We could say that playing in England did its usual mojo on us or we could whine that we have an injury crisis or we could point out that budgetary constraints limited our summer purchasing, but the simple fact of the matter is that we lost a game because we weren’t prepared and because we weren’t motivated.
There is a bright side to all this. It’s only one single game. The 24 Hour Rule is a comfort here, as all feelings of anger, disappointment and embarrassment are washed away in a single day. Unfortunately for me, it hasn’t been 24 hours yet…
I am not choosing My Inter Player of the Game, this game. There isn’t a single player on this team that I thought stepped up their game, played with grit and determination or imposed their will on this game in any sense. Considering the poor attitude and shit coaching I saw last night, I am just thankful that we didn’t lose by more than 2.
Castellazzi: Castellazzi will get off with a lighter sentence than the rest of the jokers on this team. I thought he was okay early on but he didn’t do anything spectacular – like make a save on what looked like could be a goal. He’s a steady player, but he was out of his depth yesterday. 5.0
Maicon: Once one of my favorite players on this team, it looks like he has allowed his bellyaching over the past few summers to finally affect his game. He looked pitiful out there and played with no heart. 2.5
Lucio: When you are the last line in defense it’s important that you not, repeat not, lose the ball while trying to dribble the entire opposition in your own half. Plus, having trouble marking Crouch on the goal is embarrassing. 5.0
Samuel: Probably the best defender we had on the field yesterday, he covered for “Chee-vuu” well on the right and actually made an interception or two. But he and Lucio made a mess of that first goal… plus, also having issues with Crouch is unforgivable. 5.5
Chee-vuu: There were times that he was able to stay with his man and limit what he was doing. He wasn’t as bad as Maicon was yesterday, but he needed to slow down the attack on the wing to buy time for help. It wouldn’t hurt to make a tackle either. 3.5
Muntari: I will give credit for Muntari running and acting like he gave a damn. I will also penalize him for making absolutely idiotic decisions once he won the ball. I love Muntari’s heart and even his crazy at times is needed, but not making simple passes to maintain possession and shooting from 40 meters instead of feeding Eto’o is just dumb. 4.0
Zanetti: Javier had a poor game. That sentence alone should tell you all you need to know about how poor the attitude and preparation was. 5.5
Biabiany: The kid puts in effort and he worked a nice one-two with Eto’o that left him all alone in front of goal with only the keeper in front of him. He blew it, big time. I knew that he was a striker trying to make a position change and learn new skills, but a striker 15 meters from goal with time to shoot and flaccidly chipping the ball with no strength right to the keeper is inexcusable. 3.0
Sneijder: Part of the Wes’s problems this season were manifested in this game. He has to come back to the midfield circle to get the ball and try to bring it up to Eto’o through an entire team, he looks tired at the whistle to start the game and he is trying too hard to make something happen when a simple pass will do it. Being the playmake for Eto’o should be the easiest job in the world… just pass it to Eto’o’s feet and let him terrorize the guy in front of him. By the way, his corners look like he’s kicking with cement shoes on – he needs a break or three. Playing him every game while he’s already out of gas is dumb. His free kick was the first sign of last seasons Wesley this season. 5.0
Pandev: The problem with injuries isn’t only that it keeps the player off the field and unavailable to put in a contribution, it’s that it takes game time for that player to recover form and while he’s playing out of form he takes away from the collective effort. This brings us to the ineffectiveness of Pandev last night. Pandev should help the team maintain possession in the attacking third, make nice passes to Eto’o or whoever the striker is and also be able to shoot. He did none of those things. 3.0
Eto’o: The best player we had on the field, scored when he was given the ball on his foot, with a nice pass that allowed him to face the defense and make a quick first move. Imagine if we could have made this happen more than once. It should be so simple to realize that Eto’o at this moment is the straw that stirs the drink. We aren’t going to win if we don’t realize this simple fact: Eto’o is good. Having said all that, even he looked like he wanted to be somewhere else tonight. 7.5
Nwankwo: The kid had to come on in a difficult situation and play a difficult role. I don’t know that he held his own. He needed Zanetti to help and cover for him. He didn’t exactly pass well and largely he was invisible. I don’t blame him too much for his poor game, but it was a poor showing in the Champions League game. 4.0
Coutinho: I thought that his substitution should have occurred at halftime or sooner. As it was, he was too little too late. He was shoved down a lot and once straight armed down to the ground in the penalty area while he was trying to run onto the ball, if he could have fought the shove better he might have either gotten to the ball or made the foul more visible. All that said, the team didn’t play noticeably better with his inclusion. 4.5
Milito: It was far too late into the game to include Milito if Benitez wanted to rescue the game. I don’t think that Milito would have made a difference on OUR score but including Milito and putting anything more than the paltry attempts at attack that we had been trying to mount all night long couldn’t have hurt to help take pressure off the defense. Milito surprised me though. He was called offsides and took two well timed and placed shots – one hitting the crossbar – almost immediately on arrival. Could this be a sign? Heaven knows we need one. 6.5
Watch at your peril.
No game changing issues with the refereeing. Eto'o was chopped in the throat while attacking with the ball on the Tottenham goal but playing in England against an English team... these types of things are going to happen.
I didn't think when I saw them, nor did anyone else that I have seen think that Sneijder or Coutinho should have had penalties when both were pushed down in the box. Sneijder went down easy and Coutinho is too small to get many of those calls.
I have been too busy lately to be up to date on the comments of the collective Inter support on this game, so I have no idea if I am ahead of the story or merely chasing it with the analysis. So if all of this has been already discussed, forgive the wordiness, please.
Losing this game made me immediately think of two other games, the Champions League Final against Bayern Munchen and the UEFA Super Cup against Atletico Madrid.
Bayern, like Atletico and Tottenham, is an unbalanced team that is forward heavy with a questionable/bad defensive line and plays a lot of its games attacking the outside to stretch defenses and make space in the middle, in front of the goal.
Anyway, on the back foot against Bayern for much of the game the two wings, Pandev and Eto’o, were playing on our own side of the halfway line lending the fullbacks help against two very good outside players. The team was very compressed and held its shape well – that is, the distance between the most advanced player and the furthest back defender was no more than 30 meters or so and it held the shape of the formation while in defense. Every one was able to help each other cover the zones and keep the ball mostly around the midfield line. We let the game come to us and when Bayern got too close, or made a mistake we attacked and pressured the hell out of it. When possession of the ball was taken the forward elements of the team – Pandev, Eto’o, Sneijder and Milito - broke for the Bayern’s goal launching 4 attackers against 4 defenders, a matchup that is every coach’s dream/nightmare. We win this game.
Against Atletico Madrid, we tried to chase Madrid’s players and we couldn’t keep up. They sent the ball wide and we chased it wide. The ball would come back into the middle and we were now out of position to deal with it effectively. Worse, we found ourselves running towards our own goal as we scrambled to chase the ball. We should have been waiting for the ball to come to us in a set defense with everyone moving forward to pressure the ball and surrounding players, forcing the other team to scramble to maintain possession and shape. As it was, we had no shape to our formation, the gaps between attack and defense were huge and we found ourselves reacting to the ball instead of knowing where to be for help and support. We lose this game.
We played Tottenham like we played Atletico – we scrambled to cover their attack with one or two players running to where the ball is coming from instead of waiting where we know the ball will be going and then pressuring it and the players. We didn’t attack the game at all, like we did in the first game. In the first game we attack with the whole team: Zanetti, Eto’o, Stankovic, Coutinho, Biabiany and Wesley all moving forward forcing THEM to react and scramble. The moment we stop forcing them to react to us, the moment we settle back to wait the game out, BANG!
Last night during the Liveblog, hosted by Kirby, I made the comment early in the match that we were playing too far back and trying to absorb pressure. We will not win that way if, like against Bayern, we don’t sell the whole team on playing back, compact, in good shape and counter attacking with numbers and speed. If we aren’t going to sell the whole team on playing a defensive game… then we can’t play a defensive game!
And this next part is the part that has finally turned my mind against Benitez. I have been sitting on the fence trying like hell to give this guy a fair shot. I have been waiting for something to happen that will give me a real reason to like/not like him other than: he’s not Mourinho. And yes, for me, Mourinho has both pluses and minuses.
Anyway, what has finally given me clarity is that I have identified in this game with Benitez everything that I don’t like about watching EPL or La Liga. He doesn’t understand the basics. Here are some of the basics we are not following:
1. Attacking football needs space. Allowing a huge gap in the middle of the field while scrambling back to defend is insane and moronic.
2. To defend, you need to restrict space. Asking two players to defend the back third of the field while *both* fullbacks attack and no midfielders switch back is suicidal.
3. You must pressure the ball, the opposing players and the net. Letting the opposing team attack with time on the ball and with impunity is disastrous. There must be the threat of attack keeping them back and the threat of pressure limiting the time that they have to make good decisions.
4. Chasing the ball is a waste of time. Adjust the team so that it knows where the ball is going and take it away. We made no adjustments from the first game on Bale – contrast that with Mourinho adjusting the team to confront Messi.
5. You must decide how many you need to defend before you can decide how many you need to attack. A 4231 formation in which the wingers don’t help on defense can’t work if you need more than 6 to defend.
6. The players decide the formation and style, not the manager. If you don’t have wingers, as in they are injured – than you can’t play with wingers. Switch to a formation that doesn’t use them.
7. The point of having a formation is to decide how you are going to attack or defend. If you use a formation that includes wingers… and then constantly attack up the middle then you, sir, are a moron. If your formation isn’t allowing you to defend effectively and as a consequence of that not letting you launch an effective attack… well, you get the idea, right?
8. Be bold. If there are players who are ineffective use a substitution and change them out. We waited too long to get Pandev and Biabiany out of the game.
9. Defense is a team effort.
Well, that was cathartic. That and it being nearly 24 hours is finally clearing my head a bit. Having said all that, we suffered worse humiliations than this one in the Champions League. Manchester United away, Anathorsis, Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen with Mourinho and getting screwed in both Liverpool games that one year come immediately to mind. I don’t know about the goal difference but we are still within a win of qualifying for the round of 16 and frankly that’s where we need to be at least, financially.
Next up we have Brescia and Lecce within a week and then Milan. We need to get healthy and win against the two promoted sides. They are essential wins if we want to challenge for anything this season. If we weren’t playing Milan I would say that game was expendable, but we all know it isn’t. As of right now, this is a crappy time to have a derby though. We need rest and health badly… is it a real crisis yet?