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Gnoukouri’s back-to-back starts for Inter against Milan and Roma is largely unprecedented amongst our youth players this season, several of whom have debuted but failed to be given any real opportunity to lay a claim. What lessons should our youth players learn from Gnoukouri, and where should their focus be in future?
Gnoukouri celebrating with Hernanes against Roma
After the Milan derby, Roberto Mancini gave a lot of insight into his way of thinking, by revealing a pre-match conversation he had with Gnoukouri, asking him ‘Are you scared for tonight?’, and upon hearing the response ‘No’, replying with ‘Then you will start the game’.
The one consistent message out of the club in the last few weeks is that Gnoukouri has amazing composure, and doesn’t get afraid of the stature of the level he is playing at. Playing out of position against Roma didn’t phase him – and whilst I am keen to emphasise that he is most definitely NOT a defensive midfielder, managing only one tackle all game – he still put in a reasonable performance. Against Milan he was better utilised, with Gary Medel offering the primary defensive cover giving Gnoukouri the chance to roam forward and provide his real box to box capabilities.
So, what lessons should our other Primavera stars take from Gnoukouri? As with any career, there are elements of luck – no doubt Gnoukouri would probably not have started against Milan if it wasn’t for the berth of suspensions which severely depleted our midfield – but such luck was also there for George Puscas, who has also started two games for Inter, and leaves little impression beyond trying hard and hitting the post once from an audacious shot.
If we look at the other big Primavera success story which comes to mind under Mancini, it is Mario Balotelli. And we see a similar story there. Composure was the element that really propelled him to the forefront of Inter’s team that season – scoring a brace against the Juventus first team in the Coppa Italia brought him to the front of the choices and his continued composure from there saw him play a vital part in the second half of the season.
If there’s one thing I want our Primavera starts to learn from Assane Gnoukouri, it is the importance of keeping your calm and composure. Play like it is the Primavera level again, but with more passion and more commitment. Don’t get intimidated by the level of the game play, or the stars you’re playing against, if you can do it then it doesn’t matter who they are.