A week ago, the football world was talking about the repercussions if a certain Rafa Benitez stayed as the manager of the European Champions. A week on, here we are, the Nerazzurri are back to their old self with a couple of successive wins. Football fans and media are a fickle lot – one moment they leave no stone unturned to bring you down, the next, they hail you as the king of the world. It is a little premature and also foolish to say that Inter are on the verge of beating every other team and retaining their crown in both domestic and continental competitions, but they are certainly a capable lot.
A club is not built around the players; rather, it is built around the manager who is the single most important person for a successful football club. No wonder Sir Alex Ferguson is the mastermind at United, no wonder the infamous Real Madrid board are keeping silent and not interrupting Jose Mourinho’s work and no wonder Barcelona, arguably the best club football side in the world, are desperate to keep their prodigal son Pep Guordiala as their “Chief Success Officer”. While these three are iconic managers in football currently, there is one man, Rafa Benitez, who is rather regarded exactly the opposite in an unfair manner.
In reality, no coach is invincible – each one of them, at some point or other, is tested to the hilt and the one who comes out of it with fewer scratches is considered the best. This is what Rafa Benitez is experiencing presently and there are more critics on his back than on any other coach’s, for that matter. He is being put to the sword in an uneasy manner but to the man’s credit; he has kept his head down and has gone on with his job without any complaints.
The defending Champions have been nothing but mediocre for the last couple of months as they are struggling to beat relegation candidates, causing a lot of tension in the Inter boardroom. However, on the positive note, the Nerazzurri have won their last two games albeit in an ugly manner. Yet, voices have been raised against the manager, with the media, along with some of their fans urging president Moratti to sack the man in charge. But, president Massimo has supported Benitez and has ensured that the Spaniard stays where he is. Now is the time for Benitez to create a plan (if he hasn’t already) and follow it even if the plan includes some things against his policies. Let’s look at some of the possible ways for Benitez to avoid being sacked.
Stick to Inter’s Philosophy
The entire football world knows that the Nerazzurri won the treble last season because of their brilliance in defense. Jose Mourinho knew that Inter was not the team to experiment with beautiful football as he didn’t have the required resources at his disposal, so he stuck to the Italian mentality of defending which produced great results eventually. Whilst, that has not been the case this term as Rafa Benitez has been too proud of himself and has changed Inter’s structure from what it used to be under the Portuguese. The Italian champions are caught up in two minds as they are neither defending nor attacking properly.
Although Inter have got some quality players in attack with the likes of Eto’o, Sneijder and Milito, they don’t have a midfield enforcer to control the play, possibly a “Xavi-esque” player. Yes, Sniejder is a brilliant attacking midfielder, but he is no Central Midfielder with Xavi’s quality and the likes of Cambiasso and Motta are defensive midfielders. This means that Inter have no other option but stick to their defensive mentality in the big matches and hit their opposition on the counter, a strategy that was successfully deployed last season. So, its high time Benitez understands the resources at his disposal and designs or rather follows the structure that Mourinho used.
Make Shrewd Signings in January
One thing Benitez would be regretting right now is the lack of signings he made in June. But, he can make amends next month when the winter transfer window reopens. There are a lot of improvements to be made to the currently handicapped squad which includes a host of long term injuries with the likes of defensive duo Samuel and Julio Cesar out for the year possibly. A Centre Back signing is mandatory because of the injury to Samuel and the lack of quality replacements; one such replacement can be in the shape of David Luiz. The Brazilian born Benfica player is a typical no nonsense defender who would fit into the Inter line up perfectly and replace Samuel. At the same time, he would also compliment Lucio, his compatriot Brazilian well.
The loss of Balotelli to Manchester City and the injury to Diego Milito has hurt the Nerazzurri badly, putting too much of load on Samuel Eto’o. Although they have Pandev, he is not your traditional Centre Forward. So, Inter need a striker desperately to strengthen their fading attack. They have been linked with a move for Antonio Cassano. The former Real Madrid striker can be a brilliant signing for Rafa Benitez as he can fit seamlessly into the Inter line-up and provide the missing ammunition.
If there is one main problem in Rafa Benitez’s sides, it is the dependency on one or two players. It is a positive thing to build your team around a Talisman, but the consequences would be severe if the load for that player is unbearable. While at Liverpool, the Spanish Master built the team around Gerrard and Torres, now, he has been following the same pattern at Inter Milan. Samuel Eto’o has beared all the load in the absence of Milito, with the rest of his team-mates playing mediocre football. With Eto’o’s suspension underway, Inter have a big task at hand to cope without the Cameroonian. Jose Mourinho created a team that worked with and for each other, helping out each other and ultimately succeeding as a team. If Rafa Benitez wants to reach similar heights with Inter, he has to focus on all the players and not just build the team around a couple of them.
Get a winning run
There is one thing La Beneamata are struggling to find this season and that’s consistency. They have been extremely discrepant not only at their usual fortress, home, but also on the travels. Rafa Benitez’s men have collected just 23 points out of a possible 42 in the league. In the Champions’ League, they are in a better position, having already qualified; however, they would be better off finishing first and avoiding possible clashes against Barcelona, Real Madrid or Chelsea. Whether it is the case of injuries or the lack of motivation, Rafa Benitez has to identify his team’s problems and get some consistency leading to a series of wins.
Become the World Champions
Inter fans along with their president have placed their trust in their manager due to a single reason, and that is, the possibility of winning trophies. In December, just before Christmas, the FIFA Club World cup takes place and all the continental Champions take part in this competition. This time, Europe will be represented by Inter Milan. The last two editions saw the two former European Champions Manchester United and Barcelona winning it in a close fashion. Inter have never won this competition in their history and have a great opportunity to lay their hands on the first silverware of the season. Rafa Benitez has emphasized the importance on placing confidence in his team and has earmarked Internacional as a potential opponent. But he has to ensure that his players do the talking on the pitch. If Inter do win this competition, it could act as a catalyst and massively change their season.
For now though, Benitez has to concentrate on winning his next match, which in itself is a tough test – his side will travel to Rome to face Lazio. If they come unscathed from the capital city, it could lead to a fruitful season. On the other hand, if they are unsuccessful in Rome, it could turn out to be a long season for the Nerazzurri, but Rafa may not be there to oversee the proceedings till the end.