Archive for February, 2013


Pirlo Inter Milan

So many youths enroll in Inter Milan young player academy yet so few who make it to the highest level. It seemed they have bright future ahead in their football career. The fans put their hope on them as the next star. Too bad. Some still play at highest level of football, but some play at lower division and worse, some gave up their football career at early age. Here are the little compilation of some players who once are the part of Inter Milan and Inter Primavera. Lets have some bitter sweet nostalgia of the players who once we bear the hope on.

Primavera

Note :

*Age when the player departed from Inter Primavera

**Departed status means the player left Inter due to loaned, released, moved to other club, or promoted to Inter Milan first team

ps : Since the writing isn’t for serious purpose, sorry for inaccuracy then. Only want some nostalgic stuff and wondering how Inter young player academy works.

Reference :

http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/

After a strong start in Serie-A campaign, Inter Milan performance suffers freefall recently. But, despite the disappointing results they have gotten, there are still some players who deliver. One of them is Fredy Guarin. His form was bad when the team were good and the vice versa happens. His performance got better when Inter chose attacking approach instead of defensive one. Then, he began to leave his defensive duty and participate more in attack. He was bought as defensive and box-to-box midfielder (or shuttler), but this season sees we often see him playing as attacking midfielder (or even trequartista).

The question is, does the shift of role favor him and Inter ? How effective is it? The results vary between highs and lows. But, it is author’s personal opinion that Guarin should not play as attacking midfielder. Why ?

 

Attacking Midfielder Is Not His Natural Position

First, Guarin was simply a makeshift attacking midfielder as no one else could do it. Cambiasso is too slow and doesn’t have enough guile to be attacking midfielder, Gargano’s passing is on Serie-C1 class, Sneijder was injury-plauged (and now has gone), and Ricky Alvarez follows the Dutchman footstep as hospital patient. But, several strong performances as attacking midfielder should not justify him to deploy him there in long run. Last season, he impressed everyone with his physical and combatant presence in the middle of the park. With the emergence of Benassi and arrival of Kovacic and Kuzmanovic, there is simply no reason to continue playing him as attacking midfielder. Furthermore, box-to-box midfielder is his natural position and it is very difficult to teach new role in his mature golden age.

Brute Strength Is Not For Number 10

Second, physical player can’t optimize his power if he is stationed close to opponent’s goal. History teaches us that attacking midfielder is decorated by techincal players (e.g. Iniesta, Zidane, Laudrup etc), not physical one. In the area congested by opponent bodies, vision and technique are more important than raw strength. That’s why Guarin suits best in shuttler role. The further you are from opposition goal, the more space you have to build up the momentum. The proofs are, most of Guarin commendable plays come when he outpaces and outmuscles everyone in his wake, not from his astute positioning or deft passing.

 

Ramires, Boateng, and Yaya Toure

Third, lets take recent history lesson from Ramires, Boateng, and Yaya Toure. Together with Guarin, 4 of them started as pure defensive midfielder and then development in modern football shifted them into box-to-box midfielder. Until this stage, all of them still did well. But, the circumstance in each player’s club saw them developing in each way.

Ramires still continues playing as shuttler in Chelsea. In this position, he deserved great merit for his contribution in delivering UCL title for The Blues. It was his sudden burst against Barcelona that secure vital goals. In first leg, he provided assist for Drogba and in second leg he scored it by himself. Chelsea sat back, soaked the pressure, and then launched quick counter attack with Mata vision, Ramires surge, and Drogba finish. Isn’t it how Stramaccioni wants to play with Cassano, Guarin, and Palacio in his arsenal ? Despite there is slight drop in his performance recently (together with most of his teammates), Ramires is still valuable first team member in shuttler role.

Kevin Prince Boateng is the case where Inter and Guarin try to avoid. He was stationed as trequartista and even earned number 10. He was instrumental when Milan won Serie-A 2 seasons ago, but then saw drastic drop in his performances. Neverthless, Allegri still insisted to deploy him as number 10 and it led to strings of bad results, much to the rage of Milanisti. Surely Stramaccioni doesn’t want his Colombian star bears the same fate as Boateng. Only after Boateng was benched for several matches, Allegri plays him again now as midfielder. With Montolivo at his side as passer and El-Sharaawy upfront, it seems Boateng form has gotten better. Now, as Guarin will be suspended for next match again Chievo, it could give time for thought for the him and his coach to decide the best for Inter.

Contrary to Boateng, Yaya Toure succeeds in more advanced role. Started as box-to-box midfielder in Barcelona, he transited into more attacking role in Manchester City and now he established himself as main attacking midfielder with Silva. Could Guarin emulate him ? No. The main reasons why Yaya Toure thrives well in attacking role are Barcelona and David Silva. He gains a lot of benefit for playing and training in Barcelona which have strong accent on passing and technique. Also, it is Silva who provides creativity edge and Toure complements it with his powerful drive. Let’s apply the case to Nerazzurri. Inter may have the creative figure, but not the staff and system to shape someone into fine attacking midfielder. Let alone converting someone who is 26 years old and has spent his entire career in defensive nature. Sidenote for Toure, although his current fine form, every City fans will agree that Toure reached his greatest height last season when he played as shuttler. So, shall we see Guarin as box-to-box midfielder again, Mr. Andrea Stramaccioni ?

 

The hibernation is over. Pep had decided that he will handle the Bavarian next season. Coincidence or not, Pep chose Bayern Munich that have a lot of similarities with previously Barcelona he handled. Guaranteed, Pep will bring his trademark passing football to German side. The good thing is, B. Munich will not have any difficulty to adapt as they are only second best to Barcelona in term of possession game. Not only the playing philosophy, even the players characteristic resemble a lot. Lets see the comparison below.

 Muenchen Barca 11

There is slight difference in formation as Barcelona sticks to 4-3-3 and B. Munich plays 4-2-3-1. But, consider that both Robben and Ribery spent their time attacking and offer little in defence. Also, consider that all Barcelona forwards wil press and track back to defence. So, practically there is not so much difference between them.

Goalkeeper

Perhaps the biggest difference of both squad. Neuer boasts cat-like reflexes while Valdes doesn’t, but the latter has a great asset in his passing ability, something that Neuer will jealous for. Once Neuer said that he worked less than he did when he played for Schalke, but Pep arrival will change everything. Neuer will see a lot of time with ball, but instead of playing it with hand, he will play it with his feet. In Pep tactic, goalkeeper is the first foundation of attack and Neuer must adapt well for it.

Defender

Alves was the main man in width department. With Messi cut inside and the rest players tend to congest middle of the park, Alves was the key tactical figure to provide the width. Pep propelled him from great fullback into even greater one, but Pep will not miss him as Lahm is nothing short of his quality.

Puyol was the right back before he established himself as accomplished center back. Does it resemble Badstuber very much ? None of them are comfortable in sprinting along the flank and sending the cross to penalty box. Even if they are deployed as full back, they will as centerback at flank, prioritising in defence over offence. For now, Badstuber is still very inferior compared to Puyol. But he is still 23 and lets see how far Pep can develop him.

Another man in centerback, Dante, worths comparison to Pique. Contrary to their partner (Badstuber and Puyol), Dante and Pique are very comfortable with ball. Just how many defenders in the world can pass as good as Pique, let alone his trademark long diagonal pass. Not to mention his overlapping run from backline when the attack has met deadend. All of these can be found in Dante. Aside of some differences, there is little doubt that Pep will utilise Dante like Pique.

The question for fullback position is, who will be given a licence to charge forward and who will focus on defence ? Back in his Barca tenure, Pep chose offensive right flank and defensive left flank. In B. Munich case, the case will not be as simple as that. Lahm is great fullback with balance on his offensive and defensive side. On the other flank, Alaba favours offence over defence, frequently leaving his position as the hole in defence. As much as Pep loves attacking football, he still has to think the balance with the defence. Perhaps, Pep will utilise Alaba as “Alves” and Lahm as “Abidal”, but only time can tell.

Midfielder

Pep was close to sign in Martinez before the deal collapsed, but now he gets his second chance to play with the ex-Bilbao. There is no doubt that Martinez will operate similarly like Busquets does. He will distribute the ball from defensive line to Schweinsteiger, just like Busquets links Puyol-Pique to Xavi. He will act as centerhalf, positioning himself along centerback when his team attack. If somehow B. Munich run out of centerback (either due to injury or suspension), Martinez will play as centerback as he is also adept playing there. Uli Hoeness might not see Pep coming when he decided to splash hefty sum of money to acquire Martinez, but now it turns out to be a blessing.

Here comes the hotlink between Pep and Van Gaal. They worked each other as player and coach. Pep was the team’s playmaker while Van Gaal were moulding young Xavi into fine playmaker. Xavi enjoyed his peak performance with Pep, but the foundation was builded by Van Gaal (which was admitted by Xavi himselft). Now, history is repeating himselft. Schweinsteiger was a winger. He was eccentric unique figure as German didn’t have much technical player. But everything changed when he met Van Gaal. At first, everybody was skeptical about the idea of putting Schweinsteiger as metronome. No one would expect the experiment turned out to be great success. Schweinstegier plays at completely higher level than he had ever played as a winger. In term of pacesetting, he is on par with Xavi, Pirlo, and Scholes. What distinguses them is, the German is not the one who will spray deft throughball to split opponent defence. But, he compensates it with his presence in defence. It is interesting how will Pep work with Schweinsteiger. Will Pep sharpen his creativity edge or will he keep his attack-defence balance ?

Now, it is hard to compare Kroos and Iniesta. The former is the rising star while the latter has established himself as powerhouse in world football. Kroos is a passer who has exceptional eye for space, he will spot opponent’s weak spot and capitalise it. On the other hand, Iniesta is like an upgrade version of Kroos with unparallel dribbling skill.

To sum up the midfield, perhaps in future Kroos will remain as creative passer as he is now while Schweinsteiger too will remain unchanged. In short, defensive Martinez, balanced Schweinsteiger, and offensive Kroos.

Forward

Dribbling from right side then drifting inside, fast, explosive, and selfish. Name 2 players who fit the description and the answer will be Robben and young Messi (as if he is already old). There is chance that Pep will once more revive the combination of inverted winger and overlapping fullback as the resources are available. Pep had Messi-Alves, now he has Robben-Lahm. Different players, same devastating effect. The problems are, Robben doesn’t have an intention to press and a vision to pass. Homework for Pep.

It is the case of tranformation from central to forward. Both of them started in central position. Fabregas already pronounced himself as midfield linchpin in Arsenal with his passing and sudden forwarding burst.. The Spaniard was projected to replace Xavi as playmaker, but it turns out he plays in other position. In most case, he plays as a part of Barca tridente forward. It was almost similar to Ribery. Ribery was heralded as Zidane’s replacement. He played as trequartista in France national team then brought to Munich to add creative presence and replace Scholl. Now, the task of playmaking has been lefted to his teammate and he spents majority of his game in opponent final third.

Although Pep was renowned for his fluid passing game, he is not an alien to imposing figure of targetman. His previous tenure was coloured by his strife with Ibra, but it is not that Pep cannot utilise him. In fact, Ibra made an instant impact with his continous goal, including the winner in El Classico with his volley. The problem began when Messi started to want to play in more central role, encroaching Ibra’s position. Then, the rest is history. Now, it is unlikely that Robben will play in central position so Pep can continue his work with targetman with Mandzukic or Gomez. Although the Sweden is undisputedly better player, both of them aren’t bad players either.

Epilogue

It is very adventageous for both Pep and B. Munich as they have fair share or philosophy. They will not start from zero. Pep will have almost the same players like he had in Barcelona. Furthermore, B. Munich have completely better players than most of Bundesliga clubs. It seems that everything will go smooth and it seems the fans are already very optimistic. But, you know how football realm frequently shocks us. There is no guaranteed succes and it also applies to Pep-B. Munich case.

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