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Lecce 1 - Inter 1; Yeah! Who's Ready For a Derby... errr...

Italy Soccer Serie A
We all knew that this day was going to come. We all knew that the fun ride was going to end sometime. I haven't lost hope, but not beating Lecce is a serious downer, man.

Forget about a Inter Player of the Game. When you're the only treble winning team in Italian history and then you can't beat either of two just promoted teams, you don't have dreams of Scudetti. End of.


Castellazzi: I blame 90% of the Lecce goal on Castellazzi. Oliviera headed in from about 3 meters from the end line. Where was the goalkeeper? He was on his line when 2 steps forward and a hop would have snatched the corner. Otherwise he did meh. 4.0

Santon: I didn’t like a lot of Santon’s game today. He lost some passes. He had a hard time with… who was out there again for Lecce? Mesbah? Was beaten badly when he lost De Michele… That’s right De Michele. On the plus side, I swear I saw him and Coutinho exchange some passes for the first time this season. 4.5

Lucio: The rock of the back line, Lucio was a superman in the back. I didn’t see where he was on the corner kick. 7.0

Cordoba: Cordoba played solid all night but was at a physical disadvantage against Ofere. 6.0

Chivu: More of the same from Chivu. Solid and not spectacular at best, a complete disaster when at his worst out there. It also looked like Olivera was his marker. 4.0

Zanetti: As much as I worship the man, I didn’t think much of Zanetti’s performance today. Has the Tireless Tractor finally hit the wall? Is it time for the unthinkable – a temporary seat on the bench? 5.5

Obi: Obi for three fourths of the game was a horse in the midfield running and breaking up attacks. At the end, say the last 10 minutes he was on the field he was dead tired and gratefully subbed off at 84 minutes. 6.0

Coutinho: He did a reasonable impression of Wesley today. The kid is young and there are flashes… but it’s just not really coming together for him yet. And he’s getting bounced off the ball really easily. He either needs to sink his hips to anchor himself more, or he needs to be quicker with his mind and his feet to avoid pressure. 5.0

Pandev: Pandev missed an incredible chance right in front of the goal at 11 minutes and disappeared for the last 20 minutes of the first half. His substitution at halftime was probably 10 minutes too late. 3.0

Biabiany: Jonny was well subbed at 55ish minutes for Stankovich, but he was the perfect choice to play against the high defensive line that Lecce used. If other things were different, as I want to discuss later, he showed at times how to use his speed properly. He gave a gift of a ball to Pandev at 11 minutes that was saved by a miracle. Took a shot himself at 12 minutes but it was saved. He was largely invisible afterward. 4.0

Eto’o: Eto;o had so many chances it’s a little worrisome that he couldn’t put one in… including one that he sent over the net from what looked like a meter away. I know it was an awkward ball and I could see him try to stroke it in, instead of just letting it bounce off him… *sigh*. But allow me to paraphrase myself from the Brescia game – just get the thing on net. If the keeper saves it then shucks, but it has no chance at all if it’s not on net. Otherwise, he was the most technical, precise and commanding player on the field. 7.0



I am not going to wait the day that the moviolas usually take. There weren’t any egregiously bad calls in this one, just the usual odd wrong throw in/corner stuff.


Total disclosure is that I caught the game, but wasn’t in a position to read or keep up with the Live Blog. So I will be especially interested if I hit a nerve or if the collective saw something completely different then I did. Right, on to the fun.

Okay first the good, that’s right, stay positive.

Obi looks like he could play a bit as a defensive midfielder. There are no guarantees in this business – especially for non-goal scoring defensive midfielders - but imagining a future that includes Cambiasso, Mariga and Obi as defensive midfielders on the field at the same time excites a sick little part of me that revels in chaos, anarchy and aggression.

Okay, it’s a big part of me…

And it’s not like I think that he’ll ever be a star or something. It’s just that he looks like that as a young bench player, if called upon, he can go on the field and do what the hell the manager asks him to do. Unlike, for example, Mancini who went out there today and just confirmed everyone’s opinion of him.

Usefulness is underrated.

Starting Deki and Milito on the bench in a fit of common sense. Finally.

We created chances. Pandev had a good one. Eto’o had two. Stankovic had at least one that went off the corner of his head. Milito hit the post. Again. Biabiany had one. We made chances. We sprayed them all over the stadium… but we made them.

Here’s a big positive, as of this writing there were no injuries reported as a result of this game. Knocking on wood. Thowing salt. Dancing the Ooobah Ooobah dance. Crossing fingers. Saying, “No backsies!” Hands over ears, shouting, “LA LA LA!” Etc., etc.

Annnnnnnnd here’s the big negative to this game – Benitez is a freaking tactical moron. Here’s why: Lecce compressed the midfield into oblivion by pushing up with their back line and playing the offside trap making the playing space between their backline and Inter’s backline about 20 - 40 meters. In other words, they made the playing field a very small space.

Lecce’s strategy, having dictated the terms of the engagement – another no no for Benitez – then decided to line up attackers on the back shoulder of our defenders and made us play them 1v1… you know, what we should have done with a speed demon like Jonny and a fast guy like Eto’o…

Instead, we tried to pass through the midfield. And we don’t have the players to try to pass through the midfield when it’s so compressed. If we were Barcelona, sure we can pass through the midfield of 17 players all playing shoulder to ass.

Actually in games like this is the only time that I miss Ibra… When he decides to show up, Ibra can make you play very direct and that’s what we needed to do today. All the passing back when it looked like we might break just appeared to give Lecce more time to get back and get themselves situated. With our attacking problems, that’s the last thing we needed.

Next Up

Well, most of you who comment regularly can rest easy. It looks like Benitez is trying to get Cesar, Wesley and Cuchu back for the Derby. I bet that’s going to work out well, taking players who have had a long layoff, whose muscles aren’t at their peak yet and then throw them into a highly stressful situation where I am sure they will try to do something that they aren’t ready to do yet, push too hard and get injured again minutes into the game. No worries, yeah?

One of my favorite players of all time is Nicola Berti, one of the great goofy eccentrics of football, who hated Milan so much he was practically spitting blood and peeing vinegar every derby he was so worked up. Anyway, I love that guy for his hatred and passion but even I see that there is a greater good here. We will be killing ourselves and the first half of the season if we go balls out for this.

PS I am going on record here and say that Milan gets a penalty in the game this weekend.


Mark my words. Beware the Ides of November, Julio Cesar…