First and foremost I have been talking a lot about the referees negatively these last few articles and I would like to say that yesterday’s game was very well managed. Players that went down too easy were told to get the hell up and players who were playing too on the edge were warned to smarten up or get cautioned. And everyone was more or less treated with the same hand. So, it was a job well done for that game. It only takes us until April for these guys to figure out how to manage people in an athletic contest fairly without micromanaging it and in a way that keeps the game moving.
Inter’s goal was a beauty that reminded me of the first goal against
Roma’s first goal was a counter that saw 3 glaring mistakes in a row from the old guard. The ball gets passed from the Roma half to the center circle and there are 4 Roma players in the area moving forward. There are 6 Inter players in 3 layers who are moving with them. I am mentioning this because there are those who suggest that the coach is getting out classed tactically. This goal against won’t be the result of a tactical mistake but a personnel one. The Inter players and their situations are as follows. Kovacic is in the top layer following the play as the initial pass went by him but it’s his zone and he’s running to help. The second layer is Zanetti and Juan. Zanetti had pinched in to cover Kovacic having gone forward. Juan is pinched in from having made a forward run as a fullback. They each are running with a Roma player. The third layer is from right to left – and left is where the goal is going to come from – Jonathan, Ranocchia and Walter Samuel. Between them and the second layer there is a Roma player. The fourth Roma player is outside left of Walter Samuel.
If one wanted some foreshadowing, look at this comment at around halftime 10-15 minutes or so before the goal is scored:
Still not closing on the ball in front of the goal.
Hit play on the recording and the pass from the Roma end hits the guy that Zanetti is running with. Zanetti falls down tangling his legs with the guy he’s running with. You can see Javier raise his hands to indicate that he’s not going in for the tackle or a foul. What he should have done is knock the guy on his ass to stop the counter. He had 3 guys in front of him so there would not have been a red for last man. He definitely would have gotten a yellow. But that’s okay. The time when he fell trying desperately not to touch the Roma player was 54:44. I am sure that he’s played a half hour with a yellow before in his 17 years on this team...
So Zanetti doesn’t do his duty and instead falls on the ground. The Roma player with the ball – who is about 30 meters away directly in front of the Inter goal mouth - has, from the Inter perspective of course, a guy to his immediate left and a guy in front of him making a nice passing triangle and a runner on the far left. He makes the though pass to the guy on the far left between Ranocchia and Samuel with the ball going towards Samuel. Samuel, having not been in line with the others, or indeed been aware that there was someone behind him gets beaten for pace by the younger faster player who has a nice 1v1 finish to the combination of passes.
What’s my point in reliving this, you might be asking? Here it is. I will guarantee you a hundred dollars to a donut that Strama in training is NOT telling the troops, “I know that for the last year plus I have been trying to get you maggots to play a higher, more active pressing game, but whatever you do, don’t press the guy with the ball 30 meters away and closing awfully quickly on the very center of our goal with three runners to support him! That’s right! Just to repeat something that sounds completely stupid, that guy you don’t press! Also, make sure you don’t stop him by any means necessary, even sacrificing a caution, because it really doesn’t matter if we leak goals!” So I looked at the goal, and my suspicions are confirmed. This goal, which gave Roma life and momentum, isn’t the coach’s fault. There are players who are on the team being forced to play for whatever reason without the quality and/or ruthlessness/hunger to be effective. I will settle for one or the other. But to have neither is just madding.
And this is my frustration. The coach will get changed. Of that I have no doubt, but that alone won’t change anything about what’s wrong with the team right now. My opinion is that the problem is the quality and the depth of this team. And to fight the dearth of depth, the most cost effective ways to do that is with the players from the extensive youth program that already exists and is profitable in several ways for the club. This means that more young players need to get on the field early on in the season when there isn’t a crisis so that when there is they are ready to come in, but there is an incredible lack of patience by the supporters and the media and it’s unclear to me if the upper levels of the team are committed to this course of action.
If Moratti truly believes that this team needs to shepherd more youth players into the first team – even if only to ride the bench - than changing coaches is a stupid idea. Going out to buy 10 new players for the next transfer season is stupid. You already have a youth coach, willing to do the job for peanuts at a cash strapped organization, who has proven himself someone who can work with young people. You already have an army of young players out on loan or co-ownership who are already performing far above their age group waiting, praying, to be used in the first team of a club like Inter. If/when Moratti hires a new coach, I guarantee you that the first thing he will do is compliment the players right before he starts asking for replacements. Why? Because more likely than not he’s not going to be a total moron and can see at the first training period that these players aren’t going to be good enough for him to keep his job very long.
But by all means, change coaches. Hire a 5 mil per season guy; right before we fire him weeks into the season so we can hire 2 more coaches in the same year like 18 months ago. Because that’s how close we are to being a Champions League team: 3 more crappy coaches in a season. Just keep adding up the expenses. It’s not like we are working in the red and trying to like the dickens to cut costs, or anything, right?
What makes more sense to me is making space for younger, better players. Decisiveness and commitment, otherwise known as leadership, is key. Cambiasso has to go. Walter Samuel has to go. Deki has to go. Milito has to go. Chivu has to go. And yes, even Zanetti has to go – although for sentimental reasons I am willing to give him a farewell tour year as long as he spends more time waving bye-bye to people from the bench. And damn the naysayers. If the management wants these guys to tutor young guys coming up, fine. There is a name for people who do that job and it’s not “Player”. Give them a title and any money that they want, but get them off the field, please.
First make space and money available. Then see what you have and what you need. After evaluation, then buy to cover those needs. It may not work, but at least it more rational than just sending people out to the 4 corners of the globe snapping all the players you can. Is there a system that’s been decided on that these players can fit into? Or do we just throw bodies on the field and see what happens?
Building a team should be a step by step process. When you try to jump the line, like what was done this season around November, it only makes the process longer. My father always tells me that there is no substitute for hard work, but that hard work should be done intelligently so as to not waste time and effort. I have gotten the feeling that this season, there was some time and effort wasted pursuing unrealistic goals – despite plenty of warning against such foolishness - for vanity’s sake. Next season, if this team has to commit one of the deadly sins, I hope it’s not vanity. Vanity deludes. I am always willing to promote wrath, but for the purposes of this team it might be more productive to be a little guilty of intelligence.