The appointment of Gasperini as Inter’s new manager is an intriguing one. Not only did he start his playing and coaching careers at Juventus, but his preferred formation, 3-4-3 may not suit the players currently at Inter and is almost obsolete in Europe’s premier club competition. Not to mention that he had been sacked, albeit surprisingly, by Genoa in November last season.
“I never understood why Genoa fired him mid-season” opined Ranocchia; and rightly so. Up until last season the 53 year old Italian had done a fantastic job building a good squad from limited resources and in the process producing stars like Milito. Hailed as the Ferguson of Genoa by the owner Enrico Preziosi, he was constantly linked with the job at Juventus but showed great loyalty.
After an era of relative stability under Mancini, Inter seem to have reverted to their revolving door policy, Gasperini being the 16th manager in Moratti’s 16 year long tenure at the helm of the club’s affairs and 3rd in little over a year. After the disastrous reign of Rafa Benitez followed by a steady period under Leonardo, Inter finished the season in 2nd place after previously having won it for five seasons in a row.
The squad has several players who are nearing the end of their careers and after having won the Champions League a season earlier, there may be doubts about their desire and dedication. Some players have been rumored to be interested in a move away from Inter, Sneijder being the biggest name among them. Eto’o reportedly expressed his desire to test his ability in the EPL before retirement and Maicon, who will be an integral part of the team in Gasperini’s style of play, has also been linked with other clubs. Holding on or replacing the ageing and lost players will be a major challenge for the new manager.
Respected around Italy for his attacking a style of play, he has the backing of Mourinho, “Gasperini is the coach who put me in most difficulty. I would change but he would adapt, time and again.” Yet again, how the manager and players ‘adapt’ to each other will be crucial.
Throughout his career, he has preferred to play with 3 centre backs and 3-4-3 was the formation he used to a great degree of success at Genoa. In his early days as a Juventus youth coach, he is known to have used a 3-4-1-2 formation. It was not until his last few games at Genoa when he snubbed his 3 centre backs policy and finally played a flat back four. Regardless, there are some things consistent in all of his teams; they all play attacking, attractive football. Also, the players work very hard off the ball with pressing and overlapping being a constant feature and are required to possess great stamina and work rate.
Players who will benefit
The 3-4-3 formation involves playing with two wing backs and Inter, in Maicon and Nagatomo, possess players on both flanks who will thrive if given such a role. Milito, Pazzini and Eto’o are all capable of leading the line in the centre forward role with Milito perhaps the first choice out of the three.
Pandev is ideally suited for the right forward role and will work in tandem with Maicon, but will need to be aware of his defensive responsibilities. Also, players like Motta and Ranocchia can be expected to do well because they are suited and well accustomed to the system.
Many believe that Inter perhaps do not have enough quality centre backs, however a left centre back role may see Chivu play a bigger part in the team than he has in the previous seasons. The formation requires the centre backs to initiate the attacks, and with 2 defenders to cover up his frailties, Chivu’s comfort on the ball might just see him selected in his preferred position ahead of Lucio or Samuel.
Players who will be hampered
Anyone who has seen Gasperini’s teams in action will wonder whether the ageing team will be able to cope with the high fitness demands required to play under him. Lucio, Samuel, Chivu, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Milito, Motta and Eto’o would all be expected to play a significant role but are on the wrong side of 30. “His Genoa performed movement off the ball, so I wonder will his football even be possible at Inter. He will have to adapt to the squad, most likely. I just wonder if that will work to improve Gasperini’s bag of tricks or instead reduce his capabilities.” said the Arrigo Sacchi, expressing his doubts about the appointment in an interview to Gazzetta dello Sport.
If Gasperini does decide to adopt the 3-4-3 formation, his biggest problem will be to find a suitable role for Sneijder. He started his career as a winger and was used on the left by Leonardo in the Champions League against Bayern last season, so a left sided role is not unthinkable. Also, in a slightly modified 3-4-1-2 formation, Sneijder may be used behind the strikers but he likes to take up deeper positions to be able to play a bigger part in the build up and may not be entirely comfortable. However, his terrific work rate and eye for goal may help him adapt.
The formation will also spell trouble for Eto’o who will perhaps have to go back to the role he played under Mourinho, on the left. This would mean compromising his goal scoring prowess but with Milito best suited to the centre-forward role, it is hard to see where else he can find a place in the team. This again may require a 3-4-1-2 formation to be deployed so that two of the above three can be picked in fairly central positions.
Unlikely as it may be, if Gasperini does adopt the 4-3-3 formation, it will perhaps suit the team better. Sneijder’s role may yet again be a bone of contention; however the team as a whole will be a lot more organized. Also, in the Champions League as most other teams adopt a 1 striker formation, playing 3 centre backs may be futile and will create an imbalance.
Whether Gasperini’s appointment is a success or failure, we will know in due time; however it certainly is exciting. It also reiterates the fact that Serie A is always one step ahead of the rest when it comes to football tactics with the four biggest clubs Milan, Inter, Roma and Juventus all expected to adopt very different formations. At Milan, Allegri proved that managers from mid table clubs can be successful at the top. Now their arch-rivals will hope for the same from their manager and soon; because Massimo Moratti is anything but a patient man.
~ Kumar Shivam
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