Inter had its second friendly of the pre-season and there was a lot to gain from it. Before I get into what I think, let’s take a look – if you haven’t already – at what Mazzarri had to say about it. The interview in it’s entirety can be found here :
What did you see that could be improved upon compared to the first game?
"I saw the lads are starting to understand what I want. Clearly the speed of play isn’t where I’d like it to be yet, given the heavy workload they’ve had. But we also have to consider the tactical approach of the opponents, who put every man behind the ball. We got hit on the break a few times too many while trying to be proactive, which is something we have to eliminate. We had a talk at half-time and became more balanced. I want the team to be more proactive in their play. In the league the opponents will be waiting for us and we’ll have to do a good job to avoid these counterattacks that could cost us the result. We need a better understanding from this standpoint."
In your type of game the central midfielders are very important. Are you happy with Fredy Guarin so far? He seems to be one of the most prepared players from this point of view.
"Guarin is doing very well. Once he’s more in form I’ll expect to see even more off the ball movement from him. Right now he’s very good at moving into the attack when we’re pressing the opponent. He takes advantage of his excellent shot, but every now and then we need to switch the play. It all comes back to what I was speaking about earlier. First of all, in order to play the kind of football I like, the players need to have the legs for it. At the moment the most important thing was to finish preparations the right way, then we’ll benefit from it when it counts, when there are points at stake."
During the match we saw you punch the bench a few times. But beyond that, what does this team need to improve right away?
"You don’t need to read much into my behaviour on the bench because I always demand the maximum from the lads. The only thing that counts is not getting injured, which is what I say to my players. I’d like to see them always going at 100 mph. This kind of behaviour shows you always want to be involved. Even in those moments when you have no legs left you still have to give your all just the same. It’s a way to urge them on and it’s something I’ll always do. And actually, as early as the second half, there were certain improvements made from a tactical standpoint."
What is the first thing that needs to be improved?
"I’ve already said it. Only that. It all comes back to the heavy workloads we’ve been doing. We still have the team bubble wrapped and it was important that no one got hurt. Tomorrow is the last friendly of the camp. I tried to increase the players’ minutes in the game. If you noticed, there were some that have already played 60 or 70 minutes, and not just one half. Tomorrow we’ll take the same approach. Should tomorrow go as today did we would end this preparation in the best possible way."
Inter signed Alessandro Capello for the youth team, but he’s shown himself to be so ready that he might not see any playing time there at all.
"He showed up a bit late and is fresher than the others. Having done less work he sparkles more on the pitch. For players with heavy legs like Icardi or Belfodil it’s normal to be a bit behind from this standpoint. Let’s wait because it’s a bit early to start making these assessments. The games that count will soon be here and things will be different."
There’s been a lot of talk about how the club needs to sign Mauricio Isla. But is he really needed with Jonathan playing as he has been?
"I’m hesitant when it comes to discussing individual players. I’m looking at the team and can say I’m satisfied with the performances. I’m also satisfied with Jonathan, who happens to be coming off an injury and isn’t going at 100% because he’s afraid of going down again. It’s going well for him and he’s beginning to understand what I want from a full-back."
What kind of timeframe have you set to decide who will play in each role?
"Until the competitive matches come along you’ll see everyone getting time on the pitch so I can get a look at them all. In defence, as you’ve seen, we play with six because of the coverage we get from dual roles and no one from the first team is missing. I’ve already made some changes to the back three and want to work out the best solutions. Now we have the friendlies and for a new group with a new coach they’re important in understanding the qualities of the squad and to get to know it from the inside, not as an opponent. You can’t get to know a group of players until you’ve trained them. I’ve already had a lot of indications and there are still more to come, especially when workload starts to decrease and other qualities become more evident."
So to sum up what I got from Mazzarri’s interview; the team needs to increase its conditioning and playing speed. After that, Mazzarri’s concerned with Inter being hit on the counter and balance.
First of all, I would completely agree with Mazzarri on the team’s conditioning. This team last season had too many players who stopped playing at the one hour mark. You want to understand why Cassano was given his walking papers? Finances were, unquestioningly the primer reason. A close second is one of modeling and example – if Cassano doesn’t run in practice, and we know he won’t, and he gets playing time then everyone else on the team have an excuse to slack off. On the other hand, if a player of Cassano’s skill and stats is let go and there is a hint of suspicion it’s because he won’t run… what would they do to Icardi and Belfodil or Alvarez if they won’t run? Exactly.
On top of the conditioning comes playing speed. Inter was beaten last season by less talented teams who were willing to run through a gorram wall to win and never seemed to stop sprinting in all phases. If this team can match that athleticism – and there is no reason that can’t happen. There are phenomenal athletes on this team, but those athletes weren’t always in perfect working fitness for… let’s be honest since Mourinho was here. Mazzarri walks in the door and says, "We can’t do anything until we increase fitness and playing speed." Everything else will follow that.
So the question is, are we getting there? Mazzarri says the team isn’t there yet. And I agree. There was a biiiiiiiiiig slow down in this game at the 75 minute mark. Now Mazzarri is saying that there was a huge amount of work done in Pinazolo and the legs look heavy because of this. And that’s great, but I am waiting for the preseason game in which the legs don’t look heavy. When that happens, I think Mazzarri and us fans will be happy that the real work can start.
The second part of playing speed is knowing where you are going to go with the ball before you receive it in the first place. And I have to say that in general – but especially in the second half when Olsen was out there – the circulation of the ball to the wide guys was pretty swift. Olsen didn’t hesitate at all to make sure that the ball went wide in a hurry and it didn’t matter one little bit if that winger was close to him or half the field away. That ball got off the midfielder’s foot quick. I think I’ll just say it a few more times to emphasize that point.
Part three of what Mazzarri wants from the team is to not get killed on the counter attack. Here’s how you not get hit on the counter – slow down the ball.
I know this might read a little kindergarten, but bear with me; the counter works because it makes the defense not be able to do the things that make it effective. Defense is most effective when it limits space and is organized. The counter creates space for the attackers, because the midfielders are trailing the play and unable to fill zones on the field that create obstacles to slow or even disrupt the attacking team. If the counter is speedy it keeps whoever is back from organizing since those players have to scramble backward to get into a position to block angles at the goal mouth.
To stop this from happening, when the ball is turned over, the person who loses the ball can’t stop running and give up. That guy who loses the ball if the first line of defense against the counter. If that guy doesn’t harass the ball, then step one – slow down the ball – is already on the way to failing. What happened this morning to us was
And I know it drove Mazzaerri crazy too. Part of that is conditioning as midfielders couldn’t make it back in time to catch that guy running with the ball. The other part is people being out of position to guard against just that from happening.
And here I am thinking Cambiasso. I saw him training the counter quite a bit in the first half. And you know what? I didn’t see that at all with Olsen because Olsen kept his position at the deep middle in the gap and he ran his butthole off when the other team had the ball. And yeah, I like Olsen and I might be biased… but you know why I like Olsen? He seems to do what the coach asks him to do and he runs like his professional life is going to be dependant on his compliance, that’s why. Cambiasso at the game looked like he was too important to run too hard or beware defensively in such a little game. It’s that attitude that racks up the losses to
Do I sound a little angry? I might, because I am. The idea that Inter can lazy it’s way through a game should be whipped out of these players with a cat – o – nine at the mizzen mast. I would be happy to be holding the lash.
Balance is the last and it could be said the most important of the concerns that Mazzarri has about his team. This team has to attack and defend with the same intensity and discipline. The wingers might be losing that discipline at times by going too far forward and selling out for the potential score.
The first half, not so much. And Mazzarri wants to be a protagonist, he wants to dictate action, but people can’t just run forward and forget about watching out behind. If Guarin runs up to the box to attack the ball, then whoever the right winger is needs to stay back. And vice versa. On the left I think
This brings me back to Cambiasso. There were times when I saw him up by the
I am pretty much done with my analysis for this one, and I know its a little gloom and doom. There were bright spots. Guarin, Belfodil and Olsen come to mind but this team has to completely change gears from Strama. There are going to be more tears than smiles and I think this review should reflect this.
There might be something that keeps me from watching/posting the game tomorrow, but if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be here.