My player of the game yesterday isn’t the player that’s going to get my highest rating. Santon came off the bench yesterday, cleared months of frustration for me personally and shut down our defensive left, a problem in the first half, for the entire second half. Plus, his entry into this game for an entire half means that he is eligible for a full return in 2 weeks.
Cesar: Cesar made 1.5 difficult saves that potentially saved goals –one looked like it was going to go out and he had good coverage - but really most of the shots that he dealt with were from outside the penalty area. Frankly, it takes a lot to beat Cesar from that far out. He made one mistake that just bugs the hell out of me: he ran to all the way to his right and threw the ball all the way to the left. If he made a mistake and didn’t see someone, then the goal mouth was completely open. It’s dangerous and sloppy distribution. 6.5
Maicon: Juventus put Marchisio on the right wing and really, its poor placement for them as he wasn’t a factor all game. The good news for us is that Maicon didn’t have to stretch himself too much defensively. Offensively he was more or less left wide open and after Biabiany went off he was able to go forward at will and uncovered for the entire second half. 7.0
Lucio: Very good game from Lucio who’s been Mr. Steady for us early this season. Honestly, as long as he doesn’t have to win any races he could play for several more years. 6.5
Chivu: I am going to average two scores for Chivu. As a fullback he was okay as long as Coutinho was in front of him and tracking back. Once Eto’o had to be moved to the left wing it was all over. First, Juventus passed the ball to their winger further up the field bypassing Eto'o. Second, because Cordoba and Lucio were busy with two strikers in the middle they couldn’t help out. Once Chivu was moved into the middle he much more effective. PS another thing that bugs the hell out of me is that he launched a pass back to Cesar from midfield in the air. If the ball bounces weird, Cesar has to essentially throw himself out of the game saving the pass and give up a penalty. ARGH. 5.5
Cordoba: It was an all around decent first half for Cordoba and he able to show how he is still one of the fastest defenders in the League. Unfortunately he strained his hamstring and I don’t know how long he’ll be out for. 6.0
Santon: When he first went in you could see that Juventus tried to test him early but he was able to come in with only 10 minutes game time under his belt this season and do an incredible job defensively. Offensively he had a bad pass, but other than that he was able to do his thing and support Eto’o. 7.5
Cambiasso: After a wonderful game against Werder Bremen, Cambiasso kinda went back to a being a bit of a ghost in the midfield. I’m back to not being happy with his inability to assert himself this season. 5.5
Stankovic: I thought that Deki continued his good play this game as he was tried to challenge Aquilani and Marchisio on the right. He also did his job keeping possession and feeding the ball ahead of him. 6.5
Biabiany: The short amount of time he was on the field before he picked up his knock didn’t really show anything other than an ability to outrun De Ceglie. Given more of a chance to play he may have done more… or not. 5.0
Sneijder: There are two ways that I think about Sneijder’s performance. First, he passed more than he tried to shoot, which I like. Second of all, he was unable to make the connections for a goal. Plus, if he didn’t go down so easily when Chiellini put his arm around his neck he might have picked up a penalty. All he had to do was try to move forward and show that he was being fouled. 5.5
Coutinho: Coutinho showed a lot of energy. When he builds his body up and fills out a little, it won’t be so easy for them to bump and knock him around so much. I still think that he sets up well with Sneijder and Eto’o. 6.5
Eto’o: Eto’o was the best player on the field over the entire game, again. He dribbled defensive players at will and he’s setting people up all over the place. He’s just not getting set up in return. When he receives the ball he’s been on the far left or too far back from the Juventus backline. Is it time for the 2 man front line? 8.0
Milito: Milito had 2 clear chances to put the ball in the net from inside the penalty area and he blew each time. It was a terrible performance from someone that I am growing a little impatient with. I have a feeling that we aren’t going to see a whole lot of goal scoring from Milito until after January. 5.0
Bonucci is lucky not to receive a second yellow for accumulation of professional fouls. He comes in late, often getting a foot or thigh several times and disrupts play without getting the ball.
Chivu could have had a second yellow on Krasic.
On a high 50-50 ball Quags makes no effort to challenge for the ball, backing into and catching Chivu in the “lower abdomen” to no call (this would later result in Chivu 2 footing Krasic in retaliation). Later, Eto’o does the same to Motta and is whistled. Either both of these are fouls or none of them are.
In the Juve area, Chiellini has his arm around Sneijder’s neck while the other arm is wrapped around his torso. Sneijder feeling contact goes down, all agree, “easily”. It’s likely a foul, but many, including me, think that Sneijder’s essentially falling down to draw attention to the contact gives the ref – who, if he’s clean, and doesn’t want to make a decision that changes the game - an out from calling it.
Unlike the last several games, Inter started the game attacking as several shots and through balls for Eto’o, Sneijder and Coutinho earns 5 corner kicks in the first 15 minutes. Coutinho was working very hard earning a yellow card for Bonucci after making a sweet move past him. Stankovic back heels Coutinho through again that result in 1 of the 5 corners. At just after the 21 minute mark, Juventus makes some forays into Inter territory as Krasic goes wide twice – once to the left and once to the right where Iaquinta misses the put in. Iaquinta puts one in while offsides and shocks me speechless as the actual rule is upheld. Biabiany is subbed out for Milito and Chivu is booked for impeding Krasic soon after. Krasic puts one more cross into the area after which the last 8 minutes or so of the half all belong to Inter, the highlight of this time is Milito missing from about 3 meters away and slightly to the right of the goal posts from an incredible cross from Eto’o. This half has only one minute of stoppages which feels a little light.
The second half starts to 2 substitutions – Motta for De Ceglie and Santon for Cordoba. The second half proves to be much more up and down as Sneijder and Coutinho earns corners and free kicks right from the off while Melo and Quags go wide from distance. 12 minutes after the break, Eto’o has a wonderful slalom through the Juve defense including a poor challenge from Bonucci that is again late and misses the ball but it ends in a deflected shot off Chiellini. Krasics has a much shorter slalom through our defense but is shot from an angle from the left. Looks a little off target but is saved anyway for a corner. Sneijder has a shot on goal that Storari can’t handle and wins another corner. Motta is booked for flipping Eto’o and Del Piero comes on for Iaquinta. Maicon heads an awesome cross without pressure right in front of goal almost to Storari’s lap missing another opportunity. Stankovic almost rolls his ankle on the ball allowing Quags to take the ball 30 meters to inside the penalty area where he shoots right at Cesar diving for the save on Juventus’ best effort on the night. Eto’o slaloms again from nearly midfield only to be denied again as the defense converge on him. Minutes after that Cambiasso plays a defense busting chip to Milito who traps the ball and shoots centimeters wide in a heartbreaking miss that everyone watching the game knew would have gone in only months earlier. Milito gets one more chance taking the ball deep into the penalty area only to shoot on too sharp an angle. Besides those noted all other Juve chances this half are from distance and not a worry for Cesar. Sissoko comes on for Aquilani 10 minutes from the whistle.
The problem, on the field, ladies and gents is pressure. We are supposed to have 2 holding midfielders between the attacking elements and our defense. They were nonexistent last night. If that was the only night in which there was a problem I would have to say it was Juve’s play that did us in. But this is a reoccurring theme this season. They are retreating too far back when the ball comes down the field. I yelled at my screen yesterday, “Enough! How far back can you go! Attack the ball! Attack the zone! PRESSURE!”
The gap is a result of the perception that the wings being too far up and the fullbacks attacking too. If everyone is covering in a disciplined fashion, there is more confidence. Ideally, one person sticks the ball, slowing play and everyone else runs back to fill lanes and mark men, if that’s their assignment. The problem this season is that no one is sticking (pressuring) the player advancing with the ball. Usually that job belongs to Cambiasso and it’s also something that Mariga showed he can do too. When that gap occurs, what happens is that the other team get passing lanes and time. Passing lanes can be policed – there only so much room – but time is, as they say, a bitch. The game is a function of time with the ball. We are in the pressure business, in many senses of the word.
Next, when Biabiany had to go off, I thought that Rafa could have gone in another direction – but I had no problem with the direction he went in. Eto’o was clearly giving the Juve defense problems. But if he had instead brought on Mariga instead of Milito, we could have had Coutinho (right footed shooting and passing, attacking the interior of the field) slightly behind and to the left of Eto’o, with Sneijder playmaking with Mariga, Deki and Cuchu filling in that gap. As I said, bringing in Milito was ultimately not harmful, but he’s not in good form yet. As close as he went, twice, last night it might be better to direct play so that it feeds Eto’o, who is clearly scaring teams.
Next, something that Rafa seems to be doing is making the emotional games, not so emotional. Mourinho did it too, but it’s hard for Mourinho to be as bombastic as he is and yet preach another day at the office. Rafa, I think is very much trying to get a more consistent emotional state. If he can do it, it’ll work out for us in the long run, beautifully. A strong emotion in a football player is great cinema, but it’s ultimately a short term and self destructive thing. I would prefer a confidence generated from knowing the plan, the role of one’s teammates and good form. I don’t think it’ll do us any good to win the charged games only to lose the games before it and after it because they are run of the mill.
Lastly, I was pleasantly surprised to see the young guys again in a high pressure game. I didn’t think that they did any worse than a lot of their older “mentors”. It was clearly a Vacation Is Coming Up game. The young guys were intense because they wanted to continue to feature. But the injuries were clearly starting to tell. We were already without 3 starters and Lucio had to work his tail off to make this game. We lost 2 more yesterday. The break is coming at just the right time for us.