Grasp or Gasp for Interís Gasperini
Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Inter’s pre-season under newly appointed coach Gianpiero Gasperini has not been reassuring for the club’s supporters. Many football commentators are of the view that friendly matches are for player fitness and conditioning and that supporters should not read too much into results. But it is hard to ignore Inter’s pre-season results when they have only managed to beat lowly opposition (Trentino, Mezzocorona, Cremonese, Celtic) and struggled against the likes of Galatasaray, Manchester City, Milan and Chievo. Inter’s performances and results in pre-season are telling in that they provided an insight into the season ahead.
Grasperini: A Litany of Problems
As pre-season progressed, one would have expected Inter to forge a new identity under Gasperini but the team’s performances were erratic and inconsistent and there were moments when they appeared disorganised and one dimensional. One would also have thought that as the start of Serie A approached, Interisti would have also have a good idea as to Gasperini’s preferred starting eleven but at this point in time there are more questions than answers when it comes to Gasperini’s Inter.
As a starting point for this article, it is worth casting your eye over the top teams in Europe’s major leagues in England, Spain and Germany and noting there is not a single team that utilises a three man defence. The reasons are all too obvious as a team that chooses to do so would be vulnerable in defence by opponents that quickly move the ball and specifically look to exploit the space left behind the wide midfield players. The last teams in Italy to put such a such a formation to effective and notable use were Alberto Zaccheroni’s Udinese in season 1997-1998 and Milan under the same coach in 1999.
Inter’s problems in pre-season have started at the back with the imposition of a three man defence that the club does not have the appropriate playing personnel to implement. As defenders, Lucio, Samuel, Ronacchia, Chivu and Cordoba lack the necessary pace and are unable to cover the spaces left on the flanks from having one less player covering the defensive line. As a consequence, a once water right defence is now leaking goals and players such as Captain Zanetti, Alvarez, Obi and Sneijder are being forced to play out of position which is leading to the team underperforming as a whole.
Given Gasperini’s preference for a 3-4-3 formation, the obvious question to which Interisti still do not have a definitive answer is how Inter’s coach is going to utilise Wesley Sneijder to play to his strengths. In pre-season he was utilised from a deep midfield position, similar to the role played by Andrea Pirlo during his time at Milan, on the flanks and in his customary advanced midfield role. When it comes to Sneijder’s inclusion in the starting eleven, the answer is simple but Gasperini has persisted with his 3-4-3 formation as opposed to using a formation that better suits the squad and players at his disposal.
With regards to Sneijder, there is little use in keeping a such a talented and gifted player and playing him out of position. The saddest part about Sneijder remaining at Inter is that he faces the very real prospect of playing a season out of position, making little to no contribution to the team other than in a token manner from set pieces and such a season will ensure his inevitable departure from Inter to Manchester United at the end of season 2011-2012 for a cut-price.
As a final point on Sneijder, there were moments last season when opponents managed to closely mark and contain the Dutchman, reducing him to a frustrated spectator with little influence on the game. Unfortunately for Inter, the club’s management either failed to acknowledge the problem or ignored it altogether as the summer transfer market came and went and a reliable creative midfielder was not purchased to provide an alternative outlet of creativity. The reason for mentioning Sneijder’s containment by opponents is that management have failed to take into consideration the distinct possibility that Sneijder’s influence on the pitch may be reduced as a result of being fielded out of position and the fact that Inter’s workman like midfield will no longer suffice in helping the club compete for the Scudetto.
Another question that will be answered during the course of the season is whether some of Inter’s veterans will be able to perform at a consistently high level or whether this season will be the point in the careers of Captain Zanetti, Stankovic and to a lesser extent, Cambiasso when time will inevitably catch up with them. The only reason Inter’s veteran’s and their performance levels has been mentioned is that with few viable midfield alternatives and a coach that persists on playing the club’s attacking focal point of the last two seasons out of position, one cannot help but question and have concerns as to overall efficiency and competitiveness of Inter’s midfield.
Five days before the start of the season, Gasperini is yet to acknowledge and address the problems with his 3-4-3 formation and it is most likely that his reluctance to do so before the start of Serie A stems from the fact that a change in formation would be a disservice to the way he wants Inter to play football and would cause him to lose face with the players. Gasperini’s reluctance to change is a cause for concern but of even greater concern are the disparaging remarks made by President Moratti following the friendly loss to Chievo where he commented on Inter’s three man defence, Sneijder being utilised out of position and the importance of Pazzini being selected as a starter. A great deal can be said for the fact that Inter are yet to play their first match in Serie A and President Moratti has already taken it upon himself to offer some advice to Gasperini on the team’s formation and the selection and positioning of a key players.
Analysis of the Transfer Market
Inter’s summer transfer market is perhaps more notable for the high profile departure of Samuel Eto’o and much celebrated exit of Goran Pandev rather than the arrivals of Ricardo Alvarez, Jonathon, Luc Castaignos, Andrea Poli, Mauro Zarate and Diego Forlan. With the exception of Mauro Zarate, the players acquired by Inter are either unknown quantities or relatively inexperienced and untested in Italian football.
In placing an emphasis on youth, the club’s management have taken a risk as Inter’s season may come to very little if the new arrivals make little to no impact at their new club. Further, the fact Inter did not acquire well established and reputable players and instead chose to focus on youth is an indication that the club may be focusing on rebuilding and reasserting itself in Serie A as opposed to making the Champions League a priority.
In terms of the individual players acquired, it is difficult to know exactly what Inter have purchased. Jonathon and Alvarez are seemingly unknown quantities while Castaignos and Poli will struggle to regularly play and find a place in the starting eleven. Zarate is a welcome addition if Inter manage to rediscover the former Lazio player of season 2009-2010 as opposed to the disruptive influence of last season.
Diego Forlan arrived at Inter to replace Samuel Eto’o. The latter player scored 38 goals in all competitions last season and despite the addition of an experienced campaigner like Forlan it is unlikely he will be able to perform as consistently and at the same high level as Eto’o. Unfortunately for Forlan, his impact at Inter will be curtailed and at first only limited to Serie A as he is ineligible to play in the Champions League until the new year as a result of Atletico Madrid’s Europa League qualification. Inter’s misinterpretation of UEFA’s rules is an embarrassment and the resulting non-inclusion of Poli and Cataignos as part of the Champions League squad only compounds the error and hampers their respective development as young players. In any event, by the time Forlan is eligible to play in Europe Inter’s European campaign may well be over.
Perhaps the best possible light in which view Inter’s summer transfer market is that the club’s management have made a concerted effort to rejuvenate the squad without jeopardising results on the pitch as Jonathon, Alvarez, Poli and Castaignos can be gradually incorporated into the starting eleven over time. But even this view of Inter’s transfer market is not entirely convincing as it is common knowledge that most young players do not prosper at Inter and often go on to play at lesser clubs. In many respects such a scenario is not out of the realm of possibility as both Poli and Zarate arrived on loan deals with an option to buy at the end of the season. If they fail to make an impact they will simply be sent back to Sampdoria and Lazio and Inter will be left with no alternative than to rebuild with new players.
Eto’o’s departure from Inter only made sense in terms of balancing the books but there was little logic in terms on the pitch contribution, in allowing such a player to leave. A consummate professional that scores 38 goals in a season and sacrifices himself for the team cannot be easily replaced and the view expressed by Marco Branca that Inter have not been weakened by his departure is a fallacy. Many Interisti were dismayed at the speculation and rumours linking Sneijder to Manchester United and were relieved that he would be staying for the season. If Inter wanted to sacrifice a player for money, Sneijder should have been the player to leave as we now face the likely prospect of Gasperini playing him out of position and reducing his influence on the pitch. It made more sense to keep Eto’o who could more easily have been incorporated into Gasperini’s plans as opposed to holding onto a player whose position does not feature in the tactical plans of Inter’s new coach.
Gasperini: Gasp or Grasp?
With the new season set to start this weekend, the only person that supposedly knows what to expect from Inter is Gasperini but all signs are that he is still trying to find his feet and answers in the players at his disposal. The prevailing mood going into the new season is one of uncertainty, vulnerability and fallibility. Gasperini is faced with the biggest challenge of his career and his team needs to rediscover the confidence they acquired under Mourinho and the optimism with which they played and performed under Leonardo.
It remains to be seen whether Gasperini will grasp the lessons from Inter’s pre-season and in the likelihood he does, the next question is how long will he take to rectify his team’s problems. Many Interisti are of the view that the only way he will change formation is if Inter make a poor start to the season and President Moratti intervenes for the sake of the club and its players.
Inter forfeited their claim to the Scudetto in the first six months of season 2010-2011 as a result of the club doubting the tactician appointed in the summer Inter’s consequential failure to support him. Hopefully, and for Inter’s sake, the same fate will not befall Gasperini but even at this early stage of the season, one cannot help but feel that Gasperini does not have a long term future at Inter and at this same point next season we will once again be discussing the fate a new tactician.
Last edited by Puma; 07 Sep 11 at 13:42.