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Deconstruct and reconstruct – what Inter should do

Before signing anyone, Inter needs to look at who he doesn't need in its starting line-up or in its squad.

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 Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Andre Villas-Boas, Francesco Guidolin and Fabio Capello. Minus Guidolin, it is not even guaranteed that any of those targets are available or would want to come, but it is possible that at least one of the three formerly mentioned guys would be open to the challenge in summer. A very brilliant option would be Cesare Prandelli, but barring an incredible flop by Italy in the Euro 2012, he will not be available.

The obvious preference of Moratti and Inter fans would be getting back Mourinho if there was any chance of it, but from the five above, it is Guardiola who could be the best option because this team needs more than the injection of life Mourinho could offer, it needs to build a team that will not collapse should it manager leave and that is not expecting to win every trophy it hunts in the first season. Pep has shown in Barcelona that he is a smart manager who is open to new ideas and capable of embedding young players. It is clear that he is also hungry to prove himself outside of Barca and Inter would be a perfect test of his ability if they can offer him the support in the market, the interest of both parties to reach a union in the future is also something that has figured in the European media for a couple of years now. However he is still considering a contract extension from Barca.

The options of Mourinho and Guardiola would probably be the best, but not necessarily because of their ability but because they are one of the few managers who’d get free hands in making changes within the team. Other managers shouldn’t have such restraints, but the reality of how Inter works is like that.

Of others, Villas-Boas is familiar with the surroundings at Inter and the players and is probably the most likely of all the five options because as things stand, Chelsea might very well cast him aside in the summer even if Roman Abramovich has supported him. His struggle during the first season in Premier League is something Inter has to take into account, but Inter would be a slightly different project and building more from the ground up and with less initial expectations than Chelsea. The issues within the squad are much more clearer to the directors and even more so to the fans, because of that Inter’s management cannot expect people to look the other way just by hiring a top class manager.

The idea of Guidolin hasn’t been tossed around much, but when studying his CV, there are a couple of bumps along the road as you’d expect from a well-travelled manager, but overall picture is very good and in Udinese he has shown great capability to fit his squad to the players he has, changing his style if necessary and creating a compact unit without requiring much time. He is someone who definitely deserves a chance at a big team eventually.

Option of Capello is something that Moratti has wanted for years and he is another one whose opinion would be taken into consideration at similar level to the one of Guardiola and Mourinho. And on top of that, he is brilliant at getting the results in the league. On other side of the coin, there would probably be some second thoughts from Inter management when actually putting a team together for him as expecting Capello to stay for the long run is very optimistic.

The reconstruction phase – players

To reconstruct the team, Moratti will once again be forced to find a way to invest his own money into club, but the fact, that the club cannot buy without going into red, is a caused by the lazy financial management of the team and Moratti will have to face the consequences of his own lack of action in the past or choose the way of club backing down from the big game for at least a few years in hope of building a side through the academy and raw talents.

When you looking at the current side, only Julio Cesar, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito of the best starting line up are the one’s who I’d consider as starting material for next season. That pretty much says that the current back-bone of the team is very fragile. Javier Zanetti could still play, but he should be a left-back or a right-back and there needs to be a manager with the balls to bench him if there are better options. Then there are the likes of Lucio, Walter Samuel and Esteban Cambiasso who still have something to offer if the new coach manages to create a solid unit, but they need to be very heavily assessed.

The likes of Andrea Poli and Fredy Guarin could be tried together in midfield at some point this season and also both should get a chance to play alongside Cambiasso in a midfield duo with Cambiasso as a pure defensive midfielder to see how he does and how the defence behind them does.

The young defenders like Andrea Ranocchia and Juan cannot be managed like every other squad member, the coaches need to make an extra effort to prepare and improve those players, most importantly their intelligence on the football pitch. Something Mauro Tassotti does with defenders in Milan very well. Same can be said about Yuto Nagatomo defensive abilities, because currently the tactical instability his inclusion creates almost outweighs what he offers in attack.

The young attacking players like Davide Faraoni, Coutinho, Riccardo Alvarez and Luc Castaignos should be a part of the team but not integral parts of it for now. Maybe someone like Mourinho could also turn the very raw potential of Joel Obi into something useful. In youth team there is the attacking midfield talent of Daniel Bessa that definitely needs to be looked into and Giampaolo Pazzini is a decent substitute to have.

When counting all those outfield players together, there are two full-backs, four central defenders, three central midfielders plus Obi, five attacking midfielders/wide players and three centre forwards. It has to be noted of course that Maicon will probably stay and Diego Forlan too, but overall, the situation of what Inter needs does not change. They offer extra options in already covered areas where we can improve with or without them.

Full-back situation: There is a need for a starting quality full-back with the best possible immediate impact solution being a pair of Javier Zanetti and a new, good right-back or left-back. There has been talk of Aleksandar Kolarov and Mauricio Isla, but the later has also shown to be great in central midfield this season. The option of Isla is something that has interested Inter for a long time and having him replace Maicon in starting line-up would be a good move. I would bring in Isla and use Javier Zanetti as left-back while assessing how Yuto Nagatomo improves in defensive department before going in for a left-back.

Centre-back situation: A player who could start at top-level is probably needed, but the difficult part is finding one that fits with who we have in this team. Someone with intelligence, physical presence and no non-sense type of defending is needed, someone similar to Andrea Barzagli, who has become an important cog in the Juventus team this season.

Central midfield situation: The pairing of Poli and Guarin is interesting, but in my opinion the midfield would benefit most from someone who can replace Motta’s passing ability and who can get the ball moving forward quickly. It wouldn’t hurt the Inter management to see if Nuri Sahin is available for a decent price in the summer as he is clearly struggling to get playing time in Real Madrid. The other option is to get a player who has great work-rate, physical abilities and who offers good defensive intelligence with decent passing ability (someone in the style of Yaya Toure) and pair him up with a similar player.

Attacking situation: The attacking midfield position is set with Wesley Sneijder, should he stay. There are also Riccardo Alvarez, Daniel Bessa and Coutinho who have the talent to become great playmakers but need guidance, patience and time. Coutinho can also offer an option out wide and so could Bessa. The striker position is also set, especially when Diego Forlan stays.

But there is still need for players capable of playing out wide and this is where another long time target Ezequiel Lavezzi is almost the perfect man for the job. Lucas Moura could also be brought in for the other side for not necessarily immediate impact. But whatever is done a payer of proven quality like Lavezzi is a must.

One other player who could be brought in (back) is Goran Pandev who in fairness is a good supporting player. If you expect him to carry the team then you are in for a bad surprise, but when is the second or third act in a counter-attacking team, his work-rate and running ability, paired with tactical discipline and reasonable technical side, makes him a good asset whose contribution might not be very obvious but it’s still there. His second season in Inter was not easy, but he is playing well again in Napoli. However, it does look likely that Napoli will buy him on permanent basis, or at least they should if they have the option.

Inter must accept that in order to build a team with a long future and a team which can be succesful already during next season, they might be forced to find a way to spend roughly 20 million euros on defence, another 10 to 15 in midfield and 25 to 50 million in attack to get in one top class wide forward and maybe a dazzling, more unpredictable young talent with potential for becoming the commercial face and fan magnet of Inter.

Bit of that spending could be recouped by sales and also by cutting the wages and being reasonable in wages being handed out but on another note, Poli and Guarin also need to be bought outright.

Is Moratti willing to splash out the amount close to 100 million euros in the summer? I guess he already knows the answer in his head, but for wider public, it is unknown. The summer ahead will be decisive for Inter, while I’m sure there are cheaper options and ways out there to do the necessary rebuild, I am also not so sure if Inter’s management and Moratti can afford to think outside the box at the moment. Unlike in the past, the fans have grown used to winning and they are unlikely to be patient when Inter is in a similar situation again next season.

For last two years, Inter has brought in players who don’t come with big reputation, now it is time for them to bring in players who will come in with the goal of them being starters from the off and for a period of 4-5 years. Only this way will the managers of the team stop preferring the senators of Inter just based on what they have done in the past.

And whoever arrives, individual quality alone will never be enough, the manager needs to knit them together into a good unit. Therefore it is necessary that Inter no longer waits until the last-minute to make half of its deals but rather knows already by the end of the season who he wants to get and who will leave.

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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Other Articles

 

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Zeman’s crazy football is pushing Pescara towards Serie A

I wrote this for FootballSpeak.com

Zdenek Zeman is one of the better known managers of Italian football and after some years away from the Italian game, he returned in 2010/2011 season to manage his former club Foggia for a spell with mixed fortunes. But it is this season in Pescara where he is having an impact on the Italian game again.

His Pescara side is playing the style of football typical to a Zeman team, exhausting and all-attacking. They have scored 55 goals in 25 league games, this is 14 more than the Reggina side who has scored second most goals. This has enabled Pescara to go on top of the table despite the fact that with ultra-attacking football, the defence is leaking goals left and right (36 conceded so far).

Ciro Immobile is the star of the side. Picture taken from fantamania.blogosfere.it

Ciro Immobile is the star of the side. Picture taken from fantamania.blogosfere.it

I have seen them play on four occasions this season and during the first time their extravagant attacking style failed big-time as Torino managed to be tighter in defence than other Serie B teams and also use the defensive fragility of Pescara to win the game 4:2. In other games they managed to win and do it quite comfortably.

Whether they can keep their top spot and continue to out-score their opponents is a big question, but while having Zeman back in Serie A would be fabulous, one has to wonder how would the Pescara team look like after the summer transfer market.

Why? Because even more exciting than their attacking are some of the young players who enable for them to play in this way effectively. There are four under 21-year old players who have gotten a lot of attention while being a big part of Zeman’s side.

Two of that quartet played with Zeman already in Serie C1 in the Foggia side last season. One is 21-year old central midfielder Moussa Kone and the other 20-year old Lorenzo Insigne, a young wide player who is owned by Napoli.

It is possible that Insigne will no longer be loaned out by Napoli next season as he has had an impressive spell with Pescara, setting up many goals and also scoring 9 himself.

Insigne is of similar size to Parma’s atomic ant Sebastian Giovinco and the playing style is quite similar too. The difference is that Insigne is more of a dribbler and more comfortable out wide. But I am of belief that Insigne would struggle to make an impact in Serie A right now. Technically he is very talented, but his decision-making is not good and he has the tendency to dribble into trouble. He likes to cut inside, but it is annoying to see him try to go past 3-4 players who have closed down all the space for him to move into. And he also tries risky, unnecessary passes which are often not very well executed.

Sometimes he can dribble past many players and make a pass that would make Xavi proud, but he is exactly the player who looks world-class on YouTube but a huge downgrade from that in real life. But don’t get me wrong, he does have the potential to go places.

Another big talent in the side is Marco Verratti, this 19-year old central midfielder has played in Pescara for a long time and the Zeman-era has had both positive and negative effects on him.

He is a similar player to Fiorentina’s Riccardo Montolivo in terms of style. He is the buffer between Pescara’s defence and attack. He picks the ball from deep and his small stature enables him to change direction quick to get the ball to team-mates in good attacking positions.

His passing range and ability is good with his trademark being a chip over the top of defence. On other hand, sometimes his vision and decisions betray the age. He also struggles with the first touch on occasions.

The problems of being in a Zeman are apparent in the defensive side of his game which might not be improving fast enough. His contribution in defence is small and is often so comitted to attacking that he cannot get back to help his defence while his position should require it. As addition to lack of tactical discipline, he is also lacks a cold head when defending.

There have been rumors linking him to several clubs, including Roma. Serie A is probably waiting for him next season, but which club remains a question. I think he needs one or two years in the relegation fighting/lower mid-table level before he is ready for a more ambitious club. But then again, Roma wouldn’t be such a bad option with their Barca project, should they renew their interest in him. After all, he is one of the better young central midfielders of Italy.

The guy who is stealing all the headlines is named Ciro Immobile. The striker who is owned by Genoa and Juventus, has been a true breakthrough star this season.

He scored just 2 goals in Serie B last season and his chances at Juventus first team didn’t produce much, but under Zeman he has become a the best striker in Serie B despite being just 21 years old.

The surname of Immobile does not do him much justice as it is almost opposite to his qualities as a player. He is hard-working and sharp, causing menance within opponent ranks for whole 90 minutes.

He is very similar in style to Diego Milito, another player who scored a lot of goals in Serie B in one season where he was in Genoa. And he might enjoy a similar rise to fame too as it is probable that he will play for Genoa in Serie A next season, same club from which Milito earned his big move to Inter in 2009. Immobile has the potential to reach those levels.

He has shown incredible versatility as a striker. He has scored with either feet and head. He can get the shot away from a bundle of players in the penalty area, he often gets himself in positions to score tap-ins, he gets behind opponent defence, outsprints the defenders and scores the one on one and he is also being capable of hitting the ball well from long-range.

He has 17 goals to his name in 22 matches and looks like he could be knocking on Cesare Prandelli’s door already for the 2014 World Cup.

He has his flaws he needs to fix. Most importantly, his passing ability is not on the same level with the better strikers of the Serie A. On positive note, the signs are there that he’ll improve in that department. He is already half way there as he is linking up very well with his team-mates. If you want to know more about him, read my scouting report here.

The Pescara side looks as if it has had a great impact on Italian football already. The attacking players in that side are gaining confidence and quality very fast and it very likely that players like Insigne, Immobile and Verratti could all become part of the Italy squad within next 5-6 years. Just have to hope they will be taken care off better than the 80’s generation of Italian players have been.

If the Pescara side gets promoted, the likes of Verratti and Kone will remain and possibly Insigne’s loan will be extended, but it is hard to see Pescara keeping Immobile in the squad beyond this season. Should they not get promoted, it is still likely that we’ll see the bigger talents of the squad in Serie A next season.

For now, it is enjoying to see them play in Serie B too and hopefully none of those players get thrown into the deep part of the pool too soon.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2012 in Other Articles, Uncategorized

 

A young title-challenging Serie A XI without big five’s players

Stevan Jovetic would be the star of the team. Picture taken from: natterfootball.co.uk

One of the main charms of Italian football is distribution of quality players throughout the division. A lot of the lesser teams have at least one, sometimes more players who could fight for and possibly earn a spot in a big team.

I decided that I create myself a situation where I am a sporting director of a club and had to put together a first eleven of current Serie A players with limitless budget. However, I did have two other limitations: first one being that they could not be owned or co-owned by Inter, Juventus, Milan, Napoli or Roma (the richer teams of Serie A) and second one that they could be no older than 27.

Could you do it in English Premier League? No, too many rich teams have grabbed all the stars of the lesser ones. Could you do it in Spanish La Liga? The best of the rest XI vs either of Barcelona, Real Madrid… not a contest. Could you do it in German Bundesliga? Yes, though the line between richer and the poorer there is quite fuzzy (I’d say Schalke, Bayern and Wolfsburg are the one’s that seem to spend big).

In Italy it is possible with ease, although it is largely thanks to a certain Udinese and their incredible scouting network. I questioned myself using Lazio who regularly spend more than they earn but I think they are not on same level as the five teams mentioned.

Title-challenging Serie A XI:

GOALKEEPER

Samir Handanovic (Udinese, 27) – Probably amongst the best five goalkeepers in the world at this moment. Amazing shot stopping ability, great presence in the area. And if it’s impossible to convince people that he has been as good as any other goalkeeper in the world this season, then I think one thing you can say for certain, he is the best penalty stopper, at least in the big leagues.

RIGHT-BACK

Mauricio Isla (Udinese, 23) – He’ll be on his way to a big team eventually, possibly Inter in the summer, but this is a player with incredible level of energy. His main trait is his attacking ability with clever runs, but he is not a bad player in defence either. He is in Inter’s plan to possibly replace Maicon but this season he has played most of the season as a midfielder…

CENTRE-BACKS

Mehdi Benatia (Udinese, 24) – One of the best central defenders in the league. He is not flawless as he lacks a in pace, but otherwise his reading of the game is top-notch, his tackles are strong, clean and succesful and in air he wins most of the duels.

Davide Astori (Cagliari, 25) – Finding a partner for Benatia was not easy and I was torn between Danilo, Matias Silvestre and Astori, in the end picking the Italian because he’s been playing at a good level for a longer time. I’m still not 100% convinced by him so he might very well be the weak link of the team – might not be tactically as good as Benatia, otherwise quite similar.

LEFT-BACK

Senad Lulic (Lazio, 25) – Another full-back whose main strength is attacking so I had to think twice before picking him instead of another Lazio player Stefan Radu. His defensive side is a big question mark and in attack he blows a bit of hot and cold, but the promising side is there and I’m sure he’ll get better rather than worse under the guidance of Edy Reja.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS

Kwadwo Asamoah (Udinese, 23) – In my formation I need at least one high work-rate central midfielders and Asamoah provides a perfect example of it. His tireless work in midfield and ability to cover a lot of distance is paired with a good technical side and understanding of the game.

Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina, 26) – Some classic creativity is needed and although Montolivo has some big weaknesses like his speed, average defensive abilities and often losing the ball in more difficult situations, I imagine he’d work well in a team who could free him of a lot of defensive duties and also attack with all the width of the pitch so he’d have more room. That is opposite to the situation he has in Fiorentina this season where he has little to no options available and is often crowded out in midfield.

ATTACKING MIDFIELDER

Josip Ilicic (Palermo, 23) – Now, I was spoilt for choice here, but I decided to pick Ilicic because he offers the highest work-rate of all the technically high quality attacking midfielders. This work-rate is needed with two very attacking full-backs in the team as well as Montolivo. His main traits are his attacking creativity but he is not new to defending, even if he is not impressive at it. This season has been a bit of a bad one for him.

RIGHT WIDE FORWARD

Gaston Ramirez (Bologna, 21) – In theory, Josip would be much more comfortable than Gaston on the wing as he has been played in such position before, but I feel that Gaston has better versatility and better qualities to play on the wing. He is more capable of taking on defenders and pairing up with Isla. If it wouldn’t work, then a swap of positions is possible. He is actually left footed, but could cut in with Isla bombarding forward.

LEFT WIDE FORWARD

Pablo Armero (Udinese, 25) – Tireless and strong – two of  the main reasons I picked him. He’ll get back to help in defence and get back up again before you even noticing it. His ball control at times is not the best but he also has this great ability to always find room for himself and make himself available for team-mates.

CENTRE FORWARD

Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina, 22) – One of the best players in Serie A this season and after his nasty injury, he is back to being one of world’s hottest attacking talents. Great eye for a goal, great movement, great technical ability – big things await him.

How it looks:

Comments:

– Sebastian Giovinco is co-owned by Juventus. But not sure if I would’ve picked him anyway.

– The balance would be hard to achieve at first since it’s an attacking formation and every player needs to become quite disciplined at the role they have, otherwise the formation could fall apart. The full-backs, especially Lulic, would have to stay back more than they are used to.

– Bench would consist of Emiliano Viviano (Palermo), Stefan Radu (Lazio), Matias Silvestre (Palermo), Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari), Miguel Veloso (Genoa), Hernanes (Lazio), Mattia Destro (Siena)

– I picked 4-2-3-1 because it is my favorite formation, playing the unimaginative 4-3-1-2 relying on attacking players to create some good opportunities every game or the increasingly popular 3-5-2 is also possible with a good XI. I’d say I could actually put together a more secure 3-5-2 formation than a 4-2-3-1 because there are some question marks in 4-2-3-1 with two attacking full-backs and Ramirez, Armero as wide forwards. The 3-5-2 could be played with same players expect swapping Lulic for Silvestre and most players would be at their most natural positions.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Other Articles

 

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Vargas’s debut calls for a different approach from Mazzarri

Eduardo Vargas being presented by Napoli. Picture taken from: ssc.napoli.it

There has been a lot of excitement surrounding Napoli recently and not only because of the seemingly endless wait for the Champions League last sixteen to begin but also because of Eduardo Vargas, Chilean striker who they signed with big hopes for the future.

They managed to snap the player from under the noses of Inter and Chelsea after he had lit up the Copa Sudamericano tournament with a Universidad de Chile side playing similar 3-5-2 football to Napoli’s. The belief in the player’s abilities finally reached the point where Napoli was willing to get him at a big price after a stunning performance with two goals, including one solo-effort, in the second leg of the final of the continental competition against LDU. Considering the style of Universidad’s play and the quality of the performances, there is some hope that he can make an immediate impact with Napoli.

Napoli fans gathered in numbers to see last nights game between Napoli and Cesena, probably more excited about the prospect of seeing Vargas play for the first time in the Partenopei shirt than the Coppa Italia tie itself.

With him starting in a strong line-up as a part in an attacking trio alongside Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik with Gökhan Inler in midfield, it seemed as if he had all the ingredients available to make a fantastic first impression in his new club.

However, his performance in San Paolo was far from what people who had seen him play in South America for Universidad de Chile or Chile’s national team had expected. The 22-year old seemed to be struggling mentally as well as tactically.

The low point of his 46-minute performance was without a doubt the Cesena goal on the 21st minute – it was pretty much the first time he got back to defend and immediately his attempt to win the ball in front of his own box ended up being an assist for Cesena’s Stefan Popescu who slotted it in before Napoli’s defenders could get to him.

But it wasn’t the only thing that went wrong for him. He was clearly nervous in this game with all the eyes turned on him. This nervousness wasn’t helped by the fact that Napoli’s player for the opening phase of the first half almost forced the ball upon him with passes to areas where it was very difficult to come out of with the ball. He wasn’t enjoying it against a very tight Cesena defence, never really managing to create anything of remote danger – the only times he looked good was when he could give the passes away with one or two touches.

When he was substituted at half-time, I felt that Mazzarri would’ve kept him on happily if it was simply insecurity from the young player but what probably pushed the manager into change was the fact that Vargas struggled to understand to adapt to the game, his role and his team-mates. A clear indication that there is a need for a learning curve, something which Mazzarri himself had hinted at before the game, saying:

“He’s a young lad and football is different in Chile. We can’t wait to see him but I know the atmosphere here and I don’t want him to feel too much expectation.”

Failing to read passes of people who he has played together for only few days was understandable but his grasp of the role he was supposed to play was inexistant. When Ezequiel Lavezzi or Goran Pandev partner Cavani, then their job is to get on the ball as much as possible, often with a lot of freedom to move in-between opponents defenders and midfielders. What Vargas seemed to do more than anything else in attack was getting in the way of Cavani, often taking up his position in the box, effectively making two threats in the box into one.

It looks as if Mazzarri allowed Vargas to play with freedom on the pitch but in reality the better approach for now might be a more disciplined role with clearer indications of what he has to do on the pitch, at least until he gets to grips with the Italian game and creates an understanding with his team-mates.

I do not doubt in his talent and I think eventually he’ll grow to be one of Napoli’s big stars but the game against Cesena made it clear that demanding an immediate impact from him might be too much to ask for. He does require some time to adapt, similar to Ricardo Alvarez of Inter who took six months to start living up to the reputation he was brought into Inter with.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Other Articles

 

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