In his regular weekly column Inter fanatic Sam Olsen dives deep into the stories that matter to
Inter’s real problems will not be solved with a new manager As the crazy train rolls on with the next stop inevitably appearing to be the same tired tactics of blaming and then sacking the manager. Will this help the club achieve it goals? Perhaps, to a limited degree anyway. It will not help cure the club of its real disease however, which is clearly infecting the area responsible for the organisation and control of the club itself.
Who actually read Mauro Icardi’s book? Did the management even know it was being written? Maybe give it a cursory glace while they were doing a number two on the chairman’s throne? Or was it simply an oversight, an utterly ridiculous one considering the club is trying to convince everyone it is now a competitive club on an international scale.
Many may think the scandal was the words that inflamed the rage of the fans but for this fan the real scandal was the failure for the club to have any control over their employees. Has anyone read Wayne Rooney’s biographies? Complete bore, nothing interesting to read at all. Why? Because the player knows he cannot write anything controversial while still playing and because Manchester United would not allow one of their players to embarrass the club.
Inter is being run like a struggling Serie B team with aspirations of the Champions League. From public reports of splits between the clubs hierarchy, to a lack of clear direction through the ranks of the club, they are a complete mess. De Boer must have wondered what he has walked into.
Let’s have a quick look at what some of the world’s most consistent football and sporting teams look like. Take Barcelona, a team obviously stuffed full of cash and talent but also one with a remarkably consistent record. They have a style of play implemented throughout their entire system, first team to juniors. This allows them to choose their coaches and players based on how well they fit into that style rather than reputation. It also allows junior players a smooth transition from the youth or second teams to the first team. They are all playing the same style so the leap is suddenly a lot smaller.
Let’s look at other success stories, Germany’s national team implemented a structure so that all national sides would look to play in a similar way, a national identity that has seen them win numerous titles in junior competitions as well as the recent senior successes. It offers continuity and helps ensure that youth success translate to senior success.
Southampton, marooned in League One only a few years back but with a history of an excellent academy, decided to make their academy the centre piece of their resurgence. They promoted their style of play through their youth teams to the senior team and have shot up the leagues to where they are now a consistent mid-table premier league team despite losing half their players and coaches every season.
The pattern continues in other sports. The All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team, has a winning record approaching 90% in the last ten years and have just broken the record for consecutive wins in internationals with 18. This has been achieved by giving the national team priority over all domestic teams. Every year the coaches of the national team (who are very rarely changed), hold a meeting with all the coaches of the regional teams and advise them what style of play they want the national team to play. They then expect the regional teams, to a certain degree, to follow suit. The results have meant that players moving from the regional teams into the national team environment are already comfortable with what they are being asked to do and only have to learn how to deal with the added intensity of international matches.
As you can probably see there is a pattern with all of these teams above. They have all found success by having a management team who have decided to implement a style of play across all teams in the club, have identified a manager who fits this style and recruited players to play it. This promotes continuity, helps players from the youth team better integrate their style of play and promote success. One of the reasons the All Blacks are so successful they say is that they understand and believe in themselves and their style of play so much that they don’t panic even when things are not going right. They know that if they keep doing what they do at the level they do over the course of the game they will win. Do Inter believe the same? Not a chance. You can sense the panic from the top row of the San Siro when they inevitably concede.
Lets look at Inter only over the last six months. They doddled through the off season with Mancini, the media always well up to date on all the dramas unfolding inside the halls of power. After weeks and months of back and forth Mancini finally departed two weeks before the season was to start. To demonstrate their decisiveness the management announced De Boer only a day later which makes you wonder how long they had actually that gun loaded ready to fire.
The fact that De Boer was chosen meant, for me, two things. Firstly, that the management had decided that they wanted Inter to play a certain style of football. De Boer is no Mancini and was never going to carry on his legacy. He would bring in a new style and try to marry it to the team he inherited. Secondly, the management would have to expect a dip in results. Introducing a new manager, style and players to the Serie A would take time. The expectations needed to be amended for this. Typically they were not.
Now, on the back of the Icardi debacle, De Boer has seen his results collapse after they appeared to be on the up, in the league anyway. The management is obviously in panic mode and the same familiar bunch of names are being thrown up again as a replacement before October has even drawn to a close. Will this bring success? Maybe it will steady the ship a little, knock out a few positive results, but it will not cure the rot that has infected the core of the club.
And to be clear this is not a new problem. Inter has lacked a clear identity since I have supported it. Under Moratti the club bounced from one manager to another papering over the lack of clarity in the management level by bringing in amazing players. Results were inevitably all over the place. It only came together when Cuper was given a sustained period in charge, eventually assembling a team that came close to being balanced. Mancini, a manager in many ways of the same vein, was fortunate to inherit this squad and needed only to build on it. By the time Mourinho took over he had a team that even at Chelsea he called the strongest in Europe which he was able to add drive and ambition.
After he left and rebuilding was needed it once again fell down. The structure at the top was not in place to ensure the ageing squad was reinvigorated in a properly managed way and it all dramatically crumbled. Managers with different ideas came and went, leaving hordes of average, over paid players in their wake, youth players from Inter’s championship winning teams were left floundering because the step from youth to senior was made unmanageable by the club not streamlining their playing systems and responsibility was pushed to all corners except where it belonged.
Perhaps the biggest evidence of how Inter have gone wrong can be found at the grounds of arguably their most despised rival, Juventus. They have demonstrated that the most important facet of the club is not the manager of the team but the management of the club. How else can one explain their incredible resurgence, their ability to identify, purchase and integrate young players into their squad, the continuity they have maintained despite the loss of Conte? Would any other club in Italy have lost an iconic manager like Conte was to Juventus, bought in the recently sacked manager of a rival, and see no real dip in results? Juventus have the management in place to ensure the manager fits their system, not the other way around.
So now we sit and watch as Inter attempt to put some more tape on the gaping hole of the Titanic while the captain’s of this particular ship try to convince themselves they know what they are doing. Year Zero looks like it will drag out for a few more years yet.
Words: Sam Olsen Follow him @samolsenBYWV