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Commence Year 0.5

With the draw to Genoa to end Part 1 of Season Zero there is time to rest, recuperate and review the previous 18 rounds.

Claudio Villa

On this very website I think that everyone agreed that we were in for an up and down inconsistent ride and in looking back, that’s exactly what we got. My personal hope was that the team would reach this point in the season and have something to play for – and I think that we have mission accomplished. Last season at this time, I had already despaired of third place. So progress is always a positive, in my book.

I had also hoped that the team would play younger on the field, and there I have to say is a mixed grade. On the one hand Handanovic, Ranocchia, Juan, Guarin, Cassano and Palacio are younger – in many cases significantly - than the players that they replace; Cesar, Lucio, Chivu, Stankovic and Forlan. On the other hand Samuel, Zanetti and Cambiasso are still out there almost every league game. I am almost okay with Cambiasso and Samuel being out there since they are often working in a group – 3 defenders or 3 midfielders – and they are the oldest/leaders in a recently formed group. But, true to my wishes from last season, I would still rather see Zanetti take on a utility role from the bench. Instead of his age working against us, we could have his amazing versatility and experience work as an advantage – come in late to a game and provide some safety to a younger player who isn’t having the best game, you know? I guess part of being a great player is never giving up.

Anyhoo, with such a weird gang of players - some new, some old, some brought up from the youth team, some brought in on loan to shore up an emergency area – I will continue to give my confidence to Stramaccioni for forging a very competitive team. I would have totally taken tied for third in the league with a double digit goal differential and still in every competition at this point if you would have offered it to me in the beginning of August. I am not particularly thrilled, now that we are in this position, at how far back we are from the leaders - 9, but I am totally satisfied with how far back we are from second – 1. So Strama, at this point is still totally okay with me. I think that he’s bought himself time with the upper management as well. Consider this, starting at when Moratti was declared president, how many times has the coach of Inter in August and the coach of Inter when the season recommences in January of the same season is the same guy… Considering that fact, Strama deserves high praise.

Despite my concluding for myself that the first half of the 2012-2013 was something of a success for this team, I foresee, nay, welcome great change on the horizon known as the Winter Transfer Window.

MAD’s Inter Prognostications

I usually hate doing this sort of thing, because ultimately it boils down to one thing; Get More Expensive/Trendy Players. But this isn’t going to happen. Players who are hot right now are going to be at a premium and that price tag isn’t what this team is going to do. This team is going to find older players as bargains to be immediate back ups and young players before they hit the big time, as with Juan and Guarin.

Prediction 1 – Inter is going to use this winter to shore up the Primavera with prospects that they think are going to help the Senior team in a short while. They did it with Longo in the summer of 2011 and Livaja last winter. They did it with Patrick Olsen this summer. They are going to do it with Knudsen this winter. Knudsen considers himself to be an action, box to box guy. Olsen is considered more of a passer. All of these guys are in that transition phase of youth team to senior team. It’s going to be a couple two or three seasons before they are considered first teamers or duds. Names to be aware of: Riccardo Saponara, Mikkel Jansen, Viktor and Luimes Nielsen, and Gino Peruzzi.

Prediction 2 – Sneijder is going to leave Inter this winter for a team in England or Germany. Not much of a stretch, I know. These are the only two countries that have multiple teams who could afford his salary. Spain has Real and Barca of course, but Real already had him and let him go for a bargain and Barca won’t touch him. Sneijder has said flat out that he won’t go to Russia. So we are left with English teams and German teams. England has ManCity and Man U, both with stupid amounts of money. There are rumblings that Liverpool are trying to steal a march on Man U to get a cheaper, early bird in the hand kind of deal – if I can mix my metaphors a bit. Even if he goes, I don’t see a real change in the Inter strategy this winter, just because no one sells too much at this time. Lower teams who are fighting relegation won’t sell their good players because they don’t get any selection for replacements and therefore salvation. The only players available right now are the discontented and the cash strapped. Personally, I would like to see Inter raid Cagliari – who are rumored to be in dire financial troubles and Pescara – who might be willing to sell parts of players if they are convinced that they are going down and are going to grab every cent that they can.

Prediction 3 – Inter is going to send out several players thought to be substitute material this season out on loan. Inter is doing much better in the table than most, including the management, predicted at the beginning. For this reason, youngsters will be sent out rather than given space. If this were to be a lost season, than it would make sense to play out the younguns. But since Inter has chosen late to fight, then it makes sense that the best 11 continue on the field and the youngsters use the rest of Serie A and B as their training ground. I predict that Romano and Livaja are two of those considered for loan – Livaja is heavily rumored to be going to another Serie A team. I honestly can’t decide if Duncan will go out or not.

Prediction 4 – Longo is going to stay with Inter for the rest of the season. Inter tried to go back to the well that gave us a better, more confident Coutinho, but it won’t work. So it looks to me like Longo will stay with the senior group and probably be in the Cassano, Coutinho and Palacio grouping of forwards.

Prediction 5 – I predict that before this season is over, there will be another formation shift. It is my opinion that before this season started it was in Strama’s head to play a 4231/433/451 Mourinho kind of hybrid but necessity and personnel rather compelled him to change boats midstream. I think that a return to this idea or something more like a 352 is on the horizon, rather than the 343 that we have been working with.

Prediction 6 – If Inter buy players this winter, than at least one (1) of them will be a wide player that is considered more of a midfielder/defender/wingback type in the Pereira mold. I couldn’t tell you which player Inter might be buying, if they buy, but I have the very definite feeling that Strama wants to fortify the wide spaces… maybe to cover Jonathan leaving? Maybe it’s to prepare the come back to the 4231 formation? Maybe it’s to exploit a weakness in the many Italian teams who prefer to ignore the wide spaces. Either way, Strama is a coach who likes to move the ball wide when bringing it up field and it’s to his benefit if those players are better than just decent.

Prediction 7 – Mariga will leave this team, which I think is a shame. I liked his range and his bravery. But we have lots of those players now. We could use a more cultured foot here or there. So, while no one else probably cares, I’ll be sorry to see him go.

Prediction 8 – Sneijder’s leaving will not end the contract melt down that we saw starting in June with Lucio. Remember, everyone thought that Inter were crazy to let him go for free so that Juventus could pick him up? Or Cesar? There were even people questioning Forlan’s leaving! I don’t know if it’s the nature of the Fan Beast or what, but those players weren’t playing well, consistently. It was time. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the sentiment attached to those players, but sentiment is by its very nature attached to the past. Milito will be the next one. I think that Cambiasso will change his engagement, but I think that Milito has played his last full season in Black and Blue. With those three either leaving or changing their contracts will be the end of The Great Payroll Explosion.

Prediction 9 – I don’t know who will be leaving Inter or who specifically will be coming in, but I do know that there has never been a better time for a player to exercise his right to let his contract lie fallow. Inter are hot on the trail of Porto midfielder Fernando – who I have never seen play and won’t renew with Porto – and Hugo Campagnaro. Andreolli is another vet of Serie A whose contract ends in June – and therefore available to negotiate now. I have no problem with any/all of these players joining Inter for free with a short contract on relatively little money. Fernando would need to prove ala Guarin that he’s worth the investment.

Prediction 10 – Right now the news is all abuzz about the vice-Milito, but I am much more concerned with Milito and the post-Milito. Milito, like last season is having a very meh first part of the season. Last season he bounced back with a very nice run of games, but I have no faith that he’ll continue that pattern. It is my contention that he’s gone this up coming summer and his replacement will need to be named. If you got tired of the “vice-Milito” saga, buckle up. The “post – Milito” saga hasn’t even started yet…

Moving on

Expect near daily posts from me this week coming up as the Winter Market starts and I am going to look at different aspects of the team in anticipation of the season starting up again.