot has changed since the 90s – the whole culture of the League has changed for the better. We have a sporting chance now if we trip up that we didn’t have then.

So even if I am not happy about losing on Friday, or the last 3 games, I feel less pressure about the future than I might if this were another time and place.

Problem 3

The youth coaches of Barcelona were gave a talk in Brazil sometime in the last year or so. In it, they said that one of the best ways they have found to teach their young players is to not concern themselves or the young players with winning or losing. Just give positive feedback on positive actions to promote good play and not keep track of standings. Their players’ confidence and technical skill grew with the praise unafraid of learning through doing, trial and error, gaining valuable personal, relevant experience.

The Brazilian coaches shook their heads and declared that style of play wouldn’t satisfy the fans or the team ownership. They would demand success on some level and woe anyone who didn’t give it to them no matter the age or situation of the player. The Youth coaches nodded and after more discussion on other topics left, confident that Barcelona would have a dominant youth program for several years to come.

That was a true story.

And those Barcelona coaches have every right to be confident of their superiority in training young players. Anyone who has had a dog or a young child or a parent should know the best way to train any semi-sentient creature is positive reinforcement. Reward the desirable, ignore the regrettable. Sooner or later only the behavior which is consistently rewarded gets performed over and over again. Its science that’s been around since the words “behavioral modification” and “operant conditioning” were invented.

It’s frightening how this mirrors Inter’s present circumstance and the supporter’s reactions to the young players. Why do we as fans continue to punish young players for poor play with insults when we should all know that those actions only cause resentment and leave no desire by the player to make the bastards who insulted him happy with good play? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Ranocchia made a mistake on Friday that was regrettable. In a play in which he did 3 things right and 1 thing wrong he’s been castigated by print, video and radio by his own supporters. He got in good position on Di Vaio, won the 50-50 and played the ball in the air without letting it bounce. Unfortunately he wasn’t aware of where Di Vaio was and tried to chest the ball to Cesar only to have it stolen en route and punished. It was a poor play and it was out there for all to see. I don’t think that the fans should have reacted the way they did. Now obviously that was a mistake he made at the end of that play and he shouldn’t be rewarded for it… but to continue the “discussion” and call for his benching is counter productive. He hopefully learned a lesson. And if he didn’t… then hopefully there are others that can be rewarded with his spot on the roster.

But I don’t think that’s the case with Ranocchia. I think he has talent now at the age of just turned 24. I think that he can get much better if he’s given more time on the field and the confidence of the fandom to play in a calm manner without fear of punishment.

I just think back to those Barcelona coaches and how simple their methods and how correct they are. And how often those methods are ignored…

FORZA INTER

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