The struggles of Strama

At the start of the season everything appeared so easy for the youngster.

Prior to Sunday’s 0-0 bore draw against Genoa, a match about as interesting as the incessant ego driven controversies and scandals that litter the Italian game,  Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni outlined a number of points relating to the clubs future transfer policy and tactics. It was almost as if the Nerazzurri coach realises that, after setting the all time record number of single season losses with the club, in only his first full season, he really needed to convince the fans that he can provide more than strange team selections, off the cuff tactics that change more than Silvio Burlesconi’s stripper selection, and the oft-repeated line that he is young and hey, he is still learning! While the novelty of having a young whipper snapper as the coach allowed the fans to dream that they had unveiled their own Pep, a man who would suddenly reveal that Inter’s youth department, unlike every other department in the club, is actually well run and contained a plethora of world-class talent just waiting to be released on the world stage, the reality stung a little harder. Where previous managers relied on the tried on true, the so-called ‘senators’ of the club, Stramaccioni, the blinding light of youth promotion went for……well the senators, but don’t forget he did blood a host of new talent in the, wait for it, Europa League, Europe’s version of the Coppa Italia where most clubs either send out lineups chock full of young blood or come from countries such as Hungary and have awesome names such as Videoton.

By the end things were not so fun however.

Where the tired, experienced, middling managers like Ranieri, Gasperini and Zaccharoni found themselves unable to assert themselves or their limp wristed will on the wacky and wild transfer gurus that lurk in the shadows of Mr. Moratti’s pockets, Strama, the new Mou, demanded the best, demanded the type of players that would not just return Inter to the top table but get them to stand astride it, dancing the cha-cha while the Oligarchs and miniature, moaning Spaniards begged to be allowed back into where the action was. Players like…well….Schelotto, Rocchi, Kuzmanovic, Pereira, Silvestre…..came to the club, players who could make a difference and….well they made things worse and have generally been terrible buts let’s give Strama a break here and blame Branca, after all he seems to be as inept as anyone. I am sure if Strama was given a chance to manage transfer policy we would soon see Messi warming the bench. At least Kovacic was signed, the next great Nerazzuri midfielder, who, together with Philippe ‘future of the club’ Coutinho,  the next great Nerazurri attacker, would form one of the most feared combinations in world football…oh wait that’s right Coutinho was sold to get money to buy Schelotto, I mean Kovacic. I guess it would be too much to ask to have two quality young players in the squad, after all what would people say. Maybe in a few years we can sell Kovacic and buy another great future star of the Nerazurri, keep things ticking over! Strama may not have any control over transfers, boldness in terms of team selection or idea about tactics but he does have the balls to put himself on the line, to take responsibility, to stand up and be a man, not blame the injuries, the scandals or the referees, the….oh wait that’s what he did. Over and over and over again, while he was publicly praising Moratti over and over again for having the metal to give an inexperienced runt like him the job in the first place. Surely it can’t be a good thing to have your coach constantly saying how much he is indebted to the boss for giving him his job? Can it?

At least someone is still clapping him!

I guess, all things considered, it isn’t hard to see why the young manager, seemingly completely out of his depth, felt the compulsion to provide something of an outline for the future. A glimpse into the revival of the blue and black of Milan, a team renowned for not just shooting themselves in the foot, but shooting themselves, their teammates and everyone who watches them in the foot, several times; then still believing there is a chance that things will work out for the best!

Schelotto: Just one of the quality bought in during Strama’s reign. Who knows what other champions will arrive. 

Strama’s first sampling of information concerned the state of the squad and the transfer activity next season. He stated that “Yes we do need to make some top-quality signings, but in terms of numbers fewer than you might imagine. Inter have a good basis here: it can be improved but it’s already good.” First of all I want to ask, what squad is he looking at? Perhaps he has the team sheet for the treble season where yes we perhaps only need a couple of top quality signings but this squad? Almost all of the best players are 30 plus, there is an incredible amount of players who should be battling to avoid relegation rather and supposedly fighting for the title, and any decent youth player (Kovacic and perhaps Juan Jesus aside) has been sold, loaned or co-owed. To put it bluntly it is a horrible squad made up of players whose attributes do not seem at all supplementary. Look at a squad like Man United’s. Wily old Ferguson had a clear idea of what style the team was going to play and this style is clearly visible in the type of players he bought. Compare that to Inter’s. There are a few wingers, a couple of out-and-out strikers, a few playmakers, several different styles of midfielder, wing backs, full backs, all sorts of central defenders; it is almost as if we hit the pick and mix section of the player transfer market hoping that what we come out with manages to fit together somehow. It is a squad representative of a transfer team who know as much about player potential or how to put a team together as a monkey knows about building a skyscraper . Unfortunately this team that Strama believes needs only a couple of top quality signings, in reality needs to be overhauled both by bringing players in and clearing  out some of the mass of averageness that pollutes it.

Kovacic: The one good thing to come out of the second half of Inter’s season.

His second remark was related to the January transfer window and a classic piece of spin. Strama stated that “Inter came out of the January transfer window  with an exceptional player and that’s Mateo Kovacic. Finding a player that good at just 19 is extraordinary.” It is hard to argue with Strama on this point. Kovacic has been a shining light in a pitch black room, giving even the most pessimistic fans something to hold onto. The positive nature of his statement needs balance however, as Inter also came out of the January transfer window short an exceptional player, and that’s Phillipe Coutinho. While the signing of Kovacic was undoubtably a coup it was and always will be linked to the unfortunate sale of curly-haired midget Brazilian, Phillipe Coutinho, a player who only a couple of months earlier was hailed as the ‘future of Inter’ and who now is showing himself to be the future of Liverpool by scoring or assisting virtually every week. Where the young Brazilian was injured every other week in Italy he is now virtually injury free in the Premier League, which, according to those in the know, is the most physical in Europe. One must therefore question whether it was the player, training or medical staff that was to blame for his ailments. It is unfortunate that Nerazzurri fans will never get to see these two hugely talented young men gracing the field together.

Coutinho laughing at Inter’s final position on the table . Three goals and seven assists was not bad for his first 13 games, many of which came off the bench. 

Strama’s final statement regarded the formation that he is looking to play next season and why he has kept chopping and changing this year. To summarize he basically stated that during his entire career he has utilized a 4-3-3 and that there was no reason for him not to continue to do so. He also stated that it was injuries that forced him to change to the 3-5-2 rather than a persistent itch to continually mix things up during a game. Personally I have a couple of issues with this statement. Firstly I am worried that our fullbacks are too aggressive in getting forward to give the defensive cover needed playing 4-3-3. It has been a common sight this season, Inter bombing forward, losing the ball and the opposition attacking down our wings because our fullbacks have charged forward with willful abandon. Perhaps only Zanetti, out of all our fullbacks, offers the ability to assess when to push forward and when to stay in position. Secondly I am worried by the stream of out and out wingers flowing into the club. In all my years as an Inter supporter I cannot remember too many wingers actually contributing to the club and I have similar doubts about the current crop. If the signing of Schelotto is anything to go by we have a lot to be worried about. Interestingly Phillipe Coutinho was apparently sold by Strama because he didn’t fit into his favored tactical system which seems somewhat odd as Liverpool also utilize a 4-3-3 and Coutinho has shown himself to be rather adept at playing in this formation. His ability to charge down the left, take on and beat players, cut inside, lay on excellent passes and shoot would seem to most the perfect combination of skills for that position. Perhaps he was sacrificed because of his now resolved injury plight, or maybe because we have the 31-year-old Palacio in that position and we obviously would not want to reduce his time in the starting line up for some 20 year old whipper snapper! Whatever the reason one must question Strama’s decision-making, ability to assess potential and indeed talent, particularly when combined with the decision to swap half of Lavaja’s card plus cash for Schelotto and loan out young guns Bianchetti, Bessa and Cristeig!

Mr. Unpredictable, one day he fires coaches for fun, the next he keeps the faith in Strama despite a record number of single season losses.

I am also skeptical of Strama’s statement that he only converted to 3-5-2 because of injuries. I am sure that we were playing this system well before the victory over Juventus and that we had been quite successful with it. It appeared that when 4-3-3 went through a bad patch Strama changed to 3-5-2 and had some success. Once that formation began to stutter he then started to throw all sorts of formations out there hoping to find some random success with dreadful consequences. I can understand that injuries can affect the way a team is set up but this is supposed to Strama’s squad. He had a full off-season plus a January transfer window to get players he wanted but still states that when injuries happened he was forced change to a formation that was completely different that the one he apparently favors  Then there are the classic half time changes. It is almost tradition now for Strama to mix things up at half time tactically to fix whatever mess has appeared in the first half. It is standard practice for the big club to have its tactical style, dominate the game and force the manager of the smaller team to find a way to win. Under Strama Inter has become the small team, dominated in the first half and Strama scrambling to find the answer to beating which will unlock titans like Atalanta or Siena. For a team of Inter’s size and wage bill it is an embarrassing situation.

Inter’s fans will surely not put up with another season like this.

It would be nice to say that Strama laying out his vision for the next season has transmitted a sense of security but all it has served to do it highlight the contradictions, uncertainties and mismanagement that has blighted his reign. Although the story of a young, driven and undoubtedly talented manager taking over the club and winning is a nice idea the reality is far from flattering. From flawed tactical policy; a catastrophic mismanagement of the transfer windows which saw the club’s best young player leave for a pittance despite being an ideal fit for the manager’s stated tactical system, which saw virtually all the clubs other best young players also depart on loans or co-ownership deals, which saw the arrival of a number of players who simply are not good enough to join the masses of other players who are not good enough in cluttering up the team sheet; a manager who seems to backtrack on his beliefs, who seems out of his depth and uncertain, and who is continually and incessantly praising his boss for just giving him his job, as if he still can’t believe the incredible luck he has had. While there is a potentially excellent manager waiting to emerge from Stramaccioni, Inter is not the right club for him to cut his teeth at. Hopefully it will not take the clubs relegation for Moratti and his team of unbelievably poor decision makers to understand that.

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