On Saturday, Inter concluded a 6 day 3 game period in which the team won 2 and lost 1 – their second loss of the new year/season. Most importantly, Inter stay in 3rd with 2nd in striking distance assuming the form holds. For a team the size of Inter, Champions League money is extremely important so achieving direct entry into the group stage is incredibly vital.
Cesar: I thought Cesar had himself a very good game making a few finger tip saves on those very good shots that managed to squeak past the improving Ranocchia and the amazingly fast Nagatomo. Cesar made no mistakes and kept the clean sheet – set pieces notwithstanding. 7.0
Maicon: Without Sneijder in the field directing traffic and no one really sure about Nagatomo yet; control of the offence went through Motta and Maicon. For his part, Maicon did the job of putting crosses on Pazzini’s head. He also played very decent defense. Maicon gets docked a half point for getting a stupid caution. 6.0
Ranocchia: The new Golden Boy of Milano, Ranocchia got praise heaped on praise on his two performances from Wednesday and Saturday. On Saturday he showed that he can have excellent positional sense, toughness putting his head in danger despite getting beaned twice and coolness in a crisis as he always got to the ball while in a slog in front of the goalmouth where I am sure Cesar was having kittens at times. 8.0
Cordoba: IRC had a solid game but he is continuously getting overshadowed by his calmer, more collected partner. Actually, during the game I was thinking that the two of them were forming quite a team during Lucio’s absence. 6.0
Nagatomo: I was incredibly impressed by Nagatomo despite him giving me at least one coronary – you know what I am talking about, I don’t even have to describe it. In what is sure to be a point of discussion, based on his play on Saturday, Nagatomo could be a big contributor for this team next season when I am sure that we will pay his ridiculously cheap transfer fee of some 6 million €. Even if he only starts 20 games next season, it’ll be worth it. 7.5
Zanetti: I don’t know what to say here. He’s Javier Fucking Zanetti. He’s the most consistent player – despite playing in any of 3 different positions sometimes in one game - in Serie A, he’s 37 and he’s the effing captain for a good godsdam reason. Enough said, yeah? 6.5
Motta: People who don’t understand what Motta means to this team really need to watch this game. With Sneijder out, resting, Motta orchestrated the ball from left to right using his very good vision to put other players in a position to do their thing. And he also can lay a lick on you. Sweet. Like Cambiasso at midweek, he put enough pressure on the Cagliari defense to draw a penalty worthy tackle. 6.5
Kharja: Kharja might not be THE answer for us in the biggest of games. I don’t really know. I don’t have a large sample of his work yet. Maybe he’s just a slightly better than average midfielder who is as good passing as he is tackling and comes with enough athleticism to be effective in a very wide area. Maybe he’s much more effective playing against the other 12 to 14 teams in Serie A that we play twice every year other than the very best of the best. I’ll take it. 7.5
Pandev: I thought Pandev came out of the gate shooting and swinging and I was happy to see that Goran, who I always thought could be very effective in certain situations. Then the 2nd half started. Pandev’s battery life seems to be about 60 minutes or so and he loses progressive effectiveness as we get closer to that 60 minute mark. After those 60 minutes, anything we get is gravy. 6.0
Eto’o: No one should be surprised that our goal came through the quick feet and mind of Eto’o. It was the type of thing that I remember Roma under Spalletti pulling a couple of times. It’s hard to rate Eto’o because he had a decent game, but he looks so obviously tired that its hard not to sympathize. 6.5
Pazzini: Pazzini is impressing me week in and out with his ability and eagerness to be the striker that the team needs on any given match day. On Saturday he moved a lot and held up the ball a lot. He was rewarded for his efforts with a beautiful cross from Maicon that hit him right on the melon and if it went in it would have been studly. I’ll give him a half point for effort and being the only attacker we have that can use his head as anything other than a place to hold his teeth. 7.0
Cagliari put up a good fight on Saturday for about 70, 75 minutes but Inter’s bench in the second half really took its toll. As hard as Cagliari was fighting for that equalizing goal, being able to substitute Motta for Cambiasso and Kharja for Mariga had to be demoralizing. Cambiasso and Mariga came and ran all over the place to hound and hinder the Cagliari players with new energy. After putting so much effort into getting that goal and working so hard all game, I would be extremely disheartened if the other team subbed in not one, but two very good players who are essentially lungs with cleats to chase me all over the place.
The moviola usually comes out on Mondays but I’ll get the controversy out of the way here. Yes, Ranocchia was offsides. It looks very close, but in slow motion the evidence is plain to see. It’s a shame that it has to happen that way and I am thankful that we haven’t had any of these in a long time. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know how that linesman would have seen that offsides through the press, though that’s no excuse. There were a ton of bodies in his way, but this sort of thing still burns my biscuits. I hate it when it happens against us and I hate it even more when it’s for us. As a former defensive player for a long time, I would rather we draw than score from an offsides. On the other hand, it looks like we could have had a penalty very early on that wasn’t given. I don’t know if the two cancel each other, or what, but I would have rather gotten what we should have gotten and not gotten the wrongly called goal. The end result is the same, yes, but the noise and frustration in my head is a lot less. I get the feeling that I am preaching to the choir here and that makes me thankful considering the alternative amongst other supporters of other teams. The ends just don’t justify the means for me.
The Winter Signings continue to impress. Ranocchia behaves more and more like a canny vet who is used to the pressure of being in a pressure situation like being at Inter. Considering their closeness in age, transfer fee and former professional partnership FrogBoy will forever be compared to Bonucci. Without going into which I think is better – they both will be playing for a long time before that’ll be definitive – I will say that Ranocchia has fit in incredibly well to the raised expectations of Inter. I am sure that Bonucci could fit in as well, but just I don’t have any evidence of that. On Saturday, Ranocchia just seemed like a presence in the back. As when an obviously strong personality draws all eyes when walking into a room, you just were magnetically aware of his presence. Even more amazing is that I am racking my brain for a memory of him not reaching a ball he had set his mind to getting yesterday. Cagliari is a midtable team, but they fought hard for points on Saturday and Ranocchia was definitely the rallying point of the defense.
Kharja also impressed me. He impressed me during the shortish amount of time he spent on the field during the Fiorentina game as well. The announcers – I had trouble getting a decent stream on Saturday – in several languages were always calling his name and sometimes I could decipher them praising him a lot. As I said before, he has a large range of effectiveness and is especially useful when he’s allowed to play. I think that a major problem with him in the Juve game was that he was asked to stay put a lot and that frustrated his natural tendency to hare off and go up and down the field. Unfortunately for him, in Italy tightly and cautiously is how everyone plays big games.
Pazzini is just a very good player and that’s all there is to say. Everyone saw it when he was at Fiorentina and everyone was surprised that he wasn’t able to play in Prandelli’s pretty open system. When he was shipped to Sampdoria, everyone saw how good he can be with some nice service and he’s showing this again here at Inter. He’s been decisive in every game he’s played in except 2 for Inter and he’s buying us some time until we can figure out what the hell is going on with Milito. I thought he was going to score off that header from Maicon and there was a point when he received and controlled a very tough pass right in the middle of the area and he turned and was denied the ball at the very last nanosecond. He and I had the very same look of people watching the internal movie in their head that showed that ball going in and shock that reality just didn’t comply on our faces. We knew how close he had come to making this game a closed subject.
Nagatomo impressed me most of all on Saturday. Cagliari really made the home game a much tougher affair than I had anticipated. This tough game was the proving ground for Nagatomo’s first full 90 in an Inter shirt at the always shoe-into-TV level of frustration left fullback spot. And he handled it really well. The first half had it’s moments but I will not forget the Cagliari forward who had Cesar dead to rights right at the 6 meter box getting ready to send his team to heaven when the smallest player on the field – and that’s saying something with Cordoba flying around out there – appeared out of nowhere to block the ball and save our collectively puckering buttholes from the fire. His speed is impressive to say the least, but the thing that gets me is that there isn’t a place on the field that he won’t try to get to help the team – going forward or backward. And let’s face it. As a fullback at Inter he doesn’t have to be lights out the best defender. First of all if he was an incredible defender he would be in the center. Second of all this team relies on the fullback to be the sole wide option in the 4312 formation – a formation that is notorious for it’s inherent weakness at the flanks – which is where everyone always attacks us, if you haven’t noticed. If we can be decent on defensively on the left flank while also providing the long sought after attacking balance to Maicon’s marauding on the right, it’s possible that we might have more consistency and stability in what will prove to be the very difficult days ahead in Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia.
The MIPOG is going to Nagatomo for his excellent debut and continued hard work for the team. This might not be a really popular decision but I really believe that he was under an incredible amount of pressure and he came out of it with a fine effort at a really hard position to play. Consider how much pressure he was under to perform well and impress Leonardo plus the staff enough to play him again. I like the effort and the attacking ability he brings, sure, but really it’s the whole package – the attacking, the defending and the nice range of effectiveness that he had on Saturday. And it to came from the left fullback area where we have had so much trouble these past few years… Its gravy baby. It’s like gravy on Thanksgiving.