Analysis: Mancio’s new Inter paradigm

Analysis: Mancio’s new Inter paradigm
November 19, 2014 10:58
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SempreInter.com

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We are happy to present a new guest writer on our website. Kristian Mihajlovski has written his thoughts about Mancini’s arrival and has analyzed what the comeback of the coach could mean for Inter. 

Well, Mancio is up and running in Milano once again. There’s been an air of enthusiasm surrounding his arrival. He’s been welcomed as one of our own and the fans seem to have the utmost confidence that he will duly deliver the promise that his future can someday replicate the lavishness of his past. As we prepare to see Mancio back on the Inter bench for the first time since that Scudetto-winning game against Parma in 2008, there is no doubt that everyone’s eyes are aimed at the tactical changes he is about to make in the team. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is the aversion the fans have bred for Mazzarri’s 3-5-2 after seeing some torrid performances in that system, especially this season. Hoping that we will no longer see the pointless continuous back-passes in lack of ideas for going forward, an isolated Icardi in the opposition box begging to get some decent service so he can score etc. I’ve set out to designate several defining developments that could take place if Mancio’s changes are indeed as I’ve anticipated. I believe that as most people expect, Mancini will go with 4-3-1-2 (his “rombo“, a narrow diamond that he used at Inter last time around, a bit like a 4-1-2-1-2) as one of his trademark formations and one that would more or less suit the players he has at disposal for now. Apart from his usual affinity to this formation, the fact that he used it in his first few training sessions with the squad gives us additional reason to expect a lineup in this structure. In order to fully explain the reasons why I believe the concrete changes will occur, I will also give a short description of how the system works in principle as I go.

This is more or less (with a couple of fluctuations) the lineup that I expect to see Mancio present on perfect days – ones with no injuries or suspensions. Before I go explaining my anticipation of Mancini’s choices, a short explanation about the system itself:

As you can see, there is a shift to a 4-man defense, with a diamond in midfield consisting of one deeper lying (in most cases defensive-minded) midfielder, 2 central midfielders, a single advanced midfielder in the hole between midfield and attack and finally 2 strikers. This is a system that offers good vertical penetration and provides good balance for playing a game based both on possession or on more direct passes. A very good side of it is the fact that it creates numerical advantage in midfield, without sacrificing any of the attacking potential, but one of the system’s inherent weaknesses is one that could hurt us in particular, as I will point out later – the lack of wingers calls for the full backs to bomb ahead to provide width. As the full backs penetrate ahead, it is the job of one of the midfielders (the deeper-lying one) to stay further back and provide cover from counter attacks for the defense, until the team manages to retake its defensive shape. It is also a system that necessitates midfielders who are good on the ball, because losing the ball in midfield easily leaves the defense exposed, considering the fact that the full backs are moved in front during the offensive phase.

So, the first development I expect is:

1. We will see a lot more goals and more interesting football.

Yes, I will be expecting Inter’s games to produce more goals now that Mancini has arrived (we’ll probably score more, but we’ll probably concede easily as well, which we’ve been doing often lately anyway; all in all, less people will fall asleep during the games). The football Mancio’s first Inter side adopted was quite attractive as well, and now the fact that we’ve moved one of the stoppers behind the strikers indicates that we should see a lot more action up front. No more Icardi standing on his own in the opposition box, no more boring passing in our own half (and hopefully no more “long balls” from Ranocchia and his defensive partner in lack of other solutions).

I did have a few dilemmas in predicting the starters, as I don’t know if Mancini will prefer Vidic or JJ alongside captain Ranocchia. Vidic has been a proper menace so far, as opposed to JJ who has impressed me with his grit and bravery (the only player alongside Palacio who gives 100% every single game), but turning to a 4-man defense could be a real game-changer as far as this paradigm is concerned.

… Which brings me to my second point:

2. Vidic – reborn! (his name is Nemanja, he comes from Serbia, he’ll f***ing murder yaaaa…)

It doesn’t matter if he starts or not, I expect Vidic’s individual performances to improve massively under Mancini, not only because of his experience in 4-man defense systems (not to mention the fact that SAF has used this particular formation with United in the past), but also because Mancini would have less problems in communicating with Vidic, being able to speak English himself. I expect Mancini will also be able to better point out the differences between Italian and English football to Vidic (with his substantial experience in both leagues), which I think he desperately needs.

Should Vidic start instead of JJ (and Mancini likes him, tried to snap him up while at Galatasaray, but failed because Ausilio concluded the business swiftly on Inter’s part), it would open up a difficult choice for the new coach – should JJ be left on the bench? Seeing as how Ranocchia is captain (and Conte seems to be having a very good effect on him in the national team – was GdS’s highest rated player against Croatia) and if Vidic does indeed go through a renaissance – the only other option for Mancio will be to deploy Juan as a left full back.

Speaking of full backs…

3. Inter’s biggest problem will be on the flanks.

Yes, this is by far the most problematic area of the squad should we adopt this system. I’m not sure any of the full backs we currently have are up to such a task. Dodo, Danilo and perhaps even Nagatomo and JJ are decent at best – not complete full backs that you can rely on to that extent which this system beckons. I’m not counting Jonathan there (I’ve given up on him) and it’s much too early to talk of Mbaye. Dodo’s got a lot of potential, but he’s a liability defensively, JJ’s got the problem inverted. I think a lot of work will have to be invested in those positions, no matter who starts on either side. Our full backs can’t cross a ball for their lives, and being the only players that provide width to the game, it will be expected of them quite often. I’m quite certain that this area of the squad will be the first one mentioned should Mancini think of reinforcements.

Lucky we don’t have any reckless midfield mavericks to lose balls all the time… Oh, wait…

4. The Guarin conundrum

Now that we’ve reached midfield… I heard Mancio say in his unveiling press conference that he holds Fredy Guarin in very high regard. He said he could be “key”, called him a “great player” and said he would discuss with him his favorite position (also reportedly wanted to bring him to Galatasaray in the past, another indication of high esteem). I think that normally places him in central midfield, because it’s the only spot that doesn’t have much better fitting players already (Medel is sure to start deep, as his versatility will be useful when he needs to act as a central defender to cover; Kovacic is undisputed up front). What worries me about Guarin is tightly connected to what I mentioned about the requirements of the midfield earlier, in the system “intro”. For a system that requires players in midfield who are rational with the ball (because lost balls mean fast counter attacks on an exposed defense), Guarin is an awfully risky choice. He’s also very unstable psychologically and his work rate varies greatly due to this. I’d take M’Vila in serious consideration for that spot, at least depending on the opponents, because he is very composed (despite the fact that he won’t provide a creative spark as good as Guarin’s in attack) and also provides great physicality that allows Inter to win balls further upfield. Seeing as how the midfielders we have are quite versatile and can play in various positions, I’m sure we’ll get to see them in a variety of roles, so I won’t be surprised to see him as trequartista from time to time, a role that he spent a lot of time working on under Mazzarri.

And speaking of trequartistas…

5. Mancini will elevate Kovacic to new heights.

This is one of the biggest benefits of Mancini’s arrival. He has spoken very highly of Kovacic in the past, calling him the “biggest talent in Europe, a born champion” while Mateo was still in Dinamo. Though Kovacic has already been stellar in our shirt, I expect Mancini to take him to a whole new level. The reason? Mancini is an expert on the trequartista role and Kovacic has all it takes to make it there. Actually, upon receiving his coaching badges, Mancio wrote a thesis about the trequartista role, and having played as one himself, he knows quite a lot about it. He writes in his thesis that the trequartista is an “artist with 360 degree vision, and can create something new and unexpected with a single move”. The role demands great mobility and generally allows great creative freedom. Though this is difficult to implement in modern football (having a player that provides little defensive contribution), it’s a perfect role for Kovacic.

I’ve been thinking whether Kovacic should swap positions with Hernanes, because he plays better in more space and Inter could benefit from Hernanes’ shooting abilities while not losing too much creative output, but I think that Mancio’s expertise in the role combined with his appreciation for Il Professore nudged my decision the right way. Expect him to become the very core of this team.

We should expect a lot of assists from little Mateo, and we also have quite the player to score goals off them…

6. Icardi to leapfrog competition to become Capocannoniere. 

… Don’t get me wrong, Mauro has already been exquisite for Inter! He is a predator in front of the goal; a very balanced combination of excellent movement (as pointed out by Mancio himself before he returned), aerial prowess, speed, physicality and above all world class finishing ability. He is currently sitting third on the charts with 7 goals to his name, only 1 goal behind Tevez and Callejon who are tied for 1st place each having scored 8.

The biggest (and perhaps, only) reason Mauro Icardi is not #1 on that list in my humble opinion has been the disgraceful lack of service he’d been victim of under Mazzarri. Walter may have had a positive effect on him as an individual as far as his game is concerned, but one of the most frustrating things about Mazzarri’s reign was seeing Icardi all alone up front, receiving 70m long balls from Ranocchia/Vidic/JJ and being left to wait for the rest of the team to come up and help him; receiving barely 1 decent cross from which he can make a proper finish through 90 minutes (which could continue to be a problem, as I’ve mentioned above) etc. This has to stop, Icardi can be the best striker in Italy by a mile and Mancini needs to look to this.

Apart from Maurito, I am quite confident Rodrigo will come around soon enough and will be back to his best (I have HUGE respect for him). I am a little scared about Osvaldo, who has done well so far and needs to keep up the good work despite the change of coaches.

Having re-read what I’ve written above, it seems like a very optimistic scenario (a feeling I generally don’t emit when speaking of Inter lately). If Mancini can gain control over things in the short time that he’s been given and resist the pressure, I expect to start seeing glimpses of what I’ve written above (it’s easier to see these things when there’s order instead of chaos). Roberto has a very difficult time ahead and he will need unconditional support for at least a while. I hope that we will see improvements compared to Mazzarri’s time (which isn’t too much to ask for starters!) and that we finish in a European spot in May. Meanwhile, Thohir has to do all that is possible to keep hold of our best players (and we have several good ones) so that the project may kick off. Mancini has experience in building good teams, and though he hasn’t got the budget to build a world class one in a short time, I’m confident he’ll set the right foundations.

Do you agree with Kristijan?

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