The club had apparently reached critical mass: poor table standing + too old vets not performing + too young players in house not trusted + uncertainly with what /how much talent is worth what on the books + not enough space for several in the starting 11 = KABOOM.
So here we are with 9 games left in a season that the club has basically admitted what we here at the Inter.theoffside.com knew a long time ago. This club needs an enema.
Were I the one running things in these last weeks and I didn’t have to deal with a president or a board of directors I would institute a 3 prong plan of change: 1. the take over of players in their prime 2. phasing out of certain vets 3. Try outs to see who is hungry enough to come back next season.
1. The Take Over of Players in Their Prime
Everyone should already know which players we need to know about right now: Ranocchia, Nagatomo, Pazzini and Poli. These are players on the team who are approaching their prime years and have now served at least more than 1 year in the top flight of Italian football. In other words they are well into their 20s, physically primed and mentally adjusted to Serie A. These are the players that should be receiving the bulk of playing time at their respective positions. If they can not crack the starting team then something has to be done with them, namely sell them on.
It’s this generation of player that this team is lacking so much. We seem to have players that just yesterday were embryos and others who are pensioners walking with stooped back and cane. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Poli is impressing while starting. He’s fit, trains with legends, in his prime and plays like an Italian in the Italian league. It’s really all there for him to be a big star with this team.
Ranocchia has been, at his young age, already dominant in the lower leagues of Italian football, there’s no reason why he can’t be a least a solid player for us. For a big man he has very decent effective range and I think he’s been very good in the air when allowed to play. He has problems when the coaches ask the fullbacks and the midfielders to abandon top and wide support from the central defenders and he is asked to defend space by himself without help. Otherwise, in a well organized set up, I think the just turned 24 year old is perfectly fine defender. We just haven’t seen well organized around here for a while, is what I think is a bigger problem.
Nagatomo has just recently completed one full year in an Inter shirt and the 25 year old has had, in my opinion more ups than downs. He’s definitely a threat going up field and I love his tenaciousness on defense. He could be a better passer and he could play better running towards our own goal mouth, where he tends to throw himself into desperate measures to block shots when keeping his feet might be the better option. But if you want me to compare him to the last three inhabitants of that position then it’s a no brainer for me. Yuto has been more consistently solid in all phases of playing fullback than Chivu, Santon and Maxwell.
Pazzini is a real head scratcher for me. When he came over from Sampdoria last season, he was wonderful. But he had Eto’o, Motta, Maicon and Sneijder popping balls into the area for him to just touch into the net. This season he has had Maicon and that’s just about it with Eto’o leaving before the season started, Wes’s injury problems and Motta gone at midseason. If Pazzini is so reliant on others getting him the ball that he cannot create the smallest piece of space to shoot from…
I don’t question his shooting. I don’t question his desire. I don’t question his priorities. But if he needs all that service and he’s not getting it, then we might be better off with someone who can do a little bit of heavy lifting for himself.
I like Pazzini and the way he, historically, can score from out of nowhere. But a forward has to score. That’s his job. It’s an important job, but compared to the rest of the parts of the team on the field, he’s got the least amount of chainsaws being juggled, you know?
With the possible exception of Nagatomo this season, these players who are in their prime years have been kept out of the starting lineup or limited in playing time when these are the very players that should be getting more playing time. If Ranocchia has been a disappointment early this season, then sitting him on the bench for Lucio isn’t going to make him a better prospect at the end or next season. Ranocchia is here to stay for a while. The team paid a lot for him at a time when they aren’t paying a lot for anyone. He’s going to be here a while and benching him makes no sense, especially considering how bad the team was this season.
Same with Poli, whose exclusion from the first team was the most puzzling to me. He was available for games early in December. The team needed to know if he was worth keeping as soon as possible, soooooooo we sit on our hands almost 3 more full months before letting the boy play more than 60 minutes in a league game in March. Honestly, the boy plays less than 35 minutes 4 times in that stretch and only once in the Coppa Italia. Why? What was the benefit to keeping a player in his prime who plays like a pitbull OFF the field? As a coach, if I had that kind of player I would be hooking up Redbull to him intravenously to keep him ON the field.
Maybe I am just not meant to understand somehow.
2. Phasing out of Certain Vets
This has already started happening, slightly. Cambiasso has been given more rest, incredibly. I recall on these very web pages suggesting that Cambiasso get a rest long before it happening. This isn’t necessarily bragging, but it’s much more amazement. I never thought it would have happened. Cambiasso was untouchable for, what, 5 years now? It’s shocking that the club culture has changed to the point where we can actually talk about Cambiasso needing to take a seat for a young guy – or two - to come on the field and do his job. I don’t think that Cambiasso is done with the club. I think that he’s an excellent player still – just one that needs more recovery time between long stretches of play. However, if he continues the poor form he showed this season into next… I don’t see there being a lot of patience with the Oldies anymore. This season has too sour a taste for everyone.
Cordoba has started 1 single game this season – an incredible loss to Novara in February, I might add. In fact, I might go further to suggest that every time Cordoba has seen the field this season, the result was a loss for Inter. I don’t know if there is a larger billboard I could possibly rent to prove a point then that. Cordoba even being on the team at this point is either a bit of a joke or a highly respectful nod of the head to his long service. If he comes back next season as anything other than a coach expect a lot of swearing in the upcoming posts.
Lucio has led this team… has led the world in intercepted passes for something like 4 years straight. When he came to us he had excellent games with the occasional blackout that led to occasional difficulty. However, his game now is several blackouts with the occasional good play. At his age in the defense his reaction time and recovery time is severally hampered. In practical terms, it takes him too long to react to what’s going on and when he’s called into action it takes him too long to be ready for the next action. He still has speed and he is still one tough motherfucker. But like Matrix, everyone can tell that he’s done and he’s now a target in the back. Other teams prefer to attack his space because they know he won’t go with the runner and that he will bite – late, unfortunately - on a ball forward rather than settle back to defend his space.
There are a lot of rumors regarding Lucio for next season. He has a contract already for the next year and one source is saying that he plans to be back. Another source has him leaving for Brazil for more playing time since there will be younger players cutting into the defense for next season –Ranocchia, Juan Jesus and Caldirola are all considered to be at summer training. With the team’s belated but now insistant youth movement it’s highly unlikely that BOTH Walter Samuel and Lucio will see a whole lot of time although EITHER Walter Samuel or Lucio will see quite a bit.
I can’t see the team keeping both Julio Cesar and Maicon. And here’s why: Both of these players can still command a fee to the right party, this team will need to make some sales to pay for the renovation and both these players will be well into their 30s for next season. Personally, I think it’s going to be JC who is going to be gone. There is still only one Maicon in the world today but Inter currently has 5 goalkeepers on the books who will start to logjam for playing space (for the record: Cesar, Viviano, Belec, Bardi, DiGennarro). However, if I were to play devils advocate to myself I would point out that Maicon has a contract that will expire the season after next – so the team would sell next season to avoid letting Maicon to go for free.
I think that we all know that I think that Deki’s continued presence on the team is just a shame. I think that Strama will continue the tradition of a new coach playing Deki because… who else has he got who can play as a link between the midfield and the attack? Mourinho did it. Leonardo did it. Gasperini did it, I think and Ranieri did it. To think that Strama wouldn’t is crazy. Equally crazy, however is how I’ll act if I continue to see Stankovic on this team next season. Honestly I thought that he was gone when Mourinho first came on board. If he’s around next season, I am officially calling him Cockroach Boy.
For the record here’s the contract situation for all those mentioned in this section: Cambiasso 4 million 2014
Cordoba 3 million 2012
Lucio 3 million 2014
Samuel 3 million 2012 – I don’t recall if he’s officially renewed yet.
Maicon 4 million 2013
Cesar 4.5 million 2014
Off the books according to latest rumor at the stroke of July:
Cordoba 3 million 2012
Orlandoni .2 million 2012
Castellazzi 1 million 2012
Chivu 3.5 million 2012
Motta 3.5 million 2013 – I know he was sold in Jan, this is to see the contract recovered.
Muntari 2 million 2012
Players who will be in their last year of contract starting this summer transfer period:
Maicon 4 million 2013
Zanetti 3 million 2013
Forlan 3.5 million 2013
This is going to be the smallest section because I think that we all know what’s at stake for these players who have any dream to stay with us for another season. These are the players that I think will need to step it up a notch in order to come back to the team with open arms.
I wrote this at least once before, so forgive me for repeating myself yet again but if there was a better opportunity for Guarin to prove that he’s ready for the step up from Porto to Inter, now’s the time boyo. I don’t expect to be super impressed by someone who has been on the self for basically a year now, but I want to see something, anything. Give me something that I can look at and say, we need this. That’s all I want. Is that too much to ask for?
Obi has earned to right to at least come back to the team and fight for a spot, I think. In the first half of the season he impressed me with his desire and athleticism. In the second half of the season he impressed me by not giving up on any of that desire or athleticism despite his being taken off the squad for long stretches and I think he’s gotten a little better in the other things like technical ability and willingness to play a part in an overall plan instead of just going out in a whir of arms and legs. But we shall see. I bet he gets more chances in these next few games. If he rises to the challenge than I will be doubly happy to know that’s one more player we won’t have to go out and buy.
Strama is going to play a lot of pressing. Many of the coaches that Moratti is looking at replacing Strama if he does indeed replace Strama will play pressing football. The question is whether Zanetti can play pressing football at nearly 40? I know that Zanetti will be back next season. But will he play? Will he be a part time hero?
Branca has come under incredible scrutiny this season. He needs to pull off a miracle this summer. Building the team that had the qualities Mourinho wanted without paying the exorbitant prices for the specific players that Mourinho suggested was brilliant. Trending salaries downward for new signings these last 3 years was very good work. Rejuvenating the squad has been a disaster, obviously. The young guys that Branca brought in the past year have been promising, but the vets brought in that the team relied on for the early going were unbelievably terrible. So in the ever shortening memory of the supporters, Branca needs to hit on several player signings and somehow meet the restrictions of the board and president. It’s not an easy place to be, between a rock and a hard place, but if he did his job right last summer getting Poli, Guarin and Juan plus any player that he hits on this summer, I wonder if anyone will heap an amount of praise on Branca equal to the bile he had to wash off this year.
Personally I think that his body of work has been largely good, in terms of getting players for relatively moderate amounts of cash up front. But negotiating big deals is perhaps something of a challenge for him. He’s got almost a completely different staff for the upcoming summer, including a talent evaluator from Udinese so that younger players might be found earlier and brought up into the system a la Udine. It’s an interesting thought, but there is more to being like Udinese than finding boatloads of youngsters from South America and hoping you hit one or two per year. You also have to be able find experience for young people in competitive leagues or jettison all the crap players who are now on your payroll and won’t see the light of day. I don’t envy Branca his new workload. But I hope for the team’s sake that he’s up for it.