The Gasperini Project

by Dylan Fahy

After four losses and a draw, Gian Piero Gasperini has lost his job and Italian giants Internazionale Milano have suffered their worst start to a season for ninety years. The 2010 Champions League winners have had uncharacteristic losses in the Supercoppa to bitter rivals AC Milan, in Serie A to Palermo and Novara and to top it all off in Europe to Turkish side Trabzonspor at home. While grinding out a goalless draw against fellow strugglers AS Roma in between.

It was the beginning of the end of Gasperini after the Palermo loss, simply because of the way they conceded four goals. A Fabrizio Miccoli masterminded win saw Inter look toothless throughout. Their tactic was simply try to and score more, and when your fighting for a title that game plan is simply clutching at straws. Club President Massimo Moratti was the first to admit that Gasperini was never the clubs first choice to replace last seasons coach Leonardo. Meaning the pressure has been on the management since day one, and any disappointments would be immediately put under the microscope.

After the loss to newly promoted Novara on Tuesday last, many had already begun talking of who was going to be Gasperini’s successor. Although he was not the clubs first choice, that by no means is an explanation for what went wrong.

The press and fans firmly pointed the finger of blame at Gasperini’s favorited 3-4-3 formation. La Gazzetta dello Sport even dedicated a twenty page special pointing out exactly what had gone wrong. At his previous club Genoa, Gasperini managed to play beautiful football and get results with his formation. Ex-Inter coach Jose Mourinho even claimed that Gasperini was one of the ‘hardest managers he coached against’, so why doesn’t it work at one of the best clubs in the world?

In all the games played so far Inter have been destroyed by opposition wingers just walking through their three man the defence. Javier Zanetti, Walter Samuel and Lucio simply don’t have the pace to break down any counter attack that faces them. The wing backs of Yuto Nagatomo and Jonathan never got back in time to cover the defence, meaning almost every counter attack was a three on three situations. Which in the run of ninety minutes, will ultimately lead to a goal conceded. Couple that with the fact that goalkeeper Julio Cesar has not got back to that form that won him Serie A goalkeeper of the season and got him nominated for the Ballon d’Or in 2009/10.

The defence cannot be entirely blamed however, the ageing holding midfield partnership of Dejan Stankovic and Esteban Cambiasso lack both the mobility and positional awareness to cover the back three. The creative general Wesley Sneijder was extremely close to leaving for Manchester United in the summer, and he’s probably thinking why he didn’t just make a compromise to secure the move. As he finds himself being played out of position and against his strengths in Gasperini’s team. He didn’t even start in the loss to Palermo at the Stadio Renzo Barbera. The mutual feeling among fans is that the Dutchman is no longer hungry for the Italian league.

The Diego Milito that scored twice in a Champions League final, and today’s Milito are two very different players. Although the Argentine still has an eye for goal, his movement in the box has been halted. He spend much of last term out injured, and you have to wonder if this campaign will be his last. Giampaolo Pazzini was brought in from Sampdoria back in January, and since then has by far been Inter’s most consistent forward. Despite his eleven goals in seventeen appearances Gasperini has unfairly overlooked him, choosing to play his transfer deadline day purchases instead.

Striker Samuel Eto’o’s departure to the Russian league and Anzhi Makhachkala brought with it issues that are perhaps the one hundred million reported transfer fee is not worth in the short term. It meant Gasperini was forced to replace the Cameroonian that had almost single-handedly won them games the season before. The replacements eventually game in the form of Copa America winner Diego Forlan and the temperamental Mauro Zarate. Both have made slow starts, with Zarate in particular looking to eager to shoot from distance and go on solo runs to try to make an impression. Only time will tell if a partnership can be struck between them.

The conclusion is that Gasperini has the wrong players for his beloved formation. Almost every player he has in his squad are being played out of their position. This by no means shows that playing the 3-4-3 system will not work, as Napoli are have showcased  for years to great success. If you catched Walter Mazzarri’s side demolition of defending champions AC Milan last weekend it’s clear to see that the system can be extremely effective. The key has to be the wing-backs, they have to understand that defending is just as important as attacking. The other important factor being that you have players that are hungry and have good engines

As Moratti smoked his cigar in the stands at the Novara game while taking a prolonged sign as the home side were awarded the penalty that eventually secured them the victory, you couldn’t help but feel he had taken his last ‘gasp’ with this management.

After the loss to Serie newcomers Novara all that was left was to make it official:

FC Internazionale announces this morning, at the sports centre of Appiano Gentile, that first team training was directed by Giuseppe Baresi and Daniele Bernazzani

Gasperini leaves Inter as the first coach never to register a win while at the club, and in a way you have to feel sorry for him. He came in at the wrong time and with the wrong players for his system. Even so a manager should be able to adapt his system, especially at the highest levels. The front-runners for the hot-seat now appear to be ex-Roma and Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri and ex-Palermo coach Delio Rossi.

Week Three:

Cagliari 2-1 Novara

Internazionale 0-0 Roma

Atalanta 1-0 Palermo

Catania 1-0 Cesena

Siena 0-1 Juventus

Lazio 1-2 Genoa

Udinese 2-0 Fiorentina

Parma 2-1 Chievo

Bologna 0-2 Lecce

Napoli 3-1 AC Milan

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