It seems like a loss doesn’t it? Well, it did to me. Less so now, since I have learned that of the 4 teams who are still in the "race" for some European Competition, 3 of them either lost or had a draw. We won’t know about Roma until later today, but it really doesn’t matter that much. Roma, like us have, been all over the map this season, if they don’t drop points then it’s likely to happen at some other point. Kind of like the outlook for us.
As I write this I am searching for something to look forward to, something I can take from these games that remain to us. It seems a shame to waste the time left and just blow everything off. I have written that I won’t give up on the team, that I am looking for some character, some sign of who wants to be around next season – if anyone does.
And that’s how I am going to be grading these performances. Who deserves to be here? Who WANTS to be here! And who is likely to be here when the dust settles and the new coach is hired?
Pagelle - ish
Cesar – Julio wasn’t called to make a spectacular save until the second half and he made it. I can’t ask more than that.
Maicon – Maicon made a giant run defensively to finally pick off a through ball that had beaten Lucio. I think that was the first through ball that was defended as a team of our stature should have defended it.
Lucio – Lucio was unanimously considered the worst player on our side yesterday. There was no doubt in my mind that he had given up a penalty and that the ref simply blew the call – I think that makes 2 penalty non-calls in our favor this season.
Samuel – Without question in my mind our best defender yesterday. If he was on the job, nothing got through. I realize that we are talking Atalanta without its best attacker here… but the truth is the truth.
Nagatomo – I have absolutely no problems with his performance other than some suspect crossing. He was tenacious and gave all of his speed when called on. He held nothing back. That kind of effort should be rewarded.
Zanetti – To the pundits, Zanetti was our best player and it’s hard to nay-say. He covered for Maicon. He went on attacking runs and he defended well. There’s not much more to add.
Poli – Most pundits got it right, he was like a bulldog (or mastiff, whichever you want) in the middle. He shielded the defense and he made tackles. It was startling how soon we lost the midfield after he was subbed off. Prior to his substitution the game was a nervy tactical battle. After he left the game, it turned into a back and forth affair with hardly a pause through the middle. I can’t regret his leaving the game – he ran himself ragged and started arriving late to challenges right before Ranieri took him off.
Cambiasso – There are those who thought that Cambiasso had a terrible game and there are those who think he was merely meh. I think he was merely meh. I worry about him come the future because his game is so much about doggedness. He will get you sooner or later, he will jump your pass sooner or later. He always around you or thereabouts. But yesterday he wasn’t. He went forward more, don’t get me wrong, but he clearly looks like he needs a rest or that he’s done in. He could really do without a summer of international games.
Obi – In the first half, Obi was, in my estimation, magnificent. In the second half he petered out inside of 10 minutes or so and was rightly subbed off. He even played the left wing… which he really isn’t. Hmmm a player going in a game out of position for his coach. I know that there is a lesson there somewhere.
Pazzini – It was Pazzini who got the foul in the box that the ref rightly called a penalty on. I thought Pazzini fought hard the first half and ran out of gas early in the second. The 442 doesn’t really lend itself to a lot of balls put into the forward so that all he needs to do is shoot – and the way we run it, the 442 generates a less offense than that. When he scores we tend to win… maybe he should take more penalties.
Milito – Along with Lucio, almost universally graded as the worst player on the field. The absolutely pathetic penalty might be carrying a lot more weight there than it should, but a team that’s gasping for points and goals can’t really turn down a freebie. And it was such a weak shot… taken with no confidence. A Milito penalty taken with confidence is a rocket to the top of the netting, not a guided tap to the left. Such a disappointment.
Castaignos – I am going to give Luc a lot of credit here. Forlan refused to be used in the left wing for this game – which is why the 19 year old Luc was subbed there and the 20 year old Obi started there – and he had no bearing on the game at all, as far as I can tell. But the team needed him, as Obi was clearly done in, and he was so happy to get on the field he went in however he could. Not so Forlan. It has come out that he has stated that he will only go in as a forward. I say that we use Castaignos for the rest of the season. Forlan can go home to South America, as far as I am concerned. I won’t have anything else to do with him.
Branca v Orialli
There has been some controversy, I don’t know how much everyone is listening to the static between these two, but it’s getting a little High Schoolish. It boils down to the fact that the working relationship between the two was strained when Branca came on board in the early 2000s and even though they were able to work together, they don’t get along. Orialli is stating that Branca has done a terrible job. Branca is saying that Orialli wouldn’t know what a good job is since he was never in charge of transfers.
They are both right, but Branca is more right than Orialli in my estimation. Orialli was asked to leave for a reason. I don’t know what that reason was, but clearly he was the low man in the front office and he made things unworkable. Also his criticism of Branca is just sour grapes, having never reached the branch where the job resides, himself.
But Branca did a poor job this summer. In my mind, it starts and stops with the decision to sell Eto’o so late in the summer that there was no time to get a suitable replacement. Zarate and Forlan, all due respect to both men who have more talent at this sport than I do, suck as humans/co-workers/professionals. They are wonderfully gifted athletes but both will be spending too much time bitching and blaming others for their problems that they will waste or continue to waste their gifts. If Eto’o needed to be sold, it should have been done decisively and ruthlessly. No negotiation. This is the price. This is the deadline. He’s an all time great. If you complain about the price of gas, you shouldn’t buy a Ferrari. Full stop. If Eto’o wanted to go – and this is what Branca wanted us to believe, that Eto’o said he wanted to go – then Eto’o shouldn’t have signed a contract or Eto’o should have arranged the deal himself so that the team could move on at it’s convenience. He’s the one trying to break a contract, after all.
It sounds a little naïve, but this team can be a club where the boys are just boys and Pappa Moratti can chuck them on the shoulder and smile, or it can be a business where players are expected to be men with testicles and honor.
It shocks me to read how teams like Napoli and Lazio deal with players in exactly that manner. You have signed a contract and either someone buys you out of it, or you stay here. Maybe this is why Lazio and Napoli always seem to finish the season’s ledgers with larger numbers than the season before and written in black ink all the time. It’s just a whimsical thought, that’s all.
The New Coach
There is a lot of speculation that it’s going to be Blanc or it’s going to be Villas-Boas. The third option – because of a prior contract commitment - is Prandelli. My gut says that Prandelli is a great choice, but there’s no way he’s going to leave or the FIGC will let him leave before the 2014 World Cup. I don’t see that for a second. After the Donadoni Debacle and none of the superstars were desperate enough to listen to Lippi’s message of sacrifice once the threat of Serie C was 4 years past, the FIGC needs a good showing in the next World Cup.
So in my mind it’s Blanc or AVB. Blanc’s contract with France is up this summer after the Euros. AVB is famously available immediately.
I am by no means an expert in either men, but I do have some broad strokes understanding of the way their teams have played in the past.
AVB is a Mourinho guy. He wants a high line of pressure. He wants/needs midfielders to run, pass and tackle. He likes to play with wide forwards and a striker. Mourinho adapted his strategy to Inter by playing Wesley as a forward in midfielders clothing (essentially giving him 3 forwards-ish), dropping the aging backline a bit so that they could attack the ball instead of chasing and used the fullbacks to stretch out the opponents backline across the field.
AVB would need to completely overhaul the team so that it could play his style which appears to me to be more dynamic instead of the positional game the squad is used to. Like Mourinho, AVB appears to like to transition at light speed from defense to counter or from attack to defense. I have described Mouinho’s game as c.1980s Los Angeles Lakers Fast Break Basketball made into football.
The very few games I have seen or very few articles that I have read describing Blanc’s French team seem to describe a lot of the things that Inter currently do well. He plays with a defensive midfielder or two of them when needed. He plays with one or two forwards – rarely three. The midfielders’ primary job is to collect the ball and send it to the tricky players. I understand that he’s happy using the 4312 or the 4321.
Both coaches had brief successful runs as managers. AVB has done very well at Porto but had a disastrous spell at Chelsea. I am not sure who I blame for that one. Roman – for not sticking with the manager long enough, AVB – for being too hasty in trying to change the club’s formation and personnel, or the players – for not being flexible/professional enough to do things the new coach’s way.
Blanc, as a former player of a high level, is the more typical coach, unlike the new breed of never-was-ones like Mourinho and AVB. It’s in my mind that Blanc is a more traditionally defensive minded coach, as he was probably one of the last sweepers to ever grace a field in the modern age. Blanc has only managed one club side, but he did very well with it and he’s generally considered to be doing a good job with the French National Team, I think. Blanc’s contract is supposedly up this summer – late this summer I hasten to add - and there is no indication of what he’ll do afterward. Will he extend for the WC? Will he try to make a nice showing to up his money? It seems to me that this is too early in a coaching career; Blanc is only in his forties I think, for him to be thinking National Team Career, yet. I don’t know the man well, he could be a serious patriot and only want the National Team.
Other contenders include Prandelli, who I don’t see leaving the Italy setup yet unless he really messes up this summer; Ranieri, and I don’t see him coming back… ever; Mazzarri, I think the team would have to be crazy to bring in Mazzarri after the Gasperini implosion; and the perennial Tuttosport favorite: Spaghetti. Er, Spalletti. I don’t ever see Spalletti getting a chance. Ever. Although the Law of Averages says that he will eventually get a chance, but I just don’t ever see it happening.