Internazionale R.I.P.

How a Series of Unfortunate Events Got Us Here

If Zanetti is getting a red card you know you are in trouble

So my beloved Internazionale find themselves in a precarious situation. Just when things looked brighter with a two game winning streak we find our selves again hovering over the relegation zone. Out of 12 league games they have already lost 5, and the fortress formerly known as the Giuseppe Meazza is now a five-star hotel for visiting teams as Inter has lost three times there. The defense that was the hallmark of the championship winning sides has allowed 18 goals so far and the impotent offense has managed only 14. This did not just happen over night as I have seen the warning sign coming that fateful day in May in which all us Inter fans were overjoyed with the lifting of the Champions League trophy.

We can go back since the beginning of the Massimo Moratti era and find hundred’s of mistakes that we can associate to how bad Inter is now, but I will only go back to the night we won the treble and start from there.

“It was like a husband cheating on his wife, but seeing as he cares for her and doesn’t have the courage to admit to it, he climbed out the window”

Leading up to that Champions League final everyone knew that Jose Mourinho was going to leave to Real Madrid. The press knew it. The fans knew it even if they were in denial. Mourinho’s statements about how much he hated all the things that surrounded football in Italy basically confirmed it. Plus his constant flouting that he had a buyout clause in his contract pretty much sealed it. Well everyone except Moratti and the Inter management team. They seemed so surprised and blindsided by the news they basically had no plan whatsoever as what to do. This led to a crazy scramble which led to the second event in this debacle: Rafa Benitez.

Now there are three roads: either the club starts a project and buys four players right now in January or we continue like this with the coach who is the only person to blame or otherwise the president speaks to my agent and we find a solution.

Inter’s solution to the coaching problem was to hire Benitez who was personality and philosophy wise completely wrong for the team available. Also the Financial Fair Play rules have were announced a few months before and the club found out that they needed to get their books in order after 15 years of just relying on Moratti to cover their losses time and again. Anyone who’s followed Rafa’s career knows the man needs to build a team. He needs semi freedom to decide what players come and what players go. He inherited a squad in desperate need of breaking up and rebuilding but was not allowed to do so. He also decided to completely change the way the players train and that led to a ridiculous amount of injuries that handicapped the season. He was so stubborn tactically that he refused to change things around even when results were not coming.

Moratti on the other hand was so happy to have finally won the Champions League that he could not see that his team was in desperate need of breaking up. Also being restricted by the FFP rules he’s so desperate to comply with he said no purchases unless there are sales. However, he did not make the right decisions in that department also. Real Madrid came in with an offer of Euro 23m for Maicon, and Inter asked for 30m. There were also offers for Milito that were refused outright even though the player right after winning the Champions League opened the door for an exit. Two big mistakes considering they wanted to cut salaries. Instead they raise Milito’s salary and sell Balotelli for 28m.

This eventually ended in the way everyone expected and Leonardo took over. Inter did buy those four players Rafa had wanted and went on a run that made people think that things were all well. Though the players were mostly still the same and the defense was so leaky that games turned into who scores last wins. As much as the players liked playing for him the rumors persisted that Leo was not the long-term solution for the club. Then suddenly Inter announced that Leo has stepped down while he was saying that Inter pushed him out.

This led to the most embarrassing coaching search in the history of coaching searches. Not embarrassing in the amount of negative responses that the club got, but because Inter did not seem to have a project in mind while looking for a coach. Side note: I always laugh when people mention Inter and project together since you cannot have a project if you change coaches so regularly. The only time we had a semblance of a project was under Mancini. So in the end Inter settled for Gasperini. It seems that they hired him without ever watching his teams play since they were all shocked that he used a three-man defense. They also refused to buy him the players that would fit into his system. So inevitably they fire the man after five games.

Inter also had another terrible summer; Instead of selling Lucio, or calling his bluff on the contract extension they give him a two-year extension. Instead of tell Cordoba thanks for your service and let him go they keep him. They still do not sell Maicon, nor Chivu who they will lose on a free next summer. They sell Santon for peanuts and bring in Jonathan who is not better. Finally they sell Eto’o when it is too late to replace him, and when they do bring in Forlan it turns out he’s ineligible to play in Europe.

No we find ourselves in the bottom quarter of the table with no light at the end of the tunnel. Inter will eventually buy a few players this January and try to salvage the season, but unless they truly overhaul the squad we will keep coming back to this. I don’t mind having a bad season if management comes out and says we are rebuilding and are trying to integrate the youngsters and weed out the older players. However they still insist in public that the team still has a lot to give. Until they open their eyes to the reality of the situation it will be a bleak couple of years to come.

Forza Inter

Season 2011/2012 Preview: Contender or Pretender?

Season Preview Part I – The Coach

The new Serie A season is finally within smelling distance! It sure seemed like this summer, and transfer market, has dragged on way too long. A lot has been said about Inter recently and barely any of it has been positive. I will be trying to figure out where we stand with a few days to go till kick-off.

For the first time in a long time Inter are not seen as favorites to win the title. Not only are they not being considered for the title but a few people are worried that a top 3 finish might too much to ask. Inter are not seen on Milan’s level and Napoli these days are being thought of as a better team. Juve, Roma, and Lazio have invested heavily and seem on the up. Inter however seem to have had a crazy summer with the loss of our best player, an obsession with Financial Fair Play, and a new coach with a new system. The change of coach situation from the outside seemed such a mess that it was obvious that Inter were not ready for Leonardo’s sudden change of heart. Or, according to the press, was he pushed?

What ensued was a comedic/stressful 10 days in which a replacement was found. Other than Bielsa I don’t thing Inter got the rejections we kept hearing about. I think due to a certain criteria placed by Massimo Moratti that the list of available coaches ended up being very small. I believe the criteria were: Willing to accept short-term contract and low salary. Able to develop youngsters. Phase out Veterans. Understand that due to FFP at least one star will be sold and no expensive players will be coming in. In the end Gian Piero Gasperini was chosen as the best fit.

Gasperini comes in with a good reputation as a tactically flexible coach who’s Genoa teams seemed to over achieve despite changing half the roster every summer. He worked his way up the old-fashioned way from youth coach to Serie C to B and finally to A. His teams always seem to play with the ball on the ground, run a lot, and love to play through dynamic wing play. He is notorious for his 3-4-3 formation dating back to coaching Juventus’ youth, but he and everyone says he changes based on situation. So far we have seen him stick to this formation with a few variations all summer long.

For and excellent background article make sure to read this.

So far this summer the coach has had a tough time adapting his tactics and we might be in for some growing pains once the season starts. He barely has had anytime with the full squad as the South Americans were all gone for the Copa America. Coutinho has finally showed up this week. Inter has also been slow to attack the market since Eto’o was only sold late and the new players didn’t show up till the last couple of days of the market and that means he hasn’t had the players he needed.

The coach has never used a pure play-maker in his earlier teams and so far has played Sneijder in three different roles. This is issue the biggest to resolve since all summer we have seen two different Inters; the contender with Sneijder in the line-up, and the pretender without him. He will be the difference between winning trophies and not.

The last coaching conundrum and biggest fan anxiety has been the three-man defense. All summer we have not seen our three best players in this line-up and so we cannot really judge how it will fare. People have been against it since before seeing it in action, and after a few undermanned and underwhelming summer friendlies the fans seem determined it will be a failure. I will not judge until I see it in action in games that matter, and when Ranocchia-Lucio-Samuel are the ones playing.

I am looking forward to what our new coach can do at the start of the season. I believe if he is given a chance to work in peace he will be able to get some good results for us. This season is the most wide open I’ve seen Serie A since the seven sister days so it’s not impossible for Inter to actually win it. Here’s hoping!

Forza Inter

Club World Cup Pics

So I have finally come around to posting the pictures of the CWC. Obviously a lot has been going on since then but that needs a proper post. Today I just plan on putting up a few photos the Mrs took while I was busy watching the game. Too bad our zoom wasn’t good enough to take enough action shots. We did get plenty of shots of the crazy Curva fans. I hope you enjoy.

The Mess We Are In

Dead Man Walking?

The current situation at Inter has become inexcusable. Everyone is calling for Rafa’s head and I wouldn’t blame Moratti if he decided to make a change. However changing coach now with no valid alternative, and the Club World Cup fast approaching, will be a big mistake. The problem lie deeper than just the coach and here I will try my best to lay blame on all who deserve it.

Management

I have to say Inter had a terrible summer managing the squad after winning the treble. I am from the school that if you win everything with an aging squad you should blow up the team and build for a new cycle. As good as Moratti and Branca have been since the Mancini era began this summer was badly managed. Selling Balotelli and keeping Milito, Maicon, Materazzi and Cordoba without really refreshing the squad wasn’t what I would have done. Also extending  31-year-old Milito’s contract and raising it to Euro 5.5 million per season, while selling a 20-year-old to raise money was plain stupid. As much as Mario wanted to leave, by selling Milito it would have been a clear signal to him that he was a guaranteed starter and would have kept his antics to a minimum. (Or at least thats what I think, knowing him he’d still be a pain in the ass).

I’m also from the school that you give new contracts for expected future performance instead of loyalty and what a player did last season. So giving a five-year contract to Milito at 31, when right after winning the treble he mentions the offers he has received, was definitely not the right thing to do. Also adjusting Maicon’s contract when he mentally moved on to Real Madrid and his agent was pimping out his replacement to you was also a mistake. I understand Moratti was holding out to the what he thought Maicon was worth but not selling him at the end didn’t do us any favors. Now I’m not saying these two players aren’t good or I’m not grateful for their contribution to all the success we’ve had, I’m saying that from the sporting and business side these were bad decisions.

Finally not getting your new coach any new players to make him change system makes the job harder. I agree that Mascherano was too expensive and Kuyt was old, but Inter could have found similar players at a lot less. Biabiany is no Kuyt as he has none of the defensive skills. Mariga could have been a good option for the Mascherano role but with Zanetti a guaranteed starter and Stankovic still on the books there are too many players for just two spots. Also by not getting a Balotelli replacement the bench has looked really thin with no one able to come in a create a spark and change the tone.

Player Form and Injuries

There have been only three players that have played up to standard this year; Eto’o, Lucio, and Walter Samuel. Everyone else has had a major hangover from the last year and the World Cup. To top it off we have a list of injuries so long it has become debilitating. Five of the Champions League Final starters are out with injury, and their replacements have gone down injured as well. Motta has been injured since the summer. Santon has been way of the boy we saw that held Ronaldo in check two seasons ago, he is no longer fearless. Some of these guys obviously needed a longer vacation as they seem to be running on empty. At the same time its December already and they should be, with proper training, back to their normal selves by now.

The Coach

Rafa’s biggest mistake was accepting this job. There was no way he could have done better than last year and he was always going to be compared to Mourinho. My biggest problem with Rafa is his tactical inflexibility. For the 4-2-3-1 to work the wingers have to protect the fullbacks when they attack. In his system they do not track back deep enough to do so. Also Inter was built on the 4-3-1-2 system which gives Maicon the freedom to run up and support the attack knowing that a central midfielder will be there to cover his side of the pitch. Rafa refuses to switch back to this formation in to get the team back on track. Despite all the injuries (which he has to shoulder some of the blame) he is sticking to the one formation he knows and that is unacceptable.

Now I’m not pushing for a change now especially since there is no real alternative. A lot of people are pushing for Walter Zenga to come on and ferry us till June but I don’t know if he’ll help us win anything. He’ll have the support of the fans and will fire up the team but is he qualified? I’d rather wait till everyone is healthy and then properly judge Rafa. However if we don’t win the Club World Cup Moratti will most likely fire him.

Forza Inter!

Frustration

What more can he do to score?

I haven’t been annoyed watching a football game as I was yesterday in a very long time. Inter dominated every aspect of the game yesterday while creating chance after chance and still found themselves down a goal and in need of a comeback. The impressive 51 game unbeaten home record was looking at risk and god forbid the headlines had Rafa been seen to have squandered it. Looking at the stats of last nights game just shows how Inter dominated Sampdoria but as been the case when facing this team recently we just can’t get the win.

7 Shots on target 3
8 Shots off target 3
12 Fouls committed 11
9 Corner 1
1 Offsides 2
69% Ball possession 31%

Let’s rant a bit about all the things that have frustrated recently:

  • 10 – That is the number of goals we have scored in eight Serie A games compared to the 10 goals we’ve scored in 3 Champions league games. We need to start scoring a lot more in the league especially since the last few years we’ve always led the league in both scoring and defending.
  • 7- Of those 10 league goals SEVEN of them have come from the devastating Samuel Eto’o. As impressive as that has been the rest of the team needs to start picking up the slack. Like all players he will slow down at some point during the season and at this rate its dangerous. If we had 17 goals and he had seven of them then I wouldn’t be worried, but when he scores 70% of our goals then we are in trouble.
  • Maicon and Sneijder – Both were excellent last season. Both are still not in stride this season. Maicon takes too many naps on defense this year and they all lead to goals for the other teams or major chances like Pazzini yesterday. He also isn’t the offensive force we all know he can be. In the last few years when a game needs unlocking he had the power to do it. Yesterday he missed his chance to become the hero. Sneijder needs to sign his contract already so he can focus on football. Right now he isn’t the Ballon d’Or candidate that we love so much.
  • Chivu and Baibainy – now that Pandev is healthy Biabainy role is of an impact sub. He works best when he has room to run in counter-attacking situations. When we have the ball his speed doesn’t do much and his dribbling isn’t quit there to get past defenders. Chivu also needs to sit on the bench and let Santon play more often. Although he wasn’t at fault for the goal, since he was fouled by Cassano, teams seem to target his wing all the time to attack us. That has to tell you something especially yesterday since all Sampdoria action came from his side.
  • Injuries – We need the trainers room to start emptying out. In yesterday’s game after Pandev there was absolutely no options to throw in to win the game. Part of me wanted Materazzi to come on just so we can have a tall person in the box. I’m sure he would’ve scored that Maicon chance in the end. If Milito, Mariga and Motta are all healthy we would not be in this predicament. At least we’d have options because yesterday our bench looked very short.
  • Set Plays – Why can’t Inter score from corners and set pieces any more? Only one goal has come from a set piece this season, the Lucio goal and that was from a rebound. This used was a strength of ours. Nine corners yesterday led to nothing. Free Kicks in the wall or sailed over every time.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom folks. Coutinho is growing into a fantastic footballer. Yesterday he was my personal Man of the Match. He had it all yesterday; dribbles, passes, shots. The boy just needs to score a goal and he will be flying. Lucio was also excellent by saving us on defense and creating lots of offense. Finally we need to admire the legend that is Samuel Eto’o these days who is playing at a level I have never seen in my life. He is so locked in that its just amazing. Lets hope he can do it all season because I would love to see what his totals are at the end of the season.

Forza Inter

Pazza Inter

Can you believe it?!

As frustrating as those two goals were in the end it wont diminish how good Inter were yesterday. This was dominating from the get go and the only blemish was the nap our defense took at the end of the game. This game should be remembered for the beautiful goal Javier Zanetti scored yesterday. I couldn’t believe it when it happened considering how long ago he last scored. He deserved it!

First Half

Capitino

Inter were all over Tottenham from the first minute. The player movement was flawless and the passing crisp. The goals came in all shapes and sizes with the youngsters contributing to the big lead. This was by far the best game from Coutinho and Biabiany as they got involved throughout the game. Sneijder might have had his best game of the season as well as he dictated the tempo and was always looking for options, and creating them as well. You could tell the Spurs were shell-shocked after the first 13 minutes in which Inter were already 3-0 and Gomes got sent off  out for a clumsy challenge. This could have gotten far worse than the 4-0 the half ended at.

Second Half

The second half was more of the same but when Stankovic got hurt and Santon came in the formation switched to a 4-1-4-1. Inter continued with dominating possession and creating chance after chance although the Tottenham defense was a lot more solid this half. Then the first of the Bale goals came and everyone just saw it as a consolation and kept pushing forward. However when everyone started thinking the game was over and Rafa Benitez brought on all the formerly injured players to get a run is when the score started to flatter the Spurs. Cordoba was moved into the right back position and Maicon pushed into a right-winger role and this led to Bale getting total freedom to run, and run he did. Scoring two insane goals in the 90th and 91st minutes to give his teams fans something to look forward to in the return leg.

The return leg will be a very exciting match as it will have back in it Van der Vaart, Modric (who was subbed after the red card), Cambiasso, Pandev, and maybe a defender or two for Tottenham. Their fans will be loud and proud which will give the game a fantastic atmosphere. For now though lets enjoy the potential of this Inter Milan team. When they are in the mood they are devastating and its beautiful to watch

Forza Inter!

Internazionale v Tottenham Hotspur

Have you seen the injuries to their defense?

I love me some Champions League football. I’m not just saying that because Inter are the holders, I unlike many nerazzuri fans have always loved this tournament despite our historic failings at this stage. There is something about this tournament that truly excites me. The fact that the best clubs in the world grouped together giving us an excellent spectacle even if we aren’t playing in it is good enough. Now thanks to last season and this current squad we can walk around with a bit of swagger.

I have looked forward to this match up for since the moment the match-up was announced not because Spurs are giants of the game (although they are steadily improving) but because for some strange reason a few of my friends are big fans of the club. Tottenham is definitely on the rise and have some exciting players to watch, some of which could play for any of the European élite. This is their first marquee game in Europe in a very long time and I would like to see how they handle it.

Match-ups:

Eto’o vs. Any Able Bodied Defender

Had they had Ledley King or Michael Dawson then I would have given them a very good chance  in this battle. However, with Eto’o’s form these days and the make shift combination they will put out there this might get ugly. As long as Samu gets proper enough service he will be terrorizing them all evening.

Gareth Bale vs. Maicon

This is something to watch all game. Maicon is the best right back in the world and Bale is turning into one of the top left-sided players. To make this more challenging Spurs will be playing Assou-Ekotto behind Bale to basically double team Maicon so whoever Inter plays there has to stay high up the pitch to force them to stay back. If it’s Pandev then they will worry about us going forward and will have to stay honest.

There will be plenty of other story lines to watch; Crouch looking for revenge against Rafa, Keane against a team that had him for six months. Also I hope Sneijder gets back into last seasons form and dominates this game. Should be a good one.

Forza Inter!

Cagliari 0-1 Internazionale

 

On Fire

 

So after a the longest two weeks we finally got to see our beloved come back and play a game. I have to admit it wasn’t the prettiest game ever. It was sluggish to say the least and it looked like they ate lunch too close to kickoff. The passing was off and movement was kinda slow, but in the end we got the three points which is all that matters. Despite the sluggishness Inter controlled the first half and created a few chances but the tempo was slow and Calgiari looked to close us down tight. Then a magical moment occurred and Eto’o gave us the win. What a spectacular goal it was! This man has been out of this world so far this season and it’s been simply amazing to watch.

The second half was Inter holding on to the lead and Calgiari growing into the game late when desperation began to sink in. Dejan missed a couple of chances, the best being a header from a corner that flew over. Eto’o had another shot from distance  that was well saved. However the highlight of the second half was the incredible double save by Julio Cesar on Nene and Matri. That truly saved our asses as that was a point of the Sardinians right there. In the end we get the win in a slightly boring game.

What is really exciting is Seria A this year. The table is so tight and there are teams playing excellent football. If I thought Eto’o’s goal was amazing there were at least four or five others this week that were just as good if not better. Palermo is playing exciting football. Juventus has scored 16 goals so far this season and are begining to look like a serious threat. Milan is starting to worry me as they are growing into a force. Lazio is playing really well and are setting the pace. Fiorentina is in trouble if they don’t do something quick and Roma is so up and down you never know what you are going to get with them.

All this and Champions League in a few days. Gotta love it!

Forza Inter

Inter-National Fantamercato

 

Ouch

 

A football fan’s biggest fear during the international break has occured with the injuries to Cambiasso (15 days) and Milito (One Month). This means both will miss at least the first Tottenham Champions League game and possibly more. Cambiassio is the bigger loss now since he is the brains on the pitch, our future coach as I like to call him. Especially with Motta just finally coming back from injury will need time to back to full force, and Mariga is a different player completely. The good thing for the Midfield is that Zanetti will be back and so will be able to shoulder the load of Esteban’s absence.

In the attacking part of this injury it just means Eto’o will get to play in his favorite position for a full month without the worry of being pushed outside because of Milito. Plus Diego has been basically absent all season so maybe it isn’t such a bad problem (I kid of course, Milito is awesome). This is both good and bad. Good in that Inter takes complete advantage of Eto’o’s devestating form now. Bad because when Milito is healthy again will ego’s clash? I hope not.

The good news from this International break is that our youngsters have had a chance to shine. Coutinho played a good 45 minutes for Brazil. Santon, Ranocchia and Destro all had a great outing with the Italian Under 21 team. Mariga it seems had a full match for Kenya. So the future is bright.

Fantamercato

The most horrible part of the international break is the non stop speculation about the transfer market. It gets very annoying and this past week has been extremely ridiculous, plus non of it has been on the real position of need a full back (starter or back up I don’t care, we just need one.) Lets take a look-see at who’s been attached to us:

  • Leonel Messi – The dream. Two things happened that have made everyone one go into a frenzy of speculation. Moratti joked about it to a group of fans that asked him for a January purchase. The second was Messi being in Milan to sign a deal with D&G. Now every site has how this maneuver is going to happen. I’ll tell you how… it isn’t.
  • Kaka – this is just the press thinking Inter wants revenge because of Ibrahimovic moving to Milan. Never gonna happen.
  • Karim Benzema – No thanks. Lazy and not needed. We need a player more like Balotelli in that we can play outside and upfront.
  • Edin Dzeko – too expensive for what we are trying to do these days. If he comes Eto’o or Milito has to leave. Plus Destro is coming back at some point.
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger – This one makes sense but wont come cheap.
  • Maicon on the way out – This story will never end as long as Real Madrid is in existence. His agent wants to make him one of the highest paid players in the club. Didn’t we just give him a pay raise?

 

Come to Inter

 

The only player that I really want papa Moratti to buy for us next summer is Javier Pastore. Watching him these last two seasons has been amazing. To think Inter passed up on him last summer. What a shame! I keep imagining an attacking lineup with Coutinho-Sneijder-Pastore supporting Eto’o with the all players interchanging positions throughout the game causing defenses to go insane. It would be beautiful! A man can dream.

Forza Inter!

Inter’s Season So Far

It’s amazing how fickle and negative the press and a big part of the Inter-verse have become lately. People have taken the past few years successes for granted and forgot where we came from. It was only after we knocked-out Chelsea that we became a force in Europe, before that we barely made it out of our group. Pre-Calcio-poli Inter hadn’t won the league in 18 years people. Now only six games into the season people are all bringing out stats about how Inter is having its worst start in five years while completely disregarding the opening schedule. So far we’ve played Palermo, who people are calling the most exciting team in Europe, Roma and Juventus, and we are still second place and only two points behind Lazio. People have also completely ignored the long list of injured starters (Zanetti, Samuel, Motta, Milito, Biabiany, Pandev, Cordoba) and how that has effected the preparations of our coach. Lets take a look at the main issues everyone is talking about.

Rafa Benitez

 

Gimme a chance

 

For the most part it seems that people don’t want to give Rafa a chance to be successful. What I read in forums and Twitter is that people want him fired already. He has no control over the team, and is purposefully trying to split up a very harmonious group. Milito missing chance after chance is all his fault.

Rafa’s biggest problem is that he took over a team after its most successful season ever and everyone wants to compare him to last year. Now I’m not saying that he is the best coach ever or that he doesn’t have faults but he is a very good coach. Inter did not buy him any new players of note and he is still keeping us competitive. My biggest concern with his style on the pitch is that it seem there are gaps in the defensive side that were not clear when Mourinho was coach. He also doesn’t play the media game so well, but at least he doest instigate wars either.

Other than that though he has been very good. Our style of play is better than before, we hold possession and create infinite amount of chances. Had we not been creating chances then I’d worry but we are and a lot. Every problem I see in the first half of games is always corrected after the break and our second half performances have always been strong. I see this as very positive and something to build on. I will give him till the Club World Cup to base a definitive opinion on him.

Looking forward to your opinions.