By Tanel Tursk
Inter's Jenga game has led the faults of the team to show faster than expected and a project of deconstruction is needed before reconstruction.
After losing by three goals to Bologna at home, Inter has possibly managed to swoop even lower than many thought to be possible. Seven wins in a row under Claudio Ranieri seems like a distant memory and what at one point looked like a possible Scudetto challenge has now turned out to fall apart so dramatically that Inter has got little to no chance of making next year's Champions League.
Losses to Lecce, Roma, Novara and Bologna as well as drawing to Palermo 4:4 at home, have led to dissatisfaction within the Inter fans and almost all of the disappointed has deservedly been vented at the management, more specifically towards Massimo Moratti and to lesser extent, the technical director Marco Branca, the former player, who has gotten a bit of a reputation within the Nerazzurri faithful for literally going on holiday during the middle of the summer market period.
Inter's mishaps have been caused by years of mismanagement that has led the club to a situation of being forced to play Jenga game. Take out Samuel Eto'o and the tower is starting to shake, take out Thiago Motta and the tower collapsed.
You could excuse Inter management for selling them, I would've done the same in their situation - the offer for Eto'o was in all honesty too good to refuse and Motta was begging to leave. As addition, in case of Motta, Inter bought an interesting replacement in Fredy Guarin, but this is where the praise ends.
Already when speaking of Guarin, I don't think he is actually capable of filling Motta's shoes, rather he is someone who would be a good partner for a player just like Motta.
Football is not a Jenga game which you should play until the tower collapses and then start over, in football you can get new pieces which you don't have to put on top of the tower but rather into the empty spaces below. You don't necessarily need to put them into the place where you took out Eto'o or Motta. You need to put them into places which make the tower stronger. Inter has failed to sign anyone over last two years that makes the core of the team stronger, rather they've been adding new pieces on top of the tower, further destabilising their tower.
The game of Inter has been missing the two because they and Sneijder were the only class players who want to inject and are capable of injecting pace into Inter's game, they want to go forward and not wait around. Something the current side can be described with is lack of urgency - in last games they have always been almost walking pace with passing, movement, taking throw-ins and so on. That is until they've managed to fall behind after a defensive mistake. Only after that do they start to push hard, but by that time it is too late as the opponent has parked the bus and Inter's attacks looks toothless, with the only hope being that Sneijder can pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Inter needs to deconstruct
Now, casting aside the Jenga-tower analogies to explain the management of the squad and moving to practical matters regarding the future. What stands ahead for Inter is a period of reconstruction, but before that, the current team needs to be deconstructed to its very core. All sentimentality must be cast aside except for players like Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso and Diego Milito, who could be given a role in the squad for their past achievements and their importance to the team as whole, but under no circumstances a guaranteed place in the starting line-up.
When we look at the goalkeeping position then one feels that this is the position where there is no need to panic with Julio Cesar not really to blame for the crisis. He still has to ask from himself: "Am I doing everything possible to command the defence ahead of me?" Besides him, Inter still has 50% of Emiliano Viviano and promising goalkeeper Francesco Bardi is currently playing on loan in Serie B.
Now moving on to defence and the frailties start. Maicon is the player who has gotten off with the least blame in comparison to what he deserves in this crisis. His contribution to the team this season has been very minimal and seems to be the example of bad ageing. These days, all he has to offer to the team are his crosses - in attack he struggles to get past anyone and this powerful running was a big part of his playing style. Also when I'd say his decision-making and passing has been poor, I'd be being generous. And on top of all that, he struggles to get back to defence. He is a player that can be sold for decent money while getting rid of a good chunk of wage.
In central defence the old heads of Lucio and Walter Samuel have also began to show the old legs and without the Argentine, the defence falls apart completely. Together, those two are reasonable but they need a lot of help and cover from the midfield and take one of them out, replace with someone else, and it is a disaster.
Speaking of the young players, the project of Andrea Ranocchia seems to be heading towards disaster and the stories about new signing Juan Jesus are ones about a tactically very incomplete defender. Judging by how Inter's coaching staff has failed to improve Ranocchia, it is a claim that causes worry for those hoping that Juan will become a very good defender. From other potential central defenders, both Cristian Chivu and Ivan Cordoba will leave in the summer.
At left-back Yuto Nagatomo is a player who offers a lot in attack and a lot of heart in defence, but with him, the defence looks even less solid because it seems as if he still lacks intelligence in defence and possibly physicality too.
In midfield things are very complicated. Assuming Inter wants to play with 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 in the future (because it is the preferred formation in modern football), there are some doubts whether there is anyone in this team who is currently capable of playing the role of a pure central midfielder or defensive midfielder at high level.
I doubt january signing Angelo Palombo will be signed on a permanent basis and Dejan Stankovic will be leaving too. That leaves Joel Obi, Esteban Cambiasso, Andrea Poli, Javier Zanetti and Fredy Guarin. Joel Obi is clearly not capable of playing at this level for now as for me he is a good example of a player running around and having no idea about what he is doing. He needed to be loaned out during the January window.
Cambiasso is not capable of providing both offensive and defensive contribution at the same time and he is not the best passer of the ball. Javier Zanetti is simply not a midfielder and although he always plays a reasonable game, he should be kept away from midfield as he is far too reserved and cautious for that role. The duo started also against Bologna and they clearly offer a little threat in terms of attack from midfield and while trying to attack, they leave spaces they are uncapable of covering in defence.
On the positive side for the Nerazzurri, Andrea Poli has been one of the only bright spots in this time of crisis for Inter and Fredy Guarin is yet to show himself. Inter might let one of those leave after the loan deal expires in summer, but sending Poli away looks unlikely and Guarin will probably be good enough too.
When looking higher into midfield, Wesley Sneijder is still a class player and Riccardo Alvarez has a lot of talent.
Attack is a big problem. There is no player really capable of playing on the wide forward position and this is a huge problem for any team trying to play decent football unless you have a someone like Zlatan Ibrahimovic upfront and a midfield capable of covering a lot of ground.
When looking at this season's arrivals then I'd start with Diego Forlan whose first season has been ruined by injuries. Should a good offer arrive, Inter should let him go as signing him was a mystery for me in the first place, although I expected him to stay fit and be better when playing. Mauro Zarate will certain leave once his loan deal is over after showing incapability of improving his poor decision-making and tactical discipline.
Talking about the younger players, sending Coutinho out on loan to Espanyol was a very bad move in short-term as he is one of the few with tool-kit to play wide, Luc Castaignos is a very talented forward whose going to fit very well into a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation (only as the central forward) and young Davide Faraoni, who used to be a defender, is showing promise out wide.
Of the two older central forwards, Diego Milito looks to have discovered his form and age effect on the physical side of his game is not that important, therefore he should be capable of carrying this attack as striker for one or maybe even two more seasons. However Giampaolo Pazzini is someone who is very ill-equipped to start in a big team - his role should be that of an impact sub, the guy you throw on as extra striker when you need a goal or when you have the opponent pushed into their box. All around, his stamina is poor, he is quite slow, not very impressive technically and lacking vision as well as passing ability.
And before starting with reconstructing the squad, it is quite clear that in summer Claudio Ranieri will (have to) leave unless he produces a miracle in the Champions League or in Serie A. Even with all the problems caused by the management, he has once again ended up showing that he lacks something to really control a big team. It is inexcusable for him to lose to the likes of Lecce, Novara and Bologna in space of one month even with the handicapped squad he has, even more so after he himself had shown that those players can win.
The reconstruction phase - manager
The four or five names that should be in the heads of Inter management for the role of the manager are.... Continued at Inter need to Deconstruct before Reconstruction