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Allegri-Juventus

The curtain of European competition has been closed. Barcelona sealed the treble in the UCL final. Their opponent in the final were highly unexpected : Juventus who erased the heavy favourite Real Madrid from the competition. In fact, Juventus reaching the UCL semifinal is already counted as highly succesful campaign as they stood as tall as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid. These three names have been asserting their dominance for years in continental competition so Juventini must feel proud to be in the same stature like them, let alone reaching the final.. Not that The Old Lady is the mediocre side, but the rest of the semifinalists have better squad on paper. Almost accomplishing the treble, the magical journey started from the move involving Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri.

It was at the beginning of 2014/2015 season that the departing Conte would be replaced by Allegri. The decision raised many eyebrows and wrinkled many foreheads and it was understandibly so. Conte was the successful figure for the club either as the player or as the coach. As the latter, he led Il Bianconeri sweeping almost every domestic title in Italy. Meanwhile, half year before his appointment as the new coach, Allegri was sacked by AC Milan due to the poor performance and the poor results. It was extremely controversial move, but Juventus board noticed something : as poor as Milan was under Allegri’s hand, he always managed to deliver in UCL. Under him, Milan always managed to qualify from the group stage and putting considerable resistance to any European powerhouses. In his 4 years tenure with Milan, Allegri was always seeded in the bad drawing and had to face tough oppositions from the start. Actually, it is a lame excuse as competing in UCL, one must be ready to face any team and every team will be difficult opponent. But, early encounter with Real Madrid and Barcelona for 3 consecutive seasons is just ridiculously bad luck. And somehow, Milan always managed to scrap something positive despite of their loss. They managed to snatch points from the Spanish giants and even landing convincing victory against Barcelona in 2012/2013 season. It was a defensive masterclass performance which even frustrating the likes of Messi.

Conte himself also had quite an achievement in continental competition. In his first season of Champions League, Conte guided Juventus to reach the quarterfinals before being trashed by Bayern Muenchen in 4-0 aggregate. Advancing to quarterfinals and stopped by B. Muenchen might be acceptable progress, but how they lose 0-2 in home to the German was disheartening. It was as if Juventus could not put up any fight and Muenchen only took minimum effort to waltz past them. The next season was even more disastrous as The Zebras could not even make it past the group stage. It was the highly controversial match which was played on the snowy field as Galatasaray managed to advance to the knock-out stage. Controversial result it might be, and in the end, Juventus reached the semifinal, but alas for Conte, the glory in UCl is what Juventus has been coveting.

To replace Conte with Allegri, this move implied only one thing from the board of Juventus i.e. taking risk in the domestic league to advance further in continental cup. Considering their squad are more superior than their rivals in Serie-A, the board might feel confident to win the league again even without brilliant coach. While Allegri performed horribly at his last season with Milan, he still managed to grab the domestic trophy previously. Together with his good record in UCL, Juventus considered him as the perfect replacement and the rest is history.

So, what does Allegri do which Conte didn’t and how the former makes more successful run in continental competition ? The most noticeable feature is how Allegri’s team employ more robust and physical approach toward the game. It does not imply Conte is physically and defensively oblivious, but Allegri will not ever even consider 4-2-4 scheme which Conte once used. Allegri’s game is more patient, less explosive, and less entertaining, but who cares them if the team managed to reach UCL final after knocking out Real Madrid ?

Back to the tactical difference, now Juventus are considered having one of the best defence in Europe, if not the best defence. It features the close-knitted unit whose members have been playing together for several seasons i.e. Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci, and Barzagli. Juventus have been always the best goal aggregate record in Serie-A for recent years, but only in this year that they have very impressive defensive record in Europe. They only concede 6 goals so far making them the best defensive team in continent without changing any single player on defensive duty. There is not much difference in how Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci, and Barzagli performing, but how the results are starkly different means there is the huge change.

It is how Juventus defend collectively which make them much better defensively. This is the ultimate approach in modern football that defence starts from the forwards. Conte did it, in fact, Tevez acquisition fitted perfectly with what Conte wanted as the Argentinian has immense work rate to close down the defenders and midfielders. But Allegri does it better in shaping the defensive structure from the front. The biggest change occurs at the midfield zone where Pirlo is no longer the indispensable. He is still the important figure in Juventus line-up, but not as instrumental as him under Conte. He is often replaced by Marchisio who accompanied by Vidal, and Pogba as the central midfielders. While Marchisio is not as good as Pirlo in regista role, he offers the dynamism which Pirlo terribly lacks at. Now, the midfielders trio of Juventus are physically fit and better defensively, making them more capable to defend collectively from the front.

Pirlo’s knack in recycling possession and threading magical through pass sure are missed, but Juve manage to get around the problems. Now, the responsiblity to retain the possession is spreadt evenly among the players. The cost is the playing tempo is very slow as every player will not risk losing possession. The reluctance to attempt the ambitious pass also means the player will not try too hard in making the smart run. Not the most creative approach, but that does not stop Juve from scoring. Just like Mourinho, Ferguson, Klopp etc, there are still many ways to score the goal i.e. through the ruthless pressure and the decisive moment of brilliance from the individuals.

Talking about moment of brilliance, Juve used to rely on Pirlo to turn the tide of the game, but the baton has been passed to Paul Pogba. He is already known as the prodigy from very young age in Manchester United. Seeing him playing, everyone realizes that he is ahead of the players of his generation, but this season is his breakout season as he unleashes his potential. Comparing him to Pirlo does not seem right as both have vastly different style. While Pirlo is the relic of the old football with his technique, Pogba is the reflection of the modern attacking midfielder with his all-rounding ability. He is not Pirlo who is always able to recycle the possession and control the tempo constantly. But, given the correct moment and place, he will break the defence through with his close dribble in combination with his speed and power. He is still inconsistent, even can be inconsistent in single match as he appears and disappears in the match. But he is still 23 years old and he is still improving so expect more to come from him.

Juventus had always been having impressive line-up except for forwards. This was the sector that Juve were desperately bad at. So bad that they had to use the service of Matri, Vucinic, Bendtner, and even finished Anelka as their spearhead. Tevez’s arrival alleviated the problem, but Juve still required 1 more forward to finish their chances. Tevez is an industrious striker who contributes a lot in defence and running tirelessly to connect midfield and forward. As fast as he is, he cannot appear in all locations simultaneously and someone must be there upfront to utilise the space. And there came Morata as the final piece of puzzle. If Pogba is the representation of modern midfielder, Morata is quite an old-fashioned striker. His strongest point is to appear at the right spot and to finish the goalscoring chance. It does not mean that he is as limited as pure poacher as Inzaghi or Nistelrooy. But for the modern football standard where the strikers are also required to assist the second line or creating the scoring chance by himself, he surely lacks at these department. Nevertheless, his scoring ability is what Juventus desperately need.

So, what for next season ? Successful campaign only means higher hurdle for the future and surely there will be greater challenge for next season. For instance, can Allegri rally his team and keep them motivated after years of success ? Perhaps. Can the mercato team replace the aging players ? Perhaps. But personally, the most interesting challenge is how he copes with the over-reliance on the individuals to create the chance. The dependence on Pogba and Tevez resembles the dependence on Ibra when Allegri handled Milan. When the Swede left, Rossoneri never looked the same again. It is true that the departure of the team’s talisman always hurts the team, but the effect will be worse when the team do not have cohesive game plan to unlock the defence.

All in all, Juventini can only be glad with the outcome of this 2014/2015 season. Surely winning the treble like Inter Milan in 2010 would give sweeter taste, but no one expected Juventus would advance this far especially with the response toward Allegri’s appointment at the start of the season. The risk taken at the start of the season pays off well and Juventini will expect him to do another fantastic season, won’t they ?

Mazzarri bottle

Finally the verdict had been issued. Walter Mazzarri was sacked for the first time in his coaching career and replaced immediately with Roberto Mancini. Such news becomes synonymous with Inter which changed their coach every year or even every couple of months under Moratti control. But, in this case, Thohir had been very patient and faithful to Mazzarri considering the result of last season. If it were Moratti, Mazzarri could be already sacked at last season when Inter met a string of bad results. Thohir tried to learn from his predecessor’s mistake and tried to put the faith on Mazzarri’s ability even extending his contract to 2016. Such approach should be a breath of fresh air for the fans who has been accustomed to multiple coaches per year, but it turned out to be complete calamity instead.

Of course the series of bad result is the main culprit when the coach begins to feel his hot seat. But there are more than bad results which will eventually lead to sacking. Generally, the coach is judged by either result, progress, and/or football attractiveness (to lesser extent). Mazzarri achieves none. When Moratti hired Mazzarri, there was only 1 objective in the former’s head : Champions League spot. Then it turned out to be European League spot and was barely secured at 2 weeks before the season ended. Result-wise, season 2013-2014 was a disaster and it still is as Inter still sit at the midtable and are not showing any sort of improvement. Two years absence from UCL will spell further problem for Inter as they do not gain huge revenue from participating.

Mazzarri has proven that he is a quite accomplished coach. He propelled Livorno to Serie A, he managed to keep Reggina in Serie A for 3 years, his Sampdoria reached new high after a long drought of mediocrity i.e. 6th place for UEFA Cup spot and Coppa Italia runner-up. His main achievement was with Napoli when he won Coppa Italia, became runner-up of Serie-A and Italia Super Cup, and almost blew Chelsea out of UCL before The Blues managed to overturn 3-1 deficit with 4-1 victory. The history proves that he always managed to punch above his weight, but his magic surely waned with Inter.

There is a common tactical pattern among all the clubs Mazzarri managed before Inter. They are 3 men defence, solid defending, vertical football, and reliance on certain individuals to score the goals. Of course the most memorable example was Napoli. In season 2012-2013, Napoli conceded 36 goals, only Juventus the league winner conceded less. The transition from defence to offence was quick, supported by fast and furious Zuniga, Maggio, and Behrami. And it was the season when Cavani, Lavezzi, and Hamsik hit the peak of their career with their imperious counter-attack. It was similar with Livorno and Sampdoria when he relied on Lucarelli and Pazzini-Cassano to score.

There are many suspected factors on why Mazzarri underperforms and the main culprit is his monotonous tactic. Strangely, it is the same tactic which he gained success under previous clubs. It is not the syndrome of mediocre-coach-in-elite-club. That’s not the case with Mazzarri as he already made his reputation known when he trained Napoli. He was there for 4 seasons, his philosophy was always the same. His opponents knew what they were going to play against yet Mazzarri kept winning and Napoli still finished at 3rd, 5th, and 2nd place in Serie-A respectively.

Instead of 3-5-2 formation that had been made as main culprit, one of the main factor why Mazzarri failed horribly with Inter was the absence of the talisman which were Cavani, Pazzini-Cassano, and Lucarelli. Palacio declines as he ages and he already suffers from burnt out because of his massive workload for 2.5 seasons long. Icardi and Kovacic could be the future, but they are not ready yet now, not at this level. Meanwhile, Osvaldo still struggles with injury. But, this not an excuse. It is coach’s duty to work with whatever resources he has and here is where Mazzarri failed. 3-5-2 is not bad formation per se. It experiences resurgence recently as Netherlands grabbed 3rd place in WC 2014 with this formation and more clubs experiment with it. But, Mazzarri’s fixation onto it and his failure in finding goals without relying on single player became the source of disaster.

The performace of 3-5-2 depends heavily on 2 wingbacks yet Inter do not have suitable one. The most obvious problem is none of Inter wingbacks are comfortable with crossing and well-balanced both in offence and defence. The biggest victim was Icardi. As the old-style striker who relies heavily on coming service, he simply became invisible during matches as he starved for the ball. Currently, only Nagatomo who can deliver the cross properly, but his delivery quality is inconsistent and too often dwelling with the ball for too long, leaving himself being closed down and missing the chance to whip the ball. Dodo is an adept dribbler, but his marker is more than happy to let him run at the flank and cross the ball as it either fails to beat first defender or floating for very long time in the air, making the job of defender easier to clear the ball. D’Ambrosio might be decent defensively, but he provides little offensively. And as for Jonathan, he is simply out of depth at Inter. He might improve vastly under Mazzarri, but he is still a liability and accidents in waiting.

Mazzarri also failed in developing the play from the center. It was obvious that Inter mostly held more possession than the opponents, but they fail to convert it into a goal. When the last 4 goals come from the set-piece, it meant there was something horribly wrong with the creativity. Kovacic, Medel, and Hernanes may circulate the ball from one to other side, but there is hardly any penetration to opposing defence. The problem worsened as without proper wingback, the center core of Inter suffer because no one helped them stretching the defence. And again, it costed Inter the goal with Icardi starved for the ball. Neither from flank nor from the center he could reliably get the ball.

Tactic flexibility is one of the trait of great manager and this is where Mazzarri lacks. Several years ago when Mourinho handled Inter, he deployed his favoured 4-3-3 formation with newly signed Mancini and Quaresma as the main men, but as they flopped horribly, he immediately scraped his gameplan hence improving the result. In more recent example, Van Gaal lost his key midfielder Strootman prior to World Cup 2014. Knowing that no other player could replace him in Strootman role, Van Gaal switched to 3-5-2 and bringing Netherlands to 3rd position. The same man also adapts to the situation quickly in Manchester. Spending whole pre-season with 3-5-2, he switches to other formation when he realizes his squad is no longer suitable to his original plan. Meanwhile, Mazzarri didn’t budge. He still sticked to his formation even without suitable wingbacks. And look at the strikers that he had. He only had 3 senior strikers and Bonazzoli, a Primavera striker who is definitely out of depth in Serie-A. It became worse as Osvaldo was injured, leaving him with only 2 experienced strikers. Still, he did not alter anything hence disastrous outcome. Uncreative attacking scheme together with tactical inflexibility and poor player rotation (with Palacio, Kovacic, and Dodo unable to catch a breath) are one of the key factors of his failure.

As if Mazzarri’s stubbornness is not terrible enough, it is not exactly the biggest problem. It is the lack of urgency which invited all the boos and whistles from all Nerazzurri faithful. Way too many times that Mazzarri failed to grab full 3 points against minnow oppositions even at his own turf Giusseppe Meazza. It had been common sight for Inter home matches that they would be content holding the ball without attempting any threatening attack as if victory was unnecessary. Even against bottom clubs such as Bologna, Sampdoria etc. After being unproductive for 60-70 minutes, the opposition would always manage to steal a goal. Only then Mazzarri decided to shift the gear up and Inter started attacking. Rarely they managed to claw the victory, it was mostly either draw or even loss. Eitherway, they are unacceptable results considering the players that Mazzarri had and the money he had spent. The home draw against Verona was the final straw, but the frustration was built-up long time ago, culminating in embarassing 1-4 home defeat against Cagliari and lost against bottom of the table Parma 2-0 this season.

Actually, Mazzarri wasn’t all bad. There were few positive points that he achieved with Inter although they were still heavily outweighed by all the negative aspects. The defensive reliability was the most improving aspect especially compared to atrocious defence by previous coach Stramaccioni. Mazzarri managed to improve the conceding goal to 39 goals per season compared to 57 goals previously. That was massive improvement. Ranocchia and Juan also enjoyed their progress as defender. And if was not because of the controversial decision to keep fielding Vidic, perhaps current Inter defence could be better. But, again, they were not enough to keep his job.

Based on all the disappointing results and little progress as the club, the dismissal of Mazzarri seemed inevitable. The surprising part was how quickly the trigger was pulled. It was expected that Mazzarri would be kept as a coach at least until the end of 2014-2015 season as Inter struggled financially, let alone considering FFP factor. Inter are already in big deficit and paying huge compensation for Mazzarri –who had highest salary in Serie-A- would drive them deeper into abyss. Perhaps it was where Thohir made the first blunder to rush the extension of Mazzarri’s contract to 2016. If Moratti was too quick to fire the coach, Thohir is the contrary; he was too quick to trust the coach. Based on the result of previous season, Mazzarri certainly did not worth the extension, let alone so early. Even if Mazzarri managed to achieve great result this season, there is hardly any club who would poach him at the end of season. Mazzarri’s high earning was already the stumbling block for all Serie-A clubs and perhaps only Juventus who afford him, but they and other top Serie-A clubs are already stable with their respective coaches. An offer from abroad is even more unreasonable. The only logical reasoning for the contract extension is probably to symbolize the faith which Thohir put onto Mazzarri. But it definitely is not how football works. Anyway, let bygones be bygones and Thohir has the chance to redempt himself with the appointment of Mancini. Will it be redemption or another same old Inter-coach troublsome relationship, that is for time to tell.

Football; Eyes on You

Football Eyes on You

Whenever the sphere is set into motion on the stage of everyone’s own

The emotions are screamed as everyone wishes they would be heard

Either the smiles seen are real or imaginary

Eyes will always be there to watch the little world being kicked

But is there any last night for same old motion ?

Could be there the last night for it ?

As obvious as it can be, football is the most popular sport in the world. The trace of football could be dated back to long long time ago yet until now, people are still fascinated by this simple game. It is simply miraculous that how the very same activity still able to entertain the folks across generations and oceans. But, why and how ?

The key word is universality. It is about how easy people understand it. It is about how easy people play it. It is about how easy people think and talk about it. Anytime. Anywhere. Football simply knows no bound.

But there are more than universality from the football. There are more reasons of why the simple rolling motion of football could enchant the rolling motion of eyeball. So, why football is the most popular sport in the world ? What makes football popular ?

1. Sic faciunt omnes – everyone is doing it

It refers to how easy for people to play football. They can play it at the grand stadium with furnished green grass and 80,000 attendance. But, it also can be played in the small confined room with rough cement floor or amidst the abandoned building ruin. The ball could be the product of highest degree of technology with highest precision. But, it also could be the soda can, the compacted papers shaped into the ball, or tennis ball. It is officially played by 11 players against 11 players with the backup of substitues. But, it also can be played by mere 2 cordial souls, communicating each other with the ball exchange instead of the words.

It is different with other sports which need specific requirement. Basketball needs bouncy ball and ring; badminton, tennis, and table-tennis need specific “ball” and “racket”; let alone high-demanding sport like golf and racing motorcycle/car.

A group of people, any space, and any kickable object. That’s all what it takes to start the football game.

2. Homo ludens – playing man

Talking about simplicity, football is not the simplest sport. Running is. So is martial art. And so are other sports which do not demand many requirements (e.g. rugby). The question is, why are they less popular than football ? The answer can be found in the depth of human heart when they pursuit the happiness. There are social interaction among the players before, at, and after the game. There are laughs and jokes involved within the football game. Sport is the mean to be healthy, but football mixes fun and health in one plate.

This is why the team game is more popular than 2-players sport. The popularity of the game is mostly determined by casual players, not the professional one. Casual players are only looking for fun after the series of hectic times. In team game (e.g. basketball, baseball, and of course football), the room for fun is more widely open. Yes, fun is very subjective. Some find football is fun, some find it boring. But, most people agree that scoring a goal and celebrating it like madman with teammates is more entertaining than achieving running-distance record, don’t they ?

3. Homo homini lupus – man is the wolf to the fellow man

For every Yin then there is Yang. For every joviality then there is ferocity. Fighting and competing are just cannot be separated from human. History has lost count how many wars have been fought among humankind. And it doesn’t take expert to tell that competition is everywhere. Homo sapiens (arguably) stemmed from competition namely natural selection mechanism, human birth starts from the competition among sperms to the ovary, and after birth, it still runs within family, society, school, work, and only stops at the swing of scythe of death.

There is nothing new under the sun and there is nothing new with football as the channel for humans’ inner beast. Football is but a manifestation of civilized clash. Colosseum to gladiator is just precisely stadium to football player. The victory parade of Real Madrid at Plaza de Cibeles is just another version of Napoleon Bonaparte army at Arc de Triomphe. Club president is the ruler, coach is the tactician, goalkeeper and defenders are gatekeeper, playmaker is the general, and attackers are frontliners trying to breach the gate, either by ramming it with the power of Ronaldo or unlocking it with the craft of Messi.

The bloodlust for competition runs thickly in human blood and highest-level football takes the best out of competition then displayed as entertainment. The claim as the better or best, for instance, between Pele-Maradona or Inter-Milan will never meet an end, but thanks to human nature, they keep competing endlessly. At the outside of the circle, people have no tie with them yet they feel the fire. And yet they love fueling it. Then it spreads. It lits the surrounding, awakening the soul of the wolf inside until the whole world feel it and howl together. Such is one of the cog inside football popularization process.

4. Cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am

Football is not only amusing to be played, but also to be thought and talked. Football fans love giving opinion about the game, the players, or anything about football. They love thinking about it and then share their opinion with others. And the good thing is, it doesn’t take special skill to understand football game. It is neither quantum physics nor fluid mechanic which require years of learning. Come and see the game. Hear the roar. Perceive the motion. Feel the passion. And that’s it. That’s all what it takes to get the impression and notion which could last for entire lifespan.

Beside the simple access to understand football, it also provides the fair ground for everyone to think and discuss it. Degree and status do not count here. The school drop-out can teach the professor about offside trap mechanism. The homeless can argue with the stock expert how the player price changes along the years. One doesn’t have to be Michael Cox, Jonathan Wilson, or Gary Neville to probe the depth of football. One doesn’t have to be professional to understand it. Only passion and common sense are required.

5. Dum vivimus vivamus – while we live, let us live

Not everyone is blessed with the intelligence to understand the entropy or chemical reaction. Also, there are people who cannot stand to put their body on the chair and sitting in front of desk for hours every day. Out there, there are people whose assets are only their physical prowess. Therefore, sport career becomes their only solution.

So, why football ? The gallery of the best players ever decorated football history provides the answer. Pele is 1.73 m short. Maradona is not only 1.66 m short, but was rather plump as well even in his heyday. Meanwhile, Beckenbauer is 1.81 m and Zidane is 1.85 m. Jorge Campos with his diminutive 1.68 m height could be the Mexico goalkeeper in World Cup and 1.76 m Cannavaro was able to marshall Italy to the highest glory in 2006. Note that those position are supposed to have minimum height expectation. Meanwhile Ibrahimovic is 1.95 m tower and has been winning 4 domestic leagues in top level competition. The contrast also could be drawn between 1.69 m Messi against 1.85 m Cristiano Ronaldo. It is very obvious that football welcomes any player with any body frame to compete even in highest level. This “any” really means any, it doesn’t only accept people with average height, but the extreme as well. Most of best football players have average height according to his country of origin. Being 170 cm is normal in South America while 180 cm is approximately average height in Europe. But it doesn’t stop Campos and Ibrahimovic to linger around glittering orbit of football highest prestige.

It is different with, say, basketball or volleyball which require extreme height, upper 190 cm at least, which really doesn’t represent any demography in the world. One can argue that NBA also produce fine short players such as Earl Boykins, Spud Webb, Michael Adams etc, but where are their position at the Pantheon of basketball finest such as Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson ? Nowhere close.

6. Tempora mutantum, nos et mutamur in illis – times change, and we change with them

How could watching 11 vs 11 player kicking a ball within 100×80 meter field hasn’t been boring for centuries ? Players come and go. Law of the game has been modified many times. But it still produces almost identical game like we are seeing today and it is still entertaining as ever. While the essence of the game might be similar, there are distinctions about how it is played. To follow the stream of time, down to football park, and listening and feeling the wind of changes is what refreshes the experience of spectators over time. For example, by only looking back to 14 years ago, football has seen various tactical features such as rise and fall of trequartista, emergence of 4-bands formation, adoration toward possession football, and sweeper-keeper. Looking at longer time scale, the change is even more drastic. Jonathan Wilson was right when he named his famous book which depicts the formation evolution from the football inception until now : Inverting the Pyramid. From ancient 2-3-5 to modern 5-3-2. It isn’t necessarily 5-3-2, it could be 4-4-2, 3-5-2 or anything, but the main point is how the number of players transferred from front-heavy to midfield-backline-heavy. And the change is not always about formation, it could be player characteristic, playing style, coaching style and even transfer policy.

The change is not only at active end (i.e. players), but at passive end as well (i.e. viewers). Viewers experience change in football every week. Thanks to 11 plus substitutes players per team, the viewers can see plenty variations in players, formations, and tactics almost every week. Furthermore, even with precisely identical formation, the game could change a lot when different players are deployed. There is almost no end to diversity in football. Yesterday, playing without striker is considered insanity; today, Spain win Euroean Cup with this approach. Yesterday, continuosly passing the ball around oppositions is pointless; today, it is the state-of-art of football; tomorrow, it would be labeled as boring.

Such is the very dynamic of football which captivates the soul of people around the globe.

Epilogue

Those are why football is the most popular sport in the world as it fits most of the bills to attract fans while other sports miss one thing and/or another. But, is football the best sport in the world ? Nope, never. Popularity doesn’t equal quality and it never does. Popularity can be objectively quantified while that’s not the case for quality as the latter remains as subjective matter.

So,

Dear you, with five and six angles of face

Have you felt hurt after those up and down

Shall I flinch you softly to relieve everything

But you remain blissful, knowing you are the dream of the souls

And there, no one knows the extent of its fragrance. Hopefully forever as it serves as the dream for somebody somewhere out there.

Renovatio

Groningen (8/6). Terjadi sebuah kejutan besar dari cabang futsal di kejuaraan Groningen Cup XIII, dimana tim futsal PPI Delft tanpa diduga berhasil melenggang ke babak semifinal. Tim yang dikomandoi oleh Kiki Wirianto ini berhasil mengalahkan lawan-lawannya di babak penyisihan dan perempat final. Namun, pada akhirnya mereka harus mengakui ketangguhan tim PPI Amsterdam II di babak semifinal. Juara dari cabang futsal ini sendiri adalah tim PPI Jerman Selatan yang di final berhasil mengkandaskan perlawanan Amsterdam II dengan skor 4 -2.

Juara futsal Groens Cup, tim Jerman Selatan Juara futsal Groens Cup, tim Jerman Selatan

Realistis

Tim Delft tidak memiliki target apa-apa di kejuaraan Groens Cup kali ini, mengingat beberapa minggu sebelumnya mereka gagal total di kejuaraan Tilburg Communal League. Selain itu beberapa pemain andalannya seperti Vittorio Kurniawan, Sutjianto Buntoro dan kiper Andhika Surya tidak bisa ikut bergabung karena cidera. Untuk menutup kekurangan tersebut, mereka memanggil lima pemain debutan, yaitu Ali Afandi, Delon Tumanggor, Daniel…

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CR7 vs CR9

Bored of Messi vs Ronaldo rivalry ? How about Ronaldo vs his younger version ? How much does current Ronaldo compare to himself several years ago ?

Collective Achievements

Lets begin from what most players seek the most : what they win with their teams. In total, he won 9 cups in total, superior to 3 cups he has been winning so far in Madrid. Even by removing 2 Carling Cup and FA Community Shield, his achievement with MU is still far greater. Let alone by in Champions League competition where he only could go as far as semifinal with Madrid.

Ronaldo also achieved better in Portugal national team when he was MU player. With them, Portugal were in 2nd place in Euro 2004 and 4th place in World Cup 2006. As Madrid player, Portugal reached 3rd place in Euro 2012.

It is hard to conclude anything straightly from here. Football is a team game and winning more trophies doesn’t make a player is better than another. While he competed in more competitive EPL, he fought against one of best side in history i.e. Barcelona. Also, in national team, he enjoyed playing with the remnants of Portugal golden generation in 2004 and the squad was way better than Ronaldo has now. It is still too early to judge Ronaldo by these facts.

Individual Achievements

It was only logical for him to win more individual titles back then in England as MU won more titles than Madrid. It is also helepd by the fact that more individual awards are provided in English Premier League (such as Player of the Month). But, Ronaldo scores more goals and assists in Madrid than he did in MU. He scored 117 goals and 65 assists with Red Devil in 6 seasons while the tally is 233 goals and 71 assists with Los Blancos in 4.5 seasons.

He won more individual prestiges in MU, but he is by far the more productive player in Madrid as provided by the fact. Again, these facts must be interpreted carefully. The situation in England (as mentioned in previous paragraph) helped him to win more individual titles. On the other hand, the domestic competition in Spain has wider disparities among big and small clubs that he can score more easily against lesser teams. Still, too difficult to deduct anything about Ronaldo development from these facts.

Technique

Now the comparison move from quantitative parameters to qualitative one. Stochasticly, current Ronaldo is better goalscorer than he was. Again, remember the fact that La Liga has bigger quality gap among the competitors.  Safe to say that Ronaldo’s goalscoring ability (e.g shooting, finishing etc) doesn’t decline, but it doesn’t imply he is far better goalscorer. Well, perhaps somewhere in the middle.

The most declining aspect of Ronaldo’s game is his ability to beat his marker with ball. Everybody remembers how mesmerizing was Ronaldo in red shirt when he glued the ball on his feet, doing millions step-overs and tricks before leaving the defenders in his wake. We see it no longer thanks to Mourinho. Not saying that his dribbling is awful, he still keeps the ball well in his possession, but obviously he cannot trick the defenders like he used to do.

Another declining aspect is his freekick. Currently, Ronaldo has amassed 20 direct freekick goals with Real Madrid. Great statistic, but he is too wasteful with his deadball scenario. Whoscored recorded in 2012 that he scored 15 goals from 179 attempts. There is no data about his freekick goals-attempts ratio when he was in MU, but seems he wasn’t this wasteful.

Tactic

Ronaldo and MU enjoyed their best game in 2008 when the former played with Rooney and Tevez. How he moved is almost similar to how he does currently : starts from left and then drifts to middle. The difference is the young Ronaldo had more flexibility in position. While being left inverted winger/inside forward was his basic position, not seldom did we see he operated at center, at right flank, or even coming deep to pick up the ball. It is different with current Ronaldo where he is pretty much nailed as left inverted winger.

But, he makes it up with his better off-the-ball movement especially in counter-attack. Being fast is not the only thing in counter-attacking, but being efficient as well. Ronaldo can find space and capitalize it in fraction of second and with minimal movement. Ronaldo had been a fast player even at the time he entered English football scene in the game against Bolton, but his counter-attacking movement wasn’t as sharp as it is now.

Mentality

Decisiveness is the most improving aspect of Ronaldo’s game. By being decisive, it means how he contributes massively in important moment in important match. It doesn’t imply that Ronaldo was big-match flop. No, really. But, in recent years, he performs better in big matches relative to the back-then.

His first major tournament with Portugal was in Euro 2004 when he emerged as sensational 19 years old wonderkid. So full of talent he was that Luis Figo expressed his admiration publicly. But, eventually Portugal could only reach 2nd place position beaten by miraculous Greece who managed to limit Ronaldo’s involvement in the game. At the same year, Ronaldo also participated in Summer Olympics only to crash in group stage embarassingly. And, where are we at now ? Ronaldo was the key man in helping Portugal to make it to the World Cup 2014 main stage. In home-away legs against Sweden, Ronaldo scored 4 goals; a solitary strike in sealing 1-0 victory and sensational hattrick in 2-3 victory in Sweden.

Remember when Ronaldo apologized to Sporting faithful when he scored a winning strike against them ? He did it even more ruthlessly as Madrid routed MU when he scored an equaliser. After the controversial redcard to Nani, the Old Trafford public was fully against Madrid, but somehow Ronaldo managed to keep his head cool and slotted the ball into the back of the net against his beloved former club. Remember when Ronaldo missed the penalty in Moscow against Chelsea in UCL 2008 final? Remember when Ronaldo was anonymous in the match against Barcelona in UCL 2009 final ? Remember when Ronaldo couldn’t score against Barcelona in his early career in Spain ? Now he is the demon for Blaugrana as he is the first player who scores in 6 consecutives El Clasicos.

But maybe Ronaldo could do better when it comes in temprament control. Recently, he was sent-off in a game against Bilbao, increasing his redcard tally to 4 in Madrid. The same number that he received when he played in MU. But in overall, Ronaldo has been maturing as he accumulates experience over years.

Physicality

This is the most superior part of Ronaldo. He already had well-rounded physicality such as speed, strength, balance, and jumping, but he refines it even more under Mourinho tutelage. Ronaldo was already one of the fastest player in physical EPL, now perhaps he feels the La Liga world revolves in slow motion around him. From various clips, it can be seen that Ronaldo can cover 100 m distance in the scale of about 10-11 seconds. There is no data about his speed when he was in Manchester (as far as I know), but we believe he is the faster player, don’t we ?

 

You jump I jump ? Nope, you jump I fly

And who can forget the scene when Evra watched Ronaldo towering himself in a process leading to header goal ? It is almost similar when Ronaldo scored a goal against Chelsea in UCL 2008 final when he rose above Chelsea defence to score a header. The figure implies that Ronado already could jump with such height from 5 years ago. At very least, Ronaldo doesn’t show decline in aerial department and it is only logical that he improves, doesn’t it ?

Which is Better ?

Hard choice, but I would go for CR9 aka Cristiano Ronaldo in Madrid. He may lost his dribbling flair, but he makes it up with improvement in physicality and decisiveness. The latter is the most crucial development as great player are  the one who matters in crucial moments, not in trashing against relegated teams.

Sidenote : it is too bad that Ronaldo’s development comes with the price of his ball technique. Having a superhuman speed and power is absolutely adventageous in football, but mind that they will deteriorate after the peak-age is reached. Now that Ronaldo is already 29 years old, he can only get slower and weaker in upcoming years. Right now, Messi and Ronaldo are neck to neck in their rivalry. But, in long term, Messi has greater chance to edge out Ronaldo as he is less reliant to his physicality. Well, perhaps Ronaldo should seek out advice from Ancelotti as he is the coach who can maximise the capability in the body of aging players.

Ferguson Imperfection

Could anyone dispute how great is Sir Alex Ferguson ? During his 26 years reign in Manchester United, he had amassed 38 trophies in total. More than anyone can achieve and makes him the most successful British football manager so far. But, nothing is perfect in this world and so is Ferguson. Now that his mighty reign has come to an end, let’s see what are the things that could be done better.

Barren Youth Academy

Personally, it should be the biggest failure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Starting from of Fergie’s Fledglings (consisting of Giggs, Beckham, Scholes etc), the quality has been dropping to the likes of Wes Brown, Giuseppe Rossi, Welbeck etc. All of them have great talent, but there must be something wrong that they cannot make it to world highest level.

It is regrettable that with his everlasting 26 years tenure and absolute control, he could have shaped the young players like he wants. Compare to what Johan Cruijff  has been done with La Masia with not even half of Ferguson’s coaching period. Right now, Barcelona are enjoying the fantastic La Masia graduates while, MU must have major signing every season and even worse, they involve many transfer flops.

UCL Upset

Ferguson’s record in domestic league is simply phenomenal. From 1991/1992 season his last season in 2012/2013, he raked 13 Premier League title with 3rd place as lowest position. But, such glorious feat cannot be replicated in continental competition. Out of his 22 times participation in Champions League, Ferguson only could amass 2 Big Ears trophies (in 1999 and 2008).

One could argue that Ferguson had terrible luck meeting Barcelona -which was the one of best team in footbally history-  2 times in 2009 and 2011 finals. But misfortune cannot be an excuse for the rest of years. Comparing MU fortune to other clubs, MU is always drawn into easy group. While City must fight in group of death with the likes of B. Munich, Napoli, Madrid, and Dortmund, MU enjoy themselves with Otelul Galati and CFR Cluj. But even with such massive adventage, MU somehow still managed to crash from competition in easy group. Even in knock-out stages, MU still count themselves luckier than other English clubs. Last season saw MU in rare hard encounter against Real Madrid, but they had enjoyed many easy drawing in previous years. Just ask how Arsenal fans feel when they must meet B. Munich, Barcelona, and AC Milan in knock-out round. Two times champions and two times runner-up isn’t bad at all. In fact not many coaches could achieve such a feat. But considering how invincible MU are in domestic and all the lucky drawings, MU should have done better in Champions League.

Blunt Creativity Department

One of the most telling weakness of Ferguson era was the overreliance to Scholes when it came to creativity or ball retention. The problem grew worse when Scholes retired and it was so chronic that he had to comeback from his retirement. This is one of rare case when Ferguson cannot find the replacement player for his position. From goalkeeper to striker, he always managed to find great players after great players for every position, but that’s not the case for passing midfielder.

Actually, the creativity problem is acceptable (as each tactic has its pros and cons and each manager is imperfect), but what baffling is the direction taken to replace Scholes. Ferguson already had an  clear intention to replace Scholes and then he signed Carrick and Anderson.  Just few years ago, he promoted Cleverly to first team squad to bolster creativity department. So far, only Carrick can be considered as successful project out of those 3 players. When Anderson was signed in very tender age of 19, it seemed obvious of what Ferguson thought : an adept Brazilian technician who able to unlock the tight defence. When Cleverley came into MU first team squad for first time, it was obvious that he was the fluid passer with clever movement (no pun intended) across the middle of the park. What happens now is both players become more like jack of all trades midfielders instead of creative one.  Now, they are neither adept passer like Scholes nor defensively solid like Keane nor energetic like Fletcher nor smart like Carrick. It is understandable that Ferguson improve their discipline and physical trait in order to fit his scheme and to survive Premier League. But, how the plan to replace Scholes has been deviating so far is very striking.

Then came the curious case of Pogba case. How MU let go Pogba that easily is very inexplicable. The team is already short of creativity and there came a massive talent from their very own backyard whose position fitted perfectly with what the team needed. What did Ferguson do ? Nurture him ? Trust him ? No, he was released for free instead. Perhaps there was backroom problem between MU, Pogba’s behaviour, and his greedy agent Mino Raiola. But still, letting go such wonderkid for free was a huge waste.

Bebe Flop

Every manager has his own transfer flops. Even the most astute manager like Wenger had couples of transfer failures. Ferguson himself has a list of transfer flops comprises of Taibi, Veron, Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba, Obertan and so on, but the process behind Bebe signing perhaps is the weirdest ever.. Ferguson himself admitted he had never seen Bebe playing even once. By the time he was signed, he was 20 years old, no longer a teens wonderkid like MU signed Rooney, Ronaldo, and Januzaj. While teen Rooney showed his glimpse of talent with wonder goal against Arsenal and precocious Ronaldo could trouble entire MU team, Bebe practically did not have anything to prove. And did I mention transfer fee ? It was £7.74 million, the bloody £7.74 million to sign unproven boy and Vitoria Guimares could only be rejoice to seventh heaven for such deal.

Title Slip in 2012/2013

Perhaps the most painful season for Ferguson as he drank his own medicine. In 95/96 season, Ferguson miraculously took over Newcastle from top spot despite of 12 points adventage for The Magpies. The magic was repeated in UCL 98/99 when Sheringham and Solksjaer scored 2 goals in dying time to win the trophy that virtually belonged to Munich. He pulled off another miracle when he denied Arsenal from winning the 02/03 title despite MU trailed 8 points behind The Gunners. In 12/13 season, he received all the karma for all he had done. MU was leading with 8 points and it seemed the title was certainly belonged to MU. But, somehow MU stuttered at the final phase of season and giving the local rival City to open up the title chase. Then, Dzeko and Kun Aguero pulled off “Sheringham and Solksjaer” by scoring the goals in  “Fergie time” 92nd and 94th minute to secure the trophy for City. Karma or not, destiny or not, it was such an uncharacteristic mistake by Ferguson to give up such massive adventage and it became even more excuriating to be beaten by his own way.

Source : zonalmarking.net

AS Roma continue their strong start with 7 wins in trot. What’s most impressive, the 7th victory was against Inter Milan, giving them the first defeat of the season in sensational 0-3 scoreline in Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, the very Inter Milan stadium. For Inter, the victory against Firorentina gave clue about their weakness. La Viola were without Pizzarro, Gomez, Cuadrado, and Pasquale left the field at minute 35 due to injury. Despite facing the half-powered squad, Inter were trailing by 1 goal before making a comeback. Against Roma, no comeback was allowed and it gave everyone food of thought about what was wrong.

Defender

The basic role of both Campagnaro and Samuel are to cover Ranocchia and Juan who suffer concentration lapse on daily basis. While Samuel is more conservative one, Campagnaro is more active one and reminding everyone to Lucio figure. One huge plus point over Samuel is, Campagnaro has far better ball skill, frequently joins the attack either by overlapping run or accurate distribution. Ranocchia and Juan do not lose to Campagnaro in term of how to contribute offensively. But, the problem isn’t about how, it is about when. The Italian-Brazilian duo simply do not have the sense when to choose safe or risky play. With his capability to distribute ball safer than Rano-Juan and to bail out their blunders as well, Campagnaro has already cemented himself at the first team squad. Or even further, he could threat Ranocchia or Juan spot if they do not raise their game.

Aside of constant concentration lapse by Rano-Juan, there is not much to worry about Inter defence. Campagnaro’s absence against Roma might suggest the lack of depth in the backline, but it was just a misfortune that he and Samuel were injured simultaneously. Unless the injury-storm struck Inter again like last season, the defence department should be okay for the rest of season.

Midfielder

This is where the deepest hole lies and it is mainly because the absence of defensive midfielder. Inter obviously lack someone who can cut the opposition attack from midfield zone. Mind that the defensive midfielder here is not necessarily the likes of classical anchorman like Gattuso, Makelele etc, but the modern one would do as well e.g. Busquets, J. Martinez, Khedira etc. Right now, Inter only have Cambiasso and injured Mudingayi. The former might still boast exceptional football intelligent, but his body can’t keep up with the game tempo anymore. While the latter isn’t bad player, but he isn’t your man to fight against Pogba, Totti, Insigne etc.

Because of the insufficient protection from the midfield, Mazzarri must employ players which are jack-of-all-trade, master-of nothing. Cambiasso is designated as the rearest midfielder, acting as center-half and passer simultanously. The problem is, he is no longer the worldclass anchorman like he used to be nor he is the great playamaker. The result is, he cannot contribute significantly both in offence and defence.

Mazzarri surely wants to use Kovacic as creative fulcrum in his squad, but the Croatian contributes little, if not zero, in defence. Actually, Kovacic shows some great defensive capability last season with his interception and tackling. The problem is his half-commitment in defence. It will be interesting to see how Mazzarri will handle this. Will he go Mourinho-Xabi way i.e. balancing the deep playmaker with defensive attribute ? Or, will he go Conte-Pogba way i.e. sharpen his attacking edge and letting go his defensive aptitude ? Back to topic, with the current state of Kovacic, it will be very risky to play him alongside Cambiasso as it will leave too much holes in midfield.

Therefore, Mazzarri plays Taider instead of Kovacic. It is the jack-of-all-trade issue again. What exactly is Taider speciality ? His defensive ability isn’t as good as Cambiasso, he is obviosly not the passer, his tenacity and physicality are also subpar compared to Guarin. Here, Mazzarri opts for safe route by deploying him in order to give extra protection in midfield.

Perhaps Guarin is the least confusing spot in central midfield. Despite of his inconsitency, selfishness, and skyward-shots, his physical aspects makes him too good to be wasted. Let alone in Serie-A where there are only few midfielders who can compete physically with him. The spot of box-to-box midfielder in Nerazzurri is definitely him.

The lack of defensive midfielder really confuses Mazzarri to find correct balance. In modern football, the complete midfielders (like Schweinsteiger, Martinez, Carrick, Mikel etc) is more favoured than the specialist midfielders pair (example : Davids-Zidane, Keane-Scholes, Gattuso-Pirlo/Kaka, Mascherano-Xabi etc). Either way, Mazzarri will have tough time in combining the his midfield resources. Right now, he chooses the first option when he has multifunctions midfielders viz. Cambiasso-Guarin-Taider. The result is, the they struggle in both dictating the game and containing opposition midfielders. The Fiorentina and Roma games proved it. Both team’s midfielders are defensively weak, but Inter failed to capitalize it due to lack of creativity in their midfield. One could argue that such midfielders line-up help Inter to not concede more, but remember that Inter have the aim to reach UCL zone (or EL zone at least). Thus, they should have must-win mentality rather than –must-not-lose.

The lack of defensive midfielder really makes the Gargano-Taider the curious case. If Mazzari really wants to create specialist midfields pair, there is nothing more perfect than Gargano-Kovacic. It is really unfortunate that both of them had too few games together to forge the chemistry. Kovacic played regularly while Gargano was injured regularly. When the Uruguayan had recovered, it was Kovacic turn at the sideline in preseason. As Mazzarri had trained Gargano back then in Napoli, the decision to offload him implies that Mazzarri really understood and being confident in his midfield. But, the sudden arrival of Taider suggests that Mazzarri realized that he overestimated his midfield’s defensive capability and he had to find the replacement immediately.

Wing Back

The flank sector has chronic shortcoming namely characteristic similarity. Out of Zanetti, Jonathan, Nagatomo, and Pereira, who offers something different to the table ? No one. None of them can provide powerful thrust at the flank like young Zanetti or Maicon. None of them can provide pinpoint cross as well. Oh dear, none of them can provide defensive protection as well (except Zanetti, but not sure how he will perform perform his long injury).

In attacking, the winger must provide the threat from the width to stretch the defence. Due to less tight defence in the flank and bounded by the lines, speed is the important asset for winger. If he doesn’t possess such speed, at least he must equip himself with good cross. Let alone for the fans of vertical football like Mazzarri. The current Inter have some players who are able to cover pitch length in short frame of time e.g. Guarin, Kovacic, and Palacio. It will be important to have fast winger to keep up with the attack tempo. Let’s see what Inter have here.

We cannot judge Zanetti due to his long absence, but if we have to judge him based on last season performance, he will only contribute significantly to defence.

Jonathan isn’t fast, but he sure is smart for the wing back standard. Only very few wingers can ghost past behind opposition defence like Jonathan often does. He has improved his performance from last year, but only time will tell for how long he can keep his form.

Nagatomo can run all day, but what else does he provide ? He is too often outpaced and outmuscled by his opposition. The most intriguing part is how often he drifts inside as left winger while his main role is to provide the width at the left. Hence, the attack becomes narrow instead of wide. Maybe he is good at scoring the goal. While it is good to have extra source of goal, it will be better if he is good at his primary duty as a wingback.

Pereira, uhm, should we bother with him ? His most notable contribution for Inter last season was his assists, but it is the case when statistical deceives. For all his 5 assists he produced last season, there must be 500 times he was being wasteful, either it was dispossessed or wayward cross. Not to mention his defensive susceptibility just like he showed against Roma when he fouled Gervinho unnecessarily.

So, now you understand why Mazzarri was so desperate to sign Zuniga or Isla at the transfer window.

Forward

 

The non-existance of reliable defensive midfielder affects the frontline as well. Icardi was signed before Mazzarri’s arrival, but Belfodil arrived under his consent.  It is obvious that Mazzarri would pair the second-striker and scorer. The combination will be like Belfodil/Ricky/Palacio paired with Icardi/Milito. The defensive fraility leaves Mazzarri no choice, but using Ricky-Palacio instead of the rest.

Ricky is central midfielder by nature, second-striker by position. He has 2 main contributions so far i.e. ball retention and closing-down. Ricky has no problem if it only comes down to keep the ball. But, he lacks the cutting edge that a second-striker should have to unlock the defence.

Palacio‘s game is all about running at second line, at the outside of penalty box. He will cooperate with his attacking partner (last season it was Cassano and Milito) to divert defenders’ attention and punish them when they are caught offguard. With Cassano, it was very easy for Palacio to score the goal thanks to miraculous touch of Fantanonio. With Ricky, it is entirely different case. As mentioned before, Ricky doesn’t have cutting edge and he will not be able to supply the opportunity for Palacio to exploit. And, as much quality as Palacio has, he is not Van Persie or Cavani who could shake the defence with off-the-ball movement, linking-up play, and scoring in the same time.

The main features that Mazzarri seeks from Ricky-Palacio over Belfodil/Icardi/Milito are the amount of running and defensive contribution. As Inter do not have the proper anchorman in the middle, Mazzarri decides to distribute the defensive duty to every player including the forwards. Just like the case in midfield, maybe Inter can score against small teams with Ricky-Palacio, but don’t expect much from them against the likes of Juventus, Napoli, or Roma.

Solution

Now it is up to Inter on how to solve such problem. Either they must utilise the existing resources or sign new players at winter transfer window. The first alternative would be nurturing Kovacic’s defensive side so Mazzarri could field Kovacic-Guarin-Taider and share the almost-equal responsibility of offence-defence. Such complete and versatile midfielders are typical modern football and Mazzarri could also opt for classic scheme. He could shape Taider into pure defensive midfielder and sharpen Kovacic’s offensive capability even more. The second choice will be more unlikely. The last option would be signing new player. But, it will be harder to find suitable player in transfer window so Inter must consider their options wisely.

The situation in wing back department is more tricky as there is too few variation. The remaining options aside of Zanetti, Jonathan, Nagatomo, and Pereira are Laxalt and Wallace. But, unless they are given the playing time, no judgement will be passed upon them. One thing for sure, the signing of new player will be more likely here including the Pereira sale.

It is important for Mazzarri to take more risk in attacking department. Of course Mazzarri must address his defence first, but Inter will achieve nothing if they keep relying on Ricky-Palacio partnership as they stand no chance against a strong, organized defence.

From poorest to richest :

Can we eat ?

How can we eat ?

When can we eat ?

What can we eat ?

What should we eat ?

Where will we eat ?

Which shouldn’t we eat ?

Whom will we eat with ?

Whose food shall we eat ?

Who should we eat ?

On June, Netherland natioanal team have a tour to Indonesia. It supposed to be joyful occasion with tropical sunshine, new experience in new country, fans greetings, and leisure match. Alas, it turned out to be sour trip for Sneijder. Van Gaal confirmed that Sneijder was stripped of his national team captaincy and replace him with Van Persie who wore it in the match against Indonesia national team. And recently, he is omitted from national team squad in friendy match against Portugal at next month. With such precedence, there is chance he will lose the spot forever. What is happening to the player who once regarded as the one of world best players ?

Continuity between Mourinho and Van Marwijk

He played for Ajax in 2002-2007 seasons and Real Madrid in 2007-2009 seasons, but it was in year 2010 which saw him at the peak of his career. He was the key element for Inter Milan in historic treble winner 2009/2010 season. He also brought Netherlands into runner-up position in World Cup 2010. When he was omitted from top 3 nomination Ballon D’Or 2010 award, the whole world fumed upon such idiocy. Even Xavi (the 3rd winner) acknowledged Sneijder as the better candidate. Such global accolade confirmed his status as one of the best player in the world.

At that time, Sneijder gained benefit from the match-up between him and the coaches, i.e. Mourinho and Van Marwijk. Both of them are fans of counter-attack football. They both love to contain opponent’s onslaught before launching incisive counter-attack. Here, Sneijder acted as the key player to provide the pass to expose the space abandoned by attacking side.

At Inter, he wasn’t deployed at central midfielder, the position he used to play since he was in Ajax. Instead, he played as a trequartista. At first, such decision raised a lot of eyebrows. He was not the same mould as Totti, Zidane, Boban, or Rui Costa. But it turned out that Mourinho had different concept of trequartista in his counter-attack football scheme. Sneijder wasn’t meant to dictate the flow of the game, but to provide key assist in minimal possession time.

One good example was when Sneijder provided the assist for Milito’s 1st goal against Bayern Munich in UCL Final 2010. After Julio Cesar claimed the ball, he punted the ball far upfield to Milito. Then, the Argentinian head the ball to Sneijder then the latter gave the ball back to Milito, shot, and goal. The process only involved 3 players, 6 touches, and few seconds to cover from end to other end of the pitch.

This is where Sneijder adept at. He isn’t a classic trequartista, he also isn’t a pure passer like Xavi or Pirlo. Instead, he is very unique for being a direct playmaker. He isn’t the playmaker who controls the game, he doesn’t connect millions passes to retain the possession as long as possible. Instead, he must capitalize every available second to launch swift and deadly counter-attack.

Also, don’t forget his ability to execute set-piece especially direct freekick. His setpiece ability complements himself as the counter-attack specialist. Foul is one of effective ways to nullify the counter-attack. But, when there is deadball specialist in opposition team, the foul will be punished and the freekick scenario will be equally dangerous to counter-attack scenario. Foul is easily conceded when the defenders (countered team) are in much slower state then attackers (coutering team). Such circumstance happens a lot in counter-attack when  the attackers already reach their fullspeed while the defenders must either backrun or need time to reach their fullspeed.

Moratti’s Quick Trigger Finger Backfires Him and Sneijder

After the succesful continous spell with Mourinho and Van Marwijk, he certainly didn’t expect the disaster would come so quickly. Over the next 3 years, 5 different coaches handled Inter viz. Benitez, Leonardo, Gasperini, Ranieri,and Stramaccioni. Contrary to the continuity he used to enjoy with his coaches, now he had to deal with 5 coaches with different concept in each’s head. Also, he suffered the relapse of repetitive injuries that once plagued him and now it haunted over him again. Inter and Sneijder suffered excruciating seasons during those years, but for the latter, the time with Gasperini, Ranieri, and Stramaccioni were his worst.

Gasperini was the fan of 3-4-3 formation and he made it clear from very first day that he would use it regardless the players he had in the squad. For him, the players must adapt to the coach. The biggest problem for Inter was, Moratti didn’t trust Gasperini and his 3-4-3. Then, he didn’t comply to the players that Gasperini demanded therefore wondered us why he appointed Gasperini from the very first place. For Sneijder, 3-4-3 formation was disaster because he couldn’t unleash his full potential. Eventually, Sneijder didn’t have to adapt further to the formation because Gasperini only lasted for but 5 matches.

The appointment of Ranieri brought some fresh air for Sneijder. He has the title of Tinkerman for his ability to repair the sinking team and adapt with his environment. He is also the fan of counter-attack football thus bringing the optimistic feeling for Sneijder to replicate his top form again. Too bad, all his hopes vanished  in the series of unfortunate occasions. Another injury hit him again. When he was treating his injury, it coincided with 7 consecutive win in Serie-A by Inter. By the time Sneijder recovered and returned to the pitch, Thiago Motta (who was very vital to Ranieri tactic) was sold to PSG and soon the team lost their balance. Both occasions coincided with Inter’s lost streak and it was dilemma for Ranieri and Sneijder. Should Ranieri keep his winning team without Sneijder ? Or should he use Sneijder to cover the loss of Motta (which implied the overhaul of system because both of them are 2 different players) ? For Sneijder, how could he give his 100 % if he, club, and fans see him as 1 of factors which led Inter to the downfall ? Either it was true or not, it sure lowered his confidence and messed his head hence non-optimal performances for the rest of season. Oh, and another injury hit him.

After result crisis and fitness crisis, now tactical crisis also piled up to Sneijder’s misery. Still a mistery until now how Sneijder adjusted his playing style to inverted winger. His starting position wasn’t from the center anymore, but from the left. It was just so freaking ludicrous. The inverted winger position is designated for dribbler with fast pace and quick turn rate while they are obviously not Sneijder’s strong points. If he was about to change his position, he should revert himself into central midfielder like he used to do in Ajax or Madrid or to deep lying playmaker which is favoured in modern football. He chose neither of them and ….

…the result was an utter disaster. He isn’t Robben who is comfortable as the inverted winger and menacing opposition defence. His lack of quickness restricted him for being effective inverted winger. His ego and impatience led him to excessive and wasteful irrational longshots, much to the annoyance to the fans. His freedom was restricted as he was no longer stationed at the center of the park. The disastrous result at Inter during 2011/2012 season and Netherlands at Euro 2012 sank him into even deeper frustration.

During Stramaccioni tenure, the situation was even more ridiculous. Sneijder was hit (again) by injury, but when he was totally recovered, he was sidelined due to his unwillingness to sign the newer contract which would cut his salary significantly. After all cheap soap dramas, Sneijder was offloaded to Galatasaray for mere €6 million.

Epilogue; 1-Pass-1-Assist Midfielder

He has just begun his quest at Turkey for 6 months and it is difficult to forecast how his career will turn out to be. Theoritically, it would be difficult. One key factor is his uniqueness as direct playmaker as opposed to dictating playmaker. Being unique is great because the it gives more thought for opposition to find the solution. Being unique also means the lack of competition for certain position and role. There are many great dictating playmakers out there, e.g. Xavi, Pirlo, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Modric, Xabi etc, but there is only 1 great direct playmaker to lead the counter-attack : Sneijder. That’s why Sir Alex Ferguson was so persistent to sign him. Now, his uniqueness becomes his drawback as there is only 1 way to utilise him. With more and more teams favour the possessive and attacking football, Sneijder must adapt himself to the recent change in football evolution. It would be impossible for Fatih Terim to adjust his style into counter-attacking football only to accomodate. Sneijder has no choice. He must adapt to Terim’s need and the rest of his career will depend on how adaptive he is.

Sneijder had only brief spell of prominence, but it was enough to incur the ripple of his influence to the other side of Atlantic Ocean. It was no coincidence that Ganso’s breakthrough was approximately when Sneijder his his peak. Ganso had unique characteristic as a playmaker. He might go invisible for many minutes before unlocking the defence with 1 flick. Surely it is different from Sneijder, but the point is both of them have unique knack to unlock the defence with minimum time. It is interesting to imagine how would current football be if Sneijder manages to keep playing at highest level and Ganso isn’t vulnerable to injury. Now, we see the death of the poacher. Poacher is the sort of striker whose task is only and only to score a goal. The best example are Inzaghi, Gerd Muller, Chicarito etc. Because he doesn’t have any other ability beside scoring, he should and must capitalize every chance to put the ball at the back of the net hence the term of 1-shot-1-goal comes. Sneijder and Ganso are the midfielder version of the poacher, only in this case they must convert every pass to assist. If both of them dominate world football now, maybe the concept of specialist midfielder will not evolve into complete midfielder as we experience now, but into 1-pass-1-assist midfielder. Maybe the main objective of every team isn’t about dominating possession to limit opponent’s chance, but how to utilize limited time as efficient as possible. Maybe the poacher will emerge once more because the team will aim to score in limited time as opposed to the targetman. Maybe, oh well, there is no end for “if “ and “maybe” in football.

Most transfer windows for European leagues officially opened at 1 July. Big transfer has already decorate the newsfeed, but the coaches flux around Europe is even more staggering. Some notable change of coaches in major clubs are Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG, and Inter Milan. It is always difficult –if not impossible- to make pre-judgement if the new coaches will succeed with their new club . But, let’s have brief analysis to see if the clubs point the right man at the right time and right place.

Moyes

David Moyes couldn’t hope for greater jump of career. Now he will replace the most succesful coach in EPL history viz. Sir Alex Ferguson. Either Moyes could continue the glorious legacy of Sir Alex is a big question mark for now, but it seems MU have picked the right man for coach seat. Moyes edged out 2 other strong candidates namely Pep and Mourinho.

In term of trophy, Moyes is far far more inferior. But MU have other consideration for their coach requirement which is continuity. Pep might have built 1 of finest teams in history and Mourinho’s cold hand has guided various teams across Europe to achieve unimaginable success . But, we haven’t seen how Pep fares in long term career while Mourinho is notorious for his nomaden short term coaching tenure. MU had enjoyed the stability brought by Sir Alex in his 26 years career. They surely still want to continue such continuity and Moyes is the man. He was the coach of Everton for 11 years and guided The Toffees to punch above their weight, highlighted by reaching Champions League in 2005.

The 6 years contrac offered by MU signals what the board want from Moyes. MU will give Moyes much time to continue and build his dynasty, unlike the typical modern coach contract which generally 2 or 3 years. At other side, such lengthy contract could backfire MU if Moyes cannot perform well. Remember, Moyes hasn’t lift any trophy yet until now, not to mention if he could handle the pressure at the big club and the comparison to his predecessor.Still, it seems Moyes is the right man for MU.

Mourinho

Guess who returns to London once more. Welcome again, Jose Mourinho The Special Happy One ! The Blues fans must have already imagined another bountiful spell by Mourinho. Only, it could turn out to be the bad one. The main stumbling stone is the conflict between Abramovich and Mourinho.

The Russian oil tycoon loves to encroach the manager job with his minimum knowledge of football while the high-ego Portuguese always wants the full control of his team. The combination of them will not yield good result as could be seen in Andriy Shevchenko transfer who became large waste of money.

Also, the former always crave for beautiful football while the latter is famous for his pragmatic approach. Mourinho recently promised to change his skin into more attractive football, but we know that it will not become easy job. Remember that the very same man promised to meet the high standard by Madridistas to play beautiful football yet he failed to do so. Madrid might scored 475 goals under his stint, but please distinguish the definition between beautiful and productive football. The same case could occur in Chelsea.

There are 3 possible outcomes of such the transformation. First, the extreme transformation will yield unstability which will lead to failure. Second, realizing that abrupt change is impossible and then decides to lower the gear to have more gradual change. Third, Mourinho’s magic works and Chelsea still succeed. For first and second possibility, we know that Abramovich neither tolerates any slightest failure nor has the patience. For the third possibility, well, it will be the ideal scenario, but can they achieve such miraculous feat ?

There are still other problems to be addressed such as, could Chelsea and Abramovich sustain the high operational cost by Mourinho ? How would Chelsea cope with Mourinho’s departure in future ? Can Abramovich run his club only by setting short term success and not long term development ? Anyway, Chelsea fans should be more anxious than they feel now.

Pellegrini

The sacking of Roberto Mancini is a right call by City. Gameplay wise, he couldn’t keep his team playing at constant high level, let alone to improve them. The lack of identity in City’s gameplay is the most glaring aspect. The slump at continental competition and terrible man-management didn’t help the Italian to keep his job. Thank you Mancio for the BPL title, but we really need to improve; said every Manchester City stakeholders. The appointment of Manuel Pellegrini echoes such sentiment correctly. He is the coach who brought Villareal to UCL semifinal and Malaga to quarterfinal. With such good tradition in European stage with limited resources, City will be very hopeful to see Pellegrini keeps his magic working.

As the case with Abramovich and other sugardaddies of football, they all want both beautiful and succesful football. Pellegrini is the fan of attacking football, it seems there will be no friction between him and the boards about the football tactical issue. The more potential arising issue is about the success. The only high profile club in Pellegrini CV is Real Madrid. Here, he experienced the mixed bag result between success and failure. Back then, he broke the points amassed in one season only saw himself being beaten by Barcelona which accumulated even more points. Then, Madrid was out at UCL in the hand of Lyon and their involvement in Copa Del Rey is nothing short of embarassment, edged out by Alcorcon. But, Pellegrini had logical and great reason of such failure that Madrid really didn’t take his opinion into account in building the team. Now, he will be given more freedom. Expecting instant succesful debut season may be too much, but Citizens could expect at least a challenge for domestic title or further progress in Champions League.

Ancelotti

 The quest for La Decima isn’t over yet for Real Madrid and now it is Carlo Ancelotti’s turn to deliver. The 2 UCL cups with AC Milan and couples more of trophies cement him as the big club specialist and Madrid can’t help but be attracted by him.

Ancelotti fits all the bill required for Los Merengues. He is not only known for delivering trophies whichever club he is at, but also for his exceptional man management. His ability to compromise his opinion and his superior’s is one key aspect which tempts Madrid to hire him. Remember that Ancelotti used to deal with the likes of Berlusconi and Abramovich who think they can be the president, technical director, and tactical expert at the same time. His approach to players and press are also the attribute that Madrid seek. You will not hear Don Carlo spat with media, boycott the press conference, and have a strife within his club. Madrid already have enough all sorts of controversies during Mourinho tenure and now it is time for them to turn over a new leaf. Once Ibrahimovic told the press that after winning Ligue 1 ,Ancelotti thanked every player personally for theri effort. Such gentle paternal approach is what Madrid urgently need. Furthermore, Ancelotti’s attacking style is what the club seek for and Madrid must hope for even slightest chance to salvage their €65 million Kaka.

If there is downside from Don Carlo, it is how he neglects young player development. His AC Milan, Chelsea, and PSG are all about revolving around established and senior players. Barring Carvajal, Madrid barely have any Castilla alumnus in their first team roster. Madridistas must wait longer to see their next Raul and Casillas. But, it is Madrid afterall. They have close to infinite money to spend in every transfer window and they couldn’t care less about youth development as long as they get their hand on trophies. Neverthless, Ancelotti is still the right choice for Madrid.

Pep Heynck

Don’t fix what’s not broken ? Screw it, Bayern Munich just replace their treble winner coach with another coach namely Pep Guardiola. The B. Munich management must not see the glorious treble coming when they announced Pep as their new coach at the halfway of 2012/2013 season. Jupp Heynckes is the first coach to bring treble winner to German team, but Pep did it even better with sexthuple with Barcelona. Still, there is no guarantee Pep could emulate his Barcelona achievement with Munich. It is such a risky move by the Bavarian. If there is obvious adventage that Bavarian get from Pep, it will be the leak how Barcelona run La Masia and establish it as one of best football academy in the world.

Pep will not have any difficulty to adapt in his new club. The current B. Munich is heavily influenced by Barcelona possession football, only the German add more versatility and physical presence in  their arsenal. The lack of competitors in domestic league surely remind him to the familiar condition in La Liga where there is only Madrid to stop him.

Pep only has managed Barcelona in top tier competition. It is the succesfull 3 years, but it is hard to forecast the future by those mere 3 years. Anyway, winning Bundesliga is a must. Anything lower will be deemed as failure. As for UCL, it seems the UCL curse (where no team can win it for 2 consecutive years) is too strong to be broken. So, the failure in UCL would be acceptable as long as they are out in non-embarassing fashion. The 2013/2014 season will not be very interesting, but the upcoming season will be more exciting to see how B. Munich and Pep progress.

Laurent-Blanc

The one who fill Ancelotti’s shoes in PSG is Laurent Blanc. His run with France national team during 2010-2012 was decent, but how he led Bordeaux reigning over France was very exceptional. It is expected for him to lead PSG win the league once more.

The major problem is at continental stage. Nasser Al-Khelafi, as the president of PSG, certainly isn’t content by only domestic domination. He has already invested large chunk of money and now he must set his eye on European domination. Blanc himself doesn’t have impressive track record in cup competition. Not to mention he has Ibrahimovic in his team and we know the trend with him : win every domestic league, but fall in every UCL competition. Unless Blanc messes up, winning domestic title will not be difficult, but winning UCL is not the case. It will be interesting how Al-Khelafi will react to it. Does he consider winning only Ligue 1as a success or failure ? If somehow AS Monaco rise and snatch the Ligue 1, will he still trust Blanc ? Does he have the patience to wait his team become ready to be European powerhouse  ? Or will he act like other sugardaddies who always demand instant success ? Only time can tell.

Mazzari

The gamble by hiring Stramaccioni as permanent coach of 2012/2013 turned out to be utter disaster for Inter Milan. This season, Moratti opted for safe route by appointing Walter Mazzarri. He is already well-proven in Serie-A with Livorno, Reggina, Sampdoria, and Napoli. He revived Livorno back to Serie-A, surviving Reggina despite 11 points deduction, leading Sampdoria to 2nd place at Coppa Italia, and 2nd place in Serie-A, Coppa winner, plus UCL competition for Napoli. Those were terrific track records which manage to lure Moratti to approach him.

The target for upcoming season is nothing less than UCL spot. The absence of European competitiion really hurt Inter a lot and Mazzarri will make sure it doesn’t happen again. With his experience and the players quality in his arsenal, 3rd spot in league table will be minimum target while becoming the champion is still possible.

Coincidentally, Stramaccioni once used 3-5-2 system in Inter and this scheme is also Mazzarri’s main formation in Napoli. The type of players in Inter are also not so much different with what he had in Napoli. So, adaptation will not be an issue here and the quest for Champion League spot will be smoother.

The only problem is just how long Inter and Moratti can continue with such tinkering pattern every years. Mazzarri may be the right man to rejuvenate Inter, but can Moratti give him full trust and authority like he gave to Mourinho ? They are not only important for Mazzari, but also to upcoming years ahead. We still don’t have any clue for how long Mazzarri will stay at Inter, but if Inter want to have sustainable succes in future, they better learn to trust their coach and they can start from Mazzari. UCL spot for 2013/2014 season ? Likely. Scudetto ? Maybe. Stability and continuity in future ? Not sure.

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